Always Use the Buddy System

| June 16, 2014 | 1 Comments

Last Saturday the She Shepherd and I had the opportunity to take a Partner Tactics class from QSI Training.

The purpose of this class was to learn how to work with one other person. We were the only couple present, but there were other pairs of friends or people that worked together.

Topics covered

  • Applying previous safety lessons and techniques when working with a partner (such as the Sul position, basic gun safety rules, etc)
  • Additional safety techniques, such as always passing behind a partner if possible instead of in front of them
  • How to split possible assailants as a team to divide their attention as well as maintain clear lines of fire that didn’t endanger our partners or others
  • Verbalizations for moving, reloading, threats, etc
  • Protecting your partner as they moved or while they reloaded
  • How to go through doorways / entryways as a team
  • How to divide up an area with a partner to engage targets as efficiently as possible
  • Movement as a pair

Class impressions

The class size was small — four pairs for a total of eight students. There were two QSI instructors present, including lead instructor Erik Pakieser.

Like all QSI classes, the Partner Tactics course built incrementally and used prior classes as a foundation. The day started out with the usual safety briefing, with an additional safety discussion about working with another person. Mr. Pakieser also cited several examples where communication and working together led to better outcomes, and how not doing those things led to worse outcomes.

If we were going to have the best outcome, we were going to have to communicate and operate as a pair of people, and not two individuals working alone.

After the safety talk and lecture we broke into our partner pairs for the rest of the day. Some of the initial exercises were done with two teams on the firing line, but most of the day was spent with one pair of students with both instructors watching them.

We shot at steel all day. At one point we had paper targets that represented no shoot / friendlies. As usual, the weather hated us and it started raining pretty hard. The paper targets got so wet we couldn’t use them any more, and we switched to steel targets with cardboard hands “up” to denote bystanders.

We shot a mix of swinging and popup steel targets. Popup targets are supposed to fall down when you hit them center mass. Some of these targets were well used and didn’t fall despite direct hits. The assistant QSI instructor pounded on one with 17 rounds in a 2″ group before one fell. This meant the instructors had to tell us to move on sometimes; otherwise we kept engaging targets until they fell down. This resulted in confusion about which targets had been engaged and which ones had not.

We also had something new — a cardboard “person” on a long PVC pole. This allowed us to simulate a panicked person running our way or an additional attacker trying to engage us at contact ranges. It was awesome, and I hope we do more of this in the future.


Students had a split second to decide if the cardboard target was friendly or hostile and to switch between shooting and not shooting.


I did not shoot this target and instead had to bat it away and yell for them to get out of the way.

This was my third Partner Tactics class with QSI. The first two classes always involved using plastic training pistols first for each drill. This decreases the amount of live fire time. Last Saturday was more of a mix of training with unloaded or training pistols, and doing live fire exercises.

Selfishly, I appreciated the higher percentage of live fire time last Saturday. There is a big difference between doing the drills dry vs live fire, and there is still a lot I have to work on.

This class had more of a mix, and while we appreciated shooting more I expect that future classes will go back to the plastic pistols first, live fire second. I think students performed better and with more confidence after going through a technique or scenario with an inert practice tool first.

Things I learned

Even with electronic hearing protection on it was still hard to hear what the She Shepherd was saying at times. She has developed a very loud, clear command tone (she and our instructors call it “the Mom Voice”), but I still made a few errors in understanding what she was saying. The video I posted below shows a great example of this: she called for cover and I told her it was okay to move. Derp.

I’d run the KPOS Glock enclosure before, and I knew that it was a big force multiplier. This year I wanted to push my rate of fire a bit. I was ready for another challenge and wanted to see if I could get the KPOS to fail again. I was surprised both with my accuracy and with the KPOS, which didn’t give me a single problem all day. That’s actually disconcerting, as now I have no idea why the KPOS has catastrophic problems one day and works flawlessly the next.

The lock on my backpack continues to teach me that bag-carried weapons take a lot of time to deploy. It took my 21 seconds to go from a slung backpack to unlocked bag to unfolding the stock on the KPOS and unlocking the foregrip that protects the trigger. Not using the lock cuts the time down to 7 seconds. Due to Minnesota laws I have to continue to use a lock, but like I always say, you have to practice this stuff to find out exactly how it’s going to effect your techniques and tactics. I continue to stand by my guidelines for engaging threats with a bag-carried PDW, but the more I do these classes the more I learn.

Despite practicing many, many times about how to pass through a doorway and not standing in the doorway while shooting, almost every student did it anyway. We need more practice, and I hope that future force on force training will reinforce the dangers of standing “in the funnel.”

This class reminded me in how the difference in stride length and physical capabilities can cause a problem for teams. The goal is to stay together as much as possible. Not bunch up, but stay relatively even when shooting, etc. There’s almost a foot of height difference between me and She, and I had to remember to match her speed. In the video you see me rush to the first barricade and I am quite a bit ahead of her. This may present a problem if she sees a target that I don’t perceive on the right side of our field of fire — I basically block her shot by running ahead of her.

We also validated our decisions to standardize on the Glock 19 pistol and for me to carry multiple magazines. There were several times where She ran through her three mags and I was able to pass her one of mine. I was also glad to carry a backup pistol, and you can see me in the cardboard target photo above I was shooting with my left side G19 left handed. Good thing I practiced this earlier in the year.


I think this is a class that everyone should take if you have friends / family that also carry a firearm. However, this class really demands advanced students. Working with one other person seems simple, but everyone encountered difficulties throughout the day.

While the increased firepower, additional set of eyes and ears, and the increased safety of another person present were all strong benefits, it was also clear that most people don’t think about nor practice working with someone else. Students had to intensify their attention to safety procedures and it was tough for all of us to remember to communicate, not reload at the same time, etc.

A big thanks to She Shepherd for being a great partner, QSI for running another enlightening class, and the other students for stepping up and helping each other learn.

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.

1 Comment on "Always Use the Buddy System"

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  1. B R KURTZ B R KURTZ says:

    First Im sure I don’t have to remind you how lucky you are to have a TRUE Partner. As you continue to show that’s incredibly important not only for gunfights; but also for LIFE.

    Next I want to commend you and the She Shepherd for taking a Team Class. Sadly most LEOs don’t train like that, yet they expect to step out of their patrol cars and suddenly mesh as a two man team, just because they went to the same academy class although years apart.

    Im reminded of a marriage counseling class, where the instructor drum into us, “Communications is the foundation of every good relationship”. While sooooo true in marriages, its even more so important when guns come out. As you found out, moving or any kind of acting when youre not absolutely sure what your teammate is saying can be deadly. Learn to use the ABC’s of tactical comms: Accurate, Brief, Clear.

    ACCURATE-No “I thinks”. It is or it isn’t, “Movement on left” “Shadow on right”

    BRIEF-This is not the time for novels.

    CLEAR-If you garble, say it again / If you can’t hear it tell her to “Say Again”


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