Tag Archives: deadly force

The Armed Citizen

A writer from Gun Digest contacted me about the Five Year Armed Citizen study TAC 5 year w tables I did a while back. He asked if I would give him a quote about it, so this was my reply.

“Analyzing incidents involving Armed Private Citizens, rather than LE/MIL situations, leads to different conclusions. Common discussion topics among Armed Private Citizens, such as equipment and caliber issues, rarely are the cause of Negative Outcomes. Negative Outcomes result from 1) lack of conceptual understanding leading to poor decision-making, and 2) lack of appropriate and necessary skills, techniques, and tactics.

Carrying and being capable of using a small gun adequately will yield much better results than owning a large pistol that isn’t carried or shot well. More criminals have been planted in the ground by .22s that hit than by .45s that miss.”

PLY22 for TacProf

 

What is the value of training?

Firearms instructors are periodically asked the question “Why should I take training?” The answer often comes in the form of a list of skills that are taught or the reasoning behind using a certain technique. However, these do not address the underlying fundamental reasons for taking firearms training at all.

  1. You don’t know what you don’t know.
  2. Much of what you know is wrong.
  3. It’s good to have some of the answers to the test before taking it.

These issues relate to both technical competency with using a firearm (gun safety and marksmanship) and the ability to use the firearm correctly in a personal protection situation (legal and tactical).

You don’t know what you don’t know.

Shooters who only take their gun to an indoor range once a year “to sight it in” generally have a highly ‘cocooned’ knowledge of firearms. They know how to operate a firearm in a very restricted set of conditions. As soon as they leave that set of conditions, the stage is set for bad things to happen. Although ‘bad things’ can include unintentional and negligent gunshot wounds, it doesn’t have to be anything that newsworthy. A fellow NRA Instructor was once asked by a long time shooter why the shooter should take the NRA Basic Pistol course. The Instructor responded “Do you wear safety glasses when you’re cleaning your firearms? You do know, of course, that most cleaning fluids can irritate or even damage your eyes, don’t you?” The longtime shooter decided to take the class, after all.

Much of what you know is wrong.

Training can mitigate the Dunning–Kruger effect, which is rampant among the shooting community.

The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than average. This bias is attributed to a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their mistakes.

–Wikipedia

Almost every firearms instructor has had numerous students who think they are “good” with a firearm but are not. Among these misinformed shooters are most police officers and, even many SWAT units. Typical longtime gunowners are too. When subjected to a standardized skills evaluation, most of these “good” shooters receive a rude awakening.

We’re the best shooters in our department, by far. That’s why we’re the firearms instructors. Then we come here and find out that we suck.

— A police officer attending the elite Rogers Shooting School

Many of these skills evaluations are not even particularly difficult. In one class I taught, the test was to shoot, starting from a ready position, five shots into a 12 inch circle at seven yards in 15 seconds four times in a row. Only one student out of ten was able to do it. And none of those shooters were beginners; most of them were longtime shooters. This test is the baseline level of the NRA Defensive Pistol I Marksmanship Qualification Program.

More advanced, yet still not terribly difficult, competency standards are beyond the ability of 99 percent of self trained shooters, in my experience., For example, the ability to shoot five shots into a five inch circle in five seconds at five yards five times in a row, a drill I call 5^5.

When a friendly competition was held on a local gun forum for the 5^5 drill, no one was able to do it. Several dozen people thought this test would be easy but even after multiple, in some cases, attempts they found out otherwise.

Every round that doesn’t hit is heading straight for a busload of nuns and orphans being followed by a limousine full of personal injury lawyers on a conference call with the District Attorney. At least, that’s the assumption I make and teach. It’s the reason I make my students account for every round they fire in my classes. And I point out the misses as seen in the cover photo of my blog.

It’s good to have some of the answers to the test before taking it.

Any decent class on the legalities of using deadly force will counsel students about things to do and not to do. An example of things not to do would include chasing a fleeing intruder down an alley and shooting at him while he is running away. In that particular incident, the shooter was lucky to only receive 60 days in jail.

The most significant value of training is that it places someone else, the instructor, in control of the flow of events, either physically or mentally. A criminal encounter will not be initiated in the time sequence desired by the would-be victim, which would be NONE. Nor will the skills required to solve the incident be dictated by the defender. However, by definition, self trained individuals control the flow of their actions when they practice, assuming they practice. This is exactly the opposite of criminal encounters. That’s not how it happens in real life. Good instruction will provoke thinking and questions beyond the student’s own expectations and experience. This helps prepare students to make decisions that can and will affect them for the rest of their lives, either positively or negatively.

The conscious mind does not function particularly well under stress. It tends to revert to subconscious background information and patterns, some of which are primeval. Many of these patterns are counterproductive in personal protection situations and require re-programming. Training helps replace them with background knowledge and patterns that are appropriate. Having appropriate knowledge helps avoid negative outcomes.

You don’t fire guns at people’s houses,” [Judge] Ludy said. “You kept saying you really didn’t know what was going on. If that’s the truth, why in the world would you fire a gun? … It really doesn’t matter if it was (at) Mr. Bailey or the mayor of Dunkirk. You just can’t do that.

Judge Max Ludy Jr.

Shockingly, some people thought this case should not have come to trial. I know I wouldn’t have been too happy had I been the homeowner down the alley who had bullets launched in my direction. “Judge Max Ludy said he found McLaughlin’s firing of a gunshot in the direction of a neighbor’s home especially reprehensible.”

Instructors, as a group, are constantly looking for examples of situations and incidents that went both right and wrong. And other students in the class ask questions about situations that concern them. Inevitably these discussions become class material, either formally or as side conversations. Because training is our vocation, we tend to analyze those incidents in greater detail than does the average gunowner. Our analysis may not necessarily be what the student wants to hear, or even correct, but relating the analysis provides food for thought that merely reading about an incident in the news will not.

The value of training is to make you think and perform outside of the cocoon that most gunowners are in, the same way real life frequently does. It’s not so much that we instructors have all the answers, because we don’t. However, most of us have a good idea of the questions to ask and that’s a strong start.

Situational Awareness and Positioning (part IV)

There are so many times in a day when you have to let people into your space. I think we have to accept it. My tolerance changes radically when I’m in transitional areas like parking lots etc.

–DTOM

It’s important to take context into account when speaking about SAP. There’s been some commentary about my post that I must not live in a big city or ever take the subway. Since I grew up in Chicargo and live in Atlanta, that’s not true. I ride public transportation quite often, even when I don’t have to.

The comment about transitional areas is on point. Rarely are we concerned about being robbed or beaten up in line at Starbucks. The video of the dude getting mugged in NOLA recently is more our concern and representative of the positioning I’m getting at.

NOLA robbery 2 crop

While public places, e.g., the coffee shop in Lakewood WA, and crowds are not totally risk free, I think my colleague William Aprill would say our risk profile for violent crime is lower there than in transitional areas or when we are alone. The criminal incidents that I personally have had to deal with all fell in those two categories. Either positioning or awareness, along with will, allowed me to control those situations. Controlling the situations allowed them to conclude without anyone getting shot or stabbed, which is my desired outcome.

In fact, one of my encounters took place at a MARTA train station in Atlanta at 9 a.m. I was alone and midway through the station on my way to work, so both criteria (alone and in transition) were met. It was what I call an “opportunistic meeting engagement.” Three individuals coming from another direction apparently liked the fact I was on crutches and in a boot from a recent surgery. It was the first time in my life I experienced Clint Smith’s saying “Predators look at you like you’re food.” But I saw their look, change of demeanor, and change of direction from the full width of the upper platform while they were still about 15 yards away. That immediately put me into Condition Orange and I initiated my reaction. Because I had seen them so far away, I had time to react on my terms, rather than theirs. There was no escape for me since I could barely hobble on my crutches. So I faced them, put my hand in my overcoat pocket on my snub revolver and said to myself “Guys, this isn’t going to turn out the way you think it is.” I don’t believe I said it out loud and no words were exchanged between us. At the moment I thought it though, the Marine Corps Drill Team could not have done a better Right Flank, March than those guys did, in unison. Clearly, this was not their first rodeo.

What happened was that they targeted me in an obvious fashion. When a sketchy character, or three of them, changes direction and begins to close with you, it’s an indicator that an incident is developing. As a police officer friend says “Nothing good is coming of that.” However, I failed to act in the way I was supposed to. In John Farnam’s vernacular, I ‘failed the interview.’ Most criminal predations on the street begin with an evaluation by the predator as to whether it has the potential for being a successful victimization, as opposed to turning into a fight. Economic predators are not generally interested in a fight. They know all too well that there is an element of chance in every violent encounter. That is not to say they won’t fight, but rather given the choice between a victimization and a fight, they will pick the victimization.

So our object is to see them early enough and understand what is happening such that we can set ourselves up to fail the interview. The criminal then moves on to find another victim. I would prefer that they pick an undercover police officer and then get dealt with.

However, what happens afterward is not my problem. I am not a police officer; my weapons and tactics are for protecting me and mine, not society at large. That’s the way our legal system is structured; I understand it and abide by it.

Situational Awareness and Positioning (part III)

When he got within 5 or 6 feet… Lawler leveled the Glock and fired once, hitting DeCosta in the groin.

Man pulls 13-inch knife during fight, gets shot

A previous post discussed The Tueller Principle, or as Dennis put it originally “How Close Is Too Close?” In light of the above incident, The Tueller Principle and two related concepts bear further clarification and quantification.

A concept that is seldom discussed in the personal protection community, among either instructors or practitioners, is proxemics. The term proxemics was originated by a cultural anthropologist, Edward Hall, in his book The Hidden Dimension.  Its meaning is how we, as humans, interpret and manage the physical space around us. This should be an integral part of planning for personal protection, but usually is not.

Professor Hall’s work breaks out several spatial zones that we perceive around us. Most important to us regarding the realm of personal protection is that we make instinctive judgments about whom we allow into these zones and what our reactions are to those who enter, or try to enter, the zones.

  • Intimate Space – where we only allow loved ones to be.
  • Personal Space – the area in which we are comfortable having people we know and trust.
  • Social Space – the zone where we communicate and/or interact with others generally.
  • Public Space – an area where we accept that people in general can be, regardless of whether we know them or are interacting with them.
Diagram by WebHamster

Diagram by WebHamster

It is also important to note that Hall’s work was preceded and partially inspired by the work of a Swiss zoologist, Dr. Heini Hediger. After extensive study of animals in the wild, Dr Hediger, in his book Wild Animals in Captivity, introduced several concepts about predator-prey behavior that are particularly relevant to the personal protection community.

  • Flight distance – the distance at which prey will seek to escape the approach of a predator.
  • Defense distance – the point at which pursued prey, which is being overtaken by a predator, will have a ‘defense reaction,’ in the words of Dr. Hediger.
  • Critical distance – the boundary at which prey that is cornered, or feels it is, will initiate a counter-attack on the predator. I.e., the prey has lost its ability to maneuver or escape (decisively engaged) and then reacts in an emergency mode.

Dr. Hediger states that these distances “are specific, within certain limits, and may be accurately measured, often within inches.” p20 When he says inches, he is referring to very small animals; larger animals will generally be measured at intervals of feet or yards/meters. The larger the animal, the greater each distance will be, generally speaking.

The questions that then arise are: 1) what is the overlap between the works of Tueller, Hall, and Hediger and 2) why is that overlap important? Hall theorized that Hediger’s concepts of flight, defense, and critical distance are no longer applicable to humans. However, I do not believe that is true. Human behavior during a criminal predation tends to follow Dr. Hediger’s concept quite closely.

The incident described in the first paragraph is an excellent example of a phenomenon I observed in my long term study of The Armed Citizen and other reports of armed self-defense by private citizens. My impression after the study of thousands of incidents was that people tended to allow human predators to encroach not quite to arm’s length before shooting. When I say encroach, I do not mean actually shoot at, as in a gunfight, but rather attempt to close the distance, whether armed or unarmed.

Encroaching is actually more dangerous than a full throttle attack. If an armed predator runs at us at full speed, it’s obvious what his intent is and our decision becomes fairly simple. On the other hand, an encroachment induces uncertainty into the encounter, in the form of the question “How Close Is Too Close?” Of course, if gunfire is being exchanged, then typical spatial boundaries and zones no longer apply.

Shooting a human predator, especially when he is encroaching, is a communication and social transaction. It is the strongest form of communicating “Stop, don’t come any closer!” Dr. Hediger would term this the critical reaction that occurs at ‘Critical Distance.’ My impression is that it will most likely occur in what Hall termed the ‘near phase of Social Space.’ For North Americans, this zone is between four and seven feet. In other words, our Critical Distance lies within that zone. We will do what we need to do to prevent a predator from crossing the boundary between Social Space and our Personal Space.

How does this relate to The Tueller Principle? The minimum safe boundary established by Tueller is 21 feet. However, the boundary that Hall theorized between public space and social space is only 12 feet. What this means is that we will have an inherent tendency to allow people, and specifically predators, to approach us well with the boundary of safety established by Tueller. That 12 foot boundary for Social Space may be the maximum boundary of our Flight Distance, even with a sketchy character. If our Critical Distance is only 4-7 feet, that could represent a major problem when dealing with a predator.

My late colleague Paul Gomez periodically quizzically commented that “people don’t shoot criminals far enough away.” The relationship between the concepts of Tueller, Hall, and Hediger may be the reason why. It’s something we in the training community need to do a better job of explaining and training.

Situational awareness is not just about seeing what’s going on; it’s also about interpreting that information and what to do about it.

At least a half-dozen times, I ordered him to stop.

Another of my colleagues commented to me “We only say ‘Drop the gun’ once around here.”

A lesson from Jimmy Cirillo and the Stakeout Squad

I don’t want to burst any bubbles among the broad public but I have a different take on a very unfortunate incident than the family and the news reporter do.

A little background is in order. The NYPD Stakeout Unit, unofficially called the Stakeout Squad, was formed in 1968 and existed until 1973. Its formation was due to the large number of retail robberies occurring in New York City at the time, many of which resulted in the brutalization or murder of shopkeepers. The Squad was disbanded in 1973, allegedly for ‘efficiency’ reasons but the members generally conceded that it was because the Squad shot so many robbers, whom they caught red-handed and who decided to shoot it out rather than surrender. Jimmy Cirillo was one of the founding members and a good friend of mine. Jimmy died in a motor vehicle accident in 2007. His wit and wisdom will always be remembered by those of us who knew him.

Here is an incident synopsis from the full article:

Hero mom dies protecting her baby daughter

She was young, beautiful and tragically killed by her daughter’s father early Sunday morning. Now, Jessica Arrendale, 33, is being hailed by her family as a hero for saving her six-month old daughter’s life, even as she died from a bullet to the head.

It began Saturday night when Jessica and Cobie’s father, 30-year old Antoine Davis, went out for the evening. At some point, Ionniello said, Davis, a former Marine who served in Iraq, became belligerently drunk and abusive. It had happened many times, Ionniello said, but her daughter did not seem able to turn Davis away no matter how often he abused her.

Davis chased Arrendale up the stairs of her three-story townhome in the Oakdale Bluffs subdivision sometime around midnight, she said….

Arrendale locked herself in a bathroom. Davis got his gun, an assault rifle outfitted with a suppressor. He burst into the bathroom and, while Arrendale was still holding Cobie in her arms, shot the young mother in the head, Ionniello said…..

“He shot her and they (police) don’t know how she was able to twist her body and fall literally in the opposite direction,” Ionniello said. Instead of falling onto the floor, Ionniello said her daughter fell over the toilet, dropping little Cobie into the water-filled bowl….

The baby remained in the toilet, covered by her mother’s body, for 13-hours before officers finally stormed the townhouse and rescued her. She was cradled in the arms of an officer who rushed her outside to a waiting ambulance.

No one ‘makes decisions’ when they’ve been shot in the head, probably brain, with a 5.56mm bullet at point blank range. That’s an instant shutoff. In a macabre way, I would like to see the coroner’s report as to the extent of the damage to her brain. However, this immediately brought to mind something Jimmy Cirillo told me about his experiences in the Stakeout Squad shootings.

He observed that every time a perpetrator was instantly killed by Stakeout Squad gunfire, they fell where they stood and their legs were crossed as they fell. Usually, they were facing the opposite direction from the way they had been standing. Jimmy’s hypothesis was that one side of the brain shut off before the other causing one side of the body to collapse before the other, resulting in the turning of the body and the crossing of the legs.

He didn’t indicate he had any medical basis for his opinion. Therefore, I regard it as a hypothesis based on his observations of the numerous men he and the other members of the Stakeout Squad had killed.

My opinion is that the same thing happened to this poor young woman; her brain shut off sequentially, which caused her body to twist as it fell. It was random chance that protected her infant son from the crazed father. While I would like to accord her ‘hero’ status, I don’t see it that way. No offense to her is intended, I am sure she would have protected her child any way she could, had she been capable.

The lesson is this: be cautious about approaching predators after they’ve been shot; they might not be completely disabled. With handguns, the mechanism causing the opponent to stop is largely exsanguination, meaning blood loss. When someone falls after being shot and bleeding profusely, they may regain consciousness when the brain comes level with the heart. Central Nervous System (CNS) stops, such as this unfortunate young lady experienced, are the only really sure anchors.

For those interested in reading more about the Stakeout Squad, I recommend Paul Kirchner’s excellent book, Jim Cirillo’s Tales of the Stakeout Squad.

Challenging human predators

Pointing guns at people you have no intention of shooting to force compliance with your demands is poor business.

–Ed Head in his article Pistol Provocation

I agree with this statement and feel it can be even further amplified from the perspective of training people how to Control a Confrontation. The statement can be, and has been, misconstrued by the inexperienced into “I believe that the first time any bad guy should know you are armed is when he sees the muzzle flash.” As a philosophy, reluctance to display a firearm without firing is a mistake. The majority of criminals are looking for a victimization not a fight. The display of a firearm by the intended victim, along with the obvious intent to use it if necessary, is an indicator that the victimization has the potential to turn into a fight. That’s not what economic predators are looking for.

Let’s consider the Policy (556.80) of the Los Angeles Police Department for DRAWING OR EXHIBITING FIREARMS.

Officers shall not draw or exhibit a firearm unless the circumstances surrounding the incident create a reasonable belief that it may be necessary to use the firearm in conformance with this policy on the use of firearms.

Stated as a positive action when adjudicating Use of Force incidents, the LAPD Board of Police Commissioners generally uses language similar to the following, when the Drawing/Exhibiting was ruled justifiable.

The BOPC determined that all personnel had sufficient information to believe the situation might escalate to the point where deadly force may become necessary. Therefore drawing the weapon was in policy.

Armed Citizens need to practice two Presentations; 1) Challenge and 2) Shoot. I use the term Presentation in a broad sense because the pistol might be in a container other than a holster, for instance, someone at home may have a pistol in a container or safe. The principle still applies. While some trainers would say this violates Hick’s Law, the fact is that the effect of Hick’s Law has been proven to dissipate when training in the various options has been undertaken.

Challenging should be done from a Ready position that does not involve pointing the pistol at the aggressor, just as Ed states. If the necessity to shoot arises, the pistol is then brought on target and fired.

Contrary to popular opinion, there is no time difference between bringing the weapon onto target to fire vis-à-vis having the weapon already aimed at the target. Nor is there any demonstrable difference of starting out with the finger on the trigger v. off the trigger.

My experience is that very few gunowners practice the Presentation to Challenge nor firing beginning from a Challenge position. This is a major weakness in their skill sets. Challenging can easily be practiced at home with an inert (blue) gun. Anyone who is serious about improving their skillset should own a bluegun of their real defensive gun.

There is a caveat to this doctrine. A friend of mine lives and works in Central America as a security consultant and trainer. His counsel to me is that, in his experience over the past three decades, Latins rarely find the presence of a pistol unsettling “unless they are looking down the bore.” With the heavy influx of Central Americans into the United States lately, this may be a consideration.

Wargaming v. brainstorming (Part II)

Thinking ‘I’ll solve it when I get there’ has gotten a lot of people killed.

Bill Rogers

My friend and I had a serious disagreement over his tactics. “The cops, Gunsite grads and others, who’ve contacted me over it agreed with what I did.” Contrary to the feedback my friend received, the comments I received were universally negative toward his post-escape actions.

This then leads to a further issue involving his friend, who was in the car with him. What do you do when someone else makes a tactical decision that involves you? I frequently mention that anytime we are with another person, the complexity of decision making goes up seriously.

You, as a passenger or bystander, can be put in a situation by someone else quite easily. Sometimes, it is a situation with possibly severe negative outcomes. Many times in ten years of Force on Force exercises, I saw how easy it is to get dragged into situations and Courses of Action not of your choosing. Not to mention the many times I have personally gotten sucked into situations that I later thought “Wow, I’m glad I got out of that one in one piece.” Other people can get you killed, without asking your permission.

Let’s examine some of the possible options. Even when we are with friends and family, our options remain. Some of them are Flight, Withdraw, Fight, Submit, and Negotiate. We are conscious beings and capable of making our own decisions. Just because someone else makes a decision to place themselves in jeopardy, doesn’t mean we have to go along with it. Nor does it mean that even if we choose to participate we necessarily have to do it in a way that entails maximum risk.

Let’s examine a case from the LAPD files as an example.
Officer Involved Shooting 030-05.

Officer A was watching television when he heard his wife shout that someone was out front. Officer A’s wife also believed she told her husband the people outside were vandalizing the family vehicle.

Officer A, with his pistol held alongside his leg, moved across the front lawn of his residence to obtain a view of the individuals [he suspected of vandalizing his car] in the street. Unknown to Officer A, his wife had followed him from the residence to the curb of the street.

Two things occurred here. 1) Officer A elected to go outside to Confront the vandals. It is unknown whether this was habit as a Police Officer [LAPD discourages its Officers from taking enforcement action off-duty unless life is at risk] or because he felt compelled by the presence of his family. 2) His wife followed in into the Danger Zone, perhaps due to family bonding aspects or because she felt it was appropriate for her to confront the vandals herself.

Officer A directed his wife to return to the residence and to call the police.

Once inside the residence, Officer A’s wife instructed another nephew to call 911. She then returned to the street with her husband [.]

The wife continued to be sucked in the dynamic of the situation, perhaps because of her husband’s presence outside. If he had remained inside and called the police himself, it is less likely she would have gone outside, especially the second time.

Eventually, a scuffle between the vandal and Officer A’s wife ensued and Officer A separated them. The vandal then approached with an ambiguous weapon and Officer A fired a warning shot into the ground. This resulted in the vandal fleeing.

Here’s what the Board of Police Commissioners ruled.

Findings

  1. Tactics

The BOPC found Officer A’s tactics deficient warranting administrative disapproval.

Basis for Findings

  1. Tactics

…Officer A elected to confront the subjects… The BOPC observed that Officer A’s tactical decisions left him with few tactical options and placed him at a tactical disadvantage… The BOPC would have preferred that Officer A had remained inside his residence, stayed with his family, [and] personally notified the local law enforcement agency … The BOPC was also concerned that when Officer A exited his residence, his wife accompanied him outside.

The BOPC determined that Officer A’s tactics were seriously deficient warranting administrative disapproval.

The evidence later disclosed that the vandal was ‘armed’ with a dinner fork. While Officer A received only ‘administrative disapproval’ for firing the warning shot, I have little doubt that an Armed Citizen in the same circumstances would have been charged with Aggravated Assault.

Let’s now return to the brainstorming v. wargaming issue. Brainstorming by Officer A gave a rudimentary Course of Action of going outside and Confronting the vandal. I’m not sure that any brainstorming by his wife was involved, other than to accompany him. Wargaming might have resulted considering alternate Courses of Action for either or both of them. He might have elected to Remain In Place and call the police. Even if he went out to Confront, she might have elected to RIP. Even during the Confrontation, after considering all her options, she might have decided to RIP after she had returned to the house, instead of re-inserting herself into the situation.

If my friend’s friend had done some wargaming, he might have considered, and perhaps chosen, some different options. It would be presumptuous of me to say what he was thinking when he chose to join the Pursuit. However, his options were: Pursue, Submit, Withdraw, Flight, and ultimately Fight using deadly force. If he agreed with following the criminals, then the option he chose was Pursue. Fortunately, the situation did not escalate to the Fight option but this has to be considered as a consequence of the Pursuit. If he did not agree with the decision to Pursue, then he chose the Submit option, only he was submitting to my friend’s choice. ‘To take no action is to take an action,’ as the saying goes.

He could have said “I’m not going with you over to their vehicle. Let me out of the car.” That would be the Withdraw option. If the car got into motion before he could say anything, he could have gotten out of the car when it stopped behind the criminals and then he could have moved off. That would be Flight. And if the criminals produced guns, he would have been forced into the Fight using deadly force Course of Action, which at that point is not an option but a necessity. The military term would be Decisively Engaged. Decisive Engagement means we have no other options left, which is never a good position to be in.

All those options have consequences. Withdraw or Flight could have serious repercussions on their friendship. Pursuit, under the wrong set of actions and reactions, could result in an unpleasant encounter with Law Enforcement. Fight using deadly force carries the possible consequence of death, which would affect not only him but all his loved ones and associates.

The choices we make are based on our personal moral values and ties to others. But they should be made with a clear understanding of what our options are and also the possible consequences thereof.

I would have said “I’m not going with you over to their vehicle. Let me out of the car.” But that’s just my choice, you’ll make your own.

Wargaming v. brainstorming

In every encounter, there is an element of chance.

–John Hall, head of the FBI Firearms Training Unit during the Miami Massacre  timeframe.

A friend of mine had an encounter with some apparent criminals a few days ago. Fortunately, he was able to escape the initial encounter. However, he then made the all too common mistake of initiating a pursuit of said criminals ‘until the police arrived.’ In fact, he pulled in right behind their car in the parking lot after the initial incident had concluded and the criminal had walked away from him. Then the criminals began their withdrawal by driving away and he followed them. Fortunately, the police eventually arrived and placed the criminals under arrest. It all worked out OK; this time.

However, I think the incident bears some analysis. The format used by the LAPD Board of Police Commissioners is a good model for our purposes here.

In every case, the BOPC makes specific findings in three areas: [A] Tactics of the involved officer(s); [B] Drawing/Exhibiting of a firearm by any involved officer(s); and the [C] Use of Force by any involved officer(s).

The initial incident was resolved without any Use of Force by my friend so [C] does not apply. During the initial encounter, he was approached by the criminal with an impact weapon, to wit: a tire iron. In response, my friend drew a J frame revolver that he kept below the line of sight of the criminal. I think that was a perfectly appropriate [B] response.

642 2

Let’s look at [A] Tactics.

Pulling in right behind them means he turned the initiative over to them voluntarily. I.e., he placed himself into the reactive phase (Observe, Orient, Decide) of their OODA cycle rather than them being in the reactive phase of his OODA cycle as was the case during the initial encounter. That’s BAD tactics.

929px-OODA.Boyd.svg

We can use this situation as an example of the difference between brainstorming and wargaming. Brainstorming means my friend developed a rudimentary Course of Action. He stated: “If I roll down this window, I’m going to have to shoot him.” Eventually, he chose to move his vehicle as an alternative. In other words, he considered what two of his options were and that’s about all. That’s brainstorming.

Wargaming the incident means we include the adversary’s options, your response to their options, and the possible consequences.

Some of the options available to the criminals upon my friend pulling up behind them were:

  • Flight
  • Withdraw, which is what they chose
  • Confront
  • Fight, either using deadly force or a lesser force level

Let’s wargame those criminal options:

If they had chosen Flight, meaning at high speed, does one then continue the Pursuit? You wouldn’t think so but there is an instinctive reaction to pursue upon an adversary’s Flight. I have observed this many times and the pursuers denied they did it until shown the video. If that happens unconsciously, then you also become a lawbreaker; speeding, reckless driving, etc.

The criminals chose to Withdraw, which then resulted in a low level pursuit, entailing no legal violations. I think this illustrates the point I made about Flight, we may choose the Pursuit option unconsciously.

What about Confront? Up to this point of the pursuit, the criminals had not committed any chargeable offense that would stand up at trial. There was enough reason for the police to initiate a Probable Cause stop, which then resulted in arrests for unrelated offenses. Prior to the arrival of the police, the criminals stopped several times and my friend stopped behind them at some distance. What if the criminals had chosen to Confront my friend about following them? Say one of them had gotten out of the car and walked purposefully toward my friend’s vehicle.

At that point, he would have had to make a decision about how to react. He could have driven away, remained in place, drawn and displayed his weapon, or perhaps used deadly force. All of those possible reactions have possible unpleasant consequences. Let’s say he tried to drive away and the individual got in front of his vehicle. That’s a potential vehicular homicide and would be very hard to defend. Say he draws his weapon and the criminal calls the police for Man With A Gun threatening me. Aggravated Assault is a felony charge. Even if you beat it, it’s unpleasant, lengthy, and expensive. You don’t get to carry a gun during the entire course of the legal proceedings and may have to surrender all your firearms until the conclusion.

Shooting the individual could easily turn into a total mess.

  • “Why did you shoot the man?”
  • “He did something suspicious in a parking lot a distance away, so I followed him.”
  • “But why did you shoot him?”
  • “Well, he stopped his car, so I stopped my car behind him. Then he got out and walked purposefully up to my car window. I felt threatened at that point, so I shot him.”

That’s going to be a very expensive and lengthy trial. I think the prospect of doing time would be high but I’ll let legal experts such as Andrew Branca or Marty Hayes chime in, if they want to.

Let’s say the criminals chose to Fight, using lethal force. My friend assumes these people were ‘gangbangers.’ Worst case scenario is that both of them pile out of their car with AK rifles and start hosing down his car. A Springfield .45 pistol and J frame revolver aren’t going to be terribly useful in that situation. And he would have been in the reactive phase of the OODA cycle, so there would probably be a lag about even moving the car to Escape. Even during the Escape, the car would have to pass by, at close distance, two individuals shooting at it with autoloading rifles. The potential for becoming a casualty, along with the friend who was in the car with him, in such a situation is very high.

So that is the difference between brainstorming and wargaming. As you can see, the wargaming process can be quite involved. It’s easier to do it ahead of time based on the experiences of others. Then if you have to do some wargaming on the spot, you already have some models to choose from rather than develop them on the ground at the time.

My feeling about the situation he encountered is rather different than his. My reaction to the initial encounter probably would have been similar to his. However, once I have escaped from a criminal, I am not reinserting myself into the situation. If I do choose to keep an eye on the situation, it will most certainly not be within the effective range of gunfire.

Structured practice (Part I)

What exactly is Claude Werner’s ‘1,000 Day Dry Fire’ program? Is it published anywhere? Anybody tried it? What were the results? Would you do it again?

This question was asked on a forum I visit occasionally. In a narrow sense, the question refers to an idea I had a while ago. About 12 years ago, a friend was working on his Yoga instructor certification and had to do 1000 days straight of meditation. That inspired me, so I decided to do it with dryfire. He said that dryfire is my form of meditation; I will defer to his judgment on that. Another friend of mine wanted to try it last year, so I’m doing it with him now, my second time, his first. We’ll be finished at the end of 2015 but we both agree it’s become such a habit that we probably won’t stop then.

First of all, the ‘program’ is not any particular drill or set of drills. Rather, it’s the commitment to do dryfire each and every day, without fail, for 1000 straight days. If you miss a day, you have to start again at the beginning. The important thing is do some dry practice every single day, even if it’s just a little. My last trigger press is never more than 24 hours in the past. Days that I practice livefire are not exempt from the dryfire requirement. I like to finish each range session with a few dryfire trigger presses.

The first time I did the program, when I was at the GF’s house, I’d do it in the bathroom by using the tile intersections as targets. She finally figured out what I was doing and had me set up a little dryfire range in the spare bedroom. The range consisted of a reduced size target behind a picture and a cassette tape I had made with a specific regimen on it. Eight minutes and I was done.

The reason there’s not one drill or set of drills is to avoid boredom. I regularly change up my regimen. Run different qualification courses dryfire, practice bullseye shooting, run the NRA Defensive Pistol I & II, etc. It doesn’t matter. I make different targets and reduced size target arrays from time to time to change things up, as well.

front face

The most important aspect of the program is that it represents a philosophy of practicing our skills on a regular basis. Those skills might be shooting, threat management, surveillance detection, pepper spray, unarmed combat, etc. Any physical skill is perishable, meaning after a length of time, it’s not as easily performed on demand. The ‘riding a bicycle’ analogy does not completely apply. When we get back on a bike after a long time, we have some time to refresh ourselves with those motor skills. If someone is attacking you, a refresher session for your personal protection skills is not an option for you. You need to be on your game at that point. Shooting skills are especially perishable for those who have never become Unconsciously Competent at them in the first place. That’s most people, frankly.

I dryfire even when I shoot an IDPA match. When I go through the “Unload and Show Clear” process, I don’t just do a trigger mash at the hip like most people. I pick out a spot on the berm, aim at it, and do a good dryfire trigger press. What I don’t want to do is to ever program myself to do a motor skill in a sloppy or detrimental way.

As a friend of mine once remarked, “Claude doesn’t do anything that doesn’t have a purpose.” My cardiologist told me “You are a very programmatic person.” Both of those are completely true, to the extent I can make it that way.

Threat management interview on Ballistic Radio

John Johnston of Ballistic Radio and I spoke on the air last weekend about Threat Management.

Threat Management is a topic that is woefully under-represented in most people’s skill set. Going to the range occasionally only helps develop the shooting skills. In contrast, how much time do folks spend on the skills that lead to ‘non-shooting?’ A short list would include, but is not limited to:

Verbalization,
STOP! Don’t come any closer!

Making the shoot/no shoot decision,
decision shooting
And adversary identification
Target ID

Learning and practicing those skills can help us keep a situation under control before shooting and hopefully prevent a shooting at all.

Here’s the permalink to the interview. http://content.blubrry.com/ballisticradio/140824_BALLISTICS.mp3