So there has been a lot of discussion about this Tactical Response video that shows an instructor standing between two targets during a live fire exercise. James Yeager responds to the criticisms of his detractors. Below I will examine the major points of his response and justification for having an instructor taking photos in front of the firing line.
Evaluating Risk. Yeager explains that driving to the range is more dangerous than standing between the targets. While it is true that there is some risk associated with driving there is a benefit (transportation) that we deem to be worth the risk. I fail to see what the benefit is for the students (or the instructor) by having the instructor stand down range.
Stress Inoculation. Yeager explains that this practice better prepares students for ‘real world’ gunfight pressures. I certainly believe that if a skill is going to need to be performed under stress then some portion of the practice of that skill should be performed under stress. There are a lot of ways of inducing stress such as time pressure, distracting noise, testing, ambiguity, sleep deprivation, etc. None of these require putting somebody in the position taking a bullet should a student make a mistake or stumble. If the goal is to simulate a gunfight for stress inoculation purposes then why not have two parallel berms and have the instructor shoot at targets that are behind the students while they are on the firing line? If ‘realism’ trumps safety then wouldn’t that be a better drill?
Safest Training. I am not going to dispute the safety “record” of Yeager or his staff, but I fail to see a procedure or system that makes this training inherently safe, or at best any more safe than that of any other shooting school. A person getting shot during training is a big deal, and some of the larger training schools have had people get shot. Generally they shoot themselves holstering or drawing the gun and in rare circumstances a student will shoot someone else. If you have cycled through 50,000 or more students one of them is bound to be an idiot – regardless of how strict the range rules might be.
Makes People Safer. I am sure it makes people think and focus a lot more about keeping the gun on target, and where the muzzle is pointing when the instructor is a foot away from the target. The student that trips over his own feet is an open question as far as “safety” goes. Safety is a process, not an event.
Jabbering of Internet Commandos. Having discussed this video with some actual (non-internet) commandos they don’t see any utility in the increased risk of this particular training “method” because it doesn’t meet any particular training objective. I don’t think the risks are worth the benefits unless you are going to be shooting targets in close proximity to your teammates – and have gone through a slow progression building up to running the drill live.
I don’t believe this training accomplished anything other than stir up some controversy, and generate some potential marketing buzz. My overall impression (based solely on the videos) is that Tactical Response isn’t particularly concerned with safety, and that Yeager’s response was more of an attempt at justifying an unsafe act.