Category Archives: Weapons Usage and Employment

Quick Consumer Tip: LOSD book, 25% off

Law of Self Defense Andrew BrancaWe have this book and we paid full freight for it, and it was worth every damn penny. You can get it for 25% off, if you act now.

Did we mention that we liked and recommend the book?

The book, The Law of Self Defense, is by the nation’s leading self-defense legal expert, Andrew Branca, a Massachusetts (of all places!) lawyer. And now you can get it for 25% off, and you can give credit to the CSGV, which is some anti-gun group. (They don’t have much of a real-world presence, they’re just more Bloomberg astroturf, which is why we forget how the acronym breaks out, but it’s something along the lines of Criminals Shooting Guns Viciously, or something like that).

You can get the book here, and put the following code in to save 25%: @CSGV.

Heh. As Andrew said in his Tweet announcing the price break, “No joke.”

So why did he give credit to his readers, in the name of the notorious anti-gun group? It’s like this: they’ve been trying to get him disinvited from the various universities where he’s been speaking on his summer lecture tour this year. They’ve been trying to shut him up. (Lotsa luck with that, kiddies).

Of course, they haven’t had any success; but that’s to be expected. Crazy Uncle Mikey Bloomberg’s money buys more persistence than it does competence.

Plus, he’s selling more books and getting more people at the seminars he’s been holding thanks to the attack. (Hmm. If a cyber attack can come from something we define as a Advanced Persistent Threat, is this inept and backfiring approach to silencing Branca more of a Retarded Persistent Threat? Could be. As he put it in his blog,  “Anyway, I certainly hope they keep it up–I couldn’t possibly afford to pay for this kind of advertising…. Indeed, I’m going to get both those tweets blown up and hung on my office wall, like animal trophies. :-)”

So what is best on a book tour? We don’t expect to hear from Andrew about that until he, and his motorcycle, are back in New England, but we would guess it sounds something like: “To crush your enemies. And hear the lamentations of their women.”

And, don’t forget you’ll be hearing the lamentations of their girly-men, too. So amble on over to the LOSD store, and get yourself (and maybe your pistol-packin’ pals; they need it too) a copy of this excellent book.

Hat tip, the estimable John Richardson at No Lawyers.

Marksmanship for the Squad Designated Marksman

In this video, You Are There™ as SSG John Arcularius of the US Army Reserve Shooting Team delivers a class on Marksmanship for the Squad Designated Marksman for designated marksmen of the 2/504 Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division.

As it is classroom, mostly podium, instruction, it may be a bit slow for some of you. Pay attention, though! Even though Arcularius spends most of his time on the boring old fundamentals of marksmanship, centuries (literally!) of experience has taught the Army as an institution that the boring old fundamentals are still the best way of putting warheads on foreheads — when the “warheads” at issue are M118ER 158-grain M118LR 175-grain (thanks, Dan in the comments) slugs.

The M14 in general is not a sniper-accuracy weapon, although the M21s once built by the National Match armorers, and any gun built by one of the dwindling set of smiths initiated in the dark art of M1 and M14 National Match accuracy tuning, can be. But these rifles the SDMs have are M14EBR-RI models, which stands for M14 Enhanced Battle Rifle – Rock Island. As the name suggests, they’re built at the Rock Island Arsenal from stored M14 generic rack grade rifles. While they’re thoroughly inspected and adjusted, they’re not match guns by any means. The M14 is removed from storage, cleaned and inspected, repaired if necessary, then mated with a SAGE Industries chassis, a scope mount and an optic. Then they’re repacked with magazines and accessories and either delivered to Army units or stored against future requisitions.

The M14EBR-RI and its Squad Designated Marksman operator are meant to fill the tactical gap between the other components of the squad’s firepower and the true precision sniping systems and tactics, which are wonderful but unavailable to the rifle squad.

LAPD should have fired these guys for marksmanship alone

LAPD Firearms Instructors on the Job

LAPD Firearms Instructors on the Job. 103 shots, 2 hits, on a person that was not a legitimate target. FAIL.

Remember the Chris Dorner case, where one cop going rogue drove just about every other cop in Southern California rogue? Remember the two incidents of terrified cops blazing away at “suspects” who in no wise resembled Dorner, in vehicles that differed from Dorner’s in make, model, body style, and color, as well as plate number? Remember the multiple magdumps (103 rounds total) by LAPD into the Tacoma with two Filipinas (one middle-aged, one older) delivering newspapers?

Yeah, well, while LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said some bad things about those cops, he didn’t think they were bad enough to actually discipline. The 8 cops that burned that truck down in a textbook case of contagious fire are still on the streets, still armed, and still a menace. Website The Wire notes different treatment for these attempted-murderers and an LAPD cop who merely emailed pictures of some celebrity we never heard of. Guess who got fired, the ones who shot the citizen with their duty guns, or the one who shot a celebrity with her camera phone?

The decision to fire Reyes was made by a disciplinary panel and police chief Charlie Beck in 2012 after a three year investigation into the leak. Enough evidence was found to fire Reyes, but not bring criminal charges against her. Reyes maintained that she did not sell the photo to TMZ, though admitted that it was one of the photos she took that made it to the site.

Meanwhile, the eight LAPD officers who shot 103 bullets into a pick-up truck they believed was being driven by a suspected cop killer were disciplined with additional training. They could have been suspended or even fired, but police chief Charlie Beck — the same man who decided Reyes should be fired — decided that their actions did not warrant such harsh punishment.

Wait, additional training is discipline? That’s the tailpipe emission of a male bovine, LAPD.

Just to be clear: those actions were shooting a truck that was a different make, model and color than the one they were looking for and was driven by two Hispanic women delivering newspapers rather than the one black man with a vendetta against cops. And shooting it 103 times, hitting one of the women twice. The city gave the women $4.2 million and new truck.

It was not just a different make, model and color (and, don’t forget, plate, every cop had Dorner’s plate), it wasn’t even close. The other guy, the surfer whose truck was also destroyed by another SoCal department’s blind and rapid fire, was in an even more radically different vehicle. (He was also rammed by those bozos).

“I sympathize with the officers, but I have a very high standard for the application of deadly force, and the shooting did not meet that standard,” Beck said at the time.

It didn’t meet the standard, Charlie says, but it didn’t fall far enough below that standard to warrant disciplining the cops involved. WTFO? What would it take for a cop to get fired, go full Dorner? Massacre Beck’s family? Oh wait, we do know the answer to that: leak images of a minor celebrity.

So: leaking photos of a famous person who was the victim of a horrific assault is conduct that “places people at risk of injury and the government at risk of incurring liability” and merits dismissal. Shooting two unarmed but not famous women and exposing the city to a $4 million settlement won’t even get you suspended.

What Reyes did was very wrong. Instead of serving and protecting the public, Reyes exposed an abused woman’s injuries to the entire world. She should have been fired for it. But I don’t see how it was worse than what those eight officers did.

via LAPD: Shooting Photos of Rihanna Is Worse Than Shooting Innocent People – The Wire.

This is one truck the LAPD turned into a truck-shaped colander. Two innocents inside were wounded by the grossly negligent officers.

This is the truck the LAPD turned into a truck-shaped colander. Two innocents inside were wounded by the grossly negligent officers.

We’re with the writer of The Wire (whoever that is) on this. But… “one more thing,” to quote that great native Californian, Steve Jobs. Where do these bozos learn to shoot like this? Look at the picture with this post, that’s the victims’ vehicle. And note:

  • The 8 cops who engaged this truck never had a clear target due to the tinted backlight. That didn’t deter them.
  • Despite that, if you’re shooting at people in a truck, you know pretty much where they are. Most of the hits seem to be concentrated at the center mass of the tailgate, and so would have missed the occupants. (As it turns out, this is a good thing, but those eight cops swore that each made an individual, personal decision to fire in response to a clear threat. Obviously, that was “testilying,” something else LAPD apparently encourages. But most of the shots are not within two feet of where the occupants were).
  • And most of the 103 shots fired at the two little ladies in the truck did not even hit the truck. Think about that for a minute. These guys’ shooting sucks so bad they can’t hit a target that’s 6 feet 3 inches wide by 5 feet 6 inches high, from less than 100 feet away, with half their shots. Some of them were firing from less than 20 feet away at the doors of the cruiser, and then closed in on the vehicle to functional contact range, and still missed. The truck.

After a year, Beck admitted that the spray-and-pray cops never had eyes on  target, but one started shooting at a sound; and that the other 7 of them irresponsibly collapsed into contagious fire after a single shot;  and concluded (as has everyone who’s reviewed this abominable performance) that they were in the wrong:

The women inside were delivering newspapers and when one threw a newspaper that hit the ground at a house, an officer thought that sound was a gunshot and opened fire, with seven other officers at the scene joining in, Beck said.

“This incident has been found to be out of policy for all officers involved,” Beck said.

But he elected not to discipline them. That really says it all.

Their biggest failing, of course, was the lack of judgment and discipline that produced the gunfire in the first place. (Judgment will get you in a lot more trouble than marksmanship will, unless you have The Badge of Impunity like these clowns). But consider that their marksmanship — 2 wounds out of 103 rounds fired, neither in the target’s x-ring (thank God), about 1.94% accuracy.

Whoever signed these guys off as safe to go armed is guilty of instructional malpractice.

Real-world Shooting Considerations

There are some differences between shooting stances, positions, and actions in flat-range shooting, soi-disant practical shooting and other competitions, and shooting to save your life and the lives of others.

The most important is that the shooting position you take up in a gunfight will likely be instinctive or reflexive. This is why good training includes lots and lots and lots and lots of drills. In combat, you can’t count on rising to the occasion: you might be suddenly roused from REM sleep, tired or exhausted, and you’ll certainly be scared. Your perceptual fields will all narrow; your visual field will close in considerably and your other senses, except usually scent, will take a break until the crisis is over. But with incoming lead, you’ll be slower, clumsier, and less efficient than you are on the flat range — that’s pretty much guaranteed.

So, if you don’t rise to the occasion, what do you do? You collapse back on your training, especially on the drills and the muscle memory they contain. (That’s why it’s a lot better to have one carry gun than three alternative carry guns with different manuals of arms).

Frequently, home defenders and street crime victims fall back beyond their training; rather than drop back into their isosceles stance, stand still, and deliver accurate fire, instead they run and fire one-handed. This is not an entirely bad thing. If you are up against someone that aims, it will greatly reduce his chances of hitting you. (Of course, it will reduce your chances of hitting him by an even larger amount. Firing on the run is a trick, not a tactic, for 99% of pistol shooters).

Suppressive fire is, as we’ve written, often misunderstood by civilians and unlikely to be legal in a civilian context. As we wrote in analyzing the Dunn case:

There’s a very broad misunderstanding of “suppressive fire” in the civilian gun community. It is not random or unaimed fire. While it is intended to, “keep their heads down,” as Michael Dunn testified that he was trying to do, is properly done by applying aimed fire to the locations where enemy forces are, or are expected momentarily to be, in ground combat. In other words you’re aiming at where his head is, or where his head will stick up if he sticks it up.

It is an infantry combat technique, and is not good policy for police, and absolutely never should be considered for civilian self defenders. Even many infantry units don’t do it right.

Exercise for the reader: consider explaining how “suppressive fire” that you used in a DGU conforms to the four fundamentals of gun safety, let alone the self-defense law of your state or territory. Consider that you are explaining this not to your buddies in the local gun shop, but to a random audience of people picked because they didn’t particularly offend either the lawyer defending you or the one trying to add your scalp to his trophy case. Can you make your case to your kid’s middle school teacher, who thinks that guns are “icky”?

While a lot of incoming rounds can spark terror in your opponent, you only have the privilege of firing accurate incoming rounds. Mere noisemaking is best left to criminals, badly-trained infantry formations, and the big-city police departments that spend more on “diversity” than training (we’re lookin’ at you, LAPD, as you guys will see in a couple of hours with the next post).

Shooting Positions

Looking at a lot of DGU and police-shooting videos, we see a lot of bad positions in the former, and a lot of reversion-to-training in the latter. Police marksmanship has improved vastly in the last thirty or so years, at least among officers and in departments that prize it. (Then, there’s NYPD, but that’s another story).

The positions you take in actual combat are as much oriented towards defense — protecting yourself from incoming fire — as offense.

Everyone makes a smaller target in the prone position, but it’s rare to see a real-world shooting video where the shooter assumed the prone. One reason is that it’s harder to displace — to move — from that position to a new location than it is from a standing or kneeling position. But another reason is that people just don’t practice it. Our usual ranges include two indoor ones from which probe shooting is not practical (or even permitted), and an outdoor one where it’s guaranteed to be messy.

The prone is especially useful because real-world combat dispersion of handgun rounds tends to be far broader vertically than it is horizontally. The shot that hit a combatant in the legs, assuming his opponent’s gun was aimed or pointed center of mass, would have been a miss had he been prone, which reduces his exposure some 80%.

Shooting on the move is an advanced technique and few of us train enough to be safe and proficient whilst moving. But moving is very often necessary in a gunfight, and moving can do many good things like reduce the accuracy of the opponent’s fire, and improve your position in many ways (cover, angle on the enemy, drawing enemy shots away from third parties, you name it). So an intermediate technique is to fire, secure, displace, fire.

A good shot can target a moving man, so while displacing, don’t give him the chance. A short chant soldiers learn in basic training helps here: “I’m up, I’m moving, he sees me, I’m down!” The objective is to be back under cover (not mere concealment) before the enemy can bring accurate fire on you.

Also, moving with a gun in hand practically begs for a finger on the trigger, which has no end of friendly-fire and self-injury potential, so if your gun has a safety, use the safety while you move. So your mantra now looks like: “I’m on safe, I’m up, I’m moving, he sees me, I’m down, I’m off safe, I’m back in the fight.” If you gun hasn’t got a safety (Glock, M&P, XD), still use the mantra but make sure you’re off the trigger. Every gunfight death and even wound is a tragedy, but the unintentional one is ineffably more so.

Remember, any technique is valid if it works for you, doesn’t violate safety rules, and doesn’t violate any of the principles of combat.

Some Tips for the Defensive Shooter

Here are some intermediate training objectives for you to consider, once you can consistently put your rounds in the X-Ring from a solid isosceles or Weaver stance.

  • Pick a gun and stick to it. Only change if you have to, or if the new gun offers some quantum advantage over the old (it usually doesn’t; since the 1980s, pistol technology has been fairly static).
  • Practice with the entire rig you carry (gun, holster, accessories like lights or lasers, street clothes).
  • Don’t waste a lot of time on quick-draw games, unless you expect John Ford Himself to rise from the grave to direct your next DGU, or unless you’re training for the stylized world of competition.
  • Fire one-handed both left- and right-handed. Set aside 100 rounds for this at the end of a several -hundred-round session.
  • Be able to go back and forth between kneeling, prone and standing with your gun in hand and safely on target. Only drill ensures this.
  • Get down and dirty at the range. If that means you need to sweeten the pot for whoever washes your stuff (or wash your own stuff more frequently), so be it. Would you economize on laundry, and maybe save a fortune by just needing one more suit of clothes to be buried in?
  • Get accustomed to moving with your gun. Remember the mantra: “I’m safe, I’m up, I’m moving, he sees me, I’m down, I’m off safe, I’m back in the fight.”

Cover and Concealment

We see people misusing cover and concealment all the time. For example, consider this Maine State Police officer, Trooper Scott Duff, as he backs up other troopers and deputies on a man-with-a-gun call Tuesday, March 18th. (The call turned out to be a nothingburger; the guy had a gun tattoo).

Scott Duff armed MSP officer

What’s wrong with this photo (taken by David Leaming for the news story linked above)?

Which brings us to: Cover and Concealment. Which we’ll take back-to-front, thank you very much.


Concealment is, in three words, protection from observation. Concealment can be natural or man-made. (We used to use a handy canvas canopy to shield the number and identities of personnel we were loading on special operations delivery platforms from unfriendly aerial and space observation modalities).

Concealment is not necessarily just from visual observation, and it’s not necessarily always done by hiding something behind or under something opaque. The purpose of camouflage is concealment. Here is a camouflaged submachine gun:

first-aid-case-smg2 first-aid-case-smg

It was a Gene Stoner/Francis Warin prototype on a transferable receiver (presumably a Mac-10). If you must own it, it’s available at, which also has more photos. That kind of tromp l’oeil camouflage is another kind of concealment.

Concealment angles to consider include the proliferation of technological sensors with ranges beyond those of human senses. Infrared, ultraviolet, and thermal spectra are all sensed widely these days, as is the entire electromagnetic spectrum.

But the most common concealment in use in warfare today is exactly what that cop is doing in the first photo: hiding behind something.

So remember, Concealment protects you from observation. It’s nothing to sneeze at, because it enables you to do things you can’t do as freely while being observed, but that’s all it protects you from.


Cover is, in the same three-word formulation, protection from fires. Just as there are all kinds of fires, there are all kinds of cover. Cover usually implies concealment, at least for a rifleman, but the two are technically independent. You can be covered, and not concealed. (Behind a Lexan window at a bank, or driving towards a rifle-armed enemy in a tank, which is impervious to rifle fire). But you can hide (concealment) behind a lot of things that are not seriously deterrent to bullets (and therefore, !=cover).

Cover is a relative thing, and just as concealment depends on the spectrum of sensor you are trying to defeat, cover depends on the class and capabilities of weapons or hostile units you are trying to defeat.

Let us illustrate that relativity with the previously mentioned example of a tank. Tanks are functionally invulnerable to rifle, pistol and rifle-caliber machine-gun fire. Tanks have been impervious to heavy MG (etc.) fire since circa 1941, when thickening tank armor also made the last of the anti-tank rifles (and some of the smaller-caliber AT artillery) obsolete. But the incinerated tanks that litter the battlefields of the world indicate that tanks are not cover against everything. Case in point:

Ow. That’ll leave a mark. (The tank is a Centurion tank, a British frontline tank of the 50s and 60s, about equivalent to Russian tanks through the T-72/80 for protection. The warhead is the Swedish Bill-1 ATGM. The very hot fire you see is the ammo inside the crew compartment. This was obviously a remote-controlled tank on a range; a real tank crew would likely have been killed instantly in the initial flash and overpressure).

Cover can, then, depend. Things that cover you against rifle fire are not necessarily effective against other fires — for example, you can be snug behind a concrete wall, but artillery and mortars can drop on you unless you have sufficient overhead cover, too.  Just as concealment by camouflage is usually ineffective against a multispectral sensor threat, cover designed against direct-fire weapons is usually ineffective against the three-dimensional multi-weapon threat of modern military forces.

Many laypeople use the words cover and concealment interchangeably, which is not correct. Not being clear about what will or won’t stop a bullet will get you killed graveyard dead… and yet we often see and hear of home-defenders or cops “taking cover” behind a car fender or a sheetrock wall, which just ensures that there will be fragments of sheetrock or sheet-metal spalling in your guts along with the bullet.

Cover is always better than concealment when the bullets are flying. However, the paradox of cover is that you have to come out from it to close with and engage an enemy. Sometimes, the safest thing to do is leave the cover behind and assault. (Fortunately, most shooters are really lousy at hitting moving targets. But artillery doesn’t care what you’re doing, it just makes whole areas temporarily uninhabitable).

And no — a snowbank is not cover, unless your enemies are armed only with snowballs.

Resource: Armalite Tech Notes

ArmaLite logo sm.pdfOn Armalite’s website, they have a section of Tech Notes which is quite useful. Of course, it’s intended to help them sell their AR clones and other rifles, but a lot of it is of quite general application for and by anybody.

For example, they have a useful Tech Note on how to analyze performance claims in rifle marketing materials. Here’s an excerpt from that on accuracy:

Let’s say that three manufacturers (Companies AAA, BBB, and CCC) each produce 1000 M16A1 rifles. All three companies test their rifles under identical conditions. Each rifle is fired one 10-shot group with M855 military ball ammunition from a return-to-battery rest in a benign indoor range. Based on the testing, each company writes a marketing ad.

  • Company AAA claims that their rifles fire groups as small as 1.5 MOA. {Best case}
  • Company BBB claims that, on the average, their rifles fire groups of 2.2 MOA. {Average case}
  • Company CCC claims that every one of their rifles will shoot groups smaller than 4.8 MOA. {Worst case}

If you were going to purchase a rifle, which company’s rifle would you choose. (You don’t get to “hand select” the rifle. You just get a random rifle from that manufacturer.)

The reality is that the rifles built from all three manufacturers are probably all quite similar. In order to guarantee that all 1000 rifles will meet or better 4.8 MOA (Company CCC’s claim), the average rifle needs to shoot about 2.2 MOA (Company BBB’s claim) and the best rifles probably shoot about 1.5 MOA (Company AAA’s claim.)

In fact, the Army required that EVERY M16A1 rifle delivered to them meet 4.8 MOA. In order to meet that requirement, manufacturers found that they needed to produce rifles that averaged about 2.2 MOA, and that their best rifles would often shoot about 1.5 MOA.

In the example above, Armalite says, they give their averages as data, but they do point out that without more information, even an average makes comparisons impossible. You need more information. A statistically-educated man would be able to make a comparison of two tests made under equivalent conditions, if he had the average and Standard Deviation, or some measure of variance that could be massaged into SD.. Of course, a true data geek would want to see the entire cross-tabs on the whole test population. 

An even more useful tech note is from Armalite honcho Mark Westrom, and evaluates hits vs. firing rate. It’s hard to choose what to excerpt from this very interesting paper, so we’re tempted to just tell you to Read The Whole Thing™, but here’s one pearl of wisdom:

Consider a soldier armed with a weapon with an endless supply of both ammunition and targets. He may fire a single shot in a given time period (i.e. one minute) and have a certain chance of hitting the target. He may also choose to fire two shots in that minute. The two shots are apt to be aimed less accurately than a single shot because of the time allowed, but the probability of achieving at least one hit is increased because two shots were fired. The efficiency of ammunition use may have declined, but the probability of achieving at least one hit has risen. With each additional shot in that minute the accuracy of each shot will tend to decline, but the number of hits expected in the minute will continue to rise. Eventually the shooter is firing so fast, and the shots are so wild, that the number of hits starts dropping. The various theories of efficiency of marksmanship appear at different places on the curve thus generated, and their logic and usefulness can be evaluated from a standpoint that means more than a traditional percentage score.

This concept is by no means new. It is, as the saying goes, intuitively obvious to the casual observer. One Nineteenth Century writer noted that, “as rapidity of fire increases, a point is soon reached beyond which the percentages of hits decrease…but up to that point at which carelessness or hurry in aiming causes an excessive decrease in the percentages, the whole number of hits may increase” (emphasis added).

Screenshot 2014-03-09 16.07.16

The area of the curve at the far left of figure 4, region A, provides the most efficient use of ammunition, and it would appeal to the traditional marksman and his slow fire techniques. It’s also useful to the contemporary soldier who has a limited supply of ammunition….

On the other hand, a soldier who chances upon another opponent, or group of opponents, may not care how much ammunition remains at the end of a minute. He cares whether he remains at the end of the minute. …This man would employ rapid semiautomatic fire to operate in the higher parts of the curve, region B, where casualties are produced fastest.

Areas of the curve to the left produce maximum casualties per unit of ammunition. Areas at the top of the curve produce maximum casualties per unit of time. The area of the curve where hits per minute starts to drop off, region C, represents less efficient use of both ammunition and time, and represents increasingly ineffective firing technique unless intended as suppressive, area fire.

…and here’s another, relating to the first (and heavily edited for brevity)

Once the issues related to the curve are understood, we should develop those talents, conditions, or actions that increase the hit rate, i.e. raise the curve. A number of possibilities appear useful

Aim every shot. Even machineguns must be sighted if at all possible. There can be no exceptions for blanks.

Make it a Tradition. Aiming every shot should not be a training imperative: it should be a tradition. Rifle cleaning provides an interesting example of a task that is raised to a tradition.

Establishing a tradition of aiming every shot rests properly with the NCO Corps. From the first day a soldier or Marine handles a rifle, he should be driven to bring the rifle to the firing position every time he pulls a trigger, whether in training or merely lowering the hammer to turn the rifle in to the arms room.

Support the tradition in training. Current training teaches the wrong lessons. Each target is addressed by one cartridge. The correction to this is simple. Issue sufficient ammunition to allow for misses. Reward the shooter based on targets ultimately hit. Reward him further with a few points based on ammunition remaining. The highest scores obviously continue to go to the best shots, who both hit many targets and return with ammunition, but all are trained to engage.

Avoid burst or automatic fire. It is essentially useful for room to room fighting or trench clearing. Three shot burst if largely useless for both close combat and longer range fighting. It is truly the worst of both worlds. Both automatic fire with the M-16A1 and Burst fire with the M-16A2 should be strenuously discouraged by the same NCOs who reinforce the act of aiming every shot. This is especially important during training with blanks, because soldiers enjoy automatic fire as a matter of play…

So now go Read The Whole Thing™.

What Dunn Done Wrong

Dunn_on_the_standThis is a subject of great interest to all of us who carry in self-defense, because what Dunn done wrong came around and done Dunn wrong in the end. He’s almost certainly going to die in prison, and he didn’t have to. Somewhere along the way some bad ideas took root in his head; perhaps he got some bad advice. But on the day he chose to defend himself with a gun he did a lot of things wrong. Some of them could have gotten him and his then-fiancee killed, if he’d really been in the high-threat situation he thought he was in (giving his testimony the benefit of all doubt).

Don’t go starting a fight

When you go armed, you ought to have a quiet confidence about you, not a bullyrag swagger. Believe it or not, criminals can pick up on this, and they will leave somebody like you alone.

Don’t react to a small man with a big mouth. The mouthy guy is seldom a true threat, even in front of his peers. Ignore him; don’t let him get your goat.

You are not the world’s Punk Kid Policeman. Even real policemen don’t take on that role, if they have any sense at all. Punk Kids contain within themselves the seeds of their own education (or destruction, if they’re slow learners). Don’t waste your time trying to accelerate the process if they’re not an immediate threat to your life and family.

It’s not a quick-draw contest

Way, way, way too much training emphasizes speed. Now hear this: forget that. Almost every fatal accident we’ve ever looked at, whether it’s a shooting accident, an aircraft accident or industrial accident, has some component of hurry about it. Now, against that, can you think of any time when a citizen was killed because he didn’t draw fast enough? There are certainly some cases in police work, but not as many cases as there are cases where undue haste has caused a problem.

In many successful cases of self-defense (which we define as defending yourself successfully from the attacker, and not becoming a chew toy for the Angela Coreys of the world), the defender had the gun out already because he or she had correctly assessed the intentions of the attacker. He or she had the gun out and waited for confirmation of that assessment.

Don’t ever let a bullet go anywhere your mind hasn’t gotten to at least a couple seconds before. Responsible trainers might want to think about focusing their training more upon when to shoot and whether to shoot, than on how to shoot, especially on how to shoot quickly. While important facets of shooting depend on muscle memory, the critical when and whether are too important to delegate to your amygdala (or anywhere lower).

Gun on your person, period

If your girlfriend doesn’t like it, 86 her and find a new one. Seriously. One reason Michael Dunn may have shot is that he had to turn his attention from the “threat” (as he claims to have perceived Jordan Davis) into his car to retrieve his handgun from the glove compartment.

A glove compartment is a lousy place for a gun. Back seat is no place for a gun. (See this story from the FBI’s 1986 Miami gunfight). There are also lots of women who like to carry their gun in a purse. If you’re thinking about that, two words: purse snatching.

Having to retrieve a gun that’s not where you need it to be can be impossible under fire, like the 1986 FBI agents discovered. Happy to retrieve a gun that’s not where you need it to be may cause you to lose situational awareness. This latter may have happened to Michael Dunn. If Jordan Davis had been a threat, it was very unwise for Dunn to ever turn his back on him. If, as seems probable from the evidence at the trial, Davis was no threat, Michael Dunn lost the opportunity to see that and de-escalate the situation.

Don’t fire if you don’t need to fire

Davis SUV door holesOne of the tragedies of the Michael Dunn case is that, by all testimony, Dunn probably didn’t need to fire. “Minimum response to end the threat,” means in many cases that all you need to do is show a gun and the threats will back away. Think of the old Lynyrd Skynyrd song: “Gimme three steps, gimme three steps, Mister.”

The average human being understands that being shot is an unpleasant thing, and wouldn’t you know it? He prefers not to be shot. Being willing to shoot somebody, and demonstrating that will, is often enough to resolve the situation without the need to actually break a single round.

We can never change what happened that night, but imagine a scenario in which Dunn did not fire but merely displayed his large stainless steel handgun (it was a Taurus PT 92, a license built Beretta copy). Based on the testimony at trial, it seems highly probable that driver Tommy Storms, Davis and his friends would have exited the parking lot with alacrity, and not come back for quite a while.

Angela Corey mugging with Dunn's pistolHowever heartbreakingly counterfactual that is, if it had gone that way, Dunn’s next task must have been to call the police and tell them what he did. In cases like this, as will get to in a minute, the first call to the police is almost always assumed to be the “victim,” and any subsequent caller has to overcome that presumption, before he is taken seriously as a victim. This is not written in want anywhere as far as we know; it’s simply psychology. Our brains, and that certainly includes the brains of police dispatchers and officers, tend to give much more weight to first information than to any subsequent information.

All the “rules” still apply in a DGU

Jordan Davis died in the back seat of this well-ventilated SUV. Michael Dunn went to prison for it.

Jordan Davis died in the back seat of this well-ventilated SUV. Michael Dunn went to prison for it.

How many did Dunn violate? What about “know your target and what’s behind it”? Of his 10 shots, a maximum of 3 were fired at a confirmed, threatening target (and this is giving his testimony the maximum benefit of the doubt). Three more were fired at a target that Dunn admitted was a car. A car that was backing away.

We’ll address the legal problems with that in a moment, but consider for now the problem of aiming and firing in this situation. What was Michael Dunn’s target? He said he fired “to keep their heads down.” The pure wrongness of this concept, will also deal with below. But as a defensive gun use, you really have no business firing at anything but a clearly visible threat. Testimony and crime scene photos all agreed: the SUV and darkly tinted glass, and it was impossible to see anything inside those windows. (For those of you who are not from that area, a heavy, opaque tint is very common on vehicles that will be parked in the Florida sun. In many northern states, tinting that heavy is banned for the convenience of police).

Shooting at a target you can’t see is never a very good idea. Doing it in a case that has a high probability of being reviewed by lawyers at their desks, as in any defensive gun use, is an exceedingly bad idea. As Michael Dunn could tell you, if he wasn’t locked up for what will probably be the rest of his natural life.

It’s as important to know when to stop, as it is to know when to shoot

Note this: if your threat is retreating, unless he continues to fire in the retreat, he has ceased to be a threat to you, in a civilian defensive gun use situation. Months later, in a slow-paced, climate-controlled courtroom, people who do not know you will assess each one of your shots as justified or not, and work back from that to determine what your intentions were at the time.

Davis SUV back shotsDunn’s last three shots were particularly hard to justify. At this point, the SUV was fleeing headlong and Dunn fired three shots at the retreating vehicle from almost the 180° or 6 o’clock position, as the vehicle sped away from him. Even a cop is going to have some courtroom trouble with shots like that, and under most state laws cops are authorized to fire at fleeing felons. You, on the other hand, are not.

Many instructors teach that once you initiate firing, you should keep firing until your gun is empty. This is an extremely bad idea. You should keep firing until the threat is under control. If the threat is down, if he’s dropped his weapon, if he is no longer engaging you — at this point, you should check fire. Maintain vigilance, kick his weapon beyond his reach, whatever you need to do. Be ready to shoot again, but don’t do it, absent a clear threat.

As soon as possible, safe and secure your weapon. The best place for your weapon to be when the police arrive is laying down in the open, or secure in your holster on your belt, In the safest condition possible: that’s decocked with safety on if your handgun is so equipped. A long gun should be empty and clear, both walked back, and clearly visible and well out of your reach. Expect the police who arrive to a “shots fired” call to be somewhat jumpy. Wouldn’t you be?

Remember, the arriving police won’t know what you know: they won’t know who the good guy is and who the bad guy is. Expect to be handcuffed and questioned roughly. You could very well be down at the station – still handcuffed – before they figure out what really happened.

Understand what “suppressive fire” is – and leave it on the battlefield!

There’s a very broad misunderstanding of “suppressive fire” in the civilian gun community. It is not random or unaimed fire. While it is intended to, “keep their heads down,” as Michael Dunn testified that he was trying to do, is properly done by applying aimed fire to the locations where enemy forces are, or are expected momentarily to be, in ground combat. In other words you’re aiming at where his head is, or where his head will stick up if he sticks it up.

It is an infantry combat technique, and is not good policy for police, and absolutely never should be considered for civilian self defenders. Even many infantry units don’t do it right.

Exercise for the reader: consider explaining how “suppressive fire” that you used in a DGU conforms to the four fundamentals of gun safety, let alone the self-defense law of your state or territory. Consider that you are explaining this not to your buddies in the local gun shop, but to a random audience of people picked because they didn’t particularly offend either the lawyer defending you or the one trying to add your scalp to his trophy case. Can you make your case to your kid’s middle school teacher, who thinks that guns are “icky”?

The juror interviews that Andrew Branca has analyzed at the Legal Insurrection website show that jurors are just that ordinary people who, in this case, made the best effort they could, to come up with a unanimous and just outcome.

Call 911 first, or ASAP

Yes, it takes minutes for them to come when seconds count. You might still have to shoot. But you might not. Even if your DGU is more justified than the Ways of God to His ownself, having to draw means lots of hassle (statements, “Let’s go downtown,” cops who get lied to all day long every day trying to shake your story, and digging into any misstatement or inconsistency, etc., etc). Having to fire is an exponential increase in hassle over that.

You will not get the benefit of the doubt a cop gets

jordan-davis-1That’s just the way it is. Cops can shoot unarmed folks all week, lawyer up with the PBA’s retainer guy, and recite the Cop Magic Incantation™ (“I was in fear for my life!”) and the only bad thing that happens is that, in some cases, guys like us know they’re cowards. Sure, if they guy they shot was black, there will be some dodgy Reverend screaming to have them nailed to a cross, but the actual hammer and nails are never in evidence; it’s all Reverend’s-flock-maintenance kabuki.

In 2014, the armed citizen doesn’t get that same bending-over-backwards benefit of the doubt. That’s just the way it is: you’re going to have to deal with it.

Stand your ground unless driven from it

By this, we’re absolutely not referencing the legal concept of “stand your ground.” What we mean is this: do not leave the scene of the defensive gun use unless you absolutely must. And if you must leave, get on the horn to the police immediately. Do not hesitate, do not delay, do not go home and hope the whole thing disappears.

Something very bad has happened, even if you are alive and safe. And it’s going to get worse before gets better. But denial, flight, “ostrich mode,” call it whatever you want: these options are not really available to you. Not unless you want to wind up matriculating at Cold Stone College for the Long Course.

Be prepared for your case to have a racial angle

If you are of a different race in the individual you have just shot, your situation is even more complicated and troublesome. People of your assailant’s race will automatically assume that you fired the shot you fired out of pure racial animus. Almost anything you can say in this case will be used against you. If the prosecution has access to it (and if you’re in pretrial confinement, the prosecution will have access to all your communications), expect them to cherry pick it and leak the details that are most embarrassing and troubling to your case. This can poison the jury pool, which is why they leak it; it can follow you for months or years afterward.

Consider George Zimmerman, who was acquitted in his case, but is subject to death threats practically daily and is bankrupt more or less unable to lead a normal life.

In the Dunn case, the racial angle was heavily played up by the press. Dunn did not help himself with unguarded comments in communications from prison. Even today, there seems to be a wide disparity in how white and black Americans view the Zimmerman and Dunn cases. Many if not most blacks see both cases as examples of white men that got away with murdering black innocence. A disturbing number of whites have argued that Dunn was justified in shooting Davis because “blacks are statistically more prone to violence,” or some other argument from sociology or from something other than the facts in the immediate case.

You can’t prejudge someone to be a threat and engage him based on his race, his “thug music,” or his surly behavior. You might not like any of those things, but they’re not a clear and present threat to your life and health. It does not matter that there’s more black-on-white crime than white-on-black crime. It only matters whether you’re presently threatened with violent crime; and it’s of absolutely no consequence what race the person is. Until you fire the shot, and are being tried for it in the press.

Be prepared for media misconduct

Whether you think that newspapers normally report objectively and factually, or are a little more aware of how they actually work, expect to be shocked by how you and your case are portrayed in the papers. And you’ll look like Mother Theresa there, compared to the way that you’ll look on television, which will portray you as something between Charles Bronson in the Death Wish movies and Lee Harvey Oswald.

Examples of misreporting in the Dunn case include the assertion that Florida’s Stand Your Ground law was applied (it wasn’t), and that the jury was all white (it wasn’t), but there are many more. In this it was a replay of the Zimmerman case, in that the case as reported by Branca’s live-blogging and the case as presented on TV had little in common.

Reporters come to defensive gun you stories with a pre-written narrative, and the facts of your case will be hammered to fit — and discarded where they don’t. As a result, most reporters and columnists, who are lazy and merely rewrite what they read in other reporters’ stories and columns, will diverge further and further from the facts of the case as the case wears on.

Expect this. Don’t lose your cool over it. It’s just what they do.

Here’s a great post on what we can all learn from biathletes

Biathlon is the nearest thing going to combat training! It’s strenuous endurance activity, with an abrupt transition to precision rifle shooting, and an abrupt transition back to endurance again. Its combat utility is no accident, as it started off (and continues, under different rules) as a military sport. Indeed, the US Army National Guard runs a biathlon center to this day at CEATS  site at Camp Ethan Allen, Vermont.

Its interesting to see how the biathletes handle their marksmanship. Here are the tactics you can observe in the Olympic coverage- and remember that they are firing under significant physical stress:

Biathletes attach an arm cuff to their sling on the firing range for extra stability
Support hand wrapped into top of sling
Breath control- distinctive breath in before every trigger press
Once initiated, consistent trigger press until shot breaks
Mental focus is the doorway to relaxing the body
It’s a good view of techniques to incorporate into your own training – especially if you want to be at your best under serious stress.

via Rifle accuracy tips gleaned from biathalon | kR-15: resources for firearms enthusiaists.

How’s your countersniper skillset?

Have a look at this set of photographs of Bundeswehr snipers shot by German photog Simon Menner. If you click on through to the Daily Mail, there’s a slide show with over a dozen of these brain teasers. This one is the only one where they have the sniper stand up. The others, they just circle the hide in red. You’ll do well to spot a third of them — even with the red circles.

spot the sniper hidden

A successful sniper has to be good at two things: shooting a rifle and blending in with their surroundings, as to not be seen by the intended target.

As German artist Simon Menner recently found out, military snipers are incredibly skilled at the latter – often blending into their surroundings so well that they can’t be seen even if you know where to look.

Menner recently was granted permission to photograph German Army snipers as they blended into several landscapes. What he captured on film was the incredible way in which these snipers can make themselves nearly invisible to the naked eye – even in broad daylight.

In many cases, spotting the sniper is nearly impossible – all you can see is the business end of their sniper rifles jutting out of what appears to be a rock, or a bush, as the rest of their bodies and equipment are completely camouflaged. And chances are that if you’re close enough to notice them, it’s already too late – trained snipers are capable of accurately shooting targets that are more than a mile away.

In a series of photos taken by Menner, a sniper is hiding somewhere in the landscape. In another set of the same photos, the snipers’ location is circled in red – which doesn’t do much to help recognize these war-time chameleons.

via Can you spot the sniper? Photographer’s amazing images of elite troops’ camouflage techniques (Hint: They look a lot like a rock) | Mail Online.

Even embiggened the snipers don’t show you a lot, only this one who stood up really helps:

Spot the sniperThis is a bit unrealistic, and was probably related to a hides or stalking class. After all, most nations that employ snipers employ them as teams, at a minimum, a two-man sniper-spotter team. But a good sniper can indeed make himself disappear, and your first indicator he’s out there is when somebody falls dead.

Then you hear the shot.



9mm, terminal ballistics, and the “Loud Rap” shooting

X-ray of victim Jordan Davis. Bullet entered at arrow, traversed chest & multiple organs, lodged in armpit. Perforation of aorta was fatal.

X-ray of victim Jordan Davis. Bullet entered at arrow, traversed chest & multiple organs, lodged in armpit. Perforation of aorta was fatal.

Miguel at Gun Free Zone is following our old friend Andrew Branca, author of The Law of Self Defense (read it if you’re even thinking about carrying) and is learning some interesting things about the 9mm round. We’ve been very remiss in posting some info we’ve got from some recent government tests on that, and will try to get to it anon.

Following Andrew Branca (@LawSelfDefense ) and his live tweeting of the Dunn Trial.  Prosecution presenting ballistic and X-Ray evidence of the damage the bullets inflicted on Jordan Davis. The following is a quick look at the performance of the ammunition used and not what I think about the case (Other than from what I read, Dunn deserves a long vacation wearing orange rompers and enjoying the alternative lifestyles in the Grey Bar Resort. I might be mistaken.)

via The next time they say 9 mm is an inefficient round… | Gun Free Zone.

We will tease the test results and say that they reinforce our opinion that the blast and recoil penalty of a .40 or 10mm isn’t justified in 2014.

We haven’t been paying attention to the trial (that’s Andrew’s job, not ours!) and reading his tweets, it looks like Dunn is likely to be found guilty. He’s the guy who fired into a truck after a dispute with teenagers inside; he has insisted they fired on him but no evidence of that seems to have been found. Unless Dunn can save himself on the stand, which is the legal equivalent of drawing the inside card you need to complete a straight, he’s going to prison and “toothbrush day” is this week, possibly even today.

Davis died in the back seat of this well-ventilated SUV.

Davis died in the back seat of this well-ventilated SUV. Michael Dunn, who fired the shots, has weak to no self-defense case. He’s almost certainly headed to prison.

Andrew’s live tweets and an overall writeup on the case is here at LegalInsurrection. His wraps on the trial’s previous four days are Day 4,  Day 3, Day 2, Day 1, and all wraps and intermediate posts at the Loud Music trial link.

Angela Corey mugs for the jurors with Dunn's Taurus PT9.

Angela Corey mugs for the jurors with Dunn’s Taurus PT9.

Angela Corey, the prosecutor whose pursuit of George Zimmerman was practically a textbook case of corrupt prosecution misconduct, is taking out her revenge here, in a case where the fact pattern is strong for the prosecution. Corey is still a repulsive personality; she has been trying to fan racial flames throughout the trial, demanding of witnesses whether they had young “thug life” wannabees like victim Jordan Davis among their friends.

Her assistants in this case, Erin Wolfson and John Guy, are politically ambitious and it would probably be a bad mistake for Floridian to reward those ambitions. Guy was one of the prosecutors who couldn’t color within the lines of procedure during Zimmerman. Wolfson got involved in the case early, and caused the police not to record at least some of their interviews with the surviving boys in the SUV (there were three youths in the Durango, only Davis was hit). It seems probable that Wolfson did this in order to lead the boys to coordinate and “correct” their statements, but given the physical evidence, it doesn’t matter to the outcome (it does matter to her fitness for the jobs she holds and the ones she aspires to, but when was any attorney ever held to an ethical standard?)

Davis seems like an unsympathetic character in the testimony of his friends, but while he was probably a sphincter muscle, there’s not supposed to be a death penalty for that (or for loud rap), and if there were, individuals couldn’t go around meting it out willy-nilly.

And Dunn? Even his character witnesses were weak as water. If you’re going to shoot somebody, have some friends who will speak well of you, in depth. Also, his reported admission that he fired several shots “to keep their heads down” — ugh. Suppressive fire, a misunderstood infantry combat technique, is not legal. Even though cops usually get a pass on it, they probably shouldn’t; and for a civilian to do it is courting trouble. Which is part of why Michael Dunn is in court and in trouble.

Bottom line, you can’t just shoot everybody who pisses you off. (In our case, there isn’t enough ammunition). Shooting must be reserved for folks who are threatening immediate death or grievous wounding to you or others (you or yours, really. You are not Batman, avenging random crimes).

Anyway, we highly recommend Andrew’s book. (Link should go to Amazon).