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  • Writer's pictureLance Flory

CTEs - The Foundation of a Professional Firearms Training Plan.

Critical Task Evaluation (CTE) - Deliberate, Purpose Driven Training Tool.

Imagine a friend comes to you, and with every bit of confidence tells you they are going to compete in the Boston Marathon next year. You respond, "Wow, that's great. What have you been doing to get ready?" Your friend, with a smile says "I get out and run sometimes." Though you don't run, you understand in order to compete in the Boston Marathon you must first meet their qualification standards at an officially sanctioned event. This knowledge drives you to ask the question "Can you make their qual times yet?" Your friend, still with a smile, answers "Not sure, never timed my runs." We can easily see the foolishness of our friend in this scenario and predict his likelihood of successfully completing his goal as minimal.

Unfortunately, this conversation happens often in the same manner surrounding the topic of firearms and everyday carry. On many occasions people tell me they purchased a firearm to carry for self-defense. When ask what kind of training they conduct, most simply smile and confidently inform me they go to the range on occasion. The same person who would understand the need for developing a deliberate training plan to compete in the Boston Marathon, does not apply the same logic to everyday carry. How can we change this culture and be more thoughtful around our everyday carry training? The short, simple answer - CTEs.

What is a CTE?

CTEs are a training tool that can grade an individual's capacity to accomplish a specified task, under specific conditions. One of the reasons the US Special Operations Community is successful, is their ability to problem solve - the method in which they think. They take complex problems and break them down to their simplest form. Lets start from the beginning. I have purchased a firearm and plan to carry it. No matter what the situation, in order to solve a violent problem with a firearm, I must first have access to it, and be able to present it safely, effectively, and with efficiency. I develop a plan to draw my pistol from its holster and practice the motions dry for a bit. How do I improve? Am I good enough now? Well lets develop a CTE and test ourselves.

CTE 1 - The Draw

Each CTE consists of three components. The task, the condition, and the standard.

Task: Engage the Target with one round.

Condition: At 7 meters, from concealment, in daylight.

Standard: IPSC High A zone hit, 1.5 seconds.

Our task should be simple, clear and allow for testing of our critical task. If we changed the task to a two round engagement, we would be combining a few different skills. If I missed my second shot, does that mean I need to re-design or further train my draw technique? No, it means I need to practice a separate critical skill of follow-up shots. Trigger take-up, obtaining a proper second sight picture etc.

The condition must be realistic and well informed. Much discussion can go into what distance we should practice our draw from. Many people study FBI data from previous shootings (FBI LEOKA program), or various law enforcement offices like the NYPD or LAPD who conduct their own data collection. I would suggest, you train three different CTE distances, to understand how you may change your technique to best respond to the different conditions. For the purpose of our first CTE, we will start at 7 meters from our target - a good middle ground. The next condition is from concealment. While it might seem obvious, if we are not deliberate about it many people train a draw from an open carry holster, even though if they were to likely preform the action in everyday carry it would be concealed. Make sure your condition forces you to train as you fight. Our last condition has us conducting the evaluation during daylight. When starting to train a new task, always start with the easiest conditions. Because many violent encounters occur at night, we must include this condition to remind us to test our CTE under nighttime conditions as well - after developing confidence in the day.

The standard must address our three principles listed above - safe, effective, and efficient. Addressing safety, prior to executing the CTE, we make sure the procedural technique we use eliminates unnecessary risk, and mitigates any risk we must assume. To draw a line on effectiveness, we determine we wanted a High A zone hit on an IPSC style target. For efficiency we want to be under 1.5 seconds as recorded by a shot timer. Its important to set reachable goals for time standards, but also try not to shortchange yourself.

Now that I have developed my CTE its time to test myself. I have practiced the motions through dry-fire drills, and practiced with live rounds enough to feel comfortable testing. I put myself on the clock and test three times for an average of 1.97 seconds. All three runs resulted in High A zone hits, but I have failed to meet my time standard. Am I moving at a good speed? Is there somewhere in my technique I can become more efficient? Most individuals make unconscious extra movements, or move farther than they need to accomplish a task. After purposefully trying to make shorter, deliberate movements and training more dry-fire I come back to test again. This time in three runs my average is 1.76 - progress. If on my first runs I missed the High A zone, I would go back and train fundamentals of marksmanship and look at ways to make my technique of the draw better. Does my technique allow enough time to pick up a proper sight picture? Am I finding my sights with a good sight picture?

CTE 1a - The Draw in my environment

After some diligent dry-fire days and range training I finally meet my standard I have set for my draw. What now? The CTE we have developed is very static, purposefully to test and develop our draw technique, but we must adapt it to our everyday environment. Lets say I am an Uber driver who's most dangerous part of the day is first encounters with new patrons. I want to adapt my draw CTE to the conditions I carry in. My new condition might read: Condition: At 3 meters, from concealment while buckled and seated as vehicle driver, in daylight. Now I can take my fundamental draw and apply it to my environment. I may need to add a step, like removing my seat belt, or change the time standard to account for added steps. I may choose to develop a habit of unbuckling when I stop to pick up a customer, now I can remove that step from my condition. You are only limited by your creativity, just remember the principles of safe, effective, efficient when adding to your technique.

Pilgrim Defense 2-Day Pistol Operator Course CTEs

In our 2-day course students are presented with all of the basic fundamental CTEs, and learn safe, effective, and efficient techniques to complete tasks. They are a foundation, by which you can adapt your everyday carry training to your own lifestyle. I would encourage you to attend one of our classes, experience goes a long way in setting you up for success. Our CTE grade sheet lays out three standards for students to meet, so after obtaining a baseline students can see where improvement can be made and deliberately focus training.

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