Armed defense at Front Sight: Intermediate tactics and skills
February 18, 8:20 PM
Front Sight Training Institute offers extensive facilities and instructors for teaching defensive handgun tactics.
Photo: Lori D. Roets, LazyRPhotography
The frist two segments of the “Armed defense at Front Sight” series covered the philosophy of Front Sight Training Institute, its support for the right to keep and bear arms, and the basic handgun skills taught in days one and two of its Four Day Defensive Handgun Course. As one of the world’s foremost firearm training facilities, Front Sight offers courses in handgun, carbine, shotgun, submachine gun, empty hand defense and even rappelling and climbing.
Day three of Four Day Defensive Handgun Course delved into more advanced skills, including:
- Tactical movement;
- Use of cover and concealment;
- Clearing around corners and through doors;
- Low light defense, including light-assisted shooting; and
- Drawing, reloading and clearing malfunctions from concealment.
The day began with a classroom presentation on tactics. Noting that tactical movement is more art than science and can take years to learn, instructor Morello described the presentation as “a 70-MPH drive-by quick look at tactics.”
Quickly dispelling the notion that you should search for home invaders when things go “bump” in the night, Morello noted that when clearing even your own home, the deck is stacked against you. “The best tactical movement,” said Morello, “is no movement at all.” If possible, the best course of action is to arm yourself, stay in the bedroom, and call 9-1-1, giving a concrete description of the problem, yourself and where in the house you are. He further stressed that if you must move to protect family members, the best option may be to leave the house.
General principles of tactical movement:
- Maintain an element of surprise: Put yourself in position for the first shot. Do not use a flashlight until necessary to identify a target.
- Use cover and concealment: Concealment may be readily available, but very little in a home will stop a bullet.
- Play the angles: Shots which strike cover (e.g. concrete) at a relatively steep angle skip off at a much shallower angle. Consequently, do not “hug” cover.
- Inspect everything: If you’re clearing a bathroom, look in the tub. Search up and down. Use all of your senses. If you’re searching for trouble, don’t be surprised if you find it. Tactical movement is a slow and tedious process.
- Avoid “The Fatal Funnel”: Be aware that doorways, hallways and particularly stairwells channelize your movement.
Next came demonstration of movement around corners by instructor Scott Hoernier. He emphasized a low-ready position while clearing in order to maintain a better field of vision and to avoid being too ready to engage if the person you find is a non-combatant. While “slicing the pie” around corners, use small, shuffling steps (not over the body line), canting the body slightly around the corner.
Approaching a door – especially one with which you are not familiar – considerations include:
- Which way does the door open?
- Where is the knob located? Is it on the side from which the approach is made?
- Is the door self-closing?
Whenever possible, approach from the knob side, without hugging the wall, in order to provide enough leverage to open the door briskly. Bring the gun high and close to the chest to avoid muzzle flashing your hand. Don’t lean into the doorway.
Turn the knob and throw the door open briskly while stepping back to the ready position. Gradually “work the angles,” clearing all of the room before finally moving through the door. Keep the firearm tight to the chest while moving through the door, searching first in front of you, then quickly behind. Hoernier stressed that while clearing corners and doorways is slow work, when out of cover, most fast.
Other considerations in clearing
- Self-closing doors: Go through quickly, either letting it close behind you or trapping it with your leg. Whatever is in the room, you must fight. All you have in your favor is speed and explosiveness of action.
- Don’t peak around corners: Once you clear an area, own it: Don’t retract.
- Shooting through walls: What you need to ask is, “Do I have enough information to do this?”
- Lighting: Use ambient light. Don’t hunt for wall switches. High illumination will night-blind you.
Next it was on to the fun part. Students were divided into groups depending on their original range assignment. First, we went to a large outdoor area for training on clearing corners and doors using plastic “orange guns.”
Corner clearing sequence:
- Author begins clearing corner
- “Slicing the pie”
- Moving through the corner
Door clearing sequence:
- Approaching door
- Turning knob
- Throwing open door
- Backing away to ready position
- Clearing doorway by sections [#1] [#2] [#3] [#4]
- Going through door once cleared
Finally, it was time for live fire. When sent to the range, students paired with instructors who attached carabiners to our belts as “handles.” Inside, ranges with berms on three sides and cinder block walls up-range contained wooden simulators replicating the walls, doors and windows of houses.
After orientation, a safety briefing and receiving a scenario which required clearing the house (i.e. an intruder enters the home with family members inside), I began to clear the house. Photographic targets depicted either perpetrators (some shielded behind hostages), or non-combatants. Happily, I shot everybody who needed shooting, and didn’t shoot my “wife.” (A number of students did. For those taking the course together with spouses, some explanations were required.)
CONCEALED CARRY CONSIDERATIONS
After the morning’s tactical exercises, the afternoon was spent learning presentation, reloading and malfunction drills, all from concealment. Our briefing covered holster selection and other considerations of concealed carry, and then a demonstration of sweeping a jacket out of the way or lifting a closed garment. From this point forward, all range exercises except low light shooting would be done from concealment.
Presentation from concealment:
- Sweeping garment away from firearm
- With garment out of way, shooting hand grip is established
- Gun is rotated from Count 2 to Count 3
- Hands meet coming into Count 4
- Firearm presented to engage target in Count 5
LOW LIGHT DEFENSE
After dinner came the classroom briefing for optional low light shooting exercises. Discussion of equipment included tritium night sights (Front Sight recommends a single color, noting also that glowing sights can identify your position to your opponent), types of flashlights, and “dedicated” lights attached to the firearm.
First and foremost, the school stressed light discipline – keeping the light off until necessary to identify and possibly engage a potential threat. Over-use of the light creates, as one instructor put it, a “bullet magnet.”
Several techniques address the difficulties of holding a flashlight and a gun simultaneously, including the Chapman, Ayoob, Modified FBI, and Neck Index. (The latter, as pointed out by Front Sight’s instructors, draws opponent fire toward the head. Not a happy outcome.)
Until the 1990s, the predominant method was the “Harries” technique. What has come to dominate, however, is the “Rogers/SureFire” technique, which depends on using SureFire grip ring-equipped lights. The advantage of the technique is that, unlike all others, it permits the support hand to at least partially grip the handgun. For years, I have used SureFire “Z” series lights for exactly that purpose. For a summary of flashlight techniques, click here.
In the interest of commonality, however, Front Sight instructs students to use the Harries technique. While their explanation that it can be used with any style of flashlight makes sense, it was disappointing to be required to use a less stable shooting platform.
Because flashlight-assisted shooting exercises were conducted on the range in near absolute darkness, range discipline and commands were strictly enforced. Our instructors required equally strict light discipline to avoid night-blindness. Only after receiving a fire command did we illuminate targets to be engaged. During after-action drills, we did keep lights on long enough to ensure the threat was “down,” after which lights went off while shooters shifted position. Only then did we use the light and gun together to scan left and right for additional threats. (Note: When scanning with the muzzle pointed in the same direction as the light, the trigger finger must be straight and outside the trigger guard, and the safety (if any) must be on.