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2 Man Tactics – Part 1 – Formations and Lanes of Fire

Two man formations.


Two man formations is as simple as it gets. You can either be in a column, a line, or a staggered column. I suppose you could call it an echelon instead of a staggered column.

Which is the best formation? Well that’s a trick question. Use the formation that is most appropriate for the situation. A column would normally be used for fast movement. If you were moving through dense vegetation trying to move side by side would be a lot harder, slower, and louder than moving in single column. Very bad terrain might have lead person completely dedicated to trailblazing with the second person providing all security. Another extreme example would be a location with mines or booby traps. The second person would step in the same places and move the same way that the first person did but far enough back that they wouldn’t be caught in an explosion.

A line formation would be used to direct as much firepower forwards as possible. The line formation is simple and scales up for as many people as you have. A large formation functions much like at shooting range where you can have any number people side by side shooting forwards in their lanes functioning as safely as reasonably possible. Majority of training in the US with multiple people shooting is practiced on static ranges in a line formation. Unfortunately, often in the real world we are not working in a line formation.

On your average static range each person has a firing lane. This lane often is directly in front of them to their single target. Firing lanes don’t intersect and don’t overlap. In theory, if each individual is firing in their Lane, you could walk up and down yours and be just fine. In reality, we don’t do that. I hope you understand why.

A staggered column (or echelon) is generally preferred if you are out in the open or don’t know where the enemy might engage you from. The pair of you can easily shoot forwards, backwards, left or right with out getting in each others way. Only if you run into someone at the same angle as you are staggered do you get in each others way. Being a small group of two people, should that happen, either person moving left or right (facing to the direction of the enemy) would allow both people to engage.

Arguably there shouldn’t be a practical difference between echelon left and echelon right. Realistically, most people are right-handed and can engage targets to their left slightly fast than targets their right. Depending on the individuals a formation to the left or right may have certain advantages or disadvantages. As you practice movement and engaging you will likely find that you group will prefer one or the other. You need practice both versions of it and being in either position.

A simple military technique for moving when in enemy contact is fired “fire and movement”. One person shoots while the other advances(or retreats). In this situation you would be in one of these staggered column formations in alternating your positions as you advance forward. This very common tactic is a very important tactic.  Unfortunately, this isn’t trained on your standard static range. Most ranges will not let you shoot while someone is ahead of you. Fortunately, you can train it with dry runs, airsoft, or any number of other ways to practice the movement without live fire.

The gunfight in the movie “Heat” is often used as an example of this fire and movement.

On a tangent – “5 mil rule”: while I was in the military I was first taught the rule of thumb for shooting when friendlies are in front of you what is the width of your fist. You would place your fist against the forearm of your firearm and if there were friendlies within that angular distance you would not fire. Later that was changed to the width of your fingers splayed out from tip of thumb to pinky finger. A larger angle would always be preferred for safety reasons but each of us is a professional and should know what our limits and capabilities are should we be in a bad situation.

When moving is part of a team you attempt to stay in your Lane. Imagine a scenario with two gunfighters in a staggered column. Upon engaging the enemy both are firing forwards at the enemy. If the front person suddenly decided to make dynamic movement left or right without notifying their partner there is a chance they might run right into their partners lane of fire. Last thing a two man team needs is a blue on blue incident.

It is not that the front person (in this example) can not move to the right, but that the pair need to communicate prior to that movement so that nothing tragic happens.

A lane of fire is not to be mistaken for a sector fire. Sectors of fire or much broader and should be overlapping and intersecting. If you have a group of people providing security they need to be observing avenues of approach and areas much larger than a single lane of fire.  We will talk about those next time.

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