Wednesday, December 10, 2014

What's Not Real About Simulated Ammo Training

     I teach over 2,000 people a year in all kinds of spaces and places in some 12 allied countries; and we cover hand, stick, knife, and gun material. For the gun subject, most of the time we do not have access to a shooting range; and, frankly, I really don't want to teach live fire. I don't like all the range logistics and well … to be honest, it very quickly bores me to shoot or guide people to shoot endless paper targets all day, all year, for decades. Forever (remember I started shooting in the late 1960s). It just does. You can get that live fire instruction from someone else, which is usually good caliber almost anywhere. I urge you to do that, and I partner with many great instructors who do so. They teach live fire. I teach the simulated ammo, combat scenarios.

     Rather, I want people to explore and learn things about close quarter, interactive shooting. Since 1995 or so, I have used any tool I can get my hands on to develop some interactive combat shooting awareness and skills. Many if not most times, I am stuck inside the confines of a training room of a martial arts school, a hotel business meeting room, academy class, public school gym, or maybe even an open back lot of a building. It is what it is and I adapt. We'll throw tennis balls at you to make an "incoming point," shoot the hard-core Simunitions if we have them, use gas guns, BB guns, Airsoft guns, even rubber-band guns, anything so as to create an experience of an exchange of “bullets” while two or more people are thinking, reacting, moving, and fighting with guns in close quarters inside and around cars, stairways, buildings, parking lots, businesses, you name it.

     One year we had an entire, multi-floor building with an indoor parking lot about to be gutted for remodeling in Cincinnati, Ohio. Perfect. Perfect. Perfect. We helped destroy the place with sims and gas guns. As I like to say, you are not really learning how to gunfight unless a moving, thinking person is shooting back at you. It changes a lot of things, and some say – almost everything. I say that is situational. You still need to pull the trigger and shoot.

     Once ridiculed in the mid-1990s for these ideas and tools, I now sell bulk quantities of rubber-band guns to police and military groups AFTER they use them in my training sessions. They get the idea, intent, and plan. (These wooden “toys” fire six to eight times in a semi-automatic fashion; and like the battery-powered, “electric” Airsoft guns, they are cheap, safe, and do not damage people, buildings, or cars.) This allows you to work some aspect of gun material no matter where you are. (Warning - If you use the Airsoft long guns, like machine guns or shotguns, these babies can be charged up to property- and vehicle-damaging levels. We have blown out lights, dented cars, and broken windows and mirrors.)

     When you introduce the gas-powered guns in training, then you have worries about the neighbors, your pick-up truck, and all things that shatter, dent, break, scream, and howl. But the gas guns at least give you some level of explosive sound and a little wave of shock and a dose of pain when you are on the wrong end.

"… you are not really learning how to gunfight unless a 
moving, thinking person is shooting back at you…."

     Unless we are doing special long-gun training, I usually teach very close-in handgun tactics stretching the distance limits to say – one or two car lengths. But at times, gunfights inside buildings in various scenarios like building searches, protection escorts, and the like, we have our practitioners shooting these simulated weapons and ammo at greater distances than very close quarters … topics like “gun-arm grappling.”

     Getting off the "Dime." That's what we used to call it in the old days. Somebody recently called it "getting off the X," and he is treated like a new tactical genius? Like it was a new idea? Anyway, believe in the old “getting off the Dime" or the new "X” when shooting? Try it interactively with simulated ammo and see if you can actually get off anything when the bullets fly.

     Interactivity is the lab you can't find on the gun range. It's on the stairwell, in the parking lot, the store, the restaurant, inside homes and offices, and … well, anywhere and everywhere but not the square range. Lots of live-fire guys dabbling with simulated ammo make the mistake of doing it right on the shooting range. No, sir. You need to make the locations as real as possible.

     In a perfect world, training weapons used should look, feel, and weigh like their real counterparts. But realistically, other than some classic Simunitions ammo or high-grade, paint-marker bullets used in real firearms, all the other so-called “simulated ammunition” will obviously not react like live rounds; and I always make this “what's not real” speech at the beginning of a dedicated training session.

     Here are some examples of “what's not real with simulation ammo shooting” when not using special Simunitions guns or using your guns with special marker bullets:

     No realistic malfunctions
     No real gun blast/explosions in your hands or in front of you
     No realistic weight in your hands (unless you buy such a replica)
     No real recoil or "weapon climb”
     No real pain/wounding
     Each gun is a marksmanship challenge. The more powerful, the straighter the “arrow.”
     No rounds passing through the scenery (walls, etc.) that you use for cover or concealment
     No realistic skips or ricochets
     No real fear
     No real reaction to being shot. You can act like it, which is okay to do, but it is still acting
     Usually no realistic reloading
     Keep experimenting and building this list.

     Now if you have the expensive packages of "Simunitions Gun and Ammo Sets" as well as certain good "marker bullets" that fit into your actual weapons, you will not have half the problems listed above. These are expensive, not easy to transport for travelers like me. Plus, you must train in areas that these bullets won't destroy walls, cars, and just about anything in range. These are the best, but not the easiest to acquire or use.

     Do I sound negative, being a proponent of interactive shooting? Perhaps. But the truth is the truth. These are some of the downsides everyone must know. You still must shoot live ammo. My idea is that once you fully qualify/certify with your live-fire weapon, I believe that all your further shooting practice should be in that special 25 percent/75 percent split or even a 40 percent/60 percent split. Your choice. Or 50-50? That means for the next training trips, 25 percent up to 50 percent of the time is spent for a quick re-familiarization of the weapon with live fire, and then 75 percent or maybe half of the rest of the time is spent in interactive, simulated ammo scenarios and situations.

     To move up and on, you have to break the bonds of the "shooting-paper-target-range mentality only." This does not have to be expensive or dangerous to people and property with gas guns and other types of training guns. And it will extensively enhance awareness, experience, and survival. (Hey, I get rave reviews for teaching this stuff every time and everywhere I go. It's up to you.)

     This looks like a long, negative list. Like all sorts of hand, stick, and knife training, Simulated ammo training is not perfect and, at times, far from perfect. We have to recognize the problems listed above, but there are a lot of benefits. I think it still is a mandatory practice for understanding aspects of human behavior in interactive gunfights in actual locations. It's the next step very few take for a variety of business and personal reasons – but it is a step, the next step in testing your tactics before you see how you might get yourself killed.

Email Hock at
Hock's webpage
Facebook Hock's CQC Group

Check out these gun training DVDs and download videos

Get the DVDs
Get the downloads

Click here for Gunfighting films