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Monday, December 20, 2010

Lessons Learned From Florida

Lots of stuff to learn from the recent shooting in Florida - from both sides of the gun.

You've all seen the videos (if not, go here):  Some disgruntled husband of a laid off school worker, goes to a school board meeting, and shoots up the place - firing at the board members.

From inside of 10 feet.

He misses every shot.  Except for the one to his own head.

Pretty damned good outcome.  And lucky as hell.

First, the "duh" factor:  Gun-free zones, aren't.  At least not for criminals.  Only for law-abiding citizens.  When will this sink in? 

Lessons  -

If the bad guy gives you permission to leave, leave.  No reason to add to the body count of some nut.

Lady with the purse - Unless you have the ability to meet force with equal or greater force, make better use of your time.  Call the police or at least get a weapon that has a chance of disabling the attacker.  A bat, a knife, pepper spray.  Not a purse.

She's lucky to be alive.

Why the school board members aren't dead -

This is due, at least in part, because the gunman had horrible technique.  I know that sounds odd, but I want you to take what he did and don't make the same mistakes if you find yourself in a situation where you need to fire your gun in self-defense.

First, as this image from the video shows, he was standing bold upright.  When firing your gun, you want to have your upper body act as a shock absorber for the recoil of the shot.  Lean into your shots.  You want to direct that recoil into your large upper body, and not into your weaker wrists or elbows.

He is also not aiming the gun.  He's basically pointing it in the general direction of his target.

Law abiding citizens know that you only want to have "aimed fire" - none of this shoot 'em stuff from the movies and TV.

The best stance and presentation is the Isosceles stance.  You are using two hands on the gun, with your arms held straight out in front of you towards your target.  Your jaw line is at your biceps, which brings the gun's sights in line with your eyes.

In this second shot, you see that the gun is now pointing straight up after his first shot.  All of the recoil was transferred to his elbow.  Obviously, follow-up shots will be more difficult, as getting back on target will take more time.

Also notice in this picture where the fired round has impacted (click image - papers "puffed" up off the desk).  Low and to the left of the target (from the shooter's perspective).

This is the most common shooting error I see with my students.  When they squeeze the trigger, they also squeeze the lower three fingers on their shooting hand.  This "all move together" approach pulls the muzzle down low and to the left, taking your shots off target.

As I teach my students, you must think of your trigger finger as an "independent contractor" - it moves and acts separately from the grip fingers.  To reinforce this on the range, I'll have them wiggle their trigger finger before a shooting string.

Squeeze, don't jerk the trigger.  Independent contractor.

This knowledge - that unskilled or nervous shooters will likely shoot low and to the left - can be used to your advantage.  If you're on the wrong side of the barrel (facing a shooter) and have the opportunity to move, the shots will likely miss to your right.  You want to move to your left and back if possible.

If you have a left handed shooter, it's obviously just the opposite. 

So that you're not thinking too hard in a stressful situation, I teach my Advanced students to move in the same direct as the gun is being presented.  Move to the side of the gun.  And move away from the shooter, never closer, as you will improve his or her "aim" by making the target larger.

Movement and distance can save your life.

Accept The Challenge

I shoot a lot.  More each month than the vast majority of my readers.  Still, I know that if I were in a situation where I had to shoot at another human being in defense of my life, or the life of another, I would be nervous as all hell.

I know that my shots would not land precisely where I intended.

To increase my probability of success, I want to ingrain in my head all of the technique I know.  The more proper technique I follow, the higher the likelihood of success.

For instance, in a stressful situation, my aim might not be perfect, but if I have my stance, grip and trigger pull correct, I'll likely hit my target.  I know that my stance alone will likely get my shots in "center mass" out to 10 yards - about 3 times the distance from which this guy was shooting.

BTW, if you're shooting one handed, your stance should be the same - with the gun centered in your body, leaning forward with your jawline at your extended bicep.  The only adjustment is to slightly over-grip with the lower three fingers to add a bit of stability to your shots.

Of course, practice is the key.  Regular, consistent practice at the range so that if you're ever placed in a horrible situation where you have to defend yourself with a handgun, you'll be the one going back to your family.

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Copyright 2010 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. Please note that in addition to owning Bison Risk Management, Chief Instructor is also a partner in a precious metals business. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.


Anonymous said...

I don't agree. No one was killed by the 'disgruntled husband' because he did not want to kill anyone, at least for the moment.
He was just terrorizing them.
If he was that bad of a shot, after his first miss he could have easily stepped forward.
The other points you made, about the purse lady and about leaving, were spot-on.

Andrea said...

I'm totally with Anon. He wanted to scare them, he wanted them to feel as bad as he did. He didn't want to kill them (Thank God) or the lady with the purse would have been toast. I think he was hoping for Suicide by Cop.

Chief Instructor said...

Anon, Andrea: I could not disagree with you more strongly. Watch the video again. His first shot is aimed straight at the guy. He misses and shoots at another. When he gets hit, he steps forward and fires over the edge of the table at the guys on the left end.

I think the reason the lady with the purse wasn't shot was that he was a southern man with manners. He told all of them to leave the room. It would be cowardly/unmanly to shoot a woman.

I absolutely agree that he was going for Suicide By Cop, but only after he had blown away the school board members.

Anonymous said...

A couple of lessons for victims. The woman committed a stupid act. She seemed totally ignorant of her inabilities. By all laws of the universe she should be dead today. For everyone else; why did you just sit there??? Everyone of those guys should have been standing and when the lady distracted the gunman they should have been running. DUH! Don't just stand there and take it. Hell if I was going to just give up my life I would at least attack the gunman and go out fighting. And if you are sitting with books and other object in front of you then throw them. Sure there is some risk but it is a natural and inevitable reaction to duck or turn away when something is thrown at you and it is difficult to hit your target while ducking books and pencils. Geeeze!!! Do something!

Andrea said...

You may be right about the southern gentleman thing, but I don't know. He may have just wanted to play cat and mouse with them for a while before he offed them. You just can't tell. All I can say is my first thought was: "And that's why I don't go to school board meetings!"

That lady's purse is supposedly on Ebay, by the way.

Anonymous said...

Anon: When you are in a state of shock you are not going to automatically spring to your feet and strong arm your attacker. This isn't the movies where everyone runs and screams when they hear gun shots. They either duck and cover or freeze. And another thing, if they had moved when the woman hit him with her purse, we would have probably snapped off a shot as a reflex.

I also believe that the head of the school board was trying to save the poor fools life by talking him down. In hindsight it was an act that almost cost him his life but it shows his true character. Not only was he trying to help the man waving a gun in his face, but he was also trying to save the other board members by claiming full responsibility and urging him to let the others go and by stalling the gunman so that the authorities had time to mount a response.