Saturday, February 18, 2017

ShivWorks AMIS Armed Movement in Structures Training

Yes Craig Douglas is one of those
instructors who will actually
demonstrate how its done. 
ShivWorks AMIS Armed Movement in Structures Training
… I should have shot Rob

Before I get into why I and others should have shot Rob, the context of the ShivWorks AMIS Amed Movement in Structures training needs to be established. My beautiful wife and I are always looking for training to add to our skill set and we both get extra excited when we are actually able to train together. A few months ago the head of our armed church security team sent out a quick note that a sibling church within our security coalition network was hosting the AMIS class. As anyone should be, I was a little skeptical to out of pocket $450 cost per person for a two-day airsoft based class. We sent a check in anyway without much research based on the enthusiastic recommendation of our sister church team. About the only research my wife did was to Google “Shivworks Sucks” and nothing came up. In fact, the reviews for Shivworks were glowing.

It looks innocent
enough, but its
a kill box.
Having been through some bad training and interactions with some careered but very bad instructors, Craig Douglas was refreshing. He made a point to quickly learn everyone’s name, understand our background, and personally thank everyone for spending their hard earned money on his class - he may be one of the most polite tactical trainers I have found. Yes, of course during the training we all did some rather stupid things and you could see he wanted to blurt out pointed obscenity laced character references, but he didn’t and repositioned the teaching moment into something valuable. Craig Douglas is one of the good instructors who will be patient with you as you learn.

Craig Douglas is the founder and lead trainer of ShivWorks. Craig’s background is military, a highly trained martial artist, law enforcement, plus a career with SWAT and NARC unit experience. '

Generally I have found that the narcotics unit LEO guys have seen and done some shit that military guys will never get exposed to and if they have a lifetime of structure breaches like Craig that obviously adds up to a lot of experience.  

Craig took that experience and developed a number of ShivWorks courses including AMIS to address how to respond when you do not have five other armed and armored up guys right behind you entering a room, securing a vehicle, or dealing one-on-one with combatants. In the case of this ShivWorks AMIS Amed Movement in Structures course, the concept was to provide training on how to move alone through a structure in a hostile situation and get shot less - Craig’s caveat was that “it is a bad idea to clear a room alone unless you really have to, but this is the training how to do it and potentially survive.”

Yeah! Airsoft hurts!
When I heard that the ShivWorks AMIS course was based on airsoft pistols, I felt my eyes roll. Ohhh those are the toy guns kids play in the park with, right? Well I can say after bleeding from getting hit in the face just below my mask with one of the “toy gun” plastic BBs and seeing them embedded into molding, they are not toys. They are harsh incentives to do everything you can to not get shot. The course organizer recommended any reliable high quality green gas powered 6mm airsoft pistol. After a bunch of research I choose two heavily recommended Umarex Walther PPQ M2 (model 2272800) pistols which are perfect replicants of my real PPQ M2 9mm. 

The pistols are available in LEO trainer blue, black and pinkish red. Another reason I did this was because Walther and Umarex are the same company so they offer the PPQ M2 in .40, 9mm, .22LR, .177 Pellet and airsoft versions which offers delivers several low cost training options. 
Yeah! Airsoft hurts
drywall too.

There is a lot to be said for the concept of doing all your shooting with the same gun with all of these caliber options. Of course Umarex offers the various grades of airsoft pistols for popular H&K, Walther, and Beretta pistols so there is good chance you can find something that will work for your training.

Of note there are many tiers of quality in airsoft ranging from $25 spring powered modes, to electric, CO2 cartridge, and green gas powered models. The later CO2 and green gas models are considered the top tier for handguns. 

PPQ M2 Airsoft
Airsoft Trainer
CO2 delivers more velocity but green gas is more economical and far simpler to deal with. Green gas models essentially fill like a butane lighter from a WD-40 sized gas can. Shooters get about two or three magazine reloads out of each refill and I figured about 1000 rounds per refill can. Its pretty economical. I found the big plus was that although the green gas magazines are quite expensive (around $45) they are self contained gas reservoirs and BB magazines so when you slip in a new mag, you have a fresh charge of gas and fresh supply of ammo. With CO2 you would need to stop and swap out the CO2 powerlets.

A real PPQ M2 9mm
For the record, you really do get what you pay for with airsoft trainers and quality training quality airsoft guns are not cheap. The really good ones like the PPQ M2 green gas models start around $120 and go up from there. 

One guy was running a custom $700 1911 airsoft gun that accepted real 1911 parts - the quality was amazing. We all ran these guns really hard and close to an abusive level… and we all did see failures at some point, however the higher quality pistol were more reliable by a wide margin. People tend to get a little irritated when you have to reset the run for the third time because of a malfunction. 

RZ Mesh Dust Mask
Pyramex I-Force Goggles
My problems were solely limited to forgetting to gas up the mags after multiple reloads and due to the abuse on the guns, I briefly lost a non-critical takedown pin but found it and was back in action. If you are going to do serious training then spend the money on a really good airsoft trainer.

A standard airsoft mask, thin polar fleece or hoodie, thin skull cap, premium “match” .26g airsoft BBs all make the shooting more enjoyable, reliable and accurate. I wore a the very comfortable and high visibility RZ Mesh dust mask and Pyramex I-Force goggles since these have more utility than an airsoft mask. It worked perfect. My PPQ M2 was tucked into the same Klinger holster I use for my PPQ M2 9mm.

The course was broken into the science and geometry of room clearing, walk through of the three sets of rooms we used for training, simple four man hide one man seek without guns to identify who sees who first, the same drill with unloaded airsoft guns to understand who “could have” taken a shot first, a repeat with live airsoft guns, and then starting after sunset we did the whole drill in the dark. Most of us were able to run each drill set at least four times and well all died… a lot.

The idea through each run was to work on the room clearing geometry Craig had just taught, however most of us including me decided we knew better on our first and second run and were slaughtered. It was clear that Craig had had a lot of experience with building entry and movement and has thought long and hard about the methods. What Craig does teach you is that there are many right ways for example to clear around blind 180 room partition, but there are a lot of really horrible ideas as well and any of the good or bad concepts might get you killed. His teaching style was to try them all and see what happens… “Every room, building, shooter, and situation are different. You may do a quick peek, slice the pie, or fast dynamic entry. The key is to commit and take action decisively.” noted Craig.

There are those trainings which you seem to get better as the course goes on and those which you get your brain’s butt kicked from the start to the and of the class - the ShivWorks AMIS course is the later. I have never made so many stupid mistakes so fast in my life. Armed entry of a potentially hostile room is an opportunity to make 1000 decisions and none of them are good and most of them horrifically stupid. The class will have me questioning my decisions in that training for many months.

AMIS is an outstanding ego clearing, adrenaline fed, heart racing course which leaves you with a lot to think about mentally and a ton to work on from a mental and physical discipline perspective. Just to name a few stupid mistakes, during the training one guy in our group muzzled a cop entering the scene, I “raced to die” going too fast and seeing too little, muzzle swept innocents, left spaces unchecked, saw and recognized threats I did not address, was indecisive, uncommitted in some actions, was a bumbling idiot in the dark, and fingered the trigger… ahh yes “I should have shot Rob”.

Craig set up a final individual challenge which everyone walking out noting “I have a lot to work on”. Without giving up too much the scenario, the concept was that you were at home alone with a child and hear a very loud noise knowing that your nephew had been asleep for many hours. I breached the door well, cleared the first room, but then I ran into Rob as a bad guy. 

Just entering a room an minding your
own business...
On a side note, during the training Rob was an unwilling, non-complying pain in the ass throughout the training runs. If you told him to put his hands up he would give you the finger and quickly duck around a corner, he would not comply with verbal commands to make it more realistic. 

Then this happens.
Though Rob was actually a really great guy who was helpful, and always there to help before and after each run, during the runs however you really wanted to shot him in the crotch.. twice.  So there I was faced with Rob who was being the same unwilling pain in the ass he was before, I could see he was armed, was not complying to verbal commands but I at least got him on the floor before I heard screaming for the other room. It felt like I spent a hour screwing around with non-compliant Rob. Craig notes that everyone you encounter should be classified as “don’t shoot yet”. Rob should have been shot when I saw the gun.

My new shoot or no shoot formula thanks to Rob - If any two answers are yes lead flies.
Wrong Person wrong place?
Non-compliant (in any way)?
Are they armed?

Back to the final course...just like all but one other person, I left Rob to address the more pressing events and leaving Rob bit me in the butt. Everything in me told me I should shoot him and in fact Rob noted I had my finger on the trigger. My response was “Yeah I was just going to shoot you since you were armed and non compliant”.

Psychologically it would seem that guys do this thing where we get into this nice guy “he is not attacking me yet mode” or we size up someone and overestimate our ability to manage/fight-and-win a person. Though well without my rights to legally shot Rob in the scenario, I did not because I felt I had an overwhelming defensive advantage, but the moment I turned my back he started shooting. I did eventually shoot him and killed the other bad dude, wounded the hostage, and I took two shots in the arm in the process with around twenty something rounds fired just by me - not a proud run at all. For the last week my wife cracks up that I keep mumbling “I should have shot Rob.” If I had, I would not have been shot and there would have been a lot hard plastic airsoft balls flying around the room which would have put everyone in danger in a real situation.

Conforming to the geometry.
Interestingly my wife, the only female in the class, was scary decisive. She cleared the room well and pretty much shot Rob as he aggressively turned toward her and she saw a weapon. Just bang.. right in the naked uncovered throat and then killed the other bad guy and saved the hostage. Only three shots fired, she was not hit and was noted as the most decisive action of everyone in the class. I asked her why? Her response was that as a woman, “We see everyone, especially men, as a potential threat. Not that we are necessarily weaker, but even at my height of 6’-1”, I am not going to take on the 225-lb 6’-something armed Rob, I need to act quickly when a threat is realized.” A couple of the guys called it the mama bear instinct. I think it is something else. Woman do not have the good guy syndrome nor the macho I can take him mentality, so they gain decisive seconds responding to a threat. She saw the same thing I did, she just responded more decisively.  It was an interesting psychological experiment to say the least.

At this point I have been through a lot of training that adds up to around 500 hours. The NRA taught me safety, many other classes taught me accuracy, speed and force/tactical aggression gunning tactics, the Israelis taught me how to run a gun hard and deliver a high level of force aggression in a gunfight, and ITI trained me on vehicle based tactics and driving. I would rank ShivWorks AMIS extremely high in my training with probably the best instructor I have had yet. If I was staging a training order for a new shooter the order would be a safety course, your CCW class, a run the gun course, then the AMIS class before any others. I can now understand why over half the class was filled with people who traveled from all over the US just to attend the class.

Controlling the bad dude and then
the cop arrives. Drop the gun SLOWLY...
The AMIS training was a notable gap for me in my training. The Israelis did some training on Armed Movement, however not to this degree and they are extremely tactically aggressive with very high rates of fire when entering rooms. 

There were a couple limited situations on runs where that method paid off and I was able to push opponents into a corner with a high rate of fire, but patiently clearing a room was new for me. In fact as a high strung impatient person with a lot of run and gun experience it was a brutally painful for me. 

Craig kept telling me to “stop 3-Gunning it” and slow way down and see everything before moving to the next area that could kill you. It was was really, really… really hard to go that slow, but I went from die-ing all the time to a least a couple clean runs.

Would I recommend this course? Yes… yes and yes again. There are more than a couple occurrences during your training which you will look back on and say “that piece right there could save my life.”


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