AAR; Agile OC spray and low-light tactics training, Pittsburgh PA, May 8, 2015

The training site for the day was the excellent Stout Training dojo in Pittsburgh PA, and I was hosted by Shawn Lupka of Antifragile Training.

The class was a special request for training ref OC spray for a CCW or home defense person, and a module on low-light tactics.  This class was the day before Craig Douglas/Southnarc’s most excellent AMIS (Armed Movement In Structures) class that was also in the Pittsburgh area, and this was designed to compliment that training for people who were attending both classes.

Overall feedback from students so far has been positive.  I was personally not completely happy with the class I offered as I felt I could have done a better job of translating my experience in the police world into the CCW paradigm, so I have some “sustains” to keep going, and some areas that I feel I need to improve on.

Shawn and I are already planning another class in the November time frame at the same venue.


Below I have an AAR posted to the Lightfighter  by one of the participants in both the Agile class and the AMIS class.  Since Mick is a military veteran with extensive experience and some serious combat time, I greatly appreciated his input and feedback, he has graciously given me permission to share his thoughts here;

Course: OC/Flashlight
Instructor: Chuck Haggard (LF member tpd223)
Location: Renzo Gracie Academy, Pittsburgh PA
Ratio: 1:10

Chuck Haggard (LF member tpd223) conducted a one-day OC/Flashlight course. This course preceded the Shivworks AMIS course and greatly complemented it.

One of the reasons why I took this course was after defining a Capabilities Gap. OC / CS is something I just don’t know much about. Further, an incident with a pit bull breaking out of it’s yard and attacking a dog I was walking made me consider other tools that may be more effective in certain scenarios.

My objectives for this course were as follows:

1) Gain an understanding of OC/CS.
2) Obtain a frame of reference for how to use and employ it.
3) Find out what type is best for my requirements.
4) Find out it’s effects and overall effectiveness.
5) Gain an understanding of low light strategies and use.
6) Find out if a new light is required.

It was quite a few objectives, and all were met & exceeded.

Chuck handed out printed papers with the PowerPoint slides at the beginning of class. On the opposite page was space for notes which was awesome – I like having everything immediately available and annotate things in like groups. When I return to Active Duty I can use this as a lesson plan to fellow Soldiers.

Chuck has a tremendous level of experience on both training and real-world experience. This gives him the unique ability to keep and use the good aspects of his training, and compliment that with real-world use. Hearing about his various training courses over the years and how those played a part was Value Added. He also has a ridiculous amount of experience – @300 live sprays on bad guys and @1000 in training for police recruits, certifications, et al.

One of the best things about the OC part of the course was that it wasn’t manufacturer-specific. There was no allegiance to companies; just simple facts, science, and real-world use.

I was constantly struck by how little I knew, and how much I didn’t know about what I didn’t know. Something as seemingly simple as actuating the OC canister was something I have always done incorrectly. Thankfully this class helped correct that.

We went through drills for aiming the canister at our target and conducted reps for presentation. This dramatically increased student hit rate. I found I could hit the face consistently at 5 meters by superimposing the canister in front of their face and keeping it relatively level depending on height difference. You can also walk the stream in similar to machine gun fire to the effective hit zones.

Design type was also covered, with pro’s and cons of each type. The flip-up safety is the preferred model as it’s the most safe, durable, and easy to use. Triggers can and have broke off of those types of models and rendered the canister unusable.

One great thing about inert spray training was accountability. Students were issued safety goggles that would indicate a good hit to the eyes. These could be wiped off post iteration and immediately reset. This ensured that good hits counted and that accuracy was crucial. We maintain standards for live fire with handguns and rifles – why change that? So simple, yet so effective. It’s something I wouldn’t have thought of.

My personal experience with OC / CS was little – gas chamber in basic training in the Army and carrying pepper spray in Germany back when I was a young and dumb PFC getting into fights with people and courtesy patrols.

We were fielded OC / CS products OCONUS in the Army, but we honestly shouldn’t have been fielded them as they fell under chemical weapons regulations with a VERY high authorization level and we weren’t really trained in their capabilities, use, or employment. We also could have been in some real legal trouble if we used them.
While I would love to OC the fuck out of Muhj on the regular, some folks don’t want us to have this capability in war that CONUS LE use on a daily basis. I don’t like it, but it is what it is…

OC is now something that is in my offense (special thanks to Chuck for squaring me away with live OC), and inert models will be procured so that I can implement a sustainment training program. For static accuracy work I can use the BOB XL dummy I have, and for FOF iterations the Philly training group can incorporate this.

The low light aspect of the course was also fascinating. I was always a constant on person as I worked primarily in a team-based environment and/or under NODS. This was me being a victim of my
own limited frame of reference.

Chuck demonstrated how constant-on is a detriment due to telegraphing position. Temporary flashes or a strobe in the same position likewise told a story about where you were. Painting the room in an unpredictable pattern was the most effective method for accomplishing the mission.

Chuck spent some time showing us how to do this, having students stand in the room. He would call out when he identified a part of them, and would ask the student what they could see of him. This was particularly eye-opening. After this, students broke into pairs and worked reps doing the same thing.

I failed to keep my light at a distance to illuminate and instead kept it close to my face. This allowed my partner to see a significant portion of me before I could detect him.

Chuck then demonstrated proper movement and using the light as a means of masking said movement. Quickly arcing the light in the opposite direction made tracking you very difficult as eyes focused on the light and the lights direction of travel.

Following that, we all lined up to do a repetition of moving from cover to cover quickly, illuminating the target area, discriminating, and arcing the light in the opposite direction of movement to mask our own movement.

My run sucked. I used the clickie switch as opposed to momentary on and manually strobing as I wasn’t aware my light could do that. This meant my light stayed on longer than intended and gave away my position as opposed to masking it. This was a personal failure in not understanding and testing the capabilities of my equipment and made me feel pretty damn stupid when I did figure it out at AMIS the next day.

I also didn’t look as much as I should have – I treated it more as a run from cover A to cover B in lieu of the opportunity to gain a snapshot while moving and being a harder target to detect and engage. I think with more reps, students would figure out what we needed to do and would progress better. Us students should have also moved some of the stuff out of the way to clear a full path as well as form a round robin circle to cycle through to be more efficient as Chuck observed from an opposing doorway.

Chuck spent more time on the nuances of angles and when it may be better to have constant on – being responsible for a section and locking it down was an example of that. Light reaching into the darkness took that away advantage away from bad guys and limits their freedom of movement. Chuck made mention that in FOF Scenarios his department ran, he would routinely cross rooms that weren’t white lighted constantly and Officers had no idea he was in there or had changed location.

Chuck wrapped the class up with a Q&A section where students took advantage of being able to ask questions.

I immensely enjoyed listening to Chuck and his manner
of speaking and instructing. He is a very humble and knowledgeable dude and he’s gonna be a huge asset in the tactical training realm. The best possible way I can explain it is this:

Listening to Chuck reminded me of listening to a SSG with a star on his CIB drinking a canteen of whiskey and explaining how shit really works in the Infantry.

I look forward to learning more from the man. I felt this class better prepared me for AMIS as well, particular the low light aspects.