After Action Report: Combat Focus Shooting

Combat Focus Shooting review

As I said last week, I signed up for a Combat Focus Shooting taught by Jon Abel of Phoenix Firearms Training. I wanted to take the course because it emphasized counter-ambush training for “civilians”, and I’m pleased to say it taught me just that.

The class is the first one I’ve taken that begins with the assumption you’ll start a potential gun fight on the wrong side of the power curve. You’ve been ambushed; you’ve either let someone near you who shouldn’t be, or something has happened (shooter, robbery, whatever) that you need to respond to.

NOW what do you do?

Saturday (Day One)

The day started off at 9am at the Ben Avery Shooting Facility. The practice routine for the first day was:

High ready practice
Extend touch press
Trigger work
Slow-med-fast drill (shooting a a dot at close range at three different cadences)
Lateral Movement drills
Reloading drills
Drawing from a holster practice
Understanding the flinch response and to deal with it
Figure 8 drill

More about that last drill. I use the El Presidenté drill in my practice routines as a benchmark test, and the El Prez isn’t exactly, ah, recommended by Combat Focus Shooting.

To say the least.

Instead, we used the Figure 8 drill, which goes a little like this.

I ended up liking the drill, as it’s not a pre-programmed, pre-staged routine, but it’s still something you can practice on a square range by yourself or with a shooting partner. You don’t know what your target is or how many rounds (or not) will be needed as your circle the cones, and it’s pretty decent way to prepare for the uncertainty of what CFS calls a “dynamic critical incident”. I’ll still keep shooting the El Prez because it’s a good benchmark for competition, but it’s not a training aid for daily carry.

Sunday (Day Two)

The practice routine was different this day, as we reviewed what we learned the first day and extended it further.

Volume of Fire drill
Wind Sprint drill
Figure 8
Wind sprints

Let’s talk about the Wind Sprint Drill for a bit. It’s a pretty simple drill, with shooting lines set up at about 3 yards, 5 yards and 10 yards. At the signal, we ran to the appropriate line (or not), located the appropriate target and engaged it (or not). The drill is designed to get our adrenaline racing and emphasizes awareness of your location, the threat (or not), and what balance of speed and precision is needed to make the shot. One thing I found myself doing was responding to the instructor’s commands, not what he was saying, and this drill helped cure me of that. For instance, he told us to run to the 5 yard line, when we were ON the 5 yard line. So what did I do? I started running, because every command up until then was a running command. Whoops.

Wrap up

So is the course worth it? Oh yeah.

It’s the best thing I’ve found so far for someone who wants to follow up a concealed carry permit with more training, because it starts off with the idea you’re going to need to do something, ANYTHING to get inside the threat’s OODA loop, re-gain the advantage and overcome the situation.  You’d think with a name like “Combat Focus Shooting”, it would be filled with military buzzwords and other-the top testosterone binges, but it’s free from the tactical “Rex Kwon Do” jargon that I loathe so much, which makes it an excellent class for women and others who know they need training to stay safe, but don’t want a wade into a sea of machismo.

Something else: Every class I’ve taken has talked about the need to “scan and assess” after a shooting, but I’ve not made it a part of my training routine because it was so abstract. “Scan and assess for other threats?” Why? We’re at a shooting range; if my fellow classmates are a threat, I’m on the wrong range!

Chris, the assistant instructor put it in perspective: “Scan FOR something. Doesn’t need to be a ‘threat’, it could be anything. Make sure you look for it, and make sure you find it. Then re-holster and prepare for the next drill.”


I got it. Maybe I won’t be looking around for bad guys after a defensive gun use, but if my family’s around, I’m sure as heck looking for them to make sure they’re ok. From then on out, after a drill, I looked around for Chris, and it was only after I found him that I re-holstered my gun for the next round.

Report Card 

So, what was it like?

Needs improvement: A re-examination of moving out of close quarters range. What’s taught is far better than the IDPA “duck walk”, but what I learned (look back at the threat, extend your gun, run away) didn’t seem quite right either, as you can also trip while running if you’re not looking where you’re going. It was good, but I think it might need some review and update at a later date.

Satisfactory: No mention of protecting someone else: All the training was me dealing with the threat, not protecting family and/or friends and dealing with their actions along with dealing with a threat. If I stop the threat but my wife or family catch a stray round, that’s not a winning situation for me.

Good: Lots of concentration on multiple hits vs. one-stop shot. I don’t believe in the one-stop shot, and neither do they. I got out of the “double tap” habit faster than I expected I would thanks to this course.

Great: Best training I’ve found yet for dealing with the fact you’ll be behind the eight ball in a violent encounter. This class will get you up to speed, and fast. The class doesn’t concentrate on creating that perfect one-hole group at 25 yards and it doesn’t teach you how to be a mall ninja without the mall. What it does is give a starting point to recover the initiative in a crisis situation and come out victorious.

The Combat Focus Shooting Class is pretty much what I was looking for a while back: It’s nationwide, focused on people who want to take the next step in self-protection and very affordable. If you’re looking for training that’s relative to your daily life, I’d recommend giving it try.