Advanced Tactical Training – Lessons Learned Part 5

Advanced Tactical Training – Lessons Learned Part 5
By Philip Van Cleave

Virginia Citizens Defense League
Virginia Citizens Defense League

Covington VA – -( This is the fifth and final installment of some force-on-force training that I took earlier this year at Practical Firearms Training (PFT) earlier this year. It is long, but I think you will find this to be one of the most interesting of the scenarios.

In this scenario, we are playing a group of gun owners standing outside a K-12 school who, upon hearing shots fired in the school and with no police anywhere to be found, decide to go in and stop the active shooter immediately before he kills more children. The shooter would be using a real semi-automatic AK-47 style gun with dummy rounds and we were not using any hearing protection, so the shots would sound real.

The gun owners were to form an ad hoc three-person team, with one person leading the way (the team leader) and covering the team from the front. The other two people are behind and on either side of the team leader in a triangle formation. The two trailing persons cover their side of the hall, as well as keep an eye behind the team for any danger from the rear.

I was on the rear right-side of my team initially.

Upon entering the school on the first floor (which in reality is a decommission school to be demolished in the not too distant future), our team heard shots that were coming from the 3rd floor.

Our mission was to go toward the shots and stop the shooter as fast as possible, our mission did NOT include clearing the entire building. Thus, we immediately began to climb the steps up to the second floor.

So far, so good.

Next we began climbing the steps up to the landing between the second and third floors. As soon as we started up those stairs, someone with a rifle opened fire on us from the top of the third floor stairs.

We returned fire from the minimal cover that we had from the balcony above us. The team leader’s paintball gun jammed on him while he was attempting to return fire. Cursing, he stepped back into cover on the second floor stairwell to try and fix his gun. Realizing he was out of commission for now, I automatically took over as team leader and the remaining team member and I started up the stairwell again to the landing between the two floors.

The shooter had moved and was no longer visible.

Since I arrived first at the top of the landing between the second and third floors, I provided cover as my teammate came up to the landing from the second floor.

Still quiet.

All of a sudden a figure comes running down the stairs!

I quickly realized it was a “teacher” and moved my muzzle off him.

My concern focused on the 3rd floor landing behind him as he ran down those stairs. If the shooter were to pop up now, he would be able to shoot the unarmed, fleeing teacher in the back! I locked my gun on that third floor landing, ready to open fire if the bad guy showed up.

As the teacher approached me, he was saying something, but I was still highly focused on getting him past us and on his way down the last two flights of stairs and out of the building that really I didn’t listen to what he was saying.

That was going to be a very costly mistake.

More shots range out on what sounded like the far side of the third floor and my teammate and I ran up the stairs, stopping on the third floor landing.

More shots! Damn they are loud!

I peeked out of the landing door and noticed that there was a door to my left, another across the hall, one to my immediate right.

I paused – I had no idea if a bad guy might be in on of those rooms, but I didn’t think we had more than one shooter.

We simply could not take the time to clear all these rooms (slicing the pie) while an active shooter was taking innocent lives! The shots were down the hall, so I decided to proceed.

Gun out in front of me, I started walking by the door of the classroom on my right side, looking down the hall toward where I thought the shooter was located.

I felt the paintballs hitting the right side of my head and on my neck. Through the blur of the paintball paint over my right eye, I could see there indeed was a SECOND bad guy, this one with an AR-15 style paintball gun standing in the back of the classroom on my right.

I did not even attempt to return fire, because, in honesty, for me it was was over. Those shots most would certainly have been fatal.

What I learned about going after an active shooter when you are going by uncleared rooms is very simple: MOVE FAST! And keep MOVING FAST!

My mistake was WALKING by a door with an unknown active shooter hiding in the room. I ASSUMED that there wasn’t a second bad guy and I paid the price. Had I run past that room and ran down the hall towards the sounds of the active shooter, I probably would not have been shot by the second bad guy, as he would have had almost no time to react when he saw me flash by the door.

A moving target is harder to hit and I should have taken advantage of that.

There was another key mistake I made: I didn’t listen to the “teacher” fleeing the active shooter in the stairwell. What he was trying to tell me as he rushed by was that there was a SECOND shooter!!! By missing that key piece of intelligence and by assuming that there was only one shooter, I paid the ultimate price.

Board member Dennis O’Connor was on the next team. Dennis’ team formed on the other side of the building and entered by that stairwell.

Dennis took the lead position and got his team moving. One person covered the stairwell, while another person raced to the second floor. Then that person watched the stairwell as the other two team members raced to the second floor. A team member then watched the stairwell as one of the team members raced to the landing between the second and third floors. That person then watched the third floor for any shooters as the other two team members raced to the landing. Finally, two members raced to the third floor with one person on the landing continuing to provide cover. That person them joined the team on the third floor.

Dennis immediately stepped into the hall where he had been hearing shots and, lo and behold, there was the bad guy with the AK with his back turned toward Dennis and his team!

Dennis opened up on the bad guy, who didn’t have a chance to return fire. No one on Dennis’ team was even shot at.

(During Dennis’ scenario, upon hearing shots in the hall outside of my “classroom,” my “class” scattered. I chose to hide in a closet, holding the door so it could not be opened easily should someone try to open it. This was a so-so choice, as either shooter could have just killed me by shooting through that door had they found out I was inside. Hiding unarmed was a horrible experience. I’ll take a fighting chance any day!)

Dennis’ team was so successful because they moved much faster than the bad guy was expecting them to, catching him by surprise. Moving quickly past unsecured areas would also have minimized the chances of being shot, as I learned the hard way earlier. Being indecisive and hesitating unnecessarily can get you killed.

There were a couple of other scenarios that I wanted to note:

One a person with a mentally handicapped son comes into a government office, the son gets very upset and anxious. At one point he walks out and comes back with an AR-15. He wasn’t threatening anybody with, but was holding it. I was unarmed in that scenario and took the valid choice of exiting the room the first chance I had. I watched from another room as the scenario played out. In the end the two armed citizens talked the son into putting down the gun and the whole thing ended without a shot fired and no one hurt in any way. Well done – I was proud of how the armed citizens defused the situation and didn’t have to resort to deadly force.

In another scenario an undercover police officer comes into a waiting room and tries to arrest a criminal. The officer and criminal are grappling for the officer’s gun. Dennis, who was unarmed, jumped in to help the officer and got the gun out of the hands of the bad guy. I think this surprised the PFT folks and goofed up their plan on how they envisioned the scenario going down. Anyway the officer somehow loses the gun again to the bad guy and one of the armed citizens stepped up and shot the bad guy repeatedly to stop him. Dennis, who was standing sort of behind the bad guy as he was getting shot, let go of him and backed off, trying to get out of the way of the shots. Final score: good guys – 1, bad guy – 0.

Practical Firearms Training
Practical Firearms Training

Keep in mind that these scenarios involved HIGHLY trained individuals, playing the rolls of both the good and bad guys. In a street encounter, an armed citizen is unlike to have to do battle with someone with this much training. Surviving a gun fight in this training session, accordingly, was not a walk in the park, by any means.

Joe Schmo gang banger could always get lucky or get the drop on you, but he just isn’t going to have any training and that will give a strong advantage to the gun owner who does have training.

And for the 3rd and 4th scenarios, where I was killed/wounded, respectively, my opponent, who was playing the part of the good guy in his mind, was victorious, defeating the bad guy (me).

I learned a lot and hopefully will do better on some of these scenarios the next time.

Virginia Citizens Defense League, Inc. (VCDL). VCDL is an all-volunteer, non-partisan grassroots organization dedicated to defending the human rights of all Virginians. The Right to Keep and Bear Arms is a fundamental human right. Visit:

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11 years ago

"Force on force" training is a great tool for simulated combat, but Airsoft is a much more cost effective option than simunitions. A lot or Military and Law enforcement agencies are starting to switch over for that reason. I regularly play airsoft MILSIM games for that reason.

11 years ago

Where's Part 4?

Of Advanced Tactical Training – Lessons Learned???