Shooting with Gloves
Is it enough gun?
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Law Officer has received some feedback on two of my recent Safety Tips, “Searching with the Muzzle” (November/December 2006, p. 14) and “Shooting with Gloves” (January 2007, p. 14). First, two readers disagreed with my advice in “Searching with the Muzzle” to conduct searches with the gun out and the muzzle downward instead of pointed directly out in front of you to avoid shooting someone via an accidental or negligent discharge. One reader wrote that the best way to avoid such a shooting is to keep your finger off the trigger and move off-line upon contact to create time to identify your target. He went on to state that if we trained officers to search in the manner I described, we might as well teach them to search with their weapon holstered or slung.
The question of searching with the muzzle towards potential danger or with the muzzle depressed was a non-issue a decade ago. Then, many trainers, if not most, taught the muzzle-depressed tactic, with the Smith & Wesson Academy perhaps the leading authoritative voice on the subject. Somehow during the past 10 years, the military mindset of pointing the muzzle in a direction of unknown danger has become fashionable.
I believe this is an example of testosterone trumping common sense, for two reasons. First, use a timer and measure for yourself the infinitesimal timing difference between shots-on-target starting with the muzzle depressed and with the muzzle orientated to the target. You’ll see that reaction time—i.e., reacting to the stimulus—consumes the majority of your time, not the time it takes to raise the muzzle. So, the tactical advantage gained by keeping the muzzle pointed toward even a known “shoot” target is very, very small. Thus, I do not see that the safer method of keeping the muzzle depressed sacrifices survival for liability insurance.
Second, it’s simply not true that keeping your finger off the trigger will prevent an accidental discharge. To say so completely disregards the known and predictable effects of startle, being jostled and other unexpected stimuli.
In the military, accidentally shooting an innocent party as a result of such a stimulus falls under the rubric “stuff happens.” In our job, in contrast, it falls under the category of malfeasance. Bottom line: You do not sacrifice any practical time and you gain a measure of safety by keeping the muzzle depressed during a search.
I go even further, by the way, and agree with the old Smith & Wesson doctrine of challenging a suspect with the muzzle depressed for the same reason: I don’t want the decision to shoot to be produced by anything other than my deliberate intent. (Of course I’m not talking about challenging a suspect who has a gun pointed at you—you should actually be shooting at that point, in most cases.)
Regarding moving off-line to create time for suspect identification, well, you still have the same issue of startle and jostling to deal with, and believing you always have the space to move off-line is something that as true as it may be on the range, isn’t true all that often in the real world of crack houses, hallways, parking lots, etc. where we actually do our job.
In “Shooting with Gloves,” I offered up a tactic for officers in really cold climates who need, on occasion, to don heavy gloves or mittens that prove nearly impossible to shoot with. I recommended making glove removal from your shooting hand part of your draw stroke, and to practice this motion (described in the article) until it’s effective and automatic.
A corporal in a Gulf state wrote in to say this tactic would also dangerously slow an officer’s response time to a threat, and that officers should instead practice shooting wearing gloves or simply not wear them. I again have two comments:
1) Removing your gloves the way I suggest takes very, very little time in the scheme of things, and
2) I doubt the corporal has experienced in the South minus 20-degree F weather that we do up here in the Northeast on a regular basis (even without wind chill). Such weather requires you to wear heavy gloves or mittens if you are outside for an extended period. Also, recall that I suggested making not wearing gloves your default, and that you don them only when you really need to.
Finally, whatever these readers and I believe is best for us, we have whole agencies of less interested, less skilled, less gun-dedicated officers to teach—like it or not. We owe them the advice that’s most practical for them, as they are, and not as we wish them to be.
I’d like to thank Dave Spaulding for his article on concealed carry, “Is It Enough Gun?” (January 2007, p. 56). His help is invaluable in dispelling the myth that one can carry just any lightweight hardware and still protect themselves and others. I’m out of law enforcement now, for physical reasons, but I still carry concealed. I also concur on Spaulding’s preference for something that packs a punch. My personal choice, and one that he left off his well-considered list, is my snubby Charter Arms Bulldog in .44 Special. When used with soft-rubber grips, this handy tool packs the punch of a .44-caliber bullet without the hand-numbing shock of the magnum round, and it remains quite controllable. (I even have a pair of five-round speed loaders.) If you ever get a chance to shoot this revolver, take it. You’ll find a new friend.