Q&A: A Special Operations legend defines real-world firearms training

Bob Keller is the antithesis of firearm instructors whom he’s labeled shooting theorists — the type of tactical trainer who’s never been gunfight and therefore doesn’t know what really works.

Instead, they teach what they think will work, in theory.

For the past 10 years, Keller has been a member of the Army’s most elite Special Operations unit, and has deployed to dozens of hot spots around the world.

He’s prohibited from mentioning the name of the elite unit in which he currently serves. It’s a prohibition we agreed to respect.

Bob’s master-the-fundamentals mantra is refreshing and realistic. After all, why waste time and money learning techniques that won’t work in a real gunfight.

Click here to read a profile about MSG Keller I wrote for the Herald-Tribune.

Now, as retirement draws near, Keller founded Gamut Resolutions — a tactical training firm “dedicated to providing tactical or practical coaching needed to survive any unanticipated or anticipated situation.”

He teaches law enforcement officers, corporate groups and civilians.

Here’s what some of Bob’s former teammates had to say about his training capabilities:

“The quality of training he’s capable of delivering is simply the best. If you think of it on an academic scale, Bob is at the PhD level in terms of tactics and shooting — even better than a PhD level. He goes above and beyond. His research and his thesis are based upon his own experiences,” SGM Jeremy Morton, U.S. Army Special Operations. 

“Bobby, without being a cocky guy, will explain things in a common-sense way, not based on stupid theories, but bases upon the lifestyle he lived. He’s been constantly in harms way, always evolving to the threat, finding what works. It’s something he’s learned over and over and has built upon,” Alex, U.S. Army Special Operations. 

“Besides having been there and done that in the real world, Bob’s a grown up. He can break things down, and can explain a certain task to where people can understand this stuff and apply it to their specific job, whether they’re military, law enforcement or civilian. (Special Operations) secret is mastery of the fundamentals. We just do the simple shit really good! Bob will put that upon you. You can’t build a house without a good foundation,” John Schaible, U.S. Army Special Operations.

I sat down with Bob and talked training.

Here’s our Q&A:

Q: What is your training philosophy?

A: “I am simple on that. Pre-9/11 we trained on everything. We never knew what a gunfight was gonna be like. Post-9/11, after the amount of times I’ve been shot at and shot back, a ton of stuff was thrown out the window — useless shit we thought would work that was actually time wasted at the range. For me, it’s all about the Ready-Up Drill. When I get ready for war, 90 percent of the time it’s Ready-Up Drills. The other 10 percent is running and gunning, car work, and more, but that’s only 10 percent. Again, 90 percent is Ready-Up Drills, getting faster and more accurate. I need to do it to be faster than the guy bringing the gun up on me. Almost every situation still comes down to the Ready-Up Drill — bringing the gun up, getting a sight picture and pulling the trigger.”

Q: Describe the combat mindset.

A: “Everyone is going to be different, and it’s hard to train, but here’s what I’ve come up with. The best way to describe the combat mindset is how someone handles stress. You have to expect it and you have to accept it. You have to know something bad is going to happen, and you have to accept that something bad is going to happen. That way it will be less stressful when something bad happens.

“That’s the only mindset that’s going to work for everyone. Everyone handles stress differently, and there’s no way to train for the stress of a real gunfight. Burpees, push-ups, running around with a sandbag over your head before shooting is horse shit. It’s not stressful. That’s the problem with a lot of police: They don’t get to train enough so they shoot friendlies because they’re scared. They don’t know that they can win a gunfight. If they were trained properly and knew they’d win, they’d be less likely to draw in the first place. It all comes down to basic shooting stuff, knowing you can come out of the holster and get a round off in less than a second, and be accurate within a six-inch dot. That’s what all of my training is based on — being confident with your firearms.”

Q: What type of instruction should people avoid?

A:”Gimmicky stuff that will get you killed, wasted time at the range, terrible Hollywood stuff, focusing on things that don’t matter, gimmicks like flipping mags out of the M4. I just saw one the other day on Facebook. Some company was letting people shoot targets downrange while they were standing by them. I’m trying to bring my experience so we can get rid of this theory-based shit. Every single gunfight is different. Every single stand is going to be different. You can’t train on just one sitting position, one kneeling position, one standing position. It all comes down to the Ready-Up Drill.”

Q: How do you define high-speed

A: “High-speed is knowing the situation — someone who can think. It’s knowing the situation, thinking about it and then doing it. I’ve been described as a freak who doesn’t care if he gets shot, but I’m only going to do it if I know I can win. I’m not going to go somewhere unless I can win. High-speed is someone who thinks before doing something stupid. If I think I’m going to win, I will run to the gunfire.”

Q: What are your thoughts on competitive shooting and training scars?

A: “I have shot IPSC and USPSA matches. They can definitely be beneficial. If you are going to do that, I’d suggest you compete in the stock class. People who run unlimited or pro class — there’s a huge difference between those guns and your basic concealed-carry pistol. It’s hard to transition from one to the other. Shooting a match where you have to be safe, keep your muzzle downrange, safely moving and shooting and get good solid hits — these are all good habits. As long as you go into the competition with the mindset that all the targets are bad guys, and you use cover appropriately, you won’t go down the wrong road with these competitions.”

Q: What is the key to proper target discrimination? 

A: “You can’t be just a shooter. You have to be a thinker. All of the police SWAT teams have wanted me to teach them CQB first. But they have to learn how to shoot first. They think they know how to shoot until they take me class. Like I tell them when I try to talk them out of teaching them CQB first — when it comes to CQB, the shooting part has to just happen. You cannot go into a room and think “selector switch, sight picture, trigger…’ It all has to be natural. It’s all about hands. You have to see their hands. The shooting part has to happen without you thinking about it. If it does, you’re way ahead of the curve. I do teach CQB, but I haven’t yet, because I’ve talked everyone out of it. I’ll teach it when they’re ready to go.”

— Senior investigative reporter Lee Williams, The Gun Writer, can be reached at 941-284-8553, by email at lee.williams@heraldtribune.com or lee@TheGunWriter.com, or by regular mail, 1741 Main St., Sarasota, 34236. You also can follow him on social media at facebook.com/TheGunWriter or Twitter.com/ht_gunwriter.

Here are links to the other stories, videos and podcasts in this special project:

Welcome to our special project: ‘A commando’s tale’

A commando’s tale 

VIDEO: A Q&A with Special Operations legend Bob Keller

COLUMN: Decorated special operator reforming firearms training

VIDEO: At the range with Special Ops legend Bob Keller of Gamut Resolutions

GALLERY: Behind the Scenes of A Commando’s Tale

VIDEO: SNN-TV’s special report on Gamut Resolutions

Q&A: A Special Operations legend defines real-world firearms training

PODCAST: Bob Keller and The Gun Writer on Armed American Radio with Mark Walters

VIDEO: A SOF-level Med kit and med plan for the range

PODCAST: Special Operations veteran Bob Keller of Gamut Resolutions talks firearm training 

REVIEW: ‘Proven Methods of the Carbine’ DVD

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About Author

Lee Williams can’t remember a time in his life when he wasn’t shooting. Before becoming a journalist, Lee served in the Army and worked as a police officer. He’s earned more than a dozen journalism awards as a reporter, and three medals of valor as a cop. He is an NRA-certified law enforcement firearms instructor, an avid tactical shooter and a training junkie. When he’s not busy as a senior investigative reporter, he is usually shooting his AKs, XDs and CZs. If you don’t run into him at a local gun range, you can reach him at 941.284.8553, by email, or by regular mail to 1741 Main St., Sarasota, FL 34236. You can follow him on Twitter: @HT_GunWriter and on Facebook @The Gun Writer.

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