Force on Force Training: Mall Attack

| December 10, 2014 | 3 Comments

One of the scenarios I prepare for the most is a sudden attack at a public location. Attacks at soft targets like malls, schools, workplaces and churches make up the vast majority of active murderer situations.

I am very glad to have run a mall attack scenario at QSI Training‘s force on force active shooter class last Saturday. The She-Shepherd and I worked as a pair, and the exercise taught us a few things, and validated a few other things.

The Class

I already wrote an overview of the class, but in short six students and three instructors conducted force on force training using Airsoft and practice weapons.

The Scenario

The She-Shepherd and I were having “dinner” when a commotion began. Her teenage “son” (played deftly by firearms instructor Erik Pakieser) stated that there was something going on and he became separated from She’s youngest son.

We had to get her youngest son and get out.


The scenario was meant to be chaotic. There was a lot of noise, screaming, movement, and people trying to touch us and grab us.

Threat analysis

I made a huge mistake right off the bat and misidentified QSI instructor Gabe as a threat.

Force on Force Mall Attack 2014-12-07-0

Here are the factors that led me to make my decision (as well as I can remember):

  • The sounds he was making were very odd and led me to believe something was wrong.
  • His rate of movement was fast.
  • He had something in his hand.
  • For some reason I interpreted his position in the hallway (right in the middle) as threatening.

I’ve heard and read all the cliches: “it happened so fast,” “I thought he had a gun,” “something about him felt ‘off’,” but I definitely experienced these things.

If you go back and watch the footage, I double-checked him for a weapon as I passed over his body. I was convinced he was a threat. Even when I finished shooting and realized he was only holding a flashlight, I thought he may have had a weapon on him.

But he didn’t, and I made a mistake.

This definitely shaped my behavior with other individuals during the drill. I was more likely to confirm if they were a threat or not before acting. This led to hesitations that I worried about even as the drill was going on.

I looked at people’s hands, body position, and behavior before deciding what to do; however after my mistake I did this process multiple times on the same person and I wonder if I took too long to do so.

There was a close call when I approached a stairwell and encountered Josh, another QSI instructor.

Force on Force Mall Attack 2014-12-07-1

The big differences between this encounter and my first one was:

  • I was already reluctant to engage based on my mistake.
  • Josh had his hands up.
  • He was screaming, but in a manner that I found “normal,” if that makes any sense.
  • The direction of his movement was away from me, not towards me.

In general, actors who had their hands up and/or responded to my commands to stop or get out of the way were less likely to be perceived as threats.

Movement and checking rooms

The other big (overall) thing I wonder about is how quickly we passed by doors and intersections. We have been taught how to open doorways and enter rooms and hallways. We have also been taught how to move quickly when a search and clear may not be necessary or expedient.

The object of this scenario was not to go room by room, it was to get The She-Shepherd’s young son and get out as quickly as possible. This led to compromises in how we determined if areas were safe.

  • In most cases I covered the doorway as I passed by it quickly. There were some instances where I was at a “flat stock” position, and while not ideal I have received training on how to snap shoot from this position if I needed to.
  • I quickly looked at the room and visible corners as I passed by.
  • I relied on The She-Shepherd to back me up, and act as a friendly “tail gunner” in case I missed something.

Communication and verbalizations

One of the reasons I love recording footage is that people perceive how things go, and then the video suggests otherwise. Immediately after the drill, it was suggested that we stopped talking. The footage does not corroborate this.

Once things heated up, I was aware that I was communicating with The She-Shepherd and challenging other people, but I wasn’t aware of everything I said.

This is why John Farnam from Defense Training International and Erik Pakieser of QSI Training both teach us “tape loops.” Tape loops are something that you practice saying in specific circumstances. This technique was very helpful for me. They allowed me to concentrate on other things, like looking at people’s hands, their body language, and position relative to me and The She-Shepherd. Note that I didn’t apply a tape loop all the time. I did not challenge an active shooter when I perceived Gabe as a threat. If I wasn’t sure, I challenged.

For some reason I decided to continually ping The She-Shepherd with our own tape loop. I kept saying to check behind her and letting her know that I was going to keep moving. Since we were moving together and not covering each other from a static position, the “moving / move” we’ve learned did not seem applicable.

Door breach

I sucked at this. I’ve practice this many, many times in different classes. When the time came to breach the door all I could think about was the littlest one in trouble, and I just kicked it open. Whoops. At least I kept moving the entire time and didn’t stand in the doorway.


Overall, we need more practice! This is why force on force training is so valuable. Going over things in a lecture is easy. Doing them in a live fire class is a more difficult. But to have a scenario with active role-players, some of whom may be a threat, takes thing to an entirely new level.

As my instructors say, we strive to “fail magnificently.” There isn’t much to be learned by staying in our comfort zone and doing things perfectly.

I look forward to doing more force on force training in January of 2015.

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.

3 Comments on "Force on Force Training: Mall Attack"

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  1. Kyliewyotie says:

    Thanks for sharing the video. Do you have a light on your kpos? Or have a handheld? It seemed very dark in some spots, and I didn’t see a light coming from you shining outwards. Did I just miss it?

    • Short Barrel Shepherd Short Barrel Shepherd says:

      The KPOS does not currently have a weapon mounted light.

      The SJ4000 action cameras I use aren’t super great in low light, but it was never really “dark” in the facility. It didn’t show up very well in the footage.

  2. jianhelan says:

    Great run though. If you are running it, you are training for if. Make sure you don’t pick any scars on you training set. But i am impressed but what you get up to. I mainly work rural and interface areas and would like some proper CQB training as anything I have is ancient history. Thanks for the food for thought and great blog.

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