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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Practice Makes Proficient

We all remember when Captain "Sully" Sullenberger belly-landed his Airbus A320 in the Hudson River.  He was directly responsible for saving the lives of 155 passengers and crew.

He was hailed a hero and miracle worker.  He said he was just doing his job.  A lifetime of preparation led to a "miracle".
Well, I think, like many people who have found themselves in such an extraordinary circumstance, they really do feel like their entire lives has been a preparation for that moment.
Amen to that, brother.

In the comments of my post The Fear Factor, a commentor had made note of the fact that the NYC shooting outside of the Empire State Building resulted in 9 innocent bystanders being hit by police fire.

I made this comment -
[Painting with a VERY broad brush here] My experience has been that cops fall into two broad categories: Good, decent people who truly want to do good for the community. The other are power freaks. The, "I've got a gun and a badge, and you'll do as I say. Or else."

This latter group doesn't seem to feel the need to practice their craft. They've got their POST certificate and the aforementioned gun and badge. That's all they need.

The "good guys" work at their craft. Virtually every time I teach my advanced Practical Defensive Pistol class, there are LEOs on that range practicing their holster/draw/shoot skills.

It's almost always the same guys.

Commenter Adam (a LEO, and I get the impression from his past comments that he's one of the "good guys") made a comment about the adrenalin rush of the situation being one of the reasons for the unintended victims.  I basically said, IMO, that's not an acceptable excuse.

Cops need to train.  Hard.  And they need to expose themselves to stressful training situations to try and approximate real-life shooting situations.  I had suggested that all LEOs be required to maintain certification with a shooting sport, such as IDPA, in the same way that a CPA must keep their license current through continuing education.  Annual "qualification" on the firing range is insufficient.

Consider this video of a private security guard (h/t This is at an Internet cafe in Melbourne, Florida.  (Note:  Why the hell do bad guys keep hitting Internet cafes?  This is the second such robbery I've heard about in the past few weeks.  Do they keep enough cash on hand to warrant having an armed guard?  Apparently so...). 

This old guy was Johnny On The Spot.  Quick draw, movement, didn't stop shooting until the threat had passed.

I'd bet a million bucks he's put thousands and thousands of rounds down range, AND has - at the very minimum - run through this scenario in his head dozens of times.

[Start dreamy harp music]  "Multiple bad guys charge my post.  Identify they have weapons.  Draw weapon, put shots on closest target first, then next closest.  Repeat shots until threat has stopped.  Move to ensure I become a difficult target to hit and to ensure they can't rush me past one side of my post to surround me."

What a stud.  Great technique and tactics, and not a bit of hesitation.

At least in his head, he's been there before.  And like Sully's water landing, he likely saved his life and possibly the lives of others because of his preparation.

Accept The Challenge

If it comes to preps, as the saying goes, if you're going to do it, you might as well do it right.

Making fire.  Practice.
Making water.  Practice.
Making shelter.  Practice.
Gathering wild edibles.  Practice.
Using deadly force.  Practice.  A lot.

Most things for which you're practicing involve you alone.  If you can't make fire and you get stuck on a mountain, you'll likely die.  No one else is affected. 

If you have a gun and you're not proficient in how to use it - including WHEN to use it - others may die or be injured.

If you carry concealed, practice.  For instance, every day I'm in our precious metals store, when I get to work, I go into the back and do 5 to 10 practice draws.  It's more to ensure my IWB holster is properly positioned, but it makes the rake clothing-grip-clear-rotate-center-push process more fluid.  I want it to be smooth as butter so that I can keep my attention on the bad guys.  I have myself timed on occasion to practice having the muzzle pointed at the bad guy from a concealed holster in 2 seconds.

When I teach my Practical Defensive Pistol class, I get there early do practice beforehand.  Multiple targets.  Fighting tunnel vision by visually sweeping the area after shooting.  Really concentrating on stance and presentation and trigger squeeze.  I want this to all be second nature if I'm ever forced to do it for real.

Regarding the adrenalin dump:  It's a hell of a point.  I've never had a gun pointed at me.  I've never had to point one at a human being, much less one that's looking to rob or harm me.  Possibly in a store full of customers.  I may crap myself, for all I know.

But I do IDPA and self-stress shooting practice (timing and accuracy drills) to attempt to approximate the various situations I may encounter.  About the most stressful practice I've done is with paintballs.  One of my son's and I used to go up into the hills to a site that was force-on-force in a natural setting (not the typical paintball "courts").  When the horn would blow, the paint starts flying - and your heart starts pumping!  On more than one occasion, teams of Sheriff department SWAT members would be up there "playing" with us.

I go through scenarios in my head regarding a robbery at the PM store.  One guy.  Five guys.  Hostages.  Bull-rush the store.  Catch us by surprise.  Store full of customers.  No other customers.  See a gun.  See pepper spray.  See Taser.  See hammer.  See pipe.

Come up with a plan for each.

Obviously, no real-life incident will play out exactly as you practice, but by thinking about and practicing multiple scenarios, parts of each have a great chance of being included come "game time".

As all of my coaches in high school and college used to say, "You play like you practice."

Copyright 2012 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.


Adam said...

I agree that the adrenaline dump is not an acceptable excuse to shoot 9 innocent people.

Unfortunately, like I said before, most cops aren't gun people. At best you are looking at 10-20% who are. That leaves 80-90% who aren't. That 80-90% only does the bare minimum with firearms practice.

I have run through scenarios countless times in my head. It has allowed me to react the way I do. Not everyone does. They should, but you can't force people to do so, no matter how much you'd like to.

Yes, the first time you point a gun at someone is a very odd experience. The first time you point a gun at someone with your finger on the trigger and getting ready to fire is a life changing experience (even moreso than just pointing a gun at someone). I differentiate them because of the circumstances surrounding the incidents. I know (not from personal experience) that actually pulling the trigger is an even more life changing experience. The adrenaline rush is something you have to experience to understand. Running scenarios in your mind will help you function during that incident as opposed to freezing. Afterward is when you have time to think and wonder.

I agree that training is the absolute most important thing. In a sudden situation, you fall back to your training and react. If your training is substandard, so will your reaction. It is imperative that everyone who carries a gun practice with it and run scenarios so you don't do what those cops did in NYC. I too feel that had they trained more, they would not have hit all those people.

Chief Instructor said...

One of my employees is an ex-Oakland cop. He's shot and been shot at. He doesn't like to talk about it.

You never know when it's going to happen. My dad was also OPD for the first 12 years of his career. During the 1960's with the Hells Angels and the Black Panthers at the same time. He arrested lots of both of them, but never fired his gun.

Fate, I guess.