Force-on-force scenario-based training (SBT) with Ultimate Training Munitions (UTM) is a core component of defensive firearms training. Unless you are an astronaut or a member of a special operations unit regularly pummeling the enemy in combat, this training will likely be one of the most influential experiences of your entire life. If this sounds like hyperbole, let’s talk about it once you have experienced it and you can tell me how I didn’t even come close to adequately promoting the magnitude of the learning opportunity.
SBT includes good guys and bad guys playing their respective roles. They might involve events like bank holdups, road rage, street robbers posing as panhandlers, home invasions and everything else in-between. Shooting simulators are great but nothing replaces two or more humans interacting with one another in the heat of the moment. The potential actions and reactions are unlimited. If it comes time to “fight,” there is nothing like engaging with a moving, turning, ducking, yelling human body.
UTM provides conversion kits for real handguns and rifles that shoot blanks and marking projectiles that fly at speeds right around 350 feet per second. The conversions are not capable of firing live ammunition as a safety precaution but operate exactly as the firearm would with live ammo, even with noticeable felt recoil. This aspect allows for proper reload and malfunction drills to be completed when appropriate. The guns are also remarkably accurate. If you miss at fighting distances with these things, it’s the operator, not the equipment.
While the primary mission of SBT is to use your most powerful weapon—your brain—to avoid having to resort to lethal force, there is a reason we choose to carry self-defense firearms. Sometimes, violence is the only remaining option. During these times in SBT, the UTM equipment allows us to experience most of what happens to our bodies and minds in a gunfight without actually being in one. A little warning here is that in the middle of a super-heated scenario, your mind might make you believe you’re in a real fight. This is what sets SBT apart from anything else we do.
The one comment I’ve heard from students more than just about any other is that they simply could not believe how realistic things seemed. It’s as if our “thinking” brain shuts down and is no longer capable of sending the “this is not real” message to the rest of our body and mind. The fact that marking rounds can find places on our body, like hands and back, that are not perfectly protected by safety equipment inspires apprehension associated with trying to avoid pain and this is a big part of the realism recipe.
One of the brain-training components of the scenarios is learning how to articulate commands to a perceived threat in an assertive, confident tone. This is the sort of thing that can help prevent having to resort to lethal force in the first place. Simply yelling, “STOP! Don’t come any closer! Don’t make me hurt you!” can be the thing that turns a bad guy around in the hopes that there will be easier prey somewhere else. Students can learn the value of not looking and acting like an easy target.
The goal is for a student to be able to at least subconsciously refer back to the SBT during real-world events in order to be more prepared for them. Every scenario that is run incrementally increases the odds that the students will dominate and prevail if the fight is ever forced upon them. I cannot count how many times I have referred back to the SBT training I have experienced, and it most certainly has kept me from being forced into a situation of having to use my firearms to defend myself or others on the street. Importantly, a student can learn almost as much by watching what fellow students do right and wrong during scenarios as he or she might learn from direct participation.
You will learn what to expect from your body when the “bullets” begin to fly and, with time, figure out how to minimize the negative effects and enhance the good ones. I have experienced just about everything there is to experience during SBT. This includes tunnel vision, auditory exclusion, threat fixation, point shooting, ridiculous efforts to make myself small, inability to accurately recall my actions while being interrogated by “authorities” and almost anything else that can happen when the internal stress meter gets pegged and the adrenaline pipeline is on free-flow.
We can also learn important lessons about our equipment. During my first-ever experience (two or three bad guys robbing me at an ATM), I learned that a standard front sight is difficult for the eye to pick up in the middle of a fight. Evidently, everyone else in my class experienced the same thing because after about the second scenario we were climbing over one another to get to the guns with the XS Big Dot sights on them. As the name would suggest, the sight was big and bold enough to force us to get a front sight picture and all of the students performed better with them on the gun. To this day, they ride atop all of my carry handguns. There is a reason that the same basic system has been used on dangerous game rifles for a very long time.
Of course, lethal force avoidance is always the goal, but not all aspiring attackers are rational or predictable. When these predators barge into our world and it’s time to start the shooting, nothing will ever prepare you as well for those few brutal seconds than force-on-force scenario-based training.
Trigger control—it’s one of the fundamentals of shooting we constantly strive to improve. Even the best shooters in the world continuously work on their trigger control to shoot smaller, tighter groups on targets at various distances. That’s target shooting, but what about real life?
For an expert perspective, we consulted with Glen Hoyer, director of the NRA Law Enforcement division.