Showing posts with label Michael Connick. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Michael Connick. Show all posts

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,

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Great Escape - Surviving a Car Ambush with Michael Connik

ThrillWriters and ThrillReaders,

In my newest romantic suspense/thriller, WASP, I introduce you to Gage Harrison, a Marine Raider with an excellent skillset. But sometimes, even a highly trained warrior can find that the deck was stacked against him. 

There are a few times in WASP where the bad guys come gunning for Gage and Zoe. Does he have what it takes to get them to safety?


When I was writing WASP, I of course did my homework to figure out what works and what does not. Would you like to know some of the things that Gage knows?

Help me welcome guest blogger Michael Connick who has come to hang out with us.

Michael Connick retired in 2015 from a long career with the intelligence community, the Department of Defense, and the technology industry. He has over 35 years experience working with firearms, and has participated in extensive firearms and self-defense training from governmental, law enforcement, and private organizations.

He now resides in the little college town of Huntington, West Virginia, where he writes, competes in Practical Pistol and Rifle competitions, and is very happily married to a truly wonderful wife. He is the author of two Cold War spy novels, Trapped in a Hall of Mirrors: How The Luckiest Man in the World Became a Spy and Funhouse Mirrors. More information can be found about Connick at

Michael agreed to talk about the dos and don'ts of being fired upon while in a car. I'll now leave you in Michael's very capable hands:

Your protagonist is driving in their car, not a care in the world. Suddenly, after turning a corner they find themselves in the middle of an ambush by armed men. What should they do? How can they effectively fight back?

The first thing they need to know is that the deadliest weapon they have is the automobile they are driving. Since it weights around two tons, it's far more destructive than the most powerful bullet on earth.

Their first reaction should be to keep moving and run over their opponents. If the road is blocked, they should drive around on the sidewalk. If their way forward is blocked, they should reverse and back out of the ambush. They need not be concerned if any of their tires are flattened during the attack. Most automobiles can be still driven even with four flat tires. There may be limitations to speed and control, but they can still keep moving.

What if they are completely hemmed in and have no way to drive away? If they have a handgun, can they stay inside the car and fight from that position? Can they shoot bullets through the windshield, side windows, or back window from inside a car? Will the bullets still hit their attackers? Will the car itself stop bullets fired at them? Can it provide the protagonist with effective cover during a gunfight?

Most firearms experts won't be able to answer these questions with confidence. That's because they haven't been able to run live-fire tests using real automobiles. I have done such tests, so I can provide you with accurate answers to these questions.

So, can you fight from inside a car using a handgun? The answer is a definite “yes”. It takes training to be able to safely and accurately shoot from inside such a confined space, but it can be done. I've had such training, as shown in the picture below, and so can attest to that fact. In the picture you can see me shooting at an awkward angle and holding the pistol in an odd manner. Even so, I'm getting accurate hits on the target at the side and towards the rear of this car.

Can you shoot bullets through a car windshield without damaging them? Will the windshield slow them down too much? Will it deflect them off target? The answer is a "you can". The picture below shows a shooter firing at steel targets on the other side of a car windshield. The bullets he fires are striking the targets with full force. They are deflected only a little upwards by the angle of the glass. I also fired my own pistol through this windshield with the same results.

Your protagonist can compensate for bullet deflection in two ways:

1. They can aim a little low on all their targets.

2. They can fire through the same hole in the windshield. The first shot they fire will make a hole in the windshield. That shot's bullet will impact slightly high. If the next rounds are fired through that hole, they will be completely unaffected. I've used this technique, and as odd as it may sound, it works.

You can also shoot through the rear window of a car in a similar manner. The picture below shows me firing at a target behind the car in which I'm sitting. I'm firing from an awkward position. My shots defect slightly upward because of the angled glass. Still, I'm getting good accurate hits on the target.

The biggest challenge here is getting the seatbelt off and drawing the handgun without it ever pointing at any part of their own body. You don't want the gunfight to end with your protagonist shooting themselves by accident.

Side windows of a car are a different matter. The first bullet through them will tend to completely shatter the glass. The entire window will fall away in pieces. After that, your protagonist is shooting through an open window without any glass in the way.

The next question is: should your protagonist stay inside the car? Can they expect it to protect them from incoming rounds during a gunfight? Alas, the answer to this question is a very definite “no”.

The picture below shows a group of us testing out the ability of handgun bullets to penetrate parts of a car. We pretty much shot this poor car, along with another one, to pieces that day with some amazing results. All the handguns we used, from a puny .25 ACP pistol all the way up to a .45 ACP handgun, penetrated the metalwork of these autos. We found only two parts of a car that would stop handgun rounds: the engine block, and the rear axle assembly along with its steel wheels. Otherwise, the car offered no protection to its occupants from handgun bullets. Rifle bullets would be even worse.

The best strategy for your protagonist is to first deal with any immediate threats from inside the car. Then they should bail out of it and take up a position where either the engine block or the rear axle and wheels stand between them and their attackers.

The picture below shows a shooter in a position shown in countless movies and TV shows. They crouch behind an open car door. Since car doors don't offer any protection from bullets, this is a bad strategy. It would soon result in tragedy in a real gunfight.

The picture below shows a much better use of car's covering capabilities. The shooter gets protection from the car's rear axle assembly and steel wheels. They also get a good deal of concealment from the rest of the car, making them harder to hit.

Fiona interrupts:

And here's the big one:
Can you explode the gas tank with a bullet?

Did you click on the link to watch the video?
Bet you were surprised by what you found out - now go write it right!

Back to Michael:
Hopefully your protagonist will never find themselves in such a ticklish situation. If they do, at least they will now have some valuable knowledge for surviving it!


Would you enjoy reading Michael's expertise in action? Grab a copy of his book!

During the height of the Cold War, a naive computer nerd working first for the NSA, and then for the CIA, dreams of becoming a clandestine intelligence officer. After a very successful tour of duty in Iran, his new boss, the Vienna CIA Station Chief, is calling him the “luckiest man in the world”. Nevertheless, he's managed to accidentally attract the enmity of the KGB, the malevolent attention of an East German seductress, and the absolute hatred of a psychopathic KGB mole at the heart of Austria's counter-intelligence agency. Will he be lucky enough, or skillful enough, to survive all these forces now converging to destroy him before he ever has a chance to realize his dream?

Okay, it's time to get your read on! Go load up your e-reader. 

You can get your copy of Michael's book HERE and you can also READ it for FREE - if you KU!

Also, if you KU, below are my books that are available in that programAMAZON LINK