How to Gain & Maintain Tactical Superiority in a Shooting
Tim Kennedy had a post on Instagram about the three mass murders in Texas this week in the Brownsville migrant shelter where eight people were rammed by a criminal in a SUV, the Allen Outlet Mall, and the Cleveland massacre. This came hours after a mass shooting in Chico, California where six people were shot. The photo above is the murderer who killed five co-workers at a Louisville bank.
All of these recent murders were different -- but similar in that we need to look at how we can respond and save our own lives and those of our loved ones or other citizens.
If we are caught in a lethal force encounter, we need to gain and maintain tactical superiority. We might do this by:
Improving our position by gaining distance. Take advantage of your firearm and your training by moving farther away from the adversary. Every foot you gain from "the hole" (two-arms length) improves your chances of avoiding hits from handgun fire. The more distance you create, the better your chances of evading the crime altogether. The more distance you create, the less chance an armed adversary will be able to hit you. And, yes, fight-stopping shots from handguns can be made from surprising distances. Take the example of Elisjsha Dicken's incredible 40-yard engagement in an Indiana Mall food court.
Improving our position by moving to better cover. This means getting behind materials which can stop bullets. This is different from concealment which simply hides you from view of the adversary. If you've not thought about this or been trained to seek cover, start thinking about it now. It seems to me that former military members more experience in first seeking cover than civilians and -- sometimes -- even law enforcement officers. On the flip side, use your knowledge of cover versus concealment to continue to engage an adversary who seeks concealment. Below is a very instructive video of two police officers getting into a gunfight with a suspect. There are lots of great lessons from this one incident, but I'm calling it out because the officer who engages the adversary is not hesitant to shoot through the front doors to finally terminate the fight. The bad guy runs out through the doors, but hooks back to pick up his dropped handgun. In this case, the doors have glass panels so the officer can still see the adversary, but the point is he realizes he can shoot through materials in the fight rather than think he needs to go out of the doors for a clear shot.
Improving our position by flanking the adversary. In our context of combatives, this means we are moving laterally towards the opponent's sides. We are "getting off the 'X'" to avoid the adversary's main projection of force and forcing the opponent to move to track us and respond to our movement. This concept calls for us to move off at an angle or circle the opponent to find and exploit an opening before they can cover and counterattack. We do this all the time in combatives to open up angles for kicks and strikes or as we take the opponent's back in grappling. In shooting, it's more difficult to track a target moving horizontally than moving directly towards us or away from us. I would use this especially when there is no cover. I personally know an officer who successfully used this to get inside the radius of the bad guy's outstretched gun arm and terminate the shooting. There is at least one popular YouTube personality who poo-poos this strategy. But remember, action always beats reaction.
Targeting the head to shut down his CPU. Placement is power. Even smaller calibers have the capability of shutting down the brain. Much like in striking, hits to the head are usually debilitating to a fighter, both physically and mentally. When you are hitting him in the head at the very least you are physically stunning and scrambling his thought processes. Mentally, there can be a very strong psychological effect here. In the Walmart shooting video above, one of the officers is shot in the face. His immediate reaction is to run away to find cover. He is obviously not thinking clearly and is out of the fight because he has just been shot in the face. Headshots are powerful. However, because the brain is so valuable, the skull can do a remarkable job of protection. There are cases of bullets actually hitting, then skidding off or around the skull. The legendary Jim Cirillo of the NYPD Stakeout Squad describes a case in which a suspect regains consciousness and sits up and starts talking after being shot in the head multiple times with a .38 Special. To increase our ability to stop the fight more reliably, we train to make more effective hits on the human head. We can do this by concentrating on the area which can be visualized as a band measured by the size and orientation of your ears which encircles the head. This is the area from the top of your eyes to the bottom of your nose extending around your entire head like a band. The head can be a difficult target to hit anyway and confining your shots to just this band could prove to be too time consuming. Fire two shots to the head to increase your chances of making the hit. Many of us have been trained for the classic two shots to the body and one to the head. The math proven by the instructors at PFC Training shows that two shots to the body and two shots to the head is preferable. Yes, we know the head shot is difficult, but headshots are a higher high-percentage fight stopper. The example of the officer I used above on flanking ended the encounter with headshots.
Shoot the attacker until they are no longer a threat. Determined and committed adversaries can be surprisingly resilient and take a remarkable amount of damage while still trying to kill you as we've noted above. Conversely, other attackers can be surprisingly fragile and can stop at the first shot -- even when not actually hit. Your situation is that the bad guy is doing something terrible that leads us to reasonably conclude that we need to stop him right now and nothing else is going to work except for shooting him. Regardless of your defensive handgun caliber, keep hitting him until his behavior changes. If he stops, great. If he runs away, great. But if he continues his homicidal rage, you must pummel him. Until he stops. Remember, as a civilian, we have no duty to control and arrest the adversary. We are trying to save someone's life by making the criminal stop.
All of the above is what leads our training efforts to move from merely shooting to being able to fight with our defensive firearm. We have to think hard about our training. At first we need to focus on the very mechanical part of shooting. But our training can't end there. We need to transition from just shooting to fighting with our handgun. We need instruction and coaching in the tactical elements of armed encounters as we transition to gunfighters.
The bottom line is that we have to win the fight. Win the fight. Every time.