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Training vs. Combat - Training and Tactics (permalink)

It is often stated that you will default to the level of your training when involved in a deadly force confrontation. Along with this goes the “train like you fight; fight like you train” spiel.

So far, so good—until you stumble into your first for-real contact and find out that all the cool-guy sayings don’t amount to a hill of beans.

The upside of “realistic” firearms and tactics training is that you can become competent in weapons manipulation, accurate bullet placement, and strategy and tactics.

The downside is that you’re invariably—for the most part—practicing these concepts on inanimate targets, which don’t return fire. Even participating in force-on-force scenarios—if safely conducted—you know in advance that you’re going home at the end of the day.

While these man-on-man encounters can result in an invaluable learning curve on what can go wrong on a real battlefield, it is somewhat akin to performing designated kata in a martial arts dojo, with the participants adhering to rules and performing dedicated attack and counter-attack moves. In short, if NFL teams practice against their own personnel and have a “good” practice session, they would all win the Super Bowl.

It doesn’t work out like that once the other team is on the field. While you have your preconceived game plan, the enemy also has his—and much like battle, things can never be completely predicted. Literally one bounce of an oval ball can change the outcome of the game. Losing a football game is merely disappointing and/or embarrassing. Losing a war game means there is no season next year—you’re dead. No runner-up trophy, no more chances to try again—nothing, nada, zip. It’s over forever.

Comparing, for example, an IPSC competition to a street fight is almost like inserting a milk pail under a bull. Almost. While the top participants are extremely proficient in accuracy, weapons manipulation, and strategy—and kudos to them for their dedication and proficiency—there is no requirement for tactics, because they are allowed walk-throughs to figure out what and where the targets will be located, when to reload, and how many rounds need to be fired from various shooting stations.

Ergo, the competition boils down to strategy, accuracy, and manipulation of the specific firearm(s) being utilized on that given day. All admirable traits in their own right, but once the prior walk-through is cancelled, the entire ball game changes. When you don’t know what’s behind Door Number One, you can die right when the proverbial starting beeper sounds—unless you have tactics and mental control at your fingertips.

And yes, most top competitors have tremendous concentration abilities, but that’s not the same as keeping your cool when death is the only alternative to a first-place trophy.

In short, no matter how you attempt it, there is simply no way of extracting cow milk from a bull—and no way of replicating a real gunfight in advance. Cutting down the odds against you? Yes. Improving your personal abilities? Yes. Guaranteeing the outcome? Absolutely not. In this author’s opinion—which, in all honesty, is often diametrically opposed to that of many respected luminaries—you need 90% luck in a gunfight.

There is only one way (again, personal opinion) to potentially win a war, and that is to stick to Rule Number One, which is if you stick to the rules of engagement, you will probably lose. Rules of engagement are applicable in a dojo, boxing ring, or for a discussion between you and your fiancée. They are not for a war. “But, but,” you say, “you can’t violate the Geneva Convention on a battlefield. After all, the United States signed it.”

First, check your facts. America signed only the portions that suited her, not the entire document. And second, there is a distinct difference between honor and stupidity on a battlefield. Stupid question of the week: If you have the choice of dying honorably or maintaining your honor and not getting shot to doll rags, which would you choose?

A tac-team entry, pre-emptive military strike, or home-owner defending his life are all retaliatory, no matter which way you look at it. He started it, you finish it. If you started it, you’re the bad guy, plain and simple.

Obviously you need the wherewithal to give the warmonger his comeuppance, but to do this, one more time, you need a brain and a plan. It would be nice to have a 1919 Browning machine gun to deal with that pesky robber at an automatic teller machine, but it would probably be violating your local Geneva Convention laws. But a preconceived emergency plan coupled with a pink brain will probably suffice—whether you have a gun or not.

Yes, training is almost a prerequisite for multiple battlefield encounters, but the training needs to be as close to realism as humanly possible. And since it’s probably not feasible to have participants in a training class facing off against each other with live guns, the next best option will have to suffice. This probably means basing your training on past for-real confrontations where you succeeded—and where you failed—not on some brilliant new-fangled non-battle-tested pipe-dream technique.

Don’t “what if” everything to the stage of having so many options available that you become a “Jack of all trades, master of none” vegetable at the moment of contact, and keep your training, strategy and tactics realistic.

No, nobody really “fights like they train,” because the training range can never duplicate a battlefield. It’s what Bruce Lee called “dry land swimming.” You do the best you can to replicate it—the rest is all in the laps of the gods.

And their laps are getting smaller by the day.

Louis Awerbuck is director of the internationally acclaimed Yavapai Firearms Academy. Course information is available at www.yfainc.com.

Comments Login or Sign Up To Comment

Cheesy or not, it is certainly true, and important.

You say you’re a shooter yet you don’t know who Louis Awerbuck is? Come on…

You end your article with a quote from Bruce Lee? Come-on