There are a handful of places in this world where I feel truly content. At home with my wife and kids. In a tree stand in the fall woods as dawn approaches. On a sailboat ripping through small waves on a steady salt breeze… and in the high desert of Paulden, Arizona, at Gunsite Academy.

Antelope in the high desert near Gunsite Academy.
Antelope in the high desert near Gunsite Academy.

Last week I took part in the inaugural Defense Against Street Crimes course, one of several new specialized classes that have been under development at Gunsite Academy to help students adapt to a changing threat environment.

I’ll be talking more about the class over the course of the next week as I begin to unpack all I’ve learned, but I did want to at least give you taste of what we experienced in a class that focused not just on precision shooting, but also on providing combat casualty care to yourself (or others), and how to contact the authorities in the most efficient way to get the right kind of help rolling to your location after a defensive gun use.

One of the more interesting drills we ran was what I’ll call the “zombie drill,” for lack of a better name.

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The reduced-size target 12 or so yards away is nerve-wracking enough to shoot with the entire class and instructor cadre watching you, but here’s the thing… the target doesn’t stay down.

Every five seconds after it is knocked down by a solid bullet strike (low shots or glancing shots won’t put it down), it rises again.

After you’ve knocked the zombie target down twice, our instructor threw in either a Combat Application Tourniquet (CAT) or a SOF Tactical Tourniquet-Wide (SOFTT-W) and called out an injury that requires the application of the tourniquet to that affected limb. In the series of photos below, it was a left leg injury.

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As a student attempting to deal with a spurting leg wound and a target that won’t die, you have to split your attention between the target and the tourniquet, engaging the rising threat every five seconds with a well-placed shot, then attempting to slip the tourniquet into place, ratchet it down, put in a single twist, and lock it in place.

Sounds easy, right?

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Our first run through, we had to put the tourniquet high on our left leg, while engaging the zombie every five seconds as it rose from the dead.

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Some students, like AJ here, were able to drop the zombie twice, efficiently get the tourniquet in place with a minimum of wasted effort, and get it cinched down in less than 20 seconds, then engage the zombie a final time before fighting their way back to their feet while either doing a tactical or speed load as conditions dictated.

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The most efficient students were able to get this feat accomplished with little in the way of wasted shots or time. Others took considerably longer based upon the difficulty they were having manipulating the provided tourniquet type. I added extra time and and two extra shots when I forgot that the CAT requires a double loop for a leg injury, and I have to reloop and recinch it.

After shooting the drill with simulated leg injuries—where we could use two hands—it was time to work our way through an arm injury, still faced off against the same unrelenting target which wouldn’t stay down.aj 8

This was a much more difficult problem, as we had no choice but to fire single-handed shots, then put the gun down to work the tourniquet into place and find a way to cinch it down with only one functional hand.

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This could easily turn into a disaster if you slipped the tourniquet on so that you had to awkwardly pull the tourniquet outward instead of inward, and if you cinched it down to the outside of the arm so that you had to feel, rather than see, the locking mechanism to get it cinched down in place. If you couldn’t get it done in five seconds, you had to abandon your effort to engage the zombie again.

It was nerve-wracking, but excellent practice for the force-on-force Simuntions encounters we had the last day of class.

How do you think you’d do in a similar circumstance, where you had to engage hostile threats and address critical injuries at the same time?