Thursday, April 3, 2014

Hand Confusion (and Lights and Guns)

"Is that the stars in the sky, or is it rain fallin' down
Will it burn me if I touch the sun, yeah, so big, so round

Would I be truthful, yeah, in choosin' you as the one for me?
Is this love, baby, or is it, uh-huh, just, uh, confusion?" - Jimi Hendrix

     About a decade and a half, or so ago, a new invention fell upon the gun scene. Really small, powerful flashlights. In fact, they became an industry phenomena. A standard. Back then, there were only one or two major mini-flashlight companies, titan in the field. Many copy companies followed, nipping at their heels. I like these lights. How can you not? Handy. Cool, I have a few small, super flashlights. Can't get enough of them for here and there, and the pile gets bigger each Christmas.

     It was a culture shock for those of us in the bygone days of police work. In the late 70s, and 80s many of us replaced the wooden batons for long, heavy flashlights. Looking back they were indeed cumbersome.

     But there was one small problem that arose. Not carrying them on duty because they were so small. But, rather,  wielding them in the proverbial "dark alleyways" of life. Common quoted stats say that most police gunfights occur in the hours of darkness, such as 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. How to hold the flashlight and hold the pistol in the, what was to become so popular, the virtually, mandatory, two-handed grip? 

     Now before we go any further, let's get down for the record about darkness and light, so we can short-circuit the common smart-alec, expert who is compelled with one-ups-man-ship to chime in later about "ambient light." Yes, yes, yes. We know. Rarely if ever are you in a situation where there isn't some sort of ambient light. So bad guys may not just be seeing your light, but your outline, or a clue to your outline. I have been in dark basements and building though that were pitch, pitch black. And, what if your eyes aren't adjusted yet? The first thing you will see in this adjustment period may be the light, not the outline. And he/you/they may shoot at it, quickly, desperately and instinctively. 

     The military/police industrial complex and the even bigger handgun world were/are totally and utterly committed to a virtually mandatory, two-handed grip when shooting. I'll wager some 97% of shooting training is done with two hands. Oh, there's quite a bit of lip service given to shooting with one hand at an enemy really close, but it's lip service, not much live fire time on the range. Maybe because it is too easy to shoot very close? This who, what, when, where, how and why, "two-hand versus one-hand" thing is the subject of a whole other essay. 

Very little one-hand, close-up shooting is actually practiced on ranges when compared to two-hand shooting. Need we list the many reasons why a hero might need to shoot with just one hand? Our readers here are too smart to waste such precious time. But still, Jimi Hendrix might say we have fallen too deeply in love with the two-handed grip, causing the...flashlight confusion. Test the muscle memory of your shooters. Go on! You'll see they all pop to a two-handed grip like a duck to water, even when way too close to the target. "Muscle memory."

     What if it's too dark for the ducks to find the water, though? What to do? Why, you hold one of these nifty little super, duper flashlights; that's what you do. But how? Gun God Billy Bob and Pistol Preacher Paul still say I absolutely need that 360, two-handed grip to shoot properly. How can we blend these nifty small gadgets with this uncontrollably, over-trained urge to shoot with two hands that you guys have built into me?

     How's this gonna work anyway? Can we also forget the fact that prior to the flashlight revolution, all tactical training ordered the holding of the flashlight away from your body as shown in the photo to the right here? Just about everyone in the military and policing knew the line, "bad guys shoot at the light." One could hold this small light at arm's length, too, but then how can we pull off this mandatory two-handed grip compulsion? The horns of a dilemma! Hendrix confusion.

 Everyone knew the line, "bad guys shoot at the light."

     The solution experts like Bob and Paul said to still shoot with two hands. We'll figure out a way for you to shoot with two hands AND hold your $400 lighthouse. There followed a series of "methods" like the "Johnson Method" or the "Williams Method," the .... and so on, named after the unknown, and titled processes usually left for amazing surgical procedures, now instead now were issued to any old guy who had his picture first in a gun magazine holding a flashlight and a pistol with a two-handed grip - named as though they were doctors and cures for cancer or something!

     It became "hip and cool" in the gun culture to memorize these names and types of things from gun magazines and forums, spouting them off and sounding highly macho and educated, especially when re-regurgitated in subsequent gun magazines and forums. On and on. This trend perpetuates itself and soon everyone must be able to take a written test on flashlight holding and their respective, glorious, genius inventors handling lights in their ... workspaces. "Contract and compare the Harries Method." 

     WHEW! sighed the flashlight companies, not overly concerned with the old-school safety factor of holding the light away from the body. There's the cake! And we are eating it, too! Here! Buy another $300 flashlight! They added soundless, on-and-off flashlight buttons to further limit the overall exposure so a caveman thug had less of a chance at impulsively, instinctively shooting at the light source you hold dead center over your chest in front of your face in your mandatory, two-hand grip.

     Meanwhile back at the ranch, other experts were questioning these flashlight-arm-supports-gun positions. The dirty little secret among many respected, shooting experts is that the type of half-support, like resting your gun hand, wrist, or forearms on your flashlight arm, really doesn't offer much critical support for your pistol anyway. The gun hand is still free to move around, sans that isometric or platform of the free hand. Goodbye precious 360 grip! But there are a few more biological problems!

Brain Confusing Hands
     Finally to the central point of this essay! One biohazard that these "other" experts mention is called Hand Confusion, and it is sometimes called "mental, spatial mapping." Crossing hands, like in the labeled photo above, with a bent elbow or two straight arms crossed at the wrists. This topic came up with biomechanical doctors in a police symposium I attended years back. It seems there is something about crossed hands that often confuses the spark plugs in the brain. It is a common knowledge that if you cross your arms or even legs and suddenly try to work your hands, fingers, feet, or toes, there is a potential for a mixed message to the extremities. Experts say that you are likely to flinch your trigger finger on the hand holding your flashlight. And vice-versa. This sort of thing. This, of course, has happened and with disastrous results at times. Just watch the news.

     On this very subject, Dr Bill Lewinski's collegiate Force Science research said,

"For example, if you frequently search a building with a flashlight in one hand 
and a gun in the other, your brain may become confused and send contraction signals 
to the wrong hand in a moment of stress, resulting in an unintentional discharge if your 
finger is on the trigger. Or, disastrously for you, you may push on your flashlight 
instead of your trigger when your life is suddenly threatened."

     Plus, they say it has been observed recently in these ever-growing, reality videos captured on police car dashboard cameras and street and building security systems that officers, starting out using a flashlight and pistol in some crossed-arm support grip, actually just unfold their wrists in the instant they actually shoot anyway! Such unfolding is considered natural to function faster because of Hand Confusion. It unwraps the brain and puts limbs and things where they should be. So you often wind up shooting with unfolded, unsupported arms anyway. 

     "It's a training issue!" the flashlight companies always like to declare. Well, so is my playing in the Super Bowl. Yet I and even the gun experts tell you not to pick one famous flashlight-holding method only because you may need all the support positions/methods to cycle through once inside the chaotic movements of an o-dark-thirty search. The same is true with one- and two-handed pistol grips. So train more?

     Few gun carriers train with lights in the dark, and few train with just one method, say such as the Harries Method. Training time, but we are not just selling these lights to special forces operators who train all the time. Billy Joe McDoogle down the street has such a flashlight, and he only shoots twice a year and on the sunniest of days and best of weather. These conditions also sound like the common police range schedules. Training issues that never get trained.

     The science of crossed-over hand confusion is a proven fact. BUT! Don't tell the shooters and flashlight companies. Sssshhh! They are having so much fun inventing new names and methods and, of course, selling lots and lots of small, cool flashlights.

     The latest and biggest techno, military industrial complex, solution to the hand, gun, light fumbling problem is the mounted light right smack on the gun itself. With long guns you do probably need an attached light. These attached lights, light up where the gun looks, but the light also gives you away, too.

    I need to mention that all agree, it is best to have a light that turns on and off with a pressure button or switch, so it can be turned on and off instantly, reducing exposure time. But, this type of constant on and off movement might ignite the hand confusion issue?

   And we do know for sure in war and crime-fighting, through it all, bad guys may well shoot at the light instinctively, just as they/we shoot at the gun itself, or shoot specifically where they/we look when shooting. Its all very simple and yet, very tricky, and could be Hendrix confusing.

More on this:
One reason you cannot tell your right from your left? Click here
How can you confuse a handgun with a taser? Click here

Stop 4 of the Stop 6 Training Film
The Biceps, Neck and Shoulder Crash with Mixed Weapons

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