Using the Force (on Force)

| April 16, 2014 | 0 Comments

This is my third year of Force on Force (FoF) training in addition to the live-fire training we do.

I attended my second FoF class of the season last Saturday with QSI Training. It was similar to the first in that the students and instructors participated in scenario-based training using Airsoft handguns and training knives.

At this point in my training experience, I think it is critical for new students to participate in Force on Force training as soon as possible. We can all hypothesize about carry position, handgun (or even long gun) type, talk about the importance of movement, etc but until someone is shooting at you it’s easy to armchair everything.

Force on force training isn’t the be-all-end-all, but it’s extremely valuable and I wish I could do more.

What’s a Force on Force class?

The definition differs slightly from training organization to training organization, but in short a Force on Force class will have the following attributes:

Class participants fight against each other using non-lethal ammunition such as Airsoft or commercial simunition such as the FX Marking Cartridge. Laser-based systems such as SIRT and MILES are out there, but unless you’re active military or belong to a big budget agency you probably won’t have access to these.

Practice knives and impact weapons are also available. Most of these are made out of rubber. Some people have metal “training knives” with the edge ground off; others make custom kydex blades for their folders, and some (like me) have made practice knives out of cutting boards in the shape of our everyday carry knives.

Depending on the instructor, you may also learn firearms retention, disarms, and combatives like grappling, striking, and avoiding takedowns.

Hopefully your instructor(s) will set ground rules regarding the amount of force students should use on each other, any rules about shooting at close ranges, etc. My current group allows us to shoot at any distance (including close contact as my hands and arms attest to). You should always be prepared to stop the drill, and competent instructors will have special words or phrases to signal the end of the exercise.


Expect to get shot — or in my case, shot a lot. This was at point-blank range through a long-sleeved shirt.

Two Force on Force class styles

In my experience, FoF classes tend to either be scenario-based or dueling-based.

Scenario-based training puts you in situations where you may or may not have to fight. Many of the drills I ran last weekend had options to engage, avoid, disengage, escape or evade. Students are left to their own skill levels, comfort, ethics, decision making and tools to handle scenarios. Sometimes the scenarios involve two students, sometimes more.

As an example, a student ran through a scenario last weekend. He had no idea what was going to happen. The other five participants were told what to do in advance, and an assistant instructor was playing the role of a drunk partygoer who found a gun and was using it dangerously.

It was up to the primary student to decide what to do. He could have left the situation, shoot the assistant instructor, done nothing — there was no “defined” answer for this drill.

The student elected to perform a disarm on the assistant instructor, which he did quickly and effectively. We were all surprised at how well it went, especially since the student had learned that technique only hours earlier.

Scenario-based training means you may not shoot much, but you will utilize a greater skillset than just running your gun(s).

Dueling-based training pits two or more students against each other. It might be an actual duel, such as recreating the Tueller drill where one student has a knife and another student has to draw their handgun from concealment. Some times a student might start on the ground while being mounted by another student, or fighting two students from within a confined area, etc. Suarez International offers some great dueling-based training, and I enjoyed my FoF class with them a few seasons ago.

Dueling-based training reminds me of weight lifting: it isn’t terribly creative, but getting those reps in is invaluable. I already appreciated the need of “getting off the X,” doing a Pikiti takeoff, staying low and continuing to move, etc but it really drives the point home when someone is pelting you in the face, arms, legs and chest for hours on end.

The other benefit for me with dueling-based training is that it encouraged me to get creative in order to “survive.”

During the final drills John Farnam’s DTI close range gunfighting course I squared off with a law enforcement officer. He was younger, had better technical skills, and had plenty of training time with his department. On paper, this should have been an easy victory for him and a defeat against me — the middle aged IT guy whose only service was Food Service.


We flew off of our chairs and drew. He took a few steps away from his chair and crouched down, expecting to trade shots with me. He was a more accurate shooter, and that was a reasonable strategy to employ.

One thing he didn’t expect was for me to flank and shoot him four times in the area his most exposed area: his groin.

Dueling-based training means a lot of trigger time, but very little (if any) chance to practice de-escalation, escaping and evading, etc.

Do both

Neither is better than the other; they’re just different and you should try to get an understanding of what your particular instructor is offering and try to maintain a balance of training. This might mean taking multiple force on force classes from multiple instructors, since some instructors definitely sway to one style or another.

If you haven’t already, I hope that you will take some force on force training this year. It’s important and valuable, no matter how much fight-focused training you’ve already had. I learn something every time, especially things I should do better or need to work on once we go back to firing live ammunition.


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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