There is a lot to be said for scenario based training. nov 8  2010 Class BTJ 023

Some things to consider before going into the full scenarios and complex scenario training. We need to work on the fundamentals, safety, defensive shooting skills development. Even the basic drills can be scenario based as we practice the skills we are developing before we get into complex scenarios. All of our classes with the exception of the “Iowa Permit to Carry (CCW)” and the “NRA Basic Pistol” classes have some level of scenario base. Never attempt to train in complex scenarios without first having a good base in the fundamentals and an understanding of safety. When using live ammunition, simulated ammunition (paint marker rounds), air soft, or for that matter any ammunition firing a projectile in our scenario based training we must adhere strongly to the safety rules and the use of proper safety equipment. Safety is always first and foremost whether training in scenarios on a live fire range or force on force scenario training with simunitions and air soft, or force on force with empty hands, edged weapons, or improvised weapons. Keep in mind firearms are inherently dangerous and can cause serious injury or death if used in a unsafe manner.


Back to the question of, “Why scenario based?’ Scenario Based Training pushes beyond the stagnant and often limited training models we often encounter. Scenario based training is excellent for giving a person experience and exposure to real life situations without facing a risk of loss of life or serious injury. If you think about it many criminals have had some experience and exposure to violence first hand in real life. Some have even committed those acts of violence, been in a fight for their life, or even have been shot and/or stabbed. Some have killed or seriously injured others. Those who have had a taste and experienced the chemical, emotional, and physical affects now know what to expect. The fact that, in training, our life is not truly in danger does give us some limitations to the true affects we will encounter but we can start the process of understanding what is going to happen to us under stress. We will feel our heart rate increase, the affects of adrenaline, and the emotions of facing what could be deadly and unknown situation. With the recognition of stress and it’s effects we learn to gain control of the affects of adrenaline and emotions like fear. This knowledge makes us more affective, efficient and gives us responses should we ever encounter a critical life threatening incident which forces the Use of Force. Realistically training makes us better prepared.

Through this training we simulate plausible real life situations we may find ourselves in and look at the tactics that are going to make us more successful in surviving a life threatening critical incident. A situation where we are force to use deadly force in self defense or in the defense of others. (A quick note; deadly force doesn’t necessarily have to cause death. It is most often defined in state laws as; Any act which any reasonable person will know or should know will cause death or serious injury.) The scenario could be a situation where we just need to step back let events unfold and in the end be a good witness not using any force at all and just observing. Scenario based training also inoculates us to the stress and it’s affects we will encounter. Scenarios will increase adrenaline, emotions and sometimes even confusion. We respond to the situation and use cognitive thinking skills to make choices. Choices like; Do I need to reposition, change angle, seek cover, what’s beyond the target, am I capable, and so on. Add unorthodox shooting positions, fighting to our feet from the ground and movement. Who knows where we will have to defend and from what position we will find ourselves especially if ambushed? In scenario based training we get to see how to address threats and make decisions like; Who is the most dangerous? The closest may not be the most dangerous. Are we truly in jeopardy? Does the person facing us really present a threat according to distance and weapon type or even numbers or disparity of size? Is this guy in my face really the one I should worry about and how do I clear him to deal with the more serious threat? This is first hand exposure allows for assessment of a plausible situation and developing a plan to respond to it and come out alive. We also need to keep in mind every situation is different and evolves differently. We can address this as well in training. Exposure and experience.

There are instructors, agencies, specialty teams, and units in the world that utilize scenario based training and the use of humanized 3-D targets as much as possible to great affect. They are the exception and not common especially in the training of private citizens. Why so few? I think it’s because of fear of litigation, political correctness, and the idea that civilians should not be trained as well as our professional warriors and peace keepers. I have heard the comments, ” You are teaching people to kill.” That’s not true. I am teaching people to survive, live, and fight through until there is no fight left in order to survive. I am teaching people survival. I am teaching people to make informed, educated decisions that could affect them and others for the rest of their lives. Private citizens are the first on the scene and the first to respond. They should be better prepared and have some experience and exposure just as the military and law enforcement do. If law enforcement and military are reaping the benefits of scenario based training shouldn’t responsible, armed private citizens as well?

How Complex? What types of scenarios?181

This depends somewhat on the level of training and skill level you are in. The higher your level of skill the more complex the scenarios can be. Our training can be very complex and still be safe. I don’t believe simple is the best way. We are complex beings and capable of more. With experience and exposure we are capable of making choices on the best response in milliseconds from a mental library of responses. Scenarios can be; in a public setting, home invasion, active shooter, bad guy in a crowd, shoot/no shoot situations, defending a loved one in close quarters, close quarters contact, hostage situation, car jacking, you name it as long as we are safe we can scenario train. I like to get as realistic as possible within the considerations of safety to all involved, student, instructor or others that may be in the area. Often in scenarios we set up the unknown. Unlike competition where the stage is presented and you can walk through to see the position of the targets. The threat or non-threat appears without the student having advanced knowledge of what they will be presented with. Or the student is forced t make a judgement call to choose that response after being briefed about the scenario; Shoot, don’t shoot, evade, evade and shoot, strike and shoot, among many. The addition of 3-D targets, 3-D reactionary targets 3-D Moving and charging targets along with paper adds realism to the scenario. The weapons in the scenario are realistic looking non-firing replicas, gun ,knife, stick or other.


I read once that training with firearms is;

75% physical and 25% mental

A gunfight on the other hand is:

25% physical and 75% mental

Scenario based training and the use of 3-D humanized targets and 3-D humanized reactionary targets along with paper we can bring the numbers closer together by adding realism to our training. We can go even further to bring more realism by adding into the scenarios factors like distractions, cognitive thinking skills, movement, and the addition of training replica weapons and devises to identify the bad guy or good guy. Add in unorthodox positions, concealment, obstructions, doors and manipulation, the unknown or hidden and we get even more realism in our scenarios. In unorthodox shooting positions we shoot from sitting, kneeling, on our belly, on our back, on our side, seated in a chair, or from behind cover/concealment with minimal exposure by leaning. This can still be done safely and can be done on a square range. Many ranges won’t allow movement or anything outside of standing on the firing line and shooting holes in paper or plinking steel. Some won’t allow you to move steel targets or the target stands from there set position. Possibly because of perceived liabilities and a failure to understand defensive training vs target shooting. T-M Firearms Training has the advantage of training on a privately owned range which allows us to train in realistic ways you may not get somewhere else.

Toney Blauer said in an interview:

The premise is quite simple: all training should be three dimensional, i.e., it should blend the emotional, psychological and physical arsenals; anything you work on should connect to some sort of scenario so that, irrespective of the drill, there’s an emotional and psychological rationale for the exercise. This way training triggers and creates connections between all three arsenals.

An added benefit to scenario based training and proper training is it helps you maintain the complex motor skills you will have need of in a fight. Skills like hitting the magazine release to reload, fix stoppages, clear major malfunctions, even striking, blocking, grabbing, opening a folding knife and others. Toney Blauer’s comments about blending the arsenals is on spot. Build your arsenal of empty hands techniques, edged weapons, improvised weapons, firearms in handgun, shotgun, and long gun/carbine. Form and maintain muscle memories through training and practice. Build the mind, mental preparedness and mental toughness. Strengthen yourself psychologically. Even the mind forgets over time and must be refreshed. Continue to practice and train for all of these skills are perishable over time. All of this is where scenario based training is so greatly beneficial and in my opinion a essential part.