A “REAL” PRACTICAL DEFENSIVE SHOOTING SYSTEM
Police officers as well as legally armed citizens must receive competent training in research supported practical defensive shooting concepts and techniques, and they must practice to maintain those concepts and techniques. However, the truth of the matter is most police officers and legally armed citizens do not receive training in research supported practical defensive shooting concepts and techniques, and/or they fail to maintain an adequate practice regiment. The following is a copy of a New York City P.D. firearms discharge report statistic (“Standard Operating Procedure #9 [SOP #9]):
This reality must be address, when trainers develop a practical shooting system. Therefore, a “REAL” practical defensive shooting system must incorporate research supported concepts and techniques that can be easily understood and maintained with minimal training and practice time, if the trainer wants to increase the shooter’s accuracy rate as well as the shooter’s street survivability.
A “REAL” practical defensive shooting system must incorporate the Israeli Defense Force point shooting concept and technique for quick accurate first shots on target. This technique is far superior to the western style one hand point shooing technique of the past, in which the shooter holds the weapon at waist height and tries to line up the gun on the threat, or the two hand hold, in which the shooter pushes the weapon straight out from the center of his body and tries to line the gun on the threat. We grew up watching these techniques on countless make believe TV westerns, but the make believe world of TV seldom relates to real world reality, so why bring it to a real life street shooting.
The Israeli concept and technique are effective as well as easy to learn and understand with minimum training time, because it builds on basic human physiology. In a life threatening situation the human eye focuses only on the threat and not on the sights. This has been referred to as “tunnel vision”. This creates a line of sight from the shooters eyes directly to the threat. Point shooting capitalizes on this “tunnel vision”, because it trains the shooter to bring the weapon up directly into this line of sight and not to focus on the sights. When point shooting is combined with a balance stance, firm grip and straight back trigger pull, it creates a very fast accurate short range shooting technique. The point shooting technique is easy to learn and understand, takes minimal time to master, can be immediately applied and the shooter can retain the technique with minimal practice.
The point shooting technique blends perfectly with the front sight shooting technique, because the front sight is attached to the top of the weapon, and when the weapon is brought up into his/her line of sight, the shooter will be reminded to focus on the front sight for follow up head shots as well as multiple attackers.
Therefore, a “REAL” practical defensive shooting system must incorporate point shooting and front sight shooting concepts and techniques. Combining the point shooting technique with the front sight focus technique will allow a shooter to get a fast accurate center body hits on the assailant(s) followed up by accurate headshots for stopping power.
A “REAL” practical defensive shooting system must incorporate concepts and techniques utilizing quick accurate head shots. The FBI research documented only shots severally damaging the brain or severing the central nervous system could be depended on to stop the assailant(s) with consistent reliability, and a “Police Marksman Magazine” survey on real life shootings, documenting the fact that all head shots stopped the assailant(s) 100% of the time. (1)(2)
Furthermore, the survey and the FBI research justify what I refer to as “kill zone” body shots. This is an area starting at the base of the neck and proceeding downward approximately ten inches long and eight inches wide. Shots impacting this area are more likely to cause incapacitating damage to a person’s spinal column, airway, major organs like the heart and lungs as well as the large arteries leading to and from the heart. Military training proves, when soldiers are placed in a stressful situation, they react exactly as they have been trained. The “kill zone” should never be visibly marked on the target, because the shooter will become conditioned to look for the marked area on the target, instead of developing the ability to visually locate the area with his/her own abilities.
A “REAL” defensive shooting system must train in the use of multiple shots for added stopping power. This should not be confused with “knock down power”, because research proves that “knock down power” does not exist. (3) Therefore, multiple hits in the “kill zone” and the head must be made on the attacker(s) for increased stopping power.
A “REAL” defensive shooting system must train the shooter to bring their weapon into action from different practical shooting positions and with various practical starting hand positioning. If a shooter only trains to bring their weapon into action from a holstered position, it is very difficult for them to bring it into action from any other position. This also holds true for a shooter’s starting hand positioning. This refers to where the shooters hold their hands prior to drawing the weapon from the holster. If the shooters condition themselves to only draw with their hands held above their shoulders, as required in many IPSC competitions, it is very difficult for them to adapt to an ever changing real life situation and draw from a different hand position. This can also cost the shooters valuable split seconds and subsequently cost them their lives.
A “REAL” defensive shooting system must train the shooters in one hand shooting concepts and techniques. This means shooting with their dominant hand as well as their support hand. The shooter may be injured, or they could find themselves pushing someone out of the line of fire with one hand. This would leave them in a one hand shooting situation.
A “REAL” defensive shooting system must train to deal with multiple attackers. It is a practical possibility, so it must be added to any practical defensive shooting system. As I mentioned in a previous paragraph, military training proves, when soldiers are placed in a stressful situation, they react exactly as they have been trained. Therefore, if the shooters condition themselves to only fire at a single target, it is very difficult for them to adapt to an ever changing real life situation involving multiple attackers.
A “REAL” defensive shooting system must train the shooter to defend against multiple attackers with quick accurate body and head shots while moving forward and backwards. The movement will enable the shooter to maintain their reactionary gap and reduce the attacker’s accuracy. It can also be used defensively as well as offensively. Shooting on the move makes you “mobile and lethal”. However, others teach that taking a step to the left or the right, while you’re trying to draw your weapon is an effective response during an attack. This does not help the shooter maintain or increase the reactionary gap between the attacker(s), and it negates the use of mobility as a defensive or offensive tactic.
Tactically, it is always better to move forward towards the threat; because when you are moving backwards, you run the risk of backing into and/or falling over another person (i.e. family member, friend, police officer) or object. However, the proper stance and grip will give you the versatility to move in any direction required by that particular situation.
A “REAL” defensive shooting system must train in ground fighting and close quarter battle (CQB) concepts and techniques. These positions are very practical, since fifty percent of all police shootings are within five feet, over 50,000 police officers were physically assaulted over the last 10 years, and many attackers will attempt to knock police officer or their victims to the ground to gain the strategic advantage. (4)(5) It also forces the shooter to adapt to unconventional shooting positions.
A “REAL” defensive shooting system must utilize a “No Miss” scoring concept. “No Miss” scoring fails a shooter who misses the target with any of the rounds specified in a string of fire. The target is defined as any silhouette, picture or outline designed to represent an assailant. The shooter only fails that particular string of fire, not the entire course, and he/she is required to re-shoot only that particular string of fire, until he/she is able to hit the target with all the specified number of rounds. This increases the stress level on shooters, and it creates a very defensible firearms training qualification course in civil or criminal proceedings. I implemented the “No Miss” scoring is a concept into police firearms training with good success.
A “REAL” defensive shooting system must utilize “Stress Factor” concepts. Stress causes numerous physiological changes in the body. It causes the chests muscle to tighten making it harder to breath. It also affects your sight, because you are focusing so hard on the threat area (the gun, the knife) that you loose your peripheral vision. This is referred to as “tunnel vision”. This labored breathing and “tunnel vision” accelerate stress, to a point that the shooter forgets all the low stress shooting fundamentals of sight alignment and sight picture, so he/she responds exactly as they were trained.
Is a life and death shooting situation extremely stressful? Yes! Can we exactly reproduce that stress on a practice shooting range? No!
However, we must do what we can to increase the level of stress in practical shooting courses as well as teaching some techniques to overcome that stress. This will give the shooters an understanding of how stress will affect their shooting and how to overcome those effects. This combination will give them the tools they need to win in a life and death shooting situation.
Stress can be inserted into firearms training in several ways. The Israeli Special Forces use physical contact. The trainer stands to one side of the shooter, and he/she pushes on the shooter’s shoulders just before shooting. I have seen good success using competition against the clock, against another shooter, against a mandated “No Miss” scoring policy, or all three. I recommend using all three.
A “REAL” defensive shooting system must utilize “Night Firing” concepts and techniques. The FBI 2000 UCR statistics from 1991 – 2000 revealed approximately 81% of all Officers feloniously killed occurred between 6: 00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. and under low light conditions. The actual times and numbers were as follows: 6 to 8 p.m. had 37 shootings, 8 to 10 p.m. had 87 shootings, 10 to 12 p.m. had 88 shootings, 12 to 2 a.m. had 87 shootings, 2 to 4 a.m. had 52 shootings, and 4 to 6 a.m. had 28 shootings. This shows that 59% of all those nighttime shootings occurred between 8 pm and 4 am, when the very lowest light conditions exist. (6) (Some of these killings had no reported time, so they were not factored in.)
This data demands the implementation of a firearms training program which emphasizes training in low light shooting concepts and techniques. This training should educate personnel in some techniques, through which, they can use the light available during those times and in those situations; thereby, enabling them to get accurate well placed hits on an assailant.
A “REAL” defensive shooting system must utilize a “Pre-Test and Post-Test” concepts and techniques. This concept requires the shooter to complete the “Stress Facture” stage of fire twice; once before the training stages and once after the training stages. This allows the shooter as well as the instructor to measure the shooters improvement. It also serves to boost the shooter’s confidence in his/her own shooting abilities as well as confidence in the shooting system. Furthermore, It allows the instructor to evaluate his/her teaching abilities as well as the effectiveness of the shooting system.
A “REAL” defensive shooting system trains to deal with weapon malfunctions and reloading concepts and techniques. Malfunction and reloading is a possibility in real life shooting situations, so shooters should be trained and required to practice the appropriate techniques.
If our goal is to increase street shooting survivability, the current accuracy rate and number of shots fired per shooting must be improved. A“REAL” defensive shooting system based on research supported practical shooting concepts and techniques melded with the Israeli point shooting and follow up front sight shooting techniques can go a long way to achieve this goal, because the give the trainer a system developed from real world shooting statistics with utilizes concepts and techniques that are easy to understand and maintained with minimal training and practice time.
1. FBI, Law Enforcement Bulletin, Nov. 1989, “The FBI’s 10mm Pistol”, p. 3 – 8
2. Dick Fairburn. (1993, March/April). PMA STOPPING POWER SURVEY ENDS. Police Marksman Magazine; p. 32 graph 11; p. 34 graph 13; p. 35 graph 14; p. 32, “Other Factors”.
3. Anthony J. Pinizzotto, Ph.D., Harry A. Kern, M.Ed., and Edward F. Davis, M.S. “One-Shot Drop Surviving the Myth”; 1 The FBI hosts four 10-week sessions each year during which law enforcement executives from around the world come together to attend classes in various criminal justice subjects. 2 “Physiologically, a determined adversary can be stopped reliably and immediately only by a shot that disrupts the brain or upper spinal cord. Failing to hit the center nervous system, massive bleeding from holes in the heart, or major blood vessels of the torso causing circulatory collapse is the only way to force incapacitation upon an adversary, and this takes time. For example, there is sufficient oxygen within the brain to support full, voluntary action for 10 to 15 seconds after the heart has been destroyed.” See U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Firearms Training Unit, FBI Academy, Handgun Wounding Factors and Effectiveness (Quantico, VA, July 14, 1989), 8. 3 Ibid. 4 U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted, 2002 (Washington, DC, 2003). 5 Members of the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division collected and supplied this information to the authors for this article.
4. FBI UCR, 1996-2005 Law Enforcement Officers Feloniously Killed with Firearms, Distance Between Victim Officer and Offender, Table 35.
5. 1995 FBI UCR Editions of State and Local Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted; Law Enforcement Officers Feloniously Killed, by Type of Weapon, Table 3; Places & Times, Section I, Law Enforcement Officers Killed, p. 4
6. 2004 FBI UCR Editions of State and Local Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted; Law Enforcement Officers Feloniously Killed, Time of Day, table 3