This series of articles isn’t meant to offer concrete, hard-and-fast rules about close-quarters combat. Like anything in life, there are dozens of paths to this destination—it’s efficiency and safety that make the difference. These ‘rules’ are more a reminder of things that many forget or are simply not aware of. In this series of articles, we will discuss the most important unwritten rules of CQB.

The reality of today is that the majority of tactical strategy has not been validated via scientific research. Much of it has been adopted following one dude hearing from one dude who heard from another dude. Some of the techniques work well on paper targets or deliver successful feedback to the team or the viewer on the catwalk with a timer, but they aren’t actually human-behavior compliant, or in other words, going to work when bullets are being exchanged. The purpose of this article is to highlight certain known or commonly performed errors that are not human-behavior compliant and work against our human instincts, but are still taught around the globe as a standard.

Sight fixation

Let’s begin with a small, very raw experiment. Stretch your arm while thumbing up. Now look at the thumb. It appears in great detail, but to its right and left, your vision is more blurry. Your vision acutely drops by 50 percent to each side of the thumb. Long story short, precision sight is limited by angle due to the unique structure of the human eye. The conclusion is that:

  • While on your sights, only a narrow field of precision information can be processed. In low-light situations, you can imagine how fragile that becomes.
  • A wider field of peripheral (not in-depth) vision can be triggered by OR (observation response, aka movement that attracts the eyes)

Focused vision (aka Foveal field of vision) is only 1.5 inches in diameter at six feet and 2.5 inches at 10 feet. The central visual field is 12.7 inches in diameter at six feet and 21.1 inches at 10 feet. The peripheral visual field has no ability to detect precision focus. In other words, anything the green circle below covers has no sharp detail/precision sight coverage.

This image is a rough estimation and might be few inches off. Our Photoshop skills suck.

Now that you are aware of the limitations, I can begin with my case. One of the biggest problems that I encounter with both experienced and non-experienced students in CQB is that they move into rooms with their eyes buried into optics or slightly above. To my observations, this is one of the most consistent errors I see even in the professional circles, and I believe that its source is inexperienced instructors receiving implicit knowledge from movies or from a dude who heard from another dude that reticle + target = success. Not always.

I’ll state the obvious: The average distance for CQB engagement is less than 10 meters and commonly ends up at three meters away from a threat. Things happen quickly and up close. There are two major factors that have a huge effect on human performance in CQB and should be considered: a lack of time and a limited visual field of view, both which impact our intake of critical data and our target discrimination.

Viewing the world through a toilet paper roll will result not only in missing vital visual information—such as that extra door behind a closet or an innocent-looking tango secretly holding a folding knife—but it also normally results in accidents, such as a wingman shooting the shoulder or elbows of the point man since he could not get that visual data while under acute stress response (see video above). While using pistols, this is even more fragile. From what I’ve seen with police officers, the wingman or the guy in the back will often experience target fixation and will flag the shit out of his partner’s head or body due to the sight fixation effect. In addition to that, a shooter may trip over furniture, debris, kids, or other obstacles that are quite low and won’t be visible when you reduce your field of view to a toilet paper roll.