CQB: The Myth, The Con & The Right Way

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: