Why think ahead and why practice?
Today’s news contains an article with several lessons in it for the Armed Private Citizen.
Police: Man outside Walmart shot [his gun] in self-defense
The lessons cut across an array of topics relevant to Personal Protection. Let’s use the CAN/MAY/SHOULD/MUST paradigm as a basis for the discussion.
Securing pistols in cars
“The 3-year-old located a handgun that was in the vehicle and discharged a round which resulted in the striking of the 1-year-old,” said Sarasota Sheriff’s Office Lt. Vince Mayer.
This morning, yet another Negative Outcome was brought to my attention. In this incident, a young boy gained unauthorized access to his mother’s pistol, which was unsecured in her car, and accidentally shot his little sister. I use the term ‘accidentally’ because from the little boy’s perspective, it was utterly accidental. In the broader context, it was a training and doctrine failure. Fortunately, her injuries are not life threatening, but I bet they will be life changing for all involved.
Informally, a number of people in our community are starting to include an addition to the cardinal Four Rules of Safe Gunhandling. ‘Rule 5’ tends to be worded something like “In addition to the Four Rules of Safe Gunhandling, always store weapons where they are not accessible to unauthorized persons.” It’s about time we break with tradition and make Rule 5 a formal part of our doctrine.
I don’t know if her pistol was in her purse, in the glove box, or somewhere else in the car. Whichever was the case is irrelevant. The little boy got hold of it and touched off a round. It’s inexcusable and irresponsible. More than getting stolen, I consider this kind of occurrence to be the major downside of off body carry. And when I say ‘off body carry,’ I’m not just talking about purses and briefcases.
The incident demonstrates yet another reason I am totally opposed to glove box carry, console carry, door pocket carry, etc. that are commonly used in vehicles These foolish methods people use to secure pistols almost always result from having a pistol that’s too big to carry on them or with them consistently. It’s a downside of the ‘carry enough gun’ doctrine espoused by the training community.
In that sense, I think the community needs to take some responsibility for recommending equipment that simply doesn’t fit into the totality of our students’ lifestyles. With regard to understanding the lifestyles of normal people, our ‘square range’ mentality is complete.
Many trainers tend to view their students in the military or law enforcement model where the students are molded into something new and different, as a result of the training. Sorry folks, that’s just not the case. What we’re doing is the equivalent of teaching people how to paint, not turning them into painters. Sometimes, it seems to me that the training community’s approach to ‘walk a mile in someone else’s moccasins’ turns into ‘put a load of buckshot into someone, then take their moccasins and walk off in them.’
When I first started writing this post, I had in mind talking about lockboxes for securing pistols in cars, which I still think is a necessary idea. But, as I began writing, I realized I was on the wrong track. In this case, trying to secure the pistol in a lockbox would most likely have entailed repeated instances during the trip of gunhandling in the car to secure the pistol. That’s dangerous and unrealistic. The less we handle guns in vehicles, the better. It’s a target rich environment with too much potential for a Negative Outcome.
As the number of people who carry guns continues to increase, we trainers are going to have to focus more on ‘Living with Guns,’ as John Farnam put it years ago, rather than just ‘shooting guns.’ Shooting guns is fun and provides immediate gratification; we can see when our students get it. Teaching people about Living with Guns provides no gratification whatsoever because it happens after they leave our class. Are we performers or teachers?
Let’s consider a variant of my question “What’s the ‘worst possible case’?” Is it encountering a really determined criminal who soaks up whole magazines of bullets or having a family member accidentally shoot another family member? I’d really like to hear a definitive answer to that question.
Living with Guns is the tedious drudgery of the armed lifestyle that we, both trainers and gunowners, tend to ignore. It’s easy to focus on marksmanship, ballistics, legalistics, and equipment because those things are obvious and we’re reminded of them regularly. The hard part will be re-directing our attention toward the less obvious but just as important lifestyle aspects. That change in focus needs to happen quickly if we really want to consider ourselves responsible.
Perhaps a criterion we need to add to our selection list when talking about purchasing a pistol is something like “How convenient is it for this purchaser to carry, and secure, this particular pistol 18/7?” If it fails that criterion, that might be a deal breaker.
Personal Protection Products and the Big Picture
I wanted to actually handle a VersaCarry holster and talk to someone from the company prior to saying anything about it. The results were what I expected. I haven’t addressed the durability issues other people have mentioned because I was not in a position to evaluate it.
The magazine carrier actually is workable, though. I may pick up one up for more testing, although I rarely carry a spare magazine.
My thoughts about the VersaCarry are in my PDN article Personal Protection Products and the Big Picture.
Lowlight dryfire practice
- At night, have a flashlight next to your gun.
- Pick them both up at the same time and identify the person before making the shoot decision
- Flashlight usage implies the need for one handed shooting
- Competing probabilities are in favor of it being a family member
- Thinking the light is a ‘lead magnet’ is a problem
I emphasized very strongly about the need for keeping a flashlight next to your ‘nightstand gun’ during my Negative Outcomes presentation at the Rangemaster 2015 Tactical Conference. Although I practice dryfire with a flashlight regularly, it occurred to me that I don’t have a structured regimen for doing so. Tonight, I thought I would work on that a bit.
At first, I started doing my 12 shot drill on my dryfire range with the flashlight. I used the left column to practice with the Harries technique as my ‘outside’ technique. For a general search and ‘inside’ technique, I used the right side column. I just did it this way due to habit because that’s similar to the way I shoot the drill livefire.
By ‘outside,’ I mean the flashlight is outside both my body and the pistol. ‘Inside’ means the flashlight is inside of the gun and toward my body. It’s necessary to have both an inside and outside technique so that you can use the light on either side of a piece of cover or concealment. For a right hander, the outside technique is used when using the light around the right side of cover and the inside technique is used around the left side. Left handers reverse that.
It occurred to me that I could use the same setup I use for the Air Marshal Tactical Pistol Course. I’ve modified that target setup slightly so I get more traverse on the multiple target strings. My setup also allows me to use both inside and outside techniques because of the arrangement of my apartment.
I started the Harries practice with the light pointing toward the target but the pistol down at low ready. Even when we’re identifying a target, we don’t want to muzzle them until the shoot decision is made. Then I practiced bringing the pistol up on target while keeping the light pointed at the target. At first, I did this in the hallway, just to get my mechanical movement correct.
For the cheek practice, once again, I started with the light pointing toward the target but the pistol down at low ready. Since I use the cheek technique as a general search technique, this means I’m going to be shooting one handed, if the shoot decision is made. I like the cheek technique as a general search technique because it allows me to use the light as an impact tool, if necessary. Because there is a possibility during a general search, I would be in a hallway when shooting started, I incorporated turning off the light after the shot and taking a sidestep. But, there’s not much maneuver room in a hallway, so don’t think this is some magic potion that prevents getting shot.
Once I was satisfied I had the mechanicals down pat, I moved to positions of cover, both left side and right side. I practiced on both sides, making sure I didn’t splash the light off the wall and into my face.
Note that in the photographs I took, I was using a flash or the regular lighting for clarity. When practicing, the place was completely dark. Also note that the camera wasn’t positioned exactly where the target was, so I look more exposed than I actually was.
I’m glad I developed this as a more formal program. I’ll be doing it at least once a week from now on as part of my 1000 days of dryfire.
Rangemaster 2015 Tactical Conference (I)
The Rangemaster 2015 Tactical Conference is over and I am processing the things I observed and learned from it. The Conference has a long history, dating back to the early days of IDPA in 1998, when it was a sanctioned IDPA indoor Championship. Over the years, it has evolved into the foremost tactical training conference for private citizens in the United States. It is held annually, early in the year, in the Memphis area. The venue for the 2015 Conference was the Memphis Police Training Academy, a truly fine and modern facility.
This year, three dozen of the top personal protection trainers in the country, many of whom are referred to as “T-Rexes,” came together to present or conduct training blocks of two to six hours over a period of three days. The agenda has grown so large that it’s not possible to take in all the training that is available, since sometimes five blocks are going on simultaneously. Some of the training is classroom lecture, some is hands-on with sterile weapons, and some is livefire. There is also a shooting match, for those who choose to participate.
There were a wide variety of topics, ranging from psychology and communications to contact based skills to firearms manipulation. I was able to attend nine sessions.
- Yes, I Shoot Like a Girl, Would You Like a Lesson?
- Surviving Lethal Encounters
- The Law of Self-Defense
- Practical Small Knife Principles
- Performance Under Fire
- Rehabilitating the Experienced Shooter
- The Training/Reality Mismatch
- Kneeling Positions and Combining Them with the Use of Cover
- Women’s Holsters and Accessories
In addition, I was able to make two classroom presentations.
- Tactical Communications for Couples, with my co-presenter Linda Hoopes, President of the Resilience Alliance.
- Negative Outcomes of Firearms Ownership
Upon my return, several people have asked me what my most significant takeaways were. As usual, I learned a great deal, so it’s difficult to say what were the most significant, but here are a few that stand out in my mind, in no particular order.
- A conversation with a mentor of mine, John Farnam, elicited from both of us the experience that when approached for help in a parking lot, it’s almost always a scam or criminal ambush. Fellow trainer Melody Lauer pointed out that there are a few legitimate exceptions, but John and I both feel they are the exception rather than the rule. This indicates that a default response should be formed to immediately and firmly decline the invitation to be a victim and then rapidly vacate the area. Exceptions to that rule should be based on specific articulable reasons and conscious decision-making, rather than by default.
- The T-Rexes are constantly working along the path to excellence. That path includes attitude, skills development, tactics, and a host of other areas. Recognizing that there is an element of chance in every encounter, we work hard on stacking the deck in our favor. ‘Doing the work’ means training regularly and practicing on a daily basis. ‘Good enough’ is never good enough for us. That’s probably why we’re regarded as T-Rexes.
- There is an enormous amount of erroneous, misapplied, or misinterpreted information floating around in the broad firearms and personal protection community. This is especially true in relation to prioritization, legal issues, and skills development.
- The community has a lot to learn about integrating women into it. There was a record turnout of female attendees and women trainers at the Conference this year, my co-presenter being one. Conversations with them, as well as the presentations, were highly enlightening. Many male paradigms either don’t apply at all or don’t work particularly well when used by women. My own presentation was an eye-opener to me in that regard. The Women’s Holsters and Accessories presentation, which was presented by a woman, gave several good examples. A pet peeve expressed by several T-Rexes is men who have women shoot excessively powerful firearms and then laugh when they fail. Our universal attitude is along the lines of the desire to give such jerks a knee lift in the crotch followed by a crack in the jaw and then laugh when they fall down writhing in pain.
I have several pages of notes but those jump out at me. Undoubtedly, more will occur to me as I reflect on the event. I will have more thoughts on specific topics in the near future. There is a photo gallery of the Conference training blocks available on the Rangemaster website.
Tactical Decision Making (Part II)
There are numerous definitions of Wargaming. Most of them are too elaborate for our use. The definition I am using now is: The process of evaluating your options in light of your situation and the circumstances. Wargaming is a way determining if:
- Your tactics work.
- The tactics employed contribute to your strategic end goal.
- There are significant possible negative outcomes
Wargaming has the following characteristics:
- Evaluates a possible Course of Action against opposing adversary.
- It is an iterative process of action, reaction, and counteraction.
- At a minimum, it should start if you go to Condition Orange. When you’re on the ground, in a pre-contact situation, the wargaming will not be very in depth. But the better your grasp of your end goals, possible options, and negative outcomes, the quicker and simpler it will be.
First, you have to decide what your end goal is. This should be done before you walk out the door of your home each day. Deciding your end goal does not mean saying “I would do this.” That is just one step of the process and not the first.
In my previous post about Tactical Decision Making, I listed some end goals and some possible negative outcomes. Both of those lists, and any additions you may have to them, are worth reviewing from time to time.
It’s extremely important to take into consideration the possible negative outcomes. Failure to consider consequences is a huge gap in most people’s analysis of the situation. Some of the consequences are legal but not all of them are.
Some concrete examples of negative outcomes are:
- Zimmerman shooting – Extensive and costly interaction with legal system ($2.5 million in attorney fees)
- Theodore Wafer shooting, Detroit – Murder conviction
- Jerome Ersland, Oklahoma City pharmacist – murder conviction, life sentence in prison
- Petit murders, Connecticut – Loss of wife and daughters under horrible circumstances
- Joseph Robert Wilcox, Las Vegas – murdered trying to stop an active killer
- Joe Hendrix, Georgia – shot an elderly man with Alzheimer’s – consequences to be discovered in the future
There are three areas you must consider as part of your wargaming. They are your situation, your options, and the circumstances; i.e., your surroundings and the event. We’ll discuss these in the next installment.
What skills should we train and practice?
“What is the best use of my time right now?” —How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life by Alan Lakein
As many people know, I like to read The Armed Citizen column of the NRA Journals in detail each month. Years ago, I did a Five Year Analysis of The Armed Citizen to give me an idea of what actual incidents really looked like. Revisiting that concept appealed to me, so I did a short version for the first six months of 2014.
What I was looking for this time was the skills and techniques that were used by The Armed Citizens to solve their problems. Each incident was looked at from the perspective of skills that could or might be taught in an entry level to intermediate level firearms training class. Here’s what the list and usage rates ended up looking like from 10% up and 0%:
- Retrieve from Storage (handgun) 32%
- Move safely from place to place at ready 22%
- Draw to shoot 20%
- Challenge from ready 15%
- Intervene in another’s situation 15%
- Draw to challenge 12%
- Engage from ready (handgun) 12%
- Hold at gunpoint until police arrive 12%
- Retrieve from Storage (unknown) 10%
- Shoot with non-threats downrange 10%
- Retrieve from Storage (rifle) 0%
- Reload 0%
How often do we, as firearms trainers, ask our students to bring their home storage containers to class with them? Probably not 32 percent of the time. Or do we at least provide some kind of drawer for them to get their roscoe out of to show they can do it safely? I know a lot of people keep their chamber, or even the gun, empty when it’s off their person, so do we make them demonstrate loading it safely? Something I really like about the NRA Defensive Pistol I Marksmanship Qualification Program is that it includes those type of skills and incorporates both a time and accuracy standard for performing them.
How about moving safely from place to place with a loaded gun in hand, especially with innocents around? This is one of the biggest challenges that new IDPA and USPSA shooters encounter. Almost inevitably, a new shooter will run around with finger on trigger and then is taken to task about it by the match staff. While they’re not training, those shooting sports are providing a lot more realistic practice on a critical skill than most training classes are. Does that mean that the shooting sports are more relevant, at least in that aspect, than training classes are?
Challenging criminals is another skill I see rarely. John Farnam emphasizes it in his classes but I don’t see verbalization prior to using deadly force in many other classes. I personally think the concept “the gun isn’t coming out until I decide to shoot” is one of the most ill-considered ideas in the firearms community. But I still hear it quite a bit. If we can convince a criminal that the victimization has gone South and turned into a conflict, the chances are quite good they will break off. If they break off the attack without us firing a shot, I consider that a big WIN. Verbalization is another skill that is included in the NRA MQP. But a number of my students have found it hard to do without considerable coaching.
We’ll discuss the other skills in the future, but I want to draw attention to the percentage of reloads involved in these incidents, to wit: ZERO. As I mentioned in a Personal Defense Network interview, I’ve completely de-emphasized reloading in my classes for Armed Citizens. It’s a useful exercise for practicing good gunhandling but as a tactical skill, I just don’t consider it important anymore. Some folks spend a lot of time on thinking about how much spare ammunition to carry, how to carry it, and how to reload quickly. I think that time and effort would be better spent on practicing to make a good first shot, which is a skill many people need a lot of practice on.
“It’s a downrange world, better get used to it.”
LAPD Officer Involved Shooting 022-12
In this instance, several officers utilized lethal force in order to defend themselves, their fellow officers and bystanders in a vehicle stopped on the side of the freeway from the perceived imminent threat posed by the Subject. While engaging the Subject in order to stop his actions, the two bystanders inside the vehicle were in the foreground.
Any time an officer (or officers) utilizes lethal force, and the [Board Of Police Commissioners] learns that bystanders were in the foreground, the BOPC takes into consideration the totality of the circumstances, including their articulation of the threat and the psychological effects which occur during high stress situations. Here, there were several officers who not only knew the bystanders were in the foreground, but articulated firing in defense of them. For instance, one of the reasons that Officer E fired was due to the Subject approaching Witness A’s vehicle and there being two people observed inside.
Most people don’t often consider the possibility that innocent persons, perhaps family members, will be downrange during a criminal confrontation. I call this “The Myth of the Lone Gunman.” However, it is a fairly common occurrence. Why? Simply because your family members are with you much of the time. This month’s Armed Citizen column relates several such incidents.
The angle of attack chosen by a criminal predator is unlikely to have anything to do with where your family members are in relation to you at the time. What if a family member, and not you, is the victim of the assault? In that case, you are almost guaranteed to have a family member downrange.
Any armed confrontation is going to be a difficult situation. Throw in the stress of having a loved one or innocent bystander downrange and it’s going to get a lot worse.
Something that very few people consider is the human dynamics of a violent home invasion. In such an incident, it’s very common for the male of the house to become involved in a physical struggle with the invaders. The lady of the house then becomes the one having to do the shooting. Meghan Brown’s incident is a good example of how this often plays out.
In that kind of situation, having little or no marksmanship ability could become a problem. The ability to make a good decision about shooting will be essential to a positive outcome. When talking about Decisional Shooting, the discussion almost always revolves around the legal factors such as Ability, Opportunity, and Jeopardy. However, other key components, just as important, will be:
- “Do I have the marksmanship ability to pull this off?”
- “Is my weapon capable of doing this?”
- “Am I in a position to make this shot or do I need to re-position?”
- “What will be the effect of having my bullet perforate (go through both sides) of the target?”
- “Do I have the emotional wherewithal to do this with a loved one downrange?”
Using a shotgun, either long gun or pistol, can greatly complicate that question of weapon capability. There are ways of mitigating the risk with a shoulder fired shotgun but not eliminating it. Except for a contact shot, handheld shotguns, such as ‘The Judge,’ become almost useless when a non-threat is downrange.
The perforation issue has to be considered. In at least one case in Texas, a woman killed her husband, while trying to save him, because of perforation and poor marksmanship. That’s not the outcome she was looking for, I’m sure.
Having the emotional wherewithal is not something that can be taken for granted. I know of students who demonstrated they were perfectly capable of performing the task at the range. When a picture of a friendly face was put on the hostage, they refused to shoot. That’s an issue.
I have watched over 100 iterations of a Force on Force scenario where the defender was deliberately presented with a clear shot on a hostage taker at a range of 10 feet. The hostage was adjacent, at arm’s length, not in front of the attacker. The number of students who chose to take the shot without closing to contact distance could be counted on the fingers of one hand. As Ken Hackathorn says: “You are unlikely to do anything under stress that you are not subconsciously sure you can do well.”
It would probably be wise to practice the obstructed downrange shot regularly. I devised a drill specifically for this.
Even at an indoor range, there are usually hostage targets available. The way to use them is to practice taking one shot at a time, though. Do it for a full magazine, starting each single shot from a ready position. Keep the range short, less than 4 yards, that’s the decision point in terms of proxemics.
Don’t wait to take your practice until the real thing happens. On the Job Training isn’t a ‘best practice’ for this scenario.
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