Gunsite Trip Report - Advanced Tactical Problems.
Kathy and I have completed the "Advanced Tactical Problems" course at
Gunsite and I thought that I would share some of the experience with
you. This was only the second time that this class has been held, so
there were a few rough edges on it still. Most of the problems
revolved around scheduling, we did not get an opportunity to complete
all of the exercises that were offered. We did learn a lot and found
the class to be very good overall. Between the two of us we shot just
under 2,000 rounds in 3 days.
The class is advertised as three days and nights of tactical simulators
with a minimum pre-requisite of the API 250 (General Pistol) course.
There were eight people in the class and two instructors. Most people
had at least the 350 (Intermediate Pistol) class and one had completed
499 (Advanced Pistol). Only one person had taken only the 250 class.
There was one Browning 9mm High Power, 2-3 Colt Deltas in 10mm (I
switched to the Colt for the third day, which was the concealed carry
day) 4 1911's in .45 and 1 Glock in 10mm.
The introduction stated that there would be 2 nights of work, not
three. There would be indoor and outdoor simulators, day and night.
There would be explicit simulators to deal with car-jacking and home
invasions. There would be extensive use of cover (a first for Gunsite!)
and team exercises. There would be exercises on shooting after being
disabled and weapon retention - also described as "shooting your
opponent off the end of the gun". The third day would be devoted to
concealed carry, bring it as you normally carry it. Kathy switched to
her purse carry and I went to my Colt Delta using an inside the pants
executive companion covered by a sweat shirt. The focus of the class
was almost entirely tactical.
We started the first day with the standard Gunsite drills, all shots
are from the holster.
1. Single head hit at 3 meters in 1.5 seconds.
2. Two center of mass hits at 7 meters in 1.5 seconds.
3. Two center of mass hits at 10 meters in 2 seconds.
4. Two center of mass hits, standing to kneeling, at 15 meters in 3.5
5. Two center of mass hits, standing to prone, at 25 meters in 7 seconds.
This was mostly to familiarize the instructors with the students and to
determine the students strengths and weaknesses. We then moved to
Mozambique and failure drills at 3 and 7 meters. The "classic
Mozambique" is two hits center of mass, evaluate, then one hit to the
head. The failure drill is more of a dedicated triple; two center of
mass and one to the head.
This is where the class started to deviate from the standard Gunsite
doctrine. We were urged to "solve the problem in the way that you
want". I would alternate drills. Two hits center of mass, evaluate,
then a failure drill. Sometimes two hits center of mass followed by two
hits to the head. The time requirements got tighter and the distances
got longer. The goal by lunch time was two head hits at 7 meters in 1.5
seconds and a failure drill at 10 meters in 2 seconds.
After lunch we started to integrate movement into the standard drills.
Retreat, draw and engage. Draw, engage, move laterally and engage
again. Draw, advance and engage. Again we were repeatedly encouraged to
solve the problem the way that we wanted to, not just execute the
standard "two hits center of mass". Some of the stronger shooters
started to do well with hammers to the body at up to 7 meters. Some of
us even did OK with hammers to the head when in close. There were a lot
of failure drills done.
Later that afternoon we did an indoor and an outdoor simulator. The
outdoor one was pretty standard with the exception of a few long head
shots, one very well camouflaged popper and a "reality" popper that was
supposedly calibrated to stay up with anything less than two head hits.
That might have been true for a .45 but all 3 of us shooting the 10mm's
took it right down. I did get a second hit as it was going down though.
The indoor simulator was very intense (Aren't they always?) with
several multiple target engagements, two no-shoots and one room setup
with two (2!) ambushers outside of two separate windows. Two bad guys
in that room as well.
This is where we started to run into some scheduling problems. A 4 to 1
student/instructor ratio meant for some serious down time while running
the simulators. I think that 3 to 1 would have worked much better. On
the bright side each student got an immediate after action critique
while going back through the simulator with a discussion of good
things, bad things and options.
We then did an overall debrief back at the classroom and broke for
dinner. We would return for night range work after dinner. During the
classroom break the multiple gun question came up and the instructors
strongly recommended a second or third (third!) gun. One of the
instructors mentioned that while he was working as a member of a DOE
reaction team that he would frequently carry 5 guns. The Colt officers
model was strongly recommended as a backup gun for anybody carrying a
.45 ACP as a primary pistol; it is a good solution to the ammunition
and magazine problem. Backup flashlights were also strongly
The first night of range work was very similar to the mornings
exercises. It gave the instructors a chance to evaluate how well the
students could operate at night. We did engagement with and without
flashlights and then engage and move drills. Almost everybody came
equipped with night sights and SureFire flashlights. Most of the class
was up for a night simulator the first night, but it was not to be.
Class broke up about 21:00hrs, making for a nice 13 hour day. We shot
about 300 rounds each for the first day.
The second day started on the range at 08:30hrs. Actually, our day
started on the range at 07:45hrs - cleaning guns. Did I mention that it
gets cold at night in the Chino valley? It was about -2 degrees
centigrade that morning. Really makes the break cleaner feel good on
the hands. We started with the basic Gunsite warm-up, except that
everybody was shooting failure drills out to 15 meters or so. Then we
started working on the "disabled" drills.
There are two main tenets to the disabled drills. The first is that
shit happens and it usually happens unexpectedly. The second is that
you stay in the fight - no matter what. To surrender is to die. The
first set of drills is to be thrown to the ground, as if you were
unexpectedly attacked, and then draw and engage the target(s). We did
this several times, landing both head toward and head away from the
After this we went into disabled arm drills. Both strong and weak arm
were disabled by putting the appropriate hand into a pocket or tucked
into your belt. This was very different then USPSA strong hand or weak
hand only drills in that you had to do everything with your sole
functioning hand. Draw, engage, reload, clear malfunctions and
re-holster - all with one hand. Strong hand only wasn't to bad, but a
weak hand only draw and a weak hand only stovepipe clearance were a lot
of work. Also, keep in mind that these drills were all performed with
"hot" weapons. We did do some "dry" runs first but everybody went hot
We then went off to do another indoor and outdoor simulator. The
outdoor simulator had more multiple target engagements and some longer
range poppers; out to 40 meters or so. The indoor simulator had more
furniture acting as vision blocks and more things that you have to
search in and around. It also had more no-shoots, that weren't clearly
no-shoots until you interrogated them. We learned about how to deal
with somebody whose hands you can't see and a very interesting inside
scenario which demonstrates that you can make no assumptions about
They gave us slightly more time for dinner and then back for more night
work. Working simulators at night is difficult to describe. Once you
turn your light on your vision is limited to what the light shows. You
don't want to have the light on for very long and you want to move as
soon as it is off. Oh, by the way, don't forget to find and engage the
targets. I tried to talk the instructor into letting me bring my extra
flashlight... the one that's attached to the Benelli. One thing I
learned in the outside simulator is that while I was doing short,
short-range scans I could actually pick up targets 30 meters out if I
took the time to look for them. Also, the pinpoint light that the
SureFire puts out is not a very good target. As for the inside
simulator... Well, let's just say that I hope I never have to go from a
star lit exterior to a black interior. At least not without putting a
frag in first. It certainly give me a couple of things to think about
from the home defense standpoint. We wrapped up that night about
21:30hrs and went bact to the motel real tired.
Wednesday was concealed carry day, so I switched from my Glock in a
Milt Sparks 1-AT holster to the Delta in a inside the pants executive
companion and covered the whole thing with a sweatshirt. Gun? What gun?
Kathy switched her Delta to her purse holster. Moving the sweatshirt
out of the way and drawing from the concealment holster slowed me down
by half a second or so. By the end of the day I had cut that difference
in half. I must practice more with that holster. Kathy's draw slowed by
more than a full second, but she too made progress throughout the day.
Re-holstering was a real pain for both of us.
Re-holstering is something else I should talk about. The idea is that
you want to get back into the holster as easily as you come out of it.
You don't want to look at your holster or fumble around getting into
it. You want to be fully aware of your environment and prepared to
re-draw at any point while you are re-holstering. Holster without
looking at it was something heard frequently during the class.
We had a series of moving targets for our range work on Wednesday
morning. These were a track mounted steel plate about the size of a
persons head. The target would start and stop along the track and was
loosely mounted on the stand so that it would bob and weave as well.
Perpendicular distances of 7 to 15 meters, longest range of engagement
of perhaps 25 meters at the corners of the range. It surprised me how
well I could hit considering the change in guns. That Tuesday night
practice really paid off.
We then went off to work the outside simulator as a team, Kathy and I
working it as a team of 2. A semi-leapfrog, first person to engage with
a crossing pattern seemed to work best for us. The number of things
that you have to keep track of seems to go up exponentially.
Communication, practice and awareness of your partner are critical in
After lunch we went off to run the scrambler with the pistol and do our
last indoor simulator. I've run the scrambler before with a shotgun.
One full size steel target and seven shooting positions: Standing,
kneeling, barricade, sitting, prone, prone inside a bunker and from up
in a tree. The range varies from about 101 meters to about 87 meters
and you get a maximum of 2 shots per position. This is a timed event
and with the shotgun I got hits from all positions in 1 minute and 29
seconds. That's about twice the all-time best time. With the pistol I
wasn't anywhere that good, getting hits in 5 positions and taking a
little over 2 minutes.
The last indoor simulator was very interesting. They used 3D action
targets. The targets are held up by a balloon inside them and you must
break the balloon to drop the target. The interesting part is that the
balloons are not consistently placed. One may be center of mass in the
body, one may be in the throat, one may be in the head. You just don't
know what it will take to drop your target.
Then we went back to the range to work on some moving targets from
behind cover, mailboxes, fire plugs, brick walls and cars. We also did
this as a team exercise where one person from the team would engage
targets while the other person moved to a new covered position. Then
they would engage the targets while the first person moved. This was
another interesting drill.
That was it, end of class and de-brief. We didn't get to work the
car-jacking due to mechanical problems with the car and the inability
to replace auto glass fast enough. We didn't get time to fit in very
much weapon retention. We could have also used much more night work, a
simulator the first night after range time and a third night of
simulators would have been just about right.
All in all it was a very good class and both Kathy and I learned a lot.
We also had a great time.
Barry Needham <firstname.lastname@example.org>