Category Archives: Gunfights and Gunbattles

How many rounds to carry?

That question came up on a Facebook group I’m a member of recently. In response, I referenced my Armed Citizen database. The question was asked about my methodology, which is a fair question. I’ll address it my forthcoming eBook about the Armed Citizen but I want to first post the Introduction, which addresses the journey I have made about the Armed Citizen and my analyses thereof.

 

Introduction

This book is the result of the overlap of several very widely different topics and experiences. As is often the case, as more information comes to light over time, perceptions can change.

During my time in the Army, I held several different intelligence (S2) positions. These largely involved information collection and analysis duties, not ‘spyguy’ stuff. The purpose of Intelligence in the military and government is always to facilitate decision-making. Having to provide and defend a cogent analysis of not only the information collected but the conclusions I drew from it was a formative experience for me. Information collection was only the beginning. From there, it had to be processed and turned into a usable product that decisions could be based on.

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As I wound down my military career and entered the civilian world, I got into the commercial real estate business. As a Research Director for several different real estate firms, my S2 training and manuals were very useful to me. At the same time, the transition from mini-computer (Wang) to PCs in the business world was beginning. My boss was an extremely astute businessman and recognized the value of databasing information early on. Being able to construct my own databases allowed me to do several projects that were particularly influential in the way I looked at information.

One of the projects was to database the contacts that the brokers in our office used to develop business. Our firm’s business model was territorial with each broker having an assigned property type and area. To see how well this worked, my boss had me collect each broker’s contacts by Zip Code and create a map of where the contacts were in relation to the broker’s chosen territory. This process was very similar to the Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield (now Battlespace) products I had prepared in the Army. The results were surprising to everyone involved. In almost no case were the majority of the broker’s contacts in his or her territory. Some were nearby, which was understandable, but in many cases, they were widely scattered and even far away. The brokers themselves couldn’t believe it until I showed them the actual maps.

What this showed me was how inaccurate conclusions based on data that isn’t properly disaggregated can be. Their information was written down in their Rolodexes with every contact date annotated. That system told them very well what the level of their contact activity was. What it didn’t provide was much information about how well they were following their business plan. Aggregating the data and then disaggregating it by location instead of contact name and date told a much different story.

Another database I had to create was of proposed and completed deals. Creating this database gave me a much better insight into the numerous factors that make up a transaction. Proposed rental rate, length of term, size of the space, etc. were all captured when the brokers proposed a transaction. Eventually we would enter whether the deal closed or died. That database gave our company a firm understanding of what the market was actually doing across the city and in the various submarkets. Instead of speculation about what actual rental rates and terms were, we had a very clear picture.

Training I took impacted my thoughts also. I took Massad Ayoob’s Lethal Force Institute I in 1991. Having a measured and structured component to training was an eye-opening experience. Similarly, when I started training with John Farnam of Defense Training International, I got a lot of good information, both formal and informal. John was kind enough to give me a copy of W. French Anderson’s book about the FBI Miami Massacre. The book provided a superlative example of an in depth analysis of an armed conflict.

The next leg of my experiences developed when I started shooting IDPA in 1998 and then started an IDPA club. A number of Match Directors and I were discussing how to develop stages every month for our matches. Stage development is a constant pressure for any Match Director to keep the matches fresh and interesting. Someone suggested that The Armed Citizen column of NRA’s American Rifleman magazine might be a good place to start. I had been tearing the columns out of the magazine for years but never paid close attention to them. So I dug them out and looked through them in greater detail. My response to the other MDs was that almost all of the incidents were less than five shots and a lot were only one or two. Many of them had no shooting in them at all. The general consensus was the round count wasn’t high enough and the situations weren’t complicated enough to make interesting scenario stages.

My conclusion was different though, so I started designing what I called Armed Citizen Scenarios for my matches. There were several ways to adapt the incidents into stages. One way was to put multiple strings into a stage. For instance, if a Citizen was wounded in the arm in an attack, I would have one string shot with both hands and a second string shot with the Dominant Hand Only. Or, when only one shot was fired at one criminal in the actual incident, I would specify a failure drill (two shots to the body and one to the head) on all the targets.

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The Armed Citizen topic interested me enough to create a database all 482 of the incidents from the column for the period 1997-2001. The incidents were remarkably devoid of ‘ninjas coming from the ceiling’ and ‘face eating meth-heads.’ As I had done with the deal database, I broke out as many different characteristics (at home, in a business, number of shots fired, etc.) as I could. With the database populated, I ran a series of pivot tables and produced a short study of what the characteristics and outcomes of the incidents were. Although there were methodological issues with it, fifteen years later, it remains the only study of its type I am aware of. Like a vampire that won’t die, it continues to be widely referenced and reproduced on the Internet.

TAC 5 year w tables

One of the criticisms of my 1997-2001 study was that the NRA ‘cherry-picks’ the incidents to portray the actions of Armed Citizens in the most favorable light. Although the nature of what the Citizens might have done wrong was never really specified, I accept that as a valid critique. Only Positive Outcomes are reported in the Armed Citizen.

Flash forward more than a decade to the 2014 Rangemaster Tactical Conference, where I am an annual presenter. My colleague Craig Douglas threw down a challenge to me. “You should do a presentation on ‘Bad Shootings’ next year.” It was a virgin topic and gave me an opportunity to counteract the ‘cherry-picking’ aspect of the Armed Citizen. I accepted the challenge and casually started gathering information.

Be careful of what you wish for. The broad array of what I came to call Negative Outcomes really surprised me. The categories I broke them out into are:

  • Brandishing/threatening
  • Chasing after the end of a confrontation
  • Downrange failures (shot an innocent while shooting at a threat)
  • Intervention (Proverbs 26:17)
  • Lost/stolen guns
  • Mistaken identity shootings
  • Negligent discharges, including self-inflicted gunshot wounds and Unintentional shootings
  • Police Involvement, e.g., getting needlessly arrested
  • Poor judgement
  • Unauthorized access (generally by small children)
  • Unjustifiable shootings, including warning shots

The categories are far from being the lurid list of ‘gunfights lost’ that those who objected to the 1997-2001 study probably expected. Rather than being tactical failures, most are simply the result of poor gunhandling, lack of familiarity with the law, or out and out carelessness and negligence. My list of such incidents is shockingly long. The only really noticeable category of tactical failures was what my colleague Tom Givens calls ‘forfeits,’ i.e., not having your gun when you need it.

Chapter takeaways

  1. There is a process to data collection and analysis.
  2. Information that isn’t written down and then analyzed in written form is prone to error. The human mind has a remarkable capacity for memory but that capacity can be disorderly and easily misinterpreted.
  3. Defensive Gun Uses by Armed Citizens tend to be uncomplicated affairs.
  4. Defensive Gun Uses have discrete characteristics that can be broken out for broad analysis.
  5. Negative Outcomes rarely consist of ‘gunfights lost’ but more often are negligence related Unintentional Shootings and Unjustifiable Use of Weapons. The exception to that rule being not having a gun when it’s needed.

 

Chinese Whispers and the FBI (Part I)

Chinese Whispers is the game in which a short message is whispered from person to person and then the beginning and ending stories are compared. Often what begins as “I like that girl’s dress” ends up as something like “her Grandmother slept with Batman!”

The FBI released its annual report Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted (LEOKA) report on October 17. LEOKA will eventually be the starting point for numerous Chinese Whispers in the firearms and law enforcement communities. Whispers will circulate about statistical data such as distances of ‘gunfights,’ lighting conditions, weapon disarms, etc. Often, these claims will not even be based on current data but ‘commonly cited information,’ ‘well known statistics,’ or other such dubious sources.

What can we actually learn from LEOKA about how to be safer? The best single source in the Report is the Summaries of Officers Feloniously Killed and a recent addition, Selected Summaries of Officers Assaulted and Injured with Firearms or Knives/Other Cutting Instruments. Rather than relying on tabular data, which is interesting but not instructive, reading the Summaries provides us clues about circumstances, positioning, and actions. The FBI uses the term ‘The Deadly Mix’ to describe the combination of officer, offender, and circumstances. Reading the Summaries can give us insight about how that mix occurs and its outcome.

The circumstances of incidents in LEOKA are categorized as:

  • Disturbance call,
  • Arrest situation, including pursuits
  • Civil disorder,
  • Handling, transporting, custody of prisoner,
  • Investigating suspicious person/circumstance,
  • Ambush,
  • Unprovoked attack,
  • Investigative activity,
  • Handling person with mental illness,
  • Traffic pursuit/stop,
  • Tactical situation.

While LEOs have interest in all the categories, Private Citizens can learn from incidents such as Investigating suspicious persons/circumstances and Handling person with mental illness, too. For those who think intervening in others’ affairs is a good idea (I do not), looking at the incidents in the Arrest category is a worthwhile exercise to see how easily things can go bad.

The West Virginia incident in the Summaries of Officers Assaulted and Injured is an entertaining, if somewhat macabre, example of just how weird and unpredictable the life of a police officer can be. The rookie involved certainly got a baptism of fire that day.

On January 1, a lieutenant and a patrol officer with the Lewisburg Police Department were both shot during a traffic stop at 4:20 p.m. The 36-year old veteran lieutenant, who had 15 years of law enforcement experience, and the 20-year-old patrol officer, who been on the job for 1 month, were both wearing body armor when they stopped a man driving a vehicle that had been reported stolen by a law enforcement agency in Texas.

More about LEOKA in the next Part.

RIP Jim Cirillo

Jims card lighter redacted

Today is the anniversary of the 2007 death of Jim Cirillo. He was a wonderful guy and a good friend of mine. His wit, wisdom, and profanity will always be remembered by those of us who knew him.

Jim was a firearms trainer, par excellence. He was also one of the founding members of the NYPD Stakeout Squad. Jim’s book Guns, Bullets, and Gunfights is one that everyone who is serious about personal protection should read.

Jim wasn’t only a highly accomplished marksman; he was also a master tactician. My notes from the lecture where I met Jimmy are attached here. Jim Cirillo notes 05192001. Despite being from 2001, they’re still timely today.

Massad Ayoob wrote an eloquent eulogy about Jimmy, saying more than I can in his article Lessons of Jim Cirillo.

An excellent book about the exploits of the Stakeout Squad is Jim Cirillo’s Tales of the Stakeout Squad, written by Paul Kirchner.

I’ve previously written about one of the Stakeout Squad’s lessons.

An article about the Stakeout Squad appeared in New York magazine in 1972. The Deadly Score of the Stakeout Squad.  The article probably led to the eventual disbanding of the Squad for ‘efficiency’ reasons. The Stakeout Squad was highly ‘efficient’ at permanently removing violent criminals from the streets, which was no more acceptable in 1972 than it is today.

After surviving 18 gunfights, Jimmy was killed in a motor vehicle crash. That’s ironic and another reason I recommend that everyone who is interested in personal protection should take a Defensive Driving Course. The course can pay for itself. Georgia law requires that insurance companies reduce your premium 10% if you take it voluntarily. Many insurance companies will give you a break even if they’re not required to. That’s a good Return On Investment for $30.

claude werner di certificate-001

RIP Jimmy, we’ll always miss you.

The Medina, ND Shootout – 1983

In 1983, a very violent gunbattle took place in Medina, North Dakota. Although less well known than the Miami Massacre in 1986, it was every bit as bloody and violent. Something it had in common with the Miami Massacre was the decisiveness of long guns at pistol fight ranges and preparation for conflict.

On one side was a task force of US Marshals and local law enforcement officers. On the other side were members of a local Posse Comitatus group. Casualties were high on both sides. Four months later, a second related encounter, hundreds of miles away, brought more loss of life.

The Prelude

Gordon Kahl was a Midwestern farmer and Federal tax resister. He was a member of a loosely knit organization called the Posse Comitatus. The Posse recognized no authority above the county level and held many hateful beliefs. He had been imprisoned for Federal tax evasion but had been released on probation. However, he failed to report to his Probation Officer and a Federal warrant for his arrest was issued.

The US Marshal’s Office in North Dakota determined to take him into custody as a result of information received that Kahl was attending a meeting in Medina. The Marshal, Ken Muir, and three Deputies; Carl Wigglesworth, James Hopson Jr., and Robert Cheshire drove to Medina to make the arrest. There, they were joined by a Stutsman County Deputy Sheriff, Bradley Kapp, and a Medina Police Officer, Steve Schnabel.

On request of the Medina police Chief, the determination was made to conduct the arrest just outside of town. This was because Kahl was known to carry a Mini-14 rifle at all times. The Chief did not wish to have violence within the town itself that would endanger the townspeople.

A roadblock was set up on the route out of town by Marshal Muir, Deputy Wigglesworth, and Officer Schnabel. The remaining Deputies stayed in town to follow Kahl once he left the meeting. Deputy Kapp joined Deputy Marshals Cheshire and Hopson in the Ramcharger.

Accompanying Kahl to the meeting were his wife, Joan, his son, Yorie Kahl, his friends, Scott Faul, Vernon Wagner, and Dave Broer. Several of the males in the Kahl party were armed with rifles. Joan was not armed.

When the meeting finished, the Kahl party departed town in two vehicles, unknowingly headed toward the roadblock. The stage was set for a bloody shootout.

Muir and Cheshire

In the aftermath of the shootout, Muir and Cheshire would lie dead. Hopson, Kapp, Schnabel, and Yorie Kahl would be seriously wounded. Yorie Kahl and Scott Faul would be convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Gordon+Kahl+Wanted+Poster+1983

Gordon Kahl was killed, along with Lawrence County (Arkansas) Sheriff Gene Matthews, the following June. A nationwide manhunt had tracked him to Arkansas where a confrontation with local and Federal law enforcement officers took place.

The Marshals Service memorial to Muir and Cheshire can be found here.

Law Enforcement Officers Killed Audio CD

Annually, the FBI publishes the Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted report. A key part of this report is the written Summaries of the circumstances surrounding the death of each Officer Feloniously Killed.The FBI provides a concise account of the individual incidents where an Officer(s) was killed.

One of the things I have been unhappy about when training LEOs is finding out how few read the Summaries. I ask every LEO class how many have read LEOKA and almost all the hands go up. But when I ask how many have read the Summaries, almost all the hands go down. While the tabular data in LEOKA is interesting, the Summaries give much more insight into the circumstances of how Officer deaths occur and provide context on how to avoid becoming a victim Officer.

In order to make these Summaries more accessible to the Law Enforcement community, I’ve recorded the 2013 Summaries as audio narratives on an audio CD. Each Summary is narrated individually for your listening convenience. In addition, audio narratives of a number Officer killings not reported by the FBI are included. For supervisors, playing a few of the Summaries at roll call could be a sobering way to put your Officers in the right state mind for their shift. For individual Officers, listening to a few of them on the way to work may help you get mentally tuned up.

The LEOKA Narrative audio CD can be purchased on my webstore. There’s also a link at the top of my blog.

Lessons from the Pine Ridge Shootout

On June 26, 1975, FBI Special Agents Ronald Williams and Jack Coler were murdered on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. While attempting to serve a Federal arrest warrant, a massive gunbattle ensued. The Agents’ cars were hit with 125 bullets and they were severely wounded early on in the gunfight. Eventually, they were overwhelmed and executed.

Details and the sequence of events of the shootout are available in my article on The Tactical Wire.

Be wary of driving or walking into an ambush. The situation the Agents faced in this case was referred to as a ‘firesac’ in Soviet military doctrine. This is an ambush that occurs from multiple simultaneous directions. Initially, they encountered a blocking position. Then, they began to take fire from multiple angles. The only way to escape a situation like that is to retreat as quickly as possible. Retreating is a tactic we don’t practice much but we should.

Look at the pictures of the Agents’ cars. Vehicles are bullet magnets. When rifles are involved, most parts of a vehicle are as bulletproof as a piece of toilet paper. If you’re being shot at while in a vehicle and you can’t drive out of the kill zone, your best bet is probably to get away from it. In a firesac, even if your vehicle is armored, there are no safe angles.

Agent Williams' car

Agent Williams’ car

If you have someone with you, be prepared to drag them away from the car because they may no longer be mobile. Practice this ahead of time because it’s not easy. Wearing flip-flops will make it all the more difficult. Some of my friends weigh 100 pounds more than I do; it’s going to be work for me to move them. Without a decent pair of shoes on, it’s probably not going to happen.

We like to think that reinforcements, aka ‘The Cavalry,’ are always going to be available and quickly. That’s just not always true. At Pine Ridge, approximately five hours passed before the Agents could be reached. This was due to the suppressive fire encountered by the incoming reinforcements. The Agents were long dead before they could be helped. Be mentally prepared for the fact you may have to extricate yourself and anyone with you without any help. You’re not doomed until you give up. Then you’re doomed for sure.

The concept of ‘fight your way to your rifle’ is of dubious worth in actuality. Saying that is probably heresy but it’s true. Once the shooting starts, if all that’s within arm’s reach is a handgun, most likely the handgun is what you will use until the conclusion of the encounter. If you think a fight is coming, better get the long gun out before the first gunshots sound and before you are seen. Notice Coler’s trunk, as soon as you open that trunk, you have targeted yourself. The same thing happened to Gordon McNeil in The Miami Massacre 11 years after Pine Ridge.

Agent Coler's car trunk

Agent Coler’s car trunk

The probability of being stuck with a handgun means that practicing exclusively at zero to seven yards with your sidearm may not be all the practice that you should do. At least know where your pistol hits at extended ranges. Learn to use the prone position with a pistol and practice shooting at 50 yards if you have the facility. A prone target is also a difficult target to hit, even with a rifle. Most indoor ranges are 25 yards, at least practice with a few shots at that distance occasionally.

Williams’ wrapping Coler’s nearly severed arm in an attempt to stop the bleeding underscores the need for medical training such as I took this past weekend from Dark Angel Medical. The nearest law enforcement support to Williams and Coler was 12 minutes away. Any kind of advanced medical care was much further than that. Even if the Agents hadn’t been executed, Agent Coler most likely would have died from a wound generating that much blood loss. Conversely, if the shooters had broken off the attack, had Williams been able to get an effective tourniquet on Coler, he might have lived.

Agent Williams was also wounded. You need to know how to stop your own blood loss. The bad news is you might need to do it one handed, which kind of sucks the first time you try it. Being bloody makes it even harder. It’s another skill you don’t want to have learn On The Job.

The further we are away from a medical facility, the greater our need for the ability to perform self-aid. We need not only the equipment but the knowledge of how to use it. Military personnel on duty will usually have organic medical support; law enforcement and Private Citizens, probably not. The support you are likely to have is in your head and in the med kit you have with you.

Personal medical kit

Personal medical kit

Don’t expect people who have fired many magazines of ammunition at you to cut you the slightest bit of slack. If they come for you, they’re coming to finish you off, not to stop your bleeding. If nothing else, play possum and set up an ambush of your own. If all you have is a handgun, wait until they get in range and take someone with you.

That means you have to know what your personal effective range with your weapon is. If you’ve been wounded, assume it’s half or less of what you can usually do on a good day. The good news is that the coup de grâce is usually delivered at close range, so you still might get an opportunity. You’ll probably only have one chance though, so make it good and don’t muck it up.