The armed confrontation between police and suspect should be so skewed in the officer's favor that the suspect doesn't have a chance. Plain and simple, that's what we want. We don't want them to have a freaking chance. That's the rub. Got it?
If you knew you were going to get into a gunfight tomorrow, what would you do today? Well, the obvious answer is leave town, but the truth is that there s little that can be done in one day to drastically make a difference. Like the futility of preparing for a fight with the bully in grade school by punching your pillow a few times, a good offense or defense can't be developed in a day. There are no shortcuts--skills in shooting and tactics can't be developed easily. That said, like dieting or exercise, there s no reason not to start today.
Winners Do What?
The winter Olympics just wrapped up. No one repeat, no one who placed in any event got there by engaging in haphazard, occasional training. They gave their heart and soul to their events in preparation, and their lives weren't even in jeopardy. That s not to say that you have to train like an Olympic athlete in preparation to defend your life, but you do have to train regularly and realistically, with adequate seriousness.
I have a number of friends who have killed suspects in armed encounters. To a man, they were serious practitioners of the art. They took police work seriously, were mentally focused about the job and practiced on a regular basis, whether on their own or on agency time. In other words, they understood that winning on the street was based on their mindset, skills, abilities and attributes, and they worked hard to improve and sustain them over time. Consistently, when no one was watching.
That's right, they made a commitment to seek out and improve upon their own training. Because I had the good fortune to train these warriors in the basic academy, in-service and SWAT training, I ll tell you that each focused on every repetition to hone their skills--each and every rep. Those repetitions performed over time lead to positive skill habituation, meaning that when confronted when a deadly threat, they did as they were trained. Winning was a habit.
Recently there's been chatter in the firearms training community on a couple of different subjects. First, is dry firing that s taking a hit from some instructors. Let me state this categorically: I learned to shoot and run the gun while dry firing. No one, outside of a professional shooter, has the range time and ammo to gain competency using live fire only. (Note: Even professional shooters dry fire). As trainer Paul Howe has asked, with military Spec Ops folks like Delta and others advocating constant and consistent dry fire practice, Why would we not recommend it to our officers?
My friend and fellow LE firearms instructor, Andrew Blubaugh, has had extensive contact with Australian Special Forces personnel. Andrew has told me he s witnessed these operators practice dry firing before breakfast, lunch and dinner with all their weapons systems. Andrew credits this committed dry-firing practice with helping to make the Aussies such phenomenal shooters.
Some instructors are suggesting standard firearms training isn't working, and we should be doing force-on-force training. Although, I approve of and have conducted force-on-force, scenario-based training. Back in the day we used cotton balls. It isn't the end-all.
Most F.O.F. training would and should be considered testing not training. The instructors place the students in a scenario and monitor how they did. There may be a debrief post-incident, but most agencies don't videotape the actions for officers to watch and learn. And there s no opportunity to run the student through multiple scenarios or work to improve on a live role-player. Although there's certainly value in F.O.F. training, it's like throwing a beginning boxing student into the ring for a sparring match before they've mastered the basics or worked with a coach on the mitts.
The vast gray area of firearms training that exists between static line-drills and simulations encompass the great learning area. Students must master the basics and then add:
As you can see, there's a lot more that can be done by agencies and officers to prepare and to ensure that officers are prepared for armed confrontations prior to running force-on-force.
I'm not suggesting that agencies should reduce or eliminate force-on-force. What I'm suggesting to agencies is that they drill their folks regularly and repetitively on realistic skills they'll need to save their lives. Build up from the basics and remember the dictum. Advanced techniques are the basics mastered.
Officer must engage in a regular and ritualistic dry-fire practice in addition to practicing live-fire as much as they can. That bully in grade school has a new face--more dangerous weapons and a much more deadly intent. To meet and defeat him and to win the gold medal in a life-or-death battle, you must train now and forever.
A conversation I had recently is worth repeating. A retired officer told me of a talk he had with a famous lawman who d prevailed in numerous armed confrontations. After my friend heard the gunfighter s tales he said, My God, man, you weren't in a gunfight; you never gave the other guy a chance! This system of tactically and skillfully stacking the deck in his direction gave this police combat victor of many a gunfight the upper hand and the ability to prevail.
My advice: Tilt the board in your direction, skew the odds in your favor and don't give them a fair chance. Train, practice and prepare.