Menu

Monday, March 3, 2014

Fighting from the Deck Part 1: Sage Dynamics Firearms Training

My very first experience with true less-than-ideal shooting positions was a literal baptism by fire.  I was invited to attend an “Advanced Pistol Fighting Course;” given a list of required equipment and a brief description of the class.  The list was your common bullet-point format of items I had to have: gun, magazines, holster, magazine pouches, pants, and your normal class fare.  One item did stand out, a mouth piece.  I remember staring at the email.  What the hell did I need that for?  Well, I wasn’t about to not bring it and didn’t want to seem like a fool for asking why I needed it so I pulled it out of my gym bag and added it to my packing.

A month later I stood on the range with eleven other shooters.  Most were cops, one guy from a nearby Guard unit and two guys from an alphabet federal agency.  Head gear was passed out; the sort worn in boxing and martial arts.  The line instructors checked our gear, and then ensured everyone’s weapon was unloaded by a visual inspection.  Slides where closed on straws, run down the barrel and out of the ejection port to show the chamber was empty.  It already felt like more of a martial arts class than a pistol course and that initial feeling turned out to be very true.  The first drill: get hit in the face.  Head gear helps, though even with a brief warning that we were going to be struck and then shoved to the ground (if the hit didn’t drop us) did little to prepare me for what I was told would be a 50% strike to the face.  The assistant instructor that put me on my ass had arms shaped most likely by stuffing frying pans into shot glasses or swatting flies with a sledge hammer.  Later that night I would watch him taco a quarter with his bare hands as a bar trick.  He hit me once, open palm and it felt like I had been planted at least six inches in the dirt.  There was yelling; commands to get my gun out, expletives and other unintelligible words I couldn’t hear through the rushing water in my ears.  I had literally been knocked outside of my comfort zone. 

For the next eight hours we took strikes, were thrown, rolled, swept and pushed.  We didn’t fire a single round; in fact we were told not to bring ammo to the range at all on day one and had been checked for ammo before the class began.  The day ended with all of us driven into the fetal position, three instructors beating us with foam (very thin foam around a plastic pole) batons.  It was a very different experience fighting to my weapon while my senses where overwhelmed or cut off by the physical acts of protecting my vitals.

Day two was exactly the same, except this time each drill ended with us engaging a target from the position we were forced into.  The shooting was “sloppy” and we were told to “suck less.”  Holsters were broken, clothes ripped, guns malfunctioned and many a bruise developed.  At the end of the day I had learned one very important lesson; fighting from the ground was as much about getting put there as it was about being there.

Day two was exactly the same, except this time each drill ended with us engaging a target from the position we were forced into.  The shooting was “sloppy” and we were told to “suck less.”  Holsters were broken, clothes ripped, guns malfunctioned and many a bruise developed.  At the end of the day I had learned one very important lesson; fighting from the ground was as much about getting put there as it was about being there.



Ten years later I have not forgotten the lessons I learned in that course.  Less-than-ideal shooting, the positions we fight from on the ground need to be trained and practice with their purpose in mind.  All shooting positions fall into one of two categories; those we choose to be in and those we are forced into.  We are going to look at the latter.

Know how to fall and what to do when you get there.
It’s very easy to be knocked off your feet, especially when there is a weight difference or you are struck with an unexpected blow.  What worked for bullies at recess still works for the felon today; a strong blow to the chest, kick to the hip or strike to the head can put you down.  In an ideal world you take your fall by tucking your ass to your ankles and settle softly on your back without making contact with your elbows or arms.  In reality the fall is likely to be forced and you will only have minimal control over it.  The travel from standing to your back or side needs to be minimalized.  Reducing travel distance by tucking into the fall helps reduce velocity and blunt impact higher on the body.  When ground contact is made, defense should be the first reaction.  One leg, preferably your support side leg, can be brought up in a cocked position to deliver kicks to the shin or hip while the other bases out to help with pivoting movement.  Both forearms come up to protect the head and face initially.  Your posted leg is for steering, if your attacker attempts to mount you from the side, you can pivot until your weapon can be drawn.

Fall Motion
Protect your firearm at all costs.  If you open carry by profession or habit, the weapon is in play and likely to be targeted by your attacker.  You will have to sacrifice the head protection of both arms to secure your weapon with your primary hand.  If you feel your life is in danger, you need to get your weapon into position as soon as possible and it is clear to do so.  If your attacker is otherwise unarmed or have made a grab for your weapon, it may be best to reposition or gain distance if possible before you draw.  Practicing shooting from a close tuck position on your back is critical to realism.

Supine Cover Up

Hip Draw Supine Step 1

Hip Draw Supine Step 2
Hip Draw Supine Step 3

Hip Draw Supine Step 4
Hip Draw Supine Step 5
If your weapon is concealed, your carry location is going to dictate how easy it is to access your weapon and how fast you are able to do it.  For supine shooting, the appendix and hip carry are the easiest.  Behind the back/small of back and pocket or ankle carry will make accessing your weapon more difficult, especially if you are not flexible enough to work on the ground yet.

When practicing your draw, be very aware of muzzle position and direction.  Using a training aid such as a SIRT pistol that protects a visible laser can greatly aid in hand/eye coordination practice and positional shooting.

Appendix Draw Supine Step 1
Appendix Draw Supine Step 2
Appendix Draw Supine Step 3
Appendix Draw Supine Step 4




Aaron Cowan is the Lead Instructor for Sage Dynamics, a reality-focused firearms and tactics training company that provides practical instruction from the fundamentals to advanced skills for the civilian, police and military professional.  Aaron served in the US Army as an Infantryman,  as a private security contractor overseas and as a police officer.  In addition to patrol he worked as a a SWAT team member, SWAT deputy team commander, SWAT sniper, sniper section leader and in-service police training officer.  Aaron holds multiple professional certifications including the National Rifle Association Law Enforcement Division’s instructor training program, California POST certified academy instructor, Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) Active Shooter Response Instructor and Simunitions Scenario Instructor among others. When he isn't teaching or training, hes writes semi-regular for Recoil (web) and Breach Bang Clear among others."

For full course details and training schedule visit SageDynamics.org. Receive the latest updates at their Facebook Page.