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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Wichita, KS

    Default Force on Force with Randy Harris in Columbia, SC

    Last weekend I had the opportunity to assist with the Force on Force class that Randy Harris taught here in Columbia, SC. Force on Force was one of the very first S.I. classes I took back in 2007. While the fundamentals are still the same, the class has evolved quite a bit since then.

    The other host for the class was fellow S.I instructor Alex Nieuwland. We were also joined by S.I. Staff Instructor J.D. Lester. Both of them took the course as students. There were nine other students, including some repeat customers from Alex and my previous courses in Columbia. Most were from South Carolina or neighboring states, but a few came from as far afield as Pennsylvania and Missouri.

    I brought my usual FoF gear. I ran a pair of KWA airsoft Glock 17s in Archangel holsters. Not only does a class like this give a good chance to practice dual carry, I also find that it takes two airsoft guns to keep one running. They may look like Glocks, but they definitely don't have the Glock level of reliability. I also brought a couple of Nok trainers, for stabbing people with. This isn't a 0-5 class, but it's still an important part of the threat spectrum. My bag also held the usual complement of blue guns, since even when working with airsoft they're useful as demo tools. I brought an airsoft mask for when I was participating in scenarios, as well as some safety sunglasses, for eye protection when I was just observing. One thing I didn't bring was any airsoft armor (no sweatshirts or other padding). This is both because I wasn't planning to participate a lot and because I like to maintain some pain as a reminder that it's a good thing not to get shot. I brought a long sleeved cover shirt (though it got warm enough I kept the sleeves rolled up when I wasn't actively participating).

    Other folks brought a mixture of the traditional airsoft guns and the Umarex CO2 powered pistols. They also generally brought more airsoft armor (sweatshirts) than I did, though they were getting shot a lot more. One place a couple of people were caught short was headgear. If you get an airsoft BB in part of the head the mask doesn't cover it's going to sting quite a bit. Some kind of hat or a hood on your sweatshirt is very helpful (particularly for some of our follicly challenged students).

    The class was hosted at Alex's house. One of the nice things about FoF is we have a lot more flexibility on the venue than classes involving live fire. Alex has a house on a nice big wooded lot with plenty of room to play.

    I headed over to Alex's house on Friday evening so we could make sure everything was ready. After the last minute preparations were out of the way, we hung out and drank some beer while we waited for Randy to arrive. Alex was kind enough to let me use one of his spare bedrooms, so I didn't have to make the drive across town. Randy had the other bedroom and J.D. slept on the couch.


    Randy started the class off with a safety lecture. Interestingly for a class involving no live fire, he started by going through the 4 safety rules. He talked about how these applied in the airsoft environment. Even though we'll be pointing airsoft guns at each other, we still don't want to be careless with our muzzles. When we point a gun at someone in FoF, it's with the intention of destroying them (as thoroughly as they can be destroyed with airsoft BBs anyway). He also went through some airsoft specific safety precautions, concentrating on eye protection. This is the one place where airsoft BBs can really hurt you. As he put it, "It's all fun and games until someone looses an eye." Accordingly everyone participating in a drill needs to wear a paintball mask, and even if you're not actively participating everyone needs to wear eye protection.

    To provide some context to the class, Randy talked about how S.I.'s FoF compares to other handgun training, using IDPA as an example. In an IDPA stage, the shooter faces static targets, in a known configuration. They aren't going to maneuver, or shoot back, or try to stab you. None of these things are true in a real fight.

    Next, Randy went through his excellent PESTS lecture. Rather than recapitulating this, I'll just point you to his recent, epic post on the subject.

    After the lecture, Randy had the students put up their real guns, knives, etc. Alex and I patted everyone down to make sure they didn't have any live weapons on them. The first FoF drill was the Matt Dillon drill. Two students faced off at about four yards and on command they drew and shot the other guy. The most common result was simultaneous shots, with both students getting hit. We call this the suicide drill for a reason.

    Randy asked the students what kind of sight picture they were getting. Nobody claimed to have had a perfect sight picture, and most admitted they weren't getting any sort of sight picture at all. Despite this, everyone was getting good hits. This developed into a short discussion of point shooting.

    To put the Mat Dillon drill into context, Randy went through the basics of how pistol bullets stop people: fear, pain, lower the blood pressure to the brain, sever the spinal cord, and destroy critical parts of the brain. Of these the only ones that are both sure stoppers and instantaneous are the spinal cord and the brain. Any other hit may to take some time to take effect. Beating your opponent to the draw by a fraction of a second hardly guarantees victory. In fact it probably leaves him plenty of time to try to kill you before he expires.

    The solution is to take advantage of the adversary's OODA loop, rather than trying to outdraw him. The OODA loop is a description of the human decision making process. We Observe a change in our environment, Orient by putting that change into the context of our knowledge and previous experience, Decide what we're going to do in response, then Act to carry out that decision. Running through this loop in personal combat takes 1.5 - 2 seconds.

    We can take advantage of the adversaries OODA loop by getting off the X: moving off our original position and forcing our opponent back to the beginning of the loop. While he goes through the OODA cycle, we can be drawing, maneuvering for a better position and getting shots on board.

    Randy showed the Pekiti takeoff, some footwork that we've borrowed from Fillapino knife fighting that can help get us off the X quicker. This is one of those things that's difficult to describe in writing, but essentially you drop your body weight and use that drop to shift one foot back to drive off of. It allows for a very quick GOTX.

    After the students practiced their takeoff for a bit, Randy discussed the merits of choosing different directions to get off the X in. Generally, versus an assailant armed with a firearm we prefer the forward oblique angles, since these provide the biggest change in angle, from the adversary's point of view.

    To test how well people were getting off the X, the students went up against Randy. Randy has one of the fastest elbow-up elbow-down drawstrokes I've ever seen, but even against this students were able to get off the X before he could shoot when they executed everything correctly.

    At this point we broke up into groups of two and practiced getting off the X. Initially, one student drew and fired at the spot where the other student was standing while he got off the X. Once they had this down, to make it a bit more challenging we started working GOTX against the drawn gun. This time the student playing the bad guy role could shoot as soon as he saw the other student move. Even with the gun already out, students could generally get out of the way before the shot.

    Up until this point we'd been focusing on the good guy getting off the X. Now we added in some return fire. After moving off the X the good guy now drew and fired a single shot in return. This managed to mess some people up. As soon as you start thinking about drawing and firing, there's a tendency to prioritize this over movement. Ideally, moving and drawing should initiate at the same moment, but if one has to happen before the other, it should be movement.

    After a late lunch, we resumed practicing getting off the X. To keep the student playing the bad guy from cheating, because he knows the student is going to get off the X, and can probably make a good guess about the direction, Randy had them draw and fire their first shot with their eyes closed.

    Since everyone seemed to have the basics down, Randy upped the ante a bit. Rather than just firing a single shot, the bad guy student fired one at the good guy's original position, then tracked began tracking them and firing a second shot. This simulates the assailant working through his OODA loop and adjusting to your movement. In return, we let the good guy fire a pair, rather than just a single shot. Once the students had worked this for a while, Randy allowed each student to fire multiple shots.

    We picked up some discussion of point shooting from earlier and talked about what kind of sight picture people got while getting off the X. The universal answer was that they weren't really using the sights, this was pure point shooting.

    To finish up the day, Randy had everyone work the GOTX drill without any sort of OODA lag on the adversary's part. They could draw and fire directly towards the good guy as he moved, without having to shoot at his original position.

    With this, we wrapped things up for the day. Alex arranged for a neighborhood eatery to cater a nice spaghetti dinner for us. After we were done eating, Randy got things going on the Glock Armorer class.


    We picked up on Sunday morning with a few more GOTX drills similar to what we'd been doing at the end of the day on Saturday to get everybody warmed up. Then we moved on to dealing with opponents armed with contact weapons (knives, clubs, etc.). The nice thing about contact weapons is that if you can stay out of arms' reach, you're safe. The problem is that's easier said than done.

    When confronted by a knife armed assailant, most peoples' instinct is to backpedal away. This is one of the worst ways to handle the situation. The assailant can probably run forwards faster than you can backpedal and backpedaling increases the risk that you'll trip on something and end up falling and bouncing the back of your head on the asphalt. That's a pretty good way to knock yourself out. Far better to point your toes and hips in the direction you want to go and run.

    Which direction? Well, there are basically two options: increase distance or change the angle. If you are far enough and have enough speed, you can just turn tail and run. Then, as you're running, draw your gun and twist around to shoot. How well turning it into a footrace like this works is going to depend on how fast you are relative to the assailant and how much distance you start off with. The other option is to take a page from our pistol GOTX techniques and change the angle. This doesn't require as much speed and it works at shorter distances (provided you're outside of arms' reach to begin with).

    Randy had everyone start out working this as a big group. One student was the good guy, another the bad guy and everyone else watched. After running it a couple of times the bad guy became the good guy and a new bad guy rotated in. This allowed everyone a chance to see what worked and what didn't and to get some feedback from Randy on what they were doing. One important element that became obvious pretty quick is that it works much better if you go to their non-weapon side. If you go towards the hand with the knife in it the slightest miscalculation means you'll end up running right into the knife. After everyone had a chance to go a couple of times, we broke up into pairs and worked on it some more.

    Next up: multiple adversaries. If you're the bad guy, working in a two-man team, from your perspective the best place for the victim is between you. If you're the good guy, the best place for the bad guys are lined up, so one bad guy is between you and the second bad guy (this is called "stacking"). Exactly how this unfolds in real life depends a lot on how each side maneuvers. To demonstrate the dynamics of this, we worked though it as a group, with two bad guys and one good guy, rotating through all the students. What generally worked best for the good guy was moving quickly and decisively. Trying to go between the bad guys generally didn't work out. The real killer, however, was waiting too long to move. When you're outnumbered you can't allow the enemy the initiative. By the time you see what he's committed to its probably too late.

    We broke for lunch, then returned and continued with multiple adversaries, this time three on one. The difficulty really ramps up here. This is one of the things I really love about Force on Force. Against static, paper targets, gunning down three in succession looks pretty cool. The three target array is a staple of many gun games and training courses. In reality, going up against three adversaries that actively maneuver and shoot back is extremely difficult. It's not impossible, but it's going to take a lot more than just a quick trigger finger and good target to target transitions. You need to be decisive, smart, and aggressive, and deploy good GOTX tactics to come out on top.

    To finish up the class, we ran through some scenarios. We had the student's hang out in Alex's garage and sent them down the driveway one at a time. I played the bad guy, allowing Randy to stand back and observe.

    In the first scenario, I acted as an aggressive panhandler. Randy told me to turn it into a robbery if I really got them into an advantageous position, but none of the students let me get that close. I moved to intercept the student, block his progress down the driveway and insistently ask for money. If the student got around me, I let them go, and if they gave me a really strong verbal "back off" I did (though I didn't move out of their way). Other than that I was pretty insistent.

    The students' responses covered quite a wide range. Those who were quick, decisive, or willing to walk of the path often got by me. Those who were more tentative usually didn't. A few of them pulled guns on me, and one of them lit me up.

    The next scenario was more of a straight up robbery. It also included Alex as a second opponent coming up behind the student. I stopped their forward progress and distracted them while Alex came up behind, then we proceeded with the robbery.

    Again, the students had a range of responses. One student managed to get in a gunfight with Alex before he ever got down to me. The quick, decisive ones managed to slip by me and avert the robbery altogether. This time, those who ended up stopping ended up in a real bad spot, trapped between me and Alex. The way it usually unfolded was almost comical: the student heard Alex coming up behind him and looked over his shoulder, he looked back at me, then back at Alex, then when he looked back at me he found himself staring down the muzzle of my airsoft gun. I was able to pull this sort of thing off several times.

    Our last scenario was a carjacking. The setup was that the students were coming out of the gym and getting in their car. J.D. Lester parked his car in Alex's driveway. The students were given a duffel bag with their gym gear in it and they had to come out of the garage and get in the car. Alex or I were crouching down on the far side of the car and when the students were occupied with the car door we ran around the back and tried to jack them. Despite being hypervigilant in a way that only a scenario-based self-defense class can make you, most students didn't walk around and check for someone hiding behind the car. Most of them did manage to pick up on the BG before he got right up to them, but in a few cases the assailant got within arms' reach.

    With this, we wrapped things up. Alex and I pitched our upcoming classes (including Randy's 0-5 class in Columbia next April) and Randy handed out the certificates.


    As usual, Randy ran a great class. The students were enthusiastic and eager to learn. IThe curriculum did a good job of getting the students to understand the usual S.I. fundamentals of getting off the X and point shooting.

    One of the big differences from the last time I took the full Force on Force class is the addition of the scenarios on Sunday afternoon. I think they did a real good job reinforcing Randy's PESTS lecture and emphasizing the need for quick, decisive movement. If you keep moving it's going to go a lot better for your than if you stand around dithering.

    One thing several incidents during the class reinforced was that airsoft magazines are nowhere near as durable as the real thing. Students broke several mags, both from traditional airsoft guns and from the Umarexes. Generally the culprit was accidentally dropping the mag, usually during the draw. Another problem we saw a couple of times was difficulty with the safeties. In particular, the sliding safety on the Umarex guns sometimes gets engaged as you put it in the holster. Another reason to grind that thing down and perhaps glue it in the fire position.

    I think the venue (Alex's yard) worked out quite well for this class. There was plenty of room to spread out and work on drills in pairs or small groups. I'd like to thank Alex for hosting it, and for putting me (and Randy, and J.D.) up for the night. Hopefully we didn't do too much damage.

    In sum, I would highly recommend this class, along with anything else Randy Harris teaches.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    NC for refit

    Excellent AAR ( as usual), I just finished mine and was about to post. I can only add a few things .....

    Let me begin by saying, if you carry a gun for the purpose of defending yourself and your loved ones, you need to take this course.
    If you carry or own a Glock pistol you should consider the Glock Armorers Course for familiarity beyond regular operator level maintenance.

    I lost count of the number of gunfights I was in and saw take place during the course of the two days. Definitely better to have those gunfights with airsoft and NOK training blades than real bullets and blades. The take aways from this class can be applied in many areas of ones everyday life.

    Movement - If you stand still in a gunfight you will get shot.

    Sights - I knew they were on the gun however, I can honestly say I did not make a concerted effort to use them; I saw what I needed to see to make hits in a very dynamic environment.

    Randy provided excellent instruction,and it was great to train with him again.

    To echo what Chris said about Alex's hospitality it was a great venue.

    Stay Safe



  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Chattanooga TN
    Thanks guys. This was an extremely enjoyable class to teach. This class is where we work all the skills...against a LIVE adversary (or adversaries). No matter how intense your square range training s, it is still NOT the same as working against a resisting adversary.

    Looking forward to the return for Zero to Five in April!
    Suarez International Tier 1 Staff Instructor
    NRA Certified Instructor
    Tennessee State Handgun Carry Permit Instructor
    Glock Factory Certified Armorer
    IDPA Master Class SSP, ESP,CDP, CCP, BUG, CO
    Gung Ho Chuan Association

    TRAIN with me....

    Fundamentalist Christian Man at Arms


    Joel 3:10 - Beat your plowshares into swords , and your pruning hooks into spears; train even your weaklings to be warriors.

    Through HIS power I can walk on water..IF I just have the faith and courage to get out of the boat.

    A good man who's done a couple of bad things along the way....

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    There is not much that you can add to a review by Chris. Great class. I wanted to attend this class because I did not want my first gunfight to be a live one. Thanks to Randy, my first hundred will not be. With the techniques taught in this class, you realize that you do have a good chance of surviving an encounter with BGs. It all begins with paying attention, then moving and acting quickly when the situation warrants. Witnessing and experiencing so many attacks in one weekend, you learn that avoidance of the fight is definitely the best outcome.

    Thanks to Randy for sharing his skills with us this past weekend. And to Chris and Alex for hosting the class.

    FOF is a real eye opener.

    Last edited by rlh12345; 10-21-2011 at 07:33 PM.

  5. #5
    Great review Chris! This was an excellent class, worth traveling from PA to attend. I probably participated in 100 gun fights over the weekend and still have the red marks to show. My hoodie helped, but the pain was still felt ;) I also enjoyed the Glock armorer class. I am now completely comfortable to do anything with my Glock. Randy, thank you for the advice wrt the dot connector, ordered two when I got home.


  6. #6
    It was a great class as taught by Randy and well reviewed by Chris. Chris writes such a good review that he must be recording it. In all seriousness, the FoF class was both informative and invaluable in learning what one must do to either avoid a bad situation in the first place or better one's chances of surviving in a self-defense shooting scenario. I am glad I took the course, and I am better prepared because of it. Thanks for the instruction, Randy and Chris.


  7. #7
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    I think Chris summed it up nicely. I will add that the material and presentation were well thought out and the instructors very well versed in the concepts that were presented in class. Well done everyone.

    I also have to thank the students I trained with during the exercises. I primarily worked with Blaine, Alex, and Bobby, who were all very helpful in pointing out the mistakes I was making, as did JD.

    Now that I have had time to assimilate the lessons learned, I have several thoughts about the class.

    First, for prospective students, have adequate protection. A couple of the students with face masks providing minimal coverage ended the first day's training with pellet sized spots of blood on their foreheads. Fortunately, Randy and Chris were able to loan them full coverage headgear for better protection.

    Secondly, The CO2 powered guns seemed to have more power than the guns using green gas propellant, which relates to # 1 above. Have adequate protective clothing. While hoodies work well to prevent broken skin, they don't offer enough protection against pain for the resident wuss....which in the case of this class was yours truly.

    Thirdly, When acting as the BG my hands were hammered with pellets, especially by Alex, which brings me to question the merit of a two hand hold on the pistol, during close range engagements. My thought is that a hit on the support hand, when utilized for a two hand hold, will most likely disable the strong hand as well, ending the fight with dire consequences for the GG. When the hand is hit using one hand hold, the fight can be carried on with the pistol in the support hand.

    Fourthly, is that a word? To avoid getting shot or cut, move. Don't think, don't draw, don't talk, just move off the X as explosively as possible. In my case, explosive is not a part of my vocabulary, so I did little more than smolder off the X, which still worked nicely, as proper technique can make up for lack of speed...though faster is better.

    Fifth. Awareness and avoidance is the key to remaining safe, nearly anywhere, nearly anytime.

    As to seeing the sights on the gun during the exercises, I don't remember seeing the sights at all. Until sights were mentioned in one of the discussions, I wasn't aware of seeing the pistol, much less the sights.
    I just looked where I wanted the shot to go, and usually hit where I was looking.

    After I became more aware of the sights, and relative sight picture, is when my hands began to be hammered during the exercises. Maybe we shouldn't worry about sights and sight pictures during close range engagements, but point shoot to avoid being disabled by hits on the hands and gun?

    just kinda thinkin'...typin' out loud, so to speak...type.

    Last edited by POed; 10-26-2011 at 05:37 PM.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Johnson City, TN
    Quote Originally Posted by POed View Post
    Thirdly, When acting as the BG my hands were hammered with pellets, especially by Alex, which brings me to question the merit of a two hand hold on the pistol, during close range engagements. My thought is that a hit on the support hand, when utilized for a two hand hold, will most likely disable the strong hand as well, ending the fight with dire consequences for the GG. When the hand is hit using one hand hold, the fight can be carried on with the pistol in the support hand.
    Hands do tend to get shot a lot. A hit in the right rigger finger during a previous FoF course was key in convincing me to switch to dual appendix.

    Did you find that you also got shot in the hands when you were acting as the GG? If not, wouldn't your experience point towards the merits of moving faster rather than switching to a 1-handed hold in case you don't move fast enough and get shot in the hand?

    I can attest that you were very accurate, with and without consciously using input from your sights.

  9. #9
    Valvert Lucius Fox Guest
    Chris: Your reviews are great. Reading them is akin to being present in the class and thus become learning insturments in themselves...

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Quote Originally Posted by Alex Nieuwland View Post
    Hands do tend to get shot a lot. A hit in the right rigger finger during a previous FoF course was key in convincing me to switch to dual appendix.

    Did you find that you also got shot in the hands when you were acting as the GG? If not, wouldn't your experience point towards the merits of moving faster rather than switching to a 1-handed hold in case you don't move fast enough and get shot in the hand?
    Good thought Alex. I only used a one hand hold while acting as GG during the exercises, as I couldn't get the support hand on the gun fast enough to use a two hand hold as I ran by the BG. I can only think of a very few times where the support hand came into play, and that was primarily as I was shooting over my left shoulder.

    Now that I think more about it, I'm sorry I brought it up.

    I do like the idea of dual appendix carry, but my physique won't allow it. Maybe with brace of very small pistols...very, very small pistols?

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