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A Review Of The Active Killer-Shooter Course at TDI

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Let’s face it:   we live in a crazy world.  The threat of violence from irrational people – be it a lone attacker or full on terrorist attack – is a very real possibility for anyone.  Tactical Defense Institute of Ohio (TDI) offers a course that provides instruction in how to deal with these situations called Active Killer-Shooter, which I attended June 7th – 9th.  This was the fourth class I’ve taken at TDI, and the best in terms of what I learned an enjoyment of the course.  TDI President and Chief Instructor John Benner says it’s his favorite course to teach as well – largely because it incorporates so much of what they teach and has so much potential to save lives.

During the 1st day, Benner lectured for the entire morning session.  Much of this time was spent studying this history of mass murder/active shooter events – the Bath Michigan school disaster, the Texas Tower Shooting, the Columbine School Shooting, and the Virginia Tech school shooting among others.  It was a fascinating and insightful lecture, with commentary and contribution from several of the TDI staff  – nearly all of which has some background in law enforcement and/or military service.  Here’s a few of the concepts I came away with from the lecture:

– On average, it takes 50 minutes for a tactical team to respond to an active shooter situation.  That’s a long time.

– Most active shooters will continue to shoot until confronted, and are no match for armed, well-trained civilian or law enforcement personnel.

– Mental preparation is absolutely key.  Given the response time of law enforcement, I as an armed citizen and concealed carry permit holder may be the only thing preventing an active killer from taking the lives of innocents.  If I am mentally prepared for such a situation, I can save my own life, and the lives of others.

After lunch we headed out to the range for some trigger time.  Most of the shooting we did during the class strongly emphasized precision and helping students understand their capabilities.  Just how close do I need to be to the shooter to ensure an accurate shot every time?  This is a critical question – an active killer may be surrounded by innocent people or have hostages.  We started about 15 yards from the target, and kept backing up until we reached the back of the storage shed on the range, which is about 25 yards from our target:

TDI Instructor David Bowie (owner of Bowie Tactical Concepts) really drove home the importance of maintaining the fundamentals of proper grip, trigger control, and sight alignment:

Much of the rest of the afternoon was spent doing shooting drills which would prepare us for activities we’d be involved with during the rest of the course.  We also spent some time in “Live Fire House 1” running through practice scenarios with roped guns (made inoperable for safety reasons):


The second day of the course opened with a lecture on Explosives Awareness from one of my favorite instuctors at TDI – Greg Ellifritz:

Greg (President of Active Response Training) is a truly talented presenter, and the breadth and depth of his knowledge base never fails to impress.

We discussed various types of explosives used in active killer/terrorist situations ranging from dynamite,  C4, and SEMTEX to more improvised explosives and explosive materials such as ANFO (ammonium nitrate and diesel fuel), and potassium chlorate and Vaseline.  We also studied the boosters and initiators used in explosive devices.  In short, it was a fascinating discussion, yet also quite frightening.  The big take away here for me is there’s often no good way to deal with a bomb.  If you encounter an individual with a bomb and decide to take action, you do so with the knowledge that even if you’re “successful” your chances of survival are slim.  The active “kill zone” for nearly any bomb or improvised explosive device (IED) is about 15 meters.  The effective zone for severe injury from a bomb blast is much farther.  So you need to be pretty far from the bomber in order to shoot them and still survive if the bomb detonates (keep in mind that most IED’s will be detonated if you hit them with a bullet, so you’d better plan on taking a head shot).  And since you won’t likely know how the explosive device is initiated, there’s no guarantee that shooting them will prevent detonation.  What if the bomber has a “handler” who has eyes on the bomber and plans to detonate the device by remote control?  Suffice to say there are simply no easy answers in these situations.

In the afternoon we were back out on the range for more shooting drills.  We started with instructor David Bowie demonstrating a simple “box drill” in which you move while shooting in square or box pattern:

The students then performed several variations of the box drill guided by the TDI staff:

If you’re trying to locate and stop an active killer, there’s a good chance you’ll have to make your way through a sea of people trying to run away.  So we went over techniques for safely and efficiently moving through crowds.  Afterwards, the range was set up for a training exercise where we were able to apply the techniques:

In the photo above, I’m standing next to some sandbags which were suspended from the roof rafters – they represent people running toward you.  At the end of the sandbag gauntlet, there are several photo realistic targets.  All of the targets would normally show the pictured individual as being armed, but for our scenario, only one random target would be “armed” and the rest would have their guns covered up.  When it was my turn I stood with my back to the targets while they selected the target which would be armed, then they started swinging the sandbags to simulate movement.  When the scenario began, I turned around, had to make my way through the sandbag crowed, and quickly ascertain which target assailant was “armed” and fire on them.  Note:  Watch the hands….always watch the hands:

I was pleased with my performance in this exercise – I quickly worked my way through the “crowd” and fired two closely grouped shots in the center mass of my target.  Here’s a photo of the target – you can see they have it set up for the next student, and have covered the target’s gun, and placed tape over my bullet holes:

We also spent some time going over techniques for going around a corner or entering a room where an active killer might be in called “corner rounding.”  Here’s a photo of TDI Instructor John Motil demonstrating the technique as directed by Chief Instructor John Benner:

Day 2 is a long day – once we finished the afternoon shooting drills, we broke for dinner, then listened to another 2 hour lecture on Tactical First Aid as presented by Greg Ellifritz.  In this lecture, we learned about the three causes of preventable battlefield deaths:  Exsanguination (bleeding out) from extremity wounds, tension pneumothorax, and airway obstruction.  In case you’re not familiar with “tension pneumothorax” here’s a link which discusses what it is.   Greg taught us the same basic model for treating these types of injuries which most US and International military fighting forces are taught.  The idea is to stabilize the individual who has sustained the injury until a higher level of trauma care can be applied.  Most of the techniques we learned can be self applied.  Particularly useful was the opportunity to be hands-on with various dressings, pressure bandages, and tourniquets which can be used by anyone to help treat battlefield injuries.  This segment may have been the most valuable in the class for me – I haven’t done any sort of first aid training since I learned CPR in grade school.  The chances of my being in the right place at the right time to actually take out an active killer are slim, but there’s a better chance that I can come to the aid of a victim of such an event, or even an accidental shooting.  I now carry battlefield first aid supplies with me at all times and plan on taking additional first aid training.

Day 3

Day 3 started with a very interesting exercise.  Much like Day 1, four sets of cones were set out on the range at progressively further distances from the steel targets.  We were then told each of us would be required to go to one of the cones, draw and fire five relatively fast shots, and re-holster.  We were then told we could shoot from any of the four cones (meaning we could shoot from any distance we wanted among the four progressively more difficult cone locations) but in order to pass the class, we had to have all five shots on target.  So one by one we went up, with the pressure of the entire class and all the TDI instructors watching, and fired our five shots.  About 10 students shot before I did.  No one wanted to be a “wuss” and shoot from the first cone closest to the target, but no one wanted to risk not getting their class certificate either.  So every student before me (and nearly all after me) shot from the second cone…and some did not land all five shots on target.  With the pressure of both time and a gallery of your peers (not to mention the threat of not passing the class), it’s no simple feat I assure you.  I was fairly certain that I could have successfully completed the exercise from the cone furthest from the target.  However, being mindful of the pressure factors involved, I chose to shoot from the third cone and successfully landed all five rapidly fired shots on target.  My successful performance from the third cone (stupidity?) earned kind applause from the TDI instructors.  Thanks guys!

From there, we did some additional precision warm up shooting.  Here’s a photo of my buddy John Rigano performing one of his drills:

Here’s a photo of my shooting with TDI Instructor David Bowie closely observing (and later correcting) my technique:

Let me take a moment to plug Bowie and his company Bowie Tactical Concepts.  You might notice that my S&W M&P 9mm Compact has an odd looking “window” mounted on the slide.  That’s a Leupold Deltapoint optic custom mounted to the milled out slide by Bowie, complete with back up iron sights also custom fit by Bowie Tactical Concepts.  Both myself and my friend John Rigano have M&P pistols which have been modified by Bowie Tactical Concepts.  Both of us have been to many training courses, and shoot frequently.  Both of us experienced a marked improvement in our shooting performance when we started shooting Bowie modified guns.  It’s very expensive, and takes a long time to have the work completed due to Bowie’s backlog and huge demand.  But it’s well worth it – I’m getting ready to send off a second gun to Bowie for him to work his magic.  Here’s a couple of other shots of me doing shooting drills:

After the morning drills we were broken up into groups to do more precision shooting, as well as “force on force” training.  There were two different force on force sessions – one outdoor, and one indoor.  I started at the outdoor session at the upper range which was lead by Greg Ellifritz.  The upper range is staged with junker cars along with various other objects which can potentially be used for cover or concealment.  The create as realistic of a training scenario as is possible, TDI equips the students with Airsoft BB guns (C02 powered guns which shoot plastic BB’s).  I anticipated that Greg Ellifritz’s diabolical genius would create force on force training scenarios which were both challenging and instructive – I was not disappointing.    No, I’m not going to give away any of the training scenarios which we were faced with.  I will say however that apparently Wal-Mart is a far more dangerous place than I ever imagined as each of our training scenarios took place in a Wal-Mart parking lot….I knew there was a reason I don’t like shopping at Wal-Mart.  🙂  I’ll also give you a couple of tips:

– Make sure you get one of the helmets which covers a maximum part of your head – some of the helmets they have provide better protection than others.  One of the students I shot (much to the amusement of Mr. Ellifritz) got hit dead center of his unprotected forehead and he went home with a nice welt as a result because his helmet didn’t cover his entire forehead…..woops, sorry.

-Those Airsoft BB’s sting!  It would be a good idea to wear gloves.  We spend a lot of time training to watch the hands for a gun, so many people instinctively shoot at the gun, and hit hands.

Next came the indoor session at the force on force shoot house:

Again, we ran though several different scenarios – every student got the opportunity to role play as both good guy, bad guy, as well as innocent bystander.  In my experience, you learn a great deal in each of the roles – sometimes more in the role of an observer vs. being a direct participant.  Going in, I was a bit nervous about the force on force training but it was enjoyable and added an entirely new dimension to the learning experience.

Reflecting back on my three days at TDI for the Active Killer-Shooter course, I’m truly impressed – the rich content, quality of instruction, and facilities were simply amazing and an unbelievable value for the price paid.  TDI draws students from all over the country (civilian, law enforcement, and military) and has a reputation for being one of the absolute best tactical training schools in the U.S.  If you have the opportunity to take this course, I highly recommend it.  I truly hope everyone does – an armed and trained civilian population is our best defense against any act of terror, so the more people who have this training, the safer we all are.

About John B. Holbrook, II
John B. Holbrook, II is a freelance writer, photographer, and author of, as well as and *All text and images contained in this web site are the original work of the author, John B. Holbrook, II and are copyright protected. Use of any of the information or images without the permission of the author is prohibited.

  1. David Hart says:

    Very cool John.


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