Terrorists have struck in New York, Orlando and San Bernardino. They were confronted by American law enforcement officers who stopped the threat. As more of these attacks occur, it’s no longer just the military at the tip of the spear. American police officers need a level of training that goes beyond routine in-service firearms programs. They need direct-action-style training in which the police officer takes the fight to the terrorist and does not wait for backup and hope for de-escalation.
However, many agencies don’t have the money for such training. Many can barely handle the state-mandated minimum. In some cases, that’s because the command staff want to spend the agency’s resources elsewhere, but in many areas, it’s because the tax base is low and the department does not have sufficient money.
Enter Operation Blue, a program that offers free training to law enforcement officers, paid for by firearms industry sponsors. One of the first Operation Blue courses was held at the Panteao Productions facility in Swansea, South Carolina, and was sponsored by Daniel Defense, Panteao Productions, Ghost Inc., Freedom Munitions, Tactical Supplies 4 Less and North American Rescue. Eleven officers from various agencies around South Carolina participated, including several sheriff’s departments and the Department of Natural Resources.
The course was taught by Bob Keller, who has spent more than 19 years with the U.S. Army, all in the special operations community. Keller has conducted combat operations in many theaters of operation, including Iraq, Afghanistan and undisclosed countries. Starting his career with the Army Rangers and later joining Special Forces, Keller is currently serving in a special mission unit, where he has been for the past 10 years. He is also the founder and chief executive officer of Gamut Resolutions and is quickly becoming highly sought after for law enforcement training and corporate outings in which he specializes in both carbine and pistol courses.
Operation Blue: Carbine Training
Directed at the experienced law enforcement shooter, Operation Blue is designed to teach various tactical applications using carbines and handguns in a two-day format. The course consists of a quick review of firearms safety and the proper handling techniques for tactical shooting. The remaining hours involve an assortment of increasingly challenging drills, tactics and techniques. Upon completion, an officer will have an in-depth understanding of firearms safety, marksmanship fundamentals for combat and knowledge of how to tactically maneuver and engage multiple targets from various firing positions with carbines and semi- automatic pistols.
The first day of the course focused on carbines. Participants shot drills on paper targets with 3- and 6-inch circles and then progressed to IPSC-style targets and steel. Putting rounds on target accurately with prevailing speed was the main focus. Then a brief classroom-style presentation covered handling procedures, universal safety rules, a medical care and evacuation plan, and Keller’s background and training philosophy. “I want you to be smarter, safer and more confident,” he said. “The smarter you are, the safer you’ll be, and the safer, the more confident. In the end, you will be an all-around better combat shooter.”
Keller then reviewed his methods for loading and clearing stoppages. He emphasized that stoppages will happen in combat, and they’ve happened to him more often than he would have liked.
“It’s not like shooting on the square range, where everything is perfect. The truth is, combat is not perfect, and the gun will stop for a variety of reasons. You need to be able to fix it. Immediate-action drills are lifesaving drills, and they must be done without conscious thought.”
Keller also emphasized combat reloading. Although many instructors do not focus on reloading, saying it seldom happens in combat, Keller believes the opposite. He teaches two types of reloads: speed reloads and combat reloads. He prefers the speed reload over the more traditional tactical reload, or a reload with retention. Keller teaches students to speed-load a carbine or pistol and then attempt to recover the partially loaded magazine if possible.
“I’m not going to stand there and juggle two magazines in one hand when the bullets are flying—that’s stupid,” he said. “I’m going to dump the magazine and put a new one in the gun. No one knows how much time they will have to do this. Hell, I’ve dropped magazines on the ground that may have been half full. The problem is, I don’t know how many rounds are in it, but if I put a new magazine in the gun, I do.”
For years, I’ve taught the technique of taking a knee and performing a speed reload. After that’s accomplished, the shooter reaches down and grabs the partially loaded mag. I’ve been criticized for that, mostly due to tradition, but I’m glad to see the concept embraced because of the combat experience of others.
Keller spends little time zeroing weapons. He doesn’t have to. “I’ve been doing this for so long with a wide variety of optics that I can look at a target and just know how much the shooter needs to click up, down or over,” he said. “To save time, I just tell the student how much to click, and we move on.”
He can get most students on target in three strings of fire or fewer. Keller prefers a 25-yard zero. “My world has been 100 yards and in, which will likely be the same for most law enforcement officers,” he said. “The 25-yard zero is faster to set up, but I have no problem with whatever the student likes.”
Keller also emphasizes what he calls the “must-haves” of carbine shooting: stance, grip, sight use, trigger control and recap, or what he calls follow-through. “Shooting should be a recap of everything you have learned,” he said. He’s also fond of saying, “Muscle memory can be an awesome thing, but it can also be a hindrance. If you do not establish your skills as if you are in combat, they will likely come home to bite you.”
Line fire commenced with ready-up drills that emphasize getting the gun on target and the red dot in front of the dominant eye. Keller uses a low-ready (gun pointed at the ground) and a high-ready in which the gun is on target with the shooter looking over the sights for situational awareness. According to Keller, a muzzle-up high-ready position is “stupid.” The initial live-fire drill uses 3-inch dots at 10 and 15 yards with no time limit to emphasize precise muzzle placement. The drill then speeds up as the targets change to 6-inch dots at 15 yards, with shooters firing controlled pairs. The speed of the drill continues to the point of failure, then the pace slows.
Next, the course stresses off-hand shooting, with shooters repeating the 6-inch dot drill, but firing from the other shoulder. The emphasis is on a smooth transition from one shoulder to another and then back again. Keller stresses the use of the safety lever when the shooter shifts the gun from one shoulder to the next. In fact, when Keller shoots from the off side, his off-side thumb never wraps around the pistol grip, as he prefers to keep his thumb on the safety lever. At that point, if barricades are available, shooters use them as if they were moving from primary to off-side cover.
An electronic timer is then brought out, and each student is timed on his ready-up drills. Using a standard USPSA target at 10 yards, shooters fire one round from the low-ready. Keller considers a good time to be less than one second with a red-dot sight, but he urges each student to improve to 0.5 to 0.8 seconds with a complete sight acquisition.
The course then moved to reloading and multiple-target drills before the first day ended with handgun drills at 25 yards on a standard NRA bullseye target. That’s where participants got a reality check on their marksmanship skills.
Operation Blue: Handgunning
The second day started with handgun drills. Keller first addressed weapon handling and manipulation with an emphasis on safety. He then discussed the must-haves of pistolcraft: grip, stance, sights, trigger manipulation and the recap. He spent considerable time working on holster skills and combat reloads dry, wanting to ensure the class could handle those functions well when live fire began. After live fire started, everything was from the holster. Keller’s approach is unlike the military in a war zone, as most police or armed citizen shooting situations likely start from the holster.
Live fire with the pistol began on 3-inch dots at 7 yards, with five rounds fired per dot. A ball-and-dummy drill was included to better stress the need for consistent trigger manipulations. The class then moved to 10 yards, where 6-inch dots were used. Then students moved to holster work, with timed draws at 7 yards on USPSA A-zone targets, with single shots and controlled pairs.
As the day progressed, the class brought the carbine back into play for handgun/carbine transition drills, shooting from barricades and shooting with movement. Keller’s thoughts on transitions are clear: “They’re [expletive],” he said. “You have a rifle. Clear it out, and get it back into the fight.” That said, he addressed the issue and included several “El Presidente” drills, which included headshots and pistol transitions.
The course’s final lesson covered shooting on the move using handguns and carbines, which is really the same thing. Keller does not advocate any special stride when shooting on the move. “Walk normally,” he said. “Don’t do something that’s different. You have been walking your whole life, so just use that.”He also advocates a cross step instead of a shuffle step when moving laterally, as he believes the cross step is more natural.
Although Bobs Keller’s views might differ from those of other firearms instructors, they’re based on many years of real-world missions and combat. It’s difficult to ignore that type of experience, as what works on the battlefield is likely to work on the street.
For more information, visit gamutresolutions.com.
This article was originally published in “Tactical Weapons” November/December 2017. To order a copy and subscribe, visit outdoorgroupstore.com.