Class Review: Varg Freeborn Teamwork in Concealed Carry (FoF)

Instructor: Varg Freeborn
Location: Alliance Police Training Facility (Alliance, OH) 
Student Count: 17
Cost: $350 + $25/day Range Fee 
Date/Time: 24 - 25 Oct, 2020 (9:00am - 5:00pm, 8:00pm - 1:00am, 10:00am - 5:00pm)

Photo Credit: Zach Poland

Note: I am using Pat Tarrant's AAR format for this review. It is available at

Instructor: Varg has a unique perspective on self-defense. In fact, I'm not aware of anybody else in this industry with a similar background. He grew up in a violent area and eventually found himself serving a 5-year prison sentence surrounded by violent, predatory convicts. During his prison term, he ate, talked, worked out, and fought with these men every day. He learned, among other things, how they thought, how they executed violent acts, and what motivated them. After being released from prison, Varg had his rights restored and began training with firearms regularly.  He eventually laid out his own shingle in the form of One Life Defense, LLC. If you're interested in hearing Varg's story in its entirety (and I recommend that you do) listen to Street Warrior Radio episode 23 or purchase his book, Violence of Mind.

Equipment Details: Since this was a force-on-force (FoF) class, no live ammunition was used and the firearms we used were Glocks that were modified to only fire Simunition rounds. Paint-marking Simunition ammo was purchased from the venue. I kept my sim pistol secured in the Alpha IWB Holster by C&G Holsters. It performed well and had no issues retaining the Glock sim gun. During the lowlight portion of the class, I used a Surefire EDCL1-T for illumination. An old pair of USMC-issued Camelbak gloves protected my hands from the Simunition rounds and a protective mask provided by Alliance Police Training Facility (ATPF) protected my face.

C&G's Alpha IWB Holster has performed excellently for me.

Personal Experience: I am a former Marine Corps infantryman and have attended 1-3 firearms training classes a year for the past 10 years or so. I had some experience with FoF training from the military 10+ years ago, but that was a far different mission and context than this class. I attended two live-fire classes from Varg previously: Gutterfight Pistol in 2018 and Defensive Rifle in 2019.

Preparation Drills: I squeezed in some lowlight pistol practice during the week leading up to this class since I knew there would be a lowlight block of instruction on night one.

Class Demographics: Attendees included former military, active law enforcement officers (LEO's), civilians, competitive shooters, other instructors, and two husband/wife couples. I attended with my friend Zach. He's a solid shooter who regularly competes, attends training classes, and had actually attended one of Varg's FoF classes previously.

TD1:  Varg opened the class by giving us a thorough safety brief. He talked us through the safety plan for ensuring that no live ammunition or weapons made it into the shoothouse and made it abundantly clear that no shenanigans would be tolerated and no warnings would be given in relation to that. He also introduced his assistants, Scott and Joey, who played opfor in most scenarios. They are both active LEO's and bring good perspectives.

  We spent the next hour or two receiving classroom instruction on CQB principles and how they applied to civilian self-defense scenarios. Varg teaches the "shape method" of CQB. Next, in the shoothouse, we split into thirds and spent time "dry-running" the CQB principles we'd just learned with each instructor.

Varg & Joey demonstrate CQB procedures in the APTF Shoothouse.

  After we spent some time ingraining these skills, we began FoF scenarios. After Varg reiterated his policy regarding possession of (or even joking about) weapons, live ammo, etc. in the shoothouse we started the first scenario. This scenario put us in a pawn shop shopping for a big screen TV, when our outing was interrupted by an armed robber (Joey). Zach and I feigned compliance until the robber turned his back to hold the clerk at gunpoint. This provided enough time for me to draw and put two or three well-placed rounds into his torso. At this point Varg paused the scenario and asked me where my partner was. If you had drawn a straight line from me & through Joey, Zach was standing directly on the other end of that line. Varg correctly pointed out that, not only could Zach have been injured or killed by a pass-through, if one of my rounds had immediately incapacitated Joey there's a strong possibility that he would have dropped too quickly for me to react and Zach could have been hit by the rest of my rounds. Know your target and its surroundings! After resuming the scenario Zach and I found ourselves dealing with a room full of scared, upset bystanders loudly criticizing my actions, filming us for Worldstar, etc. While they were clearly upset, no one was physically aggressive, so Zach and I kept an eye on them and continued to hold the incapacitated robber at gunpoint while we "called 911". After being on the phone with the "911 dispatcher" for a minute Varg indexed the scenario and provided some more critiques. Zach and I experienced that same scenario both from the catwalk above and as participating bystanders. Watching the scenario unfold from different perspectives also allowed us to critique ourselves and plagiarize techniques to incorporate during later scenarios. One pair of defenders, realizing that the pawn shop robber was distracted, sneaked out the front door and "called 911" without firing a shot. A solid course of action that would certainly entail less drama and liability for an armed defender. However, the clerk was gunned down in spite of his compliance which may have left a permit holder dealing with a moral injury during the aftermath, wondering if he could or should have stopped it.

Opfor holds the pawn shop clerk at gunpoint as a student heads for the door.

  We spent the next several hours as defenders, bystanders, and observers during robbery scenarios, angry, cuckholded spouse scenarios, etc. Sometimes bystanders were gunned down. When that happened we would talk through first aid actions to save their lives and describe their injuries to the "911 dispatcher". By 5pm we were ready to break for dinner and rest before the night block of instruction.

Zach engages a "spurned husband" who was intent on killing his spouse's new beau.
Photo Credit: Varg Freeborn

TD1 (Night Block): After several hours off to rest and eat dinner, we met back at the APTF classroom for the nighttime block of instruction. This block focused on lowlight home defense. We ran two variations of the same scenario: one with a single home invader and one with two home invaders. I was able to run through the lowlight scenarios as a defender four times. During our first couple of runs, we tried to move through our "house" searching for the bump in the night and got handled. Defenders who held their doorway or barricaded in their room had far better results. We quickly adopted these techniques ourselves and were far more successful. I found that square range lowlight training I had attended in the past paid off during these scenarios, especially when I had to manage my handheld light while clearing a doublefeed in my Glock sim gun. A lot of flashlight lenses were cracked by sim rounds during the lowlight scenarios. Most people will focus on a bright light source in a dark environment and also tend to shoot where they're looking. When I saw all the damaged flashlight lenses I remember thinking "Damn, I'm glad that didn't happen to me!" Later, I noticed some tiny glass shards in my hip pocket and discovered that it had happened to me too! Lesson learned. The night block ended around 1am and we all headed to our hotels to get some much needed sleep.

Photo Credit: Varg Freeborn

TD2: We met at the APTF classroom at 10am for a safety brief and got to work. Our next scenario was on the outdoor rifle range. This scenario required every student who was not participating as a defender to participate as a bystander. It seemed loosely based on a nationally covered shooting that had taken place a couple of months before in which a defender had to deal with an aggressive crowd pursuing him during the aftermath of his self defense incident. This was, by far, the most frustrating scenario for me. I had to mentally stop myself a few times and remember that we were all in this class to help each other get better. I made a couple of mistakes, but even if you got everything right it was a no-win situation. Varg had designed it that way on purpose since not all self defense scenarios are Hollywood movies where the defender prevails and is hailed as a local hero. Zach performed excellently during this scenario, engaging two armed aggressors with all the skill and composure of a competitive pistol shooter. A major mistake I made was failing to secure a mugger's knife after incapacitating him and then having to keep track of it as it changed hands and moved through the angry mob that gathered. Trying to manage or get away from an angry mob without turning your back, shooting innocent bystanders, while scanning for weapons seemed pretty impossible, but we all left with great tactical and legal critiques of our actions. If possible, avoiding events that have the capacity to go sideways and turn into violent mob activity is your best defense against angry mobs.

The angry mob scenario was very frustrating for me.
Photo Credits: Varg Freeborn

  The culminating event was a Columbine-style multiple active shooter scenario I participated in as an active shooter. Not everyone was issued a sim gun for this scenario, leaving some students having to evade the shooters and/or acquire guns after armed defenders were killed. Active shooters were instructed to go down after five hits. It took me a while to accumulate five hits, so I was able to wreak a lot of havoc during that time. One issue defenders ran into was, since they knew there were other armed defenders in the scenario, they had trouble deciding whether I was a threat or a fellow defender. This gave me enough of a head start to be successful in most engagements. At this point Varg's AI, Scott, an active LEO, responded in uniform with a patrol rifle. He also had trouble deciding if I was a threat or armed defender right away. The fifth shot that finally took me out was a well-placed headshot from about twenty-five yards. As a spectator lying comfortably on the gravel I was able to watch some pretty interesting interactions between Scott and the defenders & bystanders as everybody figured out who was who. Patience and communication ruled the day and no LEO's or armed defenders shot each other that I know of. 

Responding LEO searches bystanders for weapons during building evacuation.

Class Debrief: During the debrief we discussed what we had learned. This was my first civilian-oriented FoF class. I likened it to fight training - I think that square range training is like technique and bag work while FoF is more like sparring. Square range skills are necessary to hit accurately without endangering bystanders, but FoF training puts square range skills into context while reacting to a thinking opponent in real time. Ultimately, I thought the class was outstanding and I hope Varg makes the trek back up to Ohio soon so I can attend again. Safety was emphasized at all times. The material focused heavily on ingraining procedures and putting us in decision-making situations where we used those procedures to succeed. 

After Class:  I had a two hour drive home to reflect on the weekend. Overall, I was happy with how I performed, especially once I caught on during the lowlight block. But as always, there were areas where I could have done better. Several times I felt I waited too long before going for my gun. I also should have put more emphasis on securing opfor weapons. While it's impossible to completely replicate a violent self defense scenario in training, I left Varg's class feeling more confident in my abilities and with a better idea of what to expect should I ever find myself in a similar situation.

  Later in the week I contacted Surefire CS about my damaged flashlight and described what had happened. They sent an RMA and I shipped my light back to them. About a week later I received what I'm pretty sure was a brand new replacement EDCL-1T.

Surefire customer service took great care of me.