Posted on October 27 2015
Lessons from Two Years of Shooting with Special Operations Guys
by Jason Ross
I met Chad Wade over coffee and kayaks. A friend introduced us in Coronado, California just outside of the Naval Special Warfare, SEAL training base. We had Starbucks then worked out on the base, swimming in the BUD/S pool, kayaking in the ocean and then sparring in the gym.
Two years later, I’ve shot, trained and shared ideas about combat with over fifteen other SOF (Special Operations Forces) guys on our four dynamic shooting ranges here in the Rocky Mountains.
Today for example, I’m on the movie set of Range 15 — the zombie/military/comedy flick being produced by Article 15 Clothing and Ranger Up and I’m running into ReadyMan guys all over the place. I was talking with ReadyMan “Mike” yesterday about shooting, and here’s what I realized: my idea of shooting has radically transformed in the last two years. And, today, I’m a vastly different shooter and more importantly a smarter shooter who is much more combat-ready.
So today ReadyMan wants to announce that we are moving forward with the ReadyMan gun-training course we call ReadyGun. Think of it like P90X for combat shooters. Take a moment and watch the attached montage video to get an idea of the things we will be covering down on in ReadyGun.
ReadyGun will take you through the KH-Dynamic shooting system that goes step-by-step and has proven itself in training gunfighters the world over. Thousands of students have learned this system to get up and ready for combat operations in some of the world’s most demanding combat environments.
ReadyGun was authored by ReadyMan’s own Evan Hafer and Jeff Kirkham, drawing on decades of experience from having trained, led and advised people all over the world, from regular Joes, the most elite Counter Terrorist Teams, and other Special Operations Forces. Jeff and Evan drew on this experience to develop KH-Dynamic (the Kirkham/Hafer Dynamic Shooting System.)
Right here, I’m going to warn you: DO NOT SKIP STEPS in KH-Dynamic and DO NOT JUMP INTO DYNAMIC SHOOTING WITHOUT PROFESSIONAL, IN-PERSON COACHING FIRST. Many of these training methods are fundamental to the Special Operations community’s training, but much of the system is only known to the men and women trained by Jeff and Evan. We’ll make the course available through a guide and videos, but we’ll also provide you a way to get professional, in-person coaching.
Don’t jump ahead and start shooting in and around your buddies as is demonstrated in this video or somebody will eventually get shot. After two years of direct coaching and dynamic shooting with the very guys who taught this to the best shooters in the world, it still scares the hell out of me. DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME.
Here are four of my biggest take-aways after two years of coaching from Jeff and Evan and the boys.
- Typical Range Practice has Serious Limits. Jeff and Evan drew from both their actual experience in gunfights (numbering in the hundreds) as well as analyzing countless hours of police and combat video evidence and reached a startling conclusion; almost NOBODY shoots the way they practiced on the flat range. Watching security camera footage, it is clear that nobody in a gun fight blades up in the Weaver stance. Instead, they flip into primal combat mode and do stuff a lot differently than the range. People duck. They run. They throw themselves behind cover. They hunch up. Most fire their weapon, more or less, instinctively, without regard for the gun training they’d received. It is scientifically proven that high stress will cause an instinctive reaction in your body. So why not train that way, with your body’s instinctive reaction already “baked in” to your training? KH-Dynamic teaches you to do exactly that.
- Movement is Key. In a gunfight, you need to be moving. You need to run, slide, dive, duck and hunch. You need to be able to shoot in a variety of shooting positions, scrambling on the ground, shooting under something (and still accurately hit your target.) Shooting static and immovable on the range, session after session, trains your body and mind to fight in circumstances that never happen or worse creates bad habits — standing still and on line against an opponent (target) who is standing tall, square, not moving and NOT shooting back is not realistic and it is never going to happen. Evan and Jeff run drills at the beginning of each session to make their brain flexible with the gun. They shoot strong side, weak side, one-handed, two-handed, strong eye, weak eye and all possible combinations of those. The drill helps break the routine-locked inflexibility of the human brain. Then, Jeff and Evan begin to move — stepping sideways then shooting. Stepping forward while shooting. Shooting around barriers. Turning and shooting. Sitting on a picnic bench and shooting. Shooting then moving. Transitioning back and forth between rifle and handgun. Movement is a fundamental part of any gun-fight. Why not practice the way you are going to fight?
- Heart Rate Changes Everything. When your heart rate goes up, it dramatically changes the way you do things — making everything harder. This is mimicked on the range by throwing in all kinds of stuff to mess with your heart rate. Jeff and Evan integrate kettle bells, tires and ropes into their shooting sessions to rock their heart rate between shooting strings. They run shot-timers in a variety of configurations to force themselves to quick-draw and cycle between targets. KH-Dynamic teaches that your heart rate will ALWAYS be elevated in a gunfight, so practice that way. Introduce competition. Introduce bad ammo so that you have to run malfunction drills during competition. Introduce distractions. Introduce any kind of mental pressure or mix-up possible. The goal becomes tricking the brain into screwing up so that the practice becomes naturally chaotic and so that your brain becomes used to shooting in whatever situation fate throws at you.
- The Gun is a Tool. Everyone has their preference, and it’s good to train with the gun you’ll probably have in a fight. But, shooting with many guns and weapons systems also throws the brain into confusion — and brain confusion is a friend to becoming a solid combat shooter. Shoot whatever gun’s laying around — but become insanely competent with the gun you’ll carry or keep by your bedside. 9mm, .45 ACP, .40 cal… whatever. There’s not enough difference in rounds to really get excited about gun selection. Generally, Evan and Jeff prefer the 9mm Glock, because it’s simple, common and performs well-enough and holds a lot of bullets. They shoot the AR-15 and AK for the same reason. But the moral of the story is this: train with all kinds of firearms and your body and mind will become excellent with firearms.
ReadyGun proceeds from Level One (static range) through Level Five (force-on-force gun-fighting in a team.) Beyond Level One, dynamic shooting can’t be done on an NRA range. Developing a training situation, such as shooting in a safe location in the woods or on private property, is required for anything past Level One KH-Dynamic.
It’s worth it.
You’ll notice that Levels Three through Five require non-lethal weapon systems such as airsoft, paintball, IR Tactical or Simunitions (listed from lowest to highest cost.) None of these systems are a perfect simulacrum of combat. All of these systems can teach bad habits and must be managed to reduce the risk of “training scars” but increase the reality. But to be clear, they are essential training tools.
While it may seem sexy to shoot dynamically in and around other shooters, it’s also too dangerous to repeat outside of professional, or professionally-set up, environments. Adding more than one live shooter to a training scenario can’t be justified except under controlled conditions. Switching to airsoft is an excellent idea when practicing many of the skills shown in the video and in ReadyGun. Making a mistake and shooting your buddy in the back of the head with airsoft still hurts, but nobody goes to the morgue. As long as you continue to treat your airsoft guns with respect and within the four rules of firearms safety, they’re valuble training tools.
After many hundreds of hours of firearms training, I began to shoot with Special Forces guys and to experience their training approaches. Later, I got to experience “next level” even beyond SOF training — the KH-Dynamic shooting system. Soon, as a ReadyMan, you will experience that too.
I’m very much looking forward to sharing and shooting the KH-Dynamic system with you ReadyMan members.
Here’s the biggest take away from two years of shooting with these guys: shooting dynamically is WILDLY FUN! I shoot ten times as much now, because honestly, I’m enjoying myself ten times as much as I did on the standard range.
Be careful and maintain all levels of safety. But definitely start learning to shoot and move. You’re going to love it.
READYGUN, Levels of Combat Shooting
Level One: Static Shooter/Static Target (normal NRA range) but including drawing from a holster with concealment. Check with your range to see if permissible.
Level Two: Moving Shooter/Static Target. This requires a single shooter on the range with a moving line. The shooter may shoot along the line, but will need the ability to move forward and back, eventually.
Level Three: Moving Shooter/Moving Target. Moving targets are hard to arrange, but there are some easy hacks — such as a remote-controlled truck with balloons pulled around behind or plates that “fly” down cables.
Level Four: Shooter versus Shooter(s). Literally, this is a mock gunfight. Shooters fight in and around obstacles. Airsoft, paintball, IR Tactical or Simunition are required for Level Four and Five. Vital skills, such as movement, flanking and cover begin to develop as one human mind combats another.
Level Five: Force on Force. Using a simulated system, one team engages and fights another team. On top of the tactical skills of Level Four, Level Five begins the arduous process of learning communication, tactics, blue-on-blue deconfliction, suppression and many others. At the end of the day, Level Five delivers a good chunk of the benefit of combat experience (minus all the really important stuff like fear-of-death.)
Four Rules of Firearm Safety:
- Treat every gun like it’s loaded.
- Never point your firearm at anything that you’re not willing to destroy.
- Keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to shoot.
- Know your target and what lies to the left, right, front and rear of it.