By: John Elliott

If we carry a firearm for self-defense, we should be engaging in training that prepares us for real-world threats.

While Close Quarter Shooting (CQS) is typically associated with those great men and women who work in SWAT, other specialized law enforcement related units, or in some branches of the military, it’s a good idea to incorporate some CQS into the civilian world, too.

CQS techniques are usually taught as part of more complete paramilitary response programs, which originally developed to meet the needs of the individual SWAT team member or special forces soldier under room combat conditions. A burglar breaking into your home in the middle of the night who may well be armed is an example of room combat conditions that exist in our civilian world and is a reason to practice CQS.

The conditions generally found in room combat are as follows:

  1. High stress and high-speed shooting.
  2. Relatively short range; 3 to about 40 feet or so at the most.
  3. Poor lighting conditions.
  4. Limited space in which to maneuver.
  5. Multiple targets/assailants.
  6. Noise and confusion, and perhaps smoke.
  7. Hostages or, for our purposes, other family members in close proximity to armed assailants.

All shooters, even the best in the world, have some deficiencies in their shooting. For a shooter to improve to the point that he or she is ready to take on CQS, it is essential to start with a review of his or her ability to hit a single target with reasonable speed out to around 10 meters. Once that essential skill has been demonstrated, it’s time to depart from the conventional aim-fire method, to concentrating on the hand, eye, and brain functioning on a faster, more coordinated level.

Shooters must overcome egos here and acknowledge their deficiencies. Perhaps you are fast but still have an occasional miss. Maybe you are highly accurate but lack the necessary speed. Perhaps single targets are never a problem but multiple targets are an enormous obstacle to overcome. Whatever the deficiency may be, it should be identified and overcome.

The principles of combat shooting involve tactics, accuracy, power, and speed, or “TAPS” for short. TAPS are a practiced set of skills that can only be achieved over time and with patience.

Mental preparation is key to CQS success. A person’s mindset is without a doubt one of the most important aspects of any armed combat situation. No matter what their level of training may be, shooters need relaxed and positive mental attitudes if they are to function efficiently. This fact holds true for actual combat, in the preparation and training for combat, and for Close Quarter Shooting, where an armed assailant may well stand between the safety of you and your family or of your demise.

What Should I Expect?
Many may well ask what to expect from the kind of training involved in Close Quarter Shooting.

Well, for starters, it is extremely intense, so those who wish to sign up for this training should expect that their heart rates and blood pressure will be elevated through the roof. The noise level once the shooting begins, even while wearing ear protectors, is almost unbearable. Yes, the actual engagements may last for only a few seconds, but during that brief span of time, our senses are awakened to the point that what follows may be several sleepless nights, and, when sleep finally finds us, one can well expect nightmares to begin.

You experience varying scenarios, some with hostages who may be our loved ones, some with multiple or hidden shooters, many within a darkened or dimly lit room, while we try our best to maneuver around furniture and other obstacles, all the while not knowing if there is yet another shooter ready to strike hidden behind a wall. It is intense and maddening, and it can reduce the most confidant gun range shooter to a seemingly inept amateur. But it is the type of training that can ultimately save our life and the lives of those we love.

I would encourage everyone to find a gun range where room combat is taught and to embrace the concept of Close Quarter Shooting.

John Elliott is a forty-four year veteran of law enforcement, writing from Illinois. Contact him at