The Los Angeles Times recently published an Op-ed piece entitled Why the police shouldn’t use Glocks. I find it shortsighted and the author’s reasoning incomplete and faulty.
Although I prefer a Double Action Only or Double Action/Single Action gun for my personal use, I perceive several issues with the article.
The half-inch difference of trigger travel may not sound like much, but it can be the difference between life and death.
The statement is a core issue. There’s no control statement about how many successful uses can be attributed to the GLOCK’s shorter trigger. The first shot is both the most important and, with DA guns, the most often missed. Aside from the possibility of ending the fight sooner, the issue of errant rounds flying around the community is also disturbing.
A number of major and minor agencies use guns with much longer double-action triggers that are just as easy to fire deliberately but that are much harder to fire accidentally.
That’s a well couched statement. If we substitute the term ‘hit with’ for ‘fire,’ it completely falls apart. Making the gun go off is just part of the equation; hitting the intended target is equally important.
Much as I like them, double-action triggers are NOT just as easy to hit with deliberately as a Glock’s. If we include shooting in reaction time, vis–à–vis deliberately, the equation shifts even more in the Glock’s favor. For smaller statured officers, it’s sometimes nearly impossible to grip and shoot a double action gun well. Having taught numerous smaller military personnel to use the M9 pistol, I can say unequivocally that grip size and trigger reach can be a major problem.
Granted, many officers can learn to shoot a double action gun reasonably well with plenty of training and regular practice. However, that’s not the reality of police administration, either from the hiring or the budgetary perspectives.
What critics should be addressing instead is the brutal reality that short trigger pulls and natural human reflexes are a deadly combination.
In a shootout with a criminal, that’s exactly the point that the author seems to miss. A well-placed source provided some insight to me about the FBI’s decision to issue Glocks years ago, after resisting them for years. “The New Agents could shoot them so much better than the Sigs it was striking.” This from the law enforcement agency with perhaps the most extensive firearms training program in the world.
All equipment has issues associated with it. The accidents cited in the article are tragic and regrettable. However, arguments similar to the author’s could be made for putting speed governors on police vehicles because police officers sometimes get into crashes, with resulting casualties, during pursuits or requests for service. I don’t see any call for that. If avoiding unintentional casualties is the main issue and only criterion, why not just go back to revolvers?
The author didn’t make much of a case for his opinion other than citing a few Negative Outcomes. Without providing the other facets of the decision making process and then weighting the various aspects, it’s a weak argument. The selection of a firearm, whether for police service or individual use, is a complex one. The ability to use it safely is key. However, the ability to use it effectively is just as important.
Several times, I have been pointed to an article about a cop who decided he needed to carry a lot more ammo on the job. The story is an excellent example of having the answers right in front of you and then ignoring them. While I don’t disagree with the idea of having plenty of ammo, it wasn’t the real solution to the problem in his case.
The nitty gritty of the story is that a cop got into an extended shootout with a determined attacker. The shootout went on for quite a while with a lot of spraying and praying on both sides. Eventually, the cop shot the suspect in the head and the situation was over.
As the incident progressed, he figured out that the answer to his problem was a software solution.
Then I told myself, ‘Hey, I need to slow down and aim better.’
My mother used to frequently comment about life in general, “If you don’t take the time to do it right in the first place, what makes you think you’ll have the time to do it over?” That’s a good commentary about situations like the one the officer encountered.
In retrospect, the officer mentioned that there were also other software solutions available. “ ‘I didn’t have time to think of backing up or even ramming him,’ Gramins said. ‘I see the gun and I engage.’ ” I’ve never put it on a timer but I bet that stepping on the gas pedal is faster than drawing from a security holster while seat belted in a car. Just recently a police officer proved the efficacy of this solution. As Massad Ayoob said many years ago, “What is a car to a pedestrian? A multi-ton high speed battering ram.”
But the officer’s overall conclusion about his experience was a hardware solution, i.e., ‘Be ready to do a bunch of spraying and praying’ by carrying 145 rounds of ammo on his person. His conclusion doesn’t follow from his self-evaluation of the solution to his problem. Perhaps, despite being a “master firearms instructor [I’m not sure what that means] and a sniper on his department’s Tactical Intervention Unit” he needs to learn to shoot a handgun on demand in a way that gets good results.
He did draw one conclusion I agree with, to wit: the mighty .45 ACP isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. The officer switched from carrying a Glock .45 to a Glock 9mm. He’s not the first police officer I know of who has drawn that conclusion after a gunfight.
In one of the incidents my colleague Tom Givens describes in the DVD Lessons from the Street, the citizen came to the conclusion that he needed a larger caliber pistol. My analysis in that case was similar to the solution the author of the story about the police officer’s situation drew, “Practice head shots.”
I often see people draw erroneous conclusions from their experiences. While we think about ‘the fog of war’ as occurring during the battle, it often sets in afterward, too.
The house alarm sounded and the wife shot her husband through a closed bedroom door thinking he was an intruder, according to Fayetteville police.
Obviously, that was a ‘negative outcome.’ Therein lays the problem with simply having a gun without doing any scenario training with it. My research has brought me to the point where I am less concerned with the marksmanship aspects of personal protection than I am with 1) proper gunhandling and 2) appropriate decision-making. Those two items are almost completely absent from most gunowners’ repertoire.
There are a competing set of probabilities we have to consider in a home defense situation. If you have anyone else living in your home, the most likely probability is that the 3 a.m. bump you hear or shadow you see is, in fact, a member of your household. For sake of argument, let’s put that probability at nearly 100%. There is, however, a competing probability that it is an intruder. That probability is much lower, somewhat above 0%, depending on where you live. The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that the burglary rate in the US was 27.6 victimizations per 1,000 households in 2011, or 2.76%, so let’s round it up to 3%. Assuming it’s an either/or situation, which it’s not, that would make the likelihood of encountering a family member, rounded, at 97%. Graphically, this is what those competing probabilities look like.
Looking at it this way makes a very strong case for why we have to positively identify before we shoot. It is 32 times more likely that the sound or shadow is a member of the household than it is an intruder. Las Vegas would really like those odds. If we’re going to be the slightest bit responsible, we have to look at ALL the possibilities, not just the ones that scare us the most. Shooting through the door without doing any kind of identification is just plain wrong.
Verbalization is so important in personal protection scenarios. And it’s something very few people practice on the range, or any other time, for that matter. I’ve had female clients tell me “I can’t say that.” Well, you better learn to say something. At home, the verbalization doesn’t have to be complicated. “Who’s there?” will probably suffice. You do have to be able to talk with a gun in your hand, though. Once again, hearing “Honey, it’s me” should immediately trigger a stand-down response on our part.
Stand-down is another thing that’s uncommon for people to practice but really important when you look at the probabilities. In a home defense encounter, ‘Stand-down’ should most likely mean immediately physically placing the gun down and moving away from it to avoid unpleasant after-effects of a startle response. Having to do so brings up those proper gunhandling and muzzle direction issues again.
This also bears on the issue of ‘training for the worst possible case.’ A serious definitional issue has now arisen in my mind regarding that concept. Is ‘the worst possible case’ having a dangerous armed intruder in your house or shooting and killing a family member by mistake? I don’t have an answer for that question but it has now become a relevant issue for me, as it should be for you, too.
That’s both good and bad. Your family will be intimately involved in the aftermath of any shooting you are in. They will probably support you but they will also suffer just as much as you do. What I call ‘The Myth of the Lone Gunman‘ is about as far from reality as it can be.
Following last weekend’s MAG20 course, taught by Massad Ayoob, that I hosted here in Atlanta, Armed American Radio broadcast its weekly show from the host facility. A surprise call-in came from George Zimmerman. His comments were heartfelt, sobering, and bear listening to by anyone who is armed. They are something to consider in your decision about whether a shooting is absolutely necessary.