Why Civilians Need Force on Force Training

November 4, 2020
David Workman

Most people associate force-on-force training with law enforcement or the military, like the grownup versions of cops-and-robbers and playing war. While this training is certainly valuable to professionals, many of the same lessons apply to civilians.

For many civilian gun owners, “training” means grabbing your eyes and ears, unearthing the range bag, and heading out to shoot a box of practice ammo at a climate-controlled indoor range every so often. Certainly, there are benefits to box range practice sessions, as we all need to work on our marksmanship and basic handgun skills. But real-life gunfights don’t happen at a box range. They happen everywhere: at the grocery store, the convenience store, the parking lot, houses of worship, etc. – locations that are not safety-controlled like a sterile

Force on Force training is a great way to test the skills and the entire body of work. Are you prepared mentally and physically to endure the attack and what comes after?

range. They are unpredictable, fluid, and dynamic. Your target might be moving, and there will be obstacles and other people clouding the scene. Plus, your heart rate will be elevated, and you will likely experience the biggest adrenaline dump of your life. Are you ready for this new experience? It might be the only time in your life that it happens. And if you’re not prepared, it may be the last time you see your loved ones alive.

Train Outside the Box

Most civilians, especially experienced concealed carriers, claim they are prepared for real-life encounters. Some of them may very well be. But what if you could be sure? What if you could take your training up one huge level by engaging in these potential situations before they happen? What if you could experience the intensity of these deadly force encounters without the risk of dying?

That’s what force-on-force (FoF) training is all about. FoF uses real guns converted to fire only marking cartridges, not real bullets, which allows participants to shoot the bad guys – and for them to shoot back if you don’t stop the threat – without risk of serious or fatal injury. It’s as close to real life as you can get without actually killing people.

When you shoot at a static range, all you’re concerned with is accuracy and maybe speed. You’re shooting at stationary targets that don’t shoot back at you. However, FoF adds the elements of moving targets that return fire. Sometimes they fire first! You must not only put accurate shots on target, you also have to make critical decisions in seconds, often on the move, with the world in chaos around you.

Physiological Effects

While it’s impossible to fully simulate a true life-or-death encounter, FoF is highly effective at getting as close as possible. In fact, researchers at the Royal Military Academy in Belgium found that FoF training revealed that while “even force-on-force training cannot match the intensity of a truly life-or-death encounter…with repeated exposure to good force-on-force scenarios, officers are forced to acknowledge the adverse effect of high stress and they can gradually learn to perform reliably and use it to enhance their performance.” That same outcome happens to civilians. In fact, you could argue that the effect is even more profound in those who don’t wear a uniform because we never expect to encounter danger or get shot at. We train for it but hope it never happens.

Alternative Endings

One benefit of FoF training is the emergence of new decision-making skills. While traditional marksmanship training focuses on deploying the gun, in FoF training (as in real life), sometimes the gun isn’t the best solution. Often the situation can be resolved with the gun still in the holster. Scenarios can be created wherein a gun would be a bad option, such as a potentially violent encounter that can be deescalated and resolved by simply backing out or offering an alternative. In such cases, a gun would be a bad option, both tactically and legally. Does the scenario present a lethal threat that merits a lethal response? Or can the good guy win without firing a shot?

Safety First

Now, that doesn’t mean guns don’t come into play in FoF training. They certainly do! Sometimes lethal force is the best and only way to end the threat. Because of that, critical safety measures must be in place throughout. For example, all participants need to wear the appropriate protective gear, which usually includes a helmet with face guard or goggles, groin pad, gloves, and thick clothing – because even though the marking cartridges are non-lethal, they hurt! You will know when you get hit.

Also, the area must be cleared of all real weapons and ammunition. The last thing you want is a real gun with real bullets somehow finding its way into the gun battle.

Practice Makes (Almost) Perfect

How do professional athletes make routine plays looks so easy? They’ve had good coaching and made those plays thousands of times. Just as repeatedly putting rounds down range can make you a better shooter – assuming you’re practicing with a purpose – repeated FoF training can better prepare you for a real-life encounter. Take your training seriously and be ready. ~ David

David Workman
David is an avid gun guy and a contributing writer to several major gun publications. In addition to being an NRA Certified Pistol Instructor and RSO, David trains new shooters on basic handgun skills and CCW requirements and is a strong advocate for training as much as you possibly can. "Real life shootouts don't happen at a box range."

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