Armed intruders have broken into your home. Your children are in their rooms down the hall. How can you best help them?

If only there were a way to test your skills, increase your self-defense knowledge and improve your ability to respond under pressure before something like this happens.

But there is.

The Team Tactics course at Gunsite Academy in Paulden, Arizona, gives you all that and more in a three-day class that is designed to hone your shooting skills and improve your decision-making ability while working with a partner to solve what can only be described as the “worst problems you might ever encounter.”

Every element focuses on working with a partner as you cooperatively multiply your abilities by working together.

Most firearms training classes, even those that focus on “hard” skills like shooting on the move and the effective use of cover, teach you to handle your problems alone. The Team Tactics class focuses on working with a partner by teaching shooting, movement and communication through a mix of live-fire work on the square range and force-on-force simulations in and around Gunsite’s shoot houses. Every element focuses on working with a partner as you cooperatively multiply your abilities by working together.

The idea of cooperation and communication starts immediately. While instructors evaluate your shooting skills and give you tips to keep rounds on target, your shooting is done with a partner. This shooting evaluation is not about judgment but rather about helping you understand the foundation upon which you will build your skills.

PAIR UP — Gunsite Academy Instructors Mario Marchman (back to camera) and Il Ling New demonstrate technique with inert training guns.

This is not a course for first-time shooters. The Gunsite 250 course is a prerequisite, and those gun-handling and marksmanship skills are applied to every element of the Team Tactics course.

If you didn’t bring your own partner, one is assigned to you. That is where the communication begins. Both of you must immediately learn how to communicate your status on the firing line. Are you out of ammo? Tell your partner. Are you up and running? Tell your partner. Are you making a tactical reload because there is a lull in the shooting? Tell your partner. All of this is done under the watchful eyes of a group of instructors as they help you prepare for the next steps of the training: namely, problem-solving. (And remember, problem-solving does not always mean reaching for a gun and getting into a gunfight.)

Moving from the square range with live ammo to the Gunsite shoot houses changes the focus from marksmanship to gun-handling and tactics. Shifting to training weapons and, in some cases, simulated ammunition used in force-on-force scenarios, students are trained to move safely and cooperatively in confined spaces while assessing and reacting to multiple threats. This also builds decision-making skills, which is important because those decisions can mean the difference between life and death.

Given the scenario mentioned above, student teams had to move through the shoot house searching for their children while engaging any hostile targets they encountered. While you might want to rush to save your children, this is not a “run-and-gun” operation. Failing to negotiate a door or clear a room properly can result in taking incoming rounds. Speed is important, but learning to move properly and safely is more important. You can’t save your family if you get killed on the way.

Another eye-opening scenario was the armed burglary/home invasion. While this might be a spoiler for future students, it is important to note that sometimes what we say we might do doesn’t come to pass under even the moderate stress of training. In the burglary scenario, you and your partner arrive home from a long day at the range and sit down to have a drink. You then hear the unmistakable sounds of someone breaking into your home. Now what?

Nearly every team “went looking for a fight.” This might have been the result of what we call “training bias.” This is when a trainee unconsciously thinks, “I am in a training scenario. I should go test my skills.” In reality, the better option is to barricade in place, call 911 and deal with the invaders from a position of tactical advantage. Make them come to you.

During our training course, only one of the training teams chose the latter option and was able to end the scenario without exchanging gunfire. And isn’t that the goal — to use deadly force only as the last resort? The majority of the teams went looking for the intruders and wound up in violent gun battles. After those battles, the instructors asked, “Why didn’t you just stay put and call 911?”

This question caused lots of soul-searching among the trainees. What is the best way to handle such a situation? You only learn through practice and, honestly, the shoot house is where you want to make your mistakes.

In the end, everyone who went through the three-day class came away thinking they had more to learn and more skills to develop and wanting more repetitions on everything. In truth, all they need to do is check the Gunsite web page to register for the five-day Team Tactics class.

SHOOTERS MAKE READY — As with all self-defense skills, once the dry-fire training is done, it’s time to hit the live-fire range.

Follow the Bouncing Ball

Gunsite’s Team Tactics class was the first organized training class I have attended using a pistol equipped with a red-dot sight. There is a learning curve, but switching to a red dot is not insurmountable. Once you understand the differences, shooting with a red-dot sight is fast and accurate.

The pistol and sight combination I used for the training class was the Mossberg MC2sc equipped with the Crimson Trace CTS 1550 with a 3 MOA dot.

The MC2sc is a micro-compact 9mm that manages to put a double-stack magazine holding 11 rounds into a well-designed concealed carry pistol. The 14-round magazine has a bit of an extension, but not so much of one that it makes the gun difficult to conceal or get into action.

The Crimson Trace red dot co-witnessed nicely with the three-dot sights on the MC2sc, which meant that 40 years of searching for the front sight as I come up on target was not wasted; the dot was typically right there. If it wasn’t, it was close enough that I could quickly get on target.

There was one trick I learned the hard way: When coming to full draw, if the red dot of the sight is not centered on the target, it is better to move your head slightly than to try to adjust the angle of the pistol. Moving the pistol, even a little, makes that dot streak like a meteor across the target and often disappear. By adjusting my head slightly to align with a stable firearm, shooting became fast and true. Before long, I had no trouble achieving the standard of making a perfect head shot from the holster at 3 yards in 1.5 seconds.

Red-dot sights on pistols help aging eyes. They are durable and dependable. It looks like they will be the wave of the future.