Friday, October 11, 2013

AAR: Tactical Defense Institute's Extreme Close Quarters (ECQ) 10/5-6/2013

The first sign that you might be in trouble is coming to and finding someone on top of you reeling back to start beating the snot out of you. I know it's cliché' and everyone will tell you that you're being paranoid or that just having a gun is enough etc. but there is a very big risk as a concealed carrier or person who goes about armed on a regular basis. If you're an open carrier, be it as a Law Enforcement Officer or armed civilian, even more so. And that risk is that your gun can be used against you.

If you look at FBI stats on lost gun fights (why they don't put more emphasis on victories is beyond me) you will see that a lot of dead officers ended up that way while in close proximity to their attacker, a lot of times it's with their own pistol. I've covered these numbers in brief before, but here they are again.

To make a long story short, there's a lot that can happen in close distances that can put you behind the eight ball. A flubbed draw, a snagged cover garment, a lapse in situational awareness (contrary to popular belief you can't maintain 100% situational awareness and keep every one out past a 21' radius of your position) and just bad luck can result in an attacker being right up on you before you know it.

A lot of us train in the proper use of firearms. A lot of time is spent on drawing the gun, aiming the gun,  firing the gun, reloading the gun etc. Not a lot of time is spent learning to draw a gun while someone is actively beating you. Not a lot of time is spent learning how to keep the gun away from someone that is actively beating you, and not a lot of time is spent on learning how to keep your gun running while actively defending yourself against got it...that is actively beating on you.

A lot of us that carry firearms are also "gun centric" we have a gun so we don't learn how to fight, we have a gun so we don't carry a knife, we have a gun so we can shoot our way out of trouble.

But what happens when you can't shoot your way out of trouble? The gun is not always the best answer and in wanting to be well rounded I found ourselves at the Tactical Defense Institute (TDI) in Ohio attending their Extreme Close Quarters Class.  If you've been reading this blog for a time you may have read our other reviews of TDI classes, if not you can find them HERE, as such we are not strangers to TDI and we've always been pleased with the training we've received there.

The Extreme Close Quarters (ECQ) class is typically offered once a year and it fills up fast so if you want to attend you need to sign up fast. Their Handgun III or Equivalent is required.

We believe this unusual, innovative class to be the first of its kind ever offered. No one weapon is the sole answer. You may well have to engage with your hands prior to deploying another weapon. ECQ integrates the use of the hands, knives and handguns in the extreme close quarter’s environment.Learn weapon retention and takeaway, physical interaction with hands and other weapons. Deal with single and multiple assailants. Learn to protect your partner/family member in the ECQ environment. This class is not for the faint at heart and a must for law enforcement professionals and citizens alike.Prerequisites: Level III handgun or equivalent.
This class covered a LOT of material, this could easily be a three day class but they do a pretty good job in the span of two days.

One of the things I like most about TDI is the instructor/student ratio. I want to say we had a class of nineteen and seven instructors. While the other students acted as safety persons, you won't find much of the "coach - pupil" method in place @ TDI. Sure the other students are helpful if they spot you doing something wonky but there's plenty of instructors walking the training area looking to help and instruct. It's also nice to get several different sets of eyes looking over your techniques.

The lead instructors were Greg Ellifritz and David Bowie.

In the class we covered some of the distance stats that I referenced above as well as the following:

:What is required to get your gun out while in a physical altercation.
: What constitutes a good retention position.
: Expected operation of your pistol in close proximity to your target.
: Clearing of cover garments
: Live Fire - "TDI Retention" and transitions from/to retention and extended - Moving Forward
: Stuffing the draw of an aggressor
: Countering a stuffed draw
: Fighting an armed attacker
: Issues with handgun mechanics in close quarters
: Live Fire - "TDI Retention" and transitions from/to retention and extended - Moving Rearward
: Creating Distance
:Transitioning from empty handed defense to armed defense 
: Weapon retention
: Holster selection 
: Knife work
: Ground defense
: Live Fire - Shooting from the ground.
: Force on Force Scenarios - Stand up and starting on the ground.

Now I'm not going to go into too much detail, if you want all the details do what I did and go take the class. But I will go into a little detail about some of what we learned, what I all ready knew that was reinforced, and just some thoughts on the class.

Getting your gun out. In a perfect world we'll always see trouble coming three miles away. The world is not perfect. A good holster and a concealment garment (if applicable) need to work together and you need to practice getting at your gun from a variety of positions, and not just standing. Can you get it with one hand? Can you get it on the ground? Can you get it on your back with someone sitting on you raining down blows?

Retention. There's  a variety of different retention positions. Some are better than others and some of the lesser methods leave the gun too far out or "Floating" keep the gun in for the best protection.

We should all be aware that semi-autos can be forced out of battery and can be fickle things when filled up with gunk. Gunk as in someone skin clogging the ejection port after you fire a close shot. Can you clear malfunctions? Can you clear malfunctions one handed? Can you clear malfunctions one handed while going fisticuffs with your attacker either defending your dome or attacking theirs? Yeah, we covered that and there's some good tactics and things to think about. Is your gun set up to easily facilitate one handed cycling on a belt or other surface?

I all ready talked a little about cover garments, but to reiterate, YOU NEED TO BE ABLE TO GET YOUR GUN OUT! If you're carrying under a closed front shirt, you need to lift that shirt HIGH.

Stuffing / Countering a Stuffed Draw. We discussed techniques to counter an attacker trying to stuff your draw and how to stuff your attackers draw. We also spent some time using empty hand techniques against armed attackers to negate their weapon. This is one of those things that you'll have to just go the class to learn.

Handguns, even revolvers are easy to tie up in close quarters. Slides can be pushed back, revolver cylinder can be bound up. They taught some nice tricks to keep your gun running including one in which while running a revolver you can use your attacker to rotate the cylinder. That was pretty cool.
Another thing that we saw was that depending on wrist angle, you might not even be able to pull a heavy trigger, like that of a traditional double action semi-automatic.

Creating distance is a two edged sword. You can get distance to get your gun out, but that also gives your attacker distance to do the same or access another weapon. If they've got a hand on your gun, you can't just shove them off as the gun might go with them and leave you reaching for an empty holster. We learned ways to create enough distance to access a firearm and use it.

Empty hand to armed transitions. There may be a time where something starts as a situation that you think you can handle with empty hands and escalates to a situation where you need some help. This kind of ties in with creating distance but it all boils down to creating an opportunity where you can access your gun and draw it without it being blocked.

Weapon retention. It's amazing how ingrained fully extending the pistol is now. I think a lot of us have spent so much time pressing the gun out that it's what we want to do even when it's in our best interest to keep it in a retention position. When I was still on active duty in the Marines the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP) was being phased in. A common sound-byte was "An extended limb is a broken limb" in close quarters gun fighting, an extended gun is going to be grabbed, snatched, and otherwise wrenched on. Keep it close to the body.

Holster selection. They covered good holster and bad holsters. Cheap paddles: BAD. Serpas: BAD. Fobus: BAD. 5.11 Thumb-Drive: BAD. "Slide holsters" that don't cover the entire slide of the gun: BAD. To elaborate on the slide holsters, pending on your position and while rolling around it's easy for pressure on the bottom of the gun to force it out of the holster. A holster should cover the muzzle.

The Safariland ALS got high marks.

Knife work. We did a very brief portion on knives, for a review of TDI's Defensive Knife Class you can read it HERE. This class really reinforced using the support side fixed blade in a lot of cases. I picked up a couple more TDI knives. Again, this was really brief and was kind of a primer for the Defensive Knife Class but it was a good primer and gave the students something to think about.

Ground defense. There's only so much time to spend on this in a two day class, it take a lot of time to get "good" at unarmed combat and defense. They taught a couple of basic techniques to help you out in a ground fight. The wife and I have been studying with a Krav Maga instructor for the last year and it's really starting to pay off. Go out and start learning to improve your empty hand skills. They can be your first and last line of defense and unlike a gun will always be with you.

The live fire work was pretty light, the class info on TDI's website says 600 rounds, we probably shot less then 400rds between the two of us, but still bring the required 600 as it may have been abbreviated due to the still lurking ammo shortage. We did some shooting on the ground which was pretty neat. I've done a good amount of that in the past, but it was nice to get a refresher. We also shot from chest ready on paper and steel, that was a nice eye opener for some of the students to see what they were capable of with no sights and just indexing on the target.

We worked live fire drills shooting from retention and working from retention to extended and the other way around. Movement was pretty basic, just forward and rear. This is not a moving and shooting course. I would have liked to see more lateral or oblique movement.

Force on Force. Near the end of day two we did two force on force scenarios. These are optional but encouraged. We started with a stand up scenario with your typical "interview process" and you had to play it out. The students act as a jury of sorts and we debrief after the scenario to determine if the actions were justifiable.

The 2nd scenario started under the premise that you were knocked unconscious and come to with your attacker in the mount.

Both scenarios were pretty interesting and the beauty of it is that no two are the same.

Do keep in mind that this is a training environment and while the instructors are pretty well protected  the students are not. This is not full contact training and was really pretty moderate. It's a two day class and not all students walk in the door with empty hand skills. This just acts as a more fluid experience in working the techniques that are being taught in the class.  It's not meant to be as realistic as possible or a substitute for an actual steady training regimen in empty hand combatives.

Overall I really, really enjoyed the class. It really enforced the need for some empty hand skills, the off-side carry of a fixed blade and really knowing how to run your gun in a variety of environments.

The gear I used for the class was my 2nd Gen Glock 17(slightly modified), a Fricke Seraphim AIWB holster, and a single Blackhawk CQC mag carrier. I kept a couple spare mags in a pocket and more in the range bag ready to go but this was not a heavy round count class so we didn't need a lot of mags on your person. I did the first day not working from concealment and concealed the second day of class.

My gun functioned well, while some students had malfunctions a lot of it was a result of poor retention positions and odd grips while firing.

This was my first time working live fire from AIWB and I'm pleased to say I didn't blow my junk off or otherwise shoot myself. The advantages of AIWB while trying to control a holstered pistol are pretty impressive. Having the gun centered really allows you to keep pressure on it and it's just all around easier to defend and access.

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