Considerations for Training

Considerations for Training

Training Considerations

*This article was originally posted on and intended for Law Enforcement Officers. The information is still applicable to military personnel and civilian gun-owners.

How many times have you been in training and you hear someone say something to the effect of, “that’s how I did it back in the day, and it worked for me,” or state definitively, “this is the way you do it and it’s the only right way,”? Usually this is accompanied by a condescending attitude, and i’m guessing you’ve probably heard it more than you wish you had. I’ve had it in my career quite a few times. In the military, we develop tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) because of our mission set. Police do the same thing because of their mission set. Whenever you see something new, take the time to learn from someone else’s viewpoint. Just as important, is taking the time to find how it applies to you, and if it will enhance your ability to do your job. Two of the biggest issues I see in training is how people will dismiss anything new because it is not what they know or are comfortable with, and the lack of applying training to students and their mission set.


Being stuck in past ways can prevent us from progressing. I’ve had it from instructors and from students alike in classes. This kind of attitude can prevent a young motivated student from progressing, learning new ways to do things and overall crush them so that they become narrow minded. As an institution, it can prevent the advancement of tactics that ultimately save lives. Experience should be highly valued, but only when accompanied with being open minded so that the goal is to prepare students the best way possible. One example was a conversation I had with a very knowledgeable and respected team mate. We were discussing how what we did in Iraq seven or so years ago was different than what we are being taught now. The conversation was about deliberate breach procedures and whether to have the assaulter pulling security on the door step on the shock tube so you don’t pull the charge off the door when moving back to your minimum safe distance (MSD). We used to do it all the time and recently gotten away from it because we simply roll the cord differently and its not needed. It saves us a little time at breach by not doing it. To say he was vehemently against the new way was an understatement. Is the new way wrong? Is his way? No. Neither are wrong. We just developed the method based on how we weighed the pros and cons. It served us better to not do it. For him, he isn’t going to see what benefit this provides the team because he is stuck in his way of doing things. He has his reasons for doing it the way he does it. A better approach would be to test both and see collectively what served our unit best. I haven’t seen a charge get pulled off of a door because the line got caught up. He might have. We both need to take a step back and look at it with an unbiased point of view. In the end, we need to do what is going to accomplish the mission the best. Speed and simplicity, or safety and more time at breach.


Just because a technique or way to approach a situation is different from what was done in the past, doesn’t make it wrong. Medicine is a great example where they do this right. It is a constantly evolving discipline, and medics and doctors are constantly studying to see the new techniques being put to use in the field. They do this with the goal of saving lives. In combat situations, this should be true also. We changed the way we cleared stair wells in CQB because of hard lessons learned on deployment. In this job, lessons are learned usually with the loss of friendly life. Taking ego out of the equation can help to avoid that, and allow us to test different techniques before that happens. By avoiding that crusty attitude of dismissing any new info because it is outside of your comfort zone, we progress. We get better, we are more proficient, and that is what continues to make American military and police the finest in the world.


By design we are fundamentally different but we have overlap in certain situations. As I see it, the role of police is not to go in and destroy an area or group of people to achieve an end-state. In the military that’s what we do. There are different supporting mission sets to achieve that and ensure the victory, such as civil affairs and psychological operations, but in the end its all to ensure we kill as many of the enemy as possible. For law enforcement, the goal is mainly to preserve life and taking it is a last resort but still a requirement. For the instructor and student alike it’s important to remember these differences. With that said, we have overlap. That overlap is when a person has been deemed a threat and its time to take their life. We can learn a lot from each other as long as we remember we need to, potentially, apply it differently. 

Military tactics don’t always apply to police. Flashbangs, explosive breach, legalities, and the rules of engagement we have are a few examples. Even a SWAT team can operate differently than a military assault element. I talked to a couple of police officers recently and they explained that the last time they received training from a military guy it was very explosive-centric. These guys didn’t have explosive capabilities so the training was mostly useless. They wasted the majority of the day going over breach procedures like Marines did over 10 years ago, instead of what they realistically could do. Did they get something out of it? Probably. Did they maximize the training opportunity so they could walk away more prepared? No.


For an instructor, a good idea would be to sit down and go over what capabilities the law enforcement students have and what current SOPs are utilized. A good rule of thumb is to ask them to demonstrate what they are doing currently and build off of that so as much of it is applicable to the trainees as possible. An example would be the use of a ballistic shield for SWAT teams or state Task Forces. We don’t use a ballistic shield in military direct action hits. To develop their SOPs properly I need to understand how and why they use it. Are they required to have it? Why and how do you employ it? If is a required item, then I want to incorporate that into the training to ensure we are meeting the requirements of their jobs. If I don’t understand these things, then I can’t give the best possible instruction and earn that money that you are paying me. On the flip side, don’t be afraid to ask an instructor why a certain technique is used. You are paying money for this, might as well get every dollar’s worth. The fact is, if the instructor can’t explain why, or doesn’t want to do this for you, he or she might not be the best option to provide training.


Some key differences I’ve found between us and our tactics are breaching procedures, entering a room, clearing considerations for 1, 2, and 4 man CQB, dead checks, handling non-threats, and team organic equipment. For example, breaching procedures can change depending on the methods you have to open the door. Not many police officers have access to explosives, breaching shotguns, flashbangs, or other personnel to assist in methods of entry and clearing. Doors are different in the US also. Some doors have that auto-close-mechanism-bar-thing on it that forces it closed after you open it. In this instance, do you pie the door and hold it open while being silhouetted? Do you forget the pie-ing concept and enter the room with no situational awareness of what’s in there? How does this affect your entry if you are alone or have support? All of these factors can change based on the situation and if you have backup. These are the types of things to consider and need to be addressed. One guy explained to me that there is only him and one other officer for several hundred square miles, and he might be by himself when responding to a call. Another guy in the same class was on a fugitive task force and used flashbangs for a metric shit ton of situations. This dude loves flashbangs. Two individuals, two different solutions. An example with our kit that is a huge difference are those goofy looking shoulder and upper arm pads that state and county SWAT teams wear. I don’t know who dictated them or why you have to wear them, but please, stop. Have you ever seen a military Special Operations Force wearing them? No. If he did he got kicked off the team. Besides, they catch on everything and add size to your frame. With all that said, I still need to know why you wear them, despite me not understanding or liking it. These are just a few examples of some differences, and I’m sure you guys can name off a whole lot more.


When you set up an instructor or are going to attend a class, ask questions, get clear answers back, keep an open mind to different techniques, and be ready to learn. We do things differently but I can learn from your experiences and you from mine. If you are going to a class or contracting out training, there are a lot of good instructors. A lot of people can teach you how to shoot a rifle and pistol, some definitely do it better than others and you can even learn a lot from a civilian in this regards. If you are looking for specialized training, ensure that person has real world experience in it and they are up to date with recent tactics, techniques, and procedures. The new techniques are there for a reason. Make sure what you are learning is taking your mission set into account. A patrol cop might not get the benefit of going through explosive breaching procedures, but they will benefit from getting into a stack while entry is made and apply that to their TTPs.


Thanks for what you do. I appreciate it every time I get to see my family safe from a day that I have been away from them. I hope this helps and I look forward to being able to learn from you and you from me.



BAER Solutions

IG: @baersolutions

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Target ID for Law Enforcement.

Target ID for Law Enforcement.

Target ID

*This article was originally published on and intended for Law Enforcement Officers. The information is still applicable to military personnel and civilian gun-owners. 

One thing that military and Law Enforcement Officers (LEOs) share is the need for target discrimination. Considering the civilian perception of LEOs recently, it has never been more critical that an officer properly identifies his or her target. In the military, we train hard to ensure that non-threats are not engaged. Our operating environment is very different regarding threat assessment and rules of engagement. What constitutes a threat on deployment may not constitute a threat here in the states for our LEO brothers and sisters. Generally speaking, we are probably better trained in this regard, depending on the military specialty and due to the time we have to devote to it, but your actions are held to a much higher level of scrutiny by the public. Even when it is a good choice, which is 99% of the time. In the military we don’t have to worry about our actions being blasted all over the American media with every possible aspect analyzed by some arm chair expert sitting behind a desk with a microphone in their ear.


I am no expert in how police forces train either. I have seen some of the training on the flat range by a few LEOs and it is only setting up the officer for failure. Hopefully some of the experience and insight I can provide will help explain how military Special Operations Forces (SOF) conduct training and allow us the time to assess a threat while still allowing us the ability to take the life of a bad guy before they can take ours.


Before I moved into a more specialized assault role the majority of target ID was explained by saying, “if they are a threat, shoot them, if not, don’t.” Once I was fortunate enough to attend high level CQB training, it was explained much more in depth and broken down so that the mental process of identification could allow me to be successful.


One of the things that our unit does well is incorporate a sports psychologist into our training section who shows us and our instructors how to do this effectively. A lot of our training cues incorporate three words that get us from threat to decision to action very well. The method that they came up with was the hands, aim, shoot (HAS) phrase. It’s very effective and literally as simple as it sounds.


When you have a potential target one of the common mistakes is looking at “them” by means of the face or center mass. We do this because that’s how we normally train at the flat range. We step up to the line knowing that we are going to take a chest shot or a head shot ahead of time, and effectively cut out any decision making process that we could be using to train for the real world more effectively. There is a place for this in marksmanship training, but we have to remember that it is only training marksmanship and not target ID.


In a job like ours, where this is a critical, no-fail component, it has to be incorporated into training once the marksmanship component has been established. When we conduct training on the flat range it should be to prepare us for the tasks we will be faced with when we leave it. A Team Sergeant of mine, who I look up to very much, told me one time, “the mission drives task org.” He was right, and it made me think. Mission does drive our task organization, but it also drives a lot more. It drives physical training, job training, range training, and anything else we do to prepare for our jobs and mission at hand. Our flat range training should incorporate some aspect that prepares us for what we will face when we are on mission or working our shift.


To accomplish this, we use a lot of different types of cartoon/realistic targets on the range. When we start to remember which target is a threat and not one, we cover up the guns or paste something on them which make them a non-threat, which emphasizes our need to identify threats, not just recognize targets. In addition to using them in shoothouses, we use them in drills that incorporate target presentation. Pie-ing off windows, barriers, movement in width where they present around the corner of a barrier, or turning drills like the el-Prez.



When the target presents itself to us we are focused on the hands first. We aren’t looking at the face, chest, or anything else. Marty the meth-head’s cracked out scowl and broken teeth aren’t going to get us killed. Neither is any other part, besides the hands, of any other stereotype going to take our life. What’s in their hands will. For us that can be a weapon or a detonator such as a cell phone, garage door opener, or homemade battery pack wire combo. For you guys and gals the latter probably isn’t something to worry about but could be in the future. Terrorism is at our doorstep and it’s only a matter of time until those tactics make its way over here on our soil. The hands are the mechanism which can take our life. Outside of drawing down on Chuck Norris where his feet may be the other mechanism, we focus on the hands.


At this point if I have a person who is deemed a threat I raise my sights onto the target and get my sight picture. Notice I said, “raise my sights onto the target.” You aren’t looking down your sights the whole time. Before I reach aim, the eyes should be out of the sights and weapon in a low ready position or suppressed muzzle. A good rule of thumb that we use is I should be able to turn my head left and right and my chin clear my butt stock if I am using a rifle. If I have a pistol, my weapon should be low enough to effectively see the threat area of a target to include the hands if they are down at their sides.


If the muzzle of my pistol is pointed generally at their baby making machinery, that should be enough to see the hands and target area, while still being able to quickly raise my gun the few inches it takes to engage. The pelvis is a good reference point as well because it is large, relative to the body, there are major arteries running through it, and no one moves well when their pelvis is broken.




I have identified a threat and now brought my weapon up to engage, flipped my weapon to fire, if applicable, and about to fire as many shots as required to eliminate the threat, taking their life if necessary. The split second it takes to raise your weapon is enough for your brain to make any correction if needed. By identifying the threat while staying out of the sights, the 0.75 seconds it takes to raise your weapon up and aim will allow you to correct yourself if needed in the event you misidentified your target. This could be the difference in being on the news and having an investigation run as to whether or not you should have shot. In the diagram below you’ll see it looks much like an upside “Y”or “V”. Depending on where the hands are it could also look like an upside down “T”.


There are numerous reasons for the two different locations of the shot. We might have to bypass the upper chest area and go for the head. In my job they could have body armor, explosive vest, hostage, or be behind a certain amount of cover. It could become a low percentage shot quickly depending on the situation. In your job, I would imagine many of the same could apply, and I would add in a baby for all our officers in Oklahoma and Kansas. I feel like I see that on the TV show Cops a lot.  Either way, be prepared to have to recognize what is at the chest and whether or not you need to move to a lower percentage shot at the head and face.


Now is the easy part. Shoot them. You and your department know what is acceptable in this regards. You’ve hopefully established training standards to hit a target at different distances and now it’s time to execute. Pull the trigger and put as many rounds into the threat as fast as you can while maintaining accuracy to ensure a good kill. You can’t kill a bad guy if you don’t hit him. With that in mind, the person who wins the gunfight is the one who gets the shot off quickest while being accurate.


When we train on the flat range we get into a habit during marksmanship training to put a dot on target and fire. Staying out of the sights is critical during our identification process so that we don’t put sights on target and instinctively pull the trigger if we didn’t mean to. Allow yourself the time and space to make the right decision to take life.


You’ve identified the threat during HANDS. You’ve given your brain the amount of time it needs to find the proper location for your rounds during AIM. You finished the fight and engaged the target when you SHOOT.


The reason we train this way is so that in the moment it’s the only way we know how to do it. It ensures that when we determine a threat we consciously aim our weapon so that when we shoot, we don’t miss.


This isn’t the end all be all in how you apply this. I know officers have certain verbal commands they have to give to legally be within their rights. You are the subject matter expert on that, not me. I’m sure there will be some modification between a patrol officer and SWAT, or it could just be situationally dependent. I hope you can take this and apply it to your next training event so that you are more confident and competent in your jobs.


Thanks for all you do for us, and know that it doesn’t go unnoticed. I appreciate you men and women because you put up with a lot of shit.



BAER Solutions

IG: @baersolutions

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