reprinted from the January 2015 issue of GunNews Magazine.
by John Boch
Morton Grove, IL (Guns Save Life) – It’s not everyday when you get a chance to practice shooting tactics against opponents who shoot back, especially as a civilian. Black Flag Firearms Training and Spartan Security Services have worked hard to bring just such good training to civilians in a force-on-force defensive tactics workshop.
Rocco Wlodarek and “Dino” Giolas were the lead instructors at the November 15th event at Fear City in Morton Grove, a 40,000 square foot professionally designed and created haunted house where there were two simultaneous courses taking place.
I was in Force on Force I, along with a couple of close (instructor) friends, Jim Sharp of Sharp Defense and Peter Wheeler, a fellow GSL Defense Training instructor. Participants in our group ranged from newbie concealed carry licensees to experienced instructors and coppers. The Force on Force II group was mostly cops and Chicago Police cadets.
Training started off with introductions of the staff and the rules for the day. Real firearms were verboten in the facility, along with blades. We covered all of the standard stuff, including medical and safety information, and a rough outline of what the day had in store. The “Rules of Engagement” for using the training guns was just like in the real world: guns must be concealed unless you have legal justification to draw them. Any shooting must be justifiable under Illinois law.
After the preliminaries, Rocco Wlodarek – I asked him how one pronounces his last name and he replied, “you don’t” – gave an hour-long lecture on the survival mindset similar to the lecture I’ve given countless times in our GSL Defense Training courses. I liked Rocco’s lecture so much I plan on stealing some of his information to use in my future classes.
Mr. Unpronouncable’s excellent lecture was graphic at times, invoking powerful emotions and kept nearly thirty participants fully involved and then some. Rocco noted that while Chicago PD solves roughly a quarter of homicides, its armed robbery clearance rate is almost nil. “It happens fast,” he noted. “It’s quick and brutal.”
He also touched on home invasions and how they are different from day-time burglaries where bad guys break in when residents are at work or school. Home invaders go in prepared to deal with occupants. Invaders may make their initial breach quietly, but once inside, they’ll move fast to take control over their victims. It’s just another reason that it’s not a bad idea to practice home carry, especially if you’ve already got your concealed carry rig on when you return home.
We were assigned KWA’s Airsoft Training Pistols which are similar to Glock 17s. Facemasks and holsters were also issued and we lined up to practice drawing and shooting to get a feel for the guns. There was a pain penalty for getting hit, without a doubt, especially in sensitive areas with little or no protective coverage (hint: you quickly see the value of moving off the “x”).
The instructors then role-played as bad-guys with knives “asking” for money or valuables – the classic street robbery.
Pete Wheeler was alongside me and we both used communication and movement to thwart the robber/instructor guys as they approached, without even needing to draw our guns. We even engaged the bad guys as they started to “rob” the next person down. “Hey you, with the knife, get back from her!”
Room clearing and “slicing the pie” tactics were demonstrated for the students and then we were taken into the maze of the haunted house to implement what we discussed. The potential pain penalty for screwing up was always on your mind. There were also plenty of adrenaline rushes.
From there, we went full-dark, relying solely on tactical lights to practice room-clearing. I was comfortable clearing rooms in low-light if I didn’t have to rush, but even as a well-trained civilian, I felt almost totally lost in complete darkness. If a bad-guy is lying in wait for you in a small, pitch-black room chock full of furniture and “stuff”, successful clearing is almost impossible.
We all got an opportunity to play both sides of the each exercise and I slaughtered the poor guy trying to clear in the dark, but between him getting lit up with double- and triple-taps as he progressed through the hallway to the room, he managed to hit me in the thigh, one of about four times I got shot all day.
Rocco and crew threw in some hostage drills and we were forced to rout the hostage taker(s) from rooms without killing the innocents. Most of the time that didn’t go so well for most hostages as the instructor bad guys didn’t make it easy – just like real bad guys.
After lunch, we completed additional drills and then “Force I” folks were sent into the haunted house to act as “bad people” for the dozen or fifteen cops of “Force II” to clear us out as part of a terrorist take-over or active shooter scenario. Given the fact there were no uniforms or anything – and neither group offered to go “skins” – there were many blue-on-blue fatalities on both sides. Keep that in mind if you find yourself in a public active shooter incident and decide to intervene.
The degree of skill with which the cops cleared the structure was impressive. They generally worked well in teams. It was almost a turkey shoot for them.
I was treated to the lesson that even a skilled shooter is quickly over-matched by a couple of teams of two or three cops working well together, especially if they are coming from different directions. Yeah, I got shot dead.
The day concluded with some role-playing scenarios, including a car-jacking and a restaurant robbery. There wasn’t really any instruction on how to handle these, but the restaurant robbery was a no-brainer. The robber didn’t know who was armed and when it was my turn to be the CCWer, the robber picked the guy next to me to rob. He found himself with four rounds to the side of his chest just after reaching full extension from his draw. Another restaurant scenario had a “robber” who shot back after getting shot by the good guy. At that point, it was like a cop bar – everyone drew and opened up on him. He ran away screaming like a scared little school girl, seeking cover under a hail of stinging airsoft pellets.
I found myself in the carjacking driver’s seat when I had a gun stuck in my ear before I was ready to begin. There was no time to draw and we were constricted from “driving away”. I grabbed his gun to twist it out of his grasp and he shot me in the bicep. I continued to fight him and eventually his magazine fell out as we struggled for control (another lesson about what can happen in a struggle for a gun). Eventually I was able to pull back far enough to draw my gun and shoot him, despite his efforts to reach into the car and grab for my gun as I tried to access it (can you say “Officer Darren Wilson”?).
The one-day course markets for about $175 and folks, it’s training money well spent. It’s a fairly new course offering from Rocco and Dino. I’ve known Rocco for four or five years now and he’s impressed me in his unrelenting drive to provide superior training, to selflessly make other instructors better and his wilingness to go after incompetent and/or unethical instructors. He impressed me further in person. In other words: If I know Rocco, the class will get better, guaranteed. For more information, visit his website at blackflagtraining.com.
Rocco mentioned plans to bring the Force on Force course back to Fear City on Saturday, February 21, 2015. If you’re wondering, the arena is fully heated and you’re feed well (subs and pizza). Bring an open mind and a willingness to learn and you’ll walk away with some of the best niche training that’s available to a civilian.