CQB: The Myth, The Con & The Right Way

Student Review: Combat Team Tactics & Night Firing 6-8 Nov: Paul
November 13, 2015
Student Review: Combat Team Tactics 6-8 Nov 2015: Thomas
November 16, 2015

I’m throwing this one up again, with no editing, because I see that comments seem to have become a little active again.

Note that we do now run a CQB class: Citizen Close Combat (C3). This is an alumni only class, pre-requisite Combat Team Tactics (CTT). Next C3 class is December 12-13.


rangers cqb

If you haven’t already read my post ‘Tactical Clearance: An Alternative CQB Technique‘ then  you should do as background to this post. I ran a FaceBook campaign to get that post out there and it was overwhelmingly well received. However, there was, as usual with anything CQB, an element of spitting hate filled muppets trolling the crap out of it. This is nothing new. I have my opinion on the great CQB con and I have come under fire for sticking my head above the parapet on this subject before. Newsflash: I’m not going to stop.

The thing is, those that do this for a living under combat conditions know what I am talking about. Because, unlike some of the accusations, I’m not claiming to be inventing this stuff. I didn’t invent small unit tactics either. I am simply writing some TTPs in order to bring the topic to the civilian audience with a rational understanding of the real world conditions of CQB, and what works, what doesn’t, and what may keep you alive.

You see, ‘CQB’ has become a focus of the last 10 or so years of the GWOT. CQB (close quarter battle) or CQC (close quarter combat) have even morphed in meaning. To me, coming up in the 90’s, CQB was any kind of close combat. It could be urban, or jungle – anything at close range to the enemy. I still believe that. Urban CQB is simply a subset of CQB in general, with its own specific TTP’s. But there are those who will argue that CQB only encompasses structure entry and clearance. The reason? That is their experience and focus.

However I digress. Before I write any more, I want to bring in a quote from a forum member, Thomas:

@******** may I recommend that if you have not already done so, you master the fundamental infantry tasks and steer clear of CQB. If you simply want to be part of a stack and burn ammunition at a high round count class, go for it. But that is not what Max is advocating and that is only a very small piece of urban combat and not done that particular way in high intensity urban combat.

CQB is a part of urban warfare but, for me, is a last resort. I personally want to avoid urban warfare until I have no choice but to engage. Failing to understand MOUT and all that goes into preparation of the urban battle-space makes learning room clearing irrelevant unless and until one gets to that specific point in urban offensive operations. Personally, I will rubble the building before sending infantry in to clear it. It is much preferable to set fire to the building and shoot the enemy as they come out or to bring the building down on the enemy.

You may have noticed that Max is trying mightily to avoid teaching CQB. Like other true professional Infantry Leaders, he wants to avoid room clearing. CQB as it is being discussed is high intensity warfare and is likely attacking an urban defense in depth. Von Paulus and the German Sixth Army had some difficulty with that type of warfare.

What is taught in the market place currently is SWAT entry and not urban combat. The two have the phrase “enter a room” in common and it kind of ends there. American CQB rules are the basis for the instruction and are not//not what one would use in urban combat.

I personally would not pay to attend a course like that any more than I would pay for a math class that teaches 16(25)=ketchup.

I don’t mean to preach and apologize if I have wasted your time with this long post.

I couldn’t have said it better myself. There are some important aspects to what Thomas writes:

There is a confusion over what CQB is, and its context. I talk about that in the original article (Tactical Clearance: An Alternative CQB Technique). There is police/SWAT entry and then there is combat. SWAT entry is low risk. Sorry, but it is. Because when it is assessed as high risk, they don’t enter. Kicking a door in on a meth head, or serving a warrant with a whole SWAT team, is not high risk. If there is a barricaded bad guy, then they will sit out and negotiate, or burn it down. In combat, you want to avoid clearing rooms. If you have to, you want to go high intensity, and frag/concuss them before you enter. The more you are worried about civilians  and hostages in the rooms, the less violence you can use prior to entry, and thus the higher risk you put on the entry team. That is why top tier units are so well drilled.

A point was raised that in many buildings, walls are concealment, not cover. Very true here at home. In the Middle East, you are more likely to have walls that will stop rounds. However, this does not mean that tactical clearing, or fighting from the door, loses merit. Tactical clearing itself is fast: Door is breached, or you appear in the open door, and threats are immediately engaged. You can follow that up with entry if you wish. Whether or not the wall is bullet proof, it is better to do this than stack and run into the room before threats have been engaged, particularly when you are unable to shock breach the room (explosive/flashbang/frag etc). The other side of the coin is that if the walls do not provide cover, then what is stopping you lighting up the room/building from range before you even consider room clearing? Back to the urban tactics mentioned by Thomas – unless you expect friendlies in the room, and then to clear it you have to assume greater risk.

Because CQB (or room clearing) is in fact a sub set of MOUT (Military Operations in Urban Terrain). There are other ways to defeat the enemy, but if you do have to get in and clear rooms, then tactical clearance gives you a much better option that classic battle drill 6 (or stacking and flooding). Just ask the Ranger Regiment, who have been focusing on raids and CQB for the last 10 or so years. Go ask a Ranger about combat clearance techniques. See if it chimes with my article on tactical clearance….

When discussing this with Chris (MVT Cadre) he commented that although battle drill 6 is what is taught across the wider army, what actually happens in combat is more akin to tactical clearance as I describe. Similarly, there was a whole review done by the Marine Corps after the second Battle of Fallujah, explaining how the taught CQB tactics did not work and what they actually did + recommendations (I don’t have the reference at hand).

So why the resistance to my CQB article?

It’s a con. The “American rules of CQB’ are terrible and only really suited for SWAT style entry in low risk environments. But there is a whole industry built around it. There are the SWAT cops whose ‘warrior self view’ relies on the perception of CQB. Many don’t even understand this at any deep level and just do what they have been told to do. There are some delicate egos that rely on this whole CQB thing. That’s partly why they don’t want it talked about or analyzed – another great response is that I am giving away matters of national security by discussing it! – because they like to maintain an aura around the subject. There are the ‘operators’ who do this for a living (‘at work’) and rely on the image for their self-worth. There is the industry and trainers built around it, relying on maintaining that aura. Then there are the fan-boys, who suck it all up and would never question.

It’s not really that complicated. There are alternative SOPs. You can really over-complicate the matter of entering and clearing a room. Wry knowing smiles at the newbie who dares to ask a probing question will soon shut down the standard fan-boy. Just parrot what you were taught!  There is a whole industry of bullshit attached to this CQB thing and as we see across the scope of tactical instruction, it behooves certain instructors to make basics complicated, so they can sell it. Of course that is the other response: either that what I am advocating “is nothing, but shouldn’t be discussed” or “nothing new here but you shouldn’t be teaching it.”

What are the reasons for this:

  • Institutional inertia and protection of training fiefdoms.
  • DKWYDK: otherwise known as not knowing any better.
  • Desire for asymmetrical knowledge against civilians.

That final point is interesting, because many will also say “you will never need that training” just as they will ask why civilians are doing any sort of tactical training. Now I wrote about it, surely there will be mass civil disobedience, or the sky will fall, or something equally as terrible. Did these guys get the memo on rightful liberty and the unorganized militia? I thought not – despite the oath to the Constitution?

I don’t have any specific videos on Tactical Clearance. I posted a couple of useful illustration videos on the original post. I found a couple more, showing how these techniques can be used.

The deription of the video below reads:

“Special Forces working with Afghan National Army. The first guy through the door is ANA. His weapon is hit and he turns and runs out the door (look for sparks when rounds hit his weapon). He is killed when he runs outside (this happens off camera). Insurgents inside the house shoot the ANA soldier through holes in the front of the building. The Special Forces soldier neutralizes the threat.”

If you watch the video, the ANA guy goes in through the door and goes straight ahead down the corridor. In simple terms there is a door near left and far right. The SF guy goes near left, it is a corner fed room, and he enters and clears it by sweeping it with his muzzle. This is a one man version of a rapid dynamic entry. If there had been enemy in the room, it would have been whoever was faster on the draw to get rounds into the other guy. (Note: I am not critiquing here, we all know it is the man in the ring that counts, not the critic, I am just observing). Then, an enemy pops out of the far right room, and shoots the ANA guy out of the house. The SF guy engages from his doorway, shooting across the hallway. He then advances and rapidly corners that far right doorway, getting eyes into the room and engages from the doorway. He then enters. That is classic combat/tactical clearance – or ‘fighting from the door.’

Here is a video titled: ‘Modern CQB Method Problems I.’ Description:

“Teams of various skill levels making significant errors due to the failures of immediate entry tactics in the real world. Immediate entry should not be a default method of CQB/Room Clearing, it should be used wisely. Limited penetration with a focused and concentrated corner attack entry is a safer, more behaviorally compliant, and offers offensive and defensive advantages that the “modern method” cannot provide. It is prone to errors and leads to sever casualties against prepared resistance.”

Here is one with some British Brigade Reconnaissance Force footage from Helmand. They are not conducting dynamic entry, but using combat clearance techniques to search structures. This is a very good illustration of a mixed environment, something that you may come across in an SHTF situation – this is where you are not conducting full MOUT/Urban operations but have to deal with some building/structure clearance as part of your activities. The footage takes place in the Helmand green zone. There are a mix of high crops in the fields, drainage ditches, compound walls, houses etc – it’s a perfect hell environment for ‘CQB,’ where it applies not only to structure entry, but to close range contacts with the enemy in the ditches and fields.


At MVT we will be teaching these drills dry and live as part of the ‘enter and clear a room’ instruction on the ‘MVT Rifleman Challenge.‘ I absolutely do not recommend that you spend money on learning contemporary CQB methods as taught at many civilian schools.  Start and focus on the basics – it doesn’t matter whether you learn basics in the trees, they transfer to any environment . Fire and movement  is fire and movement. Concentrate on weapon manipulation. basic tactics and patrolling. Add an understanding of CQB techniques such as Tactical Clearance as appropriate.

MVT Training Overview


Addendum: some sobering reality:


  1. BBQ'd says:

    As usual Max pressure washes the bullshit away.

    Having given some thought to SWAT CQB techniques I always wondered what the consequences would be if someone were to place obstacles in the way or even cut firing points into walls. Max clearly shows such actions would likely result in poor results for those executing the outdated tactics.

    It would seem inarguable that the TTP offered by Max in his articles are superior IF one places lives and intelligence above profit.

    Keep the pressure on high Max, there’s a lot more cleaning to do.

  2. Kohlby Hollingsworth says:


    Two great articles both spot on. I currently teach a Urban Combat Leader Course in the army and we teach alot of the TTP’s you talk about in the article. CQB is much more than battle drill six or chapter 7 in FM 3-06.11, and the urban fight is much larger than clearing a room. I dont want to have to fight the enemey in a room that he has baricaded him self in and knows im coming. We preach clearing 80% of the room before entry and fighting from depth. A 10 meter engagement in an open room isnt fun for either force and most would benifit from avoiding it unless they have a death wish. Like you said in a previous comment any sane person bugs out unless caught by complete surprise. The biggest thing inCQB room clearing is each memeber of the team understanding duties and responsibilities and never giving up security or ground you have gained. Im with you on the fight of changing the Pac Man room clearing approach.

    Keep up the good work Max.

  3. JH68 says:

    Hey MV, I just wanted to drop my 2 cents. I have read both articles on the issue being discussed. My background is largely LE with the last 4 years in overseas contracting. I am a CQB and weapons instructor. I dont think I am all that and a bag of chips, but I do have an opinion on what I think works and what doesn’t. I agree that American LE ideas of CQB and Urban CQB are not the same. I think its comparing apples and oranges really but I understand what your getting at. I think anytime you can add more tools to the tactical tool box it’s a good thing. On the civilian side of things I have trained with really “squared away” teams and I have also seen some teams that need help with attitude, aptitude, and over all team work. War zone operations are not American LE and the expectation on successful outcomes are a little different. So comparing a high risk warrant for a person or contraband is not the same as clearing houses in Fallujah. As of yet I haven’t seen any local teams toting the M249 or frags to hit a dope house. That being said, there is nothing wrong with learning new tactics and different ways to implement how they can be used. I applaud the effort.
    One last remark, American SWAT teams do run into situations that are every bit of what is experienced in war time situation. Not often, but they do. Often the teams running across these situations have less training, less intel and subpar equipment. In my humble opinion this creates a recipe for disaster and there are situations that I would not characterize as low risk. SWAT Teams, or whatever acronym we are using these days, do run across the “high risk” situation and it is not always cordon, hold, and talk. Broad brushing like this is probably where your getting some of your backlash. Thanks for the moment.

    • Max Velocity says:

      Fair enough. But I don’t think I broad brushed in the original post?

      • Thomas says:

        I must disagree with you on a point or two in your post. First, I do not want to add tools to my tactical tool box if those tools are likely to get team members injured or killed. Tools must be appropriate to the immediate task at hand. A bad TTP is useless and has no place in anyone’s tool box. A bad or inappropriate TTP is not just another option to choose from.

        Second, situational risk does not change based on the proficiency level of the team. An untrained or poorly trained team faces increased risk from their weak skillset and not from the situation. What I mean by that is that a tier three team will face more risk than a tier one team because they lack training, intel, etc but the level of risk presented by the scenario does not change.

        I don’t want to pick nits. One TTP is not as good as another and some are completely inappropriate for a situation. Unless the end user can differentiate the subtleties of the TTP, loading up a toolbox is dangerous and can be deadly.

        • Max Velocity says:

          We are disagreeing? On which part – adding CQB skills at all? I understand your point, and I don’t want to encourage overconfidence leading to failure. However, I think that if fighting in a mixed environment, including rural with scattered farmhouses or suburban, there may be a need to search/clear/enter/assault structures. It is for this reason that I am putting forward these TTPs, to give people the right tools.
          Am I hitting what you meant, or do I misunderstand the point of your comment?
          We may disagree on the need at all for any of these skills, with you staying away from MOUT in entirety. Don’t mistake me, I’m not advocating MOUT, but I think tactical clearance is a useful skill to have, at the very least if it stops them thinking they can do dynamic entry. A better understanding of the risks of CQB/MOUT will also go a long way to deter people from thinking they can achieve it without significant loss.

  4. Thomas says:

    Part of the problem with these discussions is that the term CQB is being misused. Close Quarter Battle is determined by proximity. Room clearing is a form of CQB but not the only form. It might improve the dialogue if we were more precise in our use of language when discussing these topics.

    CQB occurs whenever we close with the enemy in an effort to defeat that enemy through whatever means necessary.

    • Max Velocity says:

      I agree: it’s in the post. I have found that very definition to be hotly contested among the ‘CQB’ community.

  5. Skittles says:

    Trees!!! Mumble mumble… Asshole!!! Grumble grumble!!! Funny accent!!! Choice swear word… Brit spy… incredulous look… Killer bees!!! Look of superiority while wearing operator glasses and doing my slow 360 tacticool scan. Now that thats all out of the way heres the serious bit. Max i dont look at what you teach as anything new and unheard of. Some magical gift from the gods if you will. Myself, and i think others as well, look at it as a very well written and concise lessons learned. Max’s shit that works and doesnt work personal journal put into a tactical manual. Its because a lot of us have similar experiences and similar, albeit a mental copy, lessons learned book. The non experienced that get it are just good ole smart open minded folks. Some with bad training experiences to compare to. When i read your postings and manuals, or take your courses, i do a mental comparrison to my leasons learned. I usually have one of two outcomes. “Yup, thats what i learned when i did it” or “Huh, never thought of that.” If its something i learned its a nice reinforcement. If it is something “new” that i never thought of i dont let it hurt my ego. I take it in, i evaluate it, and if it is better than what i currently do imove on with it as my new SOP. If its something i never experienced and therefore no basis to compare, i take your word for it and try it out in training. So far your lessons worked betterthan what i was doing.I think the biggest two reasons for backlash in what you put out are Fear and Ego. Ego is obvious. No one likes to admit they are the best. Fear is a little less obvious because it can feed into ego. Fear of failure hurts ego. Fear of having to do more and not be lazy hurts ego. Fear of lack of effectiveness resulting in death… well thats just fear. But in death the ego dies so maybe it does hurt the ego in the sense of ego’s self preservation. Sadly those with unassailable egos only learn through failure. In this game you usually only gwt one chance to fail. No extra lives. No reset button. Keep doing what youre doing. You are appreciated by more than object. Haters gonna hate. If everyone likes you then youre doing it wrong. Just my 2 cents

  6. Max Velocity says:

    In Facebook Comments:

    Timothy Wittmer: I noticed you referenced in a later thread the AAR written by Sgt. Catagnus with 3rd Battalion 5th Marines after the battle for Fallujah. I was also in 3/5 L at that time as a casualty replacement and served during the battle. I found that it took precisely 1 day and 1 casualty for our entire “CQB” or “MOUT” doctrine to completely change in to something similar to what you’re advocating. Although I would disagree slightly with some of the movements you are teaching for individual room clearance, the overall principle remains the same. Move only so fast as you can identify a threat and accurately engage it. An enemy barricaded inside a room waiting for you should get only a partial view of part of your shoulder, arm, head and muzzle (flash) as your 1 man makes entry. I’ll link a copy of the AAR- http://www.blackfive.net/main/2005/03/showdown_the_ba.html


    Techniques that individual Marines need to be taught and practiced are the following:

    1. Pieing off all danger areas. Even before entry into a room as many danger areas as possible should be pied off leaving only one or two corners that need to be cleared. Don’t blindly rush into a room, especially if the door is opened.

  7. Wittmer341 says:

    I like to video tape training scenarios. One of my favorites is to video tape how a person make his entry to a room under a “paper target” or “dry run” situation. Its always balls to the walls fast and, depending on their prior training experience, they either run willy nilly through the room with no discernible reason for their movements or they stick to a traditional button hook, cross, etc without regard to the targets in the room. Ask them to debrief and you get an AAR with phrases like, “Violence of Action” and other tactical vomit. Then I like to video tape the same people making an entry in a force on force scenario using SIMS or Airsoft. It works especially well with the SIMS because of the noise of the shot. Every single time those people slow their entry down and try to take advantage of the limited cover until the last second as they pie the room off. People who advocate for dynamic entry stuff, particularly when it involves moving to a prescribed location in the room, have an over-inflated sense of their own abilities under fire and thus likely have never been put in a situation where they had to use their tactics against an opponent with the will and ability to kill them.

    • Grenadier1 says:

      I think there is a reason for that, that is not by itself a validation of the point your making. I dont disagree with it BTW just adding a wrinkle. People follow one set of actions when they know that they have the element of surprise and a different set of actions when they know the bad guy knows they are coming. If you tell them “Okay we are using SIMs or airsoft because this time the bad guy will be live” They know in the context of the training that the bad guy knows they are coming. The ideal is to run the paper target drill over and over just like you would if they had a live bad guy. Then on the 4th or 5th run have the bad guy there shooting back without telling them. I think you would see that they would follow the same Fast and furious tactic. SWAT teams know for the most part they have that surprise, thats why they do what they do. The .mil is heavy and very rarely does it have the surprise element in its favor in house to house work. Different situations different tactics. I think there is a place for both styles and the best bet is to know all the aspects of the tactics so that you can counter them when needed. Even if you never ever plan to smash down a bad guys door and dynamically enter his hide out.

      • thrasher says:

        I do not agree with you at all. I have also filmed the same. It is reliable and repeatable. The tactics change as soon as a human is capable of shooting back, or immediately when a human shoots back. What do you want to do, program them to respond to paper? Unless the team convinces itself that it is going to run in at all cost and abandon realism, they will stop and use whatever limited cover and distance that they can find. Limited penetration can be done at extremely fast speeds. there are times to immediately move into a room, but those times are rare and rarely involve resistance inside the room.

  8. Firecop71 says:

    MVT- spot on !!!!!!
    I could write a f*cking book on how dead on both these articles are, but suffice to say you nailed it.
    The king has no clothes, and folks need to hear it, regardless of how much their ego is damaged.
    99% of the crap taught in super cool ninja classes could be replaced by PT and some good range practice sessions.

  9. […] EDIT: Follow Up here: ‘CQB: The Myth, The Con & The Right Way.’ […]

  10. Jutt says:

    CQB room clearing drills, in the context of SWAT serving a warrant on an old lady that forgot to pay her parking ticket, is nothing more than police state sponsored PSYOP. It’s a show of power to instill fear in anyone that would dare stand in their way as 99.9% of these warrants could easily be served by a few regular uniformed officers.

    What else would explain the obvious deficiencies of such methods?

    Max is correct, in a true combat situation where the other guy shoots back, these types of CQB methods would be as worthless as tits on a bull.

  11. Doug says:

    After having learned the basics in your Combat Team Tactics course, and learning further through research and practice, I have an observation about this essay you wrote. Watching from the sidelines I can’t help but return to the same conclusion every time without fail. And each time the conclusion reinforces the basic concepts and practice.
    Small Unit Infantry Tactics, the elemental form of rifle armed combat, gets you to all other forms of combat. You can’t get to other aspects of combat successfully without it. You can get lucky and survive long enough to learn from your mistakes in CQB. But no matter what, the elements of small unit infantry tactics are the basis of fighting with small arms no matter what the situation. The basics apply in all regards. The opposite is not true. Cover, Concealment, Movement and Fire, Fire Superiority, Effective Fire, Covering Fire, Field of Fire, etc, all the elements of small unit infantry tactics, are employed in CQB.
    Frankly, to contend otherwise or skip over or ignore Small Unit infantry Tactics in teaching small arms combat of any kind literally borders on homicidal negligence. For all involved, instructor and student.

  12. Diz says:

    Good discussion guys. I think as more and more info comes to light from actual experience overseas, you are going to see a slow change in thinking concerning “CQB”. The real question for me is what is the right technique for me, as an armed civilian, in a WROL situation. Therein lies the solution. If I HAVE to clear room/building, how should I do it? If I am inside shelter, and being assaulted, how do I defend or withdraw?

    Personally, I think the “combat” CQB, or the way Max is teaching it, is closer to what I will likely use, than what law enforcement is currently employing.

    Yeah, it’ really apples n oranges here.