Suddenly, a bolt of epinephrine surges through your system, sending an electric tingle through your gut. An unknown dread pulses in the back of your mind as you look wildly around the room, trying to figure out the source of the alarm ringing through your body. Something is wrong. You feel for the nightstand at your bedside and slide open its drawer. As you readjust the grip on your pistol, you realize how your palms have begun to sweat. You’re now creeping quietly toward your bedroom door, nerves alight with the unknown catalyst that woke you from a sound sleep. You stand still, trying to will your ears to better capture the sounds around you, detecting only the noise of your own not-quite-even breathing. The door bursts open, knocking you to the floor and revealing two dark figures silhouetted against the unlit background of the hall behind your doorway. Were you ready for this?
Home defense is about more than how good of a marksman you are. And while learning to shoot accurately and how to manipulate your firearm safely and effectively can be improved through range training, it is also wise to seek out training without live fire to help cultivate the tactics of home defense as well as manipulating your home defense tools while under stress. Arguably, the best way to do this is through force on force training.
Whether using simunitions like these paint-round firing conversion kits, laser emitting training tools (like the SIRT training pistol, or Laserlyte training cartridges), or simply firing airsoft BBs, force on force training allows people to better simulate potential self defense scenarios. I had a taste of how much stress tints one’s view of a circumstance, as well as how it affects one’s ability to respond to potential threats when I first visited SHOT Show in 2012. Laser Shot, a firearms training simulator company, had a projection screen with a LEO training simulator program running, and a selection of CO2-actioned (to simulate recoil) laser emitting firearm models displayed at their booth. To introduce their products and how they work, they put one of the laser emitting pistols in my hands, and ran a scenario on the screen for me. In this particular program, the camera angle walked me up to a white truck (presumably my own). I witnessed a large man looking through the driver’s side window of the vehicle, as though searching for something. Upon “noticing” me, he turned and began walking toward me, gradually closing the already too-short distance between us while he distracted me with questions about the truck (what kind of stereo did it have? how old was it?), and then told me he wanted to buy it. My hand crept toward my holstered simulation pistol as his demeanor became aggressive. In an instant, the large goateed man pulled up his flannel shirt, drawing the full size pistol that was previously tucked into his waistband, and pointed it at my torso. He shouted to me that he was taking the truck, whether it was for sale or not. While he reached for his waistband, I had drawn my own firearm, but in the stress induced by this projection screen attacker, I drew too slowly and his gun was out before mine. Even in this visually simulated force on force training, I realized then that there was no way that my target practice alone could prepare me to make the split second decisions that a self defense situation demands.
There are potentially infinite numbers of scenarios in which a self/home defense situation can occur, so some of the best preparation you can give yourself is to train for the physical and emotional factors that are likely to be involved when you’re roused to defend your life. If those circumstances for which you train are dynamic, and involve a more realistic threat of someone who can simulate returning fire, the tactics and emotional responses (to stress) that can help survive a self defense situation can be developed. Because of its responsive, human elements, force on force training encourages those involved to more critically analyze their surroundings, to make use of concealment and/or cover, as well as to effectively respond to a sentient attacker, and to accomplish all those things while under duress. These types of skills have a wider application for defending one’s self than most range training can accomplish.
This isn’t to say that training at the range is a bad idea, or that it won’t help someone in a self or home defense situation; learning to proficiently manipulate your chosen self defense tools is always a good training measure. But, static training against fixed (or otherwise predictable) targets will only go so far in preparing you for an encounter with an unpredictable, moving, thinking person who can shoot back. There is a reason that professionals use force on force training: it’s the most realistic meaningful training for close quarter defense situations.