Tag Archives: OODA

Practice Drill: Sharpening your Orient skills

In some ways the Orient stage is simply “determine what it (i.e. feedback from your environment) means to me and what can I do about it?”

This is a fast paced drill that requires you to process feedback and determine shoot/no shoot. Investing time in this as an add-on to training will help you run the loop faster – that extra decision cycle can be the edge you need to avoid trouble.

Get some targets like one above (for example a Rockwell RTG1). Or draw shapes and numbers on targets you already have- the colors add a third characteristic but you can run this drill without colors if you want. I recommend doing at least 12-15 rounds of this drill or as many reps as you need to about 50 total rounds in a session.

  • Begin with your pistol holstered, hands at your sides
  • Have someone add two random numbers and shapes off the target and call out the answer – like 'Yellow or 13!' or 'Triangle 9!'
  • Before you can draw you must determine that you can add numbers on the target to match the number and characteristics called out
  • Any qualified targets called get a healthy double tap
  • Using a shot timer is up to you but it will help you track your progress

So if 'Yellow or 14' is called you must double tap the 9, 5, 6, 8, 7 and 2 (you may choose to limit this to the first two pairs you can add). If 'Triangle 9' is called you can only double tap the triangle 9.

If the call is something not on the target (like '8 Red') you Fail even if you draw. Remember this is about your Orientation phase – training your neuromuscular pathways to analyze the environment to identify the threat before you react.

The key elements of this drill are:

  • Requires us to process the new feedback – in this case the target thats randomly identified
  • Threat must be identified (and is difficult to predict) before you can draw
  • When a threat is recognized we follow through with live fire (iow a complete execution of that OODA loop decision)


Applied OODA with a little help from First Person Defender

Warning: the video featured in today's post exceeds my typical limit of 6:00 for videos. However you only need to watch a couple minutes of it. Eric at the Gunmart Blog does a handy job covering his takeaways on this force-on-force training video, complete with Simunition, from First Person Defender. For context on the rest of this post watch the embedded video starting at 4:15 up to about 6:00.

You may want to go back and watch the beginning again because it happens in a fast and chaotic manner (like real life)- about 7 seconds into the scenario- quite a bit has happened already. The companion of the student performed an OODA loop that went something like this in the first 3-5 seconds:

  • Observe: bad guy with a gun
  • Orient: serious trouble! that guy just shot two rounds into the ceiling
  • Decide: better defend us before its too late
  • Act: draw- fire (get shot by bad guy)

And that was all before the student even drew his revolver and entered the gunfight with the bad guy. The student goes through a similar OODA loop although he wins the added stress of adding something like “oh shit- my buddy just lost a gunfight!” to his Orient stage. At that point I bet nearly every student follows suit and engages in a gun battle they can't win. Let's try to learn from this scenario so we can avoid living it.


I don't blame the guy with the revolver- many people are guilty of training to do exacty what we saw: identify threat, present weapon, engage threat. The problem with this OODA loop is the breakdown that occurs in the Orient phase.


The bad guy wants to do what? Oh, he wants to rob the place- either customers, the store safe or both. Trying to draw and fire against an opponent who already has a gun pointed at you is impossible to win. While is correct (and natural) to think that serious trouble is underfoot there was not an immediate need to engage in a losing effort.

Wouldn't it make more sense to leverage one of the best tools in the concealed carrier's toolbox? Yes- surprise!! Don't identify yourself as a threat to the bad guy when you don't have to-it's extremely likely that an opportunity to stop the bad guy will present itself.

Executing your tactical mindset fast enough to make that decision isn't easy. Watch this space for tips on how to sharpen your skills so you can make the right decision.


Learnings from the Westgate Mall tragedy

The terrorist attack on the Westgate Mall in Kenya was a horrific tragedy. What can we learn from this and what can we rehearse/ train for to help us out in the unlikely but sadly I fear inevitable case that this happens in the US? One thing people SHOULD learn is how much help a good guy with a gun can be…but this article is about how to apply a tactical mindset to survive a horrific event like this.

  • Get off the X. Move your self and your companions right away! Your priorities should be to find cover or concealment as quickly as possible- react and think on the move. Cover is always preferred but if you have to conceal yourselves and then assess a path to cover it's better than nothing.
  • Drawing your weapon is up to you (you are carrying, aren't you??). While your instinct may be to break leather, the moment that happens you risk positively identifying yourself as a threat to the bad guys. Be certain before you draw. And if you do have to use your sidearm remember to reholster.
  • One thing you may not realize about shopping malls- many stores have a back room that leads to a back door typically used for deliveries. At a minimum these are good places to get out of sight and it just might pay off as a way to discretely exit the building to safety.
  • Avoid the Fatal Funnel: don't take doorways for granted- ever.
  • Observe-Orient-Decide-Act. This is a critical mindset- effectively processing information about your environment could make all the difference between getting yourself and your loved ones out an exit or running your group into a dead-end (hopefully not a literal one).

You may have to assess the threat or threats to choose an appropriate course of action. Is this the typical lone gunman type or have you observed evidence of a coordinated team of attackers? That answer could weigh heavily on your decision: in many cases there may be opportunities to confront a 'lone gunman' type of attacker and stop them. It's always important to keep Cooper's Laws of safety in mind though- for example what's behind your target?

As with most things, practice can make execution of these techniques much more effective in the unfortunate event they are required. Rehearse as much as you can- take the family to the mall and walk everyone through some scenarios. Also be sure to ask your loved ones questions to ensure they are applying the mindset and prioritization of how to react.

Stop this clip halfway through and quiz yourself

This is an excellent situational awareness lesson and they do it in under 3 minutes. Stop the video after the first segment and ask yourself what you would do in that situation- part of strong situational awareness skills entails quick adaptation in stressful situations.

The scenario used here is an extremely stressful situation – more stressful than a typical DGU in the US – (DGU: those 1.2-2 million times per year that law-abiding citizens use firearms to defend themselves and their loved ones). However the extreme nature of the scenario is a reminder that with practice you can make the right decisions in any situation. Remember that OODA ends with Action.


Striking a balance between fundamentals and reality

Real life is nearly always different than what you rehearse. Successful people adapt on the fly to their environment and drive towards their goal anyway. This is another reason I think honing OODA loop skills is an important piece of the tactical mindset that can effect many situations – ranging from a business negotiation to avoiding a dangerous situation to winning a gunfight.

Invest less than 5 minutes in this video and see which of the common fundamentals are critical in a tactical shooting situation- with clear proof of what really makes a difference when seconds count.