Thursday, May 27, 2010

Paintball CQB Tactics, Part 3 - CQB Week

In this installment I'll cover some individual skills and tactics for paintball CQB play, and proper team communication.

Point A to Point B

The most basic individual skill you'll need to master for CQB is movement. The good news is that if you know how to walk, you've pretty much already mastered this aspect! The state-of-the-art basic method of movement in close-quarters combat is the Tactical Glide. This involves walking while leaning slightly forward at the waist, with a bend in your knees - not so low that you look like a caveman or knuckledragger, but low enough that you have the ability to spring up, sprint, jump to the side, or otherwise react quickly. The advantage of this position is that the bent legs act as shock absorbers at each step, giving you a stable shooting platform from the waist up, and allowing your weapon to stay more or less on target. As an added bonus, you make yourself a shorter target, and you're less likely to get your head shot off. Here’s a demo by a former US Marine (although I personally prefer to crouch a little lower than he does – as always, fine-tune your own style):

Contrast this with some of the methods of movement from the older schools of thought on tactical movement: There’s the "Step & Slide" method, where you move forward by taking a step forward with the lead foot, then slide the rear foot forward to catch up. There’s also the cross-over method, where you cross one foot over the other as you advance or withdraw. The Step & Slide suffers from instability, because with every step forward your upper body/shooting platform drops, and when you slide the rear foot forward to catch up your upper body rises. This means your gun doesn't stay on target very well while you move. The cross-step, on the other hand, is just a disaster waiting to happen. What if you needed to react at the moment your legs are crossed? Not only is it not a stable shooting platform, but mobility is seriously compromised with the legs in that position.

Weapon handling on the move

What about handling your weapon while you’re moving? Well the main thing to keep in mind is the 3-Eye Principle. This involves keeping both eyes and your weapon in the direction of the threat area, or your area of responsibility if you're moving in a formation with a team. Most paintball players are notorious for keeping their marker pointed down while they move! Keep your gun up and pointed in the general direction you're looking at, so you're able to shoot your opponent square in the goggles if he pops his head up for a split second while you move. (If you find your marker too heavy to hold up consistently, then either build up your arms, or get rid of the 20lbs of useless accessories on it that make it look badass but add very little to its function!) If you're on the move you're already in a vulnerable position, so don't make it harder for yourself and decrease your reaction time by not being ready to shoot instantly. You don't have to hold your weapon perpendicular to the ground with your eyes behind your sights (in fact this would make it hard to see hazards on the ground in front of you, not to mention KILL your arms), but keep it at what's called the low-ready. The low-ready means keeping the gun up in your shoulder and relaxed, so that it's ready to snap up to the high-ready position (eyes behind the sights) and shoot when required.

Note: The clear-ready is the position you adopt when you don't want to point your muzzle at (laze) someone. It basically involves having your hands on the marker ready to shoot it, but keeping it pointed at the ground.

Head on a swivel

When using the 3-eye principle and scanning your area of responsibility from side to side or up and down, always lead with the eyes. Remember the concept of the cognitive delay we discussed in part 2? Well, if you move your weapon and eyes together, by the time you spot your target and your brain evaluates it and identifies it as a threat, your weapon and eyes have already scanned past it, and now you have to correct them back in the opposite direction to aim and fire. If you lead with your eyes by a few degrees in the direction of your scan, by the time your brain screams “THREAT” your weapon is pointing directly at the target instead of past it. This can save you that critical split second you need to react and save your bacon.

One other thing I’d like to talk about regarding weapon handling (that doesn’t really fit into the movement section but I’d like to address) is the concept of reloading high. Whether a mag-fed or hopper-fed marker is used, a big mistake that some players make is to drop their marker down to around waist level to reload it. If you do this, while you’re looking down at your gun so much around you is changing. When you look up again after those 5-10 seconds and go to bring your reloaded marker up, your opponent could be right there in your face yelling at you to surrender! So bring the marker up in front of your face when you reload, and make that your “workspace”, so to speak. That way you could still see what’s going on with your opponent using your peripheral vision.

The biggest no-no

The most important thing to keep in mind while moving (or standing, or crouching, or sitting) is to KEEP YOUR FINGER OFF THE TRIGGER UNTIL YOU INTEND TO SHOOT! While moving you can trip, bump into something, get startled, or suffer some other unforeseen event that can cause your trigger finger to twitch and fire off a shot, which can lead to anything from giving away your team’s position, to putting someone’s eye out. After lazing your buddies, the finger on the trigger is dead giveaway #2 that the person handling the weapon is an untrained civvie, because any professional doing that tends to pay in verbal abuse, pushups, and even lashes depending on what country’s military they’re currently in! DON’T DO IT!

A visual reminder to keep your finger off the trigger (contrary to the video title, no one got shot in this incident – it was a near miss):

Tactical Communication (Tac Comm)

Although individual skills are important, you need to be able to work as a team. Although I won’t really cover team movement and formations in this series (but expect to see it sometime down the road on Grey Ops), I definitely want to talk about communication with your teammates in combat.

Obviously you should tailor your communication to the situation you’re in. You don’t want to yell to your teammates if you’re trying to sneak into position, any more than you would want to whisper to them when shots are going off all around you. That being said, when the excrement hits the rotating ventilation device, GO LOUD. Use your command voice to call out to your team, i.e. SPEAK WITH YOUR BALLS. Speaking loudly and confidently psychs you up, intimidates the opposing force, and increases your assertiveness and “killer instinct”.

When you use your command voice, you can be heard without having to turn and face the person you’re communicating with. Just like you can drive and carry on a conversation with a passenger while looking at the road ahead, you can yell to your teammates and still look downrange at what’s going on with the opposing force, and they’ll still hear you. There’s no need to take your eye off the ball!

When you’re in an environment where it’s too loud to be heard, you’re too far to yell to someone, or you want to stay quiet, hand signals are an adequate substitute. Arrange these with your team beforehand, and keep it SIMPLE. Use 7 or 8 signals at most for common messages, as it’s unrealistic to expect everybody to memorize a whole new type of sign language that they’ll probably forget when things heat up anyway.

In the next installment of this series, we’ll talk about minimizing your risks while approaching and around corners and angles, one of the trickiest features of a close-quarters battlefield.

Part 4

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