There’s no question that readers of this magazine understand the need to carry guns for self-defense. As USCCA Members, we’re also more likely than most to take classes specifically geared toward armed self-defense. However, when your spouse, children, elderly parents or other people for whom you’re responsible are added to the mix, it isn’t just about you and the assailant. That’s where most self-defense classes come up short.

Enter Bernardo Chernitzky of Tactical Fitness Austin. He has developed his Close Quarters Family Protector Class (Level 1 and Level 2) based on his extensive experience as a special protective officer for the Israeli prime minister as well as decades in other top-tier Israeli military and police units. The class aims to translate the tools, tactics and procedures of professional bodyguards to the needs of everyday citizens who want to be able to do all they can do to protect their families.

Recently, I had the opportunity to take both levels of the class in the new format, and as a husband and father, I think it’s right on the mark as to what I need based on my family dynamics and our lifestyle.

While there’s a world of difference between reading and doing when it comes to building skills, I want to share the key takeaways from the two days of training so that others in my position can be better prepared.

Course Format

The class is split into two levels, which may sometimes be offered in back-to-back sessions. Each level is a full-day class. Level 2 starts with review of the third-party-specific tactics learned in Level 1 before moving on to advanced dynamic shooting drills to fill out the morning. The afternoon of Level 2 is entirely scenario-based, with students role-playing as protectors, protectees, bystanders and assailants. The scenario training uses Ultimate Training Munitions (UTM) pistols.

Even if you’re an advanced student, I can all but guarantee that there’s a lot to be gained from taking Level 1 in terms of getting reps on fundamental tactics and techniques. Advanced students who are comfortable working from concealment may find the start a bit slow since the day opens with basics, such as drawing from concealment, proper presentation and confirming zeros, but refreshing these skills never hurts. Besides, such a student might even discover that one or more of these skills could use some work. The class then moves on to the meat-and-potatoes of third-party protection and touches on topics such as how to “stop the bleed,” or fundamental emergency trauma care. The use of cover and concealment, especially egress to cover, is also heavily explored.

Every topic and skill has corresponding dry-fire and live-fire drills, all of which are demonstrated and coached to ensure that students are doing everything to the best of their abilities.

HANDS-ON: Chernitzky’s classes aren’t limited to the square range. They’re physical, and that’s exactly the kind of instruction that can help you improve your skills as a defender of your loved ones.

HANDS-ON: Chernitzky’s classes aren’t limited to the square range. They’re physical, and that’s exactly the kind of instruction that can help you improve your skills as a defender of your loved ones.

Line of Fire

The major skills and tactics directly related to third-party protection are broken down into three core lessons. Clearing your third party of the line of fire is the first. Ultimately, it is about getting your loved ones out of harm’s way and making sure that you can engage a threat as necessary. How this happens is dependent on whether the threat is directed at your party, how close you are to the situation and where the threat is in relation to you.

In all cases, the basis is where you position yourself in relation to whomever you’re protecting. Offset to your strong side, one arm’s length from your protectee’s opposite shoulder, is the position that will allow you to react to threats from all directions.

A threat can be either direct or indirect. An indirect threat is one from which you may just be able to escape, or a situation in which the use of a firearm isn’t going to be appropriate. Taking control of your protectee by placing your weak hand on his or her midsection and strong hand behind his or her head allows you to physically direct him or her out of the area, behind cover or just down to the ground.

A direct threat is a threat to which you will need to react and that you will have to engage. If you’re facing a threat that comes at you from behind or the side, have to turn to face a threat, or encounter a flanking threat, stepping in line between the attacker and your protectee allows you to provide some degree of cover while also keeping your spouse or child clear of your own shots.

When a threat comes from the front, how you react will depend on whether the attacker is at an angle more toward your strong or weak side. For a threat from the strong side, Chernitzky teaches to push the protectee out of the way with your weak hand and hip while stepping forward to draw a handgun. For a threat coming from the front left (for a right-handed shooter), place your right hand at the base of your protectee’s neck, drag him or her out of the way, and then step up while drawing once you’re clear of your protectee.

Clear Communication

The next lesson is to give clear directions. Telling your spouse and children exactly what you need them to do and where they need to go can be a matter of life or death. You should have discussed a defensive plan with all parties involved beforehand. After all, children and many spouses don’t train, so it is on you to take the initiative instead of hoping for the best.

From simple alerts like “Gun! Get down!” while moving a third party out of the way or to the floor to “When I start providing cover fire, I need you to run to that pillar over there,” students are put through drills and scenarios communicating exactly what is needed.

This extends to threats as well. You may be able to provide a verbal warning or attempt to de-escalate before opening fire. Additionally, further commands ordering the threat to keep his or her hands away from a weapon and not to move may be warranted after the initial shots. This is especially true if there are multiple attackers or bystanders who missed the initial act of aggression.

Post-Engagement Checklist

The third lesson is the post-engagement checklist. Students are drilled on a checklist of actions to take after the initial incident, especially after having improved position by reaching cover or concealment. The checklist includes:

  • Performing a tactical reload of your weapon, if possible
  • Checking yourself for wounds
  • Making sure your partner is OK
  • Conducting care under fire, such as applying a tourniquet, whether to yourself or partner, if necessary
  • Calling 911 and providing information such as who you are, where you are, what happened, how many casualties there are and what services are needed

Communication skills overlap heavily with the post-engagement checklist, as partners need to work as a team to accomplish tasks. For instance, the third party may need to call 911 if the protector needs to engage additional threats from behind cover.


The value of force-on-force training can’t be overstated. What seems straightforward in a flat range becomes a lot more complicated the second the range becomes two-way and you’re moving in all directions. This is why Level 2 of the class is half force-on-force: to help build confidence in dynamic situations.

How complicated the scenarios can be will depend in part on how many students are in a class, but even simple scenarios can get pretty wild. Some scenarios we ran included attacks on a mall, gas station robberies and other dangerous situations in which prepared citizens might find themselves.

An Indelible Impression

In 2014, my wife and I were at the mall in Columbia, Maryland, when a maniac came in with a 12-gauge and a mission. Luckily, we were not in direct danger from where we were, but that event left a substantial psychological mark on me. The fact that I’m writing this article in the wake of subsequent attacks is not lost on me either. Events like those are why I carry to protect my family and why I train so rigorously.

As far as I am concerned, every husband, wife, mother, father and whoever else is responsible for the lives of loved ones and who chooses to carry a gun for that purpose can’t afford to be without two distinct training experiences. The first is a reputable Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC) course or, at the very minimum, a “stop the bleed” class. The second is Close Quarters Family Protector Level 1 and Level 2, or a course like it if you can find it in your area.

I got enough out of this class the first time I took it in 2022 that I took it again this year. I’ve made many small changes to my daily habits based on what I’ve learned, and I’m much more confident in my abilities to manage my wife and daughter in a crisis rather than merely trying to win a gunfight.


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