Forge Tactical Handgun CQB, June 23-25, Alliance OH

#1
This is my first AAR so please feel free to critique me so I can get better.

I was privileged to have the opportunity to take part in the first open enrollment class for Forge Tactical. While the name is new anyone who's been around the firearms training industry will recognize the names of the men running Forge and acting as lead instructors John Chapman and John Spears.

Class
Handgun CQB (basically this is a pistol shoot house course). This is an introduction to the shoot house using pistols and clearing the house in two man teams. The class is three full days encompassing both day and night. This is very much a techniques class, not a shooting class. You are expected to be able to shoot and be safe when moving with a firearm when you get there. This is a serious class and safety is paramount.

This is what Forge has to say about the class I found the description to match what was taught.

The Forge Tactical Handgun CQB course is a 24 hour program designed to further build your skill sets to learn to fight with your pistol in a confined structure, with one teammate. This course teaches the same principles and fundamentals as Small Team CQB (Shoothouse) but utilizing the pistol. It is often more appropriate than Small Team CQB for the student who primarily uses a pistol for defense and does not have to wear hard ballistic armor for their mission. The course requires the use of soft armor as a minimum level of PPE, and as a result is less physically demanding than the full Small Team CQB package. As with the Small Team CQB Course, safety is paramount.

Prerequisites: US Citizen or ITAR approved person, and graduate of reputable handgun and carbine operator courses.


Location
Alliance Police Training Range, Alliance Ohio.

If you haven't taken a course there already you're missing out. Joe Weyer and the Alliance Police have created an amazing facility that just somehow keeps getting better and better. Offering everything from basic shooting skills classes, right through shoot house classes and explosive breaching classes. It's a world class facility that is filled with amazing people and hosts some of the best the industry has to offer. It takes 12 hours or so for me to drive there and it's well worth the trip.

Instructors.
John Chapman (Chappy) and John Spears (Doc)

These menare fixtures in the industry, working along side Pat Rogers at famed EAG tactical. Sadly we lost Pat last year but Chappy and Doc have made the decision to continue the legacy of EAG by forming Forge Tactical. This isn't the first class I've had with these men (in fact I took the EAG version of this class last year with them following Pat's passing), and it won't be my last. They are easily some of the best if not the best instructors I've had the privilege of training with. Their methods are sound and they leave you confident in continuing your training once the class ends.

Equipment
This is the equipment list Forge gives you.

Equipment List:
Common Sense
Handgun and 3 magazines
Tactical holster
Handgun mounted light is recommended
Handheld light
Ballistic soft vest (Level II or IIIa) (limited rentals are available)
IFAK and TQ
400 rounds handgun ammunition
Electronic hearing protection
Clear eye protection
2 green chemlights or PID light
Water and snack food
Weather appropriate clothing
Pen and notebook (you will be taking notes)


Equipment I Used

Common Sense (at least I hope so)

Glock 34 with an RMR 06 and TLR1HL, slide is a complete Suarez International V5 and one of the Suarez Barrels

LFI kydex holster with SLS retention, HSGI Sure grip padded belt, HSGI Taco pouches.

Surefire Fury

Spartan Level IIIA plates, Tag carrier.

IFAK Assembled over time and SOFT-T tourniquet.

Blazer brass 115gr 9mm

MSA Sordin

Shooting glasses unknown brand.

2 green Chem lights

Water and snack food (bring tons of water you'll go through it)

Pen and notebook (you will be taking notes and lots of then I had nearly 30 pages.)

Gear performance
I won't bore you with how my gear did. The only issue I had with any of it was the front sight falling off the Suarez Slide. It had loosened up once before and I had reinstalled it with lock tight and tightened it all the way and it came off again. That makes me think there may be a tolerance or other manufacturing issue. I have contacted them and we will see what they say. The sight was not found though I do have video of it coming off.

Students
The class itself had 12 students which was in my opinion just about perfect. It allowed us to break down into 6 teams and get in a bunch of runs on the house.

Backgrounds ranged from home builders and software engineers right through regular police officers and SRT members. With most running striker fired guns and about half with red dot equipped pistols.

Training

TD1
Class started at 0900 with introductions, teaming up and a safety brief. We then broke out the pens and notebooks and killed some trees taking detailed notes that cover things like movement, communication, door procedures, determining threat priorities, shapes and getting on line or creating lateral distance with your partner. We were in the classroom for several hours with breaks.

We then moved outside and using cones practiced moving with our partner using fingers to simulate pistols under the watchful eyes of Doc and Chappy. It may seem simple but the reality is that learning to move and anticipate your partner aren't simple things and taking the time to learn to do it right pays off.

Next we broke for lunch and when we got back we moved into the house (for many this was the first time and the house can be an intimidating place). We drew our fingers again and again learned to move with our partner and how to avoid flagging one another in tight spaces in a 360 degree environment. Once again it sounds simple right up until you do it lol.

Once Chappy and Doc were satisfied with our movements and that we were able to go through the house safely we were ready to do it with firearms.

We were given a briefing about what we were doing and where we were going as if we were actually making a hit for real. I appreciate this as it adds.another dimension to the training. We then went one team at a time and shot the course of fire that had devised for us. Following your run you were allowed and encouraged to go onto the catwalk and watch others. No one knew what they would face and I feel watching how others broke the problems down after my runs was invaluable. I easily learned as much watching as I did by doing.

Following the last team's run we would all meet back at the classroom and debrief.

This is where you were able to voice what you'd done right and more importantly had done wrong and we all did a lot wrong over the weekend , especially on this first run. Being able to acknowledge your failures is really the first step to fixing them and having the discussion after each run was vitally important. Additionally they chose to keep score by tallying misses, safety violation and failures to engage targets. This wasn't a competition but let's be realistic with everyone there having a type A personality it drove all of us to be more accurate and deliberate because we all wanted to be the best. We were told how many rounds each target needed and if they were outside the scoring ring they counted as misses.

TD2-TD3

Here is where we got a bunch of runs in. I won't go I to detail on them for a couple reasons but the big one is that the unknown is important in classes like this. I will say that we moved into using reactive targets and with each run we had more problems to break down, more rooms to clear and more decisions to make. You never knew if you were going to find 3 guys in a room, 1 down a hall or no one at all. The unknown kept us all on our toes. Halls or doors that we used in one run might be out of play on another forcing us to change tactics. We also did one low light run on TD2. We followed the same formula with each team making a run, watching the next teams go from the catwalk and then debriefing. With each run teams were getting more comfortable in the house and working together and it showed.

Take aways

This was a great class. As I said earlier I took the EAG version of this last year with Doc and Chappy and my partner from that class came back with me again for this one. I feel that was a tremendous help. We were already comfortable with each other and we were able to build off what we learned last year and I think it showed in our performance (or at least I'd like to think it did). The quality of the instructors, facilities and even the other students you tend to find when you train with these guys is in my experience unrivaled so far. When you leave you not only know what you did right and wrong but have a plan to work on your weaknesses.

Should you take the course?


If you have the skill set absolutely. That said make sure you have that skill set. It isn't a time to learn to shoot or learn how to walk with a gun. As is often said you don't know what you don't know. Many of us are very squared away on the square range and feel competent but it isn't until you start moving and seeing the world as a 360 degree environment and understanding that you aren't alone that you really learn what you're capable of. Classes like this do that for you, they push you they make you work your mind as much as your trigger finger and if you're training for defense then being able to break down problems is an invaluable skill. If you're not sure if you have the skills to take this class then don't, instead take some other skill building classes until you get there.