I had the privilege of attending Defensive Training Institute Inc.’s (DTI) Armed Response to a Terrorist Attack (ARTA) taught by John S. Farnam and hosted by Defense One, QSI Training and DTI alumni Joe Prepper. Also helping John run the class was Tommy Teach of Fortress Defense Consultants. Tommy Teach is the creator of the Bruzer, a less-than-lethal pistol.
This was a two-day course that took place at Ahlman’s Gun Range in Morristown, MN over the weekend of July 7th – 8th, 2019.
The course is described as being designed “to prepare armed citizens against the threat of terrorist violence and other active-shooter events.”
Class began at the Military and Police Range at Ahlman’s at 0800. The class had already met John the night before at a pre-class dinner at The Depot bar and grill in nearby Faribault, MN. where most of the class were staying for the weekend. For those of you haven’t met John he is a treasure trove of knowledge and wisdom in the art of defensive firearms training. John started off the instructor-student introductions. There were 13 students and 5 instructors in the class.
The Basics Reviewed
We hit the range and immediately began working on pistol drills. All pistol drills started with drawing from concealment. Since ARTA is a course with a lot of emphasis on training the armed citizen or off-duty/plain clothes LEO, who’s primary and immediately accessible firearm will be their concealed carry handgun, lot of the basic material covered in most defensive and fighting pistol classes was covered in the first couple hours of the class. In the class I participated in there was only one active LEO and the rest were civilians. I heard some grumblings from a few of the student’s during the break about needing to review the basics. There’s always going to be varying levels of skills and experience in any open-enrollment classes and sometimes the instructors need to initially see where everyone participating is at. This was certainly necessary with our class as the levels of skills were all over the place.
For example, a couple students needed to be reminded of some basic firearms handling skills. A few others needed to be taught or refreshed on drawing from concealment. Others, like me (at the time), didn’t have a ton of carbine experience, whereas the students who didn’t practice daily CCW were mostly competitive shooters, hunters or folks who had invested in defensive carbine training. I was personally thankful for the later as they helped me out later in the day before the night shooting.
Note: the DTI crew and the hosting schools/instructors have since come up with a protocol to address this and will be implementing it during future ARTA courses. This new protocol will help the students who may not have the full proficiency needed to participate catch up and have a better learning and skill development experience.
The class practiced shooting four shots in a ladder group in which the first shot is aimed at the navel and the following three shots are fired up the middle of the torso in a vertical line ending at or below the neck. The students are first introduced to a human silhouette attacker target with four hollow boxes stenciled onto the target.
We were assessed on our ability to made one shot into each box, starting low and working up the vertical line. I was familiar with this drill as it is one that we use at QSI Training in our Defensive Handgun classes.
After a few reps of this drill fresh targets without the stenciled ladder were hung up and we practiced shooting those in the same pattern.
“What do you want?”
We moved on to head shots. Specifically, double-taps to the cranial ocular cavity. The class performed a few repetitions of the drill and then had a no-shoot target added to the silhouette to simulate non-threat targets, such as hostages. A verbalization piece was added to the drill in which the shooter/student starts with their pistol in the Sul Position and says to the bad guy “What do you want?” which is immediately followed by a pair of shots to the bad guy’s cranial ocular cavity. The idea is to challenge the bad guy’s OODA loop/cycle with the verbalization and cause a second or two of delay as the bad guy starts to answer and allows the armed citizen defender or LEO extra time to shoot and stop the threat. It probably sounds sneaky to some of you ready this and it is. Which is the point. In a battle with terrorists or active killers you need to gain any and all advantages you can, and this seems to be a pretty effective way of messing with the bad guy’s OODA loop/cycle. One of my fellow students and I played around with this technique during force-on-force and later during a break at ECQC while practicing weapon retention and disarming techniques and we found that it’s a pretty effective and buys that extra time needed to bring the gun up on target and get the well-placed shots needed to stop the threat.
Day 1 Morning Wrap-up
The class finished the morning’s training learning and practicing more defensive handgun/fighting pistol drills at various distances. Different reloading techniques, malfunction clearances and basic pistol marksmanship were covered before we broke for lunch.
The class met up on the rifle range after lunch and began with a series of close and medium range target shooting drills. Again, this was to see where everyone’s individual carbine handling and shooting skills were at. I was the slow kid here. A few days prior to the class I had gone to my local range and checked the zero on my iron sights and my red dot and everything was dialed in and accurate. That changed when we were checking our zeros in class and my shot groups were all over the place! Not good and John himself gave me a look of disappointment in not having this detail squared away beforehand. “Well, you know what you need to do. Get it figured” he said as the look of disappointment morphed in to a look of confidence that said you’ve got this. The class broke around 1700 hours to go into town for a long dinner break. I needed to have my carbine zeroed before the low-light shoot after 2000 hours.
Unfuckulating The Problem at Hand
Another student in the class was having also having zeroing issues with his red dot as well. We decided to skip the dinner break and social hour and set up a couple shooting benches on the rifle range and got down to re-zeroing our carbines. He had far more expertise in this area than I did and stuck around to help me out, even loaning me different ammo to see if that may have been the issue. It wasn’t. I re-zeroed my irons and started getting tighter groups from the bench. I then ran a few drills moving and shooting with the irons at various ranges and had significantly better results. At least I had my irons but with my rapidly aging eyes I wanted to have the advantage of the red dot on my carbine.
I remounted the red dot and spent a good amount of time (and ammo) trying to zero the damn thing. My classmate set up a couple of targets and helped me get it zeroed. The groups were getting tighter but still not where I was aiming. Finally, he noticed something and said, “Stop!”. He took my carbine, fired a few rounds from the bench and standing and got the same results I was getting. He handed my carbine back to me and said, “You need to check you mounting hardware on that glass.” Yep. That was the problem all along. I had not tightened down the mounting hardware of the red dot on the top rail of the carbine. Somewhere between zeroing it at my local range earlier in the week and up to the moment I uncased it for class the red dot had gotten knocked loose on it’s mount. A fairly common problem but to have done this twice was ridiculous!
I remounted the red dot and checked the zero one more time. My groups from bench and standing were way tighter. After a few windages and elevation adjustments I was getting nice tight and consistent groups. I spend the rest of the dinner break running a few drills I had learned from previous classes and was getting the hits I needed for the rest of the ARTA class.
The rest of the class met up at the M&P range around 1930 hours. John came up to me and asked, “Well, did you get it fixed?” I help up my target and showed him the zeroing process (and progress) and answered, “Yes, sensei. I’ve got it fixed!” I apologized for not having this detail squared away beforehand (or thought I had it squared away). John gave me a pat on the back and said, “I knew you would figure it out. Nice work.”
A lot of you reading this I’m sure are shaking your heads at that story, as am I. My advice to anyone who doesn’t shoot rifles or use optics of any kind and wish to do so, you need to seriously invest some time and resources into not just zeroing your gear but truly understanding the zeroing process.
It was getting near sunset and the instructors set up a course and
targets for us.
The course started on the M&P pistol range and finished on the adjacent rifle range located a few yards away from the pistol range.
We were introduced to shoot/no-shoot targets with different overlays which included cell phones and handbags as well as various firearms. The scenario involved responding to one or more threats and no-threats in the dark with our pistols and WML (Weapon Mounted Light) for handheld flashlights. John went over a couple techniques for the hand-held lights and everyone not running WMLs settled on the Harries technique except one student who was used to the Rogers/Cigar technique. John emphasized to the class the importance of the flashlight as a crucial tool in our defensive toolkit and said, “In the dark, you’re going to need the information that your flashlight is going to give you. Operating in the dark without one makes you a serious liability.”
After we successfully (or unsuccessfully) engaged the threats with our pistols, we were to transition to our rifles and move to the rifle range where another series of targets were set up. We were instructed to have our rifles in the condition we would have them ready in either our homes or vehicles. My home method wasn’t really an option here, so I just worked from a hardcase staged at point with one of the instructors conducting RSO duty at the rifle-staging station.
After we got our rifles ready, we moved on to the rifle range and continued the scenario.
The students went through the drills at least twice each and had a variation on the targets and threat details each time.
When the scenario was complete the instructors would debrief with the students after their run through the course and tell them their target results (lethal/non-lethal hits) and go over what they did well and what they could improve upon.
I did well in these drills except for the second pass-through where I missed a target that I mistook for a non-threat. The target was an image of a teenage boy holding what I thought was a smartphone (overlay). It turned out the overlay was a small pocket-sized pistol (a Walther PPK) in his left hand at his hip but not aimed very well. Otherwise I made well-placed lethal hits on all the other threat targets including with my carbine. The red dot remained zeroed.
We wrapped up the day and headed back home (or our hotel rooms for the out-of-towners).
The class started at 0830 hours back at the M&P range. John and the instructors reviewed the material and drills we covered the from the day before and answered any questions or concerns we had about them.
The class started with some warm-ups on the pistol range, reviewing the shooting drills we had conducted on the morning of Day 1.
We moved on to the rifle range where an old car (a 2001 Toyota Echo) was set up with various paper and steel targets. Here we practiced in a scenario that simulated an ambush facing multiple armed threats while in a vehicle. One of the targets was a no-shoot of a woman running out in front of the vehicle. We started the first run at the drill with three armed threats at various angles and distances who were armed with pistols and a shotgun. We were to determine which threat was the greatest priority and engage each accordingly. In the first scenario we were faced with an attacker armed with a shotgun in a tree line at 10 yards to our left (9 o’clock driver’s side), the female decoy at the hood in front of the car and two male attackers, one at 15 to 20 yards at 11 o’clock and the other at 7 to 10 yards at 2 o’clock, both armed with pistols.
John went over a few techniques and tactics to address fighting from a vehicle, including dealing with the seat belt, drawing from concealment while seated, muzzle awareness and discipline and using parts of the vehicle as cover and concealment. I was surprised that John left open the option for us to engage the threats through the (intact) windshield, “Though” he said, “I strongly recommend you do otherwise as you might not want to be breathing in the fine dust of exploded glass, but, it is an option you may have to consider.” John went over why shooting through windshield with handgun rounds wasn’t ideal as far as velocity and accuracy were concerned but suggested shooting on the lower part of the windshield above the wipers was a more optimal location if we had to do so, but again, nothing about shooting through a windshield is perfect while citing the recent case of a suspect in Oklahoma who had been shot while being pursued by an Oklahoma state trooper . None of us elected to shoot through the windshield.
Most all of us prioritized the shotgun-wielding attacker as the first threat priority since 1. We were the most exposed to his line of fire exiting the vehicle with virtually no cover and 2. He was armed with a shotgun.
Each student had a few pass-throughs of this drill which was harder than it appeared as many of the students weren’t used to shooting in a semi-nonlinear range environment. Those of us who had had prior law enforcement or military tactics training or had training in a shoot house had a decent time of it.
The next iteration of the drill involved partner tactics from a vehicle. We were paired up with a partner, each taking turns being the driver and the passenger. The tactic taught for this scenario was for the passenger to cover the driver getting back behind the wheel and readying the vehicle to move.
The scenario went like this: the two students drive up to a location and are ambushed by attackers on the scene (parking lot at a mall, busy urban street) – remembering that this was aimed at the potential of an mobile active killer event or a terrorist incident or attack. Both the driver and passenger(s) were armed for the scenario. The passenger(s) would provide covering fire as the driver, also engaging threats, could get back behind the wheel and signal to the passenger(s) when they were ready to roll.
On the first run I was the passenger and the one LEO in the class was the driver. John came up to us and said, “Okay, fellas. Get in the car and drive across town to Madam Fong’s.” We climbed into the car, clicked our seat belts and started our commute across to Madam Fong’s. Sometime later one of the other instructors signaled our arrival at the destination. As we got out of the car, we heard the command “Fight!” and we began to engage the threats. My partner engaged the threat to his left, I engaged one at the 1 o’clock position and we both engaged a third target at in front of the car. The driver climbed in and I engaged another threat further away at 11 o’clock. The driver gave the signal which was “Go!” and I climbed into the car and we drove away. End of scenario.
John debriefed us and reminded the class that you can worry about putting on your seatbelts after you’ve driven away from the threat(s).
My partner and I switch roles of driver and passenger and repeated the drill with similar results. One thing that you realize doing this scenario is that things happen suddenly, and you don’t really have any time to respond to the threats and you have to keep your response and communication tactics simple, effective. Also, when you respond, you MUST do so suddenly and with a lot of aggression and violence towards the threat(s); lots of well-placed shots!
Repetition, repetition, repetition
The class was divided into two groups for the rest of the day to run two separate scenarios and get repetitions and practice at each with various changes in details of each one.
My group stayed on the rifle range and ran more vehicle scenarios, this time as a solo defender. The second group went to the pistol range and ran pass-through drills engaging various targets set up by the instructors.
For the vehicle defense drills the addition of transitioning from our pistols to our rifles was introduced. The scenario was set up a bit like the one we had ran during the low-light night shooting class in which we used our pistols to fight our way to our rifles. In the vehicle defense scenarios, we staged our rifles in the vehicle in the way we would carry/transport them in our own vehicles. Everyone had a different approach to doing this. Since the trunk of the junker Toyota Echo was stuck shut the option of going to draw the rifle from there was simulated by placing a rifle case (or in guitar case for one student) at the rear of the car. Tommy Teach ran these scenarios and gave us a few pointers like how to increase the cover of the car by opening as many of the doors as possible on the way out of the vehicle and when going to retrieve the rifle. Tommy showed us how to quickly open the rear passenger door if we were moving from the rear of the vehicle. He pointed out several situations where law enforcement uses this tactic of opening all the doors on a stationary line of patrol vehicles to increase cover and concealment. I had seen this similar tactic used with the hood (bonnet) with the St. Paul Police Department in of August 1994 when during a manhunt for a suspect who murdered two of our officers and a K-9.
The scenario started with the student behind the wheel driving along until the instructor running the scenario yelled “Go!” which was the signal for the student to remove their seatbelt, draw their side arm and exit the vehicle while engaging any threats on the way to their rifle.
For my first pass-through on this drill I placed my carbine on the backseat of the car to simulate carrying it behind the seat of my pickup truck where I might’ve had my carbine stored in transport mode. I climbed into the driver’s seat and clicked my seatbelt. Tommy leaned down to the driver’s side window and we started chatting about how much headroom was inside the Toyota Echo which made for a roomier drive for bigger-sized guys like us and… “GO!”
I unbuckled the seat belt with my support hand as I dropped down across the passenger seat and flung the passenger side door open. I raised up to open the driver side door as I drew my pistol, moving the muzzle over the top of the steering wheel towards as I exited the door frame. I got down low behind the driver side door and engaged a threat few yards in front of the car at 12 o’clock. I made my way to the rear driver side door and retrieved my carbine, moved to the rear of the vehicle, chambered a round and scanned for additional threats. I moved to the rear passenger side corner of the car and peaked around the corner for additional threats. There were two threats at various distances with non-threats in and around them. Not difficult shots to make but timing and deliberation were necessary to avoid collateral damage.
I engaged the threats and noticed on the second one noticed something red flying past my face to my right. Turns out it was pieces of the tail light that burst and flew away from the pressure off the muzzle of my carbine.
I moved back to the driver’s side of the car and went to reload my carbine. As I did, I looked down at the ground behind the open driver side door and noticed two well placed GI magazines lying on the ground almost as if they were placed there for me. They were actually the two magazines I had in my mag pouches of my old 5.11 cargo vest. I later found that the Velcro hook and loop tabs were worn out and had come loose when I exited the vehicle and dumped my rifle mags on the ground.
I retrieved the mags from the ground, stuffed one in the rear water bottle pocket of my vest and loaded the other into the mag well of my carbine. I chambered a round, came up behind the cover of the driver side door, found my target, disengaged the safety, put the red dot on the target, pressed the trigger and click. Tommy laughed “Ha! Ha! You have an unloaded mag!” I dropped back behind cover and moved to the rear of the car and performed a malfunction clearance and discovered that, no, I did not have an empty magazine, I had an upside-down magazine.
Note to self: replace those hooks and loop tabs and get some Ranger floor plates on those GI mags.
I rotated the mag, reloaded the carbine, chambered a round (successfully this time) and returned to the A-post of the driver side door and successfully engaged the target.
I completed the pass-through without any further hiccups and a new homework assignment to drill with my carbine and gear to make sure the above failures DO NOT repeat themselves!
On my second pass-through I applied the lessons learned from the first pass-through and mentally ran how I would approach getting the cover and concealment improved and deploying my tools.
What was different on the second pass-through was that right after I un-clicked and threw off the seat belt, I grabbed the driver and passenger side door handles through open both doors simultaneously while staying prone-out on over the front seats of the car. I sat back up in the driver’s seat, drew and deployed my pistol in the same method over the steering wheel as before and engaged the initial threats from the A-post. I moved to rear driver side door, opened it, leaned in across the back seat and threw opened the rear passenger side door, grabbed my carbine and moved to the rear of the car. I peered around the rear corner of the car and did not have a clear shot at the first threat. I moved along the passenger side of the car and closed the rear passenger door and moved up to the cover of the open front passenger side door. I found this method worked pretty well in providing adjustable layers of cover while moving back and forth alongside the car.
After I got behind cover, I took up a firing position and engaged two threats at 25 yards and 45 yards, while again avoiding the non-threat targets. I rushed my shots and had a couple misses.
Lesson learned: slow down, get more done!
I moved to the back to the rear of the car and almost made a big tactical mistake of peering over the top of cover. That’s a big no-no. Around or under, but never over cover. I moved to the driver side of the car and engaged two more targets at 30 and 60 yards, the later being difficult but I managed to hit them with all the rounds I fired. Tommy the instructor yelled “Go! Go!” which was my cue to get back in the car and drive way. I put the carbine in the front passenger compartment of the car with the muzzle down on the floor board and “drove away”. End of the scenario.
Tommy debriefed me after the scenario and said that my second pass-through was the best one he had seen in sometime of running the scenario in the other ARTA classes he’d been running recently. I explained that I improvised on improving the added open-door coverage he’d demonstrated with a twist of getting all the doors open to create 1. the illusion of several passengers disembarking from the car and screwing with the threat’s OODA loop and 2. Increasing the layers of cover and concealment and improving the defensive position.
Close-Up Threat Engagement
Between the first and second vehicle defense pass-throughs our respective groups switched over to the pistol range where a pass-through scenario was set up for us. This was similar to the pass-throughs we run at the end of QSI’s Advanced Handgun classes which involves moving to and from and firing from behind cover as well as no-shoot targets interspersed with threats and a hostage taker or long range threat.
On my first pass through I ran through all the ammunition I had in my EDC which was a total of 50 rounds for my Glock 19 (15+1 from the holster and two 17 round reloads). After I ran out of ammo for my Glock 19, I transitioned to my backup gun, a Ruger LCR in .38 special, and engaged more targets with two more reloads, firing a total of 13 rounds until the instructors called the end of the scenario.
On my second pass through I brought along my happy mag, a 31 round ETS magazine in red for my Glock 19, which the instructors decided I needed to clear a few random malfunctions and reloads. I most certainly did not have to go to my back up gun on the second pass through.
We concluded the ARTA class around 1630 hours, and everyone started heading out.
The class was a good assessment of where your individual skills and abilities (as well as your equipment readiness) are at. I learned and applied a lot of new knowledge and got the opportunity to improve on my previous skillset and solve some critical problems in a controlled environment, learning what will work and won’t as far as techniques, tactics and equipment are concerned. I left the class with a good deal of homework to do running my defensive rifle and gaining more training, experience and competence with that platform as well as working it with the sidearm. Due to the limitations of the facility where the class was conducted, I think the instructors did not get to run as many exercises as they had planned or would’ve like to. On the other hand, I think the team of instructors did an outstanding job of working with what they had on hand to run as advanced of a class as they did and I’m looking forward to participating in the future DTI classes at Ahlman’s.
The author, Mike Treat (Condition Orange Preparedness / QSI Training) and the Legend himself John S. Farnam (DTI).