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S.I. South Carolina Labor Day Event

October 2, 2011

Alex Nieuwland and I decided to put together an invite-only event for alumni of our Close Range Gunfighting classes on Labor Day. Not a very big turnout for this one, but that just meant Alex and I got to do more shooting.

We decided to organize this along the lines of a group I shot with back when I lived out in Salt Lake called the Utah Polite Society. We did a couple of drills for a warm up, then moved on to the a series of live fire scenarios. This being an S.I. forum, I’ll lead with the disclaimer that the best way to do scenario based training is Force on Force. However, if you just throw someone with no FoF experience right into a scenario, they often end up a bit overwhelmed. We haven’t hosted a FoF class here in Columbia yet, so we don’t really have a base of FoF experienced students to draw from (shameless plug: Randy Harris will be teaching Force on Force here in October, sign up now!). That said, doing these FoF would have meant that Alex wouldn’t have gotten a chance to play with his shotgun.


We started out with a basic draw and fire drill, to make sure everybody had the drawstroke down and was on the same page as far as basic gunhandling was concerned. Next we worked getting off the X to the left and right. As expected everyone was pretty familiar with the basic S.I. skills.

The third drill is one we did often in Utah called “What’s My Number”. The shooter walks a triangular path around barrel. Downrange are five targets, numbered 1-5. The RO calls out a couple of numbers and the shooter has to engage those targets. This is still a pretty basic drill, but it starts to incorporate some decision making: Where are the targets he called? Which one do I shoot first? Do I GOTX, or use the barrel for cover? There’s quite a bit going on for such a simple drill.

Just Another ATM Exercise

This was another old standby from Utah. ATMs are a favorite of many criminals, since by definition the customer has access to money. I set this up like the ATM at the bank I use: a glass enclosed room on the exterior of the bank building where you swipe your card for entry. In fact the resemblance was strong enough that Alex was able to identify the bank just by my description of the ATM. A barricade represented the ATM itself, and the glass walls were a rope hung off of some target stand sticks at about waist level, so it would obstruct movement, but not bullets.

Downrange were an array of targets. Those that were hostile had cardboard guns hung around their necks, while non-threats were unarmed. The locations of the targets and threat indicators change for each shooter. To make things a bit more interesting, I covered the targets in t-shirts. This both prevents you from seeing the scoring rings, forcing you to use your best judgment as to the proper upper chest target area, and it means that you can’t see your hits, which is consistent with what many people report in real life gunfights.

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The scenario starts with the shooter facing the ATM while the targets and threat indicators are moved around. The start signal is something realistic, such as, “Yo motherfucker, gimme the money!” At this, the shooter turns around and has to solve the problem.

Unlike most gun game stages, because the position of the targets and threats is unknown, this sort of scenario places a lot more emphasis on you OODA loop. In a very real way it’s a test of how fast you can think, rather than how fast you can shoot.

On this first scenario, we had a couple of people shoot through targets into non-threats. I escaped having one through sheer dumb luck, I blazed away at a target with a non-threat behind it and just happened not to put any rounds through one target into the other. This sort of tunnel vision on the threat you see is one of the things we need to against. A bad background doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t shoot, but that should be a decision you make deliberately. Alex demonstrated another expression of that same problem when he engaged a target ten yards away without even noticing the one about three yards off to his right.

These scenarios don’t involve any sort of timer or point-based scoring where you get ranked against other shooters. There’s a quick after action debriefing that runs through about a dozen questions, asking about things like how many of the threats you neutralized and whether you went through a proper after-action drill. It all boils down to just the last four questions: Did you survive? Did anyone you were supposed to protect survive? Did you avoid being successfully sued? Did you avoid going to prison? In a gunfight, these are really the bottom line.

Elvis has Entered the Building
The next scenario has you sitting at home watching TV when you hear someone kick in your front door. You have a loved on in the other room, so staying put isn’t an option. We set up a sort of hallway/doorway with a few barricades to give a chance to exercise some room clearing skills.

At this point I realized it would be good to have some pictures, so we’ve got a nice sequence of Alex going through the scenario.

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Alex, about to have his favorite reality show rudely interrupted.

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Notice Alex doing a very good job of exposing only his eyeball and gun muzzle.

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Switches hands for the left hand corner.

Alex did a real nice job with this one, though he ran into a bit of trouble when his gun went dry and he decided to draw the second Glock rather than reloading. Problem was the gun was in his left hand at the time, so he had to swap hands, then draw the second gun. Probably would have been faster to just reload.

Check Please!
This scenario begins with you seated in a restaurant with your wife/girlfriend when a robbery kicks off. Unfortunately the only exits involve moving past the bad guys. You’ve got to decide what to do and deal with the problem.

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Alex enjoying a nice meal.

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Getting off the X and engaging the bad guys.

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Dragging his girlfriend off by the target stick.

When I shot this scenario, Alex had to do quite a bit more than announce the robbery to actually get me to react. I’m not being paid to protect the restaurant’s till. I’ve thought through this kind of situation and figured out what my red lines are and what sort of things are going to trigger a reaction. Once I got going, however, I let fly pretty good. On this one I ran my primary gun dry and switched to the second gun.

Bump in the Night

I hadn’t been planning on running this scenario, but the bench available that was about the right size to stand in for a bed, so I improvised a bit. You’re asleep in bed when you’re awakened by someone battering your door down. You’ve got a young child in the house, so bunkering up in the bedroom isn’t an option. A couple of barricades divide the bedroom from the room beyond.

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My nightstand.

The happy stick really gave me a warm fuzzy feeling knowing I had all those rounds before I had to reload (especially considering that my reload was stuffed into a pocket rather than being in a mag carrier, since I don’t wear a gunbelt to bed).

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Alex brought his shotgun, so he was really able to give the intruders a good welcome (he’s teaching Dynamics of the Shotgun on November 11th).

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After switching shoulders to pie the other corner.

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An eyesocket full of buckshot.

Overall I think this went pretty well. This was a bit of a test run, but it seemed like a good time was had by all. I was really happy to get a chance to do this sort of stuff again after being away from Utah for three years. I think we’ll probably be doing this again sometime early next year. If you’re an S.I. alumni in the neighborhood, keep an eye out for an announcement.

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