Clay Martin: I’ve been in a couple of firefights myself, and sitting there on your sights waiting on a perfect shot likely isn’t in the cards. Knowing fire and maneuver at least gives you an option.

About the author

Clay Martin served in two branches of service, the USMC and the US Army. In the Corps, he was in the infantry, a Scout/Sniper, and a Recon Marine. In the Army, he served as a Green Beret, with most of his career spent in the 3rd Special Forces Group. Clay was an Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA) Communications SGT, Intelligence SGT, and ended his career as a SFAUC instructor.


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Fire and maneuver is such a basic task that we in military circles take it for granted

The Article

A big chunk of tactical knowledge is missing in nearly every civilian and LE training course!

It came to my attention back in 2016 after the infamous LE ambush in Dallas.

Looking at similar examples, I found several other instances of Law Enforcement losing gun battles to Veterans turned criminals.

And I’m not talking about some high-speed SEAL Ranger Commando gone off the reservation.

I’m talking run of the mill low speed/high drag poorly trained Veterans.

Micah Johnson, the perpetrator of the deadliest day for Law Enforcement since September 11th, 2001, was an Army Reservist carpenter and a Private First Class.

Not exactly what we in the military would consider a ninja.

So what the hell was happening?

Right after Dallas, I offered a month of free training to anyone in LE.

If you showed up, your fee was on the house, and several individual Officers took me up on it.

And early in that month, I discovered what I consider the missing component.

Fire and maneuver is such a basic task that we in military circles take it for granted.

Don’t take my tone wrong on this, please.

It’s not a matter of talking smack that we know some magic sauce.

It’s a case of you don’t know what you don’t know, and Veterans are as much to blame as anyone for its absence in other training circles.

When I talk about bad guys in this equation, it boils down to one of two things working for them.

Either they are using principles of fire and maneuver, even as an individual, which is doctrinally not a thing.

But works anyway since nothing is done to counteract it.

Or the perp has found a solid piece of cover and could easily be overwhelmed and destroyed by basic F&M but ends up winning because no one on the ground knows how to do so.

Now fire and maneuver isn’t rocket science, nor is it even difficult to learn.

I expound greatly on it in my latest book, Prairie Fire: Guidebook for Surviving Civil War 2.


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The foundational principle of Western infantry tactics

For a quick point of reference, let us break it down to its simplest terms.

Two maneuver elements, which in a street battle could be as small as two single people representing A&B, take turns suppressing a threat while the other one moves.

The idea is to keep the bad guy from being able to return EFFECTIVE fire while the good guys close the distance or gain the angle to be able to shoot him dead.

Sounds easy, right?

Well, actually, it is.

There can be a lot more subtlety than that and a lot more moving parts.

But in its most simple form, that is it.

And I mean it when I say this is possibly the one unifying bit of tactical knowledge taught to everyone from cooks and dudes in the band to the SAS.

It has been the foundational principle of Western infantry tactics since the end of WW1 and should not be dismissed.

You can learn enough of it to be deadly in a single day, more than sufficient, in my opinion, to change the outcome of some of these recent shootings.

But like many “simple” tasks, you could also spend a lifetime trying to master every component.

We still went out and practiced a couple of times a year on my ODA, regardless of this being a skill you could dismiss as a day 1 Ranger School tactic.

Wait, really, are you advocating this for LE and Civilians?

Yes. Yes, I am.

Another part of the problem here is a failure of training assessment.

For about the last 20 years, all anyone wants to do is CQB-oriented drills.

Which are fun and cool, no doubt. I get it.

I like shooting the A zone from 3 feet too.

And running up and down the range throwing yourself to the ground every 5 seconds is not exactly fun.

But like many things, what you need to do and what is fun to do are often mutually exclusive.

I like having cardio, but I hate doing cardio.

I have to choose.

Am I going to be a lump of chewed bubble gum, or am I going to work hard at something that isn’t fun?

Same thing here.

Except the choice to not learn the hard thing may mean you die.

Is this an easy sell to LE and Civilian mindsets?

No. Just talking about a base of fire laying down a wall of lead so you can close distance makes the lawyers hyperventilate.

But the world is also changing, and quickly.

So from a pure cost perspective, is it worth it to dump three magazines in the general direction of the bad guy, likely not hitting him?

Well, it’s probably going to happen anyway.

Fire and maneuver at least gives you an option

I’ve been in a couple of firefights myself, and sitting there on your sights waiting on a perfect shot likely isn’t in the cards.

Knowing fire and maneuver at least gives you an option.

Do you want to blast those rounds off, hiding behind cover or closing with the enemy so he can be destroyed?

For civilians, this would have been pure fantasy a year ago.

But if the Mongolian horde is invading your neighborhood, is it plausible you might have to act in a similar manner? It isn’t out of the question.

This isn’t the end of tactical corrections, not by a long shot.

But it does address what I see as a serious deficiency.

And I would hope that if I had a gaping hole in my knowledge, one of my LE or Civ brothers would do the same and fill it.

In my experience, now adding in at least 2 hours of fire and maneuver to all of my classes, it has been very well received.

I recommend that, at the very least, you find a former infantry or SOF dude and ask him to show you how it’s done.

Give it a chance before you dismiss it out of hand.

It just might surprise you how game-changing it is.


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Photos by Clay Martin

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