As I’ve become a somewhat better shooter over the past year and a half, I’ve tried to fit more and more “skills classes” into my training regimen beyond the usual carbine and pistol classes. This has included some competition-oriented classes, but also stuff like Greg Ellifritz’s knife course.
The newest addition to my skill set – even in its most basic form – is room-clearing technique. Most of my training life really revolves around drawing from a holster really fast and then shooting stuff real quick. That’s a paradigm that’s worth being good at, to be sure. But what about a situation where the threat is in an unknown position? The problem is significantly different, which is why Shadow Hawk Defense started offering their CQB / Room Clearing class. Read on for more!
Shadow Hawk Defense is a relatively new training facility in West Virginia, right near the Virginia border. It is next door to PNTC, and, unfortunately, their relationship has not exactly been cordial. This is a real shame, because Shadow Hawk has a large, well-considered facility that is a real asset to tactical and competitive shooters.
Lynn Kasic, who owns Shadow Hawk Defense, was kind enough to give me a tour. During my brief tour of the property, I saw:
- Numerous static pistol shooting areas
- 10 large action shooting bays sized large enough for a good USPSA or 3gun stage
- 200yd rifle range
- 680yd rifle range
- A trail for PT
- A “simulated munitions” shoothouse (which I’ll be talking about more).
- A combatives training area with mats and dummies.
There are doubtless other things I’m forgetting. Suffice it to say, it’s a very impressive place. My understanding is that their primary revenue generator is training US contractors going overseas, but they also run a number of competition matches of various sorts (including outlaw matches, which seem to be getting rarer in general). Because their work with contractors has been so successful, they’ve also dipped their toes into the civilian training world.
When I was browsing Practiscore looking for a match to hit, I saw the listing for Shadow Hawk’s “CQB / Room Clearing” class. The description was as follows:
This course will introduce students to the fundamentals of room entry, clearing a single and multiple rooms, and clearing multiple hallway types. Includes one- and two-person room clearing techniques.
This sounded good to me. I needed fundamentals of room clearing, since I knew nothing about the topic. There was a vague mention on Practiscore about marker rounds; I wasn’t sure if that meant paintball, airsoft markers, or simunitions, but I didn’t care a whole lot.
The class was taught by Randy Weekley, who has apparently been in the contractor training business for about a decade, and has a 6th degree black belt in Ninjutsu (which I didn’t even know was a thing, but apparently is). I have to admit I was skeptical, but I was impressed with his teaching ability very quickly. From a room-clearing technique perspective, everything he taught was mainstream and in line with what I had read. If anything, he was a little more blase about his personal health than I would have been; we were running around with sims and he seemed rather unconcerned about being shot by them (as in, “just ignore me and pretend I’m not there”). I wasn’t worried about shooting him, but you’ve got to have some nerves of steel to allow students in an open-enrollment class to muzzle you with loaded sims guns while wearing the minimal protection.
Anyways, the class was originally supposed to be seven students, but four of them dropped out because of labor day weekend reasons. That left three of us. One person was in ROTC (I think?), and had some military background from that. The other had never taken a shooting class before, but seemed able to safely handle a firearm. (If you want to know about me, well, just read the blog!)
Most classes start off with a classroom lecture – not this one. This was very much a “tell-show-do” class from start to finish. There was a brief discussion about our backgrounds and the goals of the course. As you may have surmised, one man room clearing is basically only a semi-sane idea in your own house. Do it anywhere else against an armed threat, and you stand a better than even chance of getting yourself killed. However, he does teach one and two man room clearing to contractors, who seldom have the advantage of a four man stack.
We disarmed and geared up with Glock 17Ts and mags filled with marker rounds. However, nothing was loaded into our guns; we would run the first four hours of the course dry. Simunitions are pretty neat to look at; they’re like paintball markers on steroids (or smokeless powder, I suppose).
The emphasis during those four hours was on the usual movement you do while clearing a house. We learned how to approach rooms, establish our point of dominance, clear a room, look for deep threats, find a job, etc. We also spent a lot of time on how to navigate four way intersections and hallways, which are basically deathtraps. There was a lot of emphasis on making sure to cover exterior openings as well, like windows and doors. One thing I thought was especially useful was a bit of advice on situations you could move just a little faster – moving around a slightly offset doorway across from your point of dominance instead of establishing another PoD right next to it, for example.
As we gained some level of proficiency at these individual skills, we started chaining them together. By the end of the course, we were clearing the entire twelve room shoothouse. That felt like a huge accomplishment, because the shoothouse had so many brutal corners and four-way crossings. I don’t know that I think I was “oper8ing”, but at least I didn’t feel so damn awkward. In a weird way, one-man room clearing is almost a dance – you are constantly moving and sweeping.
Of course, to keep it interesting, there were slight changes to the house between drills. Sometimes, you’d do a run and a door would be open; maybe the next time, it would be closed. You did have a certain familiarity with the facility by the time things were over, but you never got TOO familiar with it.
Randy was a good teacher. He called you out on the stuff you missed, but was very content with you realizing your own mistakes. The level of attention we received was amazing – it was like a private class, but in some ways better, because you had the opportunity to watch a couple other people do things and learn from them while still getting in a ton of reps yourself. Like every other room clearing AAR I’ve ever read, we all did dumb things for a while, and then started looking halfway competent.
Glocks are not the heaviest guns in the world, but four hours of holding them up adds up. My arms were super tired, even after a short lunch break. There were a couple times I had to pause just to reassert my firing stance. You wouldn’t think walking around holding up a gun was a workout, but everyone had a good sweat up by the time we were done. The mental stuff was even harder, but I managed it.
Once we had demonstrated some level of competence clearing the shoothouse without shooting, it was time for the capstone drill of the course: clear it with hostile and no-shoot targets inside, putting shots on target with sims. Each of us individually did a run, with no prior knowledge of the target setups.
I felt really good about my run. Everything just flowed together, and my decent competency with shooting let me worry about the room clearing problem instead of the actual shooting bits. If I saw a target, I identified it as a shoot or no-shoot, and if it was a shoot, I just put a couple rounds on it without conscious thought. The front sight just appeared where it needed to be in relationship with the rear sight, and I pulled the trigger. I don’t think any of the targets were more than seven yards away, and I’d guess most were within five. It was the first time I ever had to do something approximating unpredictable real-life shooting, and I emerged very pleased with my (perceived) performance. All of the things you’ve heard about having your shooting squared away before doing room-clearing are absolutely true. If you’re trying to do this while you cannot instinctively produce accurate aimed fire on demand, it’s gonna be brutal.
This was my first time shooting sims. They’re not very loud, and the recoil is on par with 22lr. If you field strip a Glock 17T, you’ll discover that they’re just straight blowback guns with no barrel lockup. The only difficulty in using them was that they had the trash plastic sights on them, instead of some quality fiber optic or tritium-illuminated sights.
One small critique of the class is that we didn’t do any two-man room-clearing despite it being listed in the class description. In retrospet, I don’t care that we didn’t, mostly because I think that any real treatment of it would have taken more class time than we had. What we did learn would work well enough for an ad-hoc two man team.
I liked this class quite a bit. I got a lot out of it, and I definitely look at building interiors in a new way now. I would not feel nearly so unprepared if I took a “level II” version of the class, and I look forward to doing so. If Shadow Hawk Defense can keep putting together high quality training classes, I think they’ll develop a training following quickly. There was already talk of a force-on-force level II version of this class, and maybe even a sims outlaw match inside using the full 360; I’m looking forward to both!