We were going to blog this from an engagement dynamics point of view — it was a very near-run thing, that began as a routine traffic stop, and ended, fortunately, with the bad guy dead (although he speeds away at the end of the video, he didn’t get far before succumbing to his wounds). But it turns out Chris Hernandez, who has military experience but also a long career as a street cop in a tough city, has thoroughly and thoughtfully blogged the engagement. We strongly urge you to Read The Whole Thing™ (and the rest of his blog! And his book!) but here’s a taste.
The movement of [bad guy John Van Allen]‘s right arm as he reaches under his uniform shirt is obvious from the camera angle, and I’d guess it would be even more obvious to the officer, standing outside the driver’s door. My guess, and it’s just a guess, is that the officer [Trooper Matt Zistel, Oregon State Police] didn’t fire at this point because Allen was wearing a US Army uniform. Most cops consider members of the military to be fellow “men of the cloth”, so to speak. That doesn’t mean we won’t treat them like criminals when they act like criminals, but it does mean cops generally are hesitant to fire on someone wearing an official good guy uniform. My gut feeling is that Trooper Zistel would have opened fire at this point if Allen hadn’t been in uniform.
5) At 1:06, a full two seconds from the time he first started drawing, Allen opens fire.
This was an extremely slow draw, giving Trooper Zistel plenty of advance notice. Most criminals don’t “train”; they might practice pulling their weapon from wherever they hide it, but they don’t train to develop muscle memory. To me, Allen appears to be an amateur with no appreciable pistol training. The majority of criminals are, like Allen, capable of not much more than operating a weapon. And despite comments from those who think anyone in uniform is a highly trained combat vet with PTSD, there is currently no reason to believe Allen ever did anything more than stateside military construction training. He served 3 years as a reserve construction engineer, and was discharged last year. No word yet on why Allen was in uniform.
Once again, we admonish you to Read The Whole Thing™. Chris has a fairly high-rez video and he saw a lot of the goings-on other commentators missed — like the perp inadvertently dropping his mag.
Trooper Zistel did well, even though he got tagged with a non-life-threatening wound. He reacted fast and won the gunfight. It was an ugly win, but a win nonetheless, and it’s very hard to fault anything he did. When you watch the video (and the video Chris has at that link is better than any of the others we’ve seen) the sheer malevolence of John Van Allen’s attach is startling.
The OSP has been providing a video about “common myths about deadly force” in officer-involved shootings to the media. We’ve debunked some of those same myths in these pages, so we’re going to give you the link to the video in a future post. It can stream with Windows Media Player or with VLC. If people have trouble with that, we’ll get the file and put it on here.
In evaluating what any individual officer did or should have done in the succeeding eight minutes, it’s important to place oneself in the position of that officer….as the Supreme Court put it in Graham v. Connor, “The ‘reasonableness’ of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight.”
He posits a counterfactual which closely tracks Ms Carey’s actions, except the conclusion. The Capitol Police are restrained by a more restrictive ROE and:
She then crashes through the barricades lining the sidewalk at Constitution and Delaware, coming to rest at the steps of the Russell Senate Office Building. She then detonates the 500 lbs. of explosives she carries in the car, killing dozens, including some senators.
He says that like thinning the Senatorial herd is a bad thing. But in all seriousness, that might indeed have been what was on the menu. The cop on the scene has no way of knowing.
He points out that members of the public are saying:
She was unarmed, they say. And she suffered from postpartum depression — and she had a baby in the car. She didn’t hurt anyone. So why did the police have to shoot her? Why didn’t they just shoot out the tires, or use rubber bullets, or do any of a thousand other things other than what they did? Why, why, why?
We think if you’re reading this, you know why they didn’t just shoot out the tires. That’s Hollywood stuff, not reality. (Real-world cops do take out tires sometimes, but with spike strips, which requires preparation, ability to position a cop ahead of the vehicle, and the fleeing vehicle has to be channelized). Ditto, rubber bullets are screenwriter rubbish. The people talking about stuff like that have been misinformed by generations of Writers’ Guild luminaries untainted by exposure to physical reality. If someone is a threat, he must be stopped. There’s really no substitute for lead to center of mass, under combat conditions. We expect Jack would have made those points, too, were he not limited by wordcount.
So here we have a professional — “Jack Dunphy” is a pseudonym, but he’s on LAPD — who has concluded this shooting is justified, and gives good and concrete reasons why we should not ride the asses of the cops involved. (He was, like us, unthrilled by the one idjit who ripped a burst of seven unaimed shots after the fleeing car and across the public spaces in general. Aimed fire at solidly-acquired targets, please).
The José Guerena shooting
Next we have a shooting that is considerably more marginal. Because the homeowner had a gun, albeit he maintained discipline and kept it on safe, unlike the Keystone Kops raiding his house, the cops were arguably in the legal right on the Graham standard. But the $3.4 million settlement they paid, which comes with a de jure denial of any responsibility, is a de facto admission of misconduct that would be criminal — for anyone but cops.
I invite you to go back and watch the video again of the raid, and read the report(s). Jose Guerena got off exactly zero (0) shots at the SWAT team, and the SWAT team killed him (Guerena had more self restraint that I would have in those circumstances). In the end, no evidence was found linking him or his folks to any of the accused crimes. The solution in matters such as this is to send a uniformed officer who knocks on the door and asks to speak to the owner of the home. But the SWAT soldier-boys want to be cool. You know what I’ve said about this. Pulling off raids on Americans is cowardly. If you want to be cool, sign up, get the training, and fly across the pond and do it for real like my son did.
If you recall the raid, what happened is that one of Sheriff Dupnik’s allegedly elite SWAT team, which does about three no-knock (or no-wait-for-reaction-to-knock, as in this case) raids a week currently, 99 out of 100 of which are routine warrant services, fell down and had a negligent discharge in the doorway, because his fat finger was on the bang switch when his fat ass could not negotiate the doorstep. That caused every other cop to open up, target or no, shredding Guerena. These geniuses captured the whole raid on video.
The panicking cops fired 71 shots at point-blank range, scoring 22 hits, mostly in the victim’s periphery, and 49 rounds that lodged variously in the house, other houses, vehicles, and Lord-knows-where. (This is a very large multiple of the rounds fired in the Bin Laden raid and many other combat-zone takedowns of armed, resisting terrorists. The difference is aimed, controlled fire, resulting from fire discipline and training). Despite the indisciplined firing, no bystander or police officer had any more than a near miss. They considered that the blood-soaked, moaning Guerena was probably mortally wounded, and to be sure they held paramedics off until he was definitely dead. It was not police work’s finest hour.
Hence, the settlement.
Smith’s previous coverage of this untrained but very active SWAT Team is here:
The embattled Sheriff hits the friendly paper’s editorial page: Clarence Dupnik: SWAT Teams hold the line between order and chaos. If this was order, this amateur-night display of terrified contagious fire at, in most cases, no target at all. we’d hate to see chaos. Still trying to litigate the case in the press, Dupnik insists his men “perform admirably” and are “extremely judicious in their use of force.”
In fact, as Smith’s son, a fellow GWOT vet, notes, they’re at or below the level of the Iraqi or many other third-world armies.
Here’s Smith’s closing, which we find hard to beat:
the SWAT soldier-boys want to be cool. You know what I’ve said about this. Pulling off raids on Americans is cowardly. If you want to be cool, sign up, get the training, and fly across the pond and do it for real like my son did.
But go back again and watch the video. People are milling around as if nothing important is about to take place, loud music is playing, and the officers look like they don’t even have the discipline of teenagers playing paint ball.
Sheriff Dupnik is an ass clown, and so it’s appropriate that his SWAT team is comprised of ass clowns. In this case, they’re ass clowns with guns and a badge, and that makes them dangerous and evil.
The lesson that Dupnik and his amateur SWAT gang take away from this is that they got away with it. Expect a repeat.
Ammunition is coming back into stock, even popular calibers that were hard to find like 9mm and 5.56. The last one to recover is the fundamental .22 Long Rifle rimfire cartridge, but there’s starting to be stock again. What’s got people still feeling like there’s no stock, is that prices remain elevated. For example, .22LR is back in stock, but according to Gun-Deals.com’s bargain aggregator, it’s nowhere near pre-crisis prices. It will vary depending on when you click that link, and where you live (you need to enter a ZIP to get shipping estimates), but for us prices for available ammo ranged from roughly 15¢ per round to well over 50¢ delivered. And some of the low prices required commitment to high quantities of ammo.
Any Econ 101 student could tell you that the high prices are a marker of elevated demand relative to supply. Yet it’s not that busy at the range. Everyone is still stocking more than shooting, we think. There’s still a palpable fear of other shortages, which may be partly paranoia, but it’s also in part the consequence of our shared 2012-13 experience. It’s reasonable to assume that, given some future crisis or new attack on the 2nd Amendment by hostile politicians, ammo supplies may completely dry up again.
A lot of shell-shocked (or maybe it’s lack-of-shells-shocked) or sticker-shocked shooters have just given up. You know we’re not going to recommend that. So what’s the action plan to allow one to continue training when ammo supplies are tight? We have five things for you to think about.
Step I: Recalibrate your Assumptions
Previously, survivalists and high-volume ammo consumers assumed that some ammo would get tight, but that hunting rounds (.22 LR, common centerfire non-military rifle rounds like .30-30, and 12 and 20 gauge shotgun) would remain common, and that ammo produced in large quantities for the military would remain available. The Crunch of 13 shows that’s not the case. You gotta bring your own date to this dance.
That means that the guys stocking up are acting rationally. Just like you should have six months’ wages in the bank (or otherwise set aside) for unexpected contingencies, you should have six months’ ammunition. Indeed, a far-sighted stockpiler might want to bridge the four or eight years of a hostile administration. This is true even if you don’t consider yourself a prepper — just a shooter. Ask yourself, Am I shooting less? If the answer is “yes,” and for most shooters it is, you need to get the max training benefit from the reduced training time you’re actually getting. The tendency here is to plan around the training time you wish you were getting; be alert for that error and resist it.
Step II: Plan to Rotate Stock
This IS our war stock. What?
More people than ever before are keeping large supplies of ammunition on hand. But the guys who have done this all along do something you don’t do: consciously rotate stock. Most shooters I know work on a sort of LIFO logistics: “last in, first out” and when they go out to shoot, take the ammo off the top of the stack — which is usually the most recently purchased. The problem with this is that the contingency ammo further down the stack never gets used. Until it’s really needed.
Now this shouldn’t be a really serious problem, because ammo should last for decades. (Indeed, shells and cartridges that turn up after a century have still been live). And you should store it so that it’s never degraded in any way. But you might not want to count on it.
There is an exception: if you are in a situation where newer ammunition is degraded in quality, you might want to retain pre-crisis ammunition for defensive and other high-priority uses, and blow off the low-qual stuff in training. But generally, you want to run FIFO (first-in, first-out) logistics on your ammo stockpile.
Step III: Obvious Substitutes
There are many substitutes for shooting, some of which are cheap, easy and low-tech.
Dry firing is one excellent example. There are many variations of dry firing, including penny drills (balance a penny on the front sight whilst firing for follow-through and flinch control); pencil drills; ball-and-dummy reload drills. There are entire books of dry-fire drills. You will be better at shooting if you follow the procedures in one of these.
Air- and bb-guns are a natural substitute that has several benefits. These can be especially good when you’re doing early stages of team tactical training; back in the bad old days when we did HR/CT/CQB and generally cleared buildings with handguns, it was SOP to run the drill first with Crosman or Daisy CO2 pistols. They’re cheap, less likely than even .22s to be subject to shortages or cutoffs, and require very little in the way of protective gear. For rifles, a simple .177 gas-spring single shot gives you a lifetime of shooting for short money; here are a few recommendations from a survivalist blog. In our experience, airguns styled to look like firearms are less good as guns, meaning less accurate and powerful, than airguns where form follows function.
Here’s a Defense Review video on SIRT pistols and their AR bolt. It was taken in the susurrus of the SHOT show so there’s a mountain of background noise, but it shows you some pros of the SIRT products:
We haven’t tried to use a SIRT with a LaserLyte target. That might be interesting, although it would be nice to see NLT develop a bespoke target for their products.
Step IV: Less Obvious Substitutes
Less obvious substitutes include:
Wax bullets, which can be used in pistols and rifles (manually cycling the action) or, where they really shine, revolvers (this gives a new lease on life to those cheap .32 Police Positives cluttering up gun stores). Downsides: you need some minimalist reloading gear and a supply of primers, which in the past year has been as constrained as ammo, and — here is a big one — you need to modify the cases you use with wax bullets in a way that renders them unsafe for live reloading. If you can live with that, especially if you have a centerfire revolver you can use with wax bullets, there’s a number of how-tos like this one out there. We’d want a more positive way of ID’ing the modified casings, is all.
Archery, which while it trains different eye-hand specifics, employs very similar brain circuitry to the mind-wiring shooting uses. It requires the same purity of focus, ability to read wind, and mental (often unconscious) time/speed/distance calculations. Archery is inexpensive, has especially low recurring costs, and is deep: you can get as involved in it as you like, or simply fire field points at a bale of straw for a couple of hours. Humans have used bows for at least 8,000 years, and sensibly used, they’re extremely safe; so much that the Boy Scouts permit even Tiger Cubs (the youngest Scouts) to use bows under supervision.
Airsoft, which allows mechanical training to a point, and marksmanship training to a point. One of the most excellent uses of airsoft we have seen was by a clandestine cell in an area where firearms possession itself was a serious (i.e. not quite capital) offense. The cell only had a small quantity of firearms. All cell members trained with airsoft replicas of the handguns that were cached “against the day.” That meant that, had the cell been tasked to shoot someone, the actual pistol could be retrieved and handed over to someone who had a good chance of accomplishing his or her mission, even though he or she never even saw a real gun before. This is part of why totalitarian governments tend to ban imitation firearms some time after they ban actual ones.
Computer (and computerized) Simulators. This is a field in which computer simulation has received unconstrained funding, made great boasts and shown great promise, but has yet to produce even a single-purpose target simulator that provides measurable skills transference to actual firearms. Simulation can be useful in use-of-force and engagement dynamics training, but most such simulators are out of the reach of a small club, department, or individual.
Things like Simunitions are useful to military units conducting crawl/walk/run training, but are not a reasonable substitute for live-ammo training. Likewise, blanks have very limited utility (for force-on-force training, or for live-and-blank variations of ball-and-dummy drill).
Step V: There’s Still No Substitute
In the end, there’s no substitute for getting out there and shooting. So what you can do, in times of restricted resources:
Make every shot count. Don’t just plink or burn ammunition. Have a purpose for every magazine and every round, and evaluate how you’re doing. It’s just as much fun to shoot if you have a reason for doing it, and know what the reason is. Plus, you will be able to see improvement in your shooting, which is pleasant in itself.
Increase your focus, concentration and deliberation. This is a subset of the above, of course.
Plan each range session before leaving home or office, and shoot to the plan. Only the government can end every range trip with a full-auto, hip-fired SPENDEX. On the other hand, maybe you want to develop hip-shooting skills. Well, make a plan for it. And make the plan at the desk or loading bench, not onsite. Then you’ll never launch a bullet you haven’t already imagined launching (and hitting the target with).
Substitute cheaper (but safe) ammo. Do not go to no-name reloads or third-world surplus. (If it’s a financial stretch to buy ammo, it’d really stink to have to replace a kB!’d gun). We’re also hostile to steel-cased ammo; maybe in a junk gun. Constrained availability of popular calibers might be God’s way of telling you it’s a good time to practice a little using the guns and calibers you seldom shoot. Last year, when we couldn’t get 7.62 x 51, we were able to get some soft-point 7mm hunting rounds and have some fun with a wall-hanger FN49.
One gun at a time per range session. Having dissimilar weapons divides your concentration and means some percentage of your ammo expenditure is wasted. (There are some obvious exceptions: if you duty-carry a Glock 22 and off-duty a 27, they’re close enough). If you must shoot dissimilar guns on the same day (maybe your range is a long drive or hard to schedule), take a non-shooting break to clear your mind and your muscle memory in-between, say, the pistol and rifle sessions — and accept that you’re not going to get 100% of your potential training benefit.
Stop shooting when you stop improving. If you seldom go to the range, you may be tempted to stay longer each time. Don’t do it. A good session is 45 minutes to an hour. Don’t burn out.
Finally, all these recommendations are enhanced by having a coach, instructor or buddy to help you see the things you’re overlooking. The guy doesn’t need to be a champ; just someone reasonably knowledgable and, well, not you.
Just cause ammo’s hard to come by, or expensive, is no reason to let your perishable (or at least, degradable) shooting skills atrophy. There are cheap and available alternatives.
The most cost-effective ones for a heavy shooter are the ones that have no variable costs. Consider that the SIRT Pro pistol seems expensive at $350. But… if you normally practice at, say, 200 rounds / week, at the best price of 9mm these days being around 30¢ a round with shipping (let’s use another deal-finder for this one, gunbot 9mm deals), you’re spending $60 a week on proficiency. So this is six week’s proficiency ammo.
But that’s probably not what’s going to happen, complete substitution of live-fire training with laser training. If you replaced half of your life ammo with SIRT training, the break-even on the training pistol is three months. But even that’s probably not going to happen: instead, you’re almost certain to continue shooting the same amount, eat the cost of the training device, and practice more when the dry-firing with the practice pistol is considered… your scores should improve markedly, as will your self-confidence.
The most cost-effective of all, of course, is plain old dry fire, which achieves much of what dry-fire with a SIRT unit does, and does it with fixed and variable costs of $0 each. All that stands between you and better marksmanship is a dry-fire program and a little self-discipline.
Yep, it’s that time again, when cops start holstering and unholstering Glocks, and bad things happen.
Let’s see, 1 century of training police to keep their finger on the trigger (on DA/SA revolvers and pistols), plus 1 “trigger-safety” or Save Action™ (meaning, “no safety”) pistol, plus 1 retention holster that expects the user to keep his or her finger in or near the trigger, plus, one cop who failed to pay attention in safety briefings = about 1200 feet per second you can’t call back.
Coatesville, PA (Valley Township PD): Do I wrestle the suspect, or draw?
That’s more than just the physical owie. No word on whether the suspect (who was taken into custody by other officers) laughed at her, but the rest of Eastern PA and now national law enforcement is.
And oh, why were the officers able to respond fast enough to nab the suspect? (Aside from him being unable to resume flight because he was paralyzed with laughter?) Well, Officer WWE here did this right in front of the station. Niiice.
Hartford, Connecticut: A Confused Department
Hartford is rather confused about who shot whom Saturday night. The cops were responding to an armed robbery of a Subway. The robbers were gone (apparently they’re still at large) but that didn’t prevent gunplay among the assembled lawmen. Most of the stories are tortured into the passive voice, in which “a gun went off” or “a gun accidentally fired.” By itself! One story explicitly says that the cop may have been “shot by another officer’s gun.” While that officer stood by, helpless, no doubt. No wonder Hartford’s a big gun control town: even the cops’ guns are out of control. Here’s some of the coverage, all of which avoids, elides, or just plain hides the fact that for a negligent discharge to occur, some actual human being has to be, you know, negligent.
Saturday, 2037R. NBC Connecticut (tweet): “Hartford Police say an officer accidentally shot himself while responding to an armed robbery….” This is close to pinning causation on a person, but in true TV-news tradition, NBC has the wrong shooter. They did that at the Navy Yard, too.
Sunday, 1402R. New Haven Register/AP: “Hartford police say a city officer was shot while responding to a robbery when a gun accidentally fired…. It’s not clear if the officer shot himself by accident or was shot by someone else’s gun.” The gun did it its ownself!
Sunday, no time given. The Hartford Courant: “A police officer’s gun accidentally discharged during a response to an armed robbery… and an officer was shot in the arm, police said. It was not clear whether the officer whose gun discharged was shot, or another officer. The injury to the officer’s forearm is non-life threatening….” The guns are doing the negligent discharging on their own, and the shots are arriving in passive voice. This is why we can’t be journalists, we don’t automatically lie about cause and effect.
Sunday, 1547R. NBC Connecticut: ”a cop was accidentally shot…. a gun accidentally discharged, striking an officer in the forearm…. Police said it’s unclear if the officer shot himself or was shot by another officer’s gun.” These danged willful guns. (The headline says the cop was “Accidently” shot. Layers and layers of editors!).
Monday, 1505R. New Haven Republican-American: ”Hartford police say a city officer responding to a robbery was shot when a gun accidentally fired…. the officer suffered a non-life threatening arm injury…. It’s not clear if the officer shot himself by accident or was shot by someone else’s gun.”
Three days post-accident, and the Hartford PD either doesn’t know who fired his weapon, or is lying about it. And if there is a single media source that recognizes that there is a device on a firearm which must be actuated to make it go “bang,” it sure isn’t including that fact in any of the Hartford stories.
“Good thing we city employees don’t have to use our personal cars for 0200 bail runs!”
The city of Hartford, long a pretty bad place to live, is out of control. (Hartford motto: “It could be worse. We could be Bridgeport.”) After one of the dozens of city employees crashed a car, drunk, and cursed the cops with the old, “Do you know who I am?”, the city swore to crack down on its dozens of unaccountable employees with take-home cars. Well, a few hours before the HPD circular firing squad at Subway, a high ranking city official was on the way home from trying to bail out Junior on threatening and drug charges (no word on whether she said, “Do you know who I am?”) when her car was t-boned by one of the Sanctuary City’s sanctuarians, who promptly bugged out. She wasn’t driving the car. Her boyfriend, another Hartford payroll patriot, was. And the papers discovered the dozens of take home cars have been cut mostly by attrition — wrecks to the cars like this, and arrests of officials like the other DUI broad, and the mayor’s aide who continued taking his take-home car home — after resigning.
Over at the police department, they had to cut something, and it couldn’t be, say, car leases for the big wheels in the department. So they cut the criminal-shooting task force from ~50 to ~20 cops.
The Rev. Henry Brown, whose group, Mothers United Against Violence, holds vigils for victims of gun violence in Hartford, said that the shooting task force needs more resources.
“Ever since they’ve cut back that task force, shootings have increased in Hartford.”
Of course the Rev’s Mothers are the moms of the kids doing the shooting, so naturally they blame everybody else. It must be the guns… those same out-of-control guns that are shooting innocent cops.
We’ll tell you why. It’s because things like this happen. Indianapolis’s Rod Bradway acted boldly and decisively — and received a fatal wound for his efforts. The guy who shot him was shot dead by Rod’s backup. The victim, who’d called for the cops’ help in the first place, was apparently not all that wonderful a person either: her kid wound up in the hellhole that’s Child Services, in Indiana or any other state.
Bradway forced his way into the room as the woman screamed for help. The man assaulting her — Steven Byrdo, 24 — shifted his target to Bradway and fired two shots. One knocked Bradway’s cap off, but the other enterd his chest above his body armor. He returned fire, wounding Byrdo, who was killed in a further exchange of fire with other cops.
Bold action was not out of character for Bradway. He’d received the Indianapolis PD’s Medal for Bravery. The impulse to help was strong in him, and he and his family were noted for their assistance to the lost pets of Moore, OK in the aftermath of the Moore tornado; they gathered supplies and brought them to shelters that were trying to reunite the storm-tossed pets with their storm-displaced families.
The officer killed, Rod Bradway, and at least one other officer went to the apartment complex on the city’s northwest side about 2 a.m. after someone called 911 to report a disturbance.
“When he arrived to the apartment door, he heard a woman scream for help inside the apartment,” Bailey said.
Bradway forced his way inside and was shot, Bailey said. The 41-year-old officer was taken to Wishard Memorial Hospital, where he died a short time later.
Investigators were still working Friday morning to confirm the gunman’s identity and the circumstances surrounding his death. The child was taken by child protective services, said police spokesman Officer Kendale Adams, who had no other details on the child.
This letter was left in the window of a cruiser at the Bradway memorial. It had better be from his wife!
Rod Bradway and his backup officers were not the only stand-up guys in Indianapolis. The mayor was on an overseas junket when this happened; he cut it short and rushed home. That’s the right thing to do, but how many politicians do it? One can’t help but compare to the Congresscritters, including vets’-issues-diva Tammy Duckworth, who walked out on the family members of the Benghazi KIAs last week — that last is more typical pol behavior.
The politicians aside, the people of Indianapolis have poured out a stream of grief and affection for the slain policeman, much of it left at a memorial.
A pretty solid percentage of cops would have done exactly what Rod did, even though it’s not the textbook answer (that would be, “wait for backup on a domestic”). He died trying to prevent a helpless woman from being further injured. The only good news is that Byrdo has committed his last crime: where he’s gone, the recidivism rate is zero. Rod’s backup officers (assisted by the wound that Rod himself laid on Byrdo) did what the courts and laws could not, stopped a criminal career dead in its tracks. There is that.
PDB has a post that is absolutely brilliant, in its skewering of the pervasiveness of “tactical operator fashion” in gun ads:
…advertising is the sincerest form of psychology because the livelihoods of everyone involved depends directly on the accuracy of the assessment. The advertising agency / client feedback loop is nearly instantaneous and completely unforgiving, and therefore the manner in which the products are hawked to a particular demographic is a harsh and sometimes magnifying mirror.
So what does recent firearm advertising say about us shooters?
Read The Whole Thing™, but it sort of suggests a certain strain of wannabe-ism is rampant in our ranks. The ads he cites mostly have guys dressed up like SEAL Team 666™, and more brandishing than firing their weapons as they kick doors or clear tire houses.
Of course, while PDB is checking this out one way, others are mocking it. Here’s a favorite of ours. Sara’s contribution is the best bit in our humble opinion (some salty language):
OK, returning to PDB’s analysis of the ads. Let’s get serious, operators and operate-ettes.
In a way, this kind of ad is a classic Appeal to Authority, psychologically no different from the TV spot where the guy or gal in a white lab coat urges you to buy some useless dietary supplement, or the more direct one where “four out of five dentists recommend….” It’s saying, basically, “A shortcut to your carbine decision is to rely on the decision that guys like the one in the photo have already made.” To put it even more briefly, “Choose Colt. The Army did.”
“Sarge, I wanna 416!” “What’s your major malfunction, Private Pyle? Shut your %$^!! face.” (Where’s this image from? Check it out).
There’s a bit of irony in this, because SWAT cops and military special operations troopers have a rather limited amount of choice in their own weapons. (Exercise for the reader who is still in: go to your CO or Sergeant Major and tell him you think your M4A1 sucks and want to carry an LWRC or Daniel Defense carbine instead. Report his response, verbatim). In SF we had quite a wide range of choices, for a gaggle of Army guys, but it was from the stuff in the arms room. (Carrying a personal sidearm was what we called a “catch me, **** me” rule. Technically forbidden, but tolerated as long as you didn’t rub the command’s nose in it). But in most of the military, your personal weapon is assigned to you and you have no more ability to change it than a green plastic Army guy toy.
The stuff in the arms room was either what Big Green bought for us (which we, or our senior staff, liked to use because it came out of Big Green dollars and not our limited MFP-11 money), or stuff selected, usually, by a team of experienced guys. These testing teams were always good guys, good shots and experienced field guys, but their decisions were always controversial. Sometimes they labored and brought forth something and it was good (The M24 sniper weapons system, for example, or the adaptation of the M203 to the 14.5″ carbine), and sometimes it was good and still didn’t make the sale to get adopted. (The 6.8 SPC cartridge). If SF or SOF cooked up an idea and it was really good, Big Green came around to it — pretty quickly when there is a war on.
Likewise, if Big Green has a good brainstorm on weapons, we’re all over it. Many of our guys (not just the MOS weapons men) stay abreast of what’s happening in the world, and new blood is coming in all the time from the Ranger Regiment, the line infantry divisions, and every MOS in the Army. (Even cooks, bandsmen, electronic-warfare aircrew, and heavy-equipment operators have tried out and made it into SF since the requirement for having a “feeder MOS” was eliminated decades ago. And we always find a use for their prior skills).
The runaway arms race of military and police legitimacy probably achieved critical mass in the open-enrollment firearms training market, where relevance to uniformed service became a shortcut to a convincing marketing pitch. If it’s good enough for SEAL Team 6, it’s good enough for me, right? Well, what if what’s good for Operators Operating In Operations isn’t good for the rest of us? Have we considered that perhaps much of the gear, doctrine and technique only works for those guys because it’s their job to practice them every day, and they put them into practice with a bunch of other guys who also practice them every day, with each other?
He has a point there. Absolutely zero military training is designed for a scenario in which an individual stands his ground alone against multiple assailants, confronts a single assailant Dodge City style, or clears his own house against an unknown threat. Certainly things learned in military training can be applied to situations like these, and skills acquired in advanced military training are very comforting to have, but training for these exact scenarios isn’t part of the schools. For most military units, the irreducible element is two to three men; the people who are trained to operate alone are very few, very narrowly applied, and usually work both under cover and unarmed or lightly armed. If they fire a shot, they are at mission failure; and it is a rare cover indeed that gives one of these folks plausible reason to carry a firearm.
He goes on further:
In particular, I’m going to point out the preemptive prophylactic (I refuse to use the t-word) reload, where one switches out and retains a partially expended magazine for one that’s full, while there are still hostiles around. This makes sense in the military setting, as you can count on several friends nearby with fully loaded rifles looking in the same direction to keep the baddies from taking advantage of your temporarily useless rifle. In the civilian context, which I assume the vast majority of my readers are preparing for, and the vast majority of firearms customers are as well, one cannot count on ever having backup and thus you should not only put off reloading until you are convinced that all is clear, if you have an empty mag you should probably toss it and not waste time finding a place to stow it. Yes yes, I know in various disaster scenarios we can’t assume FedEx will be delivering fresh PMags straight from Brownells etc etc, but this is rapidly getting into prepping to fastrope from the space shuttle territory, and for the current domestic situation, tossing your empties (or even lightly loaded partials if you have more full magazines available) is the smarter play.
It’s interesting that while his points are primarily focused on the irremediable Walter Mitty nature of such advertising and training, his first commenter, in full Walt mode, starts arguing arcana of the “tactical reload.” Talk about missing the point.
For what it’s worth, we were taught to count rounds, and change mags when out, when in a moment of downtime before we expected to fire a lot (i.e., just before clearing a new building or room), or whenever we lost count. It was doable, and becomes a habit, with sufficient discipline. Most “tacticool” shooters and trainers aren’t that disciplined. SOT School was one of the best combat schools in all recorded history, and it materially improved the shooting and combat mindset of everyone who attended. So the Army naturally closed it. (It was a spinoff of the former Blue Light interim CT capability, and actually provided the basis for two courses that still run, SF Advanced Urban Combat and another closer to the original spirit of SOT, but expanded).
And — referring back to my comments above about solo practitioners — all of the above are team schools that entire organic units, like SF Teams and Ranger squads, attend together. These days they are organized so that primarily only shooters attend, which is probably a mistake. SF support elements that deploy with ODAs or like ODAs should probably attend these schools, also (which was done in the era of SOT).
Bringing it back to PDB’s commentary:
So in case you didn’t notice, it sure looks to me as if almost every seller of ARs and even slightly related equipment is selling them at SWAT teams, the military, private military contractors, or people who fancy themselves to be, but are not.
Emphasis his own.
But we’d like to know that it’s only the wannabees that run these three types of “operators” together in the mind. There are some critical differences:
SWAT teams comprise sworn law officers whose mission is always to protect the public and to contain and reduce threats in the most restrained manner practicable. They want to arrest the guy and let him face a jury, and only whack him if that’s what protecting the public is. They don’t go in “fangs out,” looking to kill.
The military covers a wide range of skills and organizations, all of which are necessary for victory. (Ask us sometime about how much we appreciated the Finance Corps and the food service bureaucracy in the early days of Afghanistan). But the door-kicking, tricked-out-AR wielding end of it is principally contained in the combat arms branches (infantry, armor, artillery) and SOF. And an infantry or Ranger squad or SF ODA does not come through the enemy’s door looking to read him his rights, but to leave him needing a priest or mullah to read his rites.
Private Military Contractors are extremely variable in quality, even within the same company on a longitudinal sample of time. For example, Blackwater once was noted for employing extremely select personnel. They responded to growth and competitive pressure by essentially zeroing out selection and training, and became so notoriously inept that they had to change their name — twice. Kind of like the cheap Chevy, which has been a Nova, Chevette, Cobalt, Cruze and a bunch of other names as each of the old ones gets burned to the public by the low quality of the product. There are high quality contractors out there, but there are a lot of bozos. A lot of the bozos think they ought to be running training academies. At least one of them is.
If a guy’s “combat experience” was as a PMC and he was not previously in a military combat arms or SOF job, odds are he’s just another gunshop commando at best, and a hazardous bozo at worst. And even if he knows how, say, to conduct executive protection in a high-threat combat environment, the skills he knows may translate very poorly to what you need to master.
How can we say they’re bad shootings so soon? Sure, all the facts are not in, but the facts that are in suggest that this was not the Thin Blue Line’s finest hour. First, in New York City, a couple of rookies were being frustrated by a ‘noncompliant’ nutjob — one with 13 priors, some of them for violent felonies — when Mr Nutjob pulled out his hand and did the finger-gun trick. One of the cops lit him up — or tried to. Nutjob had one insignificant wound (some sources disagree, and insist he was not wounded at all), but two women who had the poor fortune to also be in the AO stopped a couple more rounds.
In the second incident, it seems reasonable to us that the cop mistook a guy acting crazy for a criminal home invader, but it didn’t seem reasonable to the chain of command — the cop who shot him dead is already charged with voluntary manslaughter, which has to be some kind of a speed record. Turns out the guy was probably a distressed motorist from a nearby accident scene: he may have been running to the cops for help, not to threaten them. The mishap shooter is reportedly taking it very badly.
Cops trying to subdue an emotionally disturbed man with a long rap sheet accidentally shot two female bystanders outside Port Authority Bus Terminal on Saturday night, source said.
Theodora Ray, 54, was struck in her leg — breaking two bones in her calf — as she stood leaning on her four-wheeled walker across from the terminal; Sahara Khoshakhlagh, 35, was grazed in her buttocks.
Ms. Ray was knocked clean off her walker. And out of her crocs. Twitter.com/ Kerri Ann Nesbeth
Two cops pulled off a total of three shots in the mistaken belief that the deranged Glen Broadnax, 35, was armed after he reached into his pocket as they approached him, officials said.
Broadnax took his hand out of his pocket and “simulated shooting the officers,” Police Commissioner Ray Kelly told reporters.
The incident looks bad all round. It’s hard to blame the officers for shooting, but the missing needs some explaining.
Glen Broadnax, however, is only outside because New York, like most states, stinks at locking up the mentally ill, and because New York, unlike most states, really stinks at locking up violent criminals. Broadnax has a bakers-dozen priors, almost all for violent crime, including assaults, and two robberies that sent him to prison.
(GunsSaveLife snarks, “NYPD Marksmanship Unit Scores Again,” and reminds us that NYPD deliberately outfits its Glocks with an accuracy-reducing extra-heavy trigger, to avoid having to conduct proper safety instruction).
An unarmed man who may have been looking for help after a vehicle wreck was shot and killed by a police officer Saturday as he ran toward him, police said. The officer was later charged with voluntary manslaughter.
A statement issued by police said officers responded to a breaking and entering call on the city’s east side around 2:30 a.m. Someone had knocked on the door of a residence, and the homeowner opened the door, thinking it was her husband. When she discovered it wasn’t, she closed the door and called 911.
When officers arrived, they found Jonathan A. Ferrell, 24, a short distance from the home, and he matched a description given by the homeowner, police said.
The statement said officers approached Ferrell to investigate the original call. Ferrell ran toward the officers and was hit with a Taser. Ferrell continued to run toward police when Officer Randall Kerrick fired his weapon, hitting Ferrell several times. Ferrell was pronounced dead at the scene.
Investigators said they think a wrecked car discovered down an embankment in nearby woods may have been driven by Ferrell, and investigators say he may have been trying to get help from the resident who called 911.
The police chief says he’s talked to Officer Kerrick, and Kerrick’s all busted up about having shot someone who turns out probably wasn’t a criminal. It seems over the top to charge him, but it’s possible that (1) media reports are not complete or correct, and/or (2) the higher-ups of Charlotte-Mecklenburg are the antonym of stand-up guys, from a subordinate’s point of view, and the Blue Falcon is flying over North Carolina.
(Update: Here’s a report in USA Today which has more details on this shooting and the cop’s booking, including the fact that two other cops were present at the scene. It answers a few questions, but raises even more, and the ones it does answer aren’t the big ones. –Ed.)
Still, whatever the reason, when a bystander winds up wounded or assuming ambient temperature, the public is going to expect to be served up some rolling heads, and the public (and particularly the press, who inform the public) are not going to be interested in or capable of grasping long or complicated explanations.
Backstop. Marksmanship. Drill. And the brain and all six senses need to be fully engaged before you start taking up the slack in the trigger.
Would you trust this kid with a gun? (note: these are all file photos we grabbed off the net. Not our kids).
Not far from where we live, a police chief came home to horrible news one day. His teen daughter’s boyfriend had killed himself. Worse, he did it in the chief’s house. And worst of all, he did it with the chief’s service pistol, which the cop had placed on top of, not in, his weapons safe.
Think the chief felt indescribably bad? And that was before his legal problems began.
Many people in the gun culture feel that they ought to have a rule, or at least a rule of thumb, for how they child-proof their guns, and more importantly, gun-proof their children. People out of the gun culture, conversely, are all over the place — some want to demystify guns to their kids, and others, who tend to be anti-gunners, ascribe mythical powers to guns and want their children shielded from their very existence.
NYPD’s ace gunfighter Jim Cirillo addressed this in his book, Guns, Bullets and Gunfights. Jim was a strong believer in the “demystification” approach:
My personal method, and one I pass on to my trainees, is to totally familiarize the whole family with the weapon, especially children who are old enough to comprehend. Any child who can fire a weapon should be familiarized with it. I feel that if you satisfy the curiosity of the child and then go a step further and instruct that child in safe weapon handling, then he or she should be allowed to see and handle the firearm under supervision whenever he or she wishes. This can be a bother in the beginning, but the novelty will soon wear off as the curiosity is alleviated. The child will probably break your horns for about a week asking to see the weapon, but after that the gun, which is available to handle and see, is no longer a mysterious thrill. It now becomes more like a piece of furniture, about as interesting as a table lamp.
This is as clear and concise a statement of the theory and practice of gun-proofing kids that you’re likely to see. Jim goes on to tell two stories of gun-handling kids, one that ended in laughter (and a paddling for the boy) and one that ended in tragedy (not at the hands of the kid, even though he was the one who initially removed the gun). The amusing case involved a kid who was gun-proofed, and didn’t obey the strict rules that came with the lesson. He got “Lesson B”. The less amusing case resulted from trying to child-proof the gun, and failing (if you remember from your own childhood, kids can be resourceful critters). Cirillo remembers:
The second incident was a terrible tragedy. In this case the law enforcement officer was taught the standard “hide your weapon and never show it to anyone,” including family members. But the officer’s wife found his revolver in her 7-year-old son’s drawer, and it was cocked! Not wanting her son to touch it, she picked it up immediately and went to find her husband so he could disarm it. He was napping on the couch in the living room as she approached him, cocked gun and fresh linen in her hands. Struck with the clumsiness that overtakes some people in fear, she dropped a pillowcase, reached for it, and at that instant the weapon discharged. The police officer never awoke from his nap.
One of the take-aways here is that not only kids need to be gun-proofed. “Family familiarization with the gun would have prevented this tragedy,” Jim writes, and he was absolutely right. For Jim, it doesn’t end with familiarization, either:
Once the family is totally familiarized with any weapon in the house and is given the same safety lecture that the law enforcement officer received, and once each member can handle the weapon with utmost safety, it does not mean that the officer can now leave his weapon accessible and lying about. He must still take steps to safeguard it. Familiarization is only a safeguard in the event that the weapon, perhaps out of haste or forgetfulness, is left in plain sight of family members. Now they will carefully-not carelessly or curiously-handle it.
They trusted this kid with guns and look what happened….
Apart from the fact that we hope you give your family members more and more complete safety instruction than “the same safety lecture” law enforcement officers receive, we agree, to a point. The point is that it depends on the kid.
Prior to having kids in one’s life, it is easy to make hard and fast rules about when you should start teaching them about guns and safety. The presence of real, live, individual, kids should disabuse you of this notion in a hurry.
Consider Kid A and Kid B. They are close to the same age chronologically, but have disparate levels of gun-readiness. Kid A was born 12 years ago (after an arduous and risky, technologically-assisted pregancy) to a couple who were on the older side for a first child. One recalls with wry amusement making plans with the father for his son’s — for they knew well in advance their long-sought baby would be a boy — gun training, as the father is one of the many who is not one of the gun-culture, but a non-participating supporter, as it were.
Kid A defeated our plans, because of who he was – is. He is very intelligent, but has extremely poor motor control; he moves with jerky motions, is given to spasmodic flapping of the arms, and has both a low degree of what you might call common sense, and absolute-zero levels of empathy and of concern for social or societal norms. “He isn’t near the mean in anything,” his father says. “In every measure known to science, he’s either in the fifth percentile or the 95th percentile.”
He’s an interesting kid, and the quacks and the school folks quibble about where along the autism spectrum he is, actually. (In our day, he’d have been crucified by his schoolmates. Today, they protect and shield him. Times change, apparently). Lately he has been expressing an interest in guns. He knows his uncle is a war veteran with a number of guns, and he’s fascinated. It’s about time to attempt to gun-proof him, Cirillo style; but his parents would no more have a gun in their house than they would turn him loose in a Sherman tank or throw him the door codes to Los Alamos National Laboratories. Knowing their son, I can’t blame them.
She played with toy guns but it never influenced her.
Kid B is almost the same age — 14. He’s an introspective kid, and has the interest in guns and war typical of boys his age. He’s not as smart as A, normal to bright normal, and he’s obedient in a way that’s not typical of boys his age. He does have his own handicap — serious dyslexia, which demotivates him from reading anything. Mechanical stuff, though: show him once and he’s got it. So far, gun-proofing Kid B seems to work. He’s more than interested, but never has shown any inclination to pick up a gun outside of supervised activities. (We’ve even done a couple of tests, to see. We’re devious that way). He has never touched the office safe. He doesn’t have a key to the gun room yet, but he knows where other guns are and never goes there unaccompanied.
Kid C, whom we mention as an afterthought, is 10 and she has never shown any interest whatever in guns. She’s Kid A’s little sister, and was adopted into the family. She is in many ways more mature and sensible than her brother. Although she lacks his quick mind and grasp of abstract ideas, she is, despite being the archetypal “girlie girl,” athletic and a natural leader. she is assertive (you could say bossy) and very protective of Kid A, who should be the protective big brother but just doesn’t have it in him. She takes it on herself to buffer him from the world, and will be part of any gun-proofing we plan (for the same reason that Cirillo’s cop example should have taught his wife as well as his son about his revolver).
These personal examples are put forward for no reason but to illustrate the wide range of children’s personalities and abilities, even in a single family. And there are other examples — one can go too far in imparting gun knowledge to a kid, but that’s another story (as this post is already long). The bottom line is: the time and lesson plan for teaching your kids about guns varies. And it doesn’t depend in the slightest on the gun, but it sure does depend on the kid; you need to be attuned to his or her inherent qualities.
We tend to believe what we see with our own eyes, and we tend to extend that belief to what others saw with theirs. But there are several problems with this: one of the major ones is that we don’t always see what’s right in front of us.
That’s a pretty famous video by now, and you probably know what to look for. But many others have replicated Simons et al’s research. For example, a couple of high school students’ version of this test of perception and cognition is less polished than the Simons group’s, but they note that only 50% of the viewers catch the changes and discontinuities in the video.
Of course, brainteasers depending on this kind of thing: “What seven items are different in Picture 2?” — have long been a staple of activity books for children. But as adults we forget how hard it was to find every missing cufflink or changed shoelace in a sketch. (Or we assume that we could do it now that we’re grown-ups a lot easier than we could at Age 9. Exercise for the reader: next trip to the dentists’ office….)
Simons and other researchers have gone on to note that if the change is gradual, humans are remarkably blind to it:
We can’t go into all the details here, but in the 1930s the world’s militaries developed sophisticated tenets and tools of imagery analysis. From the 1960s, overhead imagery of even the most aggressively-denied areas became possible with artificial earth satellites. Beginning in the 1980s, the cascade of data emerging from these satellites was more than humans could process unaided, even in the wealthy nations that could afford to launch and maintain satellites on station over points of interest.
So the first, halting steps towards computerized analysis were begun under very great secrecy. And one development that shocked the analysts was that the computers, using change analysis algorithms, were finding changes on sites, the imagery of which had been thoroughly examined by human eyes.
What does this mean to you as an operational soldier, working cop, or armed citizen? It means you need to be humble about the quality of your perception, and cautious about not only the “known unknowns” but also the “unknown unknowns.”
A bunch of innumerate, credentialed but uneducated reporters beat up on Donald Rumsfeld 10 plus years ago for using those terms, but they’re venerable engineering concepts that need to be part of your constant self-assessment of your situational awareness. Known Unknowns are things that you don’t know, but at least know that exist, and so that you’re able to plan for. A Known Unknown might be: how hazardous a particular street in Philadelphia is if the Sixers are playing an important playoff game tonight, or how hazardous the registered sex offenders in your community are to your kids. And Unknown Unknown might be: whether there is an uncaught, unsuspected sex offender in your community (like the creepy general this week).
The thing is that, while Unknown Unknowns are obviously unknowable in detail, what Rumsfeld’s point was, was this: they can be anticipated as a group or as a concept. You need to know that they’re out there, even when you can’t tell what they are. Insurance companies are good at this. They have learned from long experience to include on their balance sheets, not only reserves for known claims, even when the amounts of the claims are unknowable; classic known unknowns. But they also include a reserve, the setting of which is more actuarial art than actuarial science, for claims that are “incurred but not reported” — classic unknown unknowns.
As good as the insurers, with in some cases centuries of experiential records, are at this, Beltway public policy intellectuals, particularly the young wunderkind sort of baby duck for whom every event is an unprecedented novelty, are hopelessly bad at it. Hence the excoriation of Rumsfeld. They didn’t see any gorilla, so there is no gorilla.
Unlike the Beltway intellectual set, we play real-world games for real-world stakes. A very high percentage of losers at the games of gunfight and ambush make that same mistake — and die complacent, or if they last a second or two longer, surprised. Don’t make that mistake. Broaden your palette of information sources. Question your own assumptions. Expect the gorilla.
The Colt 1903 Pocket Hammerless is a classic Browning-designed pocket pistol and is readily concealed and reliable as sunset. It was carried by OSS agents behind Nazi lines.
Or, at least, to pocket carry.
Kevin Creighton at Shooting Illustrated and instructor Jim Neff ran through several different scenarios for office carry. No surprise, they found out that starting with your hand on the gun greatly reduced your draw-and-fire time. Not exactly shocking.
And an ankle holster was a very slow mode of carry, adding seconds to the draw. No shock there, either. Everyone knows that with an ankle or leg holster you’re trading speed for stealth.
What was shocking was that pocket carrying — these guys were using a pocket holster, which helps both concealment, by breaking up the outline, and the orientation/presentation of the weapon — was substantially faster than a tucked IWB holster, and even a little faster than gimmick holsters like faux day-planners or computer bags.
Pocket carry won’t work for a service pistol, or even a compact service pistol like a Glock 26. But it’s adequate for a small pistol designed for that kind of service — and concealment. Many small 20th Century pistols, like our summer Condition Green carry Walther PPK, or the many Colt/Browning .32 and .380 guns, are designed for that exact mission. (Even more so, very small pistols like our swimsuit-carry .25 auto). Of course, today there are newly designed pocket pistols that take advantage of improvements in computer design, metallurgy, and other materials sciences to pack the power of a service pistol cartridge like 9mm or .45 into a package comparable to the pocket pistol of 100 years ago.
Another thing that Creighton didn’t comment on, but that we think is worth noting from his data, is that the difference between fastest and slowest option was a matter of two to three seconds. He and Neff did not practice with the holsters before the test, to ensure that they were equally unskilled with each holster. Two or three seconds could easily come off a draw time with a lot of drill, but… we still have a fondness for pockets.
The First Rule of Gunfights is, always: Bring a Gun. And you always have pockets (well, unless your swimsuit is a speedo or a bikini, depending on your sex. Those who know us in meatworld will be relieved to know we own no speedos).
There are several other points on office carry in the Creighton article, along with the raw data from their quick-draw experiments. As we’ve often said, we think quick-draw is much overemphasized in handgun training — being second to fire is OK if the first guy is firing wildly, and #2′s motto is We Try Harder (specifically, by aiming). If you have time to observe a threat coming, you have time to flee, if possible, and to raise your defensive posture, which is a fancy way of saying get the gun ready.
A state of readiness in his selected “victim” is sometimes enough to deter or divert a malefactor. A state of armed readiness is often enough. Situational Awareness is a more fungible, practical, and vital skill that quick-draw speed ever could be.