“May have been the losing side. Still not convinced it was the wrong one.”

"This report is maybe 12-years-old. Parliament buried it, and it stayed buried till River dug it up. This is what they feared she knew. And they were right to fear because there's a whole universe of folk who are gonna know it, too. They're gonna see it. Somebody has to speak for these people. You all got on this boat for different reasons, but you all come to the same place. So now I'm asking more of you than I have before. Maybe all. Sure as I know anything I know this, they will try again. Maybe on another world, maybe on this very ground swept clean. A year from now, 10, they'll swing back to the belief that they can make people . . . better. And I do not hold to that. So no more running. I aim to misbehave." ~ Captain Malcom Reynolds

Thursday, April 30, 2009

A few lesson notes

So, as I've discussed, been spending a bit more time than normal between the regular range and doing a lot of force-on-force active shooter training for our department. Most of it has been pretty well received by folks, but some of them have been either not taking it seriously, or else just full of stupid & that makes for a long frustrating day. But, it's part of the job #1, and part of what I consider my duty to pass on to others what has been taught to me over the years. The downside is that most of it is teaching time for me, as opposed to hands-on getting to play myself; the upside is that it has given me a chance to not only work on some of my own skills & thoughts during those times I am a role-player for the scenarios, but also to watch what has worked and what hasn't for other folks throughout the various events. Thought I'd take a little time to share some of those thoughts with others out there, and invite comments back if anyone has some to share. Please note, there isn't a single thing in here that is some stunning new revelation or that will sweep the tactical world by storm - anyone who tells you that their knowledge is all new & exciting and unbeatable is working to sell you a load of something... Rather, it's just been a good chance for me to slow down & apply some of these things in different ways, or to reinforce what works and what doesn't for me. Not just intended for police either, but for those who carry arms for whatever reason. For references refer to practitioners and analysts of interpersonal combat from say about 10000 b.c.e to the present...

Anyway, in no particular order:
  • Speed, aggression, surprise. They win the day. Figure out what you are going to do as quickly as possible, and execute said plan as best you can. Having played both sides of the equation now I have seen both ways in action (or inaction) - individuals or groups that hesitate, that go too slow & cautiously or that cannot make a decision are invariably on the losing side of the battle. On the other hand, even if you know it's coming, the team that uses controlled speed and controlled violence of action can quickly overwhelm the other side by the momentum of events. If you wait for "the perfect moment" you will rapidly be overtaken by events.
  • Get off the X. Movement (particularly lateral movement) keeps you alive - people standing still are quickly identified as threats and eliminated; people moving in a straight line are only slightly harder to pick up and engage. However, when the target is moving laterally, even if they are quickly identified it is much harder to rapidly and effectively engage them - often to the tune of several seconds (and numerous rounds fired) longer.
  • Pay extra for the guns that come with those little protrusions on top that some call "sights". I say that jokingly, but every single session I have observed this problem, even with seasoned officers and shooters. They become very focused on the target, on what the bad guy is doing, and they waste rounds (and frequently hit innocent bystanders) in shooting without aiming. Folks, this is the reason the vast majority of shots fired in real life miss - people get caught up in the moment and don't aim. That whole "instinctive fire" thing that some folks preach is a load of crap - if it's farther than a body's length away then used the gorram sights. Remember, you are responsible for that bullet from the time it leaves the barrel until it comes to rest - wherever that may be. On the other side of this coin, once people do use their sights they usually are relatively accurate at most combat distances.
  • You shot more rounds than you think. This applies in terms of a number of things - reload when you can, as opposed to waiting for that bad feeling of the weapon running dry; be aware of the fact again that you are sending more rounds downrange that you are responsible for. Importantly as well, when it comes to the whole "after action" thing - be careful not to speak too soon. It is perfectly realistic and reasonable for you to say you're not sure how many rounds you fired - trust me, the adrenaline dump happens. I'd rather say that then be stuck trying to explain the difference in stories between "I shot two times," when it was actually six or eight to someone who is looking to make their case in the media.
  • Tunnel vision and sensory shutdown happen. You may hear the sounds/screams/whatever other people are making, but it is not likely you will pick out many individual words. You will may jump at the sound of every shot, or they may not even register for you. Some details of people or clothing or the environment may lodge in your mind while others blur into the background. I've seen people who are normally able to describe events in great detail change in fifteen minutes of a scenario to literally telling me "I'm not even sure how I got here." Train yourself to scan not just the area of the threat, but a full 540 degrees around yourself during an encounter. Yes, 540 - look up.
  • Watch the hands, waistband and face - 90% of the time that's where the weapons are, or the clue that someone isn't who they seem. When that sensory overload happens you see people trying to look everywhere and at everyone at once, and it simply isn't possible. Rather, develop a quick scan pattern for these things and even in a crowd you will start to quickly pick up indications that you need. This will carry over to the sighted fire section though - I've caught an amazing number of pellets and simumition rounds in the hands recently, because we have a tendency to shoot at what we are looking at - and once they start focusing on the weapons then the rounds start going there. Just something to ponder.
  • If there is someone you are likely to be entering these situations with, train together. Whether it is your partner on the beat, or your spouse as a civilian, discuss what you are going to do and practice it. The more you know what you are going to do the fewer surprises will happen. Practice communicating - cops are HORRIBLE at this - we want to tell our life's story on the radio on the way to a call, but put us two feet from each other in a stressful situation and most of them won't say a word. Furthermore, it is much harder to defeat a team or multiple opponents working together - there is a reason wolves hunt in packs. On the other hand, if it's a group that ISN'T working together, then picking them off one-by-one is easier.
  • A great majority of attacks on police these days involve multiple adversaries. Are you practicing for this?
  • Get inside their OODA (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act) loop - apply the above techniques, make your decision more rapidly than they can respond to it, and act. Action beats reaction. Once you fall behind the curve on this one it is almost impossible to recover.
  • Smooth is fast. Practice makes perfect. Everything from how you walk and scan, to how you draw and present your weapon, to how you perform reloads comes back to this. If your range doesn't let you practice draws, reloads and malfunction drills find a place to do so with an empty and double-checked weapon and magazines. Again - every range on any given day has tons of recreational shoots who can show off a nice group size. I want to learn some stuff from the guy who decided to spend two hours of his day practicing just how to reload from concealment.
  • Most importantly, you will fall back on your training and the fundamentals. I can tell by the end of the first scenario who has applied themselves throughout the years and who goes through the motions; the same as you can tell who has bad gun handling habits in five minutes at any gun store. These are the folks you see who pull the rest of the group together, even if they aren't in charge; who can assess the situation and make a decision rapidly, and who apply the brilliance in the basics. These are your warriors. The people who have played the "what if?" game so that when they are faced with a choice of options they have already got something to work with.
Someone, somewhere is training and preparing for their next violent encounter - is it you or the bad guy?


Anonymous said...

That's really brilliant, Sean. I hope it gets picked up and widely read, studied, put into practice.

Thank you, sir.

Officer "Smith" said...

I like to think of each round fired as a lawyer going downrange. If it hits anything other than its intended target, it'll come back to haunt you.