Highly controversial training video

I think I visibly shuddered when I watched this video (It is safe for work).

The video was taken at one of James Yeager’s Tactical Response Fighting Pistol classes. The photographer seen forward of the firing line is Jay Gibson, one of the Tactical Response instructors.

Apparently bullets whizzing by you as you train and is quite common at Tactical Response classes. My personal opinion is that I would never do what the photographer did, nor would I shoot with someone standing next to the target. I know I will *never* be skilled enough to guarantee I would not make a mistake. As far as I am concerned even the best shooters can make mistakes or have equipment failures, such as a pistol going full auto.

The counter argument is that the elite military units train with live cross fire, none of the four rules of firearm safety have technically been broken and that if you trust the shooters it is not any less safe than driving a car (I don’t know about this last point, that is just the argument).

The video is being hotly debated at Photobucket (where the video was posted), AR15.com and GetOffTheX (the official Tactical Response forum).
Thanks to Jay (not the same Jay) for the link.

UPDATE: James Yeager’s official response can be viewed here.

Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • War Wolf

    I saw this a couple days ago and was flabberghasted. What kind of fool would put himself in that situation? Additionally, what kind of fool would participate in the live fire exercise with a person downrange? It appeared that the guy standing was having second thoughts as the insanity got underway but then he inserted a new magazine and it looks like he fired another shot. Wow, what a bunch of idiots!

  • Jesse

    I don’t trust most of my friends to borrow my DVDs. There would be no way in hell anyone could convince me to stand down range while they were shooting.

    • Jesse, LOL. You know what they say “your friends are only your friends till they shoot you in the ass” (yea ok, I made that up)

  • AB

    …Wow, potential Darwin Award Winner there.
    I’m with Jesse, there’s no way I trust my friends enough to bower my power tools, let alone trust them enough to hit the X ring and not my forehead.

  • Don

    I don’t care how “trained” you are. If you can easily take a precaution to make things safer and you don’t, you are an idiot. The cameraman didn’t have to be there, so he shouldn’t have.


  • shdwfx

    Not all training schools adhear to the 180 degree range rule.
    Their argument is there is no firing line in real life, so why train that way?

    The military also trains with troops taking live fire.
    Theory is it doesn’t violate the 4 rules.

    Having said that, I’ve stood next to guys in a course that, at least initially, consistantly missed their targets by a foot or more. I wouldn’t stand in front of them.

    I’m sure it wasn’t taken during the first hour of this basic pistol course. If the instructor was satisfied the students could reliably hit their targets, follow the 4 rules, and not sweep him on the reloads…then…

  • jm

    Removed from my list of places to take future courses.

  • Jim

    I was halfway hoping/expecting a stray round or ricochet to come and clip him. Nothing serious of course, but I’d love to have that guy’s stupidity proven to him on film.

    The only way I might have a teensy chance of being that side of the firing line is if those guys were shooting long rifles. But I’d still be so close that I’d be catching powder and other fouling from the rounds. Best just to stick behind the parts that shoot the things that hurt the most.

  • Valhalla

    And is that even legal? There has got to be some sort of law about having someone down range at a certified firing range.

  • Bill

    While I understand the immediate negative reactions–and don’t entirely discount them–it is somewhat different when dealing with small groups of high trained individuals. My group did a Ken Hackathorn class which included the snake drill and a drill where half the class stands between targets while the other half shoots. I found it more never racking to be the shooter than to be between the targets. I know my guys, I know their level of training, and I trust them implicitly.

    While I wouldn’t do this with just the usual random crowd off the street you usually find at gun schools, it didn’t bother me with trained shooters, and I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again with my guys.

    All that said, I’m still not clear as to what the benefit is that justifies the risk.

  • Bob

    I was always taught that if someone is down range you do not even load your weapon at a range. Notice that one of the fellows next to the camera guy seems to have second thoughts before reloading, he knows that this is not the right thing to do as well. He just has an “Expert” to override common sense. No amount of, “But they said it was ok!,” will stop the law if someone had killed that guy, accidentally…

  • Erik

    Appears to be a stunt to me- no valid reason for him to sit there other then ‘look at me, I’m cool’. It may not technically violate the 4 rules but it violates common sense.

  • I do not care if God is doing the shooting. I will not stand down range. I do not care if God told me to shoot. I will not shoot if the range is not safe, e.g. people standing down range. There is no excuse period.

  • The link below is to a pdf file dealing with training deaths and negligence.


  • Whatever

    That was a test for all those there; if they fired their weapon with someone downrange, they failed. Just because someone tells you to do something stupid doesn’t mean you have to follow their orders. If you can’t use your own good judgment to disregard someone else’s stupid advice or orders, you shouldn’t be trusted with a firearm.

  • Phil

    What if that guy sneezed while shooting?

  • This guy would not take either of those positions. Quite frankly unless you are talking about an insanely well trained group of elite shooters (not a few friends who went to a couple courses) that is very foolish. I don’t think I would go to a school where they did that sort of cowboy stuff. If they are dumb enough to do that what else are they dumb enough to do?

  • Mu

    While there might be reasons to do this kind of training for professionals, and in a highly controlled environment, doing it on any kind of “pay as you go – learn shooting for fun” class is absolutely irresponsible. Even if it acts as the “be confident in your ability” enhancer, the likelihood that the trainee will fire an inappropriate round years down the line “because he’s done it successfully before” is just to great.
    For me, it falls into the “if you survive that I will shoot you personally” category.

  • Simon_The_Brit

    If the Photographer felt confident about the shooters ability and the shooters were confident as well then why not. It’s bloody good training shooting that close to a live non target.

    I’ve stood next to a target like that, but that was military training. I wouldn’t do it just to get a good photo but each to his own.

  • Completely stupid. And no reason for it. Remote control cameras exist.

    If I was a student, I’d have walked out at that moment.

  • Reed

    I agree with everyone else, what he’s doing there is extraordinarily stupid. Also isn’t Yeager the guy who ran away a firefight when he was a contractor in iraq?

  • Thomas

    If William Tell had sneezed, his son would have been dead. There are just too many things that can go wrong and you can end up wounded, paralyzed, a vegetable or dead. Stupid.

  • Vak

    Wow, I heard a lot of bad stuff about Chuck Yeager and his teachings, but that’s the stick (or is it feather ?) that broke the camel’s back (I’m not really good yet with those idiomatic english metaphors).

    Not only is this extremely dangerous, it’s also completely pointless. Outside of the “hurr durr I are liek special furces” effect, what experience does it give ? That shooting while needlessly endangering nearby friendly units is a good thing ? Or that you are always an absolute gun-god who will never commit any mistake ? (protip, no one is)

  • Henry Bowman

    Reminds me of this photo:


    I just figured this was some sort of punishment detail for this guy. I never dreamed somebody (who wasn’t desperate) would ever do this voluntarily.

  • John

    The military has a good reason for doing things that way: military training is supposed to be realistic because you *know* you will have to deal with a situation where people will want to kill you. Well, unless you joined the Air Force, that is. And you have to demonstrate safe firearm handling before you ever get near any live fire exercise.

    God willing, I will *never* have to deal with someone who wants to kill me. I prepare for the worst but hope for the best. And the guy standing in the booth next to me might be an inexperienced shooter (or worse) so why take any chances?

    Besides, even my 15 year old camera has a remote, a timer and a tripod mount for a reason.

  • Carl

    Wow. That pdf is some pretty astonishing reading. Even the authors of the report seem completely oblivious of the four firearms safety rules, never mind the cops…

    Accidental discharge my foot.

    Standing between the targets like the instructor in the video seems rather pointless to me. It might not need to be a huge risk, assuming highly trained shooters. But are all the shooters at such courses really that experienced? And as mentioned there is always the risk of malfunctioning weapons.
    And why does he do it? It’s doesn’t look like it’s an integral part of the training. Pointless.

  • K. D.

    Wow! I would want to be on either end…..

  • That is some bad ju-ju.

    I’ve done some tactical training where other shooters were shooting very close to me, above me and beside me. But never with someone downrange… And never without a valid reason.

    You want a photo from down range, but a tripod and a remote shutter release (or just set the timer!)

  • Was he trying to answer the question; “Does directly observing muzzle flashes lead to brain damage?” Or was it simply a matter of bright sparkly things that are exciting to photograph?

  • MG

    It may not break the four rules but it seems very unnecessary.

  • I wouldn’t sell life insurance to that guy, and yes firearms instructors get rated higher than us normal people.

  • noname

    …the goggles…they do nothing…

    I think this guy’s insurance agent just got a better idea.

  • Greg Hocking

    The elite military and police units might do this with live ammo but before they get to that stage and for all others that are going to be sweep with the muzzle there is FX simunition.

  • Peter

    Umm… ever heard of a tripod? Seriously, he could have set the camera up and filmed/shot remotely. No need to be there. What an idiot for doing it and that school just dropped serious credibility points in my opinion.

  • Ben Bryant

    It wouldn’t be a big deal to me. I would honestly ask myself if I was confident with people shooting around me but it’s no more dangerous than a regular day at the range with other dubiously qualified shooters on either side of me.

    Also, a few years back a Fox News reporter pulled a similar stunt by going downrange and setting up a target or a watermelon(I can’t remember which) between himself and another man for a sniper to shoot at while they sat in chairs to demonstrate his fearlessness, I suppose. I haven’t seen another of their reporters do anything like that since.

  • David

    I just lost what little respect I had for these civilian “tactical” schools

  • I’ve heard rumors of a few of the elite forces training with themselves in hostage roles. Not sure whether I believe. But sure as heck NOT going to risk it for a photo.

  • Dom

    Seems so astoundingly dumb…are we sure they’re not using simunitions of some sort?

  • CMathews

    That fellow on the line to the right of the one that stands up doesn’t look like he is handling that recoil too well. Not the kind of guy I’d trust in this situation. My dad taught me the basics of range safety as a kid…all of those things were a big no-no. But I have been told stories from men on the grey side of the military and they would regularly walk down their lane at a live fire range to retrieve their targets while their comrades kept pumping out rounds. In that situation I can understand, those men fear getting kicked out of their outfits more than death. But I would be more than happy to be expelled from this “school” than participate in such lunacy.

  • wahoo mcdaniel

    Hey, isn’t the dude in the foreground doing the classic “full Sabrina”? We were told never to have your muzzle up and sweep down but be down in aspect and bring the weapon up and on target…at least his finger is along side the frame and not on the trigger…still not reassuring and rather stupid to be put out for general public viewing. this training/DVD group is off my x-mas card list…

  • chris

    bottom line, the shooter that accidentally kills the guy would face negligent homicide charges at the very least… military training incidents are generally written off and the person pulling the trigger usually does not face charges… in the civilian world, things are a bit different…

    its all fun and games till someone gets their ass shot off…

  • Jared

    I’ve taken classes at a number of training academies, including Lethal Force Institute, Sig Sauer Academy, Smith & Wesson Academy, and Cumberland Tactics. I’m also an NRA Certified Firearms Instructor and Range Safety Officer.

    None of the academies I’ve attended would have allowed this stupidity. I would not allow it on my range. If I was a student at this class, I would have left the range immediately and not returned.

    There are reasons (some justifiable, some not) why police and military agencies train the way they do, but there is absolutely no justification for this incident. It is taking a huge risk just to get publicity photos — photographs that can easily be obtained with a camera, tripod, and remote release without running this risk.

  • Thomas M.

    While everyone freaks out and throw fits of dogmatic purity over the various rules and claims that this is not done in civilian shooting schools. Everyone should take a breath and realize one thing, this is done in some shooting school and has been going on for some time.

    Back in 2003 there was a similar explosion of agnst over Ken Hackathorn training classes where students stood next targets while other students shot at the targets. When word leaked out of the practice much fury raged.

    It even made a splash in American Handgunner September/October 2003 when Clint Smith wrote in his “Reality Check” column decrying the stupidity of the exercise (without naming names as far as my memory is concerned). Several letters were published in the next edition including a letter from one of the sudent who participated in the exercise.

    Student Letter and Ken Hackathorn’s Response at http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0BTT/is_166_27/ai_109264968/

  • You couldn’t pay me any amount of money to be on either side of that firing line.

    Comparing this to breaking some of the four rules for training purposes is utter nonsense. This is not you dry firing at your teevee, this is you discharging your firearm at a target, with a live human being under three feet away.

    You want to practice shooting at an actual human being? Buy a full length mirror, set it up so it shows the reflection of a person safely behind a berm or bullet proof media, and shoot at the mirror.

    The idea that “this is how the professionals train” is nonsense. The realities of the military, particularly special forces, is that they are going to intentionally be put in positions where they will be shot at, and will need to shoot at, and kill people. Besides, being ordered to shoot bullets over the heads of people crawling in the dirt under threat of imprisonment is very different than attending a training course, walking up to the line, pointing your gun two inches of muzzle movement from a live human being, and voluntarily pulling the trigger because the instructor told you, “don’t worry, it’s cool.”

    And that photographer is showing some real effort at a Darwin award. Letting people who’s only known qualifications are that they have a few hundred bucks and a few hundred rounds of ammo shoot at targets three feet from him.

    Three’s plenty of stupid to go around.

  • James has asked anyone linking these videos to view this response:

    • D., thanks for the link.

  • Yo

    There is no explanation that justifies this dangerous situation. If having instructors downrange (between shooting stations) is an approved practice of Tactical Response, that organization should be shut down. If I was a student in that situation I would have made safe my gun, backed away from the line, asked for my money back, and left.

    And I’d return the next day with a TRO (temporary restraining order) to ensure safe practices are implemented.

    I don’t know who provides the liability insurance for the Camden, TN range where Tactical Response operates. But most ranges are able to operate by virtue of a $1,000,000 NRA policy. I can assure you that the practice shown on the video would lead to the retraction of insurance coverage.

    If Tactical Response is operating without insurance, all the more reason to avoid the TR school. As far as I’m concerned these folks are a black mark on the industry and should be hounded out of business.

  • chris

    an argument that “other things are more dangerous” is bullshit….

    that and then he spends the rest of the video talking about how leet his training is…

    he is cocky and reckless and someone is going to die because of that… ill stay far away thank you…

  • Just some quick notes as I was watching that video; (Steve, if this is not the right place for this, feel free to delete this comment)

    Yes, there is no true safety, there’s only best effort. This was not the best effort.

    “We’ve always been controversial” is not a defense of dangerous firearm handling.

    Call detractors jabbering internet commandos, then tell them to go to your forum! Fantastic! At least we can know what to expect if we join!

    So if you’re not willing to fire a round when someone is in front of you, how will you ever do it? I don’t know? Why don’t you ask the countless people who shoot intruders or attackers having never shot a person before.

    Oh! The driving comparison! Yes, that’s a good one to use, particularly in the case of firearms, because firearm sports have such a great safety rate, and driving is often use for comparison. Do you, perchance, know why firearm sports enjoy such a great safety rate? BECAUSE WE DON’T SHOOT GUNS WITH PEOPLE DOWNRANGE!


    Ladies… Gentlemen… The shark has been jumped. This is the equivalent of radio shock jocking. Why not just say everyone who disagrees isn’t a REAL WARRIORâ„¢, and anyone who doesn’t take your course won’t get their REAL WARRIORâ„¢ CERTIFICATE

    But really, I guess it’s OK. I mean, it’s not like people are prone to flinch when firing guns.

    You know, I was kind of joking about that REAL WARRIORâ„¢ CERTIFICATE, but you are just too predictable. So you’re not looking for the 10 or the 80? Do you guys have a 10/80 test you do to make sure your students won’t flinch and accidentally kill your photographer? I guess that’s just a chance you’re willing to take.

    I’m not.

  • Gundam

    Why am I not surprised to see a bunch of gun-toting wanna-be heroes and a chubby photographer acting like morons?

  • Dangerous, reckless and utterly needless.

    Reminded me of this picture- a Chinese soldier actually holding a target up.


  • Thomas M.

    Nice to know you have assumed the role of judging who should be training and who shouldn’t. If you intent to advocate the use of government force (TRO) to close training schools or stopping instructors you do not agree with or deem unsafe, well the list is going to be longer than you think.

    If you don’t agree with the way they train then don’t go. I am sure that their other schools that will be happy to take your money.

  • William Harris

    First, not just no but hell no. Second there are specific VERY well thought out clearly understood training goals for someone downrange during a livefire. Third not in a civilian enviroment, not now not ever. A picture is NEVER one of them. Military and some police might have some specific training goals for someone downrange, Delta, SWAT, a tirehouse livefire. Days of training, rehearsals, Airsoft work, paintball ALL before live rounds are ever issued. Necessary risk vs end goal is carefully weighed. Professional gun shooters and still accidents happen. Yes it is dangerous, thats why we take every concievable precaution, hearing, eye, backdrop and all the others to be as safe as we can make it. Why in the video doesn’t ALL the shooters do the same thing if they are in the same class? Also with all the anti gun lobbies WHY give them more ammunition to ban guns?

  • Well..

    I only know of one place here in Denmark where they shoot with people downrange. It’s at the spec ops range, and it’s with scoped rifles, not handguns. They did it as a part of a sniper training course for journalists, where the instructor put a water bottle 1 meter away from him, continued his lecture, and then the bottle was hit by a single round, to illustrate the point.

    That might seems a little reckless..and that was with a highty trained spec op prone shooter.. with rest.. with a scope..for a very specific reason.

    Doing it with handguns like this.. seems like more balls than brains to me!

  • Merv

    So which one gets charged with aggravated assault or assault with a deadly weapon? What a bunch of stupid students, they must have all failed they’re Use Of Force training, unless they can justify, they’re lives where in jeopardy by the camera man shooting pictures.

  • Cave Man

    “It appeared that the guy standing was having second thoughts as the insanity got underway but then he inserted a new magazine and it looks like he fired another shot.”

    No. He was doing a visual sweep of his surroundings after having shot. It’s something I believe in. You fight how you train. Forming a habit of re-holstering your weapon or fiddling with your magazines every time you finish firing a shot or shots makes as much sense as forming the habit of dumping your revolver’s empties in your pocket before reaching for the reload ammo. Look up the CA “Newhall massacre” for THAT one.

    The link to the article on officer-on-officer killings is instructive. Common threads: late to the party and missing the briefing yet still being allowed to “play” (both exercises and actual operations), failure to re-inspect for unloaded arms after leaving the training site, poor/nonexistent muzzle control in both exercises and operations, and complacency in assuring UNLOADED when doing anything OTHER THAN unholstering with the intent to shoot. Needs to be some Ninja-type ethic of never unsheath your sword unless it’s going to get bloodied ethic or something, which constantly indoctrinates the truth that the sharp ends of these tools KILL.

    I believe all of those problems are far greater than deciding that the “safe direction” rule includes anything outside of a narrow cone around the potential bullet path.

    The un-nerving aspect of one trainer’s “Z” or whatever fire-and-advance exercise can be suitably trained using mannequins, as far as I’m concerned. If participants want to stand in for the dummies or advance around live humans, there may be a time and place for that, but if so, ONLY AFTER all participants have passed several runs of the dummy run with flying colors.

  • “none of the four rules of firearm safety have technically been broken ”

    How do you figure? Rule #4?


  • Pete

    Just one word:


  • Camry

    I’m speechless. You’ve GOT to be kidding me! As an active handgun instructor, I have a hard enough time getting my students not to handle firearms while others are in front of them, and this class is teaching them it is acceptable to FIRE their handguns while someone is downrange? Unbelievable. My safety record is 100% and I intend to keep it there. All of my live-fire instruction is done one-on-one to ensure compliance with all safety rules and provide appropriate feedback.

    Civilian schools encouraging their students to fire while others are downrange are headed for disaster. James and Ken just narrowed the field of advanced schools I want to spend money on.

  • meat_tornado

    Once again I would like to point out again that due to his negligence James Yeager got three of his buddies killed while working as a contractor in Iraq.

    The video is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h8alt5C-yc4

    He is the driver of the lead vehicle. Marvel as he bails out, leaving his vehicle (and friends) to suffer withering fire from insurgents… and die because of it. His excuse was “the vehicle malfunctioned.”

    He had the emergency brake on and the car was in neutral.

    You can google the After Action Report of this attack and read very clearly that Yeager dropped the ball. He ran like a TRUE WARRIOR(tm).

    But I digress, moving on…



    When I was in the Army Infantry we did live fire drills. BUT NEVER AT OUR OWN PEOPLE. We were always shooting in the SAME DIRECTION moving ON LINE. Never did we have ANYONE down range like this.

    And if you bring up the Night Infiltration course in Basic Training, those are tracer rounds being fed into fixed M240B machine guns and fixed to be something in the range of 12 feet off of the ground. The trainees are crawling in a low prone position on the ground. Only if they stood up, and managed to jump 5 feet in the air would they be hit by a tracer bullet.

    This cameraman is within a foot of the impact zone. UNACCEPTABLE. This camera man needs to be fired, and personally I believe James Yeager needs to be blacklisted and should train NO ONE on how to “tactically respond” to anything, let alone a firefight.

  • mark


  • Whilst I agree that the presence of the cameraman downrange of several shooters was unnecessary and very dangerous and was not the best example to set given the moronic tendencies of some that trawl the internet, it should be worth noting that every prominent member of the UK Royal family along with the prime minister of the UK are required to sit in the middle of the SAS 360 degree kill house during live fire training exercises. The SAS soldiers involved in these exercises are not only firing pistols either… they use sub machine guns too AND to add to the confusion, they are not simply firing in one direction but in all directions so it is a far more dangerous exercise than that displayed by the cameraman featured in the video.

    Again, I am not condoning acts of stupidity, just pointing out that there are valid reasons for having a live non-target downrange of active shooters.

  • idiots

    I have personally taken 2 of their classes and met both the photographer in the video and the owner (James). I have also personally done what Jay has done in the video, as most people did in my class. THIS IS NOT DANGEROUS IF YOU HAVE RESPONSIBLE SHOOTERS. If i cant trust someone not to shoot me from 5 feet away why would i trust them otherwise? None of the 4 cardinal rules were broken here. And no, there is nothing illegal about it. That is moronic. The only reason people think this is so dangerous is because of range rules. And there was a point for him to stand down range…TO MAKE A POINT. He trusts the shooters as i trusted my shooters.

  • Sam Suggs

    this is dangerouse its also his choice if the man is shot its his fualt not the shooters

  • Sam Suggs

    I dont trust people period humans are unrliable