Tuesday, November 15, 2011

AAR: RangeUSA Force on Force

UTM "bullets". This is what you
actually get shot with. Feels like
getting shot with a steel BB.
This past weekend I was back in Memphis at Range USA for their Force on Force class. I had high expectations for this course, but sadly it didn't live up to them. In previous classes at Range USA I had heard some other students who had been around Range USA more than I had really talk up the Force on Force class, so maybe that is why I was expecting more than I got.

The class is only four hours, and cost $125. It starts with a solid safety briefing, and the safety protocols were really quite good. Better than some I have experience. There were no live firearms, ammunition, or any type of weapon allowed in the training environment. Students and instructors were carefully checked.

The class size was 9, which leads me to the first issue with this course. Due to the expense of running sim guns, they only had two. One was a Sig, the other a Glock. If you weren't familiar with one of those two platforms, you had to adjust on the fly. I think everyone in this particular course with the exception of one shot either a Sig or Glock. The one odd ball shot a 1911. Oh, and I guess technically I shoot a Beretta but I am very familiar with Glocks and relatively familiar with Sigs, so it didn't make a difference. With only having two guns, they made us get in pairs and that is how we ran our drills. Problem is, there was WAY TOO MUCH DOWN TIME between drills. There were 5 sets of pairs, so after running your drills you had to wait for the other four pairs to run their drills before you were able to go again. I think this could be remedied by capping class size at 5 or 6, but I am not sure if the economics would allow it.

On to issue #2. In total, I shot 19 simunitions. Now, there is only so much you can learn in 19 shots. I understand that sims are pretty pricey, but for $125 I expect a little more liberty than that with my trigger finger. As a consequence of them holding the per student round count way down they had to structure their drills in such a way that I think you really miss out on some of the beauty of training with sims. The ability to practice shooting in a truly dynamic environment at a truly dynamic target (another person) can be had nowhere else except in an actual event. If all you are allowed to shoot is one or maybe two rounds per repetition there isn't much being done in terms learning lessons and actually improving skill.

The first half of the class is spent running what I would call drills. They were focused primarily on pushing the importance of movement. Something about Range USA is that since it is an indoor range you don't get much movement incorporated into basic drills in the Self Defense Handgun course because of space restrictions, so this is where they stick it in. Without changing the training location, I don't think it would be practical to incorporate movement in live fire classes, even though it needs to be. That is probably the one good thing about the class, movement was really stressed.

The second half of the class is spent running what I would called decision making scenarios, or use of force scenarios. They were more about making the right decisions dependent upon circumstances. Admittedly, it is very hard to teach use of force without some type of guiding policy like what a police department might have in place, but I think this is really where the FoF course fell on its face. For starters, the scenarios were run one at a time, so now instead of waiting on four other pairs you were waiting on eight other people. In a two hour period, each student ran three scenarios each. Hardly enough to be worth the price of admission.

The video below is the last scenario of the day. It has been edited so as not to give any hints on what the "appropriate" actions are in case they reuse the scenarios for each class.

In addition to this there was a lot of "what if" built into the scenarios. Which it is good to "what if" situations and look back and think about what could happen differently, formulate alternative action plans etc. But here is the thing about a "what if", it can always be "what if'd" right back. The basis for "right" or "wrong" decisions in a use of force type scenario needs to be a fixed line, and that line should be whatever laws govern the use of force in that state, city, etc. and not the "what if's" that the instructor might be able to come up with. The instructor related a story about a past student who refused to carry a gun after taking this course because he felt he could not make the right decisions. Props to the student for being willing to give up self defense, but if your training program is convincing people they are not capable of making the right decisions then maybe your training program has some design issues. Just sayin'

I hate to say it, but I cannot recommend this particular course to anyone. Range USA is good for building shooting skills, but when it comes to teaching use of force, I think they need to take a step back and think about what they are doing. The structure of the course needs to be changed, and the content at least in the second half needs to be carefully considered. Teaching use of force is no joke and requires very careful design and execution. There is a very fine line between teaching about the liabilities of self defense and inappropriately scaring people out of it.

1 comment:

  1. I read this post about five years ago, and it had steered me away from RangeUSA's Force-on-Force training. I was looking again for force-on-force training near N.E. Mississippi, and had forgotten your admonishment against such training at RangeUSA. Thanks for saving me $125 (plus hotel, plus gas, plus food, plus etc.)!!