Tactical Incest

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You might have heard this called ‘Training Inbreeding’ or ‘Methodological Regurgitation’, depending on how posh or redneck your training cadre is. It’s a term that’s slowly starting to gain momentum in the training world, and I largely suspect that the reason for that is because the Internet has allowed thousands of experts the globe over to finally compare notes with one another and hash out what works, what doesn’t, and what’s plain stupid.

Tactical Incest is when training cadre refuse to integrate or consider any training or technique that hasn’t been part of the institutional dogma already– and then the new batch of instructors, tutors, and coaches return to the training center and perpetuate the cycle. You see it in sports and in the workplace, but it really hits hard in  professional circles where bad TTPs get people killed.

Institutional knowledge is a difficult beast to whip. After all, ‘everyone knows, that’s how it’s done’. Over at Primary & Secondary, a fantastic and well-moderated training/gear/professional forum, I read this article about a training course the armorer had attended. He was shocked at the amount of bullshit that was being propagated by a professional-grade armorer, someone who not only should have known better in the first place, but in a move inspired by huge amounts of laziness was making no effort to even research his ‘fundamental’ knowledge.

What he’s just highlighted is one facet of the ugly monster I call ‘Tactical Incest’. In the old days before the Interwebs, training was largely a matter of going to places like Gunsite or attending a police academy. There were conferences, of course, but let’s face it– the last thing you’re going to do at a national conference is get in a faceoff with your fellow peers and professionals over proper TTPS while on a hot range. And usually by the time a faceoff happens, everyone’s so mad no one learns anything new.

So people go to Gunsite or POST or other training academies, inhale all the good and the bad and the derp, and then when they become teachers or instructors down the road, they tend to fall back on teaching the way they were taught.

You see a lot of this in the armed forces quite a bit, too. It’s not necessarily done out of apathy– the Sergeants Major Academy is literally set up so that the guys who’ve spent 20 years working with the manual are the ones who close out their careers writing it. What drives bad training techniques in many cases is that it takes work to retrain troops. If a crusty old sergeant learned how to shoot an M16 a certain way, it doesn’t matter if a world champion shows up and has a better trick– the Sergeant’s happy with his scores, and he’ll insist on teaching troops to shoot using his technique, and that can be dozens or even hundreds of troops over his lifetime as an instructor.

Before I got out of the Army I was very into IDPA and USPSA, and I discovered that of the dozen or so people qualifying with an M9, most of them– even one retired cop– was using the old ‘supported grip’ teacup stance, and only one of them was using something even close to a Weaver. Because ‘that’s how they were taught to do it’.  Even after I showed I could go 40/40 with the M9, I still had people resisting me when I tried to show them a better way.

The way to correct Tactical Incest is to maintain a simple line. Get your ego out of the equation, set aside tradition and training and everything else, and hold it up to one single metric: Does the new thing work better. That doesn’t mean try it once and then throw it aside– it means put serious thought and effort into researching the new idea. Experiment with it. Someone, at some point, said ‘I think a double-stack semi-auto is a better choice for cops than a revolver’. Lots of cops resisted that idea and fought against it, because that’s not how it’s done’. Now, double-stack semis are issued in every police department in America. At one point, someone said ‘Instead of measuring shooting skill on accuracy, let’s measure efficiency.’ Competition shooters snorted and fought back, and then Rob Leatham started using his new techniques on the range to be both fast and accurate. Now, gunfighting training doesn’t revolve around how many Xs you can punch out of a B8 target on the range.

If you’re at a training institution, don’t just sit back and absorb information without questioning it. Ask yourself not only ‘Does this work’, but ‘why does this work’, and then ‘what could make this work better’. If you’re a coach, encourage your students to break down every step of the TTP you’re teaching. Give them time offline to experiment with other methodologies or set aside time, if at all possible, to discuss the hows, whys, and wherefores of your shooting technique. You don’t have to let Billy Bob use his supported firing stance on your training time, but it behooves you as an instructor to help him understand why an isoceles grip is so much more effective for most shooting. Most importantly, every time you teach something, you should not just be doing it for the sake of doing it that way. Understand every part of it– ergonomics, movement, conservation of energy, vulnerabilities and strengths– and be able to defend yourself articulately or justify it with something more than ‘That’s how I learned it’. And be willing to consider alternative techniques and tactics with an open mind, instead of digging your heels in anytime someone says ‘I tried something different’.

Most importantly: Date outside the family. Get training from other sources.

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