Advanced rifle class hostage rescue drill

| August 14, 2014 | 0 Comments

On Saturday, August 2, 2014 The She Shepherd and I took the advanced rifle course offered by QSI Training. You can read the full write-up about the class if you haven’t already. I’m not going to summarize the class again, but focus on the hostage rescue drill we did.

Since I only do fight-focused training, almost all of the drills we do have a potential real world application. As I’ve advanced, some of the classes are almost entirely scenario based, such as the vehicle gunfighting class. This type of training takes on more gravity than a “lucky charms” drill or a “2-2-2” drill because I can imagine myself in the situation. Doing the exercise becomes important, because some day I might have to do it for real.

Statistically, if someone is taken as a hostage they are practically dead. An adult who is taken hostage has a very low chance of living during the first 24 hours of their abduction. A child has almost 0 chance of survival if they are taken. We are instructed to not let a loved one leave with someone else.

In order to stop the threat and minimize any chance of danger to the hostage, we aim for the brain stem to achieve “flaccid paralysis.” The brain stem is about 1.5″ to 2″ in size and is located behind the nose / through the ear canal. The skull is tough and there are obstructions in between our bullets and the brain stem, such as the cartilage in the nose, sinuses, etc. We fire one shot to clear the way, and a second shot to destroy the brain stem.

Of all the things I’ve done in class: contact shooting, shooting through a shirt, weapon retention, fighting in a car, from the ground, whatever — this is the drill that I feel like I may have to do for real some day. With The She-Shepherd and her two sons in the house, this drill is very emotional for me.

The drill

  • Students are at fairly close range. 3 yards for handgun, 5 yards for rifle, and I don’t remember how far for shotgun (it was awhile ago, with Suarez International and thus a different drill).
  • The students take one step to the left of the target, with their weapons held in a Sul or flat stock position.
  • To start the drill, they step to the right and ask the target “What do you want?” We don’t care what they want; this is a technique to get the target to stop moving. I wasn’t sure how effective this would be until I did it against a real person (video).
  • We do a two count, then rotate the weapon into the firing position and fire two shots at the brain stem.

This was the first time I’ve done this drill with a rifle. I’ve done it several times with a handgun, and once with a shotgun. Doing this drill with a rifle presented both big challenges and big advantages. The height-over-bore between my Primary Arms MD-07 optic and my .300 Blackout AR15 pistol was something I had to experience. I knew there would be offset, but how much isn’t something you can theorize in your chair. You have to get out there and practice.



We did not do any warm up shots on this drill, so I had to put my imagination to work. I put the red dot at about the “eyebrow” level of the target and pressed the trigger twice. Right on target. We repeated the drill another eleven times.

Of the two bad handloads I suffered at class that day, one was during the hostage drill. That sucked, but I was pleased that I recovered quickly and still made my shot.

I was very pleased with my accuracy. Next year we’ll work on speed, both in target acquisition time and with the follow up shot. I can do better.


The hostage rescue drill is something that every student of fight focused training should practice on a regular basis. The first time I did it my confidence failed and I hit the hostage target right between the eyes. I’ve come a long way.

I believe that executing this drill successfully is 40% mechanics and 60% mental. You have to have the foundational skills like good trigger control, sight picture, breath control, etc. But the real difficulty is controlling your heart rate, emotions, and confidence. By the time I did this drill against a live person in the force on force class I was pretty sure I could make the shot. When I did the drill with a rifle, even though I’d never done it before, I knew I could do it.

Practice is critical. Please train as much as you can. The life you save may not be your own.


About the Author:

Short Barrel Shepherd Short Barrel Shepherd is a regular guy and works to make Web sites and mobile apps easier for people to use. He spends his free time attending fight-focused firearm, knife, and combatives training, motorcycling, writing, and playing games. His daily carry is a Glock 19 pistol and an AR15 .300 Blackout pistol in a backpack.

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