Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Going Second in a Gunfight

     Who shot first? Who shot second? One of the comments/criticisms often thrown at police officers is how "totally untrained criminals - when shooting at the police - have a much better record of hitting the officers first, and then the officers have a less than stellar record for shooting back." These stats will vary but are always slanted to the crook. I've heard from police studies as much as a 90% success shot rate by criminals, with about a 40% return shot fire success rate for police. Ninety-forty! Give or take. 

     Outsiders then ridicule the police as untrained and slow. The stats are also often used to condemn range training, too. But things are not so simple. These inexperienced outsiders cannot see past the bare statistics. This is not just about target acquisition or … “finding them sights” fast enough. Not hardly. If you will just think about it for a second? They have just been, or are still being, shot at!

     Now if you know me, I am not one to swing my total support to the current state of paper target range shooting. No matter what modern ranger-runners invent, what new names they derive, and what gymnastics they are doing, you are still playing on the one-way street of paper target shooting and still just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic; but in the case of the range, you rearrange the targets. Close. Far. Slanted. Big. Small. All this will not bridge the gap to interactive, simulated-ammo scenarios. 

     Even the once very hip fad term “force-on-force” can be deceptive these days as it seems to mean mixing hand-to-hand combatives with rubber guns. Rough house with rubber. I think the term force-on-force is slowly disappearing from the modern radar, anyway. Often shootouts are just plain old shootouts in parking lots, stores, houses, and businesses or out on the golf course or the chicken farm, minus any gun arm grappling.

     I think the key phrase here is “shooting back.” When the bad guy shoots first, the good guy shoots back. Reacts as he or she so often does because … because we have to follow the law enforcement rules of the road - we the police, or even the law-abiding citizen for that matter, must suddenly respond and shoot back from the ambush quick draw. The old action faster then reaction penumbra.

     His turn.

     My turn.

     That is so often the sad way it actually plays out. The bad guy is often close and often hits what he barely aims at because he is so close. No sights used. Point and shoot. Then we are now on the receiving end of what many people recall as -

     “… it felt like being hit by a baseball bat,” or like being hit with a fast-pitch baseball.

     Shot! And 90% of the time? That old Louisville Slugger will screw up your draw and jar up your sight picture. Are all your body parts still working? And even if we don't experience the historic, Abner Doubleday fast-pitch treatment and he misses us, we are still feeling the loud, shocking, exploding, cracking BOOM from the barrel right there in front of us. And worse, maybe more than once! 

     Now this impact or a near miss is a major disturbance in the force. It might just ruin a feller's shooting platform - you know that poster-boy-thing you stand like at the range when you are trying to qualify? Where each shoulder, elbow, knee, and toe is just picture-perfect? And even if you like to run around on the range, do pushups, cartwheels, and parkour while shooting, it is still hard for you to shoot while and just after you are shot at. Plus, all your Olympic routine running routes may fizzle away under gunfire. Lots of gunfights are not on the shooting range and big open parking lots. Many are in very small, "sprint-free" zones.

     So first things first. Who gets to go first? At times, the really aware good guys do. You can create better training that develops hair-trigger awareness, like these two examples:

      - standing before people who pull sims guns from various primary, secondary, and tertiary carry sites. Watching real people pull real guns hundreds of times in front of you; getting these common motions embedded in your brain is MAJOR survival training. You, of course, draw and shoot sims also. Stand around a variety of objects and argue about something. Then the trainer draws. Do this a long time. The beauty of this is you can do it anywhere. This is even some real worthy grunt work to do right at the local range, but it ain't sexy like expending real ammo and wearing your cool pants and your neck wrapped in an Afghan Shemagh scarf.

      - you can also create a legal doctrine/policy/environment where officers may pull their pistols out when situations percolate into a feeling of probable danger. (But see … at such times, not many of these poster-boy range positions are unacceptable and are sometimes too aggressive-looking. This is another example of the range-world-rule SNAFU about how you MUST ALWAYS hold your pistol.) 

     But back on point, the veteran old-timers say -

     "The best quick draw is having your handgun 
     already out before you need it."

     I am probably alive today because I followed this idea a time or two. 

     Just the day before I wrote this piece, in the Dallas/Ft. Worth Metroplex in Texas, an officer approached a dangerous trio with his gun out and down by his side. Drugs were already visible, and he just felt hostility and trouble brewing as he approached. Color this scene percolated. The main suspect jumped up to run and pulled a pistol to shoot. The officer shot and killed the moving-to-the-side bad guy (just cause you move to the side doesn't mean you won't still be a very easy target - just thought I would mention that). This time, the good guy's gun was already out. This time the good guy shot first. Score that one "Cops-100%. Criminal-Zero."

     So make fun of the police because of the depressing “criminal, 90%/ police, 40%” scorecard if you must. But try as you might, you can't fully blame all that on range training. You can't blame it on point-shooting or aim-shooting. Sometimes it's just a good-guy, bad-guy tempo thing. It is highly situational. It is about the smallest positioning and geography. But it always sucks waiting for your turn, coming in for seconds. 

     And it does really suck coming in dead last.

Pistol Retention Methods Training Film