More Scenario-Based Training, Please

Nearly three-fourths of the way through the calendar year, things have been going okay for me.  I have taken 3 classes (see here, here, and here), shot in five matches (I have not written them up…..they are some of our least-read articles), continued to shoot as a member of the training group I joined back in 2018 (have even been instructing a bit, informally, with said group).  However, the summer months brought me a pair of disappointments.

On one my daughter’s last days of the 2020-2021 school-year, she came home with strep throat.  Despite all of the masks, hand-washing, etc., the bacteria hit!  And, naturally, this ailment found its way to me just two days before what would have been my fourth class of the year.  This was another course with Kelly McCann and his Kembativz crew.  Knowing it would be another “up-close and personal” class, I could not in good conscience attend the class and spread the germs.  However, a positive element here is that I was able to forward the money I had already spent on this course to another offering just a few weeks away.  So stay tuned for that.

My second (and larger) disappointment came near the end of July, when the class I was most looking forward to this year was canceled due to lack of enrollment.  This was a repeat of the “Who Are You with a Gun?” course I took last year with Defensive Elements (the training part of Practically Tactical), complete with some new scenarios and some additional instructional blocks (including how to be a good witness). 

Screenshot of me entering a “convenience store” at Alliance last year

I must say that I am baffled.  The class was not overly expensive ($350-ish), and last year’s class went beyond 16 hours (so more than a “typical” 2-day class = extra value).  The venue (Alliance Police Department range) is top-notch.  Lodging in the area is cheap.  The class is excellent (compared favorably by my friend and mentor Gary with the now defunct National Tactical Invitational).  The pandemic—at the time–seemed to be simmering down a bit.  And, best of all, in the middle of an ammunition shortage, it required NO LIVE AMMUNITION!  In short, at least in my opinion (and in accord with this article I wrote earlier this year), it would be the perfect course to take right now.

The course instructors told me they needed at least 8 students to make it viable.  Last year they ran it with 7, and I imagine they would have done the same this year just because they love to teach and work on their craft.  Yet, despite record firearms sales over the last two years and even some interest by new gun owners in exploring training options, somehow 7 people could not sign up for this course.

Perhaps the fact that the class was scheduled for mid-summer had something to do with it.  After all, mid-summer is prime vacation time with many people having put off travel with families during the pandemic, making it much put-off “family time”. 

Nevertheless, it is my belief that there is a bigger issue at play.  Most people will not challenge themselves in these types of classes.  They will insist that they are not yet “good enough” to take scenario-based classes, regarding them as “advanced”.  They instead prefer to wait until they have achieved some nebulous form of proficiency, and even then they will still delay and delay.  Yet often these same people will continue to sign up for classes that have them standing in lines like the French at Waterloo, blazing away from 3-25 yards using proper form, breathing, etc.  If they perform well, they will declare themselves ready to take on all comers.

How I feel in most classes.

I suspect it is mostly Ego that keeps people from challenging themselves in scenario, shoothouse, and similar classes, not to mention shooting competitively.  Who wants to go to a class or match and leave humbled? 

Well, I have!  When I took shoothouse two years ago, I left the class questioning a lot about my prior training and disappointed in my overall performance.  And though I did fairly well in force-on-force last year, there were a few scenarios in which I did a less-than-stellar job, and learning occurred.

As emphasized by the aforementioned Gary, and reiterated on some of the Practically Tactical podcasts (hidden behind a Patreon wall…….$9/month is worth it, people), the problem with waiting to take scenario-based classes is that these same people are already walking around the country with concealed firearms.  In other words, they are walking through live scenarios every day of their lives!  A trip to the grocery store, the gas station, a dog walk, etc.  Each of these IS a scenario!  Yet these same people will not do a scenario-based class!

The answer to the question of when someone is ready to do scenario-based training is NOW!  As long as you can safely handle a firearm, you should get into such training as soon as you can.  I waited WAY too long and am so glad I finally did so.  Scenario-based training provides a golden opportunity to analyze your abilities as they currently exist and then plot a training path forward.  Missed with a lot of your shots?  Time to work on marksmanship.  Slow to recognize when you can pull the trigger?  Time to brush up on use-of-force law.  Issues with using your strong voice and verbal judo?  Time to work on managing unknown contacts.  The list goes on.

If someone came to me today, totally green, new gun owner, just got concealed carry permit, etc., asking me to help chart their path forward, I would do the following.   I would start them with something like NRA Basic Pistol just to learn safety, nomenclature, etc.  Then I might have them work for a few hours with a local instructor one-on-one.  Then some sort of two-day combative pistol course with a Tom Givens, John Murphy, etc.  And then I would send them to force-on-force/scenario-based training.  I would have them use that as an audit of their skills and chart the rest of their path from there.

Unfortunately, besides Ego, the other big issue with force-on-force training is the lack of instructors doing it (well).  There is no doubt that it is significantly easier and cheaper for an instructor to line up 18 students and have them shoot at B-8s or silhouettes than it is to design scenarios and run the students through one at a time.  There is also the chicken/egg issue.  Are students taking “static” classes because that is most of what is offered, or is that what is being offered because that is what students want?  I must confess that I am not entirely sure.  I would also say that there is probably a dearth of facilities that can easily accommodate scenario-based training.

Regardless, I think it might benefit those of us who do train regularly to demand more scenario-based training from the instructor cadre out there.  So I call on all training junkies out there to demand more scenario-based training, and then, when instructors offer it, make sure you sign up for it.  If it is properly planned and executed, you will not be disappointed.

I have heard it said many times that nationally known instructors who attended the National Tactical Invitational were often humbled in the scenarios presented there.  Indeed, some were humbled once and never returned again.  I suppose it might be asking too much for instructors who struggle in scenario-based training to design and implement such training for their own students.  On the other hand, I feel like I have trained with a lot of really smart, thoughtful instructors who, if they put their minds to it, could design and execute very effective scenario-based classes.  My hope would be that, if enough of us ask for this (which requires a check of Ego on OUR parts), they will deliver.

As always, thanks for reading.  What are your thoughts on force-on-force, scenario-based training?  Feel free to share below, as we always welcome civil discourse.

10 thoughts on “More Scenario-Based Training, Please

  1. Good article. I just took a FOF course this weekend with Karl Rehn that was excellent.

    I think another reason for the dearth of FOF offered is that the profit margin must be low. Shipping all the equipment, providing sims ammo at 2 bucks a round, having a facility that works, etc…, is a lot of overhead.

    But I totally agree, it should be a top priority for anyone who carries a handgun.


    1. Salvatore,

      Thanks for the comment.

      I’ve always heard very good things about Karl Rehn’s scenario-based classes. He even did one near to me in VA in September. I didn’t sign up because I feared it would lack certain elements he’s able to use at his home range. Plus I was already signed up for the other class which got canceled, by which time Karl’s class was full!

      Still, it’s looking like I may squeeze in another FoF class before year’s end.

      Thanks again for reading and commenting!



      1. I will be returning to Culpeper VA in June 2022 to teach another session of the Tactical Scenarios course. It’s a full day of scenarios that includes all the same stuff we teach at home, just in a slightly less fancy temporary shoot house.

        As I discussed in my book, Standards and Strategies for Defensive Handgun Training, demand for FOF training is much lower than demand for live fire training, because student egos are at risk in an FOF class. Also, many students that attend live fire classes are not seeking tactics instruction but are mainly wanting trigger time doing fun things with guns, because shooting fast is fun, and there’s a satisfaction one gets from measureable improvement in gun skills, seeking performance goals, and that sort of thing that isn’t present in FOF training. There’s no score and no par time to beat.

        Many potential FOF students feel that they need to be “advanced” to take an FOF class, to have confidence that they will be able to perform reasonably well in the scenarios. There are very few FOF trainers, most teaching at fixed facilities. I’m one of the very few that travels that runs scenarios focused on armed citizens, with a mix of shooting and non-shooting solutions. (Not every scenario ends with shots fired). Hope to see you in next year’s class!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I have taken two senecio based classes and loved them!

    I think the ego factor is bigger than we realize on why people don’t attend those classes as much. If you think about it, most of people’s “practice” consists of bragging rights on their times (draw, splits, etc) and groups.


    1. Nick,

      Agreed. It may not be the only factor, but 8m sure it’s a strong one.

      Thanks for the comment!



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