Saturday, February 8, 2014

Training – Tactics, Combat, Tacti-Cool, Tactical or Practical


“What other kind of training should I take down the road?” I’m having a discussion with a couple of students on a break during a recent class. The smartass answer would go something like . . . “Whatever I teach . . .!” Because I teach a solid set of foundational coursework for a defensive shooter. Yet . . . the answer is a bit more complex that just “Take what I tell ya . . .” kind of answer.

For the student looking to get just enough training required by the state to get their carry permit . . . the reality is they will take little advanced coursework. They’re done . . . and they “know” that if they have their gun, they’ll be safe. They will hit the range a couple times right after the course, maybe shoot a 50-round box or two of ammunition a year and, essentially, trust to luck that they will never actually need that gun in their nightstand, closet, safe, pocket or purse. Baring some life-changing event (like a violent encounter or break-in) these folks are “lost souls” and not in what I would consider the “training pool” of future students.

The other side of the coin is that student that wants to become a trained and skilled shooter. Now, as an instructor, I have something to work with. There are a dozen or so specific skills that they need to be taught and that they need to train on . . . . relentlessly. But, first . . . I want them to understand why these specific skills are important, to place them in context and to help them come to know the difference between “tacti-cool” and “practical”. There are a couple of elements to this explanation. The first is to make sure they understand that they are leaving the “square range”, “competitive shooting”, “really neat shooting class” environment and entering the world of “combat”.


  • a fight or contest between individuals or groups

It’s one thing for a soldier to walk on to a range with their gear, weapons and ammunition and spend days/weeks/months learning the art of warfare and quite another for a civilian to wrap their head around the idea that they may well be involved in a combative encounter to defend themselves, their family or friend. The soldier knows their destination. When I picked up an M-16 for the first time I knew what my final destination was, I’d seen jungles, helicopter assaults, film of clearing Saigon, Hue . . . I knew what combat looked like and I could visualize – on a miniscule level, what kind of experience I might have. My destination added a level of seriousness the words of the training officer could not.

To the average defensive shooter, this is such a foreign concept that a real effort must be made on the part of the instructor to move them into that environment mentally – to help them understand that in a defensive situation, against a violent and determined attacker . . . they are in combat . . . and the outcome will depend on their willingness to fight for their life, the life of their family or their friend.

It is my purpose, my job, my responsibility as an instructor to introduce a new shooter to a range of “tactics” that will show them the necessary skill to survive such a violent encounter. It is their final responsibility to actually learn those skills and incorporate them into their daily life.


  • the science and art of disposing and maneuvering forces in combat
  • the art or skill of employing available means to accomplish an end

The “end” they will wish to accomplish is to WIN and to SURVIVE . . . that simple. And the Tactics are fairly simple as well and common across a broad range of engagements regardless of the environment – whether defending your wife and children in your home or working with a team through a village in Afghanistan. The basic “tactics” and skills are simple really . . .

  • Quick presentation of your weapon to the threat
  • Being able to get combat effective hits on the threat
  • Being able to keep your weapon running – reloads, clearing malfunctions or engaging with a backup gun if necessary
  • The use of cover and concealment . . . and knowing the difference between them
  • Being able to move and still accurately engage the threat
  • To be able to use multiple shooting positions
  • To be able to clearly communicate with your partner

Those, IMHO, are the “basics”.

There is also a big difference, when entering into the learning of these basic skills –between “tacti-cool”, “Tactical” and “Practical”.

Let’s look at “Tacti-Cool” first . . . perhaps this video says it all . . .


Tacti-Cool Demo

Funny . . . exaggerated . . . yet if you look at some of the “training videos” out there on YouTube and from some instructors you begin to see some similarities as well.

Trust me, I’m as much as a gun geek as I am a computer geek, a camera geek and a ham radio geek . . . I get it, truly I do. But . . . for the civilian shooter who is most likely to encounter a violent threat breaking into their home or walking to a car on the street or parking lot . . . their chances of being tacked up like your local SWAT team is simply slim to none. Does that mean you should take a pass on some of the more advanced carbine classes where a vest or battle belt will help you carry more ammunition, a BOK or your water . . . nope, not at all. But, should this be where the majority of your training should be focused?? I would suggest there are better ways to focus your time and resources.

So let’s talk a bit about a “Tactical Course” . . . What would a tactical course look like, what would it have for course content and what would a range session look like? Let’s drill down a bit more on the word “Tactical” . . .


  • of or relating to combat tactics: as
    • of or occurring at the battlefront
    • using or being weapons or forces employed at the battlefront
  • of or relating to tactics: as
    • of or relating to small-scale actions serving a larger purpose
    • made or carried out with only a limited or immediate end in view
  • adroit in planning or maneuvering to accomplish a purpose

A “Tactical Pistol” or a “Tactical Carbine” or a “Tactical Shotgun” course would be a mix of solid basic tactics I listed above, along with integrating some form of “team” movement as well – either with a partner or spouse. There is no guarantee that a violent encounter will only happen to you . . . and not you, your wife/husband or child. With that understanding it is important that any training done with the idea of mutual protection involve all parties. When you lay out your home defense plan – everyone should understand their part. If there are multiple defenders, it is simply a necessity that you take training together to iron out methods of movement, methods of communications, first aid responses . . . so that at the end of the encounter the bad guy/gal is down and you are all still suckin’ air.

The word “tactical” means nothing out of context . . . and absolutely everything within the parameters of the course work you are looking at taking. With this in mind - let’s take a look at a couple additional range videos.

The first is “God will cut you down” . . . the music makes it a bit edgy but what I want you to watch for are the basics I listed above . . . weapon manipulation, rapid threat engagement, keeping their weapons running – malfunction clearing and reloading, transitions between carbine and handgun, movement, use of cover and concealment, multiple and non-traditional shooting positions, communications between shooters . . . all of which are BASIC skills that EVERY shooter needs to do as easily as drawing a breath. And, when demonstrated by skilled shooters . . . you begin to get a taste of a direction, a destination, a glimpse of the things you – as a shooter – should be looking to learn as you grow your skills.


Use of Basic Tactics and tactical skills

The second video – Behind every blade of grass – is more of the same, but the detail is better. Watch the reloads, the transitions, the way/method of movement, the use of cover, various shooting positions, their communications with each other . . .

Use of Basic Tactics and tactical skills

So, where is all of this leading us to? For the vast majority of defensive shooters – it leads us to the “Practical”


  • relating to what is real rather than to what is possible or imagined
  • likely to succeed and reasonable to do or use
  • appropriate or suited for actual use

The “practical” side of my training revolves around the way I am armed the overwhelming amount of time. I have a carbine for home defense . . . it is not slung across my chest. I have an 870 shotgun for home defense . . . not riding in a rack behind my head in the Jeep. What I do have is my Glock 17, two magazines with 15 rounds each, flashlight, defensive knife and that which lives between my ears. Yet, the use of basic tactics are the same . . . and my ability to quickly get combat effective hits, to keep my gun running, to clear malfunctions, to know the difference between concealment and cover, to move, to have an overwhelming desire to WIN THE ENGAGEMENT, to NEVER QUIT . . . are as important as if I were back in the villages of Vietnam or walking the villages of Afghanistan.

So while a course may fall within the loose parameters of “tacti-cool”, please . . . make sure it fills the “Practical” range of skills you need to defend yourself, your family and your friends.

I haven’t put this tag line on a post in awhile . . . but I think it’s appropriate here when you are looking at training to defend yourself, your family or your friends . . .



  1. I like to see practical shooting against a blend of moving and stationary targets at different ranges with choices for the shooter of cover or concealment. Of course nothing prepares you for the moment when the target shoots back.

  2. Practical is right... And agree with LL... All the tacti-cool stuff is just in people's dreams, unless they are .gov or .mil

  3. Agreed LL and NFO . . . becomes much more real when the target sends rounds back in your direction. The thing I liked about the last two videos was good weapon manipulation . . . at least IMHO. It takes a lot of real work to put things together in that manner. Their description says they have LEO and MIL backgrounds and train together - I think that shows. The thing I'm resistant to is "that guy" who, because he's all tacked out, is all of a sudden a real shooter . . .

    LL - you have any resources to point me at for moving targets or DIY moving target setups? Really need to incorporate some of that this year.