Monday, June 27, 2011

Faux Combat

Before launching into this article I want to make it clear that I am not a combat veteran. I've never fired a bullet at anybody and if anyone ever shot at me they used a "silencer" and missed 'cause I didn't notice being shot at.

So, where do I get off talking about Combat? Well I've hung out with some guys who've been there, done that and have the T-shirts. And I pay attention.

So, how do you research "combat" without getting shot at or locked up for starting fights?

There's also the question of "Just how many gunfights can you reasonably expect to survive?"

Knowing what works and what doesn't could be the difference between surviving or not in a real world survival situation and since one can't expect to survive too many real combat experiences a way to "practice" has to be found.

There's vicarious "practice" such as you'd find at the movies or on TV but if you believe anything that Hollywood puts on the screen even approaches reality I've got a bridge in Brookline I'll sell you cheap.

For one thing, in the real world or combat you don't have an overview of what's happening like in the popular TV shows. There are no second camera shots of the other guy moving to hide behind another rock. There are no overhead shots so viewers can see the relative positions of the players and there are no previously filled in bits of plot that viewers know about but the protagonist or antagonist doesn't.

TV shows are the poor man's combat school giving excellent examples of what NOT to do.

To give yourself an idea of what real combat is like take a look at a real time, multi-camera view of a fire-fight.

Yes, yes I know the camera's angle of view is less than your eyes would see, but considering the amount of time the cameramen, helmet and gun mounted cameras are looking at the ground (seeking cover etc.) you can't really say you'd see much better with a wider field of view. Remember these guys are ducking real bullets.

There's also the faux combat of the pistol and three gun matches held at your local shooting range. But remember the difference between shooting at cardboard targets and live opponents is that the cardboard cutouts don't shoot back.

Also range safety and competition rules dictate shooting habits that could get you killed in the real world. Jim Cirillo of NYPD's "Stakeout Squad" fame who went 17-0 in real world gunfights angrily walked away from an IPSC match after being told his hits on three targets were disallowed because the edge of his shoe had touched the "foot fault line." Fault lines may be necessary to keep contestants from moving too close to targets, but as Jim said: "In all my gunfights when I was a New York City police officer, I never had to look down on the ground for a foot fault line."

IDPA rules are slightly better, but you get the point; at range competitions safety and fairness rules trump real world reality. That doesn't mean you shouldn't play with IDPA, just that in all of the "combat" shooting sports the main benefits are learning to shoot and reload your weapon under stress and not necessarily tactics.

A realistic form of passive "practice" can be found on the cable and satellite outdoor and sporting channels. An ambush is an ambush, the difference between combat and hunting is that the deer don't shoot back.

Recently I've been watching a lot of hunting shows on the Sportsman, Outdoor and>Pursuit (called the "Hunt" on the Dish network) channels (probably available to you if you've got cable or satellite TV) and I've noticed some similarities between hunting and fighting.

To begin with the old military maxim "No battle plan survives contact with the enemy" holds true for hunting too. Serendipity plays a big role in "walk & stalk" hunting and combat patrolling. Likewise for a hunter in a blind is not all that different from a carefully laid out military ambush.

No matter how carefully the hunters/combatants plan the "game" may thwart them by sensing them or simply taking a different trail without even knowing the hunters/combatants are present.

Those tempted to shy away from watching "Bambi" get shot are reminded that if everything goes to hell in a hand basket there'll be a shortage of hand baskets and your family's survival may well depend on retaining your hand basket.

Mule & Whitetail deer effortlessly hop over three strand barbed wire fences which hunters require more than a minute to negotiate safely. Yes, firearms safety is for survivalists too. You don't want to start the long march to your bunker in the bush by shooting yourself in the foot.

Les Johnson's Predator Quest show* does a great job of showing the part camouflage, stillness and concealment play in an ambush. But more to the point as you watch the show you'll see, over and over again, how coyotes come from unexpected directions, take unexpected routes and do what is least expected of them, just like in real combat.

*(Monday 9:00 PM
Thursday 3:00 AM
Saturday 3:30 PM
All Airtimes are in Eastern Time Zones)

So is this a combat manual? Far from it. If you want real combat training join the Marines.

What's that you say? Not enough people in your survival group for platoon sized assault maneuvers? Besides the wife won't man the M60 and doesn't want your son playing with rocket launchers?

Well, there is hope. If we scale down our survival scenarios to more realistic personal defense protection predictions two excellent schools present themselves: Gunsite Ranch (founded by renowned combat pistol instructor Jeff Cooper) in Arizona and Massad Ayoob's Massad Ayoob Group (MAG) headquartered in Concord, New Hampshire which conducts classes all over the country.

If you don't have the time/ money/ inclination to attend one of these schools there's always volunteerism.

First responders are trained to respond to emergencies by practicing both mentally and physically to deal with them. You can learn a lot from carefully selected cable and satellite shows, but hands on practice (Red Cross classes, IDPA matches and volunteer Search & Rescue/fire/police reserve/CERT training will take your preparedness out of the realm of mental images to practiced preparedness.

Sitting in front of a TV watching mainstream Hollywood dramas on network television will teach you the absolute wrong way to do just about everything. Often the only "reality" in network reality TV shows is the name.

Cable and satellite hunting shows, particularly coyote hunting shows, will give you a somewhat edited view of what happens in the real world.

The unpredictability of "pray" on hunting shows mirrors real world combat because the action of the animals is unscripted. Perhaps that's because it's so hard to get the coyotes to cooperate.

Superfluous Survival Tip of the week:

Survival Sleeping?
(OK, these techniques will work any time, but keep in mind that being awake and alert are prerequisites to informed intelligent decision making under stress. In the ubiquitous "survival situation" the tendency to try to stay awake in order to be ready to respond to whatever the new and frightening situation throws at you can be dangerous. Your body needs sleep and putting sleep off could leave you groggy at a time when you need to be awake and alert.)

1. Try to get eight hours sleep one uninterrupted period between 2200 hours (10pm) and 0600 (6am) if possible.
2. If forced to sleep for shorter periods (guard duty/refueling a generator or checking on makeshift repairs) try to get sleep in the largest chucks possible.
3. Waiting and watching is stressful. Exercise helps to "burn off" stress hormones.
4. Focus on sleeping. Be sure you can trust the people you are with, your dog or intrusion devices.
5. Try to schedule your sleep time so as to fall into a pattern.
6. Avoid alcoholic beverages, big meals or excessive sweets a few hours before your scheduled sleep time.
7. Avoid caffeine for five hours before your scheduled sleep time.
8. Fear of the unknown leads to stress and can keep us awake when we should be resting. Alleviate fear by breaking down problems faced into manageable portions. You may not be able to see how to fix the whole problem, but working on one little aspect of it often leads to epiphanies which make seeing how to fix the rest easier.

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