Reality-Based Training for Personal Defense


There is no predicting how one will react in a life-threatening encounter. I say react because more often than not it is the bad guy that initiates a confrontation or assault. Those of us interested in self-defense take proactive steps to prepare by obtaining concealed carry permits (and carrying whenever possible) and through training. However, no amount of training equals the real thing, so experts and manufacturers are always striving to make the training as relevant and realistic as possible while maintaining safety protocols.

This was the motivation behind a new reality-based training program being offered by I.C.E Training Company for self-defense instructors. Essentially, the course combines safety gear and non-lethal marking ammunition with reality-based scenarios, such as home invasions and car jackings, to test student training and reactions. I.C.E., which stands for Integrity, Consistency and Efficiency, offers a range of firearms training courses, most notably its Combat Focus Shooting course. They partnered with Practical Defense Training Technologies (PDT), a reality-based training solutions and protective equipment manufacturer to provide the required gear in one complete package to instructors who successfully complete the course.

I attended the Reality Based Training Instructor Development class held at the Battlefield Vegas range and training facility in January for the final classroom portion of the course. To get to this point student must already be a certified instructor with credentials from a law enforcement agency, the NRA or another comparable private sector certification program. Candidates must also complete a comprehensive 20 hours of self-guided distance education materials and successfully complete an online examination.

What I attended was the final step, a minimum 10 hours of classroom and hands on instruction. This course isn’t about teaching how to train students in self-defense, the candidates should already know that and have their own style and techniques. Instead the class teaches how students process information and how they learn and retain it best. They discuss the advantages of a reality-based approach and how active scenarios can be used to test what is taught. It is important that candidates use or develop scenarios based on what they actually teach; otherwise they are just wasting their time as well as that of their students.


Of course, this type of hands on force on force scenario-based training requires very specific safety guidelines to increase the realism and ensure that neither students nor instructors are injured. Scenarios need to be strictly scripted with a lot of “what if” reactions and only instructors should run the drills. Students should never participate as part of the scenario.

Safety equipment is also an important consideration, and ATK/Federal ammunition has developed special non-lethal training ammunition, branded Force-on-Force, that is used in the scenarios. As was demonstrated by a company representative the ammunition is available in .223 or 9mm and has an accurate range of about 50 feet. The marking rounds can be had in several colors and are water based for very easy clean up and no staining. They also have far less force than comparable training ammunition and will not cause pain to anyone hit. Non-lethal blank-firing ammunition is also available. The instructor fired a blank round into his palm at almost contact distance with no harm or pain to demonstrate. In the training guns all of the ammunition cycled reliably.

Protective gear from PDT is also used extensively by all participants in the scenarios. This includes the PDT Force 1 Helmet which features a wide angle no-fog dual lens, heavily padded face and head protection and a padded hood. A separate neck protector offers improved safety while the chest protector offers breathable comfort and mobility. The groin protector is made from molded foam core to allow for free movement as well. Finally, as self-defense students and instructors know, shooters tend to become threat focused and a shot can often hit the target’s hands. PDT’s hand armor gloves prevent painful hits to the hands with a proprietary foam filling that still allows the dexterity needed for weapon manipulation.

No real firearms or other weapons are allowed in the training area where scenarios are run. Every person entering the training area must empty their pockets and undergo two separate pat downs by two individuals. This was done without exception during training and proper safety protocols were heavily emphasized.

Five separate scenarios were presented for the instructor candidates; Home defense, vehicle incident, armed robbery, spree attack and violent personal attack. Each of these can be tailored in myriad different ways to suit each trainers needs for their students. Instructors emphasized that each scenarios should last for 30 seconds to no more than 2 minutes. Scenarios that are allowed to drag on can lose their training value for the students and are less useful as a tool for instructors to gauge student reaction.

In the vehicle scenario an armed assailant attacks a motorist who must defend himself. In the scenario I witnessed this involved drawing from concealment and firing through the open driver’s side window at the assailant while taking a defensive position. The home defense scenario involves a sleeping homeowner awakened by a loud crash and a yelling intruder in another part of their home. The armed robbery scenario takes place in a park emphasizing situational awareness and effective reaction.

Reality based training is not a new phenomenon and many of the tools previously available only to law enforcement, such as video simulations and non-lethal ammunition, are now available for civilian self-defense instruction.

According to Gordon Potter, president of PDT Technologies, “Reality-based training exists today because of irrefutable data sets from the field supporting the validity of immersion-type training. Through this program, civilian trainers can add a dimensional difference to their existing programs and have the opportunity to use the same training products, techniques, and methodologies that have proven successful in the military and law enforcement worlds.”


This was a sentiment shared by the instructor candidates as well. Rodrigo Corona is a law enforcement officer and NRA certified instructor in the Chicago area who conducts self-defense training with his brother Gabriel, himself an NRA Instructor and Marine Corps combat instructor. “We want to integrate scenario based training because we know firsthand the value of civilians training realistically and responding appropriately to a dangerous situation.” The Corona brothers were gearing up for an increase in demand for personal protection training in Illinois with the state’s new concealed carry law.

Mandy Autrey, who works in law enforcement in California, also trains civilians in personal protection for concealed carry purposes. “This training actually puts the student in as close to a real life situation as possible while minimizing the risk of getting hurt,” she said. “The advantage of the variety of the scenarios is that the world is not black and white. You have to be able to recognize the situation and respond appropriately.”

Student instructors who successfully complete the course are certified as RBT Instructors and are eligible to receive PDT’s reality-based training quick start package. The package consists of three complete sets of personal protective equipment which also include a marking knife for CQB training as well as 500 rounds of .223 or 9mm non-lethal marking rounds and a 5.56 bolt conversion kit for AR rifles. The package can also include an optional 9mm handgun conversion kit.

To learn more about this training, or for a list of upcoming instructor development courses please visit

For information about Practical Defense Training Technologies visit

By Jorge Amselle. Originally published in the Septemeber 2014 issue of GunUp the Magazine.

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