AAR: Practically Tactical “Listener Shoothouse Class” (Joe Weyer), Alliance, OH, 3/29-31/19

In this article I wrote back in January, I mentioned how some of my training may start moving in new directions.  The differences may turn out to be subtle, but they exist.  At the time I wrote that article, my training plans for the year had not yet been fully formulated.  This was partly due to not being sure in exactly which directions to go, and also by the fact that many instructors had still not finalized their training calendars.  A few weeks after writing that article, the Practically Tactical Listener Shoothouse class went live.  I waited about two days before signing up.  I am glad I did not wait three, for by then the class was full.

This three-day class was held at the excellent Alliance Police Range in Alliance, Ohio (seriously, the range facilities are awesome, and I cannot imagine a better restroom existing at any range anywhere in the world!).  The cost of the class was $300, which I paid in full.  The lead instructor for the class was Joe Weyer of Alliance Police Training and Weyer Tactical.  He was helped by an assortment of assistants throughout the weekend.  These assistants included Nick and Jesse from Practically Tactical, some local training junkies who have trained with Joe countless times, and also members of the Alliance Police Department.  I will note here that I am not in any way affiliated with Practically Tactical, the Alliance Police Range, or Joe Weyer’s company Weyer Tactical, except as a satisfied, paying customer.

My own prior experience with structures included two classes with Paul Howe at Combat Shooting and Tactics (see here and here) and also the Armed Movement in Structures class taught by Craig Douglas of Shivworks.  In those cases, all of the structure work was done as a solo operator and not as part of a team.


Mandatory gear for the class included a carbine with a light attached, a pistol with or without a light attached, a handheld light, ballistic helmet, plate carrier with Level IV plates, eye protection, ear protection, tourniquet and blow-out kit, 500 rounds each of carbine and pistol ammunition, glow sticks, and the typical appropriate clothing for weather conditions.  For a carbine, I used one of my Franken-AR-15s, consisting of a Spikes Tactical lower (includes ALG-ACT trigger, but otherwise nothing fancy), Colt 14.5 upper with pinned flash hider, BCM Mod 4 charging handle, Aimpoint T-1 red dot sight (2 MOA), Daniel Defense fixed front and rear sights, Sheriff of Baghdad sling, and Surefire X-300UA (600 lumen model).  My handgun was my OD Gen 3 Glock 19 with Ameriglo I-Dot Pro sights, recently updated with a KKM barrel and a Tau Development Group Striker Control Device.  It also had a Streamlight TLR-1HL mounted for most of the class.  For a handheld light I used my Fenix PD-35 Tac with Thyrm Switchback 2.0 Large.  For a ballistic helmet, plate carrier, and plates, I borrowed some from the many that Joe has available for students like me who lack these items.  I used Wolf Gold 55 grain ammunition for the carbine and PMC Bronze 115 grain FMJ ammunition in my Glock.

For those curious, all but one of the students used some type of AR.  I recall seeing at least one SBR and several AR pistols.  The one student not using an AR was using a Magpul-ized AK.  Pistols seemed to be mostly Glocks and Smith and Wesson M&Ps, with a large number of RMRs present on them.


I only tend to write about the weather when it is an issue.  It was an issue.  Each time I called home over the long weekend my wife shared with me all about the lovely weather back home, and posts on my Facebook feed from others back home confirmed great weather.  Unfortunately, for those of us in Alliance, Ohio, the weather was not great.  Friday featured intermittent rain, heavy at times, and so Joe altered the order of instructional blocks in order to keep us comfortable in the classroom as much as possible.  Saturday featured even more rain than Friday, with high temperatures both days in the low 50s.  Sunday boasted no rain.  Instead, the temperature hovered near freezing all day, with lake-effect snow falling lightly at times.

The Elephant in the Room

Why was I taking a shoothouse class?  The question has to be asked, right?  I do not generally operate as part of a two-man team, never wear ballistic protection, rarely keep my carbine handy for use, and am not a member of anything resembling a special-mission unit.  The answer rests with one of my mentors, someone I have mentioned in passing in a few recent articles.  As he is a guy who has shot at people, shot people, and been shot at, who was also a multi-year winner of the National Tactical Invitational (among countless other such accomplishments), I tend to earnestly listen to what he has to say.  When we first met, he watched me shoot about 20 rounds out of one of my Glocks and told me, “You’re good enough.  Stop it with the flat-range classes.  Start taking classes where you are thinking with a gun in your hand.”  He specifically recommended taking a Practically Tactical shoothouse class with Joe Weyer as lead instructor.  As it happened, my friend made the trek with me and at times assisted with the class, watched most or all of my runs through the house, and provided his own feedback to me between runs (which often consisted of sage advice like, “Slow down”, “Get your head out of your ass”, etc.).

For another perspective on a similar shoothouse class from November 2018 (featuring the APD shoothouse and Joe Weyer), I would suggest reading Professor David Yamane’s series of articles here, here, here, and here. There aren’t too many sociologists taking shoothouse classes (not to mention the other classes he takes), so you should give his blog a visit.

Day One

As noted above, Joe altered the order of instructional blocks in a mostly successful effort at keeping us out of the rain as much as possible (thanks, Joe!).  Knowing the day would be a long one, Joe saw no need to have us wet and miserable throughout.  I mention this for two reasons.  First, others who have taken or in the future may take this course might be presented with the blocks of instruction in a different sequence.  Second, kudos to Joe for taking care of his students!

The class began promptly at 0800 with Joe providing a brief introduction of himself and the other major players in the class followed by a brief explanation of the schedule for the day.  Joe also emphasized safety right from the beginning.  He stressed that we would be working LONG days and that we would go as long each day as he felt we had our heads in the game.  Anyone really struggling with safety would be asked to leave or to complete the class shooting Simunitions.

There were 18 students in the class, and Joe had us break up into teams of two.  Many of the students in the class showed up with pre-selected partners (there was one husband and wife pair and one father and son pair, plus several pairs of friends).  I did not, so I teamed with a guy named Chris, and for the rest of the class we would be “Team 7”.  Many of the students had taken this course before; several had taken it more than twice before.  Chris and I were both first-timers.

The Alliance Police Department Training Classroom.

Joe got into the first lecture posthaste, the “Principles of Close-Quarters Battle” (CQB).  These were pretty straightforward and did not require a ton of explanation.  They were:

  1. Get as many guns into the fight as possible;
  2. Support your partner (by doing YOUR job);
  3. Engage threats by priority: people/dogs, portals, and places;
  4. Violence of Action

It was important to cover these early, as there were times, when going through tactical Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), that we had to be reminded why we do things a certain way.

Joe delivering the knowledge.

We then moved on to an extended presentation on Reducing the Structure.  Numerous people had told me in advance that Joe’s practice of teaching “shapes” is one of the most intuitive ways of doing this.  Joe breaks down these problems into three shapes:  Ls, Ts (two different versions of these), and 4-ways.  I should add here (because I struggled with visualization at times) that these are not exclusive to structures.  These shapes exist throughout our lives on streets, in parking lots, and other places we frequent that are not nearly as channelized as the halls and rooms of a structure.  Using the white board and one of his assistant instructors, Joe diagramed and then demonstrated the SOPs for each of these shapes.  I will say here that the process for reducing each of these shapes seemed very well thought-out and could be executed in daylight, reduced-light, darkness, under night-vision, etc.  This was very much in keeping with techniques taught in previous coursework I had taken, such as by Paul Howe, who always stressed how important it is to NOT have different procedures for different situations (such as the amount of available light).

The final lecture of the morning covered communication between partners.  Joe emphasized the importance of communicating in clear, concise language only mission-critical information.  The difference between saying to a partner, “I’ve got a door on my left” and, “I’ve got a closed threat pull door at 9 o’clock” was illustrated to us, as was the difference between saying, “Man down” versus “I’ve got a threat down at 12 o’clock.”  We were also introduced to the appropriate verbiage to use with our partners when trying to get out of a “shape”.

If my memory serves, it was at this point that we went outside, as a light mist had replaced the earlier rain.  Moving out to one of the flat ranges, we got to practice taking the different shapes and using the necessary language with our partners.  The main, flat range at Alliance has “lanes” of what are essentially sidewalk sections, and with a few cross sections in place we were able to visualize the shapes and practice them in small groups, each assigned one of the assistant instructors.  Chris and I spent most of this time with Jesse, and he was giving us many pointers about the speed with which we were moving, the angles of approach to each shape, not getting ahead of our partners (Chris had a much longer stride than me, so it was something he had to adjust for), etc.  It was also during this time that we were introduced to and practiced the various carry and ready positions Joe teaches.  While “high ready” is a thing, in the shoothouse it would be strictly forbidden.  Fellow classmates on the catwalk above, trying to get a bird’s eye view after their own runs, made raising the muzzle much higher than parallel with the deck a serious safety violation (a yellow line around the interior of shoothouse was not to be violated by our muzzles).

Returning to the classroom, Joe went over the first of several lessons on how to work doors.  Doors are divided into push and pull variety, whether they are closed or ajar, and by their position in the space we are working.  If a door is isolated, then it is an isolated pull or push door.  If there are areas near the door that we do not have information about, then it is a threat pull or push door.  Joe started us on isolated push doors, describing in great detail where each of us would be positioned and what the actions of each of us should be.

We then went through our actions once the room was breached.  Referred to as room procedures, these begin the moment the plane of the door is breached by ourselves or any of our equipment.  How to enter the room was covered as well as where to position ourselves once inside the room.  Once inside, our tasks were to “dig” our corners and collapse our areas of responsibility with a primary and secondary scan, followed by communication with our partner.  One takeaway for me from this block of instruction was how important our placement in relation to our partner would be in both room placement as well as in the hallways and other shapes.  It had never occurred to me before that not only were we covering our partner’s back with potential fire, but also protecting him/her with our bodies and body armor!  Sobering.

Following this, we moved into the shoothouse for the first time.  Everything done to this point had been done with dry weapons, with buddy checks and then chamber flags installed.  Our first trip into the shoothouse was no different, and this gave us the chance to work on the pull doors as well as the shapes with our partners, all under the guidance of Joe and the rest of the staff.  At this point, I felt pretty good about recognizing the shapes but less confident remembering the procedures for each.

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Joe (left) and Jesse doing a demo on room procedures.

Joe then gave us time to don all of our kit and then sent us out to the flat range, this time to be introduced to the strict marksmanship standards he demands.  First, we reviewed Joe’s preferred “load and make ready” procedure, which he stressed was important to do the same EVERY time.  His preference is to start by checking to be sure all Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) was on (eye protection, ear protection, helmet, plates, tourniquet, blow-out kit).  Next, we would load our pistols followed by our carbines, always loading from our emergency reload spot (to build in a rep as well as ensure that that spot could be easily accessed) and then backfilling that spot from elsewhere.  After the carbines were loaded, Joe emphasizes performing a no-look confirmation that the bolt is forward (done by touch), and then closing the dust cover.  (This brief check would also be performed as a post-engagement check after each target in the shoothouse was shot and the area visually cleared.  More on this later.)  This was also the time to make sure that our lights were in working order and that the dots in our optics were of an adequate brightness.  We would perform this same “load and make ready” procedure before each of our runs through the house over the three days.

On the flat range, we used EAG targets (see photo).  I have used these targets before, and they do make life difficult!  As you can see, once you are back a few yards, the scoring zones are impossible to discern, as are most of the hits you make.  Everything is masked by the multicam pattern.  This is by design, of course.  Once in the shoothouse for real, the targets would be “photograph”-style targets that lack scoring dots, rings, etc.  We would have to put our shots where they needed to be, just like in “real life”.

On the flat range, our misses were counted along the way.  We started with our carbines, shooting at perhaps 50 yards.  We progressed in further and further, shooting at the main target as well as the geometric shapes alongside, finishing up at around 3 yards (with headshots).  Knowing height-over-bore issues would be critical on these close shots which, of course, mimic many of the shots we would be taking inside the shoothouse.  We fired approximately 100 rounds through our carbines.  Next, we transitioned to our handguns, where I fired the only 45 handgun rounds I would fire all weekend.  Again, we shot at the head, the “torso”, and also at the various geometric shapes next to the main target, from about 3 yards out to about 25.  Our misses were tallied along the way (and when we went inside the classroom, we were introduced to the “scoreboard”, where all of our misses and transgressions would be tallied all weekend!).  I finished the live-fire segment with 6 misses with my Glock and 11 with my carbine (again, looking at the target, you can see that none of my “misses” were egregious.  As I would find in the shoothouse, if I did not hit what I needed to hit, I would receive a “failure to neutralize”, even though, in most other classes, my hits would be considered pretty good).

My EAG target after the first magazine or two out of my carbine.

With that, we moved back inside the classroom to begin the shoothouse portion of the class.  This group  was very fortunate that so many assistant instructors were available to Joe.  Because of this bounty of help, Joe was able to get two teams going at a time for these early, simple runs through the house.  To readers who might have alarm bells going off about safety, before you read about the safety briefs, please note that Joe set up these early runs so that at no time would there be fewer than two walls between each of the teams operating in different parts of the house.  There were also clear delineations of “off-limits” areas.  Viewed later from the catwalk, he essentially had one team working a room in the northeast corner of the house and another team working a room in the southwest corner.  I will mention here that the shoothouse is about 8100 square feet and has six rooms, doors, corridors, and a catwalk above for observers.

View through the catwalk of another team moving through the structure.

As would be the case for the rest of the weekend, Joe had to give the class a scenario that would compel us to enter the shoothouse.  After all, in the real world, none of us would go into such a house unless some pretty incredible circumstances had taken place.  Thus, the scenarios that Joe built for us were a bit outlandish (generally involving a kidnapped loved one and an on-strike police force), but that was by design.  As we progressed through the different runs, the scenarios gained more and more complexity.

Before starting our shoothouse runs, Joe gave us no less than FIVE different safety briefs.  We first received a firearms safety brief, which was the four rules of firearms safety with an added fifth rule:  do NOT try to catch a dropped firearm.  As we would be moving in a tight environment, bumping into doors, walls, and each other, the possibility for a dropped firearm was very real.  Next came the shoothouse safety brief, with rules specific to this particular shoothouse (the yellow line was mentioned, among many other things).  Next came the CQB safety brief, the main tenet of which was to never bring your firearm up from a low carry position when behind your partner.  Next, we went through a target brief, one of the main points of which was to not shoot any targets that we thought might be out of position (fallen due to the wind, etc.).  Finally, we had a medical brief where our immediate action upon any injuries suffered was described in great detail.  Of all of the classes I have ever taken, this was, BY FAR, the most attention to safety I have ever experienced.  Joe regarded it as so vital that he repeated all five safety briefs before our first trips into the shoothouse each of the three days.

The Scenarios

Most of the remainder of the class consisted of the scenarios/runs.  Our class was apparently somewhat unusual in that, because we had demonstrated good safety on the square range and because there were so many assistant instructors available, we ended up doing two runs through the shoothouse that first day—one of them at night!  Joe was rewarded in his trust in us by not having to blow the airhorn (safety violation) at all that first day/night.

I am not going to go into a blow-by-blow account of each scenario.  As already mentioned, they got more and more complex as the course progressed.  The first one consisted of a simple isolated closed push door with a single room beyond.  On this first room I was the breacher while Chris was the assaulter.  Here I made a mistake in misunderstanding the instructions.  We were told something like, “engage each target with two rounds”, which somehow—inexplicably—I took to mean “get two good hits”.  Dissatisfied with the two shots I put into the chest of my target, I transitioned up and put two more in his face.  This cost me two “failure to follow SOP” marks, and because my chest shots were—as I saw—not quite where they needed to be, I also got a “failure to neutralize” penalty.  Were we learning yet?  As if these issues were not enough, I also forgot to do my post-engagement check of my carbine.  Joe insists upon this post-engagement check after engaging a target and visually clearing the area, but before moving.  He said he has seen too many SWAT team members in the shoothouse engage a target, NOT check their carbines, and then stroll through the rest of the house not realizing that they had a double-feed or other issue.  Bad juju.

Once we were all back from our first run, we had a group debrief, where we all got to learn about each others’ mistakes along the way.  This was helpful in that we could see that no one was having a perfect run.  One thing I will note here is that NOTHING in this class was on the clock.  The square range shooting was all “at your own pace”, and nothing in the shoothouse was timed.  And yet, we ALL rushed!  Here we were often presented with targets no more than about 15 feet away, we were armed with carbines, and yet MANY of us, throughout the course, could not make the necessary hits (generally off by an inch in one direction or another).

Before going out for our first night scenario, Joe presented a lecture block on low-light issues and techniques.  This included the uses for light (to search, identify, communicate, navigate, and control), barriers to light (air humidity, pollen, other sources of light, dust, smoke, etc.), and the uses of indirect light.

Our second run (our first at night) presented us with a similar problem to our first run.  Again, we had an isolated closed push door.  This time I was the assaulter and, after entry, got much better hits than my first run.  I found that operating at night forced us to move more slowly, since you can only move as fast as your light allows you to move.  So our scans of the room post entry were more deliberate, allowing us more time to take in information and communicate with our partners.  I was finding, however, that my x300U was not quite up to the challenge.  More on that later.

Once everyone was back in the classroom, we again debriefed our runs with everyone else, with each team taking a turn describing their experience, mistakes, etc.  I found these sessions very useful throughout the course.  We ended day one at 2200, a 14 hour day (there was no lunch break.  We just ate when we wanted/needed to).

Day Two

Because the plan was for day two to include more night runs and might go until 0200 Sunday, we started a bit later, at 1000.  Day two began with a quick question and answer session for any lingering questions from day one.  Joe then reviewed the room procedures with us and also just some observations from day one.  Among these were students scanning through their optics rather than over the top, issues with keeping carbine muzzles fully depressed when behind teammates, and issues mounting the carbine from different positions.  We did a personal and then buddy check to be sure our carbines were empty (again, with chamber flags inserted), and Joe ran us through some dry “up” drills from various positions.

Satisfied, Joe gave us the five safety briefs followed by the scenario for our third run of the course.  The scenario would be the same for run three and run four, with the only difference being the part of the house we would be assaulting.  On the third run I failed to do my post-engagement chamber check, failed to knock down my target after it had been engaged, and did not, in my haste, do a good job of accounting for my sight offset.  Basically, I committed a trifecta of sins, and promised myself to do better on the fourth run.  On the fourth run I got good hits and remembered to do my post-engagement check.  With these two runs we got our introduction to dealing with shapes within a room.  There was now furniture in the room that created dead spaces that could not be seen from our positions at or near the doorway.  Thus, possible threats could exist in an L, T, or 4-way within the room, which we now had to reduce.  I must say that I had trouble, at times, visualizing the shapes within the room, and it was not until much later in the course when Joe clarified his language that I started to do better with this.

Chris (left) and I making entry under the ever watchful eyes of Joe (watching me) and Nick.

Back to the classroom, and after another debrief, Joe presented a block of instruction on isolated pull doors.  The roles of the breacher and assaulter were again presented in exhausting detail, and we got some time practicing these types of doors dry using some doors in the classroom.  I found working a pull door easier than a push door.  As a breacher on a push door, it is impossible to know how heavy the door is, how hard you need to push it, etc.  On a pull door, the breacher is in control of the door the entire time and so can time everything just a bit more effectively.

Joe then presented us with the next scenario which we would use for runs 5 and 6.  On run 5 I got to be the breacher on a pull door.  For the first time, we started outside the shoothouse and had to make our approach to an open door, enter a hallway, and then breach said pull door and clear a room.  I did a bit better this time, although I only made one of my two hits in an adequate area.  On run 6 I was the assaulter and got good hits on two different targets.  Unfortunately, I failed to realize that the second target was wearing body armor when I shot him in the chest:  failure to neutralize!  They were good hits in the high center chest, too!  Dammit!

One of the other teams working a door and preparing to begin room procedures.

After another debrief, we proceeded to two night/darkness problems for scenarios 7 and 8.  These were much more complicated problems that would require an approach to the house and entry into it, followed by negotiating at least 3 rooms and 2 hallways with several shoot/don’t shoot targets within the structure.  By now the rain was falling intensely and the structure was beginning to flood a bit.  In spots, the water level was at mid-calf, meaning that my waterproof boots did nothing to keep my feet from getting wet and cold.  As bad as it was for us, the instructors in the house who had to endure this for hours (we were only out in it for 10-15 minutes each) had it even worse!  Kudos to those guys for their dedication.

On run 8 I probably had my best performance of the weekend.  For one thing, our team was one of only two that did not shoot “Bob”, the no-shoot target within the structure.  Because of the shape of the structure and the manner in which we moved, we each got turns being breacher or assaulter as we moved.  Thus, I was the assaulter going through the first doorway, breacher at the first closed door (push), assaulter going through another open doorway, primary going around an L bend, and then breacher at the final door (pull).

It was on this run, with the rain and darkness, that it became abundantly clear that my x300U was not up to the challenge. I believe Joe referred to it not as a weapon-mounted light but as “an Amish candle”.  I was quite sure that I had installed new batteries the week before the class, and so did not feel compelled to change the batteries again at class.  Still, I could not understand how a light with an advertised 600 lumens was so impotent in this class.  I should have changed the batteries just to see if that made a difference.  Instead, I foolishly did not, and returned home only to discover that the light I had changed batteries on was the similar x300U mounted to my AR pistol, which I had initially been planning to take with me to the class.  I changed the batteries at home and now it works much better.  I think I still would have struggled a bit even with full power, but I definitely would not have been handicapped the way I was on these two runs.

Run 8 was run under the same scenario but in a different part of the house. Again we made entry from the exterior and soon came to a T intersection.  As we popped our corners, my inadequate light was able to discern a target but not identify it.  With my partner having no targets on his side, I called him over (with his much brighter Streamlight HLX) to illuminate my hallway.  We then identified the target as a threat and engaged it.  This target was near the end of the longest corridor in the structure which probably put it around 15 yards away.  One of our rounds missed the person completely; we were unsure who missed, so I “took” the miss on my scorecard.  We then made entry into a room (I was the assaulter on this one) and my light again was not up to the challenge of truly identifying the targets in front of me.  When my partner started shooting, I did too, and somehow managed some decent hits (with my light issues, I swear one of the targets looked more like Picasso’s “Guernica” than a person!).

As everyone was cold and wet, Joe decided to postpone our debrief until 0900 on Sunday.  We left the range between 0100 and 0130 Sunday after having started the day at 1000 on Saturday.  Thus, a 16 hour day!

I was so wet when I got to the hotel that some extreme measures were in order.  After removing my insoles from my boots and using hotel washcloths to soak up the water inside them, I put a running hair dryer inside one boot while I showered, then ran it in the other while I took care of other evening administrative needs (mainly arranging my other articles of clothing around the heating vent, which I cranked up to “high”).  Incredibly, by morning, everything was again dry.

Day Three

Day three began at 0900 with a debrief from our last run of the evening.  Joe then reviewed some key points before moving on to a lecture about closed threat doors (pull, followed by push).  We got to practice these dry on the doors in the classroom.  We then received our final scenario of the day, followed by the five part safety brief.

Sunday morning snow.

This final run was the most complicated thus far.  It included isolated and threat doors (push and pull), some shoot and no-shoot targets, the search for “intel”, and the seeking out of a hostage.  I made a few mistakes on this run but also did a few things well.  The thing I did best was engaging a non-threat target with verbiage, taking over that situation (at least a handful of people in other groups shot him).  However, we failed to secure any of the intel (I walked right past ALL of it!) and also entered a room that had a fairly obvious (only obvious to me after the fact!) bomb inside it.

We did a debrief of this run and then a debrief of the class.  These last few runs took longer as they involved more rooms/hallways.  Because more of the house was now in play, we could only do one team at a time.  After the debrief, Joe gave us a choice:  those of us who had long drives home or otherwise felt satisfied could leave, while those who wanted to stay could stay and do a 10th run.  At this point, I felt like I was running on fumes and also had a long drive home.  So I, along with at least half the class, opted out and hit the road.  We finished all instruction by about 1700, so a solid 8 hour day.

Pat Rogers’ legacy is evident all over APD range.

Some Thoughts

Still reading?  Thanks for hanging in there.

My goals for this class were to be safe and to get in some good practice at “thinking with a gun in my hands”.  The bonus would be learning all of these CQB procedures.  I met my first goal in being very safe throughout.  I did receive one safety violation, bringing my carbine down a half-a-beat late when my partner made entry into a room in front of me.  I actually called it out before any of the instructors did, and though they saw it, they appreciated that I realized what had happened.  My second goal was also met, as I got plenty of chances to think with a gun in my hands.  However, I was not particularly impressed with my performance.

Nothing that we did in this class was particularly complicated.  The complexity came in the layering of “problems” and in the fact that we never got to practice anything to mastery (to do so would have taken months!).  We would be introduced to an SOP, practice it a bit dry, and then do it in the shoothouse while also having to remember our “mission”, shoot accurately, NOT shoot when shooting was not needed, verbally challenge potential targets, recall all of the other SOPs already covered (stand here when you are a breacher, stand here when you are the assaulter, etc.), maintain all safety standards, and communicate with our partners, all under the watch of at least two instructors never more than an arm’s reach away.  With no time standards to complete anything, all stress was really self-induced.  Fatigue became a factor in terms of the length of the training days as well as physically, on some of the longer scenarios, having to keep the carbine up and ready to fight.

This was probably the most challenging class I have ever taken, and I can see why so many students take it repeatedly (I plan to return).  Of those instructors I have trained with in the past, the only one I can think of who challenges his students in a similar manner is Craig Douglas.  Much like with the one course I have thus far taken with Craig, I found this class mentally and physically exhausting.  Throw in the weather issues, and it was like a perfect storm.

“Scoreboard” at the end of class.

Incredibly, Joe does not get paid for these classes in the classic sense.  The $300 goes to the Alliance Police Department, not to him.  The assistant instructors, including the aforementioned Nick and Jesse along with Cory, Tom, Vinny, and Matt, received NO pay.  They were just there because they love it and they love Joe.  Some of these guys were standing calf-deep in nearly ice-cold water for three hours straight, all for the love of what they were doing!  Find me another group of instructors who do this.

I suppose questions could be raised about whether practicing “solving problems with a gun in my hands” in a shoothouse is directly applicable to my own personal daily mission.  I cannot say for sure.  What I can say is that someone I (and MANY others) consider a true authority on this subject believes that these problem-solving skills are applicable, and until I prove him otherwise, I am going with it!

As far as takeaways, I will continue to practice:

  1. Offset with my carbine at various short ranges.
  2. Not disengaging my safety until I have made the decision to shoot (Joe found that, across countless classes—including ours—those students who on the flat range disengaged their safety when transitioning from a ready position to a firing position were much more likely to shoot no-threat targets than those who wait). This is not usually an issue for me, but something to be mindful of moving forward.
  3. Maybe getting a new light. Joe is in the camp that pistol lights belong on pistols.  Mine was obviously underperforming due to a totally preventable (by me) battery issue, and Joe did acknowledge that shooting in an open top shoothouse with dark walls tends to cause light dispersion.  I am not sure if shooting in such conditions–in the rain with bad batteries–is a realistic approximation of what I need a light to do.  However, Joe also said that, on real operations, he never wished for less light.  So we shall see.
  4. I will continue to study and practice the SOPs. The Monday after class I was strolling through my school examining the shapes and trying to immediately identify every type of door.  I have also been practicing identifying the shapes in my own home, while walking the dog, going to the grocery store, etc.  In all of these cases, I have also been mentally rehearsing the SOPs for handling each of these situations.  Getting this stuff instilled in my mind is the only way I will perform better next time.

The Numbers

The class cost $300.  We were either directly receiving instruction, studying, practicing, or moving through the shoothouse for 38 hours over three days.  Previous three-day courses I have taken tended to run to the $700-800 range and 24 hours of instruction.  This class screamed “VALUE!”

I fired 143 rounds out of my carbine and 45 from my pistol.  I fired a total 28 of those carbine rounds inside the shoothouse.  Clearly this was not a blazefest.  Neither of my firearms suffered any malfunctions, despite the weather conditions.

Final Thoughts

As my training journey continues, I plan to take more courses that require me to “think with a gun in my hands”, as I do see the value in it.  While I can always improve as a pure shooter (and would like to), most people who have “seen the elephant” say that, once you achieve a certain level of shooting skill, the shooting part of “the problem” is the easy part.  I see no reason to dismiss their opinions.

If practicing decision-making is something you would like to try your hand at, I would highly recommend this course.  Your decision-making, problem-solving, tactics, stamina, and marksmanship will all be challenged in ways you cannot fathom.   Personally, I am looking forward to another one of these appearing on the calendar.

One note:  we barely used our pistols in this class, though they were available for a transition if a carbine “went down” in the shoothouse (this happened to one student, who inexplicably chose to “fix” his carbine rather than transition to his handgun).  However, a student CAN do the class with only a handgun.  Joe did mention, however, that it is easier for the students and instructors to control the muzzle of carbines.  Also, some of the shots would probably be tough for some students to make with a handgun.  I would definitely like to try this course with a handgun someday.

Finally, special thanks to the guys from Practically Tactical for hosting this class. It was great to finally meet Jesse and Nick. While I sometimes find their shows a bit “rambly”, I appreciate their calling, which is to encourage people to obtain training to be the best self-defenders they can be.

As always (and especially after these 6600+ words!), thanks for reading.  If you have any questions or comments, please post them below or on our Facebook page, as we always welcome civil discourse.  I should also mention that I made MANY deliberate omissions of material covered in this course, both for brevity as well as protecting the SOPs/tactics themselves.  I am also sure I made some mistakes due to a faulty memory combined with incomplete notes.  In those cases, any errors are mine and mine alone.

11 thoughts on “AAR: Practically Tactical “Listener Shoothouse Class” (Joe Weyer), Alliance, OH, 3/29-31/19

  1. Thorough and I enjoyed reading it, not the least for the good memories it brought back to me. Thanks for mentioning my own posts on the course. I was fortunate to have my tuition waived, but you are exactly right that $300 is a great value for the course. Even though you are not constantly in motion, you can learn so much from watching other teams do the runs so the time is not wasted.

    Side question: Is your mentor/friend’s initials GG?


    1. Professor Yamane,
      I almost ended up at the class you attended. My mentor (GG indeed) tried to drag me there, but it was at too short of notice for my schedule. And yes, time not doing the runs was spent practicing with partners or watching other teams. Much to absorb, no doubt.


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