Team Tactics: Pernicious
Pas De Deux


You can start the team coordination process on the range. Get in the
habit of communicating status and actions with your partner.

Humans are naturally confident, bordering on arrogant. In our minds, we’ve got all the correct answers, and for those situations we haven’t yet experienced, we assume we’ll make the right choices on the fly. We’re awesome like that.

Gunfighting schools, on the other hand, are a force created by the universe to expose and counterbalance our genetic hubris. These diametrically opposed forces of nature are like gravity and orbital velocity — the reasons our hunk of rock topped with flawed humanity doesn’t crash into the sun or zoom past Pluto.

While we escaped this situation, hindsight says I should have fully drawn
my gun when I saw his. It wasn’t (yet) a justified shoot but being ready
was the correct answer.

Murdered Myself

Not long ago, I was murdered, but I’m feeling much better now. Thanks to Gunsite Academy for the murdering and a few days of rest and recuperation for welts to fade and wounded pride to recover.

I attended Gunsite’s Team Tactics for two three-day course, compliments of the folks from Mossberg who were keen on some of us kicking the proverbial tires of the MC2c pistol. Almost all of us have a need — I’d say dire need — of training as a two-person unit. Think spouse, partner, family, or best friend. Whether in the home or out and about, the odds are stacked toward someone else being with you if a violent encounter goes down.

Situational awareness is great, but when the guy behind you whips
out a gun, you’re already behind the power curve. Now imagine trying
to communicate and work as partners in this moment.

Communications R Hard

The Gunsite folks boil down the curriculum to this. “Two-person tactics take shooting, moving and COMMUNICATING to a new level.” And here’s where human hubris comes into play. Communicating. We do it every day, so we’re experts, right? Who thinks they can’t communicate effectively during a life-and-death encounter? Without training and practice, you can’t. I guarantee it.

As with most Gunsite courses, we started simple and built on the basics. During range time, we teamed up and started the communication drills. For example, when running dry and reloading, it was up to you to let your partner know (“Loading!”), so they could maintain regular fire on their target while you were out of action. This sounds simple enough but judging by the repeated “failure rate” across the shooting line throughout the week, it’s a learned skill.

Then things got ugly.

Too Many Generals

The lion’s share of the class was devoted to “doing” team tactics with walkthroughs, live scenarios, blue guns and Simunition pistols. This is where we collectively learned the value of dying in training versus bleeding on the street.

If you’re with another even moderately experienced “gun person” and something goes down, you’ll each see your version of events through your lens of experience. You’ll both develop your own response plan. And then, you’ll remember there’s another person involved with you. Who leads who? Will you be so preoccupied with your tactics you’ll neglect the “operating as a team” part? Will you even hear your partner’s instructions or acknowledgments during the chaos? Will you see everything they see or vice versa? Will you remember to tell them what your intentions are while fighting for your life?

Let’s boil down the learnings: There are infinite possibilities for failure in a team scenario.

Attempting to get the heck out. We got ourselves into a Kobayashi Maru situation in this exercise.

Run Away!

There’s wisdom in running away. Those knights in Monte Python were onto something. Many of our live scenarios involved “indirect” contact with violent situations. In our fantasy minds, there’ll always be a clear “bad guy” and “victim,” so as society’s protectors with concealed carry weapons, it’ll be easy to save the day by intervening to protect the innocent.

Sure, that may be true in something like an active shooter scenario in a church or school. However, while enjoying a meal or waiting in line to purchase the winning Powerball ticket, and two knuckleheads start shooting at each other, the situation is not so obvious. Time spent discussing “what-ifs” in advance is invaluable. Hard and fast pre-agreement that priority one will be to get the heck out of Dodge may save your life. Even still, we managed to get in each other’s way and make a bad situation worse a couple of times.

Plans … Fail

Your partner may do what they say they’re going to do. Or not. In the heat of the moment, they may see things you don’t, they may be forced into a different response, or they may “forget” the plan and venture down a different path. It’s up to you to react to what happens, not what’s supposed to happen. You must physically adjust to a changing scenario (go left instead of right!), and you must learn to communicate your actions to your partner on the fly. Trust me; it’s not at all a natural instinct. You will fail prolifically the first time you try.

Hindsight wins again. I got myself into a situation where I either had to stand
and soak up bullets or shoot right past my partner. Scenario fail. Two steps
before this, better teamwork would have created a better outcome.

Live Action

Even knowing Simunitions just sting instead of kill, the force-on-force element changes everything. Just that limited dose of a “real” violent situation with live humans trying to harm you is enough to banish your well-formed plans and intentions from the scene. You’ll do things you didn’t plan on. You’ll make mistakes. You’ll miss easy shots. You’ll forget to use concealment and cover. And you’ll forget to communicate and work strategically with your partner. The learning? To become effective, you have to do it under semi-realistic conditions.

The Net-Net

After a few decades of studying personal defense and concealed carry, I feel somewhat confident about my pre-programmed and spontaneous responses to defensive situations — if I’m alone. Of course, I recognize I’m always at a clear disadvantage in responding to someone else’s plan, but that’s life.

What was eye-opening, bordering on shocking, was the complexity of reacting in a rational, coordinated and effective way as a team. Imagine throwing a football through a tire, solo on your farm for your entire life, then entering an NFL game as the quarterback with no prior team practice or exposure to the other players. Your well-developed arm talent will mean precisely nothing.

At an absolute bare minimum, discuss such things with your potential partner, even if they’re not an armed citizen. Are they conditioned to jump and run when you say something like, “get out the back door, now!” or will such an unusual instruction start a debate using precious seconds you don’t have?

Better yet, take a team tactics class with your partner. You won’t regret it.

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