A few days ago I took my first “tactical training class” for women gun owners. It was realistic training and force-on-force contact to learn how we deal under stress and under attack, with our guns and our bare hands (and knees and teeth). It was the first time ever this training company offered a woman’s class. He had been asked in the past to offer one “toned down” for women, but he responded “F*uck no, if I’m going to teach women, I’m going to teach and treat them EXACTLY like I do the men” because real life attackers don’t “tone it down” for women. I signed up immediately, having absolutely no idea what to expect since this was MY first-ever tactical training class too. And wow, what an eye opening and humbling experience.
I train at the range on average several times per month. I’ve trained as I preach: proper stance, proper grip, one-handed (both dominant/non-dominant hands), one eye closed, both eyes open, rapid fire, slow fire, from the holster, from the bench. While I wasn’t sure about the force-on-force (physical part) of the training to come, I thought I was at least very prepared for the live fire portion. But wow, was I WRONG! And you need to know why:
The first half of the day was on an indoor live-fire range, drawing our chambered carry guns from the holster. As you may know, this is a rare experience on most ranges, as holster work with a loaded gun is extremely dangerous and prohibited at most ranges – so many things can go wrong under even the most controlled circumstances. But once stress is introduced (as was at this training event), it’s a whole other story completely.
I KNEW I had holster issues, so that was no surprise. I’ve struggled for several years finding one that I’m even the slightest bit confortable in, but to no avail. So for this event, I brought four different holsters with me, figuring I’d have at least one decent one to use in practice. But just how bad my holster issue was, I had no idea. We were lined up about 15 feet away from the targets – there were 10 targets across, five were supposed to be the “bad guys” and five were “safe” targets. We were expected to run through the line, draw from our holster, fire two body shots and one head shot at each bad guy, re-holster, look behind us (because “where there’s one bad guy, there’s two and where’s there’s two bad guys, there’s three”), and continue running down the line, doing that same thing in front of each target but making sure NOT to shoot at any safe targets (“good guys”) – but still drawing and re-holstering at every single one. We did all of this, while hearing everyone else’s gun shots, being yelled at and chased by trainers, for several rounds. The crazy thing was, as much experience as I have on the range, and as confident as I am there and skilled at hitting on target (I often overhear people in the bays next to me comment on my impressive groupings), I seemed to forget just about EVERYTHING I’ve been practicing on the range, several times per month, thousands and thousands of rounds, for several years now with THIS exact gun. I was amazed…and a little scared, to be honest.
My holsters were a mess. One of them kept sliding down my leg after each pull, another was sliding back and forth, and the third (molded holster) was too tight, causing me to fumble and taking WAY too long to draw – at one point, I was struggling with it so much it actually flipped upside down in my pants! I also found my “lady parts,” aka boobs, got in the way of a clean draw and re-holster, making me reconsider where on my waist I carry. It’s one thing to neatly draw an unloaded gun in the comfort of my home or on a virtual range with no one next to me (or in front of me). I learned it’s another thing entirely when someone is screaming at your back, holding a gun to your face, your adrenaline is rushing and your hands are shaking. Needless to say, since then I’ve adjusted my molded (and to this point preferred) holster and will order a couple of more to try. I’ve also made an appointment with a trainer for this weekend to go to my outdoor private range (where holster work is allowed) and work on draw and carry techniques.
While the holster issues weren’t a complete surprise (only the extent of them was), what WAS surprising to me was that under that high stress, I felt like I literally forgot how to shoot. Once I got my gun out of the holster and had it drawn in front of the target, I found myself doing things I NEVER do on the range – my thumbs overlapped each other behind the gun, I literally had to think and reassure myself that the proper trigger finger was on the trigger, and I forgot how much pressure it takes to pull my double-action trigger. I swear, it feels MUCH easier and lighter on the range than it actually is. My brain was completely scrambled, and THAT was shocking to me. Fortunately, my shots were pretty good (although admittedly not as good as I think they should have been) and not once did I (nor any other women that day) fire at a “safe target,” which the trainer said was an absolute first in his experience.
The second half of the afternoon was force-on-force, where large, intimidating men (dressed in what I call Michelin-Man suits) came at us with full force, guns in our faces, pushing us against walls, strangling us, etc. to work on how we distract, overcome and buy time to get to our weapons and use them. Our trainer stressed that we use anything we can, including kicking, kneeing, biting, scratching, etc. At one point he taped simulated flesh to the men’s faces, and we had to try to bite the “nose” off during a struggle. He also encouraged all of us women to carry a secondary weapon, and realizing that the vast majority of us would never carry a second gun, he suggested we carry a knife. He set up a realistic-feeling dummy, poured theatrical blood all over our hands to demonstrate how slippery it will be to stab someone using a knife (or drawing our guns) with bloody hands. As I was straddling and stabbing my simulated perpetrator, I soon realized how right he was as my hand quickly started sliding down the blade, putting my own hands in danger of being cut. He even put fake blood packets in the dummy, so as we were stabbing, blood was flying in our hair, our faces and on our clothes. This was a very emotional practice for some of the participants, with more than one breaking down in tears and needing help to work through their block. But it was an important exercise for everyone, because it helped identify weaknesses and limitations and helped us all practice to overcome those.
Overall, the training was a success. All of the women thought it was an incredibly valuable experience. The men learned that the women are stronger than they expected and tough enough to take whatever they put in front of us. I learned I was woefully unprepared for “real life” threats. But above all, it reinforced there’s no such thing as too much training, and no matter how prepared we may THINK we are, we most likely are not. So my bottom line: I’ll continue my regular range practice but will be adding more tactical training to my routine. I encourage all ladies (and men) to do the same.