January 31 I attended Combat Shooting and Tactic's three day Civilian Response to Active Shooters course. The purpose of this class was to address the problem of active shooters from the perspective of a civilian carrying a concealed handgun. The course was taught by Paul Howe and Nick Stewart.

This class proceeds from an assumption very different from all of my previous civilian self-defense training: you have decided that ending the threat and providing medical care to casualties is more important to you than maintaining your own safety. This flies in the face of maximizing beer and TV time. I'm neither a soldier, nor a policeman, so my normal strategy is to move away from danger. I take no responsibility for the self-defense choices others have made. That said, in "average" active shooter events a victim is killed every 15-20 seconds until tactical pressure is applied. This is a tough choice that each of us must make given the totality of the circumstances. Like most emergency preparedness, setting your mental triggers ahead of time is key.

The focus of the course was on establishing the following three priorities, and the skills necessary to do so.

  1. Security
  2. Medical
  3. Link-up


Security, simply put, means ending the threat(s) as quickly as possible.

Prior to taking this class, I had no experience navigating structures and clearing rooms. The instructors employ a progressive approach to teaching this complex of skills necessary to reach the threat.

Target identification and target discrimination were key elements; every scenario on the second and third day contained many no-shoot targets in every room. A wide variety of photo-targets were used, with a wide variety of "accessories" (benign and otherwise) overlaid to ensure that students perform thorough target identification. Custom hostage targets were sometimes used, and students were encouraged to make the most difficult shot that they knew they could make.


Once a safe area has been established, and no threat is present, you must provide medical care as best you can. Although the classroom lecture covered a wider range of aid, all hands-on practice in this class was on controlling extremity hemorrhage via tourniquet. This is not a shortcoming of the class; the class prioritizes tactics and skills you get from neither a civilian self-defense class nor a first aid class. A suplemental class that builds other skills, such as hemorrhage control where tourniquets cannot be used, airway maintenance and tension pneumothorax is a good idea. In fact, if you've done this first, it'll help you put the medical component of this class in perspective.

Emphasis was placed on making security your top priority. If an additional bad guy is present, it's critical that you put tactical pressure on him as soon as possible to suspend his killing. If you are critically injured, you won't be able help anyone. To wit, one drill has you keep a LaRue self-resetting target knocked down, one handed, and apply a tourniquet to your other, "injured" arm.


Once you've established security and provided what medical care you're able, the third problem is connecting with first responders without getting yourself shot by responding officers.

This problem is the most delicate, because the police officers who follow you into this situation will be amped up on adrenaline, and may have spent less time than you have considering the problem on active shooters. It's important to consider the situation from these officers' perspectives. If you're running around with a drawn gun, you're likely to get shot by the good guys.

Instructors act as the voice on the other end of your 911 call, and ensure that you deliver the information the dispatcher will need to provide to responding officers.

In addition, the class introduces several techniques for providing clues and information to those officers to help them recognize that they're approaching you.

Course Structure

The course begins with classroom time devoted to defining the problem, establishing our priorities as civilian responders, and discussing selecting and packing equipment for active shooter response.

An initial live fire range session is devoted to:

  • precision marksmanship
  • marksmanship at 25+ yds -- you'll shoot up to about 75 yards with your carry gun in this class
  • the compressed high ready and Sul positions
  • use of cover
  • breaking the plane

Subsequent range sessions, the afternoon of the second and third days cover:

  • outdoor movement and exterior contact
  • pieing corners
  • hallways and contact during pieing
  • rooms with open doors
  • rooms with closed doors
  • T-intersections
  • sub-rooms

An incremental approach is employed to each scenario, in which students are exposed to:

  • a demonstration by instructors
  • a supervised dry run
  • a supervised live fire run

Most of these run-throughs are individual, and students are given feedback and an opportunity to ask questions after each.


The CSAT range is an impressive facility. We spent a little time on square ranges the first day, but spent the remainder of the class in the facility's two shoot houses. One is configured like a residential home. The other is an analog for a larger building like and office or school.


Both Paul Howe and Nick Stewart provided great feedback in each scenario, and the difficulty of the training escalated at a rate that retained just the right amount of challenge throughout. I was neither bored nor overwhelmed. I can unreservedly recommend this class.

It bears reiteration that this class is very different from most civilian self-defense courses. It is simply not capable of offering the kind of perfectly clear, one-size-fits-most guidance that you may be used to in other classes. Bring your brain, and be willing to adjust habits and skills that don't fit the problem.

Panteo Productions offers a video that contains a very abbreviated version of the course material. I found it to be a good reminder of the course, but no substitute whatsoever for the interactive training experience.