Saturday, June 3, 2017

Close Quarters Battle with Michael Connick

English: MOYOCK, N.C. (Nov. 6, 2010) Navy SEAL...
 Navy SEALs practice close quarters combat (Wikipedia)
ThrillWriting is thrilled to have Michael Connick as our guest blogger. 

Michael - 
Close quarters battle may also be referred to as close quarters combat, or even close quarters gunfighting. It's often just abbreviated as CQB

Regardless of what it's called, it refers to the same thing: combat against possible enemies that takes place at very short distances. These range from actual physical contact up to 100 meters. It's fast, intense, and bloody work, and requires lots of training and ongoing practice to become proficient in its techniques. I'm going to try and give you a brief introduction to this topic in order for you to be able to write coherently and realistically about it.

First, let me tell you a little about myself. I've had over 35 years experience with firearms. I have worked with both the intelligence community and the Department of Defense. I recently retired, but am still a competitive pistol and rifle shooter. I participate in at least one match every month. I've had the privilege of attending a wide variety of firearms and self-defense training courses. These were taught by some of the best governmental, law enforcement, and private instructors in the country. Below is a list of just some of the courses I have attended:
  • Tactical Handgun (multiple courses) 
  • The Fighting Carbine (multiple courses) 
  • Advanced Handgun Techniques (multiple courses) 
  • Extreme Close Quarters Combat (multiple courses) 
  • Hand To Hand Combat (multiple courses) 
  • Ground Fighting 
  • Tactical Knife Skills 
  • Impact Weapons 
  • Vehicle-Based Gunfighting 
  • Shooting in Low Light (multiple courses) 
  • Backup Gun Usage (multiple courses) 
  • Emergency/Tactical Medicine (multiple courses) 
  • Performance Under Fire (lecture course) 
  • Dealing with Violent Criminal Actors (lecture course)
The above courses have provided me with a large number of valuable skills, all of which can be needed in order to survive in a close quarters combat environment. I feel pretty competent to speak to you on this topic.

Principles of CQB

CQB, by its very nature, usually takes place within confined spaces. If you're in wide-open spaces, you'll usually have plenty of warning about any possible threats. You will be able to deal with them with long range weapons, like artillery, mortars, or precision rifles. It's only when you're in a confined space that you may find yourself rounding a corner and suddenly finding yourself face-to-face with a bad guy. In fact, one of the CQB courses I took was actually titled “Critical Spaces”. CQB is all about how you deal with threats found within these critical spaces.

The key principles of successful CQB are surprise, speed, and violence.


If you are going to survive a close encounter with an enemy, you had better have some type of surprise on your side. If you don't, you will be walking right into deadly trap against a prepared enemy. Even a few seconds of surprise can mean the difference between life and death.

Surprise can be accomplished by stealth, deception, distraction, or even just startling your enemy. Surprise can give you valuable seconds in which to gain the initiative.


Speed enables you to take advantage of the seconds you gain through surprise. However, it never means incautious haste. Blundering headlong into danger is always a bad strategy. Speed should always be moderated by care and caution.


Violence is your tool for defeating your enemy while minimizing your own chance of injury. It's not confined to weapons use, but also involves a mindset committed to completely dominating your enemies. Anything short of that will likely get you killed.

Aspects of CQB

Again, CQB deals with close up contact with your enemy. How you handle an enemy within physical contact distance will differ greatly from how you deal with an enemy who is 100 meters away. Your choice of response will change based on their actual proximity, as well as your current offensive/defensive state.

A CQB engagement could actually happen to your protagonist as they are walking down a dark street in their home town. A mugger could suddenly step out of a doorway and demand money from them. That's a CQB situation. CQB is not confined to Iraq or Afghanistan, it's any close up life or death encounter with an adversary.

Let's take a look at the responses your character might choose for various kinds of CQB situations. In all these situations, I'm going to assume that your hero has a concealed handgun on their person.

An Enemy Within Arms Reach

Let's get back to the mugger scenario. The mugger is standing directly in front of your protagonist, within arms reach, and demanding money. What should your hero do?

Well, the first thing they should definitely not do is attempt to draw their handgun. If they do, the mugger will be close enough to grab for it as it's being drawn, and they will end up in a wrestling match over the gun. If the mugger succeeds in wresting the gun away, a bad situation has just become much, much worse.

The picture below shows me in a training course practicing dealing with an attempted gun grab. I've got a pistol in an unconcealed holster and the instructor is trying to take my handgun away from me. It's a very messy situation that requires lots of training to be able to handle effectively.

Instead, your protagonist should strike the mugger. Again, they will use the vital CQB principles of surprise, speed, and violence to overcome their enemy. A speedy and violent palm strike to the mugger's nose, a hammer fist to the base of the neck, or a throat rip should surprise and temporarily incapacitate the mugger. Then your character will have two choices available to them: run like hell, or back off to gain some distance and then draw their weapon. When using a handgun, a little distance is actually your friend.

The picture below shows me practicing a palm strike against a training pad held by an instructor. If I had been hitting his nose instead, he would have been temporarily stunned, and I would have time to put some distance between us before drawing my pistol.

An Enemy 7 to 15 Yards Away

Let's give your protagonist a little more breathing room. Let's say the mugger is 7 or more yards away, and has a knife in their hand. What now? Is it safe to draw a handgun yet?

7 yards is something of a magic number to handgun self-defense practitioners. This is because of something known as the Tueller Drill. Back in 1983, Sergeant Dennis Tueller of the Salt Lake City Police wanted to know how close a knife attacker needed to be to a police officer in order to stab the officer before he could draw his pistol and shoot the attacker. So he ran a set of drills with attackers with rubber knives and officers with training guns. It turned out to be 7 yards. The typical person can travel 7 yards and stab another person in just 1.5 seconds. It will take a very well trained police officer at least that much time to draw and fire his handgun twice at an attacker. Frankly, most police officers would need even more time than that. It was assumed by Tueller that it would take at least two shots to guarantee that the attacker would be sufficiently disabled to be unable to continue the attack. That's actually a very debatable assumption, as we will see later, but we'll leave it at that for now.

Can your protagonist draw their handgun in this situation? I would say yes, but they will need to draw and fire it from a protected retention stance. This allows them to guard against both a gun grab or a blow to their head.

See the pictures below of me shooting from such a stance. My handgun is held in one hand, close to my body, slightly canted with the end of the grip indexed against my ribs. My left hand it on top of my head, leaving my arm in a position to effectively protect my head from most blows. I'm in a position to defend against both a gun grab and a blow to my head. If the attacker charges me, they will end up close enough that I can fire my handgun and hit them without even using the sights. I suggest your protagonist use the same kind of defensive stance with an adversary at this distance.

I have what I hope is an interesting story concerning the Tueller Drill. During an advanced handgun course I attended, our instructor wanted to make this drill as realistic as possible for us. So, he set up the following scenario.

In front of us, at exactly 7 yards, was a torso-sized steel target. It would emit a loud clang when hit with a handgun bullet. Standing off to the left of us, at exactly 7 yards, was our instructor. In his hand he had what he called an electric knife. It was really just a very short electric cattle prod. At some unpredictable moment he would start running towards us. We would see that out of the corner of our eye and it would be the cue for us to draw our handgun and shoot the steel target twice. If the instructor heard two clangs from two successful hits on the target, he would just run past us. It not, he would administer quite a painful shock to the student who failed, and they would have to rerun the drill. I managed to remain unshocked, but it was certainly one of the most stressful training drills in which I've ever participated. Quite a few students suffered shocks during this drill. One poor wretch ended up being shocked 3 times before he successfully completed the drill.

An Enemy Beyond 15 Yards
With the same mugger at this range, there is now enough distance that your protagonist has sufficient time available to them to react in any number of ways. They can run away, or draw their handgun in a normal manner and engage the mugger. They can do that without fear that the attacker will be able to grab their gun before it can be fired multiple times at the foe.

If instead of a knife, the mugger has a gun, then the best strategy would be to immediately run to cover (surprise and speed), and then engage the attacker with the handgun from behind this cover (violence). The best way to run, assuming that the cover is available in that direction, is diagonally away from the attacker. Hitting a moving target, especially one moving quickly at both an angle and away from the shooter, is quite difficult. It's likely your character will be able to arrive safely at their covered position and then be able to safely engage the enemy.

Working Within Confined Spaces

Most CQB training is actually concerned with clearing buildings. They are the ultimate confined space in which to deal with enemies.

Clearing buildings of enemies is typically done with a 4 to 6 person team. I actually prefer a 4 person team.

Having a team makes it much easier to get 360 degree coverage within the building. Team members can be watching in every direction for any enemies trying to sneak up and attack the team.

Nevertheless, sometimes it's necessary for only one person to enter and search a building. See the following quote from my spy novel, Funhouse Mirrors.

“Today I am going to teach you an invaluable skill: how to clear a building. This is a skill usually only taught to troops operating in urban areas and SWAT teams, and it is taught to them as a team tactic. I’m going to teach you how to do it all by yourself. Normally this would be considered suicidal, but given the unique demands of your job, it’s a skill every spy should have readily available to them. There may be times in your career when you have to enter a building alone, perhaps to meet an agent, only to discover it contains armed members of the opposition. They might be enemy agents or they might be terrorists. They might even be criminals whose work you are inadvertently disrupting. Whatever the reason, you need to know what to do in that situation.”

So, let’s talk about this problem from a fiction writer’s point of view. Just how can our protagonist realistically clear a building alone without getting killed in the process? Remember, the first rule of clearing a building is normally: DON’T DO IT ALONE.

Nevertheless, during your writing you may find your protagonist in a situation where they have no choice but to perform this task alone. Perhaps they have driven to their home to discover the front door smashed open and hear the screams of their family members coming from inside. No one is going to wait for backup or the police in that situation. By the time help arrives, all of their loved ones will likely be dead. Or perhaps your protagonist is a solitary spy, like mine, that has to regularly enter dangerous spaces without any available support. This would just be a normal part of their job.

So, I’m going to give you some principles that can help your character to survive in this very dangerous situation. They really just scratch the surface of the problem, but should give you sufficient information to allow you to write a realistic scene dealing with this type of situation.

Comprehensive building clearing techniques are actually extremely complex, and SWAT and Special Operations teams constantly train in perfecting them. Although I have attended three training courses on this topic, even I still feel like a novice in this area. However, I am more than happy to share a little of what I know about this topic with you.

Your Protagonist Should Have a Firearm and a Light

First of all, make sure your protagonist has a firearm – handgun, rifle, or shotgun. Each has its advantages and disadvantages in this situation, but make sure your character has some type of reasonable weapon available to them before attempting this dangerous task.

Don’t be afraid to only arm your protagonist with a handgun. It can be certainly be done with one. In all of the CQB courses I've taken, at least some time has been spent on only using handguns to clear a building. I would prefer to have a carbine, but I feel that I could clear a building with a decent handgun. I would prefer to use a Glock 17 or an FN FNS-9 for this job, along with 3 or 4 additional magazines.

The interior of a building may be dark, even in the daytime, so make sure your hero is carrying a flashlight. I'm not all the enamored with weapon-mounted lights on handguns, and prefer to just use a flashlight with one. I'll have my handgun in my right hand and a small flashlight held in my left hand up against my left temple. That way I can search without having to point my weapon at everything I'm looking at. This is never a good idea whenever innocents may be encountered. Held this way, the light will automatically point wherever I'm looking. If I see a threat, I can quickly bring up my handgun and the sights will also be clearly illuminated. I can then fire the handgun with excellent accuracy.

Weapon-mounted lights make more sense on carbines and shotguns, but your protagonist should still have a flashlight for searching. I have a weapon-mounted light on my own personal carbine. I also always carry two flashlights on my person. Bad people do bad things in the dark!

Fundamentals of Clearing a Room

  1. Move silently down corridors leading to each room to be cleared.
  2. Arrive undetected at the entry point of the room.
  3. “Slice the pie” (see below) at the open room entrance, as well as at any corners encountered in the corridor.
  4. Then enter the room quickly and dominate it. Move immediately to positions within the room that enable complete control of it and unobstructed fields of fire.
  5. Eliminate all enemies within the room with quick, accurate, and discriminating fire from your weapon.
  6. Gain and maintain immediate control of any innocent persons in the room.
  7. Confirm that all enemies are disabled or dead, and remove their weapons.
  8. Maintain continual awareness and be prepared for any possible additional enemy contacts.

Slice the Pie

Always have your character “slice the pie” when entering a room or turning a corner. Slicing the pie is a primary technique used in the clearing process, especially when performing it alone. See the diagram below for a simple illustration showing this activity of slowly moving in a semi-circle around an opening while scanned inside of it:

The key to using this technique is to make sure that your character maintains as much concealment as possible while searching a dangerous area for possible hostiles. They need to lean slightly towards the direction they are moving in order to keep as much of their body concealed as possible.

Have them move slowly and steadily across the doorway or corner in a semi-circular path while scanning the area inside for possible danger. Keep their weapon pointed towards where they are looking, but low enough so that they can clearly see the entire area they are scanning over the weapon’s sights. If they spot an enemy, they can then quickly raise the weapon to take aim and fire.

Make sure they don’t crowd the opening. Keep them back two to three feet away from it, if possible. You certainly don’t want their weapon to be poking into the opening far enough for someone hiding just inside to make a grab for it. Turning a building clearing operation into a wrestling match for a gun would be a very bad outcome, indeed.

Clear Every Room You Encounter

Have your hero clear rooms in order of occurrence. Don’t allow your character to walk past a room without clearing it first. You do not want them to have uncleared areas behind them. Bad people may pop out of these areas and attack your hero from behind.

Don't Rush

Make sure they very methodically clear the building, dangerous area by dangerous area, and don’t just rush blindly through it. Although speed is an important principle of CQB, it can be overdone. Your character needs to go as quickly as is prudent, but never rushing the process.

When exiting the building, they will need to re-clear all the areas they pass through again. They can not assume that an area once cleared is safe forever. Enemies may have moved into previously cleared areas in order to ambush your protagonist on their way out.

Shooting the Bad Guys

Here's where things get sticky. Most movies and TV shows greatly exaggerate the lethality of handgun rounds. You'll often see villians flying backwards through the air from a pistol shot, with blood spurting everywhere.

The fact is that handgun bullets are pretty puny in their destructive power, especially compared to rifle rounds. In order for your protagonist to disable or kill their enemies, they are going to have to be able to shoot them accurately, and likely mulitple times.

The pictures below are from US Army FM 90-10-1, “An Infantryman's Guide to Combat”. They deal with exactly where to shoot an enemy in order to disable or kill them.

The first picture below shows the “lethal zone” box. If you shoot someone in this area, especially in the uppermost darker portion, they are going to suffer serious and possibly lethal injuries. However, they are not likely to be immediately incapacitated by these injuries, especially not from handgun bullets.

The problem is with the inherent toughness of the human body and its ability to keep going even after suffering grievous injury. I once saw a training video that showed a dashcam video of a criminal shot through the heart by a police officier's handgun. After being shot, the criminal jumped into his car and sped off down the freeway. He traveled for ¾ of mile before expiring and crashing his car into some woods. So, even shooting someone in the heart may not immediately incapacitate them. They may keep fighting long enough to kill your hero before they themselves die.

So, how can we guarantee that an evil-doer will immediately be disabled? By shooting them in the ocular-cranial vault. The leftmost image in the picture below shows this area. A handgun bullet hitting there will almost always immediately kill your villain. The rightmost picture shows the same fatal area of the brain when being shot by a rifle. A handgun bullet may not penetrate the skull in this area. The human skull is extremely tough and a handgun bullet may or may not be able to penetrate the side of it. A pistol shot there is no longer guaranteed to instantly disable the enemy.

Of course, the problem is that this is a much smaller target than the lethal area box, and it requires a very precise shot to hit the occular-cranial vault. That's hard to perform under stress. However, a shot to the lethal area may actually turn out to be sufficient to incapacitate your enemy. No one likes to be shot and many people just give up after being hit. One of my instructors gave us the following general tip for shooting bad guys: “Two to the chest, the face gets the rest. In any case, you shoot the enemy down to the ground. You keep shooting until they fall and they stay down.”


There are actually lots more tactical considerations to CQB, but hopefully the above information should give you just enough to allow your protagonist to perform it realistically and in a survivable manner. I hope you find all of the material I have given you to be helpful in your own writing.

If you would like more information on CQB, and have access to Netflix, I would recommend you view the documentary series, “Close Quarters Battle”. It was originally broadcast on the National Geograhic Channel. Here is a link to the show:

It has 13 episodes that cover a variety of topics, all at least loosely related to the subject of close quarters battle. All of them are entertaining and not overly complex or overly technical, and give

a good overview of the topic they cover. I've watched most of the episodes, and I think that “Episode 4 - SAS in Northern Ireland” is the best one. If you just watched it, I think you would gain quite a bit of valuable information on CQB.

Please check out my novels - Trapped in a Hall of Mirrors & Funhouse Mirrors:- Information at

If you enjoyed my books, please consider posting comments about them to - thanks!

Fiona - 
Thank you, Michael! That is pretty cool stuff to incorporate in our stories (and maybe even real life misadventures!) A pleasure to have you again. 

If you enjoyed this tutorial - you might also enjoy Michael's article on car ambushes, HERE.

Happy reading! Happy writing,


  1. And this is why being a cop is so dangerous. This mindset is considered wrong.

    A really excellent article. Thanks.

  2. Here's a link to an old police training video on the Tueller Drill: - it's actually shocking to see had badly the officers do in it.