Shattering Conventional CQB Dogma

Combat Patrol 18-20 Jan 2014 AAR #5 – ApoloDoc
January 25, 2014
Combat Patrol AAR: JC Dodge, Mason Dixon Tactical
January 25, 2014

I came across the following video on YouTube. I found it very interesting. It is discussing the ‘fatal funnel fallacy’ and I find it very refreshing that some are starting to question the ‘conventional wisdom’ of CQB. I have written about this often in the past and have often criticized what I term ‘SWAT Style’ CQB tactics.

Nathan Wager, who made the video, talks about the faults and assumptions of this ‘American Style of Clearing’, a sentiment that I feel is very much on the nail. He talks about the fallacy of the fatal funnel and the definitions of it, and how this leads to dangerous  assumptions when designing room clearing techniques. You see this all the time. Actual operators or their fanboys will learn ‘the speak’ and can reiterate it to anyone challenging it, but they don’t really know. You see these stylistic room clearing drills.

If I have any issue with the video, it is this: from my point of view, all the CQB techniques he is discussing are already, for want of a better term,  ‘down the rabbit hole’. In that sense, he has also gone down that rabbit hole to argue about specifics of why  things are wrong, when I will just step back and look at the bigger picture. But I give him credit for doing so and he makes a good argument. This is how I would summarize my thoughts:

1) The ‘SWAT Style” room clearing drills are for low threat situations or ones where you are ‘clearing’ and not really expecting a serious threat, such as  barricaded enemy. SWAT do not go into a high threat situation. If you go dynamically against a real threat without maximum shock and violence you are cruising for a bruising.

2) Top Tier dynamic entry units will do similar drills in high threat environments, but they get away with such techniques by using shock to actually dynamically gain entry, such as use of explosive breaching and/or flashbangs to create shock, to seize and maintain the initiative when entering. Speed, aggresion and surprise.

3) The original meaning of the ‘fatal funnel’ was a warning to ensure that you did not pause or remain in doorways or windows. It was to prevent silhouetting yourself there. Of course, when readying to prevent a room entry, the ‘bad guy’ will naturally set up to shoot towards natural entry points. So, rather than over-defining the ‘fatal funnel’, as the video says, it is more about enemy lines of fire, corners, and avoiding silhouetting yourself there. Don’t try and define the ‘funnel ‘ geographically and over complicate it, creating a whole bunch of stylized drills based on over-complicated assumptions about the fatal funnel.

4) In a similar way, if you go through a door and are confronted by an enemy in the middle of the room, shoot him! You see so many of these drills where the guy switches away from the center of the room to the near corners when there is a target right there. You need to engage the threats that you can see and let your team coming behind clear other areas.  Yes, blah blah, you need to clear the room, but you don’t ignore real threats to do so. This is another problem of the ‘over stylize-ation’ of these drills. If you are wondering how you do all this with bad guys in the room and you are funneling through the door, then welcome to the essential problem with these drills unless you have pre-shocked the room!

5) If you up the intensity of these operations to MOUT (FISH – Fighting In Someones House), then you will find violence is the answer. If you have to enter rooms, you need a grenade or similar violence first to gain the initiative by shocking the enemy. Avoid doors, use windows. Avoid windows, create an explosive breach through the wall or roof. Use grenades, rockets, anything that is violence. Otherwise, as you go in the room the enemy can shoot you. Simple, right? I would rather knock down a wall with a bulldozer or truck than do these drills when there are known bad guys in there. Entering a room through an explosive or vehicle breach in the wake of debris and plaster dust is going to be a way of avoiding death.

6) If you don’t have to go in there, burn it down or destroy it from standoff. Bang a thermobaric in there, that will take care of it, so long as you escalated through your rules or engagement to give anyone a chance to come out. If you do have to go in there, then if you expect a high threat, such as barricaded enemy, then you will need to change your tactics. You will be better off doing a technique such as ‘combat clearing’ which is a slower technique where you approach a dangerous room, get the door open, and then use a technique based off the ‘pie the corner’ technique to get visibility onto sectors of the room and identify the threat or lack of. Once you identify the barricaded enemy, then you can make a plan to take care of it. A grenade into a room may cause temporary shock to an enemy, but if he is barricaded he will pop back up and be able to engage you from cover as you swarm into the room.

7) Don’t get me wrong, if you are doing classic MOUT, you will have to clear through a building and will have to use room entry and clearance techniques, similar to the SWAT techniques shown, but using whatever you can to grenade or alternatively breach rooms to maintain shock and surprise as you go in. But there is a reason why MOUT is a highly casualty intensive operation of war. SWAT are not engaged in the same thing. If you end up sending two, three or four men into a room to clear it in a MOUT operation, with furniture and bad guys, you can run basic drills but you have to play it as it comes. Go left, go right, but shoot what you can see as you enter, with your buddies coming behind taking care of the corners etc. You can run drills, but at the end of the day it’s a fight, and cannot be over-sequenced or stylized. Don’t go at it like an unthinking robot or a set sports play!

Nathan mentions ‘High Threat Systems’ at the end of the video and the training they are doing. Here are a couple of those videos illustrating some of these points of criticism (note: the part of the video where the is a POV camera firing very close to a friendly can be found on YouTube as a ‘Delta Force’ CQB video):


Live Hard

Die Free



  1. Tom S says:

    The Russians in fighting Germans clearing rooms standard was throw a grenade follow up with a clip of sub machinegun fire then maybe enter.

    U.S.Army typically used explosive breaching through walls to go house to house.

    The FBI burns the house down..

  2. Eric says:

    I am not…

    nor have I ever been in law enforcement, but it has always puzzled me why guys “stack up” against a wall by the door they are preparing to breach, and then “Stack up” again and enter rooms the way they do. An aggressor with significant firepower in the right position could wipe out anyone that came through the door

    • michael says:

      The reason we stack on a door before we enter is to be as close to the man in front of you so the second he enters the room and goes left or right, you are immediately in the door behind him and your weapon is going in the opposite direction. This is all dependant on METT TC also. If you are stacking on a building it is assumed that you will probably have local security of the area. However, ive done training where we cleared an entire small city and didnt have time or cover to stack everytime on the door. So we ran from door to door, breached and continuously cleared buildings. I hope that kinda helped your question

      • Max Velocity says:

        I think everyone here understands that, and that perhaps your comments are ‘inside the box’ of what is being discussed here….?

  3. Darkknight says:

    One of the fallacies of the military training I received for room clearing is the grenade first. I the vast majority of buildings a frag grenade is going to throw shrapnel through the walls.
    I always thought with all the schools the Army has to give out bling for, that a MOUT school would have been developed. This could have taught what types of construction can resist what explosives or what rounds, etc.
    Just my $.02.

    • Max Velocity says:

      Grenade first was developed in a time and place of better house construction! For the shock required to enter a room, it’s great. If the building is of the sort where a room partition will not protect from fragmentation, I would be tempted not to go room to room at all, but to shoot it to pieces or otherwise destroy it.
      After all, when a government TWAT team really wants to kill dangerous bad guys inside a place, they never enter and clear, but burn it down. Shows they understand the limits of clearing tactics!
      Edit: ‘bad guys’ being subjective….

      • nick says:

        I think a subject such as this requires a certain level of common sense, of which only a few comments on this page have displayed this. You would never throw a HE grenade into a room of which had thin partitioned walls… a six bang (flash), breaching charge would normally be used to avoid this problem.

        Secondly; such tactics were developed by the SAS to conduct hostage clearance. made famous by the Iranian embassy. The use of low velocity weapons such as the HK MP5, and or side arm in a cqb environment was for this exact reason, to counter the risk of rounds penetrating walls, also of any potential threat, therefore lowering the risk of blue on blue, or injuring any innocents.

        These tactics have been disseminated, and changed to suit current ttp by what ever unit, or the instructor based on intheatre experiences.

        now i dont doubt the level of expertese and experience of so,e of the people commenting on here, but surely you should be able to appreciate that what one instructor teaches in one place is always going to be different somewhere else? Have you never heard of fighting from the door? Such tactics were developed by SF in Afghan because of the use of booby traps in doorways, as you said slice of pie.

        I would like to just finish on the point when conducting room cearance cqb tactics, the whole point of of it is keeping momentum, speed, using maximum aggression to eliminate the threat. when entering the room you should be literally up your oppos arse, clearing your corner and sweeping your sector. therefore maintaining mutual support. The fact that you have raised the issue of people focussing on corners shows poor training by anyones standards. I suggest you raise this point. I hope this solves so,e of the issues raised on this post, i read….and wept.

        NOBODY knows Buble like ze do.

        • Max Velocity says:

          This comment kind of perplexes me, because I am not sure of where it is intended to go, or who it is really aimed at? It sort of restates stuff, but perhaps as a criticism for it being discussed?

          Perhaps my head is fried, been writing my sequel all day. Battles!

          *scratches head*

    • D Close says:

      Max posted a video a while back that addressed that very subject. It specifically spoke to the penetration effects of different weapons in a MOUT environment. It was produced by the US Army I believe.
      I pass on a story that was related to me. A unit was attempting to capture a HVT in A-stan. The target was confirmed inside a building but as the team approached they received heavy fire. They returned fire with grenades, rockets, rounds, etc. They used Thermobaric grenades. They could not subdue the target building. The fighters had positions in defilade that made it too dangerous to approach the house. WP or CS was disallowed. Air strike was denied due to civilians in the area. The unit was forced to withdraw without the target.

      Your own experience probably would confirm that it is impossible to know exactly what is behind the door until you open it. If we are defending in such a situation it is possible to be more than the bad guys want to chew.

      DK did you guys train with distractors when frags were not appropriate?

    • Rodger Young says:

      My unit attended MOUT School at Ft Hood prior to deploying to Panama for Operation Just Cause. Maybe it’s no longer there.

  4. Sam Brady says:

    Interesting videos. CQB dynamic tactics were first learned from the SAS and these tactics slowly morphed thru Tier 1 US units to conventional infantry units and various law enforcement agencies. These tactics were primarily developed to rescue hostages. Operators were put at risk to overwhelm the suspects to free hostages. It was and is a mistake to utilize these tactics on hi-risk arrests, etc in the law enforcement world.
    Military tactics have evolved some from the conventional CQB to what is known as “Combat Clearing,” a mix of dynamic and slow tactics.
    Operators are not necessarily driving to the corners if a threat is present in the center of the room. #1 goes to the first threat, the others fill in. Hard to explain, easier to demonstrate.
    Rules of engagement vary in the military from time and place. Law enforcement are supposed to operate strictly within the 4 corners of the Constitution. The threat, the environment & the presence of innocent persons have to be carefully considered before a specific tactic is used. Teams love practicing CQB dynamically because it is a lot of fun! Slower room clearing tactics are boring & can be fatiguing. Slow and careful is still the best way to go in many instances. Strong leadership is necessary to instill the proper mind-set in the operator and the proper tactics.
    In my opinion, no team or group is properly trained until they have participated in live fire shooting house training and then moved on to using bullet traps in conventional structures. Using the same space to train in over and over simply makes you an expert in that space…..
    I always attempted to call a suspect out rather than enter unknown space when innocent citizens would be at risk by my actions. Rescuing dope is not an option either!
    Good discussionh. thanks Sam

    • Max Velocity says:

      It’s all good stuff. I think part of the point is the errors with the current ‘American way’. SAS started this stuff but the drills are not the same. ‘Running the walls’ and ‘digging the corners’ and the way it has evolved in the States is the problem.
      Yes to ‘combat clearing’ for barricaded enemy etc.

    • Max Velocity says:

      Depends how you do your live fire 😉
      Simunitions etc have a valid training utility. Live fire on realistic targets/objectives is the ultimate place you need to be.

  5. RobRoySimmons says:

    IMO CQB is for home D if thugfor breaches the domicile. As for CQB being an offensive tactic, it would be my last choice, a road flare looks good to me, call it FBI Style. A few threads ago I was castigated for writing that some of .mil should not be adopted, of course it was a case of internet fog. One of the things I meant beyond the .mil careerism was the nuts to butts routine, which is better left to these fine chaps.

  6. Sam Brady says:

    I agree with 4Bravo1, sometype of simunitions training must be incorporated. However that is only valid if the role players understand their actual “role.” Live fire training with bullet traps in unfamiliar surroundings increases confidence in the operator and it also forces you to really think about your tactics because you have not used the same facility for endless repetitions

  7. […] post Shattering Conventional CQB Dogma appeared first on Tactical Training by Max […]

  8. Benny Glock says:

    Great read and mature comments below. First article I’ve read from y’all (#funkertactical sent me from a fb link), and this type of thought out analysis is right up my alley. You’ve gained a new fan.
    OIF09 (Baghdad) Army NG vet, 12B

  9. Rob says:

    You said ‘TWAT’ Team…LMFAO

  10. Diz says:

    Well, my thought is that in all likelihood, we will be on the other side of this equation, as in a violent home invasion by (fill in the blank). So we should be training to break contact with this type of assault, not training to do it. Much less critiquing it. Let them keep fucking it up I say.

    • Max Velocity says:

      I think that’s the main point that the tacticoolers miss. What are they training for? Whose house are they doing these drills on? Or are they training ‘SWAT’ because its ‘cool’ and it what LEO instructors are offering, for lack of real SUT expertise?
      Whatever the reason, it’s totally inappropriate and will get people killed.

  11. Chuck says:

    I think we can sum this up for our purposes thus:

    Don’t enter and clear buildings unless there is no other option. Best choice is to bypass altogether. If that doesn’t work, level the building or otherwise kill everything inside before sending anyone inside. Only if it is absolutely necessary and there is no other choice should we send men in to clear and then we use a deliberate clearing technique that maximizes force protection. For example, if the building construction will allow it and you have the ammo, there’s nothing wrong with “frag and spray” or other similar means of reducing the threat.

    One reason to clear a building is that you wish to occupy it for some reason (use as a temporary base of operations or to set up an urban strongpoint, etc.) In that case, a building you can easily reduce without clearing it is probably not of much use for either purpose because it is not defensible.

    Either way, you better make sure the juice is worth the squeeze.

  12. Diz says:

    An very interesting comment by a good SF buddy. Last tour he switched to a longer range set up for his main rifle. Why? Turns out the latest tactic to address “violent home invasion”, otherwise known as “door kicking” (depending on your POV), is to run out the back. (In the military, when an instructor would make a statement, and then do something like kick a desk, it meant that it would be on the final test. Thump, thump.) So he found he wasn’t doing much close range shooting. In fact, if he got a shot at all, it was couple of hundred meters. So tactics changed to engage these “squirters” as they were called.

    So it’s like that sat tv commercial. You wake up in the middle of the night and someone is assaulting your home. You grab your rifle and kit and barricade in your room. They burn your house down with you inside it. Don’t grab your rifle and barricade inside your room. Squirt out the back at your earliest opportunity. Live to fight another day.

    Hajji is an illiterate fuck who wipes his ass with his hand and fondles boys. If he can figure that out, so can we.