Day 2 (Army of Two, and oh-shit-I’m-standing downrange while people are shooting)
Day 2 started with a few more timed cold drills that went on the Accountability Tracker, and after some more individual drills that I don’t recall, we did the Baby Snake.
Baby Snake is one of those drills that people who train will have a really hard time explaining and justifying to people who don’t, because heres what it was: There are 2 targets 10 feet apart, a row of cones heading uprange of each target, and 4 dudes standing in a row between each pair of cones (see picture).
The drill starts with the shooter facing the targets and all of the non-shooters facing uprange. The shooter runs to a cone, fires, lowers and safes the weapon, and runs between non-shooters to the next opposite cone, and shoots again. Repeat a few more times. When the shooter reaches the last cone, he takes the last place in line and everyone moves forward, with the farthest person becoming the shooter. When everyone had run this drill twice, we did it again, but with all shooters facing downrange.
This is the kind of thing that looks terribly unsafe at first glance, and it certainly isn’t something you’ll do at an NRA class. Standing 10 yards downrange while someone is shooting at a target that’s 5 feet to your side is definitely flinch-inducing at first, but it served several *critically* important purposes for this class:
1. Getting you comfortable with being downrange of someone firing in close proximity to you.
2. Getting you comfortable with the skill level of your teammates.
3. Getting you familiar with knowing your firing angles.
I was very happy this drill was included, but I didn’t fully appreciate how important it was until later on.
Shortly after this drill, we chose our teammate for the remainder of class. We started team drills with an evolution called “Comm Loop”. This was a drill that sounds simple but involves a whole lot of communications with your partner: The object is to hit a steel target from each of the shooting holes in a the standard VTAC 4x6’plywood barricade. Each of you have to shoot through all the holes. At the same time. As you can imagine, this requires an enormous amount of coordination and communication to make sure people are out of each other’s way, while still remaining behind cover. We ran the drill once for familiarity, and once for recorded time on the Accountability Tracker. DannusMaximus and Gary (not yet in ZS) rocked the house on this drill, Braxton and I came in second.
We ran a timed drill called Barrel Race, that had 5 barrels set up 15 yards in front of 5 widely spread out targets. In this drill, the shooter would stand in front of the first barrel, while the non-shooter stood behind them. At the buzzer, the non-shooter would turn over 2 index cards with numbers on them. One color card had the location of the target to be shot, while the other card had the number and sometimes location of shots to be fired at said target. The non-shooter would yell them out to the shooter, who would then race to the correct target and perform the required action. The non-shooter had to race too, because on that targets barrels were another set of numbers to be called. The drill continued until all sets of cards were overturned, and then the teammates swapped roles. When 2 sets had been done, the combined time was recorded on the Tracker. This was a great drill, except for the first team's first run, when they realized they were accidentally caught in a Portal loop, because the numbers were sending them infinitely back and forth between 2 barrels. Once that was fixed, everyone had a blast, and the final shots of each run were pretty hard.
Then we got in to discussion of Extremely Small Teams tactics, which were really the heart of this course. We talked about how much of a disadvantage having 2 people clearing a structure is compared to having a larger team, and how one is best served by using overwhelming violence of action to make up for the lack of manpower. This translates into fast and committed entry into rooms, and continuous motion until the building is cleared. The point was made that slow and deliberate pie-slicing is likely to end in failure on a 2-man team, since there’s no extra help if one person gets hit while coming around a corner. Better to use speed and surprise to one’s advantage.
From there, it was over to Shoothouse #1. We talked about the critical importance of keeping tabs on where your partner is, and communicating who will move where once the room is entered. While no plans can be foolproof, specially in an unfamiliar room behind a closed door, having a basic plan of “I go left you go right” is critical to avoid crossing into someone’s field of fire. We air-gunned the shoot house a few times to practice moving in a team and keeping muzzles down when facing towards our partner, then we stepped up to airsoft rifles to do a run through the house with Chris and Dave coaching us.
During the airsoft run through, Dave and Chris hid some no-shoot targets up among the targets. There was one poor target holding a Coke can that got murdered by many teams (pro-tip: Greg Focker is a real Pepsi man, don’t fuck with him). In my defense, when I entered the room I was scanning the half without the target, and I didn’t see Braxton muzzlethump the Coke can target so hard that the can fell onto the ground. I turned to see Braxton with his back to a clean target and immediately fed it two rounds to the laughter of all spectactors.
Once all teams had done that a couple times and were familiar with it, we were kicked out of the house while it was rearranged, and we did it live. And it was intense. Braxton and I work very well together, and we came through the house quickly, engaging targets deliberately and accurately. It was a great drill.
Night 2 (Always bring a backup light)
After the dinner break, we again waited for it to get dark and did more night exercises, expanding on the judicious use of light we practiced the previous night. We talked about light spill, the dangers of reflective surfaces inside houses, and how some lights are just too bright for indoor use on a weapon.
After a while we set up the night shoothouse. Again, we did a dry run through first while we got coached on right and wrong usage of lights. Then we ran it individually for real. And Chris and Dave were real assholes about it this time, too. They set up chairs and barrels to trip us up in the dark, and a big fucking mirror at the end of a hallway to blind us. They ALSO put up some real motherfuckers of targets, including a child target with a pistol and a pregnant woman with a pistol. These were designed to get into your head, but there were no wrong decisions on whether you shot at them or not, only wrong reasons why or why not. I shot them both, because I registered that there was a gun pointed at me, and fired. Others decided they weren’t a threat and moved on.
During this stage, my rifle light (a Streamlight tactical light on a ring mount) decided to stop working. I hit the tailcap 3 or 4 times in the dark, yelled a few motherfuckers, and pulled my pistol out, and finished the drill with it and the Surefire X200 on it.