Saturday, May 31, 2008

Shots Fired-Am I Going to Die or Is He?

At the firearms training range, I face a black silhouette cardboard target representing the head and upper torso of a human. The instructions are to draw a handgun from the holster and fire two shots to the chest followed with one shot to the head and then shift and do the same drill on a second target, all within a prescribed short matter of seconds. That procedure is called a “failure drill,” and it is designed to deliver a shot to the head of an assailant, if the two bullets to the chest failed to put him down.

There is a certain amount of satisfaction to witness the two holes appear in the chest, followed momentarily by a hole in the harder to hit head of the target. That is, of course, if the bullets found their mark. What if you hit a designated non-vital part of the target or missed entirely? Think it is easy to hit a target with a handgun?

As an astute person is reported to have said, “Only a fool takes a handgun to a gunfight.” That tells you a little about the efficiency of a handgun, which is a defensive weapon. Since most officer involved shootings occur rather spontaneously, a handgun is normally the only firearm available to the officer.

Firearm proficiency is an acquired skill requiring many hours of training to instill the proper muscle memory. Competently shooting a handgun is no walk in the park, and that’s without the stress of a gunfight where someone is shooting at you.

To more accurately simulate potential shooting incidents, law enforcement occasionally trains with interactive computer projected scenarios. The goal is two-fold: to present shoot or don’t shoot scenarios; and to determine whether or not the officer, under a manufactured stressful environment, can sufficiently hit an appropriate target.

An assailant can use any sort of force from a bludgeon, knife, firearm or a motor vehicle, to mention just a few. To stop the assailant from harming the officer or another person, police officers are trained to use physical force, including lethal force.

The issue is stopping an assailant. Force applied too little or too late can result in the assailant completing the attack even though he has absorbed blows, such as impacting bullets. Consequently, the police officer must continue to strike the assailant until the assault is halted, which normally means when he falls down.

Thomas Sowell addressed the topic of police shootings in his recent piece, “The Bullet Counters.”


People who have never fired a gun in their lives say that they cannot understand why the police fired so many bullets. If it is something that they have never experienced, there is of course no reason why they should be expected to understand.1


The biggest and most common talking point when the police fire at someone is counting how many bullets they fired. There are politicians, media people and-- above all-- community activists who can work themselves into a rage over how many bullets were fired.1

That’s right; the objectors have no personal point of reference.


But, even after confessing their ignorance, such people often proceed to spout off, just as if they knew what they were talking about.1

So, what is their frame of reference?


In a life-and-death situation, nobody counts how many bullets he is firing, much less how many bullets others are firing. It is not like a western movie, where the hero whips out his six-shooter, fires one time, and the villain drops dead.1

Oh, perhaps Hollywood doesn’t provide the guiding light to reality.

OK, but the police are trained to shoot and not miss, aren’t they?


It is very easy for a pistol shot to miss, even in the safety and calm of a firing range, much less in a desperate situation where a decision must be made in a split second that can cost you your life or end someone else's life.1
Do people really understand that the officer is literally put in a position necessitating a fight for his life? When was the last time that an accountant put his life in jeopardy while doing his job?

A sudden combat situation causes the sympathetic nervous system, the so-called flight or fight system, to spring into action in preparation to fight for one’s life. Unnecessary bodily functions are curtailed and others heightened. The focusing upon the threat often creates: tunnel vision; a reduction in the perception of sound; and a decrease in the awareness of how many shots are fired.


Even at a distance as close as six feet, just over half the shots missed. This may be far less surprising to people who have actually fired pistols than to people who have not.1
Only a minor percentage of police officers ever fire their weapons off of a training range. But, almost no officer has finished his career on the streets without multiple times having been a hair’s breadth away from sending bullets in someone’s direction.

I’ll say one thing on behalf of those who complain about police shootings; they’d be immensely correct if they would just harp on the fact that the police do not get enough firearms training. Perhaps they can just stop worrying about how many shots are fired.

That’s just an opinion from someone who has been there for 29 years.

Links in this Blog:
1. The Bullet Counters

Update Link for Photo: I Told You Police Needed Firearms Training

1 comment:

Bob said...

I've known few that qualified as Distinguished Expert at the range and did as well in a real shootout.
Having been there, I was very fortunate to have had the time to select my 12 GA. Ithica Shotgun.
Suspect caught every pellet except two between his chest and groin.
Pundants that count shots fired in a gunfight seem to rely on CSI and other such programs as the basis for their knowledge.