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Cleaning House

August 3rd, 2009 | No Comments | Posted in Classes

A course in Dynamic Structure Clearing will significantly up your chances of successfully defending your home from intruders.

A shrill scream wakes you and your wife in the dark of night, and you sit up with a start. “Shut up!” An unfamiliar man’s voice reaches your ears. It sounds like it came from your 12-year-old daughter’s room down the hall. Your wife grabs your arm, sinking her fingernails into your bare skin, and half whispers, half shouts into your ear, “Someone’s in Christy’s room!”

“Christy, are you okay?” you shout.

You hear a muffled cry for help and the man’s voice again.

“Shut up!”

This is not a dream. This is not a drill. Your daughter is now a hostage in your own house. Sure, you can call the cops, but a lot of bad things can happen to your little girl before help can arrive, even if it gets there in three minutes. What now?

Oh, you have a gun, huh? That’s good. You know how to shoot it, and you even practice on the range a couple of times a month. That’s good, too. You’re also a fan of cop shows and have watched how they clear a house of bad guys, so you reason, I know how to save my daughter. I’ll just go get her while my wife calls 911.

The reality is, you don’t know how ill-prepared you are to save your daughter or protect yourself and your wife. Go ahead and try that Hollywood nonsense and you and your family could end up in the hospital or morgue. To increase the probability of success, you need to know the right techniques for moving through and clearing a house with one or more hostiles in it.

Law-abiding citizens can get that training at the Scottsdale Gun Club from instructors who have real-world experience doing just that. The club is a new facility located in an upscale area of Scottsdale, Arizona. With 36 air-conditioned, 25-yard shooting lanes; state-of-the-art Mancom target systems; classrooms; a two-story shoot house with moveable walls that can quickly duplicate any floor plan; and a large retail gun and accessory shop, it is well equipped for teaching everything from fundamentals to advanced tactical team techniques.

There is no substitute for real training in the shoot house. Reading about how to enter a room or being told how to “pie” a corner is good, but until a person has done it and had his mistakes corrected by a knowledgeable instructor, he or she just won’t get it.

I attended the three-part Dynamic Structure Clearing class that consists of classroom instruction and realistic force-on-force shoot-house training using Man Marker cartridges against other students and the instructors.

These cartridges, manufactured by Ultimate Training Munitions fire a small aluminum-jacketed and plastic 7 1/2-grain projectile from a real gun. Modifying a gun to fire Man Marker projectiles requires replacing a few parts. It’s not hard to do, but the gun won’t fire regular ammo until you restore it to its normal condition, which is also simple.

The Man Marker projectiles are very light, travel fast enough to deliver about two ft-lbs of energy and get your attention, but they don’t cause injury. Nevertheless, shooters wear protective headgear with full face and eye protection, long-sleeved shirts and long pants for safety. I also wore a pair of gloves to protect my hands and found they worked well without compromising my gun-handling ability.

My class drew Paul Smith as the lead instructor for the first two segments. With service in a Marine unit specializing in the recovery of nuclear weapons, SWAT experience and a job in the private sector providing personal protection for globetrotting VIPs, he knows his business.

At the outset, he made it clear that moving inside a structure containing hostiles is not recommended, but at the same time, a person may have to do so to protect a family member or to safely escape. The skills taught in the course will improve the student’s chance of doing so successfully, but it is still a dangerous undertaking.

After a short introduction, we got started on the fundamentals in the shoot house, where we were shown various techniques, one at a time, and then practiced them.

Can you safely hold a gun in a position where it’s quickly ready to be used if needed but can’t be easily taken away from you? If you have visions of “Charlie’s Angels,” with the gun held at eye level and pointed at the ceiling, you are a victim of Hollywood hype.

Can you move forward and backward safely, quickly or slowly as needed, without taking your eyes off potential threats and do so without stumbling over a toy car in the middle of the hallway? Unless you have practiced moving correctly, you may fall, letting the bad guy know where you are and giving up any surprise advantage you had.

If speed is important, you can use the Groucho technique: the knees are bent and steps are controlled, heel-toe, heel-toe. For moving slowly, students learn never to cross their feet but instead move one foot and then bring the other foot up to it. Both techniques are practiced with an emphasis on maintaining a stable firing platform so that shots can be accurately fired on the move. It sounds easy, but it isn’t.

Back to the problem at hand. As you move through your house, it suddenly occurs to you that the intruder may have a partner, so you need to look for any threats as you move toward your daughter’s room.

The course teaches you to be on the lookout for target indicators such as shadows, silhouettes, reflections, contrast and noise while trying not to present the same clues to intruders in your home.

The course also teaches the difference between cover and concealment, how to use them and where to find them in your house. And you learn how to think through various scenarios and what to do in certain circumstances.

You approach the open door to a spare bedroom between you and your daughter’s room, so you set up to slowly “slice the pie”–a technique in which you position yourself to view the room in segments while being careful not to expose yourself any more than necessary.

Then you realize you don’t have time to pie this room; you have to get to your daughter now. Instead, you stage yourself in the hallway and prepare to execute a hitch step, which takes you past the open door too quickly for an intruder to acquire you as a target and launch a round but at the same time allows you to get a quick glance in the room.

You do it and now you are past the door and pause a moment to look for movement, listen for sounds and assess any potential threat that may present itself. Nothing so far, so you resume moving forward, doing your best to imitate Groucho’s stooped walk.

So far, this doesn’t sound that complicated, and it isn’t. However, learning to execute these techniques is not simple, so Smith demonstrates them and then observes students practice them several times. He emphasizes that practice is necessary to keep these skills fresh and encourages students to do just that when they return home.

The second portion of the class is faster-paced and more complicated because it involves teams of two moving through the structure and shooting Man Marker cartridges at paper targets.

If you are not in law enforcement or the military, you might think learning to move as a team is not very important, but it is extremely important to know how to coordinate movement so that none of the good guys hurt each other.

It could be that your spouse may be able to help you get to your daughter’s room, and it would be nice if both of you had practiced moving together as a team. While one person pies the next corner, the other can provide cover by watching that door you just passed in case an intruder suddenly appears.

To coordinate all this movement, though, you need some sort of communication, which is something you can’t just come up with at the spur of the moment.

Dynamic Structure Clearing teaches students that in any two-person team there is a No. 1 and a No. 2. The person designated as No. 1 is always right–even if he or she isn’t–and No. 2’s job is to cover No. 1 and take responsibility for any sector No. 1 is not addressing. (No. 2 can become No. 1 automatically when circumstance or the floor plan dictates.)

Being able to do all this without pointing your gun at your partner, even when one person is in front of the other and the threat is forward, is important. According to Smith, about half of all injuries to tactical team members are caused by other team members, so learning how to perform techniques safely can reduce your chance of being hurt.

The level of stress one feels in training rarely equals that felt in a real-life building search, but training is invaluable because under stress you revert to what you’ve been taught. In other words, unless you have actually practiced clearing a room or structure, you probably won’t do a very good job when you actually have to do it for real.

For instance, without training it’s unlikely you would remember to look not only in corners and behind, under and around furniture but also in closets, cabinets and overheads. You also probably wouldn’t know that clearing a room with a door at one corner, whether alone or with a partner, is different from clearing a room with the door in the middle of a long wall.

The third and final part of the course involves force-on-force problems, and for this segment we were greeted by a new instructor, a local SWAT team trainer with many years of experience. So that our guns could be aimed and fired at opponents without risking injury (other than a sting), they were again converted to use Man Marker cartridges, and we donned helmets, gloves and face masks for protection.

Even with all that, though, the realism and stress level are about as close as you can get to experiencing a real gunfight. To illustrate, let’s go back to the problem at the beginning where you have to rescue your daughter.

Contrary to what some may think, clearing structures is not a John Wayne-type game where you charge in ready to blast the bad guys. If you don’t have to enter a room or structure, don’t, because avoiding a gunfight is always preferable. That’s why the smart thing for me to do was quickly bypass the spare bedroom mentioned earlier in the article and head as fast as possible to the daughter’s room. Why stop and look for trouble when the main objective is protecting your little girl?

Why indeed. I knew not to bother with the spare room because I had been told that in class, but in the stress of the training scenario I forgot what I had been taught and stuck my head in the spare bedroom for a quick peek–and nearly got that head shot off by an adversary. I learned, I hope, not to make that mistake again, but it does illustrate that there is no substitute for realistic training.

Despite my mistake, I luckily avoided getting shot and did make it to the girl’s bedroom to barricade the door and wait for help while my imaginary wife called the police and explained the problem, including the part about not shooting the half-wit husband with the gun who was now protecting his daughter.

Done correctly, no shots should have been fired in this scenario, the cops would have arrived to capture the bad guy, and mom, dad and daughter would have lived happily ever after.

We all know that the real world is not perfect, though, and we should prepare for the possibilities. Those possibilities include home invasions, which seem to be more common now than in years past. Odds are you will never have to clear a structure or move through one infested with hostiles, but you never know.

It pays to be prepared, and the Scottsdale Gun Club’s Dynamic Structure Clearing course–or one of the other courses around the country that offer such training–could save your life.


57% Say Gun Sales Up Due To Fear of More Gun Control

August 3rd, 2009 | No Comments | Posted in News

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Fifty-seven percent (57%) of Americans say gun sales are up in the United States because of a fear of increased government restriction on gun ownership.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that just 23% say gun sales have risen because of a fear of increased crime. Twenty-one percent (21%) are not sure.

Sixty-three percent (63%) of men say the threat of more gun control is behind increased sales, compared to 51% of women. Fifty-nine percent (59%) of whites agree, while African-Americans are more closely divided on the question.

Similarly, 65% of Republicans and 66% of those not affiliated with either major political party say gun sales are up due to a fear of increased government restriction. But a plurality of Democrats agrees by just 10 points.

Seventy-one percent (71%) of Americans believe it is at least somewhat likely that President Obama will seek tougher gun control laws, including 43% who say it is very likely.

In March, 43% of Americans said the United States needed more gun control laws, but 47% disagreed. This marked a slight drop in support for more gun control from last year.

That same month in a separate survey, nearly one-third of Americans (32%) said crime had increased in their communities in the past year, and 72% of those impacted said it was very likely that increase was related to the bad economy.

The Mexican government says guns purchased in the United States are responsible for much of the drug-related violence in Mexico and wants Obama to restrict gun sales in this country. Just 20% of U.S. voters think restricting U.S. gun sales will reduce drug-related violence in Mexico, and 70% disagree and oppose such restrictions.

Seventy-five percent (75%) of Americans believe the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right of an average citizen to own a gun.