FEATURED IN TACTICS AND WEAPONS
It could be a slip, a trip, a fall or that you ve been hit by gunfire. Whatever the reason, you re on the ground and the gunfight still rages on. As imminent law enforcement trainer and former Detroit Police Sergeant Evan Marshall has said about his gunfights, he never saw the man with the tape measure and stopwatch there. The fact that you re in a gunfight to begin with is an anomaly. Times, distances and conditions can t be predicted.
In 1997, as LAPD SWAT officers pulled down a side street in North Hollywood trying to locate an armed suspect in that infamous shooting, little did they know that they d be engaged in a close-range rifle shootout with suspect Emil Matasareanu. The SWAT cops drove down the street after being waved in that direction by a citizen. Coming close to the pick-up that Matasareanu was attempting to steal they immediately came under fire by the suspect from behind the truck. Taking positions behind the wheels of the patrol vehicle, the SWAT operators fired under their car and into the legs of the suspect, forcing him to surrender (he later died of blood loss).
LAPD SWAT s intense training regimen paid off that day when their officers were forced by circumstances to return fire from less than ideal positions. Standing bolt upright in a fixed position is seldom seen in gunfights and for good reason. So why have our training regimens and our trainers become so fixed on training for conditions that seldom exist on the street? Ah, the dreaded qualification course...
Victors of Training Not Victims
Recently a comment was made by an instructor that we shouldn t waste time on the range with tactics and techniques that are normally not seen in actual shootings. I agree, in part, but some agencies have been creating automatons that can t think or act on their own. Based on an agency emphasis on qualification, they load when told, are allowed little leeway to problem solve, and do as instructed instead of being forced to apply their tactics and techniques. Many police agencies call qualificationstrainingand never do any relevant firearms instruction. Qualification courses bare little, if any, resemblance to actual real world street encounters.
It s a rule: You ll do on the street as you ve been trained. Corollary rules are: The street is a tough place to develop technique, and your training must properly prepare you. Yes, the basics must be learned and then mastered, but we must include problem solving in our courses of fire. Decision making and applying skills to solve problems under stress must be a vital component of our training.
Movement must be encouraged early in training and allowed on the range. Proper use of cover is a life saver and must be taught and mastered. In addition, unconventional shooting positions should be instructed with courses of fire mandating officers adapt to and apply unconventional shooting platforms.
From All Positions
Handguns can be fired from all manner of platforms. If you re on your back using a curb as cover, you can fire from supine. If all you have to shoot is a suspect s feet or ankles from under a car, you can use urban prone. Hit by gunfire and knocked on the deck with an armed suspect looming above you at your feet, fire from your back. On your knees handcuffing a suspect when a deadly threat appears, training should prepare you to neutralize the threat even if you have to turn the pistol upside down and shoot to the rear.
Fundamentals: Give & Take
The fundamentals of marksmanship are: platform (what we used to call stance), grip, presentation, sight alignment/sight picture, trigger management, breathing, follow-through and recovery need to be applied to solve any firearms problem. That said, seldom do perfect conditions exist. When confronted with conditions that don t allow a perfect platform (on your back on the ground), we must pay more attention to the other fundamentals (i.e. trigger and sights). Shooting in the general direction of a suspect doesn t mean squat. Rounds must impact the suspect and in areas of his body conducive to stopping him.
Positions & Skill Development
Shooting from unconventional positions while on the deck doesn t have to be trained entirely in live fire. A skill building program of inert blue guns, airsoft, dry-fire and live fire enable the officer to learn the skill safely and then progress to live fire.
Whether on the range or in the matted DT room, the following are worthwhile skills to master:
- Urban prone (from your side through a mouse-hole low on a barricade)
- Supine (face up, over a simulated curb for cover)
- Supine (face up, target at your feet)
- Supine (face up, target at your head)
- Supine (face up, targets at either side)
- Kneeling (mount position, straddling a simulated suspect heavy bag with suspect to the front)
- Kneeling (mount position, straddling a heavy bag with suspect to either side)
- Kneeling (mount position, straddling a heavy bag with suspect to the rear)
Note: Airsoft pistols will not function upside down. In all other positions, they re good to go.
You can engage in all these skills force-on-force using airsoft pistols. Especially worthwhile is shooting while the officer has the mount and with the officer on his back on the deck (guard and with the suspect mounting him).
Life Ain t Perfect Get Used To It
The basics form the foundation from which we progress. They must be learned, mastered and maintained with regular training. However, we must move forward beyond the static firing line training. If all we do is what we ve always done (standing in one spot and shooting on a whistle), we ll never progress and we will not properly prepare our troops for what they may face on the streets.
If you re a firearms instructor, train your people to apply the fundamentals, regardless of what vertical position they re in. Instruct them in unconventional shooting positions, and then progress to live fire to give them confidence born from competence to solve any deadly threat situation.
If you re an officer, invest in your own blue inert training gun and an airsoft replica of your duty pistol. Go down to the basement or out to the garage or backyard and practice, practice, practice. Train yourself to apply the fundamentals of marksmanship while standing, kneeling, prone and supine regardless of the position of the suspect. Train like your life depends on it because it does.