Review of 2007 National Tactical Invitational


Teddy Tactical was the mascot of the National Tactical Invitational.
After being a guest on this week’s episode of That Weems Guy Podcast…/Hearne-at-the-Helm-NTI… I thought I’d share the review of NTI that I wrote back in 2007. I travelled to the event with Tom Givens , John Hearne and John Justice . The review is long but it is also pretty thorough and gives you a good idea of how the event went and what it was like. Enjoy. I will try to get some more pics added later. For now I have included a pic of some steely eyed gunfighters at the ice cream shop….
For those of you wondering where I have been for the last week or so, I have just returned from my first trip to The National Tactical Invitational in Harrisburg Pa. For those not familiar with it the NTI is learning experience that combines interactive force on force in the ” Village” with building clearing exercises in the Pneumatic house, the mystery gun stage, the “L” house, and the 360degree range. There is also a “standards” stage and another stage that often requires shots at both close range and 100 yards and farther. It is a true test of skill, equipment and how well the practitioner can run that equipment. The following is my in depth review. I will warn you ….. It is lengthy.
I had read about the NTI since its inception 17 years ago. Like many I wondered how well I could do in such an environment. But really, if you cannot do well there, how well do you really expect to do on the street when it is real? Tom Givens of Rangemaster talked me into signing up and going this year with him his crew and I am very glad I did. Actually he kind of shamed me into going by telling me that every serious gunman should go at least once. He is right. And as I said I am very glad I went. I have always looked at Tom as a mentor, but after this trip I look at him as my friend.
I met up with Tom and the gang in Knoxville en route to Pennsylvania. There were 4 of us in the van so there was plenty of room. It is also quite a long drive so it gave us plenty of time to discuss all manner of things from Southern culture to Scots-Irish heritage, what long guns we would like to try out, gunmen of old and past NTIs. But with such good company it seemed like the time just flew by. Also along on the trip was John Justice, John Hearne and Jeff Boardman both of whom are instructors for Rangemaster. Since three of us are from Tennessee, one from Alabama and one from Mississippi, all armed with multiple pistols, and heading toward Gettysburg, we became the “Confederate Cavalry”. The northern invasion was on! Did I mention it was a fun trip?
We arrived on Tuesday and checked into the hotel and got lunch at the Elephant and Castle English Pub located in the host hotel. How appropriate for a meeting place! That evening we got the overview of the week ahead at the orientation. The three rules of NTI are 1. NO WHINING. 2. NO STUPID GUNHANDLING and 3. NO BOORISH BEHAVIOR. The storyline for the exercise was that you were an expert witness retained to testify in a trial. You would be picked up at the airport, go to your hotel, give a speech in the local school, and testify in court, go to the mall ,have dinner with the district attorney and go to the doctor. All of this took place in the “Village”. In there you would interact with other practitioners and role players and act and react accordingly to what situations ensued. The regular shooting stages somewhat mirrored these force on force stages, they just used voices provided by the safety officers and targets provided by either pneumatic targets that appear and disappear or by stationary targets made of Tactical Ted targets with a thin solid “core” that had to be hit squarely to knock them down.
I have to admit that I was somewhat relieved to be in the first group to shoot. I had been playing “what if” in my head for so long that I was frankly glad to finally get it over with and be thrown into the fire. The first group was given the safety briefing and given our safety equipment (did I mention we use Simmunitions rounds in the village?) and off we went. I elected to wear no extra padding other than the collar they issued and the eye protection and grinders mask used to protect your face. I figure I’d get more out of it by dressing as I normally do and if being shot REALLY hurt.
As Tom and I picked up our bags from baggage claim in the village airport we ducked into the restroom to find our pistols and arm ourselves before hitting the street. Unfortunately the village deputy sheriff ducked into the bathroom and we were detained until the sheriff arrived we could explain why we were pulling guns out of our luggage in a public bathroom. Since our permits were in order we were let go. We rearmed with our J frames and our 10 rounds of sims ammo and went to the hotel. A better tactic would be the one John Hearne employed. He went out and struck up a conversation with the cop while the others armed up in the bathroom.
The hotel acts as a staging area where the practitioners and their individual judges wait until all is clear for the scenarios to begin. But if you left your gun behind in the hotel you might find it stolen when you got back. We went immediately to the local school to give a speech. Upon arrival we were confronted with the sheriff who promptly disarmed us. No guns allowed in school so we were disarmed and we entered the school. A short time later during the speech two thuggish individuals entered one with a gas can and one with a lighter. We immediately set to herding the locals out the door and I grabbed a ball bat as I exited in case the thugs decided on assault instead of arson. I intentionally did not attack the gas man with the bat for fear of being shot by the sheriff who I thought was still outside. Of course there was no law enforcement there when you needed them……..We debriefed, explained our actions got our guns back, checked to make sure they were loaded and all were led off in separate directions. In the debrief on Saturday we were told that some wandered around with empty guns having never checked to make sure they were loaded after they got them back and yet others forget to get their guns back at all!
Next I was taken to the courthouse where I was again disarmed and seated in front of the gallery. As I sat there a rather large intoxicated man sitting next to me with a bottle of booze tried to strike up a conversation. I asked the bailiff if the man was supposed to be drinking in court. About this time a disturbed individual entered the room and promptly shot the bailiff. I got down on the floor and noticed the bailiff had dropped his SW 5906 service pistol when he fell. But I also noticed the safety was on, figured there was no round in the chamber and that it was a glorified paper weight. I knew I’d likely get shot in the head if I reached for it. Instead I stayed low and waited until the gunman came closer and I sprang off the floor performing a disarm on him to end the scenario. This is where that work with William Aprill at the Warrior Talk Symposiums and with Craig Douglas (Shivworks) in his classes and with Gabe Suarez on disarms came in handy. I asked some others why they didn’t do the same in their turn in that scenario and they said frankly they didn’t have that skill set so it didn’t cross their mind. I was certainly glad I did.
Next up was a trip to the mall. I’ll admit that I was a little apprehensive to enter the mall, and I was right to have been. As I walked down the corridor I was confronted by a large man who blocked my path. I said “Excuse me Sir” and tried to slip past, but he stepped to block it again. Now a note on rules here. The practitioners cannot physically “rough up” the role players. So for those of us who have a bag of hand to hand skills to draw from, that was pretty much negated. Also for those of us who carry impact weapons, that was also a no-no. I attempted to use “pepper spray” but the BG was having none of it and kept advancing. By this time his partner had closed the gap on my other side and this narrow hallway became even tighter and BG #1 was now holding a pistol in a retention position. I offered my card wallet and credit card but they wanted to check my other pockets and ordered me to my knees firing a shot into the floor to let me know they meant business. I feigned compliance, told them I had a bad back and slowly got down on one knee keeping my left foot on the ground. Bad guy #1 checked my left pockets and finding nothing started to move behind me from left to right. I took this opportunity to hook him with my left arm and spin quickly to my left and around pushing him into his partner ( tying up his gun and his partner) and drawing my own pistol and preparing to start feeding bullets into them when the judge yelled “STOP!!”.
We debriefed. I was told I could have done a better job of getting by him, but frankly I was perplexed at the pepper spray having no effect at all and I was still not sure just how much contact I would be allowed to use to move someone so I did kind of just stall out for a few seconds. The judge explained how much physical force was OK, and commended me for not getting rattled and using the time I had to formulate a plan, not to panic. He also commented on my quick draw (appendix carry works people!) and said all in all it worked out well for me. The shots were not needed and it was called to a halt for safety purposes. They try to avoid near contact shots on the role players and practitioners if they can. Part of my “calmness” was that I knew I could get the gun in play and make accurate hits. All that work on the range pays off and allows you to worry about solving the problems not worry whether you can get the gun out an make it run. Taking the fight to them when the opening presents itself works well too. There is time to talk and time to fight and they rarely overlap.
Next we went to the restaurant in the airport where I was to meet with the district attorney for lunch. Of course my quiet meal was interrupted in short order. The same two thugs from the mall entered yelling that I had sent them to jail. I played it like they had the wrong guy and tried to calm them down. The guy who had blocked my path in the mall now moved to block my exit from behind the table. I stood and told him to back off and not to put his hands on me. They both now were within touching distance and I had nowhere to go except to back further into the corner. I again said not to touch me. He did. I quickly drew my pistol and shot him twice from the #2 position, transitioned to his partner and shot him twice in the chest from a 1 handed #3 at which point I heard “BANG” and felt a hot pain and I spun and fired again, hitting my third assailant and the scenario was stopped.
The pain was from a hit I took in the triceps of the left arm so I survived the shot. I also hit my gun wielding antagonist in the arm. She missed me with her second shot as I turned out of the way in an “Inquartata” type movement. She later told me that I was the only person all week to shoot her and that had she not immediately moved off the line of attack when she shot that the arm hit I delivered on her would have been a square torso hit. Hmmm. Maybe getting off the X works?
I then was asked to explain why I shot 2 “unarmed” guys. I replied that they were the ones who had already mugged me so I knew they were likely to be carrying weapons, I had testified against them in court and they were out for revenge, that the disparity of force issue between them and me made lethal force required and that I was acting also in defense of a third person too – the District Attorney. I told the cop he might want to interview the DA and get his story. The DA did not appear to be interested in prosecuting the guy who saved his life so I was released and my time in the village came to an end.
Next up was the live fire stages. I went on to the pneumatic stage which was a bar with a robbery/murder in progress, where again having been disarmed upon entry I picked up a fallen bartender’s revolver ,reloaded it and searched for my sister. Some practitioners did not think to check to make sure the revolver was loaded. Some did not even see the spare ammo. Some did not make sure the brass in the cylinder was in fact loaded ammo. I cleared the structure and saved my sister. Ammo management was an issue as some folks used to carrying auto pistols fired 4 or 5 rounds into the first target and used up half their ammo on that one target. I shot sparingly and used cover and reloaded the revolver as necessary , never running it dry.
On the “Mystery Gun” stage I was in the doctors office and had to clear my way out of the structure using an exposed hammer double barrel shotgun, 5 rounds picked up off the ground, and a flashlight that should have been thrown away last year ! When asked where I was shooting the targets because they fell quickly I told them.” In the face”. Not the answer they expected apparently, but it was effective . At short range room clearing distance you need to put the BGs down NOW. What better way than a load of 12 gauge shot in the eye? I also “tac loaded” the shotgun. That is I would fire 1 round and reload 1.That way if I had to fire 2 at any point I would be able to. Some were very uncomfortable with the gun. I was intimately familiar with it from all the time I have spent with “cowboy” guns. It is a good idea to have a working knowledge of more than just the equipment you carry on a regular basis. Interestingly some of the Marine contingent used the shotgun to butt stroke opponents. Gotta love the Marines!
Next was the “standards – or lack thereof” stage where you shoot several preordained courses of fire. This tests your ability to work your equipment. I will admit I was expecting to do pretty well here, but gremlins reared their ugly heads on one string of fire. On the malfunction clearance string my “Tap , Rack” was less than robust and I had to do it twice, eating up precious time. I had spent the prior weekend telling people in the class I taught to not be worried about hurting their guns. Manipulate them forcefully! Of course I then proceeded to not get a good grip on the slide and short stroked the rack. Talk about irony! The other stage had you engage 2 targets each near to far from both the right and left side of cover behind a wall. I had an overall 1st place time for the event on that one. In fact John Hearne finished 1st on the 1st standards stage and I finished 1st on the other and Tom Givens finished 2nd overall on both.
On the next stage I was sent into the “school” to make a speech. This took place on the 360 degree range. As I waited for my guide to lead me to the gym all hell broke loose. With it being a school, I was unarmed of course before I was allowed entry. I grabbed my steel bodied writing pen in a Pikal grip and stabbed the first knife armed target repeatedly in the jugular with the pen. I then got behind cover and found the security guard laying on the floor unresponsive. I took his Ruger P85 and checked to make sure it was loaded (it only had 3 rounds), found his spare mag (half loaded) and proceeded to work my way through the problem. One issue with the “core” targets is the solid core only goes to the lower part of the face. So eye socket shots which are what we train for do no good. Unfortunately I ate up a lot of my ammo discovering that.
The range officer who monitors the stage through video and communicates with us through a head set tried to tell me to stop shooting, but that headset mutes out when gunshots are going off. So now I have an empty gun and 1 target left to engage around a corner. I went back and got the knife from the guy I stabbed with the pen and crouched at the corner. I then leaped out hurling the P85 at the bad guy mannequin hitting him squarely in the head and knocking him down. I then pounced on him stabbing him repeatedly in the carotid artery and ran out the door.
The next stage was the courthouse where I fully expected to be disarmed again. My pepper spray and knives and sap were secured and as I put my spare magazine in the gun box an explosion rocked the courthouse. Oh joy! I got to use my own gun! I used a combination of slow pieing and dynamic movement to clear the building and find my niece who was there to hear me testify. I got the key card from the wounded security officer and called 911 for him. Unfortunately I did not thoroughly check the closet I pulled my niece out of. I missed the guy deep in the closet. My otherwise stellar run was ruined by that careless blunder. Better to learn this hard lesson here than on the street. Sometimes you just need to take a deep breath and stay focused instead of getting caught up in the events unfolding. Lesson learned.
The final stage was an airport scenario where you are being picked up by your sister. All of your firearms are in locked cases per TSA regulations. You are also in possession of a Stag Arms left handed AR15 you are supposed to evaluate. I will tell you that there is just really no quick way to get cased unloaded guns that are separate from their ammo up and running . We were confronted by several AK armed terrorists at distances from 15 to 150 yards. You also needed to drag your wounded sister to cover and get her to the medic. I was preparing to put a tourniquet on her when the medic told me to bring her to him. In the heat of things I forgot about the core of the target not going to the ocular window and directed 4 rounds through the head of a target with the AR15 before I remembered they have to be body hits to knock ’em down. This left me using my pistol on the far targets, one at about 100 yards and one at about 150 up on a hill. I hit the far one, but never could dial in on the 100 yard one but I caused him worry and consternation with my near misses. He “ran off” and the stage was over.
That evening we retired to the conference room to hear Tom Givens’ presentation on 7 shootings involving his students in Memphis. As always quick violent counter attack launched without hesitation or mercy wins the day and did in these cases as well. Also there was no time to go get a gun. CARRY YOUR GUN ON YOU! Next up was John Hearne’s lecture on the culture and experience of the criminals we are likely to face on the street. He postulates (correctly in my humble estimation) that they are in fact a different species and have different life experiences and often much more experience with violence than good people do.
The next day we piled in the van and drove to the Gettysburg battlefield. I had of course seen it on TV before but until you are there it just doesn’t have the same effect. We stood at the Confederate lines where on day two of the battle the Alabama troops finally arrived on the field. They had marched 25 miles that day to arrive at 4pm and their orders upon arrival were to take the steep hill called Little Round Top. The shear determination of those men and their will to fight must have been incredibly inspiring. We then stood on little round top where Union officer Strong Vincent was wounded by southern sharpshooters while rallying his men to drive back the Alabamans. Again the terrain of the field and steepness of the hill gives you a very different perspective and you see what these men faced. We then toured the confederate position at the base of Little Round top around the Devil’s Den and saw just how far those sharpshooters were that took such a heavy toll on the union lines. Amazing. In an age of finely made technologically advanced military rifles, I question whether anyone now could be the match of those sharpshooters. We then went to Cemetery Ridge and the Angle and looked out over the vast expanse that Confederate general Pickett’s men had to cross under withering rifle fire and cannon shot to close with and actually penetrate into the union lines before being repulsed in fierce hand to hand fighting with rifle butt and bayonets. We stood at the spot where General Lewis Armistead led his troops into the union lines and fell. There was a marker there surrounded by several small confederate flags that visitors had placed there at its base. I crossed over the low stone wall the union soldiers used for cover and walked barefoot in the field that some of the Army of Northern Virginia’s bravest charged barefoot across trying to take that hill. Powerful stuff that frankly makes me marvel at their fortitude and question whether I could ever even come close to measuring up to that kind of bravery under those conditions………And then we retreated back to Harrisburg.
That evening we heard John Holschen’s lecture on “Terrorist Techniques and Tactics Update” and a lecture by another presenter who I’m not sure how much I should mention about on the “Evolution of Islamic Militancy.” Doctor Glen Meyer also gave a short presentation on some interesting findings from a study on whether what type of gun used effects the sentencing in a bad shooting. Again, as we say all the time …righteous shootings tend to not matter what gun was used. A good shoot is a good shoot. But then again we live in more reasonable jurisdictions than some.
On Friday we lounged around and that evening there was the panel discussion about teaching people the skills they need versus the skills they think they need. It was a quandary over how to convince civilian students that what they need to know differs from what police and military use in their work. Also discussed was how to attract students to classes that teach them how to think, not just how to shoot. Then we went for our daily trip to Brusters Ice Cream. Yes the ice cream stand was frequented every night by an alarming number of steely eyed gunmen. What can we say ? We like our ice cream. Afterwards we retired to the pub for more story telling and camaraderie.
Saturday brought the pairs force on force. John Hearne and I partnered up for this evolution. I was actually kind of worried that I would get John killed or otherwise let him down. It is one thing to screw up and get yourself killed but to screw up and get your buddy killed….. In the first scenario we were testifying in court (disarmed as usual ) when the defendant’s girlfriend entered and tried to help him escape. I warned the bailiff that someone was coming up the hall, but the bailiff was shot before she could react. John jumped up and snatched the gun from the girlfriend as I leaped from the witness stand to assist. We were congratulated on solving it so quickly. John really gets all the credit there for his quick reaction. I was under the gun the whole time she came up the hallway and could only wait for him to make the first move. He didn’t hesitate and we survived.
Next was another trip to the school and the obligatory disarming. Do we see a pattern here for the week? I was told to stay with the security guard while the auditorium was prepped. John went to the restroom and then the explosion went off. The security guard called for backup and told me to stay put while he investigated. Of course he was shot immediately as he opened the door. With the school on lock down I could not escape through the door I came in so I picked up his revolver and took cover in that small outer room. Laying there wounded he warned me to not get involved. I gave him a tourniquet and told him to put it on to stop bleeding while I covered the door and waited for the reinforcements to arrive. I could hear the attackers yelling “kill them all”. I did not yell to John as I knew if they knew we were there together they would tell me to come out or they’d execute him. I wasn’t going to come out because then they would then execute BOTH of us. As I later told the judges, this was not going to be my Little Big Horn. I kept moving so that they would not know where in the room I was and each time they opened the door I would shoot one of them from a different direction. Finally I think this took their attention off of John long enough for him to escape out the back and link up with the SWAT team. He informed them he is a federal law enforcement officer and asked for a backup gun to go back in, but he was told they were just holding perimeter.
I continued to shoot whoever opened the door until the last bad guy and I exchanged shots and he missed and I didn’t. The scenario was deemed over. The way they had envisioned it was that I would exit the room and get a gun from one of the terrorists and clear the building working my way to my friend. Of course my own plan was not what they expected and they were now reacting to me not the other way around. This broke down their OODA loops and gave us the advantage. I had learned my lesson in the courthouse on Wednesday. This time I would be the man in the closet. We not only survived but won the fights in both team FOF scenarios and retired to the hotel for the debriefing and then the banquet. After the debrief we added a new crewman to our merry little band. One of the Marines joined us as our world view more closely matched his own than some who were questioning his aggressiveness. But sometimes aggressive counter attack is all that works. After all it is hereditary. He’s from South Louisiana …Scots-Irish…a Marine….a new addition to “Givens Khan’s Mongoloid Horde”!
At the banquet John Farnam gave a moving speech on the importance of passing on what we learn to younger guys so the information is not lost and have to be relearned on some foreign battlefield. Skip Gochenour summarized the story of Beowulf and how a small group of righteous warriors is all it takes to defend society from evil. A big thanks to Skip and Hirsch and Jim and all the team members for a job well done. It is a LOT of work to put this event on. My hat is off to them.
As far as equipment goes I used my Glock 34 I carry everyday with 19 round magazines. I carried it IWB in my Blade Tech Universal Fits All Glock holster. I used a Glock 26 with 12 rd mag carried in a Mitch Rosen pocket holster as my backup gun. You can only carry 1 spare mag if you have a hi cap pistol so between primary, backup and spare mag I carried a total of 52 rounds of CCI Gold Dot 124+P ammo. I also carried my Clinch Pick, Boston Leather Sap, Fox Labs OC, and my blow out kit(aren’t cargo shorts wonderful?) and cell phone and Surefire G2. I never used the flashlight and never even had to draw the backup gun. For that matter, I never even fired a full mag. I did do a proactive reload at least once – just in case-, but didn’t ever fire enough to empty a whole mag. Of course most of the scenarios had us unarmed and using picked up guns anyway so my opportunities to actually empty a magazine were somewhat limited.
In the FOF scenarios I carried the J frame in a $7 nylon holster made by Double Triple brand I bought at a gun store in West Virginia we stopped to look in on the way. Tom suggested we get holsters for the FOF J frames so we would not have to just stick ’em in our pockets or waistbands. Beware those sneaky old bald guys. I carried the revolver A-IWB . I carried the spare J frame ammo loose in my pocket. Frankly I just didn’t think to bring a speed loader,(or to buy one in the gun store) but I didn’t need it either.
From what I remember John Hearne. used a Sig 220St and a SW640, Tom used a Glock 35 and Khar arms 9mm, John Justice used a 1911 and a Khar, Jeff Boardman. used a Glock 35 and a Khar. I think the only one of us to pull the backup gun was John J. in the courthouse. He pulled it as a “tac load” (his single stack gun was running low) on his way out of the building, but never had to fire it.
Now for some numbers. In FOF scenarios I fired 8 shots and scored 8 solid hits. I fired 5 shots in the restaurant all one handed using Alternative Indexing Methods. After all I was shooting reactively. I scored 5 hits (4 fatal torso hits and 1 arm hit) on 3 targets in a dimly lit room in the span of about 3 seconds. In the courthouse in the team FOF I fired 3 CAREFULLY aimed torso shots as I was shooting proactively waiting for them to come to me. As I continuously say, it is not “either sights or alternative indexing” it is all of the above! The better you can shoot…the better you can shoot no matter the circumstance.
More importantly than just shooting, I did not get killed in any of the interactive FOF scenarios. I’m pretty happy with my performance for a first time participant. Did I make some dumb mistakes that I knew better of in the shoot houses? Yes. But I learned from them and didn’t make them in the team FOF. But did my training carry me through when it was real live interaction? ABSOLUTELY. It is a big validation of our program when a first timer goes there and survives all the FOF and scores 100% hit ratio. I have to thank all the guys who’s training has gotten me to where this was possible. Gabe Suarez , Southnarc, Tom Givens, William Aprill, Paul Gomez, Marc Denny , Tom Sotis, Henk Iverson and everyone else who has worked with me in local groups. And a big thanks to Tom for inviting me, and John J. John H. and Jeff B. for making this trip a great experience. Ice cream anyone?
In the pic ft to right John Justice, Jeff Boardman , Me , Tom Givens and John Hearne is taking the picture in front of Brusters Ice Cream.