Category Archives: marksmanship

The Sandra Ochoa Incident (Shooting Analysis)

Body Worn Video (BWV) not only has value for analysis of Use of Force, it also can be used as a shooting analysis tool. By looking at a BWV in conjunction the results of a subsequent investigation, we can arrive at a more complete picture of the shooting incident.

On May 31, 2020, LAPD officers responded to a radio call of a “murder suspect there now.” Upon arrival, the officers observed the suspect cutting the victim’s throat and an Officer-Involved Shooting (OIS) occurred. The BWV of both officers present was later released by the LAPD. The incident was adjudicated by the LAPD Board of Police Commissioners on May 4, 2021. The shooting was ruled objectively reasonable, necessary, and In Policy. https://www.lapdonline.org/assets/pdf/023-20-ois-pr.pdf

A short edited and annotated video of the shooting portion of the incident is available on my YouTube Channel.

Several points can be derived from the BWV and the subsequent investigation and rulings. The first is that there is a significant difference between a shooting and gunfight. Noted firearms authority Ken Hackathorn mentioned years ago that a Private Citizen is just as likely to be involved in a ‘shooting’ as in a ‘gunfight,’ if not more so. In a shooting, there is sufficient cause to use a firearm (deadly force) in defense against an assailant who is armed with a contact weapon or personal weapons (fists, shod feet, etc.). This incident is a good example. The assailant was armed with a pair of scissors and succeeded in murdering her victim with those scissors.

The cadence of shooting by Officer A is another item we can analyze. The LAPD Force Investigation Division quantified the officer’s splits (time between shots) as follows:

  • Shot 2 – 0.340
  • Shot 3 – 0.286
  • Shot 4 – 0.232
  • Shot 5 – 0.247

The average of those splits was 0.276 seconds, with a total time for the first 5 shots of 1.105. The officer was shooting at a cyclic rate for the first five shots. Although he said he ‘assessed’ between those shots, it’s unlikely there was any assessment between shots 1 through 5. Shot number 6 had a split time of 0.711. That’s the more likely point of there being an assessment of bullet damage, i.e., target effect.

Just like Sergeant Tim Gramins in 2013 https://www.police1.com/officer-shootings/articles/why-one-cop-carries-145-rounds-of-ammo-on-the-job-clGBbLYpnqqHxwMq/ , he may have said to himself, “Hey, I need to slow down and aim better.” I.e., shoot better – meaning, achieve an adequate sight picture and perform a smoother trigger press. What likely occurred by the officer was a ‘Bullet damage assessment’ after 5 shots, followed by a marksmanship improvement and a more accurate 6th shot.

Of the 6 shots fired, 2 were hits. There’s no way to say for sure but the likelihood is that of the first 5 shots, 1 was a hit. The 6th shot was likely a hit and perhaps a better hit that got the message across. Viewed this way, there were actually 2 sequences of fire. Sequence 1 consisted of 5 shots resulting in 1 hit, a 20% hit ratio. Sequence 2 consisted of 1 shot, which resulted in 1 hit, a 100% hit ratio.

Nothing in this analysis is intended as a criticism of the officer. Shooting someone who isn’t immediately adjacent to a victim is difficult enough. Shooting with an innocent downrange and right next to the assailant is a very difficult task that is seldom practiced for.

Although the victim in this case died, there’s a good chance she had been fatally wounded prior to the shooting. The officer did the best he could under the circumstances. Not all situations have a Positive Outcome.

Other items of note were that, as is frequently the case, the officer under-estimated the number of shots he fired. There’s nothing uncommon about that. In most of the Categorical Use of Force reports, when more than two shots are fired, the officer undercounts. On the other hand, the officer estimated the distance of the shot quite accurately. He thought it was 20 to 25 feet and the actual distance was 18 feet. Very few people’s eyeballs are calibrated to better than 10% margin of error for distance.

The full LAPD news release video (NRF023-20) is posted on the LAPD YouTube Channel.

Incidents like these, but involving off duty officer incidents, is why I found my work on Real Shootouts of the LAPD https://realshootoutsofthelapd.com/ so worthwhile. The off duty Officer Involved Shootings very much mirrored the thousands of Private Citizen Armed Encountered I have studied. However, there was a great deal more detail available about what led up to the encounter and how it unfolded.

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Weight transfer and stance

A good stance helps us minimize the effect of recoil on our ability to deliver multiple shots quickly. It also prepares us to rapidly move to another position, should that be necessary.

The entire post and YouTube link is available on my Patreon page.

https://www.patreon.com/posts/52312807

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Training during uncertain times

My friend David Yamane has an interesting blog post about training last year.

https://gunculture2point0.wordpress.com/2021/05/14/shooting-lessons-during-and-from-covid-times/

The NRA Pistol Marksmanship Simulator Training is a really good course. I’ve taught it several times as private lessons and found the results to be very worthwhile. I’m glad David and Sandy got something out of it.

Tactical Conference 2021 Shootoff

The Shootoff at the Tactical Conference saw some great shooters competing on a simple but challenging Course of Fire. It was well worth watching.

Most people, including gunowners, really don’t understand the capabilities of the handgun. The Shootoff is a good demonstration of what can be done when you know how.

If you would like to read about some real shootouts and learn from them, please click the image below to purchase my book.

What is the Tactical Conference?

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.

TacCon 2021 Match

The Rangemaster 2021 Tactical Conference is in the books. A small part of the Conference is the shooting match. Of the over 200 attendees, 161 elected to shoot the match. I didn’t bring a gun because of my flight situation, so I borrowed a 642 from a friend and shot with it. Only three of us shot with revolvers.

All shooters have the opportunity to shoot the first two parts of the Course of Fire.

The first part of the match is shot as a standard exercise using turning targets. This was my target for the Standards. My score was 198. The 99 percent score meant I was able to shoot the tiebreaker.

For those who score 95 percent on the standards, a five round tiebreaker is shot on a B-8 target using Comstock scoring (points divided by time). I shot this well, scoring a 49 but using a lightweight snub nose revolver meant I was slower than I needed to be to get into the shootoffs on Sunday.

The top 16 shooters then enter a man v. man shootoff using a double elimination ladder. The shootoff format uses falling steel targets. Each shooter has an array of three clothed steel target with an eight inch steel circle [Correction about the target: The plate is a vertical rectangle, 5.5″ X 6″. If you run a vertical centerline down the mannequin, and a line across at armpit level, the intersection of those lines is the center of the 5.5″X6″ plate] that has to be hit to make the target fall. After knocking down all the shirt targets, the shooter must knock down the mini-popper in back. The popper that ends up on the bottom determines the winner.

It was a fun match and I’m glad I was able to shoot it.

I’ll be recapping the Conference in the next few posts.

Rangemaster Course of Fire

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.

Skills conversation about LAPD Shootouts

#fridayfundamentals

I was talking with a friend of mine, who has Been There and Done That (BTDT), about Real Shootouts of the LAPD. He asked:

What was your biggest conclusion after writing the book?

DIA Guy

“When Frank McGee (head of NYPD firearms training in the 70s) said ‘three shots, three yards, three seconds,’ he wasn’t far off the mark” was my response. I still think that on-duty POlice shootouts may be a different story but the off-duty shooting situations are much like those of an Armed Citizen.

We then started talking about the difference between ‘when to shoot’ vis-à-vis ‘how to shoot’ training / practice. He had an interesting take on targets in terms of ‘how to shoot.’

What he tells his students is,

Use a sheet of paper. When you can consistently hit that, fold it in half. When you can consistently hit that, fold it in half again.

How do we combine that concept with ‘three, three, three?’ Since I am a firm believer in consistency, let’s do it three times in a row. That would make it 3X4. I also think context is important, so let’s put the sheet of paper on a silhouette. Place the silhouette at three yards. Fire three shots at the target. Repeat twice for a total of nine rounds fired in three strings of three. Since it’s a three second Par time exercise, you can use a Par timer app on your phone with your earbuds underneath your hearing protection. I like ‘Dry Fire Par Time Tracker’ but there are others.

If all three strings of three shots hit it, fold another sheet of paper in half. You’ll end up with a target 5.5 x 8.5 inches. Repeat the three strings. You should have nine hits on the half sheet of paper.

Assuming you have all nine hits on the half sheet, fold another sheet of paper in half twice. This time your target will be 4.25 x 5.5 inches. Shoot the three strings again.

Now you’ve done a good 27 round workout that is ‘Reality Based.’

When you get home, put your gun away. Get out your Blue Gun, Nerf gun, or water pistol and do some ‘when to shoot’ exercises.

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Once you can shoot…

Some instructors, including myself, had an interesting discussion on Facebook about the phrase “once you can shoot.”

My question to the group was ‘What does that mean?’ I asked it as a serious question. The personal journey I’ve made in answering that question over time has been interesting. My answers to myself about it have changed dramatically as a result of some related research I’ve done. The two most significant areas of research were Negative Outcomes and what higher level thinkers in the POlice community had to say. The discussion was involved enough that I wrote a Patreon post about it.

https://www.patreon.com/posts/43213970

I’m making the Patreon post public because I think it’s a much neglected philosophical discussion. At The Mingle this month, I asked the ladies present to write out their personal policy about when to draw or present a weapon. It was the first time that many of them had ever been asked to do that. We need to realize that ‘Have Adequate [Hard] Skills’ is only one aspect of the issues we face.

Marksmanship is a hard skill but soft skills are important too.

Gripping an autoloading pistol correctly to reduce malfunctions

Gripping the gun firmly, including stiffening the wrists, is important in terms of running autoloaders without having malfunctions aka stoppages (Unintentional Interruptions in the Cycle of Operation). This has been demonstrated several times in classes I’ve taught this month; Personal Performance http://www.thecompletecombatant.com/personal-performance.html  and The Mingle. http://www.thecompletecombatant.com/the-mingle.html During both classes, simply increasing the tension in a shooter’s wrists completely eliminated malfunctions in guns that had previously been troublesome.

Rob Leatham gives an excellent explanation about gripping the pistol in this video. Although his video addresses shooting speed, the concept applies equally to increasing reliability of a pistol.

Note how he tests the tension of the shooter’s wrists at 1:05. With a handheld recoil-operated firearm, tensioned wrist(s) are a key input for the gun’s functionality. If the shooter’s wrists are not adequately tensioned, the receiver of the gun moves at the same time the slide is cycling. When the receiver moves simultaneously with the slide cycling, the possibility of the slide not completing its travel fully to the rear increases. Failure to maintain tensioned wrists is often referred to as ‘limp-wristing.’

Knowing the mechanical steps in the operation of an autoloading firearm is useful to understand this problem. Once a loaded magazine has been inserted, the eight steps in the cycle of operation for a locked breech firearm are:

  1. Feeding
  2. Chambering
  3. Locking
  4. Firing
  5. Unlocking
  6. Extracting
  7. Ejecting
  8. Cocking

The steps most affected by limp-wristing are Feeding, Chambering, and Ejecting. Feeding is the step wherein the round rises completely up in the magazine and presses against the feed lips. Chambering occurs when the breech of the firearm strips the round from the magazine’s feed lips and pushes it completely into the chamber. Ejecting occurs after the entire case has been pulled from the chamber and the case is completely expelled from the firearm.

If the slide does not move fully to the rear because the receiver is moving at the same time, the breechface may not clear the rear of the cartridge. If so, Feeding will not be complete. The front of the cartridge will rise to the feed lips but the rear of the cartridge cannot because the lower part of the breechface is obstructing it. This is a Failure to Feed. Then, when the slide moves forward, friction between the bottom of the breechface and the cartridge will push the nose of the cartridge into the feedramp. However, because the round is presented at the wrong angle, a Failure to Chamber occurs with the nose of the round jammed against the feedramp. In some pistols, a Failure to Cock will also occur but this is incidental to the problem.

This stoppage must be cleared by using Remedial Action.

Remedial Action

  • Strip the magazine out. This may or may not require locking the slide to the rear, depending on the type of pistol. There are two schools of thought about what to do with the stripped out magazine, however, neither is relevant to reducing (clearing) the stoppage.
  • Work the slide several times to ensure that no fired unejected brass remains in the gun.
  • Insert and seat a magazine.
  • Operate the slide completely to chamber a new round of ammunition.
  • Get back to work.

An even more exaggerated of the issue can occur if the slide’s rearward travel is so shortened that that the base of the cartridge doesn’t make contact with the pistol’s ejector. This then will result in a Failure to Eject in addition to the Failure to Feed and Failure to Chamber. This stoppage must also be reduced by using Remedial Action. The Failure to Eject aspect is why the step of working the slide several times is included in Remedial Action. Theoretically, a Failure to Extract could occur but this is almost universally ammunition related (oversized, dirty, or grossly underpowered) rather than due to Operator Error.

Working with a partner and a completely unloaded pistol or Blue Gun, as demonstrated in the video, to test and increase the tension of the wrists is a simple way to increase the reliability of the pistol.

Gripping the wrists while moving the pistol.

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