This summer, I had the opportunity to participate in two courses provided by the Personal Defense Network (PDN), conducted by PDN CEO Rob Pincus. In this installation, I recount a day spent in the Two Person Armed Defense (2PAD) course.
Other partner/team training I’ve experienced borrowed heavily from SWAT-style techniques of navigating indoor spaces in the interest of seeking cover or protecting a weaker family member. 2PAD was nothing like those classes. It’s uniquely PDN, and crafted for civilians.
The basic Combat Focus pistol class is a prerequisite of this course, on paper at least. With a partner who’s been trained in Combat Focus shooting, I had the chance to hear about the techniques as related to me and incorporate them into my own practice for a few years. It was unclear if I’d even be admitted to this class without having taken the basic course. Pincus intimated that sometimes, exceptions are made, especially when sign-ups are slim. In this case, there were just two pairs in the class, allowing for plenty of time to burn ammo.
A short drill of the Combat Focus raise (the gun), touch (the trigger), press (the trigger) kicked off the class after a customary safety and goals-for-the-day lecture. And that’s where the class departed, in many regards, from any other I’ve taken.
Key to the philosophy of the course is the principle that civilians need to be aware of and identify two primary categories of other people upon drawing a gun in defense of self or others. Those things are, in order of priority—
- People you don’t want to get shot by. That could include the violent criminal actor(s), a police officer who could mistake the identity of the armed citizen as a “good guy,” and other civilians who likewise commit mistaken identity or are simply unsafe in preventing negligent discharge.
- People who might help. In this adult version, classic advice from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, students were advised to keep helpful folks in mind when circumstances permit. What does “help” mean? Whatever’s needed in the moment — calling 911, being another set of eyes, rendering medical aid, etc.
When a class member referred to an object on the range as something they’d move toward as cover in a proposed scenario, Pincus really blew the corners off the square range. Never assume “cover” is safe in a public, 360-degree setting, he said. Rather, think in terms of taking a position of advantage, which may or may not be cover per se.
Armed with pistols and a broadening of our thinking, pairs were challenged throughout the day to treat the range as a 360-degree environment. Actual targets were safely in an approximate 130-degree span with backstops, of course. But each pair was monitored closely to insure they were observing the entire environment—near and far, high and low.
How does one turn in a 360-degree radius on the range, pistol in hand? Using the “sul” (south, in Portuguese, so I’ve heard) ready position. Sul is marked by drawing the grip of the handgun into one’s torso. With thumbs steepled, the support hand palm rests on the torso, the firearm resting atop with muzzle straight down — south, in other words. Sul has the advantages of being not only muzzle-safe for turning in most any direction, it’s also discreet and keeps the gun as secure as possible in a public setting. I was a fan of sul prior to the class and it was pleasing to see this iota of military training being employed in 2PAD.
With 360-degree vigilance duly installed, the next layer of training involved getting to — as in, physical contact with — the armed partner. Students were asked to broaden their definition of who that partner might be. A spouse or armed co-worker is an easy role to assign. But this technique can work to make an ally and prevent “friendly fire” coming from an armed stranger in a public place. Even if they’re afraid and making dangerous handling errors, said Pincus, it’s preferable to get in close contact with them and take charge of their actions rather than leaving it to chance.
Bang-bang-bang! As teams, separated by 5 to 15 feet, and always moving before and after firing, and during reloads, we were assigned to move toward our partner, trusting them to monitor their radius. Once we had moving to within elbow-rubbing distance down, Pincus added movement while retaining 360-degree movement, with each team maintaining movement and simple communication. Back to back, with the leading partner anchoring a hand onto the belt of the other, pairs moved as a single unit, maintaining 360-degree observation of their surroundings.
With movement and communication added to the mix, the rest of the lesson was spent identifying targets versus non-targets, eventually joining forces and moving. My partner and I worked as a known team, and as mixed pairs when we switched off to shoot and move with a “stranger” on the range.
People who train for personal security are often alpha types. Moving as an armed pair requires the willingness to follow, while being ready to take the lead if conditions warrant. This led to a few humorous moments for students — humorous in the moment, but sobering to think of the potential consequences of poor teamwork in a real encounter.
The 2PAD class expanded my horizons and understanding of how I can interact with others, whether accompanied or as a stranger in a crowd, in the event of a criminal attack. It gave me simple and sensible strategies for creating a safer environment for myself and those around me in such an incident.
Methods described here should not be experimented with based only on this article. Gun training is inherently full of risk. Guns.com, PDN/Rob Pincus, and I bear no responsibility for your safety.
As a bonus, students got to shoot a prototype of the Avidity Arms PD10, a 9m semiauto of Pincus’ own design. I found the thin, slab-sided pistol easy to shoot and manipulate. The trigger is influenced, in part, by the revolvers used by speed shooting phenom Jerry Miculek. Like his specialized match revolvers, the PD10 has a trigger that pushes toward reset after firing. For reset-using shooters, it’s a very different feel, but one that seems beneficial and easy to get used to.