Searching for a threat is nerve racking. Interior or exterior, it doesn’t matter. A team can work it with a relative degree of safety. Clearing and searching by yourself is extremely difficult, and to be avoided if possible. Yet, sometimes clearing an area is necessary to get out of a bad place, find a family member or make sure the environment doesn’t contain any threats.
The world is made up of corners. There are structural corners - think walls, furniture and appliances - and radius corners, such as a tree. Corners run vertical and horizontally. The technique used for clearing around a corner is called “slicing the pie.” This skill allows you to clear an unknown area as safely as possible.
Imagine the corner you’re working is the center of the pie. You are the outside crust. To clear around the corner you slice off small pieces of the pie, carefully pivoting around the corner. Each step you take slices off a little more of the area on the other side of the corner.
Maximize the distance between you and the corner. This puts as much ground as possible between you and who ever might be on the other side of the corner. Distance reduces your chances of being injured or having someone on the other side from taking physical control of you. Distance gives you a better angle to work from, and if someone does shoot at you and hit the corner it cuts down the risk of taking debris or fragmentation bouncing off the corner.
As you clear the corner you’re trying to see part of them before they see part of you. You lean out to the right or left – depending on which direction corner you’re clearing. Ideally you want your eyes, muzzle and sights should be the first thing that breaks the angle, or as much as possible. Keep your hands, arms and weapon down low enough so they don’t block you from seeing everything from the bottom of the corner and beyond.
You take small steps – usually lateral movement – to pivot around the corner. The width of your steps is dictated by how deep the environment extends on the other side. If it’s a long hallway or deep room a small amount of movement will bite off a big piece of the pie. With each step you scan from close to far and back, making sure visually to go as deep as possible in the environment. At the same time you’ll need to pay attention to areas above and below you and any windows or doors a threat could use to attack through.
Once you locate a possible threat there’s a few options, or combinations of these options. First choice is to go another direction. Whenever possible avoid danger. If you have time and it’s not going to endanger someone else you can hold your position, issue verbal commands and see how the threat reacts. Or, you step out just far enough to identify and if necessary engage the threat. Once you locate a possible threat it’s time for the hard decisions.
The same principles and geometry apply when using cover. Get back from the object that’s being used as cover, and expose the minimum amount of your body necessary to locate, identify and engage if needed. Slicing the pie is the same whether you’re armed or not, for example to escape a dangerous area.
The ability to clear/search an area is a necessary skill, but it’s not instinctual so training under a qualified instructor is mandatory. Keep in mind you don’t need SWAT team tactics, so be careful when selecting an instructor. Once you understand the principles they can be practiced anywhere. No, you won’t be in a fighting stance or using a lot of lateral movement, but you can always maximize distance and visually scan while walking anywhere. Plus, the more you practice it the better you understand it’s not something you want to do unless it’s worth risking your life.
Tiger McKee is director of Shootrite Firearms Academy, located in northern Alabama. He is the author of “The Book of Two Guns” - http://shootrite.org/book/book.html writes for several firearms/tactical publications, and is featured on GunTalk’s DVD, “Fighting With The 1911 - http://shootrite.org/dvd/dvd.html McKee’s new book, AR-15 Skills and Drills, is available off Shootrite’s website: http://shootrite.org/AR15SkillsBook/AR15SkillsBook.html