Taking Down the Tacticool Transition Dogma

Well, this is interesting, but highly predictable. Forums! Oh yes, Forums! Aren’t they wonderful places, that develop little hierarchy’s of their own, with certain posters establishing themselves and controlling the groupthink.

‘F’, otherwise known as ‘BlueZ’ on the, sent me an AAR after he attended my latest CRCD class (HERE for the AAR).

As ‘BlueZ’ he also posted the AAR on the HERE. (Edit: after a predictable forum fight, they took down the post & thread).

In the AAR, he makes some comments about ‘transition’ training, and its context. This is an extract from his review:

I had been in the military for quite some time but with only very sporadic tactical training.

Recently I decided to up my game and was looking around for some tactical classes.

Looked at the ubiquitous Magpul videos and some other “big name” classes and they just bothered the heck out of me.
They were mostly about becoming an AR driver and transition dancer, not a tactically proficient and rounded individual.,

Those others seemed to be focused on a PoU (Philosophy of Use) that might be good for a SWAT team but not for a civilian 1st Defender.

In my mind it is laughable that some of those schools make practicing transitions from rifle to handgun a mandatory part for their students, most of which have not yet even maxed out on the Rifle.

I myself even though I am <quite> good with a handgun wouldn’t think of making a training effort for transitions until I can no longer improve anything with my rifle skills AND I get driven to wherever I go, so I don’t have to worry about the handgun displacing needed magazines or water…

I am not an experienced Infantryman but I know a thing or two about training troops and using the right PoU ….and in my mind the mainstream, Carbine classes that are currently taught often use a PoU that fits the instructors needs better than those of the students.

Whoa, whoa whoa there fella! How dare you! Criticize the mainstream of tacticool training! This of course caught the ire of another poster, ‘Sentry18’, who attempted to take BlueZ to task for his heresy (policing the forum, how apt!). I don’t know anything about Sentry18, but he appears to be some sort of SWAT, CQB, high speed tacticool, kind of guy. In other words, he knows what he knows but doesn’t know any better – can’t see the woods for the trees.

OK, so on to my point. This is kind of a hard one, because it involves applying reading comprehension and seeing things in shades of gray, rather than black and white:

Both BlueZ and I are not saying that training in weapons transitions may not be useful to you. The point is that you have to train right, and get competent, before training in some of these techniques. It’s a question of targeting correct training in order to maximize your survivabilty. Work on the good solid basics before you try and work on the niche stuff.

On my ranges during team drills it is fairly common that someone will ‘transition’ to their handgun due to a weapon malfunction, usually in a buddy team drill when both weapons go down at the same time. It will be temporary, until they get an opportunity to get their rifle back into the fight. What does this mean? It means that they rapidly get their pistol out and engage the target. But notably, usually from the prone position, which is not usually trained as part of tacticool transition training. Why? Because the prone position is where you survive, and the standing is where you die. However, I prefer that they concentrate on clearing their rifle and getting it back into the fight, because that is the focus of the training. Until you have done field firing out on real live ranges under combat conditions you may well think you are a great ‘AR driver’, and really into transition  training and all that, but the fact is that your probably aren’t, and you are probably living in a false comfort zone.

The use of the handgun is not the focus of my combat rifle class. Running your rifle in realistic combat situations, both as an individual and member of a team, is the crucial lesson. I know that BlueZ is a good pistol shot. It is also important to train with a pistol in case you don’t have a rifle on you. Also, in case you are carrying a rifle and that stops firing at a crucial moment where your life may be saved by taking out your pistol rather than clearing the stoppage on the rifle (‘i.e. ‘transition’ – yawn).

The vital point here is that if you go straight to concentrating on square range shooting and transitions and all that, you are not developing competence in rifle soldiering in light infantry combat – which is what combat is. If you try the tacticool stuff in combat, you will die. BlueZ’s point is that you need to get competent at the rifle stuff before moving into the tacticool stuff. I mean, bottom line, ‘transitioning” is simply getting your pistol out when your rifle stops firing – let’s not cloak it in tacticool mystique . But if you don’t correctly learn all the other things before that, you will die. Things like correct reaction to enemy fire (RTR); primarily initial reactive combat  shooting followed by TAKING COVER in an effective way and then continuing to return fire.

It’s not that square ranges don’t have a place – they have a vital place as part of your progression. But you can’t stop there, you need to move onto combat training. Staying on the square range and thinking you are tactically trained is a fatal error. You need to progress with a competent military tactical trainer in order to learn effective light infantry tactics. I’m sorry, but so much of the SWAT stuff is simply not effective outside of a narrow application and is actually dangerous if you are not using it to do what SWAT does, which is structure entry and room clearance, when not facing a determined or barricaded enemy – it’s not high intensity urban combat for example. I had an ex-SWAT guy on the same class as BlueZ and he was telling me how poor the training that he received was . Outside of room clearance/hostage rescue operations, SWAT training  and tactics are hopelessly flawed – they don’t pass muster at the light infantry litmus test.

So when would we transition from rifle to handgun?:

1) When our rifle stops firing when very close to the enemy, such as in a CQB room clearing operation, usually at hand to hand combat distances.

2) When our rifle has a permanent  malfunction, such as something breaking or even the rifle being hit by enemy fire.

So, the time when the transition training has most utility is for an individual at close range without backup. If you are at any distance from the enemy, such as more than 7 – 10 meters away as an arbitrary number, and you have cover, you can clear and reload your rifle and get back in the fight. And this is where the whole tacticool thing misses the point. It is the main point that people learn when they train with me (well, other than they need to do more PT!) – it is the secret formula of TEAM. If your buddies are suppressing the enemy, you can clear the stoppage in cover and get the rifle back into the fight.

There are plenty of situations where people’s lives have been saved by having a handgun available for quick draw, and where they have used it when they were unable for some reason to use their rifle. There are other situations where they are able to simply get out of the way and let their backup buddy put rifle rounds into the bad guy.  There are even more situations where people survived because they could do the basic combat rifle stuff well. So am I arguing against the need to transition if necessary? No. I am arguing against it as a primary focus, that takes place before you are competent with your rifle and handgun separately, and before you can conduct yourself in a tactically sound manner in a firefight.

Historically, most soldiers in war don’t have backup handguns. They rely on their rifles. If their rifle stops, they rely on TEAM to back them up. Yes, you are a civilian and an individual and you don’t want to become a statistic, so you may want to have a handgun on your gear in case you need it. I do. I can get it out and use it if my rifle goes down (‘transition’ – yawn). The problem is if this becomes your focus. You see the videos, guys standing on the range doing all this, in front of an array of targets – you know what I mean.

This comes back to my point about good combat training  – the need to engage the threat and then get into cover before continuing to engage, and the example I use of a boxer only training to ‘dominate’ the enemy by punching the heavy bag. Once he gets into a  fight, or sparring, he learns that he needs to duck and cover. Moving on from the square range to field firing ranges is the equivalent of moving on from hitting the heavy bag to sparring, preparing you better for an actual fight.

So much of this tacticool stuff involves standing in front of targets on a  square range (hitting the heavy bag), and it sort of spins off from there, gathering more momentum, madness and tacticoolness as it goes. Walking around blue barrels, spinning in circles in slow motion? Awesome training for combat! (sarcasm). The square range should be used as good progression training for transitioning from the shooting fundamentals to weapons manipulation and combat shooting positions. But you need to learn about cover,  movement, firing your rifle and changing magazines in the prone position, use of ground and all that. Use of the flank!

As I have stated before, what is missing from a  lot of training that people receive from law enforcement types is context. A lot of this training is designed for operations inside structures. So, you are walking down the corridor, a target appears, you engage from the standing position. There is no cover, you are not outside, it is not the 360 degree battlefield. You clear rooms. You train to transition to handgun in case your rifle stops firing as you confront a target at close range inside that room. etc. That is your focus.

Unfortunately, the SWAT type, or the SWAT trained student, will die in light infantry combat before he ever gets to transition to his handgun. He does not understand light infantry team tactics (even buddy or four man teams), the correct use of cover and concealment, fire and movement. What happens is that techniques that are used to train for structure entry are misapplied. For example you may train for an engagement walking down a corridor, by walking towards a  target on a  square range. You are then supposed to apply that in a corridor. The ‘field firing’ equivalent is to take that technique into a kill house and train (spar) before the fight. What happens however is that those skills are trained on square ranges (hitting the heavy bag) and they never progress to a kill house. It becomes what people learn. They learn to stand up,  and walk towards a target, in a totally inappropriate manner. This leads to people thinking they can conduct ‘squad attacks’ in an extended line all walking towards the enemy firing. Hollywood. You will die. While you are taking down the target frames 5 meters to your front, the guy hidden in depth to your flank 300 meters away will put one through your chest.

Instead, for example, how about: spreading out to a decent spacing, taking cover and applying fire and movement?

It is the misapplication of SWAT-style-hostage-rescue-structure-entry-and-clearance-techniques to civilian ‘tactical’ training that is the problem. I don’t care if the SWAT guy is even a combat veteran. Survivor bias – what did he do or what does he actually know, and is he qualified to teach light infantry combat tactics?

A large part of the problem is ego, ego married to ignorance and over-confident. I may post this blog up on the prepared society forum. That will be like the guy in the zombie movie having his hideout tracked by the zombie-trolls. Oh the joy! But, because I want people to get the right training, I need to fight this fight. Ego and ignorance is the biggest obstacle to a teachable attitude and learning it right. My training is ego-free. Its time that the LEO/SWAT types took a back seat and allowed military trainers to pass on the right kind of tactical knowledge. It is happening, the worm is turning, but there is a lot of ego, groupie-ism, misinformation and such in the way before we can get there.

Sentry18 references specops units in his responses (i.e. ‘the guys that took down Osama’ or something to that effect). The thing is, you are not in a spec ops unit that is engaged in high risk direct action structure clearance operations, for which they train ceaselessly. He isn’t either. Even units like the Rangers will try and avoid utilizing hostage rescue ‘SWAT style’ tactics in high risk clearance with likelihood of barricaded enemy. They will use ‘combat clearance’ techniques, or perhaps a ‘call out’ (as per rules of engagement) followed by a thermobaric weapon to bring down the whole building. SHTF, you do not want to be conducting urban fighting. Have you any idea of the attrition rates in urban fighting? If you want to survive, get out and fight in the woods. The SHTF fight is not in the cities, they are death traps. It’s out in the boonies.

Which leads me nicely on to this: on page 2 of the post, ‘Sourdough’ looks up my website. He is actually trying to help, and is well meaning. However, he misses the point. I often reference my training as ‘old-school’ which misses the point that it is premier light infantry tactics. It’s the fricken motherlode. He references something about  15 year old girls and their dad’s’ taking my training, and that it therefore does not make then 1000th of the level of Sentry18 (oh hell…..stop….). Here’s the thing (modesty aside): because I have some talent as a military trainer, I have designed the CRCD class to take you beyond the square range into the world of light infantry skills. It’s not a theme park class, for fun; it’s real. Whether you have nothing but square range shooting experience, or you are a combat veteran, I will take you there. I have had recently serving SF, Marine infantry (recent combat vets) and all sorts take the class and I tailor their range experience to their level. Students also come back and do the class multiple times. My point is that this is not some low level class. It will take you as far as you can go, particularly if you re-attend – and the next step is the combat patrol class. My skill is being able to bring you this level of training in a  crawl-walk-run format over a weekend.

Just to put all this into perspective, the below VIDEO shows some SAS techniques for hostage rescue operations. In case you didn’t know this is where all this came from, these were the guys who originally developed all the CQB techniques. The SAS maintains a counter-terrorist role squadron at all times, specializing in these operations (in the ‘black kit’) There is a little clip in there on transition. The man has a stoppage, takes a knee, draws his pistol. Note that his buddy is immediately covering him. The other lesson to draw from this is how well trained, drilled and practiced these guys are.

In contrast, to show the difference in roles, check out this video from the same series, same guys, showing what it looks like out in the boonies. This is the light infantry tactics of which I speak. I actually teach very similar drills on my CRCD class as part of the break contact team training :

Contact! A Tactical Manual for Post Collapse Survival

Patriot Dawn: The Resistance Rises

Live Hard.

Die Free.