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Training goals for the survivor
A lot of the survivalist and firearm training publications are often thinly disguised (or should I say plagiarized) military and police training methods and recommendations that can prove not only less than effective for the survivalist, but in some cases, harmful. On the other hand, much of the training that has been specifically directed toward "civilian" use is so dumbed down as to be useless. That is not to dismiss the fact that even a lot of military and law enforcement training is dumbed down and virtually useless. While the actual content is often sound, it is the pretext of that content where you run into the problems of relevance. The flip side is training and tactical recommendations that were originally developed for people who have government sanction to play by different rules than the rest of us have to abide by.
The survivor, as a person who endeavor's to achieve a high level of competence with several types of weapons, can determine which weapons will be most important in various anticipated scenarios. For most situations, the handgun is going to be the survivor's primary defensive and close quarters firearm, and the types of threats one would deal with using a handgun do not change just because the survivor may be armed with a rifle on a different occasion. Thus, a competent survivor will often duplicate several types of handgun shooting drills by simply substituting a handgun for a rifle. For our purposes, we will refer to this as CQB (Close Quarter Battle).
Normal military CQB is usually an exercise in infantry tactics, just at close ranges. Military personnel are taught to locate, close with and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver. This usually means moving quickly, controlling and dominating an area, killing or otherwise neutralizing all opposition, and setting up a hard defense of an area. A survivor must develop a higher level of skills in threat assessment, target identification, target discrimination, and economy of fire. Given the survivor will most likely be fighting alone or in a small group, coordination with other groups or a command and control apparatus is less of an issue.
Police training is usually predicated on the fact that the law enforcement officer is operating on "home turf" and the longer he can take to resolve a tactical situation, the more likely it is to end in his favor. Law enforcement people will often have support personnel and institutions available and their tactics and training will reflect this. The law enforcement officer also rarely has to worry about being pursued by an opponent. In contrast a survivor, by necessity, must be more prepared to operate independently in a hostile environment where the intent and capabilities of those he encounters will be largely unknown and the survivor is not in a position to demand compliance or submission. Among the differences; police officers may remain undercover up to the point of a violent confrontation, and then once their identity is revealed, have no longer any concern to maintain high levels of operational security. A survivor on the other hand, may need to quickly and quietly exit an area if a deadly encounter is to happen. The survivor in lower threat level scenarios will also have more legal obligations to avoid confrontation than a police officer.
The survivor should be able to develop a level of competence that will enable him to overcome any potential opponent in a violent confrontation. Note, that like the Soldier, Marine or Cop, once the gunfight has started, the survivalist has every moral right to prevail. He is likely to need to be able to do this while acting alone or in a small group, and while assuring the safety of bystanders and people under his protection. The survivor must be able to quickly transition from a neutral and non-provocative posture to fighting ready very quickly.
The "Rhodesian ready" position (left) is the starting point for many fast reaction shooting drills. The reason for this to be the starting point is that it is a non-hostile looking posture. The weapon is pointed in a "safe direction" away from people. Since this means the weapon is pointed more or less to the side, it may be necessary to alter this position a bit to comply with range safety rules that mandate keeping a weapon pointed downrange. The "on guard" position to the right is a minimal defensive posture that most people will invariably revert to while patrolling or hiking with a long gun. While few rifles are actually "heavy" compared to other tools and equipment a person might use in day to day life, they all seem to get heavy on a long hike or when you have little sleep.
On the left is the "low ready" position, the weapon is held at the shoulder, but pointed down below a potential target. While this is commonly allowed in military and law enforcement training, the habit of using it in "civilian" life can be a liability since many courts will consider it "brandishing" a weapon. Note that this is very frequently used by law enforcement and considered "covering" someone or some area, but that is simply a dangerous double standard. A survivor should not use this position unless shots have already been fired of there are known hostiles in the area. The idea behind this position is to have the weapon ready, but not get yourself into the tunnel vision effect and thus, without getting onto the tunnel vision effect of sighting the rifle, you have better visibility of the area in front of you while keeping the weapon relatively ready on short notice. Still, a survivor must learn to initiate and respond from this position as well as others. This may be limited by what is allowed at the places where you can train. This position is gaining a lot of popularity in the shooting sports as a starting position for various range scenarios because it is generally the safest for the people who are behind or beside the shooter. IE, the rifle is pointed downrange when ready to fire, even though it is not aiming directly at the target. Thus, many formal and informal shooting drills and competition scenarios start from the low ready position.
Practice returning to the low ready position when you have fired your shots, then look to the right and left, keeping the rifle in line with your center of vision. Some instructors urge the shooter to keep the rifle up and at the shoulder during this "protective sweep" which in some cases encompasses a full 360 degree circle around the shooter. While it sounds logical and "tactical" to "cover" 360 degrees or aim in a wide side to side arc once you have dropped the opponent, this can lead to two dangerous liabilities. First, by keeping the weapon at eye level, you force your attention into tunnel vision and thus reduce your cone of awareness, increasing, not shortening your reaction time to a peripheral action. Second, it can antagonize those who are in the area and not parties to the conflict, in many cases prompting them to hostile action they would not otherwise take. Lower your muzzle once you have concluded firing on the known threat. Practice looking and then bringing the weapon up as you identify a new target.
Now to confuse things a little bit, there is also a "very low ready" or "muzzle down" port arms position that is common for most people trained in close quarter's engagements. The muzzle down position is generally for pointing a weapon in the safest possible direction while having the hands positioned to have the most control of the weapon. This is not only to prevent someone from controlling the muzzle of they grab the weapon, but to simply prevent accidents like bumping into things or having the trigger area out where it can get snagged on something. Not a joke when you are traveling through dense brush and a branch or twig can snag the trigger and fire the weapon. People who are more physically fit or "fresh" in the field will carry a rifle in the muzzle down "lower ready" position most of the time. To put a generalization on the difference between a muzzle down carry and "low ready", you would probably call it the 45 degree angle line. 45 degrees or lower, it is muzzle down, .45 degrees to just under the sight plane is "low ready". For competition purposes, you can still call it low ready as long as the sight is any point below your direct line of sight between your eyes and the target.
Obviously, you will want to learn to shoot from a variety of shooting positions, but some make more sense than others. These positions often compromise between two factors: stability and mobility. In a gunfight, stability means you can make more accurate shots at longer ranges, while mobility means you can maneuver to better cover as the situation dictates and make yourself a more difficult target. The third factor, which may or may not be a compromise is the use of other cover and concealment in the terrain you are shooting. If you are in tall grass, you may have to kneel or stand when you would otherwise want to go prone. Thus, the closer and more dynamic the scenario, the less likely you are to use the more stable shooting positions, but then if you are more physically fit, you are more able to move quickly into and out of the more stable shooting positions. The closer the distance, the more aggressive and violent a shooter needs to be in order to prevail. There is no exception to this rule if you happen to be armed with a rifle as opposed to shotgun or pistol.
One problem with traditional shooting ranges is that they normally get you in the habit of using a shooting bench. This works for sighting in guns and entertainment shooting for the old and infirm, but you get a diminishing return on the training time spent just shooting smaller and smaller groups on fixed paper targets. That is why a survivor needs to practice shooting from the prone position for accurate long range shooting, kneeling and squatting for midrange shots, and standing for closer range shots. Advanced techniques should involve shooting while moving, point shooting, and transitions between weapons. Again, the prone position is going to be the one you want to train with the most as it is not only the most stable position for accuracy, but it also makes you less of a target to hostile fie. It can also be one of the better positions for dealing with rifles that have a stiff recoil, like the FAL Para model shown above.
Any shooting at a significant distance should be done from the prone position, and the competent survivor will practice this as the favored shooting position both day and night, on both even and uneven ground while making use of terrain features as cover. It may be necessary to do the majority of your night training in "dry fire" due to the disturbance caused even in rural areas by gunfire at night. A valid option is to train with silenced weapons, sub caliber guns and airsoft to develop night shooting skils.
Due to the necessity of usually needing to determine the identity and intent of people before applying any lethal force, a survivor should be competent in the use of most forms of optics, including riflescopes, binoculars, night vision equipment, rangefinders, and spotting scopes. The survivor should also have a familiarity with the use and adjustment of "iron sights" that are common to nearly all firearms.
As standards go, you should first get your rifle sighted in and some basic marksmanship skills so that your shot groups end up evenly centered on a target at a good sight in range. Most of the time, the basic test is to have all of your hits within a 10" area at 100 yards. That is with your real world gun, real world ammunition and under real world conditions. Accomplished shooters will often brag about how they can do 1" groups with their pet gun and favored ammunition under optimum conditions at 100 yards, but have them try and repeat that under stress or without the aid of a shooting bench and rest, and they are often lost. That said, your rifle should mechanically be able to get all shots within 4" to 5" at 100 yards under good conditions or there is probably something wrong with it or the scope. Optimally, you want the gun to be a little more accurate than you are since it can be very frustrating to take shots where the tool is not up to the task, an no matter how hard you try, it is still a crap shoot. Thus, if the shooting starts to feel a bit "too easy" when you are shooting within the limits of what the rifle is capable of, you might want to upgrade quality and shoot at longer ranges.
That said about accuracy, the other big factor in shooting skill is speed. This is not much different with a rifle than any other gun. This skill development usually requires a range set up for it but you can also work on timing yourself at a conventional range. Again, working your skills up to the point that you can fire accurately faster and at longer ranges, and transition from target to target in shorter times. In doing rifle to pistol transition drills, you will likely end up appreciating quality guns with the appropriate modifications, but given the field environment where a survivor is likely to be carrying his weapons. Remember to maintain a focus on real world environments, not just well tended gun club ranges. Certain "boutique guns" like the Kimber CDP will suffer considerable wear in this sort of training environment. Training hard with a gun and keeping it pretty can often work against each other. A smart player will most likely use a more utilitarian pistol in a rough training environment.
Once you establish your accuracy standard, it is better to move to your speed standards with simple reactive targets on a hit/miss grading. Balloons, metal plates, clay pigeons and old bowling pins all make pretty decent reactive targets. Given that you practice accuracy and speed, you want to be developing an understanding of tactics within the confines of the safety parameters that will be unavoidable when you set up a formal or even semi-formal shooting range.
This training session involved both handgun and rifle drills, including reloading and transitioning between weapons. The rifle was used for the longer range targets which in this case were balloons placed about 75 yards downrange, and the pistol targets were conventional IDPA type targets. You can use the same range setup with different scenarios to give variety to the training.
Elements that you can include in a training scenario are:
Shoot/no shoot targets
Reloading skills, to include tactical reloading
Transitioning from one weapon to another. This will usually mean rifle to pistol and pistol to rifle transitions, which can be trickier than you would think. Other transitions can include knives, martial arts weapons, and improvised weapons.
Movement - note that for safety purposes, you want to temper "high speed" movement with concerns for the safety of the shooter and bystanders. You do not want someone tripping and inducing an accidental discharge.
Scenario re-enactments. Use props, different targets and even buildings and walls to simulate different scenarios. Some of the most common and useful scenarios would include anti-ambush and anti-carjacker drills where you train to shoot from an vehicle, or while using a vehicle as cover. These are usually advanced techniques, but can represent the higher end skills a private individual would utilize in real world situations, and probably more practical for most of us than taking SWAT courses on how to shoot while dangling from a rope on the side of a building.
In preparing for a training scenario, I personally prefer "come as you are" rules when it comes to weapons and equipment. Set up the scenario to simulate a real world tactical problem and allow the shooters to address the problem using whatever guns and equipment they bring along. This is where rifle, pistol and shotgun training become integrated, especially when multiple shooters are working as a team. Note that in a "come as you are" training scenario, you want to make sure that all of the shooters who are participating in the scenario are 100% capable and willing to deal with the safety issues of the training day.
A good scenario should involve a realistic story behind it, preferably borrowed from a real world event. It should contain elements of timing, tactics, marksmanship and weapon handling. It should not be purposefully orchestrated to favor one type of weapon over another, but obviously part of the game is to use the right tool for the job. Come as you are scenarios should not be overly adjusted to the handicap of certain weapons, such as requiring multiple mandatory reloads or transitions when such reloads and transitions would not be logical for the same scenario in a real world environment.
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There is a balancing act between technological superiority and mastery of one's weapons through training, but the winner's circles are definitely dominated by those who have the technology AND train with it.