Saturday, June 14, 2014

"High Utility" Firearms Drill Training

Anyone who has been around tactical community for any length of time, be it as an operator, trainer, and/or leader, is likely familiar with the Viking Tactics (VTAC) 1-5 Drill.  Sergeant Major (ret) Kyle Lamb, US Army Special Operations combat veteran, author of “Green Eyes & Black Rifles: The Warrior’s Guide to the Combat Carbine”, and president and founder of Viking Tactics breaks down the essentials of the VTAC 1-5 drill in this video.

In this article, I will refer to this version of the VTAC 1-5 drill as the basic/base drill.

Industry innovators such as Travis Haley underscore that there is a difference between rote drill training, and understanding/developing drills at a “deeper level”.  Travis Haley, US Marine Corps Force Reconnaissance combat veteran, former CEO of Magpul Industries Corporation, and president and founder of Haley Strategic Partners, LLC demonstrates an advanced application of the VTAC 1-5 drill in this video. 

The purpose of this article is to highlight that trainers/operators/practitioners need to understand drill training at a deeper level in order to ensure a “best fit” approach to training using the drills which facilitate optimal skill development within the constraints of financial budgets and time. At the time of this article, I have over 15 years of experience as a trainer in the tactical community.  Although the core curriculum I use is CSAT based, I do use and teach the VTAC 1-5 Drill as one of the training platforms for myself and my fellow students/operators.

Three fundamental truths that I believe trainers/operators/leaders need to accept when looking more deeply into drill training are:

·         No single drill will provide repetition of all the various skills sets required in any given operational environment;
·         Some of the various skill sets needed for the operational environment are trained in direct opposition to each other; and
·         Optimal learning does not occur unless trainers/operators/practitioners understand the inherent assumptions contained within a drill’s practice method.

To illustrate these points, let’s again use the base VTAC 1-5 Drill as an example.  In the first video, we see the drill executed (15 rounds total on 3 targets) in under 3 seconds.  Training the drill using this method allows practice of many critical technical & tactical skills to include: optimizing the manner in which the weapon is “welded” to the body, optimizing the manner in which the shooter traverses from target to target, & optimizing the manipulation of the trigger.  However, in order to optimize the cadence of the drill, shooters maintain their finger-to-trigger contact while traversing target to target.  When the actions needed to perform the drill at the cadence demonstrated are extrapolated into the application environment, an operator moving a weapon from one threat to another with his/her finger on the trigger (potentially across innocent/friendly persons) would be violating most tactical SOP’s.  What SOP’s you ask? Most shooters who learn the “4 Firearm Safety Rules” learn that their finger is to be “off the trigger until their muzzle is on the target”; cases such as Medina v. City of Chicago show that our legal system considers the placement of the finger on the trigger when not shooting to be “willful and wanton” conduct.  And since we perform in the manner that we practice, practicing with our finger on the trigger will increase the likelihood that we will perform that way in the operational environment.

Does that mean that we should drop this version of the VTAC 1-5 drill from our training curriculum? Absolutely not! It simply means that trainers/operators/practitioners should understand that when they practice the drill in this manner, they are training the optimization of aspects such as weapon “weld”, traversing from target to target, manipulation of the trigger, etc.

It is incumbent upon trainers and leaders to develop utility in their training drills that are consistent with their application environments. These “higher utility/application oriented” drill variants should be added into the curriculum.  The variants should include the physical skills performance expectations that we seek during application: for instance, if we expect the shooter’s finger to be out of the trigger during movement from one target to the next, we have to incorporate that into the drill’s “language/expectations”.  If we expect a follow through sight picture on targets that have been engaged, we likewise have to set that into the drill’s “language/expectations”.

In this final video, we look at a "utility/application oriented" variation of the VTAC 1-5 drill.  In this version, some of the individual skills being trained include finger off the trigger while traversing from target to target, follow through sight picture prior to traversing from target to target, and a speed load during the drill execution (intentionally set up by using a partially filled magazine).  Since we wanted to incorporate the rifle reload skill, we set the drill distance up along the method described in the previous video by Travis Haley.  This is because of the tactical preference to reload the rifle at longer distances while tending to transition to the pistol at closer distances.  Even under 10 seconds total time, the trigger manipulation in the drill is less than optimal when compared to the base drill.  So while this variation builds utility, for a shooter to improve trigger manipulation skills, the original VTAC 1-5 drill should be used.  So here we see two inherent opposite methods needed to train two necessary skills for the operational environment: optimal trigger manipulation when engaging and finger off the trigger when traversing, as examples.

By constantly returning to the basic drills, extrapolating the current needs of the operational environment, and incorporating them into utility-oriented drills, we build a feedback loop that deepens our understanding and continually builds our skills.

Read more about building utility.