Training to Stay in the Fight – Q & A With Patrick McNamara

I think it is imperative in law enforcement that we realize that no officer is a subject matter expert in every area of the job. We must rely on each other to learn, to grow and to become a more well-rounded wolf hunter. This is why I reached out to Patrick McNamara, a highly trained, former special operations soldier (United States Army). Patrick now runs his own training company, TMACS, Inc., and is dedicated to bringing soldiers, citizens and police officers alike into an advanced, adaptive combat mindset. I had two crucial questions to ask of Patrick in regards to law enforcement tactics in today’s operating environment. Please see the questions below and enjoy reading Patrick’s in-depth, unique, and well-rounded answers:

Q: Tactically, what, in your opinion, is most important for officers to take
into account in today’s operating environment?

A: “‘Train Like you Fight’ is an overused and misunderstood axiom. Does it
mean that we must train in full combat gear all of the time? Does it mean
that we have to train until we drop? The answer is ‘No.’ It has nothing to
do with how much black Velcro you strap on your person. The term comes from
athletics of yore. ‘Practice like you play’. Instead of practicing on half
court, practice on full court, for example.

When you work out or ‘PT’, to ensure your combat chassis is more effective
and capable, do you do it in full kit? If the answer is ‘No’, then why do
If your objective to marksmanship training is to dissuade home invasion,
should you be training in my boxer shorts?

‘Train like you fight’ means training beyond the drill.  If the drill
requires six shots to complete, think seven, eight or nine.  Do not let the
drill dictate to you when you should stop thinking.

Perform a focal shift.  See things full spectrum.  Once again, work beyond
the drill.  If the targets are directly in front of you, look beyond, in
front of and understand what is flanking these targets.

Train during periods of limited visibility.

Train in adverse weather conditions.

Train to stay in the fight.
Get out of the flat range mindset.”

Q: Where, in your opinion, do you feel police officers fall short in training,
or what areas do we need to pay more attention to?

A: “The best professional performers, regardless of the skill, practice
mechanics. They practice these relentlessly and when necessary, in slow
motion. They focus on the basics even when these are mundane. They
understand that they must have the ability to fail quickly, meaning that
they may not dwell on an error. They may not spend any amount of extra time
on failing. They have got to get their head back into the game.
I was recently asked by a student in my class, what I thought was the
biggest problem I encounter with LEOs in training. Thought provoking as LEOs
in my classes are typically sharp, have good fundamentals, and are safe gun

The answer I gave him, because it is a recurring theme, is gun handling
mechanics under pressure. I’ve got several pressure cooker drills I run in
my courses. It is typical to watch shooters fumble with safety manipulation,
magazine changes, clearing a stoppage, reloading, building a position around
a barricade, and it is also common for the shooter to not understand the
status of his weapon.

Repetition is not enough to ensure that these mechanics skills are performed
intuitively, or with perceptive insight. Pressure must be added to the
training event. This is non-negotiable. The ability to compartmentalize the
pressure of a gunfight and work mechanics intuitively come from working
mechanics correctly and under pressure. The number of repetitions vary
between one human being and another. Some say 3,000-5,000 repetitions.
Others say  300-500 and there are others who say 33 meaningful repetitions
is all that it takes to engrave a new skill into our hard-drives.

Mechanics and fundamentals should be performed with perceptive insight.
Performing immediate action or magazine change, safety manipulation, muzzle
awareness, establishing a shooting position, acquiring a sight picture,
controlling breathing, trigger control, should all be performed at a
subconscious level. Forecasting, predicting, planning should be performed

Patrick brings up many good points in his answers to these two questions. I believe the biggest point we must take from this is that we must train past the fight, train to win, and train to expect the unexpected. We also need to become so versed in our basic combat requirements that we complete them subconsciously. Prior to reading Patrick’s answers to my questions, I had never really thought about how many things must be conducted subconsciously in a combat environment. We must conduct these actions subconsciously in order to leave room for our conscious thoughts of “forecasting, predicting and planning”.

I encourage all police officers to reach out to a subject matter expert in a portion of the profession you wish to learn more about. And, as always, keep training, so you can keep fighting.