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Fighting in Structures – Part 2: CQB Skills for Home Defense

June 3, 2011

In Part 1 of this series, we talked about how many people are under the false impression that CQB is just for SWAT team members and the military. In reality, these skills are vital to anyone who owns a firearm for self-defense, particularly for the bedrock purpose of home defense. Unfortunately, many firearms instructors seem to be under this same false impression. Often their CQB classes are limited to law enforcement and military only. Even when they’re open to the common citizen, the techniques and tactics they teach are often predicated on military or SWAT tactics. Learning how to clear a room as part of a team of five guys wearing body armor and armed with automatic weapons and flashbangs doesn’t have a whole lot of practical application when something goes bump in your living room in the middle of the night.

More realistically, citizens are not going to have the full panoply of tactical gear, just a pistol, or if you’re at home perhaps a rifle or shotgun. We’re probably going to be operating alone, though in the best case scenario we might have the help of a friend or family member. The tactics and techniques we train with need to reflect this.

The corner is the basic building block of all CQB problems. Everything else: hallway intersections, doors, windows, stairs, even furniture, are just combinations of corners. Learning how to take a corner is the most basic, fundamental skill in CQB.  Dealing with a corner can be divided into two distinct phases. The first of these is the angular search, sometimes called “slicing the pie”. The goal of the angular search is to spot the enemy without him spotting you. You want to lead with your eyeball and gun muzzle, exposing as little of the rest of yourself as possible. That eyeball is looking for any sign of the adversary: a protruding elbow or toe, a bit of clothing, even a shadow.

At a certain point, you’re going to have to decide to commit to moving into the space beyond the corner. Either you’ve seen some sign of an adversary, and moving out any further is going to allow him to spot you, or you can’t move out any further without exposing yourself to some other unknown area (the other side of a doorway, for example). This is where our CQB tactics really diverge from the SWAT/military context. We don’t have the advantage in terms of numbers and firepower that they do, so we need to use speed, surprise, and aggressiveness to lower our risk as much as possible. At SI we’ve found that the same dynamic movement and shooting on the move fundamentals that we teach for street confrontations are great for taking corners (if anything, they work even better in CQB than they do on the street).

The same principles that work for a single corner can also be used to deal with other architectural problems. Doors and intersections are pairs of adjacent corners. Having two corners in such close proximity does add some additional issues, but the fundamentals are the same. Balconies are vertical corners and stairs, windows and furniture are combinations of vertical and horizontal corners. Things become more complex when you start putting these obstacles together to form complex problems. Clearing corner is relatively easy, clearing a door (two corners) is hard, clearing a door, while trying not to expose yourself to another door just down the hall is even harder. These complex problems are where having more than one person available becomes really important. We may not be a part of a five-man entry team, but having even a single, trained partner can make many problems much easier. It’s best if you’ve trained and practiced CQB tactics together, but that’s not always possible. However, if they’re a good shooter, even without any CQB experience, they can still be used to cover potential threat areas while you deal with a corner, doorway, or intersection.

If you look back at the various scenarios described in Part 1 of this series, on common denominator for many of them is that they happen at night. Low light skills are a vital part of the CQB skillset. This includes learning how to use tactical flashlights and weapon mounted lights, but it extends considerably beyond that. Most of us are not paid to search darkened warehouses for a living. The most likely venue for low light CQB is in our own homes, where there’s usually enough ambient light to discern that there’s someone there (if not necessarily enough to identify them). Moreover, we have the option of preparing the battlefield beforehand, by leaving certain lights on at night, installing night-lights, etc. It’s important to learn how to operate in this kind of environment, using ambient light when possible and using lights when appropriate.

These are the fundamental CQB skills. Armed with the skills to tackle corners, complex problems, some basic team tactics, and low light, you will be far better prepared to meet a home invader, or to deal with any other deadly force confrontation inside a structure.

Coming up in Part 3 of this series, we’ll discuss how CQB fits with the rest of the SI curriculum.

Sign up for Suarez International’s CQB classes.

Discuss CQB Skills for Home Defense on Warriortalk.

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