Final Reflections on Alliance Police Training Shoothouse Course

Prior to attending the shoothouse course at Alliance Police Training organized by Paul Carlson of Safety Solutions Academy and taught by Joe Weyer and Cory Hupp, such a course would have been low on my training priority list. Like many, I associated such courses with military and law enforcement rather than private citizens. Private citizens who ended up in such courses were probably trying to dress up and play G.I. Joe as some sort of edu-train-ment or tactical fantasy camp.

Paul Carlson of Safety Solutions Academy in the Alliance Police Training shoothouse with Joe Weyer. Photo by Daniel Shaw.

After 37.5 hours over the 3 days of the course, my thoughts have changed considerably, as I noted in previous posts. Here I want to share some final thoughts emerging from the course.

Joe Weyer recognizes that many people don’t think they are “ready” for shoothouse course until they are very advanced shooters, but he contends that the sooner you include decision-making into your training, the better. For the private citizen this means thinking about a shoothouse course as a “decision-making with a gun” course rather than a “team close quarters battle with rifles” course.

As an observer of the course reminded us, “If you are armed in society, you are in the world’s biggest shoothouse.” The 360-degree world we live in is a decision-making world.

Shoothouse course at Alliance Police Training. Photo by Tamara Keel,

Furthermore, in Weyer’s estimation, the firearms part of the gunfight is only 10% of the equation; 90% is decision-making. As the old saw goes, if you only have a hammer (gun), everything looks like a nail (someone who needs shooting). In our case, the hammer is the least important tool we have.

Thus, Weyer suggests a training cycle that looks like this:

  1. Square range pistol/carbine training
  2. Decision-making course – shoothouse, vehicle CQB
  3. Force-on-force training

Each step in this cycle validates the previous step. The decision-making course validates the square range training, and force-on-force training validates the decision-making course. “This is the only way you know you are a competent armed citizen,” Weyer insists.

The stakes in being competent here could not be higher. Weyer reminds us that the military has an acceptable amount of innocent causalities (collateral damage). As armed citizens, we do not. Our acceptable innocent casualty number is 0 in every engagement. We have to be exactly right every time and are held accountable to this standard. As Weyer puts it, “There are no misses, only unintentional hits.”

Every bullet fired hits something and so we need to be impeccably responsible. In conducting his safety brief, Weyer cites fellow trainer Will Petty of Centrifuge Training who frames safety in terms of the big picture: What is your legacy? If you negligently shoot someone, what is your legacy?

Having the fundamental tools of marksmanship play a role in this as well. You need to be able to hit what you want to hit, and the less thinking you have to put into marksmanship while under stress, the more brain processing power you can allocate to decision-making.

Joe Weyer teaching on the range at Alliance Police Training, November 2018. Photo by Paul Carlson

When we were on the square range practicing our shooting at the start of class, Weyer came over to me and said softly, “You’re a pretty good shooter.” Thank you, I replied. He continued, “Do you want to be a better shooter?” Of course, I said. And he proceeded to show me a fundamental problem with my grip.

So for Joe Weyer and his shoothouse class at Alliance Police Training, it was all about marksmanship, decision-making, purpose, and legacy. “Can there be anything worse,” he asked us, “than seeing the light of life leave a loved one’s face but for the lack of your ability to help?”

In the end, for most armed citizens, that ability to help themselves and their loved ones is what it is all about.

Sign placed at Alliance Police Training in honor of Pat Rogers. Photo by David Yamane

Miscellaneous Quotables

Pat Rogers (quoted by Joe Weyer): “Just because you shot doesn’t mean you hit; just because you hit doesn’t mean you hurt; just because you hurt, doesn’t mean you killed.”

Joe Weyer: “Your partner may have given you a shit sandwich, but you have to take a bite. You just hope you get more bread than shit.”



  1. I totally agree with progressive skills training…safe firearms handling skills and shooting accuracy, decision-making skill development, and then pressure testing those skills. While decision-making skills can be worked on in a variety of venues, is a carbine/tacticalshoothouse course the most beneficial for the average CCW person wanting to improve their decision-making skills? I guess if you are part of a tac team, or you and your buddy enjoy tactical-entertainment, there are skills to be learned and honed. As much as the instructional staff might want the private citizen to think “about a shoothouse course as a ‘decision-making with a gun’ course rather than a ‘team close quarters battle with rifles’ course,” the venue and context favors the latter. How much applies to learning good decision making skills with the edc weapons we use in the 360 degree “shoothouse” world we inhabit at work and play? I don’t peal off and immediately look for shoot/no-shoot targets when I walk into my local Quick Trip (although maybe I should). I do try to use good situational awareness and will make decisions based on context.
    And then how much learning and skills are retained when so much information and skills are crammed into such a short time frame? Are students being short-changed due to progressive interference (see Is there a better model to make sure good decision-making skills are actually learned and proper neurological brain maps are retained? Yes, there is, and of necessity, our training models for all type of skill development must change, hopefully in the direction of actual skills retention. But like learning not to piss into the wind, it sometimes takes a while to figure out which way the wind is actually blowing.


  2. Doing this class with a partner is not realistic for me, as noted. But an acceptable compromise to get other things done (like more runs through the shoothouse to identify decision-making and marksmanship challenges to be addressed later). Working with a handgun would have also been more realistic for me in the 360 degree world, though the long gun was appropriate for situations in which I would be in my house.

    I am definitely interested in alternatives to this model. Please list any and all recommendations you have for actual courses/instructors doing this.

    This is also a good reminder that I need to read Dusty Salomon’s work. The idea he has in Building Shooters of judging courses not by round counts but by the number of times “human-stimulus-based recognition and decision-making neural networks are linked (successfully)” (p. 156) is so intriguing, but difficult for me to understand what that looks like in practice.


  3. Last December I took a 3 day course with Matt Graham of Graham Combat, culminating in force on force training with simunitions in a shoothouse. The training was geared towards the single armed civilian or LEO. I consider myself a law abiding armed citizen, but I am also a reserve police officer. It was a learning curve to get that 360 degree into my head as we started on a regular range, but I did catch on. I will readily admit that I made the error of flagging the person I was aiming to “rescue” on my first run in the shoot house, but I believe that I learned my lesson quite well after I was called out on it. While I’ve always been very conscious of the 4 Rules at previous classes/range times, the adrenaline got the best of me, and I’ll remember that. I also got “lit up” by 2 attackers when I froze in an intersecting hallway when I cleared it wrong. I am glad that I made those mistakes there during that training and that I learned from them. Overall, that 3 day training was terrific in that it really made you think about what you were doing in a gunfight. Graham Combat has my recommendation wholeheartedly.


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