Executing a jab with a folding knife
Kelly McCann (right) shows the author (center) the proper way to execute a jab with a folding knife. (Photos Dave Spaulding)
Combative Pistol is a combination of hand-to-hand combat and pistolcraft.
M-4 carbine with the ACOG sight taped over
The author uses an M-4 carbine with the ACOG sight taped over. The eyes can still use the illuminated reticle.
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Editor s Note: Crucible Training is about how to prevail in locations around the world where the conditions are definitely not in your favor. Forget judicious use of force that s not what this facility is about. It's extreme, ruthless and very violent, but also simple and quite effective in its application.
Crucible n. A severe test; a place or situation in which concentrated forces interact to cause or influence change or development.
Conditioned adj. To impose a condition on; accustomed; to impose harsh change upon.
Many readers may have seen the Crucible videos sold by Paladin Press; I ve reviewed a few in this column. They also run a distinctive training facility in Virginia. I recently had the opportunity to attend training at Crucible, and I must say that it s nothing like I ve ever experienced before. Former Marine Special Missions Officer Kelly McCann founded Crucible in the early 1990s, and he was later joined by longtime friend and fellow Marine Jack Stradley in 2000. They've developed a reputation for conducting training in skill sets that aren t found at the more traditional shooting schools.
In reality, Crucible is not a shooting school, although they do teach these skills in their more extreme forms. Crucible teaches government agencies, the military, high-level security operations and Fortune 500 companies how to prevail in locations around the world where the conditions are definitelynotin your favor. Forget judicious use of force that s not what this facility is about. Crucible is about teaching skills for the individual or small group/team that work in places where they aren t welcome and may have to get out fast. It s extreme, ruthless and very violent, but also simple and quite effective in its application.
Note:They also teach more conventional courses to law enforcement SWAT and narcotics units. As a matter of fact, they ve trained more than 10,000 officers during the past 10 years for CivPol, a state department program for overseas police advisors.
Upon my arrival, I was met by McCann and Phil Motzer, Crucible's chief High Risk Environment (HRE) instructor. Like McCann, Motzer served in the Marines. His last assignment was at the High Risk Pistol Program. After a briefing on Crucible s history, we headed down to the large matted area in the main building to work on knife defense and hand-to-hand combat, or what they call combatives. If you look in the dictionary, combative is defined as ready and willing to fight, which is what you need to be when you walk in the Crucible door. When engaging in either skill at Crucible, you re going at 90%, so expect to get stabbed (with training knives), kicked, punched, thrown, twisted, bruised and bloodied. At my age, my goal was to simply keep up. At least I didn t embarrass myself, and I did learn a bunch about all-out fighting.
Not Timid Techniques
The skills taught at Crucible aren't fancy. They re not timid either. The techniques are brutal and will seriously hurt the person on the receiving end. Unlike law enforcement, people operating in hostile environments aren t looking for reasonable; they re looking to get out of a life-threatening situation in one piece. Example: The knife program is based on simple slashes and stabs and, once these are anchored, it s up to the student to use what s needed based on the unfolding scenario. The Combatives program is both simple and effective. Such strikes as a spearing elbow, face smash, hammer fist, finger jab, axe hand, shin kick and chin jab are drilled over and over again. McCann claims that if you work hard, You can get a good handle on our Combatives program in about two weeks. They require explosive movement and total commitment. Anything less and they will fail.
Once you start, there s no stopping. One technique leads to another as you blitz your opponent until they re overwhelmed. Don't hold back: Crucible inspires students to embrace violence in bad situations to immediately reverse the confrontational dynamic. The predator becomes prey. At 90% pace, I left this portion of the training beat up but with a great appreciation for the simplicity of the system.
The second day started in the Combatives Room, a large, fully padded room. Motzer took over and reviewed much of day one to ensure that I had a solid understanding of the content. We were moving into what Crucible calls Combative Pistol, which combines hand-to-hand skills with the semi-auto at double arm s length. As most readers know, statistics show that the majority of police shootings take place inside 10 feet, and armed confrontations within the intelligence community have mirrored this. Once the combative skills were refreshed, we moved to the range where I shot Crucible Pistol Skill Standards.
We then moved into some aggressive close-quarter shooting drills using 3-D foam targets that can take strikes as well as live fire. This type of shooting is far removed from traditional square range training and should be attempted only after much dry fire and only on a range that has 270 backstops because the movement involved requires nothing less. We moved through a series of drills that combined axe hands, pelvic strikes, face smashes, face rakes and other combative skills with the draw and multiple shots. Aggressive movement in all directions was also incorporated. This is the type of shooting on the move that needs to be incorporated into one s skill set not the antiseptic forward, side, back style of box shooting that seems to typify advanced skills.
Combative Pistol combines all of the strikes used in the Combatives program with a concealed draw and multiple shots to single and multiple adversaries. Crucible doctrine doesn t differentiate between point shooting and sighted fire, but recognizes that both are needed, depending on the situation.
An example:One of my training drills had three people confronting me at varied distances and angles, requiring me to strike and retention-shoot my closest opponent, point-shoot his partner, who was about 10 feet to my right and then laterally move (a moving target is harder to hit!), taking an aimed shot at their backup, who was about 15 yards down range. This whole process needs to be completed somewhere between three and five seconds, or the surprise generated by my first vicious attack is lost. If you aren t skilled in various forms of pistolcraft and not totally committed to the task, you ll perish in such a situation.
Crucible pistol training wouldn t be complete without shooting from inside a vehicle in the event of an attack while disabled. Crucible offers a full program of urban and off-road driving, and they re quite clear that the best thing to do is to hit the gas. However, if the car is disabled, then the occupant(s) must go to guns.
Shooting through auto glass isn t difficult; the shooter simply must know what to expect. In the case of the side windows, the glass is designed to shatter and fall so occupants aren t injured in a crash. Windshield glass stays intact so front seat occupants aren t decapitated by large sections of windshield after impact. When shooting through the windshield, holes will develop as rounds leave the barrel.Keep in mind:Glass can deflect a bullet. Even though my opponent was standing at the front of the vehicle, rounds aimed at the high chest often ended up in the outer chest area, so shoot several times.
Escape and Evasion (E&E) shooting is unlike anything I ve ever trained for in a shoot house. In the past I ve always been concerned with either a slow, methodical search while slicing the pie or moving swiftly towards a predetermined goal in a Dynamic Entry. In E&E training, I was concerned with nobody but myself as I tried to get out of a hostile environment quickly so I wouldn t be murdered. In my case, it was a drug deal gone bad, but I could ve been trapped in a house in Afghanistan while collecting intelligence or a hotel in Africa during a coup it doesn t matter; dead is dead. The goal is to extract yourself quickly, which requires explosive movement, total commitment and very quick, aggressive shooting.Remember:Move quickly, resolutely and shoot threats as quickly as they appear. In these dire situations, it s you or them. No one will be there to help or rescue there s no cavalry.
The gun is up with no concern about muzzling anyone or giving verbal commands. Move, shoot, or you ll die in place. It s as simple as that.
Like all things at Crucible, we started carbine training at contact distance, in this case with an opponent grabbing on to the barrel of my M-4. In law enforcement, we would try to dislodge this grasp via some type of weapon-retention technique. Although this may work in some cases, in the world of hostile environment training, if your adversary grabs and averts your muzzle, fire a few rapid rounds to heat the barrel, making your attacker let go. Then pull the butt of the gun back over your shoulder to clear it and, if the attack continues, immediately fire as you jab the muzzle of the carbine into your attacker s chest. I m pretty sure this would get them off your gun.
As we moved back from the target, the carbine program became more conventional, with snap-shooting drills on close targets, multiple target drills, shooting while moving and, finally, rested shooting positions for enhanced accuracy. The final drill started at close contact (3-D target holding the barrel of my gun) and moved out to 300 meters with many targets at varied distances in between. I had to find the target (some were hidden), figure the distance and engage. There were induced malfunctions along the way, so I had to transition to my pistol, find cover, clear malfunctions, etc. In the end, it was a bit of controlled pandemonium, but a great way to end the training course. How well did I do? Not nearly as well as the second time around.
In the end, I felt as if I had received the missing link in my personal training. I ve been to many schools, all of which dealt with deadly force in a reasonable format. What I got a glimpse of was the use of personal weapons in a world of no-holds-barred, down-and-dirty live-or-die confrontations. It hit home with me in the E&E drills in the shoot house: To live, all threats must be killed.
For our intelligence personnel and military special mission units that are deploying to some of the most hostile environments overseas, this training and mentality are what keep them alive in the extreme circumstances they encounter. I hope I never have to use what I learned at Crucible, but I m glad our guys and gals who do this rough work have a place to learn these skills.
For more information about Crucible, call 540/752-2800 or visit www.cruciblesecurity.com.