Room clearing is a reality of urban warfare. The unique environment and hazards presented by manmade structures has resulted in a plethora of evolving tactics and techniques. The general consensus is that room clearing and CQB should always be conducted with nothing less than a two-man team. In fact, I have heard it said that one-man clearing techniques are irresponsible, useless and should not even be trained on.
There is certainly merit to the claim that one-man clearing is problematic. The 720-degree environment is inherently risky, and the more eyes and weapons available, the more that risk can be mitigated. However, there is one environment where a one-man clear may be your only option, and it’s an environment you return to every day. In the event of a home invasion, you will be in combat, very likely alone, and conducting a one-man clear of your residence may be your only option.
There are a lot of different resources and theory for room clearing in general. The common consensus from the GWOT is that there are five basic elements to clearing a room – Enter the room, check the corners, run the wall, collapse your sector of fire, and communicate. More recent FBI training prefers to “slice the pie”, or clear the room incrementally, from a position of security prior to entering the room. Both of these schools of thought have their place, and it will be up to you to learn your particular home, and decide where to implement which technique. The goal here is to understand the concepts of room clearing so that you can develop a plan to protect yourself and your family.
So, as you develop your plan of action, the first thing you should do is stand at various points in the house and ask yourself the following questions.
1) Where can I see, and where can I not see?
2) Where is the entry and exit points to the house?
3) If I fire my weapon in a given direction, where will the rounds end up? Where can I shoot, and where can I not shoot?
At every junction between rooms, doors, and hallways, these questions need to be addressed. The most basic structures are fairly simple to understand. Feeding into a room from a hallway is not complicated in itself. When you enter a room, be sure you check the corners of the room. The majority of the room is cleared immediately upon entering the room, and if you slice the pie from the threshold, you may be able to clear the entire room except for the corners without even making entry. But the most common rookie mistake is to become fixated on that wide open space, and forget the corners. This mistake can easily be fatal.
But quite often you may find yourself in a complex intersection, where several rooms open into hallways, doors, or open rooms. These intersections must be thought out.
In this example, there is a complex intersection between the back door of the residence with a hallway, a short hallway feeding into a child’s room to the direct front, and the rest of the house to the left. Note the sectors of fire, designated by green, and the “no-go” zones, designated by the black and yellow. This type of problem needs to be considered before the fighting starts. Hope is not a course of action.
So, how do you address problems like this? Like anything else, repeatable success boils down to the proper application of fundamentals. While cognizant of the sectors of fire, take each separate danger area and either pie the corner, or make entry. Minimize your time in the fatal funnels, and address the most serious danger areas first. And remember – slow is smooth, smooth is fast. In the context of a home invasion, you have already lost the element of surprise. It is therefore imperative that your response is both rapid and violent.
(If you’re not following John Lovell on YouTube, you should consider it.)
If your home defense plan does not include a light source, you’re wrong. Whether it’s a handheld light or a weapon mounted, the capability of positively identifying your target should never be neglected. Whatever system you choose, train on that system. And if your housing situation allows it, consider getting a dog. Dogs are invaluable assets for home defense, and the sound of their bark may even be enough to deter intruders. They can provide you with early warning, and can buy you precious seconds to respond to a threat.
Children in the home presents unique challenges. They may be unpredictable when frightened. They may be the target of the assault, and they may run to you and endanger themselves. Be sure you go over a plan of action with the children, and keep it simple. Children also necessitate measures to secure your weapons, such as a gun safe or trigger locks. When you’re making your plan, factor in the time it takes for you to defeat your safety measures. I’ve found that biometric safes are easy to use under stress, but take four to seven seconds to unlock. If you time how long it takes to go from your points of entry to your children’s bedroom, or your bedroom, you will appreciate how long seven seconds really is.
One-man building clearing is not an ideal scenario, but for most of us, it’s the most likely scenario we’ll face. Given that reality, it’s on you to develop a plan, rehearse the plan, and be prepared to execute that plan with as much surprise as you can regain, speed, and violence of action.