Self Defense

KR Training Advanced Training 2: Force on Force Scenarios

There have been a few moments along my firearm and self defense skill building journey that I would call monumental. Attending my first force on force course is one of those and here is the after action report on it.

I finally got around to attending KR Training’s “Advanced Training 2: Force on Force Scenarios” course which is one of the required courses and brings me one step closer to completing KR Training’s Defensive Pistol Skills Program. This course is a natural continuation of the tactics introduced in the Personal Tactics Skills course and I’ve got to admit that it was not at all what I expected. It was much better.

The primary instructor for this course was the man, Karl Rehn, himself. The owner of KR Training. For me, this was a real treat. Over the past two years, I’ve come to really appreciate KR Training. I was originally curious about KR Training when Sean Hoffman became an assistant instructor there since I had been impressed with Sean’s knowledge and instruction techniques after taking his Tactical Pistol/Rifle Class in 2019. At the time, I wasn’t completely sold on KR Training’s program yet. However, in 2020 they hosted a couple of big name traveling instructor courses that I had been wanting to take like Tom Given’s Combative Pistol course and Gabe White’s Pistol Shooting Solutions course. I remember the conversation I had over the phone with Karl as he screened me for Gabe’s class and the vibe I got from Karl was very cool – he wanted to make sure that Gabe’s class was a good fit for me and that I was a good fit for Gabe’s class. After that call, I got to meet Karl a number of times that year and got a small glimpse of the knowledge he had when he assisted in the Red Dot Essentials course Sean instructed during the summer of 2020. That glimpse sold me on KR Training’s Defensive Pistol Skills Program, but until last weekend I never actually took a class at KR Training with Karl at the helm.

So why was that a real treat for me? It’s hard to put into words. Karl has a lot of skill and knowledge. There is no argument or doubt there. He has the credentials. He’s extremely helpful. Demonstrates the skills that are being taught with little effort. At the same time, he is friendly, helpful, and easy to approach. There is no apparent ego. He’s just there to help make the students better and he does a fine job at that. He answers questions. He challenges the students. He simply helps you grow. The end result is an extremely pleasant and satisfying learning experience.

From an instructional experience perspective, the other thing that was amazing about this class was the student to instructor ratio. A healthy student to instructor ratio is something I’ve come to expect from the courses offered and hosted by KR Training. That said, this class stood out. John Daub, John Kochan, Greg Howard, Ed Vinyard, and Doug Greig were present to assist in addition to several “interns”, folks who had previously completed KR Training’s Force on Force Instructor course, who were present to assist. If memory serves me correctly, then the student to instructor ratio was less than two to one when counting the “interns”. All of this provided a comfortable and safe environment filled with knowledge for the students, like me, to focus on learning.

Enough preamble though. Let’s get into the details of the course.

The class started outdoors on the shooting range. Even though students had been instructed to leave their real tools (such as guns, knives, pepper spray, etc.) in their vehicle prior to class, we were all asked to inspect each other to ensure the training environment was free of real weapons. This consisted of a simple “pat down” which even the instructors were subject to. Any time any student or instructor left the area, they were subject to an additional inspection upon returning. This was important because the force on force scenarios were done with simunitions and protective equipment.

For those of you unfamiliar with simunitions, they are cartridges loaded with a chalk filled projectile. In many ways, this is similar to a paintball as it leaves a “mark” upon impact. The difference is simunitions require a firearm that has been modified to chamber simunition cartridges. Furthermore, the chalk marks do not stain. However, they can cause bruising, welts, and may break the skin on impact. As such, students were instructed to wear pants and long sleeve shirts and were provided with protective paintball equipment.

One thing to note is that the force in this force on force class was limited to using the training tools provided and running away. This was not a course that involves hand to hand combat, grappling, tackling, or some other form of sparing. I think this is important to point out in order to avoid disparaging folks who might think this type of course is too physically demanding. Yes, it does require movement and some physical exertion. However, it doesn’t require a large amount of it.

With safety and basics covered, the class was split into two groups so that each group could get adequate time in each of the four modules or sections covered in the course covered in the four hour class duration. I was placed in group one.

Group one started on the “shoot house” range which consists of a berm on three sides. Enclosed by the berm was a set of barricades and doors to provide a floor plan that could be used to represent a small structure. In this first module, the layout served a small home and would be used to conduct several different home invasion scenarios. For these scenarios, the instructors played the role of the instructor and first responders. Every student got the chance to be the resident or home owner in a scenario while the other students observed as the scenario unfolds. After each scenario, there was a short debrief in which the “home owner” walked us through what they remembered and the reasoning behind their decisions.

I volunteered to go first and here is how I remember it. I was home alone “sleeping” in the master bedroom with the door open to the bedroom open. I was given the choice to start with the bedroom door closed or open. I went with an open door. I can’t really explain why I chose to start with the bedroom door open, but I suspect that it’s because that’s what usually happens at home. As soon as the scenario started, an “intruder” broke in by “forcing the front door loudly”. The intruder was not making any attempt to be quiet and made comments like “I wonder what kind of nice stuff I can find here”. I grabbed the prop phone with the intention to call 911, but I froze and I listened as he commented on the “nice TV” he was going to steal. At that point, I grabbed the simunitions loaded Glock, ran out of the bedroom, and confronted him. I remember commanding the “intruder” to leave, but he just froze with the “TV” in his hands and stared at me. So I fired a few shots. The intruder ran into the “kitchen”, pulled up his shirt revealing a concealed revolver, and began to draw. I fired more rounds hitting the “intruder” while moving quickly back towards the bedroom which introduced a “wall” between us. I don’t remember if the “intruder” fired back before the scenario was stopped.

Immediately after the scenario ended, I remember thinking to myself, “that was dumb”, in reference to the recognition of poor decisions being made. My actions were defensible and justifiable, but I placed myself in unnecessary danger and ventilated a dude over property. All of this was discussed during the debrief where I also explained my decision making to the class. Why didn’t I call 911? I meant to. I remember holding the phone, looking at it, and telling myself to call 911, but I couldn’t do it. I simply froze. Why did I confront instead of barricading myself in the room? The best way I can explain it is that I had imagined myself being at home with my family as the scenario started and after snapping out of the freeze I decided that it would be best to limit the intruder’s ability to advance deeper into the house (I had no idea he would be holding a TV). Why did I decide to shoot? Well, my decision to confront and stop the intruders’ advance put me within a few yards of the intruder. When I realized how close we were to each other I also realized I was in immediate jeopardy and if something happened to me my family would be in jeopardy as well. After explaining all of that, the rest of the students were instructed to assume they were home alone unless told otherwise. Or perhaps were reminded of that and I had simply missed it during the initial explanation.

The real kicker for me was that this was a scenario that I had previously thought about and planned extensively with the family prior to taking the class. The family plan has been to call 911, gather the family members, and barricade in a predetermined room while commanding intruders to leave. Shooting would happen if, and only if, the room was breached. So why did I fail to execute? I could chalk it up to being in a structure with an unfamiliar layout and perhaps that was a contributing factor that led me to make different decisions. However, I think the most likely factor is that I had never role-played the existing plans under stress or with random variables such as another person who is unaware of the existing defensive plan. The lessons I learned from this experience are priceless.

The real kicker for me was that this was a scenario that I had previously thought about and planned extensively with the family prior to taking the class. The family plan has been to call 911, gather the family members, and barricade in a predetermined room while commanding intruders to leave. Shooting would happen if, and only if, the room was breached. So why did I fail to execute? I could chalk it up to being in a structure with an unfamiliar layout and perhaps that was a contributing factor that led me to make different decisions. However, I think the most likely factor is that I had never role-played the existing plans under stress or with random variables such as another person who is unaware of the existing defensive plan. The lessons I learned from this experience are priceless.

I missed part of the second module because it was my turn to attempt a video training simulation that was set up in the main classroom. This was an unexpected treat that was not on the course description. Craig Smith and Chase Harris from Immersive Training Solutions were onsite at KR Training and had set up their mobile VirTra firearms training simulator. The simulator consists of a projector, an extra large screen, and a number of sensors that track the students movement in a defined space. The system also uses a real weapon that has been modified with a laser that tracks shot placement on the screen very accurately and a CO2 system that simulates recoil. Additionally, a device is attached that sends a small electric shock to stimulate a physiological response when the student has been “hit” in the simulation. The electric shock feels similar to being snapped by a rubber band. The scenarios aren’t static either. The instructors have the ability to influence how the scenario plays out based on how the student reacts to the situation. The scenario was a movie theater shooting where the shooter was wearing body armor. Things happened very fast and I was able to neutralize the threat with a shot to the pelvic girdle, but I also took a hit. Additionally, the hit that neutralized the threat was lucky in the sense that I was aiming for the high thoracic cavity which I hit a number of times and my last shot was low. Craig and Chase provided some good feedback and pointed out some things I can work on. I’m going to make it a point to visit Craig and Chase for some additional training simulations in the future.

With half of the modules, the class took a short break as the two ranges were prepared for the final two modules.

After the break, my group was back on the “shoot house” range which was reconfigured as a small convenience store. The scenarios involved all of the students who sometimes played an armed citizen, an unarmed bystander, the clerk, or bad actors. Each student was given limited information to play the role they were given in the scenario. Just like the first force on force scenarios, a debrief was held to review what happened. However, the debriefs here started with the students telling the account of what they witnessed until the entire picture was painted with the instructors filling in the gaps. The number of gaps and the inconsistency between the accounts of what happened was surprising and very telling on how unreliable witness accounts can be. Once again, we also got to see just how fast things happen.

The final module consisted of scenarios in a restaurant back on the other range. However, the guns on this range were rubber band guns. Like the convenience store scenarios, students took turns playing the roles of armed self defenders, unarmed bystanders, restaurant employees (sometimes armed), and bad actors. The big difference between the convenience store and restaurant scenarios were the dynamics presented by the customers. In the convenience store scenarios, customers were moving about shopping for different items or getting cash from the ATM. Whereas in the restaurant, customers were mostly sitting stationary at table while either ordering or eating food. The difference made it a lot easier to keep track of what folks in the restaurant were doing and, in my opinion, made it easier to spot something that was off.

In one scenario, where I was an armed defender eating a meal. A bad actor came in, pointed a gun at another customer and started yelling about some vehicle traffic related thing. The surprised customer put their hands up in a surrender position and attempted to verbally diffuse the situation. The aggressor continued his advance with the firearm pointed at the other customer who then stood up and backed away. At the same time, other customers were bolting out the front door or towards cover. Again, I sat there for a second waiting for a moment to exit quickly while remembering that I had planned what to do in a situation like this before and it was not to get involved. My priority was to get out and return home safely to my family who depends on me. I saw my opportunity as the customer moved back and the aggressor who was initially perpendicular to me started to turn his back in my direction. As I started to move, I made a decision I did not expect to make. I drew my weapon and commanded the aggressor to drop his. He didn’t notice me at first. So I gave another louder and more aggressive command. I don’t recall exactly if it was on the second or third (or maybe even more commands) that he finally noticed me, put his hands up, and started to walk towards the exit as the instructors called the scenario.

Why did I make a different decision than what I originally planned? Who was this customer to me? During class, all I could muster is that walking away didn’t feel right. I didn’t want to play the hero. However, at that moment I’m not sure that I could have lived with myself had the “customer” been murdered when I had the ability and opportunity to stop it. This brought on a lot of other introspective questions that we discussed in class. Do you know your own personal line? Are you willing to die for a stranger? Are you willing to accept the legal, financial, mental, and spiritual aftermath that follows that event? It also reminded me of a discussion (or maybe it was something I read) that some folks are wired instinctively to be a protector. Which begs the question, how well do you know yourself? I was pretty certain that I knew how I would react given I had a solution in my mind before I acted. Was it that I didn’t really know myself? Or was it that I was influenced by knowing this was a training environment and the “stranger” was a classmate that I had previously met in another class? The later questions and the ones that have sat heavily on my mind over the last few days as I’ve written this post and I’m working on having better answers.

There are a lot of takeaways from this class. I think perhaps the most valuable takeaway is the consistent reminder I get from taking a class that introduces me to a new aspect of armed self defense. That reminder is that no matter how prepared I think I am I’m not prepared enough and no matter how skilled I think I am there is always room for improvement.

Another key takeaway is that not all self defense scenarios require shooting. In fact, there are many scenarios in which a solution that does not involve shooting is available. The no shoot solutions oftentimes result in a much less significant aftermath from a legal, financial, mental and even spiritual perspective. Not to mention that no shoot solutions sometimes reduce or limit the amount of serious injury or death risk one has to personally take. Whether the solution requires shooting or not, the experience helps a self defender understand how dynamic these situations are and how fast they happen. It’s a constant rapid exchange of reactions between the involved actors and I can’t think of any other activity that helps improve a self defenders ability to make optimal decisions and take action in these types of scenarios.

I strongly urge folks who have taken defensive firearms training, but have never attended a force on force scenarios course to do so. This course takes all of the academic classroom tactics and allows one to use them in a stressful but safe and controlled environment. It’s the lab to the lecture. Perhaps, the best thing about a course like this is the opportunity to learn, even through failure, in an environment where the outcomes, especially the unwanted ones, aren’t permanent. The experience and lessons learned are worth the time, money, and effort. If this is something you are interested in, you might want to consider checking out KR Training’s schedule for an upcoming date.


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