Saturday, June 5, 2010

Paintball CQB Tactics, Part 6 - CQB Week

Dynamic Entry (AKA "Room-clearing") is one of the most dangerous maneuvers in a CQB environment. Every room is a hard point, with limited avenues of attack. On top of that, the narrow doorway is a fatal funnel that you usually have no choice but to pass through (see Part 5 of this series for an explanation of hard points and fatal funnels). Even in an empty room with no cover, the defender usually has the advantage; all he has to do is point his weapon at the doorway, twitch his trigger finger at the slightest sign of movement, and at least one of the attacking team will go down.

Because of this level of danger, you don't just mindlessly rush into a room and start blasting away (and don't close your eyes either). There are measures you can take to reduce your risk of getting shot the second you come through that door.

The first consideration is knowing how to use the tools at your disposal to increase your effectiveness.

Weapon handling for dynamic entry

Your weapon will be useless coming through that door if you have it pointed at the ground, or if the barrel gets caught in the door frame. So I'll outline some tips for proper weapon handling when raiding a room.

First, KEEP YOUR GUN UP!!! With a bad guy pointing a weapon at the door you're coming through, it may come down to a contest of who can twitch their trigger finger the fastest. With the defender already having the advantage, you don't want your weapon pointed at the ground so that it takes you another second and a half to react and fire. You need to be ready to shoot at a split-second's notice.

The next most important thing is to use instinctive shooting to engage your opponent. With everything happening in a split second when entering a room, you don't have time to aim down your weapon's sights, line up your shot with your dominant eye, and carefully squeeze off a shot at the threat. With instinctive shooting, you keep both eyes open, point your weapon at your target, and fire off your rounds quickly. This of course is not the best way to shoot accurately, but when you're 9 feet away from your opponent and he's pointing his weapon back at you, it's less a question of accuracy, and more a question of speed. You can still improve your accuracy using two methods however:

1) Keep your gun up! Yes, I'm harping on this again. By keeping your weapon aimed high, it's closer to your line of sight, and you'll able to align it with your target more easily

2) When gripping your weapon in close quarters, point the index finger of your lead hand out in line with the barrel. Pointing is a simple act you've practiced all your life, to the point where you've mastered it. With your finger positioned like this on the weapon, you just POINT your lead finger at what you want to shoot, and you're pretty much on target. No aiming required!

The ideal weapons for dynamic entry are compact, with short barrels. Smaller paintball markers (like the TM-7) or pistols are great for dynamic entry.

If you use a long marker though, either an M4-style one like a Milsig, or a typical marker with a long barrel, you need to work with what you have. Keep your weapon in close and tight to you when going through a doorway. The tighter you keep your marker, the less chance you have of bumping into the door frame, or snagging it on some other obstruction on the way into the room. Tuck the stock or tank under your arm or over your shoulder when you enter through a narrow doorway, then punch it out quickly to a proper instinctive shooting position right after entry.

On the same topic of keeping the weapon tight, in close quarters you should grip the weapon by a front post grip. This gives you better control over the marker, and allows you to swing it around faster than if your support hand is extended far out along the foregrip. Alternatively, if you don't have a front post mounted on your marker, you can grip it around the front of the magazine well.

Equipment for Dynamic Entry

Proper equipment selection and usage is also an important consideration for dynamic entry operations.

Sling types

Conventional 2-point and 3-point slings can get caught on door handles or other protrusions in tight environments. Wishbone slings (Y-shaped ones that clip onto a tactical vest) and 1-point slings are ideal for dynamic entry and CQB situations. They provide adequate support, while allowing you to keep your weapon in tight without having extra strapping to get snagged on things. In fact, these sling types are often marketed as "CQB slings", because of how well-suited they are to close combat.

Tactical flashlights

There are a lot of good tactical flashlights on the market that are well-suited to dynamic entry and CQB. The authentic police and military ones tend to be expensive, however thanks to the Chinese, decent knock-offs of these tools can be had for a lot less money, and are just fine for hobby use. One of these, the Solarforce L2, was reviewed by Connor on Grey Ops recently. Pressure/tape switches and mounting brackets for this and other lights can be had for cheap from Deal Extreme. Here are a few things to keep in mind when selecting a good tactical light, and using it in a CQB/dynamic entry environment:

-There are currently two main types of tactical flashlights on the market - Light-Emitting Diodes (LEDs) and incandescent lamps (including Xenon lamps). The latter is old technology, and tends to be dimmer and less energy efficient. LEDs tend to give off more uniform, brighter light, but aren't as "warm" (yellowish), so they can be harsh on your night vision.

-Make sure you choose a model that you can "strobe", in other words that you can flash on for a split second by tapping the end cap or squeezing the pressure switch. You don't want to leave your light on the whole time you enter a dark room, as that gives your opponent something to track and shoot at. Instead, just strobe the light every couple seconds to get a picture of what's in the room.

-DO NOT SILHOUETTE your buddies!!! Silhouetting occurs when you're behind a teammate and turn on your flashlight, giving the teammate ahead a nice silhouette/outline. The enemy facing him sees a perfect dark shape to shoot at, surrounded by an aura of light, all thanks to you! So keep the flashlight off if a friendly is ahead of you.

-Whenever possible, close your shooting eye when strobing your light. This keeps your shooting eye sensitive to the dark and keeps you from frying your own night vision.

-When you enter a room, strobe your flashlight and yell GO GO GO or BREACHING BREACHING. If you don't use a "flashbang" grenade (and who in paintball does?), the blinding light and yelling can equally disorient the room's occupants.

Other equipment considerations

An important consideration is to equip yourself only with what you really need. Despite the old adage "It's better to have something and not need it, rather than need something and not have it" doesn't apply here. Too much kit is a bad thing, because it's way too easy to get caught or jammed up when going through a door. Keep in mind too that extra equipment like leg bags, knapsacks, and open dump pouches just make you a bigger target for a paintball hit. And in paintball, even hits to your equipment count for elimination, even if in real life the bullet would just pass through whatever bag was hit, and the operator would continue unharmed.

Dynamic Entry basics

Now let's get down to brass tacks - the proper way to storm into that room! First up, how should you approach the room you intend to attack? Should you try to sneak up and surprise the occupants when you burst in? Or should you communicate loudly with your teammates, announcing your presence and intimidating the occupants?

The way you approach the target room depends entirely on the situation. If you feel you can sneak up to the room, and you can creep quietly on a soft carpet floor, then by all means try to do so, and surprise the hell out of the occupants of the room when you breach. However, take a moment to think of what's involved in that. It involves a bunch of people on your team wearing heavy boots and other combat gear being absolutely quiet, not bumping into the wall when they stack up, not coughing, not whispering, and not having any loose paintballs in their hoppers or pods rattling around like castanets! As stealthy as you think you and your team are, you probably sound like a herd of elephants coming down a hallway with a typical wood or concrete floor.

Also, remember the discussion of top-down building assaults discussed in Part 5? The idea is to flush the enemy out of their entrenched positions and into the open so you can engage them on your own terms. If they hear a bunch of attackers coming down the hall, yelling loudly and aggressively like a finely-honed war machine, you may cause them to retreat out of the room and pull back. This is what you want, because when you assault a room where they're waiting for you, the attacking team is ALWAYS at a disadvantage.

Consider too if there are alternate points of entry to the room. Can you enter by a window, drop down from a skylight, or climb up through a sewer or trap door? Could you "slice the pie" on an open doorway or window to the room, and take out any threats inside that way instead? Remember, you want to avoid going into that room if you can, because the nature of room-clearing favours the defender(s).


In this part of the series I'll be covering a room assault from the perspective of a 4-member team. If you've got more team members available for the assault then you'll have to modify the tactics slightly, but the general principles will remain the same. Generally, 4 members is a good number to work with, so that you don't trip all over each other going in, and reduce the chances of a friendly fire incident. Additional team members can be kept in reserve out in the hallway to fill in any gaps where they're needed (and by gaps, I mean members of your team getting taken out when they go in!).

Because of the narrow door, it's obviously much easier for a 4-man team to enter a room in a single file. To accomplish this, the team needs to "stack up" short of the doorway. The team should stay tight to the wall, so that they only have to worry about threats from 180 degrees while "stacked".

While waiting in the stack, each teammate has an area of responsibility (AOR) to cover. The lead man (#1) covers the area directly ahead of the team with his eyes and weapon. He watches for anyone coming out of the doorway the team is about to assault, or any threat coming down the hallway. #2 points his weapon ahead diagonally, and covers the exposed side of the team. #3 in the stack is responsible for covering high, keeping an eye on high ground, such as overhanging balconies, etc. Lastly, #4 covers the ass of the team. His area of responsibility is EVERYWHERE to the rear of the team - high, low, down the hallway, everywhere.

During dynamic entry, the greatest risk is generally to the first 2 attackers breaching the room. Because the team leader (TL) is important to the mission, ideally he should be #3 in the stack (or later if you have an assault team larger than 4 members). If possible, the rear cover position shouldn't be occupied by the TL, since he needs to be facing forward to observe the tactical situation and make the right calls.

Before continuing, I have to emphasize the importance of TRUST among team members. You have to cover your assigned sector, and trust that the other members of your team will do the same. If you cross into another member's AOR, you leave your own AOR uncovered and jeopardize the team. So don't cross over into another AOR!

Something else that bears mention is the importance of PHYSICAL CONTACT in a stack. In extremely dark hallways where it's very hard to see, it's important that team members maintain physical contact with each other. This doesn't have to be awkward, and keeping your left hand on the left shoulder of the teammate is enough. Basically, you want to be able to feel when your team ahead is beginning to move. Otherwise, #1 in the stack could breach the room, while #2 has no idea that he's gone ahead, leaving #1 assaulting the room alone (which is a very BAD thing). Remember too that the rear cover team member is facing away from everyone else in the stack and won't see the team move, so it's very easy for him to get left behind if there's no physical contact with the team.


Entering the room is referred to as breaching. The most important rule to follow when breaching is to CLEAR THE FATAL FUNNEL! In all likelihood any defenders have their weapons pointed right at that doorway, and if you're entering a dark room from a lit hallway, the hallway light will silhouette you. So you want to spend as little time there as possible.

The two methods of dynamically entering a room are CROSSING and BUTTONHOOKING. Crossing means cutting across the doorway in a straight line to the opposite side. Buttonhooking means curling tightly around the door frame into the room. To fully illustrate both movements, and the entire Dynamic Entry process, I'll explain it using diagrams:

A very important concept in Dynamic Entry is the Right-Hand Rule. 90% of human beings are right-handed. When facing a door and called upon to lift their right arm and shoot quickly under stress, they'll shoot high and to their right with that first shot or burst. That means the first attacker into the room needs to enter low and to the defender's left whenever possible. From the breacher's perspective, it means #1 needs to go in heading to his right side. In the diagram above, #1 crosses into the room to the right (the defender's left).

Obviously, if #1 sees a threat in the room, he should engage it right away if he wants to survive. However, barring an obvious threat, his first priority should be to "DIG" the corner. In a room with no cover or barricade, a defender's preferred position is in the corner. This is for the same reason that you move along walls in FIBUA (see Part 5); a defender in a corner is surrounded by walls on two sides, and only has to worry about threats directly in front of him.

The #2 breacher then immediately follows #1 in and buttonhooks around to the left side of the room. You don't need to enter to the right this time, because the defender(s) eyes and weapon is already tracking assaulter #1 in the other direction. So entering to the left is comparatively safe at this point. Once again, if a threat is immediately visible, #2 engages it, but if not then the priority is digging the corner directly to the left of the door.

The #3 breacher then immediately follows #2 into the room, crossing this time. But he DOES NOT dig the corner! ONLY the first man in on each side digs the corner, otherwise #3 would end up muzzling/lazing #1 (see Part 2 of this series for an explanation of lazing). Remember that you have to TRUST that your teammates are covering their AORs, and that corner is #1's AOR. #3's focus should be downrange into the room, scanning for threats.

The #4 breacher then immediately follows #3 into the room, buttonhooking around the door frame. #4 also DOES NOT dig the corner, as it's already been covered by #2.

It's crucial that the entire team "flows" into the room, like a stream of water at the bottom of a funnel. If there's too much of a delay between each team member entering, each member is on their own in that room for a brief period. The assault is much more effective and devastating when the entire team enters the room almost simultaneously.

Keep in mind the above steps and diagrams illustrate a team assaulting a room from the left side of a doorway. If the team were assaulting from the right side of a door, the #1 assaulter would have to buttonhook rather than cross to respect the Right Hand Rule. Whatever maneuver the #1 man starts with though, the next person would do the opposite. So in from the right side of a doorway the order would be Buttonhook-Cross-Buttonhook-Cross.

The final result of a successful Dynamic Entry operation should be the 4-man team forming a "firing line" just inside the room. Once through the door, hang back and avoid deep penetration of the room. Your marker can shoot a lot farther than the length of the room, so hang back and give yourself as much distance from the bad guy to react as possible.

Another benefit of hanging back (and probably the most important), is that you won't have a crossfire situation where your rounds that miss the threat hit your teammates. There's no reason to be in a Tarantino-esque situation where everyone's in a circle pointing guns at each other.


Once everyone's in position inside the room, and all the shooting has stopped, each team member should call out that they're okay and still standing. In sequence, each member of the team yells "ONE UP" "TWO UP" "THREE UP" "FOUR UP". When it's determined that everyone is okay, it's time to check each other over for hits, and replenish your ammo in preparation for clearing the next room.

Further considerations

Small rooms

If you're #1 entering a doorway, and discover you're entering a tiny room that definitely won't fit 4 operators, call "SMALL ROOM". This will prevent the comedy of 3 guys piling into you from behind as you realize you're breaching a broom closet.


Often, when you breach a room and everything goes smoothly initially, there will still be places in the room that present a risk. Barricades (such as overturned furniture), alcoves, closets, long walls, and doors to other rooms can still be issues in rooms that you thought were clear. If you notice one of these unknowns in your sector/AOR, call it out loud and clear so that your other teammates know it's there too. If you enter on the right side and see a big desk turned on its side in front of you, call "BARRICADE RIGHT". If you see a door in the middle of the room on the far wall, yell "DOOR CENTER". Whatever hazard you encounter, time is on your side now, and you don't have to take it dynamically now that you're already inside the room - you can slice the pie around it, call out to someone hiding in the alcove or barricade to come out and surrender, etc.


If you want to make sure that what was behind you remains cleared/secure, you'll need to leave at least one person covering all possible ways in behind you as you go. Obviously this will thin out your team more and more the further ahead you go, to the point where you may be breaching a room as a 2-man team (which of course is pretty risky). So be careful not to extend your team too far when clearing a series of rooms.


I hope I've explained this topic well enough for you to have a full understanding, as Dynamic Entry is one of the trickiest aspects of CQB. But just as important as understanding these tactics, is understanding and practicing them as a TEAM. It's important that everyone be on the same page for these fast-moving operations to go smoothly. And needless to say, COMMUNICATION is all-important. If you see or hear anything important to the mission, your team needs to know about it too.

In the final part of this series (Part 7), I'll present a few videos of real-life fighting forces engaging in Dynamic Entry training, and you'll be able to see the principles I've explained in action.

Part 7

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