I’m grateful to my subscribers who send me news reports about the Negative Outcomes gunowners encounter. The ones about children gaining unauthorized access to guns really make me sad, especially because some folks defend practices that lead to those tragedies. Consequently, the purchase of any Tactical Professor book now includes a free copy of Serious Mistakes Gunowners Make.
In addition, I have reduced the price of Serious Mistakes by itself to $4.99. I’d make it free except that people only value things they pay for.
If anyone who has purchased any of my books would like a free copy of Serious Mistakes, email me through the About section above and I will send you one.
Tactical Professor books (all PDF)
- Real Shootouts of the LAPD https://realshootoutsofthelapd.com
- Serious Mistakes Gunowners Make http://seriousgunownermistakes.com
- Indoor Range Practice Sessions http://indoorrangepracticesessions.com
- Concealed Carry Skills and Drills http://concealedcarryskillsanddrills.com
- Advanced Pistol Practice http://bit.ly/advancedpistolpractice
- Shooting Your Black Rifle http://shootingyourblackrifle.com
- Package deal of Serious Mistakes, Indoor Sessions, Concealed Carry, and Shooting Your Black Rifle (20% off) https://store.payloadz.com/details/2644448-ebooks-sports-shooting-drills-package.html
Our goal in personal protection is to force a break in contact. We want them to go away, or we want to go away. One or the other.
The final segment of the CCW Safe Series about my concept of Breaking Contact is posted.
This edition focuses on success stories. I like those.
[W]hen a concealed carrier enters a self-defense situation with the goal of breaking contact — as opposed to a goal of killing or disabling an attacker — the defender has a substantially higher likelihood of avoiding a deadly shooting or making a successful self-defense claim when all else fails.Shawn Vincent
The CCW Safe https://ccwsafe.com/ series about my concept of Breaking Contact continues with Part 3.
Part 2 of the series focused on situations where the concealed carrier initiated contact. Part 3 focuses on incidents where the carrier was initially approached and failed to take the opportunity to Break Contact.
I hate platitudes when they’re used in an attempt to simplify a complex topic into a sound bite. “Better to be tried by twelve than carried by six” is one of the most commonly parroted sayings in the firearms community. While many times we are presented with the optometrist’s question, “Which is better, A or B?,” decisions that are made in advance and are going to affect the rest of our lives seldom are binary. I like to think we’re smarter than parrots that have been trained to say one or two things.
As Shawn points out, the decision process has several more options.
When the goal is not necessarily to kill or disable a would-be attacker, a defender is open to other options that carry less legal risk and may produce more positive outcomes.
When breaking contact is the goal, sometimes it is better to disengage rather than attempt to de-escalate.
My personal paradigm is:
Any attempt at de-escalation, even when benign, is a part of Confront. Disengage is part of Escape. Escaping is higher on my priority list than Confronting.
Similarly, in the Gerald Strebendt incident, he unnecessarily moved up the paradigm from Escape to Confront. A confrontation inherently carries more risk associated with it than an escape. As John Hall, former head of the FBI Firearms Training Unit put it:
Any encounter carries with it an element of chance.
My initial post about Breaking Contact (Part I) is located here:
The second is here.
If you would like to purchase my book, click on the image below. The detailed investigations and reports of incidents involving off-duty LAPD officers are very instructional for understanding the differences between Avoiding, Escaping, and Confronting.
J. Henry Fitzgerald’s book Shooting was published in 1930. Some things in it are dated but most of the book is still very worthwhile. The entire book is available online, courtesy of Sportsman’s Vintage Press.
The chapter on The Magic of Knowing that You Can Shoot Quick and Straight is an example of practical mindset. Many times, explanations of ‘mindset’ are vague and nebulous but Fitzgerald’s is straightforward and actionable.
Some things related to human nature and performance haven’t changed one bit. Fitzgerald’s commentary on the Dunning-Kruger Effect https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning%E2%80%93Kruger_effect is a hilarious example.
I have listened to many officers explaining how good they could shoot and when they got on the firing line they couldn’t hit a cow in the head with a snow shovel.J. Henry Fitzgerald
It’s not necessary to be a great shot to defend yourself but having a degree of demonstrated competence is a valuable asset to your mindset. Drills like 3x3x3 are one way to demonstrate your competence to yourself. Shooting some of the drills from Indoor Range Practice Sessions and Concealed Carry Skills and Drills are another. Click on the images to purchase either or both books.
FTC notice: I am not affiliated with Sportsman’s Vintage Press and receive no commissions from them.
Some principles are just as fundamental as is technique. One of the unintentional themes of the 2021 Tactical Conference was the importance of the first shot. One class even had that as its title. Several other instructors touched on it as part of their classes and presentations.
Rolf Penzel and Mike Treat titled their class Making the First Shot Count.
John Murphy made the comment “It’s not a ‘one shot drill,’ it’s a ‘first shot drill’” in his class.
During his presentation Secrets of Highly Successful Gunfighters, Darryl Bolke stated “training efficiency means using the sights.”
Chuck Haggard used the term “Target Picture” to illustrate the concept of placing the sight picture on the part of the target we want to hit initially.
In his AIWB Skills class, John Daub instructed his clients to “think about where you want the muzzle to end up” at the conclusion of the draw.
Scott Jedlinski’s comment “The original 1911 sights were suggestions” in his class was a humorous illustration of why point shooting was so common in days gone by. Tom Givens has also written about the dismal quality of factory sights on pistols and revolvers of yesteryear and how that affected technique training of a century ago.
One of trends that is apparent in the Categorical Use of Force Reports by the LAPD is how often one or two shots solve the problem. This is true through the entire database of over 1,000 incidents, not just the off-duty incidents chronicled in my first book about LAPD Shootouts. LAPD’s emphasis on marksmanship and frequent scored qualification is no doubt responsible for this difference from other large departments that have minimal standards.
In a gunfight, the shooter who first scores a hit above the diaphragm of his opponent is the one who seizes the initiative in the incident. Making a good hit with the FIRST SHOT fired is key to seizing the initiative and then retaining it until the incident is over. No one’s performance improves after he gets shot in a vital area.
In terms of operationalizing this principle, the fact that most common autoloaders don’t have a second strike capability during dry practice becomes irrelevant to the fundamental of making a good hit with the first shot. Your dry practice should mostly focus on the first shot anyway.
During live fire, the majority of our practice should be ‘first shot drills.’ Do a little recoil management practice but don’t overestimate its priority relative to the first shot in the real world. As John Farnam put it, “Our desired range product is victory.”
If you would like to purchase my book, click on the image below.
The Rangemaster Tactical Conference started as an International Defensive Pistol Association Major Match in the late 1990s. The IDPA Indoor Winter Championship, as it was then called, was held at Rangemaster’s facility at that time in Memphis, Tennessee. The organizer was Tom Givens, the owner of Rangemaster, a long time pistol competitor, and the leading trainer for Tennessee Concealed Pistol Licenses in Memphis. It was a large enough event to be featured as a segment on Shooting USA.
Typically, a shooting match consists of a few minutes of shooting and hours or days of idle time. However, the Winter Indoor Championship presented a unique opportunity because it was held at an indoor range with classrooms. Tom Givens’ relationship with the training industry meant that he was able to host various trainers who could present concurrent lectures about Self-Defense and Personal Protection. Some of the earliest presenters were well known names such as Massad Ayoob, Marty Hayes, and John Farnam.
The Pistol Match is still an integral part of the Conference. All attendees are invited to shoot the Match to get an idea of the strengths and weaknesses of their skills. Not everyone shoots it, though, because of the wide variety of other training opportunities that are also available during the three days.
Eventually, the demand for the tactical lectures and training necessitated moving to larger venues. The Memphis Police Academy, US Shooting Academy in Tulsa, and DARC in Little Rock have all been sites over the years. The larger venues allowed a wide variety of instructional blocks, including lectures, live fire shooting classes, and unarmed hands-on training. As the Conference grew, trainers held classes such as Managing Post-Shooting Stress and Trauma, Snub Nose Revolver Skills, Tactical Medicine for the Prepared Citizen, and Home Defense Shotgun Skills.The 2021 Conference was held at the excellent Dallas Pistol Club.
Serious Mistakes Gunowners Make was inspired by lessons learned in an Experiential Learning Laboratory session conducted by Craig Douglas of Shivworks at one year’s Conference. The Experiential Learning Laboratory has become a staple each year as a well-structured Force on Force exercise specifically for Armed Private Citizens.
Starting from just a few lectures at its inception, the Conference has grown to an extravaganza of educational offerings attended by hundreds of people over a period of three days. A vast number of training opportunities are made available for the prepared individual. The 2021 Conference featured 54 different blocks of instruction by dozens of different trainers. Some of the sessions repeated to allow attendees access to them because there is so much going on at the Conference.
There is no other opportunity like it available for the Armed Citizen who wishes to be prepared to prevent criminal violence against themselves and their families. The Conference is held in late March each year. The 2022 Conference will be held at the Dallas Pistol Club in Dallas, Texas. Registration opens in May and sells out by October every year.
This is the Course of Fire for the Rangemaster Tactical Conference 2018. It’ somewhat different each year but usually has similar elements to this.
It’s not complicated yet is a good test of marksmanship ability.
Good decisions come from experience. Experience comes from bad decisions.
Although incorrectly attributed to Will Rogers, the concept of learning from other peoples’ experience rather than our own still has value. We can use the Intelligence community’s technique of ‘walking back the cat’ to de-construct an incident. This allows us to visualize it and learn from the experience of someone else.
The concept of ‘Decision points’ has been emphasized by both Gary Klein, PhD., a noted expert on the decision-making process, and President George W. Bush. Any drama contains not just one, but a sequence of decisions and decision points we can study.
The Don’t Shoot/Shoot decision is the one most commonly focused on the training and firearms communities. However, any Defensive Gun Use, whether shots are fired or not, contains a plethora of decisions and decision points. These occur before, during, and after the shooting or display of a firearm takes place.
A rich source for walking back the cat is the Categorical Use of Force reports by the LAPD Board of Police Commissioners. The following is an analysis of one incident by an off-duty LAPD officer. The analysis will use the phases of an incident as described in my book Real Shootouts of the LAPD. http://realshootoutsofthelapd.com
The incident began as an Aggravated Assault on an LAPD off-duty officer. The full report by the Board of Police Commissioners, including its Findings about Tactics, Drawing and Exhibiting of a Firearm, and Use of Lethal Force can be found here. http://www.lapdonline.org/assets/pdf/011-11_Harbor-OIS.pdf
Officer A, who was off-duty, walked to his vehicle parked in the driveway of a residence. He did not see anyone around at the time. His duty weapon was in the right front pocket of his pants. After driving out of the driveway, he backed his vehicle up and left the lights on. He then walked back to the gate to close it.
- Decision point — Leave home armed with his weapon on his person or at least accessible? Even for POlice officers, this is not as absolute a decision as it would seem, as can be seen in other LAPD off-duty incidents.
- Decision point — Close gate (initial entry barrier to home) or not? As mundane as this decision seems, many people leave their garage doors open when they drive away from their home.
Officer A saw the Subject walking on the sidewalk coming toward him. The Subject then began to run toward Officer A. As the distance to the Subject became closer, Officer A saw the Subject had a handgun in his hand. The Subject pointed the handgun at Officer A.
- Decision point — Maintain awareness of surroundings or focus on telephone or other attention divider?
- Decision point — Maintain surveillance on the suspect or not?
- Decision point — Recognize and accept that an armed attack is imminent or not?
Drawing and Exhibiting
Officer A drew his service pistol from his pocket.
- Decision point — Draw own pistol or not?
Immediately after drawing his pistol, Officer A fired one round at the Subject.
- Decision point — Don’t Shoot or Shoot?
- Decision point — Fire in place or Shoot on the Move?
- Decision point — Obtain an adequate sight picture to make a hit or fire without visual reference?
The Subject seemed unaffected, so Officer A fired a second round at the Subject.
- Decision point — Don’t Shoot or Shoot a second time?
- Decision point — Fire in place or Shoot on the Move?
- Decision point — Obtain an adequate sight picture to make a hit or fire without visual reference?
After running past Officer’s A car, the subject collapsed on the sidewalk behind a short block wall.
Post Gunfight Actions
Because he could not see him and wanted to wait for responding officers to arrive, Officer A did not approach the Subject.
- Decision point — Approach the suspect or not?
Officer A retreated to cover at the house and called 911.
- Decision point — Hold position or retreat to cover?
- Decision point — Call 9-1-1 or do something else?
While he was calling 911, Officer A observed another male come over to the Subject, squat down, then stand up and adjust his shirt. The second male then walked away.
- Decision point — Interact with/challenge the secondary suspect or not?
Two other males walked to the fallen Subject, leaned over to look at him, and then walked away.
- Decision point — Interact with/challenge the tertiary suspects or not?
There are also implied decision points subsequent in the drama but were not elaborated on by the BOPC.
- Actions on approach of responding officers.
- What statements, if any, should be made to responding officers and then to detectives.
- Whom else to notify about the incident; Significant Other, etc.
- Retain an attorney or call pre-paid legal assistance plan.
At least 21 decisions/decision points are readily discernible in this incident. There are perhaps even more, despite this being a relatively uncomplicated DGU. Also note that of the 21, only six (Don’t Shoot or Shoot [X2]), (Fire in place or Shoot on the Move [X2]), and (Obtain an adequate sight picture to make a hit or fire without visual reference [X2]) can be readily practiced with live fire. Those and another, (Draw own pistol or not) can be practiced dry. The other two-thirds of the decisions are more in the nature of ‘soft skills’ that are best decided upon in advance and then practiced away from the range.
“Best decided upon in advance and practiced away from the range” represents our opportunities during the current ammo shortage. Rather than sit on our hands because ammo has become so precious, we can begin developing and practicing a more complete repertoire of the skills we need for Personal Protection. If you would like to read my analyses of the rest of the incidents described in the book, please subscribe to me on Patreon. Patreon link I will be posting the rest of them there.
Reading about Real Life incidents, such the LAPD Categorical Use of Force reports, is interesting but what good is it if we don’t put some of the lessons learned into practice? One way to make that knowledge actionable is to translate the incident report into a Course of Fire that we could actually shoot. The various action shooting sports, such as IDPA, USPSA, etc., call this Stage Design.
Here’s an example based on one of the incidents in Real Shootouts of the LAPD.
Categorical Use of Force Incident – 011-11
(full original report linked above)
The Board of Police Commissioners Incident summarized the incident as follows:
Off-duty Officer A was leaving a residence. Officer A walked out to his vehicle, which was parked in the driveway. Officer A did not see anybody as he walked to his vehicle. Officer A had his duty weapon in his right front pants pocket at the time.
Officer A backed his vehicle up, leaving the vehicle running with the lights on, while he walked back to close the driveway gate. Officer A saw the Subject walking toward him on the sidewalk. The Subject then started to run in his direction. As the Subject got closer, Officer A saw a handgun in the Subject’s hand. The Subject then pointed it at Officer A. Officer A drew his pistol from his pocket and fired one round at the Subject.
The Subject continued to point the gun at Officer A, so Officer A fired a second round. The Subject passed in front of Officer A’s vehicle before collapsing on the sidewalk, behind a short block wall. Officer A believed the Subject had been shot but could not see him, so Officer A did not try and approach the Subject, pending the arrival of assistance.
Officer A ran toward the back door of the home, while covering the Subject’s last known position. Officer A called 9-1-1. While speaking to the Operator and waiting for the first unit to arrive, Officer A saw a male approach the Subject. The male squatted down near the Subject and Officer A lost sight of him. The male then stood back up, adjusted his shirt, and walked away. Officer A saw two other males walk over to the Subject, lean over him momentarily, then stand back up and walk away. Upon the arrival of assisting officers, the officers were unable to locate the Subject’s weapon.LAPD Board of Police Commissioners
To design a Stage from this Summary, we would extract Officer A’s actions, step by step. For clarity, each step is italicized in the above report.
Sequence of events for scenario development of 011-11
- While standing at P1, draw pistol from concealment and fire one round at T1 (7 yards).
- Fire one round at T2 (5 yards).
- Retreat to cover at P2 and point pistol at P3.
- Call 911, giving your location, while continuing to maintain pistol pointed at P3.
We can then create a diagram of what that would look like. Someone who was going to shoot it would know step by step what they had to do.
Based on the diagram, we can then replicate what Officer A had to do to keep from getting victimized or killed. While Stages created based on ‘Real Life’ tend to be much less lurid than the Stages shot in organized competition, they do give us an idea of what we might need to do to keep ourselves from being victimized or killed.
The LAPD Board of Police Commissioners made the following Findings about the actions of this Officer A.
The BOPC found Officer A’s tactics to warrant a Tactical Debrief. (This is required after any Officer Involved Shooting.)
- Drawing and Exhibiting
The BOPC found Officer A’s drawing and exhibiting a firearm to be In policy.
- Lethal Use of Force
The BOPC found Officer A’s use of lethal force to be In policy.
If you would like to read the book and create your own Courses of Fire from it, simply click on the book cover below.
Active Self Protection recently made a good video about last December’s murder of a retired Chicargo firefighter during a carjacking.
Unfortunately it won’t embed because it’s Age Restricted. If you care to watch it, this is what to search for.
John made an important point in his video that bears reiteration and amplification.
Appropriate and effective use of cover is an important tactic in protecting ourselves.John Correia
Things to keep in mind about using cover.
- Cover protects us from bullets and contact weapon attacks.
- Any cover can be defeated, either by adequate weaponry or by maneuver.
Here’s my initial video commentary about the situation. It wasn’t as simple as it looks at first glance.
Whether the second Carjacker would have shot LT Williams will never be known but it cannot be discounted as a possibility. There’s a good chance he was the leader of the crew and probably very dangerous. It wasn’t his first rodeo.
The incident provides a good example of the difficulties faced when dealing with multiple attackers. LT Williams was in a very difficult position as a result of this attack. We will never know if he even saw the second armed Carjacker and could have realized that he was vulnerable to being flanked. This was a well-rehearsed Carjacking crew with a good SOP. One comment on the YouTube video about the incident opined that this same crew had tried to Carjack him earlier and he had only escaped by luck.
Here’s the complete video of the incident on YouTube.
Disregard the TV station’s gauche and inappropriate invitation to Like and Subscribe at the end.
This was the funniest comment on the YouTube video. It’s unclear which person the comment is about.
Another of John’s points was that it’s important to keep in mind our mission. As Armed Citizens, we don’t need to get the bracelets on a criminal, we just need to force a Break In Contact and then go home.
My first LAPD Shootouts book is based on off-duty incidents at home. It provides a great deal more documentation and explanation of what Home Defense with a firearm really looks like than news reports. The lessons learned apply whether you’re a POlice officer or an Armed Citizen.