As discussed by Robert in his own extensive AAR, he and I recently took the opportunity to travel to Alliance, OH to take Will Petty’s VCQB class. In addition to Petty, we also had Chase Jenkins of Talon Defense on the range teaching, as he has recently joined the cadre of Centrifuge Training instructors.
I don’t intend this to be overly repetitive, but I did want to write a little bit about my experiences in class. Robert and I had the entire ride back from Alliance, as well as a few subsequent opportunities, to discuss what we learned. I hope that comes through in our respective AARs. Robert covered the class in depth in his AAR, so this is more just my thoughts on the subject and key points that really stuck in my brain.
My decision to take this class was predicated on several factors. First, I spend a LOT of time in and around vehicles, sometimes armed, and sometimes not. I have a long commute to and from work, and my “office” is in fact a vehicle that I have legitimately in the past had to contemplate using as cover. Second, this wasn’t necessarily a shooting class, but almost a pure tactics and “thinking with a gun in hand” class. I had been aware of VCQB for quite some time, but had really only made it a priority within the last year or so. When it was offered at the Alliance Police Training Facility as an open enrollment class, Robert and I decided to make it happen.
I was gratified to learn in the initial lecture that Petty bases his curriculum on hard data and proven patterns of human behavior. His context is rather specific; that is, stateside gunfights occurring in and around vehicles. What does that mean? Regardless of whether the armed good guy is wearing a uniform, certain patterns become evident when looking at videos of literally thousands of gunfights occurring in and around vehicles. These vehicles are typically not armored, and the bad guys are usually armed with pistols. Rather than protracted engagements, these affairs happen quickly and violently. In that brief time span, a vehicle may in fact be the best cover immediately available and preemptively abandoning that cover is a good way to get tagged. How to best position yourself and respond, based on the established patterns, is the focus of this class.
I hesitate to even bring it up, but a few years ago, there was a lot of controversy surrounding the TTPs espoused by Petty. That controversy seems to have largely settled down, and I don’t want to dredge it back up. But I do want to point out that Robert and I have now taken classes from both sides, so to speak. I think a lot of the differences and controversy were rooted in misunderstanding and miscommunication, rather than outright disagreements about tactics and technique. Short version, both are saying the same thing with very few differences. To further bolster this point, I’m going to conclude this paragraph with a quote from my notes that Petty ended the initial classroom lecture with, “If you don’t have to fight from, off, or around a car… don’t!”
Moving onto the range, we started with some basic positional shooting. This instruction adhered to the KISS principle. We practiced standing, squatting, kneeling, and urban prone. Consistent with prior learning, we were taught to keep the outside knee up when firing from kneeling around cover or concealment.
Before we actually started using these positions working around the cars, there was a brief ballistics demonstration during which Petty, Jenkins, and a couple of students fired everything from training and duty pistol ammo to shotgun and rifle ammunition into the pillars of a car. The poor performance of the pistol calibers didn’t really surprise me, but I was amazed when a 12 gauge slug didn’t penetrate very far into the A-pillar of a Ford Taurus and when it took over 40 rounds of 5.56 to go all the way through the car’s B-pillars to hit a target placed on the opposite side of the car!
Now, some may scoff at the concept of relying on pillars of a vehicle to stop incoming rounds, but the idea starts to take on more credence when you look at “stacking” pillars between you and your adversary and especially when you look at the width of the pillars on modern cars as compared to ballistic armor inserts. A peripheral hit is damned better than a center mass hit, and any part of a car is always better than air! Now, make no mistake, those pistol rounds went through sheet metal like it was paper and ported glass quickly, but not without deflection. The takeaway at the end of the day is that while it may not be ideal, a car can provide effective cover if used properly.
We were given the opportunity to practice our positional shooting while moving around and between four derelict cars that had been put on the range. This is where the temple index and holster index were introduced. More on this later…
Since Petty had an additional instructor there, and since we had the ability at the Alliance Police Training Facility, we were given the opportunity to get some value added with an optional low-light nighttime block of instruction. Petty switched up the schedule to teach working around and outside of the vehicles on day one, and delayed working from inside the vehicles until day two. Although it was optional, all students returned for the low-light block of instruction. The additional block of instruction after a dinner break made for a long day, but it was definitely time well spent.
I had done a little low-light work in a couple of previous classes before, but never around cars. One of the big takeaways for me in this block of instruction was the utility of the FBI position. I had never really had much use for it, but I had also never tried to illuminate a target on the opposite side of a vehicle while holding a gun either! Petty also discussed temple index with the light and the Harries position, explaining when and where each technique would be ideal. All of this was consistent with and built upon my prior low-light instruction. Petty also touched upon using weapon mounted lights, although most students used only handhelds.
Day two began in the classroom again with a discussion of tactics as they relate to working from inside and around vehicles. The point was stressed that fighting from inside the car is far from ideal, but if that’s where the fight kicks off, then dealing with the threat is the priority. Using one large Midwest agency as an example, Petty discussed how statistics should be properly interpreted, and highlighted the fact that tactics must work opposed. To paraphrase his example, your tactics may work great 90% of the time, but if you fail every time in the other 10% where you are opposed, then they suck!
Once out on the range, Chase Jenkins took the lead in explaining precisely how to engage a threat from inside the car and then how to exit the car.
I want to take a moment here and talk about temple index. In class, we were shown essentially three ways to move with the pistol in hand. Namely, temple index, oriented in the direction we were moving if it was clear, and holster index. Temple index in particular has in the past generated some controversy. However, I view this as another area of misunderstanding where proper context is key. After I got home, I actually tried bailing out of my car with my gun held in both a “high port” and in temple index. I have to say, it felt a hell of a lot more stable and controlled with the gun in temple index. I suspect this has something to do with the support hand acting as a counterweight and where my center of gravity is as I exit the vehicle. Also, specifically related to fighting from inside the vehicle, you may need your support hand to control a passenger and punching out to oblique angles over your right shoulder (from the driver’s seat) is much easier from temple index. Having said that, it is NOT a ready position. Rather, it is an administrative or transitional position to be used when moving with the gun. Viewed this way, it has definite utility.
The class paired off, and each student was given the opportunity to engage a steel target from both the driver’s seat and front passenger seat and then bail out to the rear of the vehicle. Once at the rear of the vehicle, we practiced moving around our partner to the opposite side of the vehicle and practiced urban prone from both sides of the vehicle. Petty repeatedly stressed that this was a drill, and not a scenario. This was simply an opportunity to practice moving and communicating with gun in hand.
After a brief lunch break, we were back on the range for Petty’s infamous “Alphabet Soup” drill. Again, a drill, NOT a scenario. The first iteration of the drill was performed sitting in the front seat of a vehicle.
The last drill of the day was another “Alphabet Soup” drill performed moving around and between multiple vehicles placed on the range. In addition to being a discrimination and thinking drill, it also incorporated virtually all the skills we had learned and practiced in the past two days.
One of the things that I really liked about this class was that after every major block of instruction, Petty would gather the students around and solicit feedback from each individual. This was quite valuable, as it exposed students to other perspectives and learning points, and for me helped to coalesce the experience in my brain.
Obviously, safety on the range was of paramount concern since we were moving around cars and each other with guns out. One of the safety related aspects that I found interesting and refreshing was how Petty and Jenkins approached the subject of administrative gun handling. Short version, it’s a bit ridiculous to have to walk 30 yards to a berm to load or unload a gun. Rather, keep it pointed in the safest direction possible and do what you need to do. To steal a line from Robert, I agree that it’s a bit disingenuous to trust students to move around each other with loaded guns but at the same time not trust them to handle their weapons appropriately off the line. At any rate, Petty and Jenkins were sticklers about muzzle direction and indexing the trigger finger. This contributed to an overall safe range environment and class.
The equipment list for this class is not insignificant, and I would advise potential students to adhere to the advice to wear long sleeves, at least when working from inside the vehicles. I brought knee pads, but I didn’t wind up using them. For my part, I used my S&W M&P9 2.0 Compact carried in the excellent JM Custom Kydex AIWB “George” holster. I remain convinced that I shoot this gun better than I do the comparable Glock 19. I used Blazer Brass 147 grain ammunition and suffered no malfunctions. For the low-light portion, I was quite satisfied with the performance of the Streamlight ProTac 1L -1AA that rides in my pocket every day. Finally, I recently ordered and received a Daltech Force SuperBio EDC Gun Belt and wore it for the first time in this class. So far, so good.
I also tried something new that I learned about from Greg Ellifritz. Both days on the range were hot and humid with a lot of sun. On day one, I didn’t put any sunblock on until very late in the day. I also took a total of 60,000 units of Vitamin D throughout the course of the day. I got a little red, but I didn’t get sunburned! I will confess that I augmented the Vitamin D with an application of sunblock on the morning of day two, but again, no sunburn despite a full day in the sun. I think that there may be some definite validity to the theory that high dose Vitamin D can prevent sunburn.
Also on the equipment front, another stroke of luck was having a representative from Velocity Systems in class as a student. He was kind enough to provide us with some swag in the form of shirts and hats, as well as sharing his advice and knowledge regarding the purchase of armor. While my needs for a plate carrier and armor would likely be limited to taking further classes, I suppose one never knows what the future might hold. Accordingly, I may very well explore the purchase of a plate carrier and some armor in the near future.
I also need to give a shout out to Joe Weyer and the Alliance Police Training Facility. Despite having heard of it and read about it several times in the past, this was my first visit to the facility. Having now seen what is available there, it won’t be my last! Joe Weyer has done a phenomenal job of constantly improving the facility and hosts an impressive range of specialized classes, many of which are open enrollment. This is not typical for most police facilities, and provides an invaluable resource to the armed civilian interested in furthering their training.
In conclusion, I’m going to leave our readers with the same sentiment that I expressed to Will Petty and Chase Jenkins at the end of class… I got a lot out it, and I wish every cop I know and work with would take the class. Even if you’re not a cop, if you carry a gun every day and if you drive a car, I think this class has a lot of value. We live in a vehicle centric society, and that’s not likely to change anytime soon.
As always, thanks for reading! Some links in the text above are Amazon Affiliate links, which allow you to shop online and benefit the blog at no extra cost to you. Neither Robert nor I have any affiliation with Centrifuge Training or Alliance Police Training, other than being paying students. If you’re not already, please follow our efforts here on the blog either by email or through social media. Questions, comments, and civil discourse are welcome.