Combat Shooting Fundamentals

This student works on his trigger control under the watchful…

This student works on his trigger control under the watchful eye of instructor David Bowie.

Niche training seems to be all the rage theses days. Programs like how to draw from an ankle holster while ground fighting or how to use a carbine at 300 meters are quite popular and that is fine, but how many people truly understand the basics or fundamentals of combative shooting? “Combative” is defined as the person who is ready and willing to fight back, which makes combative shooting different from competitive shooting.

“Shooting is shooting,” you say? No, it’s not…the difference between competition and combat is that nobody is shooting back at you. In competition, a pre-event walk through is okay on many occasions…I have yet to hear of a gunfight where the participants got a “walk through” before the fray began. If they did, they would know exactly what tactics and techniques they would need, and the all important crisis decision-making (which makes actual combat so difficult) would be a non-factor in the incident.

There is no way you can train for every potential situation you might face, regardless of how much time or money you expend. The best that any of us can do is to obtain a solid understanding of the fundamentals of weaponcraft and then have the presence of mind to know what we need to pull out of our skill set to meet the threat we face. The ability to do this is difficult, but it will be flat-out impossible if we do not have the fundamental skills needed to fight back. One thing I have learned over the years is that many folks can talk a good game; far fewer can actually perform the skills needed to prevail in armed conflict.

John Benner and instructor David Bowie show the students how to properly grasp a magazine for a proper speed reload.

The Tactical Defense Institute (TDI) has become one of the “big name” shooting schools in the United States along with facilities like Gunsite, Thunder Ranch, US Training Center (formerly Blackwater), Sig Sauer Academy and Front Sight. TDI focuses on a complete preparation package, which includes training in handgun, carbine, shotgun, less-lethal weapons, knife, open hand techniques and even medical self-help training. I recently had the opportunity to attend TDI’s Level I, II and III courses, which are the “bread and butter” of TDI’s pistolcraft program.

Founded in the mid-1980’s by President and Chief Instructor John Benner, TDI is located in Southern Ohio on 186 rolling acres of wooded land that offers three shoot houses, a two-story force-on-force house, a 400-yard rifle range, multiple pistol ranges including a steel range as well as a classroom and pro-shop. While TDI focuses on the armed citizen, they are also well known in the law enforcement, private security and military communities, regularly training personnel from these sectors. When I was the commander of a multi-jurisdictional drug task force, I hired TDI to train my investigators in raid planning and forced entry to make sure they were prepared for such hazardous situations.

What I like about TDI is that they do not base their training doctrine on the latest Ninja-like, Spec-Ops fad — their curriculum is based on simplicity as they realize that it is the simple things that will work in human conflict. During my tenure, the task force performed hundreds of entries on crack houses and other fortified locations and we never suffered a single injury, let alone fatality — certainly an excellent record in the hazardous world of drug enforcement.

On this particular occasion, I went to TDI with my son-in-law who had recently obtained his concealed carry permit due to his profession. Being involved in travelling sales, he goes to areas that are certainly “high crime” locations (a homicide occurred at one of his stops just moments before he arrived), thus I felt that having a gun would be a prudent move. I trained him enough to get his permit, but I also realize that training family members is seldom a good idea; so I suggested he go to TDI. He agreed and I decided to go along to brush up on my fundamental skills.

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