Combat Shooting And Tactics: Advanced Individual Tactics Review
If you haven’t already done so please consider reading my post Advanced Individual Tactics – Prepping for class as it will explain the class and instructor, Paul Howe, in more detail.
Let me be clear, I don’t ever want to be involved in a shooting. That said, after some classes I’m extra thankful I haven’t been involved in one because I learned so much in class and felt my skills improve significantly. This is one of those classes. To be candid, I had gotten somewhat bored with my training and classes. I know that just standing on a range running drills isn’t going to properly prepare me for a real life encounter, plus it just gets tiresome. Drills are certainly very useful but in real life you will likely not be in a perfect stance directly lined up on a front facing target. I was hungry to further my challenges.
I’ve got solid fundamentals so many would suggest getting into something like IDPA matches. I won’t say it’s a bad idea, I’ll just say why it’s not what I wanted to do. First and foremost my interest in guns is centered around self-defense, it’s a crazy world out there. I didn’t want to get into competing and develop any ‘tactically poor habits’, so to speak. I know IDPA’s rules on use of cover but I wasn’t going to just take their word on how it should be done. When I took my first CSAT MTT class, 2-day Tactical Pistol Operator (TPO), I was taught a way of doing barricades that didn’t mesh with IDPA. I admit I was hesitant to adopt the CSAT barricade philosophy but their instructors were happy to explain it and illustrate why it was done that way. It made sense and considering every CSAT instructor has literally been there done that and lived through it who was I to say otherwise?
After completing TPO I thought about finally starting IDPA, my barricade/cover work was improving and I wanted to keep it in practice. I still hesitated though, IDPA uses hallways and simulated rooms but I hadn’t had training on room clearing and working hallways. Some will say a single person should never be clearing by themselves because it is extremely dangerous, but never is not realistic. If you hear glass breaking in the middle of the night you’re going to investigate it, right? Maybe the cat got on the counter and knocked a glass off, you’d probably feel pretty silly for holing up in your bedroom and calling 911 just to discover what really happened.
I like taking classes from different instructors because they all provide information in a different way, I’ve never taken a class and felt I didn’t learn something. Since I had decided to adopt the overall CSAT philosophy I wanted to continue down that road. I saw a class titled ‘Advanced Individual Tactics’ and while they say not to judge a book by it’s over it certainly seemed to fit the bill. The class description is:
The skills listed below will be covered during AIT both in light/no light environments.
Safety Exterior Contact
Combat Mindset Single Hallway CQB
Basic Live Fire Review Single CQB/T Intersections
Range Fire Medical
Live Fire Culmination Scenarios
Low Light all of the above
This course will focus on the safely resolving active shooter problems wherever they are encountered to include a safe link up with police. Course material will be applicable to civilians, teachers and police.
EQUIPMENT NEEDED: Concealment Bag or holster, pistol, eye and ear protection. A
hand held light is required, weapon lights are optional. Bring extra batteries and train how you intend to fight. Bring inclement weather gear as required. Students will deploy weapon from concealed carry or Active Shooter bag during all scenarios and range fire.
Pistol Ball (or duty) 600 rds
This looked like exactly what I was needing. My instructor with DFW Shooter’s Academy had taken the class and had great things to say about it. I also ran into some people at the range who had taken it and they echoed everything my instructor had told me. I started to get really excited for the class after hearing about the incredible CSAT range in Nacogdoches, TX. I signed up several months in advance for their first AIT class of the year and tried to wait patiently. They only run them during the winter so you’re not out too late waiting for it to get dark. I’m very glad I signed up so early as the class was full with a waiting list.
AIT is a 3-day class starting Friday and ending Sunday. Because it’s a 3-day class Paul graciously allows the use of his barracks, saving you a good amount of hotel money. The barracks have 3 bathrooms, 3 showers, 2 refrigerators, washer and dryer, and most importantly it’s clean. The barracks are not only a blessing because of the money you save but because you get to hang out with your classmates and get to know them. I had 25 shooters in my class, 24 men and 1 woman, and all were great people. I don’t say that lightly, I’m an introvert and typically just prefer to do my own thing in my own space. Sharing rooms with people doesn’t interest me in the slightest. The main reason I stayed in the barracks is I wanted to save some money but at the end of class I was glad I stayed there. The other shooters were great to hang out and talk with.
The whole span of the US was pretty well represented with people from Hawaii, Washington, North Carolina and a handful of other states. After seeing how far people were willing to come to attend this class I started counting my blessings that I was only 3 hours away. There was also a good range of ages and occupations. A few law enforcement officers, some former military and people who just like to shoot.
I’ll admit I always feel a little funny when I’m at a class surrounded by former military and LEOs and someone asks me if I was in the military or a law enforcement. My response is usually something along the lines of “Nope, I’m just a random office worker”. For anyone who may be nervous about being in that kind of group and not fitting because you weren’t military or such I can say I have always felt completely welcomed. Immediately upon arriving at the barracks Thursday evening people came over, introduced themselves, showed me around and offered me a beer. What more could you ask for?
Day One kicked off at 8am in the classroom, according to the schedule. By 7:30am nearly everyone had arrived and was seated in the classroom with their notepad out. Paul has a mantra of “Early is on time and on time is late” and no one wanted to be ‘that guy’. We started with meeting Paul and his team of instructors and hearing their history. We ran through some quick PowerPoint presentations, watched a couple short videos and then we were on to assigning team leaders and teams. People had the option of being on a specific team with a buddy or a random assignment and say it was about 50/50. Once we got our team assignments we headed to the range to work on some basic one-handed drills to get everyone dialed in.
A requirement of the class is a hand-held light with weapon mounted lights being optional. One reason for this is if you need to clear a room at night with potential good guys inside you don’t want to be pointing your pistol at them. Another reason is shooting with a weapon mounted light is basically as easy as daylight shooting. Once on the range we practiced our left and right barricade flashlight positions to get our form together. It takes a bit of practice to find the sweet spot where your sights and the target are all being properly illuminated.
We didn’t spend a lot of time at the flat range as this is a more advanced shooter class but each part was introduced in a stair step approach so you don’t get overwhelmed. Moving on we ran through a couple different shoot houses and practiced our barricade work. At each shoot house we would first do a walk-through with a demonstration on how we should do it and the explanation of why it should be done that way. We then ran them through dry (unloaded and dry-firing) and wrapped up running them hot (loaded and shooting). At each stage the instructors are checking in with each student to make sure they’re grasping the concepts and are comfortable performing the exercise.
Once it got dark enough a little after 5pm we did the same shoot houses and barricades but this time our flashlights were integral to our success. My first run through the dark shoot house was with a hostage target around a right barricade. Due to improper light placement and it’s effect on my sights I shot high and missed the bad guy, but at least I didn’t hit Mary Katherine!
At the second shoot house I went first and was proud of myself for not blasting the armed guy with a badge that they set up for us, only myself and one other person didn’t ventilate him. I was feeling pretty good about that. Then they reset the course and I went first again, this time the target was ‘aggressively holding’ (that’s my story anyway) a cordless black phone and I lit him up with 2 in the chest and 1 in the head. They also added a bad guy target hiding around a corner and I put 2 shots in his chest dead center about 3 inches apart. I was quite pleased with my shooting but really disappointed I smoked the innocent target. Lesson learned.
Our night barricade work was shooting thin steel from 20 or so yards, standing left/right and kneeling left/right. In darkness I shot the barricade significantly better than during the daytime, oddly enough. We wrapped up a little after 8pm and I headed on to the barracks to shower and turn in early.
Day Two started in the classroom again this time with us going over treatment of gunshot wounds. We covered packing wounds, using tourniquets, and good products to have in your bag. It was very informative and good solid information, I walked away feeling much more confident in dealing with a gunshot. We started working with vehicles on day two so we watched a couple of videos showing bullets bouncing off windshields and the car body, clearly illustrating the danger of crowding cover.
After the classroom we were using vehicles as cover moving horizontally and also advancing on targets, plus more shoot house work. Same as with day one we first ran through the houses during the day and then again come evening. They also incorporated some new drills we started in darkness. We started working on distance and I learned that at 55 yards at night I can still tag steel torso targets one-handed, in double action no less.
When it came to our test, done in total darkness, we had to work around several vehicles and engage a target from cover with 2 shots at each position. It started at 65 yards and advanced in to probably around 20. One guy on our team, a fantastic shot, went 10/10. The woman I mentioned earlier, who was also our team leader, rocked it and went 9/10, she can freaking shoot. When it came time for yours truly my flashlight decided to give me hell. I didn’t realize until I started the course that it was only putting out half the light it should have been. Since you can’t pause a real life gun fight I pushed on and did my best with limited light. I ended up with 9/10, which I’m still sorely disappointed in. I was really wanting a challenge coin for going 10/10.
Day Three was shorter to allow for people who need to travel but it was probably one of the funnest days. We worked on vehicle bailouts with a partner and then moving between cover and engaging targets. Soooooo much fun running, gunning and communicating with your partner!
We did another shoot house and I’m proud to say I didn’t blast anyone armed and with a badge or anyone unarmed. The armed bad guys however received solid hits center chest.
Our final shoot house was done with Simunitions on 3D hostage targets and the instructor voicing them. It gave another dimension to the training because these weren’t flat paper targets that your angle is always the same on, your movement can expose more or less of the target. Plus with them taking back to you “I’m going to kill him if you come any closer!!” makes it much more realistic.
Overall it’s an amazing class that really hones your skills and introduces many more skill sets. This should be considered a mandatory course for carriers and anyone wanting to defend their home. I really can’t overstate the significance of it. I consider myself blessed for being able to attend it. Paul and his instructors are extremely nice, humble, and happy to answer any questions you have. You can tell they really enjoy teaching and want to see their students succeed.
An interesting and welcomed side effect from the class is my shooting has slowed down and my hits have gone way up. Who knew that’s how it worked?? Seriously though, I’ve struggled with slowing down my shooting and was really pleased to see it happen. I’m still grumpy I didn’t earn a coin but I can admit that had I got the coin I wouldn’t be as motivated to get better as I am now. I am really keyed up to continue improving now that I’ve got a chip on my shoulder. I’m also ready to practice what I learned in competition now.