Tag Archives: Firearms Discharge

Negative Outcomes: Unintentionally Shooting Someone Else

It’s a sad fact that people shoot other people unintentionally. I’m not talking about mistaken identity shootings but completely unintentional shootings. Probably the most famous incident was when Vice President Dick Cheney shot his hunting partner. However, that was far from an isolated occurrence. Reading the news reports provides plenty of such incidents.

We absolutely don’t want to shoot someone unintentionally nor let someone get shot unintentionally. A firearm is an instrument of ultimate personal responsibility. It’s not like a car, where sometimes we can blame someone else for negative outcomes. When a firearm we are handling goes off, we have to bear the consequences, period. If we leave it sitting around unsecured and someone else makes it goes off, we have to the bear the consequences, period. Sometimes, the consequences are tragic, in either case.


Legal defense plans

Periodically, I am asked to opine about the various plans available to cover the expenses of a legal defense after a personal protection incident. This article by Marty Hayes covers it in much better detail than I could explain.

The [plans] can be categorized into four types:
1) Insurance
2) Insurance backed
3) Pre-paid legal services
4) The Armed Citizens’ Legal Defense Network, Inc., a membership organization.



Fair disclaimer: I am a member of ACLDN and have a relationship with them.

Negative Outcomes: Self-Inflicted Gunshot Wounds (Part I)

This is the second installment of my Negative Outcomes series. I’ve already been taken to task for commenting about imprecise language and I understand where he’s coming from. The fact of the matter is, however, that we, in the instructional community, take a lot of our subject matter knowledge for granted.

Frequently, I hear comments to the effect that NRA courses go too much into depth about things like the individual components of ammunition, etc. I disagree with that completely. The influx of new gunowners requires that we educate them thoroughly. Many of the new owners have never operated any hand held device more complicated than an electric toothbrush.

As I commented to a student last night, I previously had a student in a class who was using a Sig pistol. He had owned and been shooting it regularly for almost two years. When I told him to ‘decock,’ he looked at me and said “What does that mean?” He had never used the decocking lever before and didn’t understand what its function was. He was actually a good shot, too. But elements of the pistol’s manual of arms had never been explained to him.

When dealing with deadly weapons, we can leave nothing to chance, including our vocabulary and students’ understanding thereof.


Tactical Decision Making (Part I)

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

-– Inigo Montoya

My main presentation at Paul-E-Palooza 2 was entitled Tactical Decision Exercises. I wanted to do it because I have come to feel we in the training community concentrate on teaching marksmanship and manipulation skills at the expense of tactics and decision-making skills. As strange as it sounds, coming from someone of my background, I think that’s a problem. When I look at incidents that have had negative outcomes for the Citizen, it’s rarely because of a failure of mechanical skills. Most of the time, the failure is due to a bad decision, poor tactics, or a combination of both.

Trainers often refer to the Holy Grail of achieving ‘unconscious competence.’ However, good decision-making is usually a thoughtful conscious process. Consequently, I’m not sure that focusing our training methodologies on an unconscious process helps our students develop the thinking skills they need to make good decisions under stress. We need to have our mechanical skills adequately developed so we don’t have to focus on them but we also have to realize that they are an end to a means.

In our Grand Campaign, our ultimate object is to wage successful war on land in the heart of EUROPE against the main body of the GERMAN strategic reserve. It is true that we have to cross the enemy’s beaches, but that to us must be merely an episode. True, it is a vital episode and, if it is not successful, the whole expedition will fail. We must plan for the crossing of the beaches, but let us make sure that we get that part of the plan in its right perspective as a passing phase.

General Morgan, Chief of Staff to Supreme Allied Commander, 1943

It’s not hard to find examples of ‘what if’ questions about personal protection situations on Internet forums and some respondents refer to ‘wargaming’ these hypothetical situations. The problem is that the term ‘wargaming’ is frequently used, but what it means is often misunderstood. What most people do when presented with a hypothetical ‘what if’ scenario is ‘brainstorming,’ not wargaming. Wargaming takes brainstorming at least two steps further by including the elements of consequences and an adversary, who also makes decisions about what to do.

The management consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton consults regularly for the Department of Defense and other large clients about the wargaming process. Their website contains much useful information about the fundamentals of the process.

In order to wargame effectively, it’s important for us to understand the difference between strategy and tactics.

  • Tactics – doing things right, which is what most training classes focus on.
  • Strategy – doing the right things. This results from a thinking process, hopefully done ahead of time.
  • The dividing line is physical contact. Once you make contact, you’re going to execute tactics, hopefully that support a strategy you have already developed.
  • In my observation and experience, the conscious mind rapidly disappears upon contact, for most people. So, there’s not going to be much strategy development going on once contact is made. If you haven’t thought about the right things to do ahead of time, you’re unlikely to do so once you encounter a threat.

There are various military, police, and firefighting models for wargaming. However, the weakness of applying those models to our circumstances is that they are based on receiving a defined mission statement from a higher level of command. For example:

You will enter the continent of Europe and, in conjunction with the other Allied Nations, undertake operations aimed at the heart of Germany and the destruction of her Armed Forces.

–Combined Chiefs of Staff directive to General Eisenhower for Operation OVERLORD, the invasion of Nazi occupied Europe

However, we, as Private Citizens develop our own mission statements, based on our values and goals. That’s a major difference from the institutional models.
Without a mission statement, even effective brainstorming is difficult and wargaming is impossible because it’s unclear what you’re trying to accomplish. The object of wargaming is learning to make decisions with a positive strategic end goal in mind. And we definitely want to avoid negative outcomes.

Some positive end goals you might consider are:

  • Enjoying life with your family and children
  • Seeing your children grow up healthy and prosperous
  • Participate in enjoyable hobbies
  • Build a successful business
  • Retire comfortably

Negative outcomes you most likely want to avoid are:

  • Interaction with the legal system
  • Serious Bodily Injury
  • Death
  • Misdemeanor or Felony conviction
  • Going to jail or prison
  • Loss of community and family associations (ostracization or separation)
  • Shooting or otherwise hurting an innocent person

When I asked the class to write down their individual mission statements regarding personal protection, I noticed many did not. Please reflect on your goals and possible negative outcomes and then write down your mission statement for personal protection. I’ll discuss how it fits into the concept of wargaming and tactical decision exercises in the next few installments.

Interesting things in the NYPD Annual Firearms Discharge Report

Another shooting incident resource that I have added is the NYPD Annual Firearms Discharge Report. The 2012 Report, which is the latest, provided some interesting information. The thing about any of the big reports is that you have to actually read them to see what’s in them rather than just skimming. Nancy Pelosi research methods don’t work well here. Some nuggets are small and easily missed. Sometimes, you have to do a little number crunching on your own.


The distances that officers shot it out was interesting. 0-5 yards – 18 (41%), 6-15 yards – 15 (34%), 16-25 yards – 5 (11%), 26+ yards – 6 (14%). page 21

Contrary to popular opinion, over half (59%) of NYPD gunfights took place at six yards or more.

Unintentional Discharge

There were 21 unintentional discharges in 2012. This was a large increase from 2011. The increase was due to unintentional discharges during ‘adversarial conflict.’

Of the 21 firearms that were unintentionally discharged in 2012, 13 (62%) were the officers’ service weapons. Of the 13 service weapons involved, 4 (31%) were Glock 19s, 6 (46%) were Smith & Wesson 5946s, and 3 (23%) were Sig Sauer P226s. p 37 Current NYPD service pistols are all “double action only.” The NYPD uses 124 grain hollow-point bullets. p 49

IOW, there were more NDs with DAO pistols than with Glocks. Unfortunately, I have no way to quantify the percentage of Glocks v. DAO guns owned by NYPD officers. I’m willing to bet the preponderance is toward Glocks, though.

Rounds Fired

Another thing I found interesting was the difference in number of rounds fired in relation to the subject’s injury. p 55-56

The mode (most common) number of rounds fired per Fatality was one. For Injury, it was two. The median (middle point of the dataset) for Fatality was 1.5. For Injury, it was six. And the average rounds per Fatality was three, but for Injury, it was nine. Another counter-intuitive result; death of the subject resulted, generally, from less rounds being fired, rather than more. I wonder if that might have something to do with marksmanship.

Incident summaries

NYPD only gives incident summaries when the ‘Subject’ is killed. Unlike LAPD, NYPD does not appear to discourage enforcement action when an officer is off-duty. There was an interesting incident involving an off-duty officer. It just wasn’t a good day for anyone involved. As John Hall, a former head of the FBI Firearms Training Unit, observed years ago, “There is an element of chance in every encounter.”

On October 24, at 1837 hours, in the 46th Precinct, an off-duty officer was sitting in a parked vehicle with a friend, when he saw two men rob another man at gunpoint on the other side of the street. The officer got out of his car and approached the men. As soon as he identified himself as a police officer, the subject, one of the individuals involved in the robbery, turned and fired one round at the officer, striking him in the chest from about ten feet away. The men then fled on foot, while the officer went back to his vehicle, clutching his chest. The officer’s friend tried to drive away, only to get stuck in traffic behind a white Mustang which was stopped in front of them. The Mustang sped off and crashed up the street. Three individuals, including the subject, fled the Mustang. When the officer saw them, he pursued, still clutching his chest. The officer ordered bystanders to get down for their safety, and while taking cover behind a vehicle, fired eight rounds at the perpetrators, striking the subject once in the head and causing his demise. The other individuals who participated in the robbery were apprehended later. The subject had two prior arrests, for Robbery and Criminal Possession of a Weapon. p 54

The officer did not die as a result of his wound.

It’s hard to make that kind of stuff up, which is yet another reason I prefer to read the real reports rather than dreaming up my own scenarios.