Combat Focus Shooting

“This is about life and death,” says Rob Pincus. “I.C.E.…

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“This is about life and death,” says Rob Pincus. “I.C.E. is not a ‘fun-with-gun’ class. If you signed up for a ‘fun-with-gun’ training, I’ll gladly refund your money.” By the end of this course, shooters understand how I.C.E (Integrity, Consistency, and Efficiency) are combined with advanced pistol-handling skills to save your life.

Many troops, agents, individual officers and those in the firearms industry have trained under Pincus at the luxurious Valhalla Training Center in Colorado. And if you know Pincus, he doesn’t waste much time before brass starts to fly. He states,“Once you have demonstrated competency with a firearm, I’m going to hold you accountable.”

ice2.gifCombat Focus Shooting
“Your worst performance here will be your best performance on the street,” says Pincus. This course is about tactics to address a spontaneous crisis. Contrary to the training LE officers and troops receive at an academy or boot camp, I.C.E. teaches counter-ambush principles first, then addresses mechanical principles so students can improve certain skills or qualify. This new method is designed to invest the shooter with habits that support the body’s physiology and intuition, before those skills are developed to enhance marksmanship.

To affect this method, the shooter must accept a combat mindset, a mindset that Pincus brutally enforces for the entire duration of training. If he runs run out of ammo before the fight is over, a student must keep searching. The typical square range makes 360-degree training difficult, but the mindset helps to make Combat Focus Shooting as realistic as possible, given the conditions.

The fundamental combat problem is the perceived penalty of a miss. This affects and individual’s performance in a combat-critical situation. If the shooter does not accept the combat focus method, there is no perceived penalty for a miss and the student is unable to fully benefit from the instruction. As discussed in greater depth later, Pincus does not accept benefits from competitive practical shooting when comparing to known instances of actual pistol combat. “In a competition, the shooter’s mindset only fears a lower score. On the street in a critical situation, the consequence of a miss can mean death.”

Based on I.C.E. instruction, many shooters have trained to perform an action with a firearm quickly but, as Pincus suggests, “Fast and easy does not equal efficient. I.C.E. allows natural physiology to dictate tactics.” For example, grasping an object is an intuitive response that humans are born with. If you place your finger in the palm of an infant and the baby doesn’t grip it, something is wrong. Tactically, I.C.E. instructors have had to instruct police officers to let go of their ticket book in a traffic stop that turns lethal. “Up until know, training has overlooked many of the body’s physiological responses to stress,” Pincus says.

As the brain detects a surprise, the brain will accelerate visual acuity from an average 10 frames-per-second to 30 frames-per-second. The brain records more information in one second of stress. Consider an extreme moment of stress in your life and think back to the thoughts of that moment. Brain activity is heightened to gather more information than normal, enabling the slow-motion playback we all can recall.

When a threat is presented, it is rarely anticipated, “…regardless of [Jeff Cooper’s] color” code for mental preparedness. Often, the threat picks an opportunity when you are assumed to be the most vulnerable, then executes the ambush. The body has a natural response to a surprise that usually draws the victim’s hands above the waste to protect the body. I.C.E. takes this defensive posture and integrates it into the first step of recognizing a threat.

In an effort to achieve efficiency, I.C.E. instruction avoids teaching things that require fine motor skills because the blood flow to extremities is reduced and the body’s response can be slow or complex. For that reason, I considered this philosophy when choosing my equipment.

Fighting Tools
“You have to fight with what you brought,” says Pincus. The class represented a potpourri of firearms, holsters, ammunition and clothing. Prior to my arrival at Coal Creek Armory in Knoxville, TN, I asked Pincus about my equipment. “I’m going to bring my Glock 19, 2,000 rounds of Winchester Ammunition, four high-caps, and a Fobus Kydex holster and magazine pouches.”

“Your equipment list is perfect,” re­­sponded Pincus. “I expect that if someone is serious about defensive gun handling skills and owning and carrying a gun for defense that they should be able to pack.” I didn’t fully understand the gravity of his response until day two of the course when efficiency was drilled over and over. You don’t need levers. You’ve got to build on efficiency. Additional control levers on a combat handgun can get you in trouble.

The Glock 19 is a paragon of efficiency. It can be concealed but has a long enough barrel to be combat accurate. Few controls, built-in safeties and a straight-forward design with few parts help make the Glock 19 very reliable and the choice for many agencies including the U.S. State Department. It is easy to maintain, only requiring lubrication at a few select points. The grip is comfortable for a broad range of hand sizes and is ergonomic for access to the magazine release and slidelock. Approaching the 1,500-round count, I began to feel a tender spot on my middle finger on my strong hand as my firm grip rubbed under the trigger guard, forcing me to wear a glove before firing the last 500 rounds.

Winchester 115-gr. FMJ ammunition is partly responsible for the fact that my Glock 19 was the only pistol to successfully complete training without a malfunction. A fellow shooter took an economical approach to obtaining ammunition and suffered through malfunctions during the first two days of training. After a case seized up his pistol, he was forced to spend a little more for reliable ammunition. Winchester’s quality was also visible, producing less muzzle flash than any other brand in attendance.

This course was my first use of a Fobus GL-2 holster made for the Glock. The paddle featured a rubber-texture that gripped my clothing as I tucked it inside my pants. A belt threads through the integral loop, ensured that this paddle would not draw from my pants. Unlike a few other Kydex holsters I have used, the Fobus holster had a screw that could be loosened to adjust the angle and placement of my pistol along my waistline. I concluded that I could carry the Glock with this holster.

One other accessory was particularly helpful in completing the I.C.E. training in a safe manner: Rob Pincus interjects many analogies and commands between stages of fire, which can be difficult to hear if you can’t remove your hearing protection. Peltor’s Tactical Classic electronic hearing protection permitted me to listen at a normal conversation level while protecting me from sounds above 85 decibels when I forgot to turn off this feature. They lasted more than three days of constant “On” time.

I.C.E. Technique
Depending on the primary mission, combat focus shooting can be adapted for duty or off-duty applications. “Practice like you intend to carry,” says Pincus. If you carry your pistol in a thigh rig while in uniform, train while geared up. If you carry concealed with a holster placed at the small of your back, train in this manner. A student misses the point if he trains in a way that doesn’t resemble day-to-day carry and any habits developed practicing in a different method can get you killed.

I.C.E. relies on a shooter knowing the condition of the firearm and accessories. Before firing the first shot, Pincus requires that you know what condition your gun is in. If unsure, you are not permitted to take the slide out of battery in order to check the chamber. When in doubt, rack the slide and chamber a fresh round.

According to Pincus, the ideal stance is “natural and neutral.” When addressing a threat, Pincus trains students to fall back to a position he calls the “high compressed ready.” When disengaged, the operator pulls the pistol to the high chest area with a two-handed grip. As a target presents itself, the operator must extend to engage the target rather than swing up from a lower-style ready. With the target addressed, present [the pistol to the target], touch [the trigger], and press. The touch aspect of this procedure is unique. “If you don’t touch the trigger, you’ll end up slapping it and throwing the shot,” he states.

“Move!” If a target chooses to attack you, the location that you are standing in is a bad spot. Movement is a very natural defense. Our bodies want to separate from a threat. Unless you are moving to cover, you can’t move backwards as fast as a target attacks forward, so a retreat is usually a bad idea. Moving forward towards a target decreases the target’s cone of deviation. Move laterally, and the target must stop and shift to reacquire you, making this the best method for movement while under fire.

Stepping laterally as you draw and reload is also stressed, particularly when cover is minimal. “Move until you can shoot,” Pincus says, “then plant. Continued movement is predictable, so change direction.” The I.C.E. staff illustrates a student’s movement by incorporating a video camera that is used as a training aid. Each day is concluded with a classroom debrief and students get to witness their mistakes on video.

Hits and Misses
Deviations in combat accuracy can also be considered by looking at a three-dimensional target. A miss while shooting straight on at a target might be effective if the bullet enters that point from a different angle. If shooting from left diagonal, shots impacting near the arm will travel through chest and the vitals. From this perspective, shots to the center or slightly to the right on the chest may not hit the heart. Engaging a target from the right oblique, a hit to the right of center will mean a shot to the heart.

Good combat shooting doesn’t mean a tight one-hole five-shot group, either. If you can cut the time it takes to fire the same five shots by one or two seconds and keep the rounds impacting the high center chest, you have improved your combat effectiveness, even if the group size grows to 6 inches, for example. The Cone of Deviation is a balance of speed and precision where the cone is not a perfect circle.

Four factors affect speed and precision according to Pincus’ shooting discipline:

SIZE: Simply, the target area at 3 yards will be larger than the same target at 25 yards. Therefore, more speed can be applied at 3 yards and still remain combat effective.

DISTANCE: The effect of deviation is magnified over a greater distance. Therefore, at longer shots, more time must be used to ensure a balance of precision.

CIRCUMSTANCES: Lighting, movement, fatigue, distractions, bystanders, perceived penalty for a miss, weapon familiarity and other elements will play a role in the outcome. Awareness of these circumstances and any possible adjustment should be considered while training.

ANTICIPATION: The need to shoot may or may not be anticipated. In an ambush, combat focus training will institute effective habits that can be used to minimize the surprise before engaging a threat.

Don’t bask in the good hits. Combat focus training teaches you to ask, “Why did I shoot that flyer?” If you don’t have flyers in training, you are not pushing yourself enough. Increase the speed of your shots until flyers occur or the group grows out of the high-center chest area on a target.

The range is my battlefield. The battlefield is my range. For more information on Pincus and his I.C.E. training classes, visit icetraining.us.

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  • mike thomas

    I was in the middle of a dynamic critical incident,on5-7-10 in which all of my combat focused shooting skills kicked in.All of your training saved the lives of me and my girlfriend.I am forever gratefull.It made the front page of The Press Enterprise tues 8/17/10 Bloomsburg P.A.Sincerly Mike Thomas.ph#570-956-0802.God Bless.