Tactical Tip Of The Week
Grand Master Louis M. Chiodo
Welcome back to those who have been reading the “Tactical Tip Of The Week”. For those who are new to these postings, you can find the previous postings in my website, www.gunfightersltd.com or in my Face Book page, Gunfighters Ltd. Combat Shooting Methods Inc. I sincerely hope you can benefit from the information in these postings.
In this posting, I would like to discuss the integration of airsoft equipment into training. I have written about this topic in the past but would like to put a little more out about using this tool with the goal of producing a better-prepared individual that can meet the challenge of a combat shooting.
There is much written about using airsoft in the many places by a diverse group of authors. So there are many sources of information available to learn about this topic. The problem that I have seen in some of the information presented is that there are some misconceptions about where this equipment fits into the training program and how it is used to get maximum training value from integrating it into a training program.
I have extensively used airsoft equipment while conducting training within my former department as well as in my private company programs. During this time, I was able to fine-tune how I used airsoft equipment. What I am about to write is a summation of that information and, as with anything I write, it is my opinion based upon my experience. What I would just ask you to do is to keep an open mind as you read through this posting since opinions from previous readings or experience with improper application of the airsoft equipment can taint one’s opinion of this equipment. Let’s first discuss how we can use airsoft as part of training prior to integrating it into force-on-force training.
Whenever skills that require the integration of motor skills and our mind are desired, repetition is an important element of developing increased skills. It is critical that the particular methods and/or movements practiced are appropriate for the desired application of those methods. If we are going to practice a method that isn’t appropriate then all that will be accomplished is devoting training time practicing something that could potentially fail in combat. So, ensure that what you intend to practice is correct so that the repetition and time spent in practice will be valuable.
Once we have selected the methods we want included in our training program, frequent, repetitive practice will allow us to increase our ability to perform at our fullest potential. Here is where airsoft training can be a tremendous tool to achieve that objective. Repletion using live fire can be an expensive proposition. When it costs anywhere from $14-$20 for a box of 50 rounds of ammunition for our handguns or the same amount of money for only 20 center fire rifle rounds, the cost of doing much repetition can be out of the reach of many people and police departments.
Airsoft equipment can help develop our skills without having to spend an excessive amount of money to accomplish the desired repetition in our training program. The airsoft industry has provided airsoft handguns and long guns that are a replica of our duty/carry handguns and long guns at a relatively low cost. So, selecting the “hardware” is not difficult. Once purchased, all that is required is purchasing the BB’s and propellant to make the systems work. This cost is pennies on the dollar when compared to live rounds.
Let’s examine how we can use this equipment to increase our skills. Here are ways to integrate the airsoft equipment into your training program:
- Select a particular skill that you want to develop (as an example, drawing from concealment)
- Create an airsoft safe environment. All firearms and ammunition are removed from the training area. Ensure that you have an appropriate location and backdrop.
- Complete your repetition training with the airsoft equipment. You can determine how much time and/or shots you want to take with the airsoft equipment based upon your particular constraints in time etc.
- Once you have done your repetition training with airsoft equipment, then you can do your “verification training” using live fire at the range. As an example, let’s say I did 200 repetitions of drawing from concealment and discharging one shot per draw with my airsoft equipment in my repetition training. The next step in training I can do is to go to the range and complete 10-20 repetitions of the same drill with live fire to monitor my progress and determine what future drilling is needed to make more progress.
By using a model that I described above with ANY particular skill I want to develop, the cost as compared to doing it all live fire is at a minimum. Also, I can do the airsoft training in locations that I could never discharge a live round. As an example, I train daily with airsoft in my garage. In a given month, I discharge approximately 3,000 shots practicing ALL elements of the programs I have developed. I can make a trip to the range for live fire and “test” those elements by doing the “Task-Oriented Combat Qualification Course” I developed to “test” those skills. I can do all of this for about 36 rounds of live ammunition. The beauty of doing the repetition training with airsoft is that my skill level in live fire still increases even though I have been at this for a long time. As I learned in martial arts, there is always a higher level of skill that can be attained through practice.
When I hear that an agency has curtailed firearms training due to budget concerns, I suggest using this type of format for their training. Of course, getting people to listen is an entirely different matter. Those that DO listen have benefited from this training protocol not only on the range but also in live combat shoots. For individuals, just think of the amount of training time you can have WITHOUT the cost of transportation to the range and expense associated with doing volume shooting with live rounds. CAUTION! I am not suggesting replacing live fire or regular range training. I AM suggesting that whatever amount of range training you are doing, it can be supplemented with airsoft equipment in addition to any live fire practice you are doing. What I do is use the range to VERIFY that I can perform equally to what I am doing with the airsoft training I am doing. I hope this point is clear because it is not an “either or” proposition. You can use airsoft to make the live fire better.
Now let’s look at integrating airsoft into your force-on-force training. The first step that I use to help develop an individual’s ability to apply their training is to work them through a series of drills using airsoft while using their training partner who becomes their target. First and foremost, a completely safe environment is created where all firearms and ammunition is removed from the training area and the training area is isolated from anyone not involved in training. Once this is accomplished, appropriate safety gear is used to protect the face and head area. Since these drills require significant repetition, enough protective clothing is worn to absorb the shots taken on the body.
Here is an important point: This IS NOT a full force-on-force scenario based format that will come later in the process. So the issue of not feeling hits is not a consideration. These are drills that substitute paper, cardboard and steel targets with a “human target” so that the individual gets comfortable with shooting at the “human target”. I can alter the angle to the target, teach shooting at a moving target and ultimately have the “human target” project shots at their partner in a controlled way to teach critical points in training. So, the purpose of these drills is to learn application of principles against a target that looks and reacts like a person, not a piece of paper or steel plate. This drilling is a critical step in the process to allow an individual to work in a three dimensional environment against a real person.
As training progresses, the “human target” is “programed” to engage the trainee is a more aggressive manner. This process is conducted in the classic “crawl, walk and run” manner. Once this process is competed, then the training will focus on using the airsoft equipment in spontaneous drills in which the trainee is unsure of what will happen and must react and apply their training to solve a problem. The beauty of this training is that it is still controlled (the “human target” does a particular action that is pre-determined) so that the learning curve can be monitored but the intensity is increased. This is still “drilling” so the same protective gear is used so that many drills can be run numerous times to add depth to the training process. The purpose of this portion of training is to add the spontaneity element into the process.
The final step in this training process is to add full force-on-force drills in a scenario based training format. The “human target” provides the trainee with a problem to solve but can aggressively “fight” the trainee. This allows for a spontaneous attack that causes the trainee to apply his/her training while under the duress of being attacked by the “human target”.
One issue that is sometimes brought forward is that it is can be difficult to determine hits on target with airsoft when running the full force-on-force training as outlined in the last paragraph. These full force-on-force drills are the “final exam” drills that are done to ensure the principles taught are being applied by the participants and are also applied at full speed. These drills ARE NOT the repetition drills where a high volume of repetitions is done to develop skills. So one way to increase the ability to determine when hits are made is to have less protective clothing on the body during the drill. Head and facial gear is always maximized and should not be altered for these drills. The impact of the BB’s will increase as participants use less protective clothing.
Another viable way to help determine hits is to use one of the other products available such as Simunitions for these final drills. If this is done, we can gain the benefit from using a low cost way of developing skills by using airsoft for the high volume repetition training and use the more expensive system and its marking ammunition to do the final tests in the training sequence. This can save money and maximize on training time.
The final thought I would like to leave you with is to always keep an open mind to how you are training. Maximize the benefits from each training cycle and the equipment you are using. In times when budgets are tight, we can still train and gain skills by using every means available to continue the training process.
Train hard and be safe.
Louis M. Chiodo