Everyone talks about getting serious with their firearms training, but few ever more past the discussion phase.  Even rarer will a defensively conscious gun owner expand their training to include force on force (FoF).  In the first part of this series, we discussed some of the common misconceptions that provide a barrier to entry into the FoF training world.  In summary, most believe that FoF is too complicated, dangerous, expensive and exclusive.  None of these are true and I will lay out some simple, effective and inexpensive steps to get you started. The first step in building your FoF training regime is the hardest step but once you get a taste, all other training pales in comparison.

Grab a Partner

Unlike conventional firearms training, FoF training takes two to tango.  I say partner, but small groups are even more effective at getting quality feedback and producing realistic training scenarios.   This is the first critical differentiator between FoF and other firearms training.  By having at least one other person present you gain the ability to have a fluid, changing, interactive opponent and coach.  You also double the number of eyes evaluating your actions and that’s only if you are utilizing video analysis in your solo firearms training, otherwise you may be gaining your first look at how you perform.  Many of us have very real misconceptions of how we look, act and perform a skill.  A training partner can help you identify strengths and weaknesses.  Your ideal training partner should be someone of an equal or slightly higher skill level.  If you find yourself the “higher skilled” individual in your group, start searching for the next person to join the training fold.  Push your skills and push all of those around you.

Consider you’ve found your partner(s)… Now what?  There are a few more things to consider when getting ready to start your FoF training.  To proceed you must know what you are looking to accomplish.  This is where I apply the Three R’s of training.


            I see too many people absolutely fail when it comes to applying the relevancy angle to their training.  I absolutely love training to perform a dynamic entry into a room that has been explosively breached to rescue a hostage.  For a time that was relevant to my world but that is no longer the case.  Now I focus on what matters the most to my own personal safety: concealed carry.   This principle of relevancy will also help you choose a suitable training venue.  My recommendations for a training site are that the area is completely private and you are able to secure access to the location.  For many of us, this means our home.  While FoF training is very safe even if done in an area with unrestricted public access, there could be complications.  When this training is done properly a casual passerby may misinterpret the action as a real situation and summon a very real response.  This causes a potentially dangerous situation and will surely short circuit your training efforts.

Next we come to realism and this is where the rubber meets the road for the training you will conduct.  The key to good training here lies in realistic role player actions.  You and your training partner need to work on your acting skills and do a little homework. I know that sounds cheesy but realistic “bad guy” actions are the single biggest factor in delivering quality training.  Cameras are everywhere and as a result we have entered a time in history where very little is kept private.  This is typically a nuisance, but in regards to studying criminal behavior, it is a treasure trove.  Carefully dissect videos from criminal acts and then incorporate those behaviors into your acting repertoire.  Never rely on the Hollywood version of what criminal assaults look like.  If you and your training partner are recreating scenarios that feel like they are from a cop drama you should probably stop and evaluate what you are doing.  Focus on the basics of criminal behavior and methodology.  In most private citizen criminal interactions, the perpetrators want to take something from you and will almost always need to move in very close proximity to you to do so.

The third and final “R” is recent.  This speaks to the frequency in which you train.  Conducting Enhanced Role Playing FoF training once in 1987 is not enough to keep those skills fresh today.  The beauty of this type of training is that it is very low cost to begin and other than an investment in time, essentially free to sustain.

Getting Started

So you have you training partner picked out and a private location to begin training.  Now is the time to consider your number one priority, safety!  For this article we are exclusively discussing Role Playing and Enhanced Role Playing FoF training types.  With these two types of training there is no need for any protective equipment unless you are looking to integrate combatives into the training cycle, which I highly recommend but must save for another day.

Once you have designated and secured your training area, communicate with your partner Hot and Cold zones.  Your actual training area will be the cold zone and this area must be 100% sanitized of ALL weapons, ammunition and non-training specific tools.  This is a time where multiple partners are great as one person can serve as a designated safety monitor.  Check, double check and then re-check each other before entering the cold zone.  The best arrangement is to have a door separate the hot and cold zones or even different floors.

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Establish clear, concise and plain safety words.   I like to call a training scenario live with a simple “BEGIN SCENARIO” command.  This lets all participants know that the role players are now in character.  To end a scenario I like the command “INDEX, INDEX, INDEX.”  Why not just a simple “stop?”  Stop is a very strong word in our language and from a young age it is often used to with a serious tone in critical situations.  Coincidentally, it is a great word to use in the verbal phase of a defensive encounter and also one many people use instinctively.  I have been through scenario training where stop was the safe word.  This usually resulted in valuable training scenarios being wasted due to inadvertent stoppage of the training.  Finally have a good immediate stop command if a potentially unsafe condition presents itself.   In my experience “CEASE FIRE” is an effective and universal command for anyone undertaking this type of training.

And Action!

Everything is set, you have a strong safety plan and all participants have been checked for safety.  Here comes the hardest part of all FoF training… Keep is simple!  Script the scenarios to have a simple training goal.  Build progression into your training cycles.  It does no one any good to throw an unwinnable situation at your partner and then let egos drive the “I beat you” mentality.  Be good training partners; understand that you are each playing a role.  I learn as much and sometimes more as the “bad guy” in a scenario.  Work your training sessions as a progression and change small parts of the drill every time you run it.  Think of this like a video game where the bad guy re-spawns at a random place on the map.  Re-run scenarios with identical set-ups but different reactions.  Throughout all drills strive to act and react the way a criminal would – remember your homework.

Choose training tools that help mimic the form and function of your own defensive tools while doing so with complete safety.  For role playing training I recommend training replicas (blue guns) or dedicated laser training pistols such as the SIRT pistol from Next Level Training.  Avoid using real weapons for FoF training.  Unfortunately “clear” weapons have killed dozens of people over the years.

Have a plan going in and decide some things you want to work on.  With E-Role Playing one of the best things to practice is spacial awareness.  Run a variety of scenarios with the bad guy’s goal being to get within contact distance of the “victim” while exhibiting clear pre-attack indicators.  Progress into scenarios where the bad guy is not as obvious as to his bad intentions.  This allows you to work on timing tool access and understanding distances in real environments.  Here is a little hint, what we think of as super “close” on the range seems a whole lot further away in real environments.

This should give you the tools to get rolling with role playing Force of Force training.  Watch The Sear for a series of quick video tutorials on specific training scenarios you can set up yourself.



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Phill began his career as a Marine serving with FAST Co. After completing multiple schools and deployments with FAST, he began his instructional career serving as a platoon level CQB Instructor. Additionally Phill served with 1st Battalion 6th Marines where he furthered his instructional experience as the lead MCIWS. After the Marine Corp Phill immediately transitioned to a career in law enforcement. Working in Patrol, Training and SWAT for most of his 14 years as a police officer, Phill participated in hundreds of tactical operations and was the Training Coordinator for one of the largest SWAT teams in the state of Pennsylvania.

Phill has been actively involved in the private training community since 2004. Starting with his own company Phalanx Training Group, he progressed as an adjunct instructor for the United States Shooting Academy and then the Chief Operations Officer Direct Action Tactical Training Consultants. Phill is experienced as an instructor in all common firearms platforms, defensive tactics, small unit tactics, tactical operations, less lethal weapons as well as most skills related to personal defense.  Phill continues to enjoy his passion for firearms by competing in USPSA, 3-Gun, and IDPA.