The Ultimate Firearms Destination for the Gun Lifestyle

An Assaulter’s Guide to Hallways

Hallways can be the road to victory or the superhighway to suck.

Hallways are the Autobahn of a building; they allow for movement between rooms and serve to connect portions of the structure to one another. Absent the use of a large team with lots of explosives, moving through them in a tactical situation is an unfortunate necessity. Hallways create channels through which we’re forced to travel, making our position in relation to the enemy predictable. The good news is we can mitigate the risks of moving through them with some simple procedures.

Hallways are best handled in teams. In team CQB, hallways serve as our “home base,” or staging area, from which we assault and reduce individual problems like doors, intersections, and open areas. The quandary for an armed citizen or police patrolman, however, is that they’re sometimes forced by circumstance to deal with hallways by themselves or, at best, with one other person. While this is a challenging and dangerous task, it’s still manageable.

While we sometimes tend to default to complexity in teaching the fighting arts, learning to manage hallways is really a matter of learning to apply three simple concepts: situational awareness, managing shapes, and maximizing the use of space.

Situational Awareness
Fighting inside structures requires intense focus and understanding of your surroundings. This is especially vital when you’re navigating a hallway — the amount of problems that require our attention and prioritization can be overwhelming to the inexperienced, even in a simple residential home. The first step in making good decisions in a hallway is knowing where you are in relation to the structure as a whole. This is called spatial awareness. It’s important because it informs things like your direction of travel and making educated guesses about which side of a T intersection is “short,” which rooms are small, and whether a room is a closet, bathroom, or bedroom.

Also, keep in mind situational awareness involves much more than what you see. A smart fighter pays attention to his sense of smell, what he hears, the feel of the air on his skin, what he can taste in his mouth, or how the floor feels under his feet. Every detail the five senses can gather is useful intelligence.

Maximizing your situational awareness also allows you to see problems early, using the dead space between you and the problem to set yourself up for success as soon as possible. Every step inside a structure exposes you to new angles, and being aware of them is a good way to avoid being on the receiving end of the ballistic bees.

A key factor in maintaining situational awareness as you move is keeping your gun out of your face. Teaching a lot of CQB, this is probably the most common issue I see. Looking at the world through your optic or your sights is a natural response to the stress of working in confined spaces against armed opponents; when combined with a lack of confidence in your ability to quickly and accurately shoot from ready positions, it leads to a dangerous tunnel vision. In my experience, the majority of real-world threats inside a structure will be low (under tables, sitting on couches, crouching in closets, etc.), so walking around with your gun blocking the lower half of your visual plane can lead to missing threats until they start shooting you. This is a condition that has to be trained on heavily, both on the square range and in the shoothouse.

A good rule of thumb with the carbine-ready position is the muzzle should be low enough that you can see the baseboards of the wall you are looking at.

A good rule of thumb with the carbine-ready position is the muzzle should be low enough that you can see the baseboards of the wall you are looking at.

Shapes
Hallways are nothing more than linear passageways intersected by shapes that must be navigated. If you develop a simple set of procedures for dealing with the shapes found in the real world, you can apply that procedure to any specific circumstance you encounter.

The world inside structures looks complex but can be boiled down to three basic shapes: the “L,” the “T,” and the “4-way.” Hallway intersections, entries into rooms, furniture layout, closets, and any other specific interior feature can be broken down into one of these three basic shapes. Understanding them allows us to develop three basic procedures we can apply across almost any problem, making managing hallways, even by yourself, safer, smoother, and more efficient.

Ready position with the pistol in CQB should be in close. Most close-range fights either begin or end as fist fights, and having positive, close control of the pistol is critical.

Ready position with the pistol in CQB should be in close. Most close-range fights either begin or end as fist fights, and having positive, close control of the pistol is critical.

Use of Space
Every inch of hallway is precious. Like a chess player, every step forward should put you in a better position to manage the next problem. Our goal is to see the shapes or doors we have to attack, and their relation to other danger areas, as early as possible. This allows us to make a decision and navigate to the proper place from which to attack that problem without losing momentum. Seeing problems early and setting up on them while moving avoids what we call “lurching.”

Lurching is when a tactical ninja sprints to a problem (for instance, an intersection), stops and looks at it as if for the first time, then decides what to do. This is a problem because it bleeds momentum from our work, and momentum is what we’re actually referring to when we talk about the basic CQB principle of “speed” (as in speed, surprise, and violence of action). This doesn’t mean we can’t pause when we feel it’s necessary in order to gain more situational awareness or let our senses catch up with our movement.
Every second and every inch counts. Use them wisely.

The world inside structures can be boiled down to three basic shapes: the “L,” the “T,” and the “4-way.”

The world inside structures can be boiled down to three basic shapes: the “L,” the “T,” and the “4-way.”

One-Man Hallways
Assaulting a structure by yourself sucks; there’s no way around the fact that it’s extremely dangerous and stressful. It would be easy for me to say “you shouldn’t ever clear a structure by yourself,” but that ignore the reality that the majority of people carrying a gun today in the U.S. will be alone when an emergency occurs. During my law enforcement career, circumstances have forced me to clear structures or parts of them alone more times than I can count. While doing one-man CQB should be avoided if possible, the fact is it happens, and training for the eventuality is prudent.

The issue that makes working CQB by yourself so dangerous is simple at its core: you can look in so many directions at once. So our job when working hallways by ourselves is to, whenever possible, minimize our exposure to uncleared areas and angles to one at a time. The quandary of single man CQB is deciding which angle to expose yourself to first when you can’t isolate them individually (such as a T intersection). The good news is if you can learn to work effectively by yourself, working CQB in a two-man team will seem simple.

First, take it slow and smooth. Your natural inclination may be to rush through and get it done, but as a single fighter, absent some overwhelming Priority of Life issue (for example, your kid is being held hostage) forcing the issue is almost always a bad idea. When doing CQB, you’re the assaulter and the bad guy is the defender, and the defender owns the battlespace until you take it from him. Taking your time can reduce the chances of blundering into his fight on his terms. Speed isn’t a critical component of momentum when you’re working by yourself.

One man CQB sucks so bad because we don’t have eyes in the back of our head, and clearing complex shapes will expose you to uncleared areas.

One man CQB sucks so bad because we don’t have eyes in the back of our head, and clearing complex shapes will expose you to uncleared areas.

Entering a hallway is exactly like entering a room. It’s imperative that you turn every corner expecting immediate violence — complacency in CQB leads to getting filled in. As I approach every corner I say to myself “there’s someone right there who’s going to try to kill me,” and I believe it. Usually, you’ll be pleasantly surprised, but someday you’ll be right, and you’ll be ready for them.

As we enter the hallway (turning the corner), we should be looking for immediate threats — people who can hurt us within the threshold of the entry. If you find nothing in the immediate threat area, check the near threat area next. The near threat area in a hallway is the space between you and the closest problem (intersection, door, furniture) you see. Once that’s clear, check the far threat — the rest of the hallway, as far as you can see. This process sounds complicated, but with practice it can be done within two or three steps into the hallway.

The near and far threat scans allow you to begin “mapping” the hallway: identifying doors and intersections, and prioritizing them for action. Depending on the specific hallway, you may need to move from one side of the hallway to the other in order to see everything. The situational awareness gained by this short pause can help preserve momentum later. Mapping the hallway allows you to determine, based on the Priority of Life, which problems need to be addressed in what order.

The compressed ready is a good position for turning corners, especially when working alone. Engaging immediate threats at contact distance can be difficult if your weapon in pointed at the deck.

The compressed ready is a good position for turning corners, especially when working alone. Engaging immediate threats at contact distance can be difficult if your weapon in pointed at the deck.

Once you start moving, do so with a purpose. Keep your head up and divide your attention between your first objective and the rest of the hallway. If you’re moving on an open angle (an open door or an intersection), use all of the space available to be as far away from that corner as possible. This allows you to see more of what’s behind the angle with every step, keeping you from getting fixed on a corner where your visibility and ability to engage targets is limited.

Maintaining as much distance as possible from a corner allows you to see more with every step and gives you options for movement without trapping you in a tight space.

Maintaining as much distance as possible from a corner allows you to see more with every step and gives you options for movement without trapping you in a tight space.

When dealing with open intersections, see as much of the area as you can before you move into that space. When dealing with an L intersection, for instance, you can clear everything, including the hard corner at the end of the intersecting hallway, in a smooth movement, before you actually enter that space. T and four-way intersections are more complex. These require you to expose your back to one side in order to clear the hard corner of the opposite side.

The procedure I use for this situation is to pick one side and start on the wall opposite it to maximize my vision. I generally pick the side I think is “short” to clear first because it’s less likely to have a lot to evaluate (if I was right), hence less exposure of my back to the side I haven’t cleared yet. I clear that “short” side to the deep corner as smoothly and rapidly as I can, then I suck back into the hallway I came from, switch to the other wall, and repeat the clear on the other side. Depending on the threat level, consider changing your elevation (take a knee) to do the second side. This displacement, while small, forces your enemy to at least adjust their focus on the corner before they can engage you.

Turning corners too close with your muzzle out of play can lead to some unnecessarily “sporting” moments.

Turning corners too close with your muzzle out of play can lead to some unnecessarily “sporting” moments.

Dealing with doors in the hallway is simpler, but can be just as dangerous. Open doors should be treated like an L shape; however, you have a couple of different dangers to face than a hallway intersection. First, the threat posed by the uncleared hallway in front of you remains the same. Diverting your attention is an unavoidable risk, but bypassing an open door without at least looking inside is a bigger risk. The second issue is that while you can clear the majority of a room from the door, the two hard corners in a center fed room, or the one hard corner in a corner fed room, remain danger areas to you. These should be cleared like you would clear a T intersection. If you don’t need to go into the room, don’t. Doing so will force you to retake the hallway all over again.

Don’t expose any part of your weapon or body before taking a corner. A good rule of thumb is to avoid exposing anything until you can shoot back. Your rifle muzzle is just a target indicator until your eye is in the optic.

Don’t expose any part of your weapon or body before taking a corner. A good rule of thumb is to avoid exposing anything until you can shoot back. Your rifle muzzle is just a target indicator until your eye is in the optic.

Baring some serious Priority of Life issue, closed doors should be bypassed if possible, to be dealt with once you have a firm grasp of the rest of the structure. If you have to search a room behind a closed door, remember you’re the breacher, the long cover guy, and the first person into the room, all rolled into one. That’s a lot of hats to have on one head.

If all this sounds complex, that’s because it is. One-man hallways are just about as difficult a set of techniques to master as exists in CQB. Get professional training and maintain your skills if you need this capability to accomplish your mission, even if that mission is defending your home or going to the grocery store. Stout hearts.

Managing doors alone is the time to be smooth and deliberate.

Managing doors alone is the time to be smooth and deliberate.

About the Author
John “Chappy” Chapman is a police officer with over 25 years of full time and reserve police service in patrol, training and SWAT positions. He’s currently a SWAT team leader, and has completed thousands of hours of firearms and CQB training with some of the world’s best instructors. Chappy has taught in the private sector since 1999, serving armed citizens, police officers, and military units, most recently as an instructor for EAG Tactical. Chappy, along with John Spears, recently founded Forge Tactical (forgetactical.com), an advanced tactics focused training firm, to carry on the legacy of EAG.

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