AAR: Combat Shooting and Tactics (Paul Howe) “Urban Defense Course”, Nacogdoches, TX, 5/15-5/17, 2015

This is the second class I have taken in 2015. The class was the brand new Urban Defense Course taught by Paul Howe, founder of Combat Shooting and Tactics (CSAT) in Nacogdoches, Texas. It was a 3 day course that took place from Friday, 5/15 through Sunday, 5/17. Cost of the course was $800. I am not affiliated with CSAT except as a paying customer.  Their web address is:


This was my second CSAT course. See my AAR from the CSAT Advanced Individual Tactics (AIT) course that I took about 6 months prior here. At the time I completed that course, as great as I felt it was, I seriously doubted I would return for another class. AIT was $700, plus I flew, rented a car, took two days off from work…..you get the idea. I was so convinced I would not return that, rather than store three boxes of unused 9mm ammo from that class in Paul’s safe at the CSAT barracks, I chose to give those boxes to a South Houston PD officer who was in the class with me. More on that momentarily.

When I took AIT in November, Paul was just then discussing with some members of the class a new course that was in the development stage called Urban Defense Course (UDC). Basic concepts being bandied about at that time were preparing your neighborhood for defense after an “event” that would stretch law enforcement capabilities (Hurricane Katrina was mentioned), how to interface with law enforcement, how to deal with mass attacks, and how to negotiate a post-event world (think: the grey-man concept). Such was the interest in the class and among former students that I heard that two iterations of the course had already filled up without a course description even being listed on the CSAT website! The ideas sounded interesting and also kind of cool, especially considering I had just read a number of post-apocalyptic novels. Still, I didn’t see myself taking the time and money to return to Texas anytime soon.

In stepped my wife, wonderful woman that she is. Sometime in early December we had a chat about the course. Much like my decision-making process for AIT, it made more sense for me to take a longer class since the barracks isn’t available for the basic weekend classes. If you factor in the 3 nights of hotel accommodations saved when you stay at the barracks, the 3 day class ends up costing about the same as a two-day. My wife correctly gauged my interest and offered UDC as a combined Christmas AND birthday present for me. I contacted Paul and I was IN!

My travel plans were not unlike my last trip down, except this time I flew to Bush Intercontinental instead of Hobby Airport. Though a bit more expensive, Bush is about 40 minutes closer to Nacogdoches and offered me better Sunday night return flight options.

CSAT Range Gate
CSAT Range Gate

I arrived at the CSAT barracks around 4 PM local time. Two guys had already “checked in”, but weren’t there at the time of my arrival. I unpacked quickly and headed off to Kroger to get some supplies for the weekend. Upon my return, the two guys were back. They had already hit the range (Paul is okay with students who are repeat customers using the range outside of class time), and invited me to dinner with them. Both were from South Carolina and had made the 15 hour or so drive. They gave me inside information that the class would be bigger than advertised, 16 or 17 students (I think the course description says 12 max). Paul would explain this larger class size the next day.

Training Day One

The schedule for the day was to begin at 8 AM in the CSAT classroom, break for lunch, then hit the range to work on some fundamentals and a few CQB techniques. The class did indeed have 16 or 17 students, and such was the caliber of students that all but two were seated in the classroom and ready to roll by about 7:30 (two guys had a long drive and arrived right at 8 AM). I was happy to see 3 students who had been in my AIT course in November, and Dave, the assistant instructor from AIT, was also there, along with two other assistant instructors I’d never met before: Cheston and Simon. Paul was the lead instructor.

Paul started us out with a few handouts and a CD of all the PowerPoints he would be using in the course. Basic pocket folders were also provided to put everything in. He put a rough outline on the board so we could see where we were headed, and then we did introductions where we said our names, where we were from, and what firearms we would be using in the course. Some students also included their professions. I believe there were at least three full time law enforcement officers in the class (including the one I had given my extra 9mm ammo to 6 months before. Son of a gun still had all three boxes and gave them back to me, saying that he was obviously meant to do so! What a great guy!….even more on that later), a few reserve law enforcement officers, a few medical professionals, and everyone else from varied backgrounds. All were men, and ALL had trained with Paul on prior occasions. Everyone seemed particularly interested in me not just because I traveled the furthest, but also because I live and work around a city recently racked by rioting and violence, which was quite serendipitous considering the subject matter to be covered.

Paul then explained that his goal was to take 35 years of military and law enforcement experience and force it through a funnel and into our heads. We would be given the tools and skills needed to succeed in a variety of situations, from how to prepare our neighborhood for defense, set up road blocks/vehicle check points, negotiate vehicle check points, “thin the herd” of mass attacks, blend into the chaos, rescue loved ones from hostile situations, etc. In the end, he said, we’d have all the answers to “the test”. The only thing he could not teach us would be when each “answer” would need to be given in situations we might face in our futures.

Topics covered in the classroom on this first day included a review (for those of us who had been in any of his AIT or Home Defense courses) how to clear/pie a room from the outside in order to clear as much of it as possible before entry, and how to take a T intersection when operating alone. The PowerPoints included diagrams and videos to illustrate all major points. New information included how to set up a vehicle check point (Paul used satellite imagery of his own street to show how/where he would set up a VCP, where he would set up the cover for the VCP, where a fall-back position would be located, how to arm the members of the VCP, etc.), how to organize a neighborhood for defense (including communications, command post, identifying people with special skills, etc.), how to travel into town during periods of unrest in order to secure supplies, and how to negotiate the various types of VCPs one might encounter on the road.

For this block of instruction, Paul drew heavily upon his experiences in Special Operations in places like Liberia, El Salvador, and also, to some degree, Somalia. He also drew upon his experiences in Eastern Texas in the post-Hurricane Katrina mess. Nacogdoches sits about a gas tank away from Houston, so as 4 million people traveled inland, many ended up using up the resources of the small towns they traveled through, straining the communities. This was something I had never really considered.

One interesting tidbit that came up during this block was AR vs. AK. Paul is definitely a fan of the AK and of the 7.62×39 round. However, to patrol a neighborhood during a period of civil unrest, the fact that an AK is, like it or not, a “bad guy’s gun”, should preclude its use for such activities. He felt it was best used for home defense, for cover for a VCP (“a MAK 90 will open up a bad guy’s car like a can opener”), or some other static situation where it can be employed without everyone seeing it. The AR, being more of a “good guy’s gun”, would be better for patrolling a neighborhood or other “overt” activities.

We broke for lunch around 11 and were told to report to the range at 12:30 with our guns, magazines loaded, etc., in order to check zeros, and then we would be doing training modules involving room-clearing, T intersections, and corner clears.

I will note here the equipment I brought with me. Unlike AIT, this class involved both pistol and carbine. For pistol, I brought my tried and true Gen 3 Glock 19. It has Defoor sights, a Vickers Slide Stop, and a smooth Glock 17 trigger, but is otherwise stock. It has about 3500 rounds through it, and I just replaced the recoil spring assembly prior to heading to Texas. I used a mix of Fiocchi and Sellier and Bellot 115 gr 9mm FMJ ammo.

I chose to bring two carbines, one of which was my Spikes Tactical AR15 (http://www.spikestactical.com/). I built the lower myself using a PSA (http://palmettostatearmory.com/) lower build kit on a Spikes lower, and the upper I bought complete. It has a 16 inch barrel and mid-length gas system, all Foliage Green MOE furniture, with a Surefire G2 mounted in an IWC Mount N Slot at 11:00 (http://www.impactweaponscomponents.com/), a Blue Force Gear VCAS sling, and is equipped with a Leupold VXR Patrol 1.25 x 4 variable optic in a Larue QD mount. I am a huge fan of this optic, which has a permanent black cross hair reticle with daylight visible red dot that can be switched on as well.   Over the course of the weekend I fired perhaps 35 rounds from this rifle.

I fired my AR so little because I primarily used my second rifle for this class. That second rifle was my Sig Sauer 556 SBR. Yes, I dared to be different. I was the only guy in class NOT using an AR. I would have used my AR more, but the SBR out-performed my hopes. My Sig is equipped with a rear diopter sight from Sig, an MFI folding front sight (http://mfiap.com/), an Aimpoint T-1 on a low mount, and a VTAC sling (modified with HK clips on both ends). I had only put about 140 rounds through it before attending this class, and never shot it at more than 100 yards. I was concerned about its durability, accuracy, and range. In class I exclusively shot Federal M193 55 grain ball ammo. I used Gen 3 PMags in both the Sig and the AR.

The aspect of this gun that appealed to me the most, especially for this class, is that we were expected to operate with concealed carry gear and deploy our long guns from bags. This was all spelled out in the course outline. The Sig 556 SBR, with its 10 inch barrel and side-folding stock, seemed ideal for this application. I brought a large black duffel for my AR (all of the other students used ARs, and there were a variety of bags brought along, including soft-sided guitar cases, baseball bat bags, etc.), and a Nike sling bag “liberated” from my in-laws’ house over the Easter holiday for my Sig. With stock folded, it JUST fit inside, even with a 20 or 30 round mag inserted.

Ancillary equipment for me included a Blade-Tech Nano for my Glock 19 worn appendix style, a Raven Concealment mag pouch for the Glock, a pair of HSGI Rifle Tacos (http://www.highspeedgear.com/) secured to a Raven Concealment Moduloader (http://rcsgear.com/), all attached to my Wilderness Instructor belt. I did not bother with a chest rig, battle belt, or other “overt” gear, as the point of the course was to be able to operate in a less ostentatious manner. In fact, for much of the course I had the above gear on my belt covered with either a lightweight Marmot rain jacket or a photographer’s vest.

Back to class. After lunch, we met at the 100 yard rifle range. We were told to mingle and pick out someone as a “battle buddy” who we would do drills with the rest of the weekend. I teamed up with an older gentleman, Lee, who was a very nice guy (and a pretty good shot!).   Due to the short barrel on my SBR, I chose lane 1 so I wouldn’t annoy too many fellow students with its report. Paul reviewed with us his preferred loading procedures, and then we got prone to check zeros. I knew from plenty of reading that Paul prefers a 100 yard zero, and has a CSAT target specially designed to confirm such a zero. It is his standard target but with the entire upper portion of the target, down to the “neck” of the target, in black. The idea is you put the tip of your front sight post, or your red dot, right at the junction of the black and white portions of the target, and fire. I started with my AR and it grouped nicely into the A zone of the target, but a little lower than that junction of black and white. I wasn’t too concerned, as I felt that as long as I knew my holdovers I’d be fine. We checked targets and students made a few adjustments. I chose at that point, just 5 rounds in, to switch to my SBR. I was not pleased with my zeroing efforts the week before, so figured I’d check it. Again, we all fired five rounds. Mine were a nice tight group (for me) and just below the black/white junction, but a little right. Cheston checked my target, told me to move my dot over 4 clicks. We fired one final group of 5, and I was pretty much dead-on. We were told that, if we still weren’t satisfied, there would be time at the end of the day to further refine our zeroes, but we’d be shooting mostly CQB distances the rest of the day, so it wasn’t that big of a deal for now.

CSAT zeroing target
CSAT zeroing target

While still on the flat range, we moved over to the “barricade” area, which is essentially a set of 3 open “doorways” about 80 yards from some steel that is the size of the A zone on the standard CSAT targets. Here we practiced shooting standing and kneeling from around both sides of cover. I had done this with my Glock in AIT, but it was MUCH easier with a carbine! We had to make 2 hits on steel from each of the four positions. I think I fired 11 rounds to get my hits, which I was pleased with. I should note here that, when asked, Paul said he is not a fan of switching shoulders to fire around cover. Rather, he prefers just stepping out and using his usual technique. Why? We are all better with one side or another. If you have to make a precision shot from the “wrong side” of cover, would you rather guarantee the hit by exposing yourself a bit more, or maybe miss and create a bigger problem?

Doorway "barricades", in the rain.
Doorway “barricades”, in the rain.

After the barricade work we got our pistols and did a few basic drills to check our mechanics, draw techniques, etc., with our pistols. Paul and his assistants walked the line to check out our skills to make sure no one was doing anything dangerous and that our pistol skills matched our carbine skills. Also, we had had off and on rain all afternoon, and people were layered in a variety of bits of rain gear, so it was especially important to check drawing and re-holstering techniques.

We then split into two groups and went to the “old shoot house” to work on CQB skills. Having taken AIT only 6 months before, everything was still fresh in my mind. The only difference with this training module was that we did it with carbines instead of pistols. My group started with Cheston at the T intersection where we practiced how to pie both sides of the T as you move down the hallway. Once at the T, a few techniques (none of which are ideal since this was not team oriented, but solo) were demonstrated (stepping out vs. a button-hook, etc.). There were several shoot/don’t shoot targets on both sides of the T, and having taken AIT, I knew the mantra of “Whole person-hand-hand-demeanor-immediate area”. Thus, I did not make the mistake of seeing a handgun on one target and immediately firing on it without first checking “whole body” (and seeing the badge on the belt!). Good stuff. I liked that target discrimination appeared early on in this course; it got everyone thinking. We each got to clear the T intersection with live ammo twice. Doing everything at least twice was standard practice for this course. Cheston was great with positive feedback, and when he had any criticisms, it still sounded like he was giving praise. He has a nice voice and a slow cadence; I felt like he could easily be on a children’s television show!

Me Working the T, with Cheston watching.
Me Working the T, with Cheston watching.
...working the T....
…working the T….
At the T, identifying the threat and neutralizing it.
At the T, identifying the threat and neutralizing it.

We then swapped with the other group and worked on single-person room-clearing with Simon. He showed us what we’d seen in videos in the classroom (and I’d seen in AIT) how to pie 80% or so of a room from outside the door, addressing targets from the comparative “safety” of the hallway. All carbine work in the structure was done from the low-ready, which allows full view of the “people” you run into along the way. All carbines were to be on safe until up on target, and put back on safe once the target was down. We also reviewed how to re-enter a hallway from a just-cleared room by checking where we were headed, where we had just been, and a second time where we were headed. The little mantra for this is “dirty-clean-dirty”. Once everything was demonstrated and we practiced dry, we went live and cleared the room twice each. Simon was great with feedback and cleaned up some minor issues with my technique (once I failed to apply the safety post-shots. Another time, I held my carbine too high up in my field of vision).

Throughout both of these exercises, Paul bounced back and forth between the groups to check on progress, address questions, etc. Earlier, I mentioned that this course was larger than advertised, and that was because Paul was trying out this different style of having his assistants run a lot of the show while he bounced between groups. Due to the high demand for this course, doing things this way would allow a greater number of students to take the course each time it is offered. He sought our feedback often to see if we were happy with this format, as we were the guinea pigs. Personally, I thought it worked out well.

Our final exercise for the day consisted of corner clears at the entrance to the “old shoot house”. Down past the T intersection, about 60 yards away, were another two pieces of steel that mimic the size of the A zone in the CSAT target. We now got to practice what we had done at the barricade on the flat range and got to shoot from standing and kneeling from both sides of the doorway. I think I fired a total of 5-10 rounds to get my hits here.

With that exercise complete, Paul reminded us that that everything we did today would be built upon the next day and then incorporated into the final exercises on Sunday. He reminded us to keep up with “fluids in and fluids out” throughout the evening, as it was oppressively hot and humid (high 80s, and the humidity had to at least match that). I chose at that point to shoot two more groups out of my AR just to make sure the zero was decent. I did so, and then packed up and headed back to the barracks.   By the end of Day One I had fired 22 rounds out of my Glock, 60 rounds out of my SBR, and 15 out of my AR.

Day Two

Day two began again at 0800 in the CSAT classroom. We began with a quick Q&A for any issues from the day before, and then started with Vehicle Check Points, or VCPs. We began with how to get through one set up by others, which could be government/police, neighborhood watch type, or set up by opportunistic bad guys. We then talked about how to set one up, including things like homemade spike strips, cover for the guy doing the checking of cars, etc. Essentially, Paul said, setting up a VCP is pretty much identical to setting up an ambush, the only difference being the guy out in the road stopping traffic.

We then talked about mass attacks and the best ways to deal with them. This included shooting tactics/techniques as well as rules of engagement. Issues like those in Ferguson and Baltimore were brought up along with situations Paul had experienced during his time in Special Operations.

After the overview of mass attacks, we discussed fire and maneuver in two or more person elements. This included vehicle bailouts that then evolve into fire and movement either toward or away from fire. We also discussed how quickly, particularly in an urban environment, you can “blend into the chaos” a block or so away from where the bad stuff happened.

The final classroom unit dealt with caches. We discussed a variety of types including hasty and more permanent varieties, what to use to store things in, what items to store in the containers, where to hide the cache, and how to camouflage it but still mark it for eventual retrieval. Many questions were addressed and examples shown, and then we broke just long enough to move to the range for a pre-lunch live-fire exercise.

We met at the 100 yard range again, and parked our cars behind the range. Here, we got to practice two different things in one drill. One pair at a time, we would stow our rifles in their bags in the backseats of cars. On command, we had to bail out of the front seats of the cars, grab our bags from the back, get our carbines ready to fire (in the bags, we could have a magazine inserted but the chamber had to be empty and the safety “on”), check to see if our partner was also ready, then dash to the line, get prone, and knock down the 17 targets 100 yards downrange as fast as we could. The guy on the left would fire from left to right, and the guy on the right from right to left, meeting somewhere in the middle (I would just call out after I’d fired on the 9th target each time). We got to run this drill 3 times. Our first was done in about 82 seconds, our second in about 60, and our third chance in 53 seconds. I wasn’t really pleased with these times, but was glad that we showed improvement with each run. The main thing slowing me down was getting my SBR out of the bag, in which it fit quite snugly. We then broke for an hour lunch.

Things got even more interesting after lunch. We broke into the same two groups as the day before, with one group practicing vehicle bailouts with handguns, while the other group practiced fire and maneuver and building clears in and around the “old shoot house”. I started in this second spot, with Lee and I moving through a parking lot of old, shot up cars, until a bad guy was spotted. One of us took a knee while the other guy moved forward at an oblique angle to the bad guy, using the cars as concealment/cover. Upon the command of Simon, we were told the bad guy was now shooting at the kneeling guy, who had to put 5 shots into his torso from about 60 yards, while the guy who moved forward got to the closest car to the bad guy and had to put two shots in his head (distance was probably about 20-25 yards). The guy who started on one knee making the torso hits then had to corner clear the “old shoot house”, shooting the steel at the end of the 60 yard hallway, then clear an interior room. We then did the drill a second time but swapped positions. Good stuff.

We then swapped with the other group and did a drill I had done in AIT. My partner and I had to buckle into the front seat of Paul’s “bubba” truck, where we were informed we had “contact front”. We had to bail out and engage plate racks, knocking down 2 plates each with our pistols (about 10 yards away), then fire and maneuver around a berm into another lot of old, shot up cars, engaging four thin steel plates again (two hits on each spot), using the cars for cover. We did this drill three times, making sure we each got turns starting in the driver and passenger seats. I shot this drill very well, and after our last run through, Cheston said that Lee and I were the smoothest he had seen of any pair all day.

Our final exercise was my most anticipated, The Scrambler. We all drove over to “sniper hill”, which is the long distance range at the CSAT facility (goes out to 800 yards). The Scrambler is a run and gun of about 500 yards all over the sniper range, with I think 11 rifle shots 4 pistol shots from a variety of positions and distances. You get 5 shots from each position to make one hit on steel, then you move on whether you made the hit or not (theory is that no one is going to stand there in real life and let you shoot at them repeatedly). The longest rifle shot in The Scrambler is the first one, 300 yards, and the longest pistol shot is probably around 100 yards. Although a few changes have been made since this was filmed, this video will give you a good idea of what The Scrambler encompasses:

(The Scrambler)

Paul first did a walk through for us of the course, and then we would do it live in pairs with our battle buddies. This was the only exercise all weekend we would do only once with live ammo.   Lee and I went around midway through the pack. We decided I should shoot first at each position, since I was no doubt in better cardio shape and could recover from each run more quickly. On command, we went prone and I lined up the first shot at 300 yards. First shot: Bang! And, in the distance: Ping! I couldn’t believe it! I heard a few “nice shot” comments from other, waiting students. On we went and my SBR performed beyond all of my hopes. There was one station where I just couldn’t connect with my pistol in the allotted five rounds. Otherwise, I was thrilled with my performance, with lots of first round hits.

View from the top of Sniper Hill, where "The Scrambler" begins
View from the top of Sniper Hill, where “The Scrambler” begins

After finishing The Scrambler and waiting for the following pairs to finish up, Dave approached me out of the blue and asked me, “Robert, would you like to run it again?” I must’ve looked like a kid at Christmas, because I replied, “Can I?!” So he said, “Sure, after everyone else has had a turn. Let me just clear it with Paul.” Paul was fine with it, and Dave returned and asked, “How many times would you like to run it?” Now, Christmas had REALLY arrived! So I said I’d like to do it twice more, once more with the Sig and then once with the AR. Dave said that was fine, only that to earn my keep I’d have to re-spray paint all the steel targets after my final run. I was fine with that.

Once everyone else was done and left, Dave and I started a second Scrambler. I performed on par with the first one (missed that same damned target on that one pistol shot!), but I ran it a lot faster than my drill with Lee because I didn’t have to wait for him (Lee, being older and with one bad knee, wasn’t slow, but he wasn’t fast). We finished, I caught my breath, switched to the AR, and then did it again (this time I hit that one pesky pistol target!). When we finished it, I think Dave was pissed he had agreed to letting me run it twice more, because he was gassed! Simon was at the top of “sniper hill” when we returned, getting ready to run it once himself, and he was impressed with how fast I did it. I didn’t set the record, which I think they said was 6:26, but I represented myself well. I then walked behind Simon when he ran it and repainted the steel, concerned that an alligator might appear at any moment and ruin my great day! Simon was displeased with his pistol performance on The Scrambler and told me the next morning that he stayed an extra hour and a half just working on pistol. I fired 84 rounds through my Glock on Day Two and 95 rifle rounds, all but the last Scrambler going through the SBR (so probably 15-20 through the AR).

My feet and legs after 3 Scramblers
My feet and legs after 3 Scramblers

Day Three

Day three started at 8 AM on “Sniper Hill”. Here, Paul walked us through the first of the final two exercises (again, we did each of these two exercises twice each). The first would simulate you and your battle buddy getting ambushed on the way to picking up a relative/friend. So we started near the base of Sniper Hill, near the 100 yard targets, in an old, shot up car, oriented with its front pointed to the right. Once we were buckled in, Paul would bang on the car and yell “contact left”. Upon this command, the person in the passenger seat had to get out and get to the area around the rear tire/trunk and engage steel about 40 yards away with his pistol. While he was doing that, the driver had to clamber over the console and get out through the passenger door, retrieve all bags from the backseat, and get his rifle up and running and engage steel 200 yards away. Once his rifle was up, the original “passenger” could get his bag open and access his carbine, and then dash off into the woods. In the woods, on a wide trail (width of a car), a steel target was positioned. The passenger had to give commands to this “person”, get him on the ground, etc., while the original driver entered the woods and then dashed up the trail. Once positioned to cover the passenger, the passenger would run past the driver while the driver started engaging the steel, first from about 75-100 yards away. They then leap-frogged back using this fire and maneuver technique. Once clear, Paul passed us off to Simon, who had us attack the “old shoot house”. One person had to corner clear engaging that steel 60 yards down the hallway, and then room clear, applying a tourniquet to a dummy, while his partner outside had a to keep a Larue automatic target knocked down. Once the person inside was secure or declared dead, the buddies had to link up outside the house and cover each other all the way to the 100 yard line, where they could go prone and fend off a “mass attack”, using the same technique we had done the day before, hitting the 17 targets as quickly as possible. We then did it a second time, only swapping roles for who started as driver vs, passenger.

This drill was a blast and probably my favorite of the course. We probably ran between ¼ and ½ a mile each time we did it, and most of the running was uphill. Each pair would, by the end of each iteration of this drill, have fired on 20-30 targets (when I had to keep the Larue target down while Lee cleared the house, I must have knocked that Larue down 10 times or more). One thing Paul wanted us to get from this was, with all of that “killing”, how little ammo we could expend. Indeed, I did a tactical reload somewhere along the way, and didn’t use more than about 1 total magazine each time. Lesson: if you get your hits, you don’t need tons of ammo.

One note here: Paul ran the first “leg” of this exercise, which was the uphill part, a total of 16 times. Paul is 55 years old and was still dashing up that hill, often leading each pair. I was impressed.

We broke for a short lunch and then returned for the final exercise, this time to the “new shoot house”. We had not done anything up in this area to this point, but we would be employing all the skills we had learned to this point. Because I had a flight to catch at 7:15, Paul allowed Lee and I to go first, so that after our second time through, I could blast back to the barracks to get cleaned up and packed up. He first walked us through the exercise. In this one, we had to walk through the woods to a cache site to retrieve our carbines. While one student retrieved and made his carbine ready, the other would cover with a pistol. While covering, we had to try to verbally get a target to leave and, when that failed, engage the target which was very difficult to see through the heavy foliage. We then had to fire and maneuver at several steel targets that were 100-200 yards away, often shooting around trees, through light foliage, through a small structure (a small shelter for a wood pile), and then maneuver to the “new shoot house”. Here, again, one person would enter while another moved past the house to a T intersection in the dirt road (which we treated just like the T in the old shoot house). While the one student entered the house, took down any bad guys, and then dragged the loved one out to a waiting pickup truck, the other, at the T intersection, had to keep another Larue target knocked down. Once the wounded relative was loaded into the truck, that student would call back the other student from the T intersection, and the end of the exercise would be called.

I finished strong in the two iterations of this exercise. The first time, I was the guy covering the cache with my pistol while my partner accessed his cached carbine. I could barely see the target through the foliage, but Paul told me afterwards I made three solid torso hits on it. I made good rifle shots on the steel targets, and again I did a great job keep the Larue target knocked down, probably hit it with 10 of 11 shots (not sure how far away it was, probably 75 to 100 yards). My second time through I again made good hits on steel, and then did everything right on the room clear (two shots to the face of the bad guy an inch apart!), except I didn’t do the best job tightening down the sling on my SBR while putting a tourniquet on the precious cargo I was saving. Other than that, Paul, Simon, Cheston, and Dave had nothing but positive feedback.

After this final exercise I got back to the barracks, took a quick shower, and then started preparing everything for the joys of air travel, checking to be sure I didn’t have any live ammo in my carry-on, etc. I figured out later that on Day Three I fired 12 rounds out of my pistol and 78 out of my rifle. This made my total round count for the course 248 rifle and 118 pistol. The course brochure advertises 300 each of pistol and rifle. I guess I was making my hits! Obviously, this is not a high round-count class, and is much more about the tactics than the shooting. I ran out of room in my Pelican case, so I gave a partially used box of 5.56 ammo to one of my barracks roommates and two boxes of 9mm to that SAME police officer who had given me back the 3 boxes I’d given him back in November. And around and around we go! I had to bail on the group debrief but did get Paul to sign a copy of Black Hawk Down for me and another for one of my students back home. I got to the airport exactly 2 hours before my flight and was home and in bed by 2 AM Sunday night. Ugh.

Final Thoughts:

I loved this class! I really cannot think of a negative about it. I told Paul afterwards that the name should maybe be something more like “Suburban, Urban, and Rural Defense”, since I felt that all of the things we did were applicable in all areas (some with more utility in some areas than others).

The way the modules were presented allowed each one to build on the next until we got to the final culmination exercises on Sunday (which, it was stressed numerous times, were not “tests”, but just more “training”). It was obvious Paul and his staff put a lot of thought into what they wanted to cover and how best to cover it.

The subject matter might seem a little wild to some. But, I found everything very applicable to my own life, where I might be called upon to rescue my metro-sexual brother from his place of work in “the hood” on any given day of “civil unrest”. If some of the topics seem to the casual reader as a “bit much”, ask yourself why you own a carbine. If not for situations like this, then when?

Safety was never a concern. Paul did a great job setting up the “lanes” of fire, and was always right there, so that even when I was shooting past my partner in the final exercises, no one was in any danger. Indeed, my biggest safety concern was the potential for an alligator attack or a snake-bite, and Paul even carried a revolver with snake-shot on the last day, just in case.

I don’t think Paul fired more than a handful of rounds all weekend. This didn’t bother me in the least. I know he can make all the shots. With only his irons. In his sleep.

As already noted, not only is Paul a fantastic instructor, but his assistants were great as well. They were big on the positive feedback but could couch any criticisms in such a way that they almost sounded like more praise! In teaching, we say that we should give each student at least 5 positives for every negative, and I would say these guys stuck to that philosophy.

I think my favorite aspects of the class were two-fold. First, the classroom work that we did, really picking Paul’s brain on a variety of topics, was invaluable. Plus, the other students helped lend extra expertise (for example, the two South Houston police officers were able to include their experiences during Katrina, showing how quickly even a large metropolitan police department could have its manpower heavily taxed, lending further validity to the importance of a course like this for civilians).

My other favorite aspect of the course was the combination of the shooting with the physical demands. The course outline says that students need to be able to run two miles in 20 minutes or less, and there were a few students who clearly did not take this to heart (to Paul’s credit, he made appropriate accommodations so that they could still benefit from the material without holding everyone else up). I run up to 15 miles per week and even did a half-marathon two years ago, so the cardio aspects of the class were not super-taxing for me. But they were just enough to make me catch my breath a few times before pressing the trigger. I just liked being able to safely run around and shoot, all with a clear purpose, and taking a course like this may have ruined me for all others! The thought of lining up in a “regular” carbine class with 19 other students and shooting targets 50 yards away while practicing malfunction drills just sounds awful right now!

I cannot recommend this class enough for anyone who has most of their basic marksmanship and weapons manipulation skills down and who wants to move beyond a strict square-range mentality and learn from a true master of tactics. I hope I never need the skills taught in this course, but if I ever do, I’ll REALLY need them.


7 thoughts on “AAR: Combat Shooting and Tactics (Paul Howe) “Urban Defense Course”, Nacogdoches, TX, 5/15-5/17, 2015

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