ShivWorks ECQC AAR

ECQC – Doswell, VA

This past weekend, I had the awesome opportunity to attend ECQC in Doswell, Virginia. This may not be a proper AAR, but while I’m editing it in the meantime, this will have to suffice. This is very much a “Live” document and is still a work in progress.

ECQC is a two and a half day course tought by Craig Douglas that focuses on “building functional, combative handgun skills at zero to five feet.” Our host for the weekend was Evan Carson of Innovative Defensive Solutions, LLC.

The first half day began with introductions by the students and instructors and then quickly moved onto a block of instruction covering the Criminal Assault Paradigm and Managing Unknown Contacts. (MUC) The two largest components of a criminal assault were presented as an event with unequal initiative and unequal armament.

If I had to select the most important part of this coursework, it’d probably be that first day, specifically the MUC modules. My notes on MUC literally fill 11 pages in my notebook and attempting to recreate them here would both do a disservice to Craig’s coursework and the concepts presented as a whole. I will say that the biggest and most important takeaways I had were the importance of having a predetermined “playlist” to fall back on during an unknown contact, and a high hand placement or “fence” during an interaction.

The half day ended with a series of drills and exercises between the students that focused on managing an approaching individual with a combination of body language, verbal agility and movement and introduced the concept of a “default position.” (A body position with a low center of gravity incorporating a dramatic downward level change combined with the arms and elbows forming a horizontal and vertical shield for the head and face.)

Having taken EWO twice prior to this class, I already had experience with the majority of this specific material. However, like I mentioned before, I believe this is probably the most important part of the curriculum. The ability to deal with an approaching individual in a reasonable manner and specifically allowing for deescalation and reevaluation of the potential threat the person or environment may or may not present is crucial to surviving a potentially lethal encounter. Why unnecessarily engage in an altercation if you can deselect yourself beforehand?

The second day started right off with black coffee and a range safety brief that led into a live fire module. Range safety rules and a medical response plan was established. We started with a diagnostic live fire exercise of around 10 rounds from roughly 3 yards. Something that was new to me, but made a good amount of sense, Craig introduced the concept of a “high register” position for the trigger finger. Placement of the finger above the frame and onto the slide itself, touching the ejector, chamber or forward serrations. This helps give the shooter unmistakable tactile feedback for the location of the trigger finger. Something that later came in incredibly useful during ground based altercations where the handgun wasn’t directly visible.

A “high register” indexed finger position

Once a reasonable standard of training was established, students were introduced to the Thump Pectoral Index and the 4 count combative draw-stroke. This was important part of the coursework and took a considerable chunk of time to instruct and demonstrate correctly while ensuring safety.

  • Count 1 is a secure, wrist locked grip with a flagged thumb established prior to drawing the handgun. The importance of “diving” for the gun and firmly placing the backstrap or beavertail of the handgun in the webbing of the thumb and forefinger was stressed. Establishing a secure and final firing grip from the beginning aids weapon retention efforts as well as consistent shot placement in the following count.
  • Count 2 brings the handgun upwards and to the side with the flagged thumb of the weapons hand indexed to the pectoral muscle. Using a high placement of the elbow, a downward cant of the muzzle is introduced to the position. The importance of a locked wrist was stressed, as the angle of fire should be determined by the placement of the elbow, not movement of the wrist.
  • Count 3 first introduces the handgun to the field of view. Featuring a two handed, high and compressed centerline index with the slide placed parallel to the ground, the front sight is in the lower section of the shooters FOV. Shots are taken within 4 feet and the sighting system is not utilized.
  • Count 4 incorporates an appropriate level of extension or compression based the distance between you and your target. During this step, the shooter would move backwards, increasing weapons extension as appropriate, until the shooter could fully take advantage of the handgun’s sighting system.
The authors target following the first day of live fire drills

It’s highly technical module but it’s importance was thoroughly reinforced after lunch when the coursework directly led into the combatives and In Fight Weapons Access (IFWA) sections. After the lunch break, we started to work on various elements of fighting in the clinch. A basic “operating system” based in Greco-Roman wresting was used as a template for the different holds, bars, ties and escapes. I’d say roughly half of the student body seemed to have formal experience in combatives prior to this, while the other half were first being introduced to a lot of these concepts and methodologies. Some of the lessons from the previous night were reinforced when we started working with positional dominance and the “mountain goat drill.” It really drove home the importance of sensitivity to distance and the usefulness of a good “default position.”

IFWA drill showing the 2 count, or thumb pectoral, shooting position

IFWA specifically speaks to the timing decision of when a weapon is drawn or accessed during a clinch fight. Bluntly, going for a gun or knife too early, and you risk having that weapon taken and used against you. Too late, and you might find yourself in a position where you’re unable to draw your weapon, or again, wrestled from your grip and used against you. Towards the end of the day, we had a drill specifically for IFWA, where each person would take the other in an underhook and an arm tie, and work to disengage from the clinch and appropriately time the deployment of a weapon. It was a really telling exercise and I found it super educational.

ECQC demonstrated that a conversational distance altercation had a high possibility of of ending on the ground

The second day ended with a set of validation exercises or “evolutions” with one individual armed with a simmunition Glock. One person standing above the other, and the person on the ground restricted from drawing until there was significant body contact. At the end of one round, once the scenario was called, the individuals would switch positions.

ECQC Day 2, Evolution 1
ECQC Day 2, Evolution 2

The end of the third day brought another set of evolutions. These took the previous material and practice and added a third person to the mix. Sometimes that third person would be hostile, sometimes they would be giving assistance, other times they might not even enter the interaction at all. This final exercise combined MUC, verbal agility, a wrestling base and firearms manipulation into a single event.

A good number of evolutions ended without a shot being fired, and among those, the majority never drew their guns.

ECQC Day 3, Evolution 1

After each of the exercises, Craig and Scotty would take a moment to hotwash and review the events of the evolution.

Debrief of the first evolution

For the second exercise, the acostee was promptly accused of “talking pictures of kids”, a rather heinous accusation that would probably take anyone aback. I went in as an agitator, trying to stir things up, after the anger of the approaching individual had been significantly defused. The scenario ended when I stabbed him in the taint, discovered and stole his firearm, then emptied his own magazine into his hip and face.

ECQC Day 3, Evolution 2

Really interestingly, the third evolution I was a part of ended without a third person ever entering the interaction. I was playing an individual who had confused someone on the street for someone they knew from their time in the Army. It was really great MUC work on the part of my partner. Seing the video, and especially the visually decernable recoil when he made a specific statement to me, really helped to reinforce the utility of MUC and the importance of verbal agility.

ECQC Day 3, Evolution 3

The fourth evolution was somewhat unplanned, as there ended up being an odd number of class participants after one individual had an injury. In this scenario, I entered the interaction as a bystander who picked up a dropped gun. While I never got shot myself, it did put an interesting twist on how the humorous “sheepdog” and “protector” mentality can play out in real life.

ECQC Day 3, Evolution 4

The last set of evolutions focused on weapons retention and disarms. Both participants began the evolution holding their gun in a full firing grip and their opponents gun by the slide.

ECQC Day 3, Evolutions 5 and 6

All being considered, it’s an amazing class that many would benefit from. It’s a multidisciplinary activity that combines weapons handling and manipulation, BJJ and wrestling, verbal agility and deescalation techniques and mental fortitude. It’s absolutely the opposite of easy. In fact, it’s very hard. But it’s still something I got allot out of. It’s not a beginners class, but it’s an environment where even experts in their field can be challenged.

The author and instructor staff


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