Shocking Facts About Gun Fights!

Be sure to watch the featured video before reading on.

Closing the Distance

The average, responsible, pistol shooter may find themselves at the range practicing their draw sequence, acquiring the sights, and shooting at a stagnant target, be it  steel or paper.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with this when practicing for repetition and muscle memory, but are you training just to shoot, or are you training for self-defense?  The next time you’re at the range, if you are able, time yourself on how long it takes you to remove the pistol from your holster (concealed and open carry) and engage a target.  Compare your numbers with these statistics.

According to a study conducted by various police departments, the average human reaction time for 17 police officers to mentally justify firing their pistols during a simple decision-making scenario was 0.211 seconds. The same officers in a complex scenario took 0.895 seconds.  In one study 46 police officers who knew they were going to fire their pistols, and it was simply a matter of doing so when they received the signal. This test resulted in an average action time of 0.365 seconds with the officers’ finger already on the trigger.  More recent work by Dr. Bill Lewinski [Ref.6] a law enforcement professor at Minnesota State University tested 101 officers. The average Reaction/Action time of 1.5 seconds is sufficient time for an attacker to close a reactionary gap of 7 meters (22.96 feet).

  • Time to Draw (a pistol) from a Holster 1.19 seconds
  • Time to Raise (a pistol) and Fire 0.59 seconds
  • Time to Run 15 feet 1.28 seconds

 

Shot Placement Repeat

Although the assailant was hit in his chest, “center mass”, he was still able to move around, shoot, and drive a few miles away before dying.  According to a medical doctor specializing in gun shot wounds, you have an 85 percent chance of surviving!  Just ask Kenny Vaughan from North Carolina, who was shot about 20 times with a rifle that was only 5 feet away and lived!  I always preach that it’s not going to take a magical one or two shots to center mass to put an attacker down.  It may take three, four, or five. Shoot “repeatedly” until the target is down, using the same reference point of aim.

Moving Targets

As we all know, shooting a moving target is fairly difficult, especially if your range does not allow you to do so.  For those who know a little about moving targets, such as snipers, we know to aim in front of the target (Lead), when it comes to combative pistol engagements within 25 yards, the rule need not apply.  Whenever I teach a combat pistol class, I try to incorporate a moving human size silhouette, moving lateral at a fast pace walk.  Nine times out of ten, the student aims in front of the target and forcibly rushes their shots resulting in a miss.  The key to hitting a moving target, within a combat pistol range, is to simply aim at what you want to hit, focus on the front sight, and squeeze.

Adrenaline

Adrenaline is something we cannot avoid in a high threat situation, especially in a gun fight for your life. A good example of this is shown in the video as the assailant presses the magazine release of his pistol and the magazine falls out of the weapon.  This was due to a few things in my opinion, a lack of training (good thing in this situation), muscle tightening from what may have been a bullet striking him or passing near, and overload of adrenaline.  When your body experiences an adrenaline overload, you may experience a few of these symptoms, tunnel vision, audio exclusion, shortness of breath, etc.  There is a simple solution to overcoming the symptoms of adrenaline overload and get you back on top of your game…deep breaths.  Your body needs the extra oxygen to deal with the extra stress. Yes… Just breath!

45 comments
Huch
Huch

That cop is extremely lucky that the mag fell out of the suspect's gun when he tried to come around the passenger side of the cop's car to shoot him. He picks it up off the ground on the way back but never racks the slide so he doesn't get his last shot off either. 

TonyShope1
TonyShope1

it's like I teach my boys, we don't shoot "pie plates" we shoot life size targets shoot move get the body shots stop the fight then take them out with the head shot. we also shoot multiple threats, just like we trained in SWAT/SRT. remember, all of you on the range you have to forget P&P's (sorry guys, the range will keep you alive) you are past the point of policy, on the range you have only one option....survive.

JoshBeauchamp
JoshBeauchamp

An amazing article really getting into the real differences before combat shooting and target shooting. Because they are two very different animals. I have been looking into some of the training drills by Kyle Lamb with Viking Tactics and this article brings a lot of clarity to his triple threat drill. It is basically a standard two the chest one to the head failure to stop drill. He changes it slightly be shooting 3 to the chest 1 to the head. He then adds one to the pelvis. The shot to the pelvis was confusing at first until you look at the anatomy involved. The femoral artery which carries as much or more arterial blood flow as the aorta runs through the pelvic girdle not to mention the fact if you destroy part of the pelvis you just destroyed one of the structural supports for the human body. Adrenaline and drugs can and have allowed suspects to continue shooting and moving after receiving what should be one or more instantly fatal gun shot wounds, however, if you destroy a key structural support the body simply will not be able to stand.

Edohiguma
Edohiguma

Headshot vs bodyshot also has some anatomic issues. 

Center mass, upper torso, will cause damage. No matter how high you are, when your lungs collapse you won't be on your feet long, due to the lack of oxygen and the brain reacts to that very massively. The rib cage is also not very bullet proof. If I fill you with rounds upper torso, I will get your lungs, possible heart, possibly aorta, possibly even the spine, with the right penetration.

Headshots, the skull is pretty damn hard. There have been instances of bullets having no effect and even people with rounds in their brains still functioning as if nothing happened. There are documented cases of people surviving injuries to the brain that should have been lethal. Like the one guy in the 1800s who got a huge metal pole fired through his skull and not only survived, but ended up walking, talking, working (there was a personality change though). There are even some cases where even parts of the brain (including the frontal and parietal lobes on one side) have been removed and the person continued to function without major issues.

Plus the torso is the bigger target. If I get your aorta you're dead within a very short time, while a headshot isn't necessarily lethal.

Not only shot placement matters, ammunition is important as well. If you use low quality rounds you may not have the penetration that will save your life. The 1986 Miami shootout between 8 FBI agents and 2 bank robbers is the perfect example. The bad guys used rifles, the FBI came with handguns. The bad guys were hit repeatedly, but not a single round achieved lethal penetration. The robbers were bleeding, but they kept fighting until they finally died. During that time they killed 2 FBI agents and wounded 5 more. I remember reading that the autopsy of one robber revealed that an FBI bullet had just stopped short of his heart without causing damage to it, thus he was able to keep fighting.

1tyme
1tyme

Has anyone watched video of the seventy year old man who kills a Texas LEO with a rifle, broadcasts a call for help on the unit radio and then walks around with the crime gun for several minutes before driving off? Disturbing. The officers who responded never burnt powder and ASKED the suspect to drop the weapon repeatedly. There comes a time when the good guys have to get it on. Violence of action has a place in law enforcement. It's an ugly topic no administrator wants to touch though.

EricWoodson
EricWoodson

Talking about the perfect shot is all well and good. If you let yourself get put in a bad situation you will not have time to get that perfect shot.   The suspect had an aggressive stance and attitude from the second the car stopped.  He had one hand hidden behind his back.  When he refused to get back in the car it should have told the Trooper things were going south. ( My weapon would have been unsnapped and on the way to beside my leg)  When the suspect took that first step forward I would have drawn down on him and demanded to see both hands.  I believe he was hoping the Trooper would leave cover and advance on him and once close enough ambush him.   This video should be Mandatory viewing at any LE academy in the country !   I am glad the good guys won this one but it was a close one.

jshjr
jshjr

Guys, this is the first intelligent conversation I have seen as to head shot vs. body shot.  GREAT!  Both arguments have merit.  I challenge the entire SOF staff to continue this discussion.  Fact is, the bad guy in the video above was probably dead when he was hit, but he still was able to function and drive off. Fortunately, he was not that motivated, and trained, to complete what he started.  It takes the human body up to 5 minutes to bleed out, and the human body can function during this time.

Flash back to I believe 1987 when the FBI took down 2 bank robbers in Miami.  The bad guy that did all the killing (2 FBI dead and I believe 4 - 6 seriously wounded) was clinically dead from the 2nd round fired (1st from the good guys) and then proceeded, in the next 5 minutes to do the damage, even being shot additional multiple times.  He was finally stopped when an agent took a head shot from point blank and induced, wait for it, "flaccid paralysis".  Turned the bad guy off (also killed him).

The FBI then did a study and the recommendations were 1) shoot the spine to induce flaccid paralysis...if not that 2) head shot.  bad guy goes down.  Only problem is the bad guy may fire (squeeze) off rounds reflexively...and you may get a flopper.  3rd option of center of body mass, as Mr. Irving stated in his article, continue putting round on target until said target goes down.

TeufelshundeUSMC
TeufelshundeUSMC

Also, wanted to add way before this became a Wild West fast draw situation, the officer could've shot way before, the officer had enough. It's just a matter of explaining it. Also, standing like that, whether the suspect does or does not have a gun, voice it out--it's good habit to mention the weapon, let witnesses hear, let the radio record you saying it.

And forchrissakes, stop addressing him Sir, he stopped being a sir a long time ago. In all likelihood, this sort of language mitigation technique probably added to the suspects decision making process. Sir and please are probably not the best words to use to convey aggression. Also, the more you're talking the less youre looking at your front sight.

There's a time for verbal judo, and there's a time to be silent and just aim.



But the copper got him and suspect died later, so he done good, but we have to Monday morning quarterback these things, if only to squeeze as much lessons learned--that's the spirit of the above critique there.


Nick, you think you can cover statistics on one person cars vs. two person patrol cars deployed? Thanks, man. A lot of this could've been mitigated had there been 2 coppers--contact & cover. Personally, I think you get more work done if everyone fielded 2 person cars, instead of 1. I've never come across any sort of study on this though.

jshjr
jshjr

Shot placement is everything.  And not necessarily to center of body mass, but to the head (I know that statement will get a rise).  Yes, you can train to place the shot there.  Our "Tier One" shooters can do it every time. 

1tyme
1tyme

Good points, Nick. I've learned from some instructors and a LEOKA study that our hit percentage (of rounds fired during a lethal encounter) was around fifteen percent nationwide. Unacceptable. LAPD METRO was around eighty percent (dated info).

Most good guys train with a pistol for target and scoring purposes, thus the popularity of the B27 paper target. Also, most good guys train on the single, precision shot, the double-tap or the failure drill. However, the overwhelming majority of officer-involved shootings consist of a higher volume of rounds fired (called the Non-Standard Response, or NSR, by some combat pistol instructors). This can be a few rounds fired at the target or the depletion of the shooter's entire sources of ammunition.

Combat pistol shooting is considered a martial art by some proponents. For those who sling a pistol on their hip, and get paid to do so, it should be a mastered skill set.

Jake75
Jake75

The pistol draw facts remind me of "Sua Sponte" by Dick Couch. They spent almost two days just practicing drawing. 

Ed Swaner
Ed Swaner

Good stuff, Nick!  Keep it coming!


CK5150
CK5150

Great article, Nick.  The information you provided is similar to that usually given in a CCW class-one reason why I think it's a good idea for people to take  CCW class or similar even if they live in a state where one isn't required.  It's valuable info.  

Kendoist4162
Kendoist4162

DAYUM!!! I hope that cop was truly ok and not just saying so through the adrenaline. Thanks for the article Nick. Some stuff to think about... Like changing up my shooting regimen....

jhmcalp
jhmcalp

From one infantryman to another....... Shut up and get over yourself. Civilian life, as a police officer, is a completely different dynamic than what you have supposedly done in you four firefights and making head shots when your wounded. Only a fool would speak the way you do, and you embarrass  me.  Show some respect.

barchen36
barchen36

@Edohiguma Was that Miami or L.A.? Crooks were wearing body armor, finally one of the cops went to a sporting goods store, got a couple of rifles and ammunition. Then the crook went down, the second one put his pistol to his head and killed himself. The one that was brought down by rifle fire bled to death. His relatives attempted to sue the city because of this. No sympathy for those that had died at his hands.

jshjr
jshjr

@Edohiguma The one bad guy that did the damage was dead with the first FBI round that was fired, it blew his aorta apart.  He functioned killing two agents and wounding many more in the next five minutes.  The round in question was a 9mm, hit him sideways and was a through and through. 

thebronze
thebronze

@1tyme  The female LEO in that video should've been fired.  Unfortunately, the murdered LEO didn't have the stones to do what needed to be done in that situation.  That's a cold, hard truth.

TeufelshundeUSMC
TeufelshundeUSMC

@EricWoodson Exactly, man! You don't get paid enough to play Billy the Kid out there. Shoot first.

Right from the git go, it should've been, " DROP the gun, MF'er!!! ", none of this Please, sir crap. He's gauging you, make sure he gauges you correctly--whether it's a bluff or not, whether you're already peeing your pants.

Reaper375
Reaper375

Great topic to discuss. I'll try and get it done within a couple of weeks with a few of my guys.

Reaper375
Reaper375

Head shots are a good way to train, but it is not always a given shot placement. Hitting a target that is 9x4, bobbing, moving, etc. is extremely hard, especially at distance. The Tier 1 units don't always go for a head shot. The majority of the time it's center mass, at least from what I've seen working with them on multiple deployments. I always taught my guys to shoot center. I only shot center mass unless the head was the only thing available.

Reaper375
Reaper375

Very true. This is a martial art

Reaper375
Reaper375

The police officer survived only suffering a graze to the side. The assailant died a few miles away with two kids in the back seat

1tyme
1tyme

Check. Command presence goes a lot further than one might think. Unfortunately, many would be surprised at the lack of preparedness and familiarity with their respective weapons systems amongst most LEO's.

TeufelshundeUSMC
TeufelshundeUSMC

@Reaper375 

Thanks, Nick!


Another statistics article would be correlation between time in FATS/Simunitions, ie virtual scenario base training and real world ramification vis a vis number of ours on virtual scenarios.

Command presence and use of language mitigation aside, that scenario above is on every FATS program. Knowing way before hand when that go line is for lethal force will pay dividends out there--you don't have to think use of force policy, allowing you more focus on that front sight.

PSC65
PSC65

@Reaper375 Nic in the 90's second chance made a few films about situation where Police officers had their life saved because of their body armor. In one of them just like this situation the police officer shot 15 times and had to reload. The fact of having to reload took him out of the tunnel vision and offered him the chance to think that his opponent may have a body armor so is 16th shot was an head shot. The autopsy showed that 14 out of the 15 first shots were center mass hit. The guy was out of the hospital and was under heavy treatment for last phase cancer.

1tyme
1tyme

I agree with you. When your hold is the head or the pelvic girdle, which is taught by some, you run the risk of air mailing your fired shot(s) due to stress and other factors. Holding center mass gives you a greater margin of error, using sighted gunfire.

TeufelshundeUSMC
TeufelshundeUSMC

@1tyme That's exactly what I'm talking about, bro, these talks of law suits & policies are the purview of academies and brass (it's useful to know, you're a professional after all, so you gotta talk the talk), 

BUT all that should be balanced on your first attendance in roll call, via your SGTs and your T/O--that's institutional knowledge.

When the balance shifts too much towards the PC bs, then game's over, so SGTs and T/Os have to actively promote the whole "forget what you learn in the academy" concept. 

So everything rests on that 25 yr T/O who never promoted, because all he wants is to push a black/white, and train new coppers--not too many of them around. 

That's the guy PDs everywhere need to either replicate or seek advice from.

1tyme
1tyme

That coupled with the preaching of "liability" and "policies" over handling business.

TeufelshundeUSMC
TeufelshundeUSMC

@1tyme @thebronze Alot of this is institutional knowledge/culture not pushing thru to the next generation, ie. Hells Angels always had to think twice rolling thru LA, that goes for other favorites, nowadays newer coppers are forgetting certain people, groups are treated special--ie. 13th floor. That's a T/O to boot failure, culture transmission ends with them, and if the T/Os are brand spanking new, what's he/she gonna know. So a lot of this is institutional culture, some agencies have 'em, some don't.

Kinda like that scene from EOW where Gyllenhaal doesn't shoot.

Reaper375
Reaper375

Awesome info! Thanks brother!

Reaper375
Reaper375

Roger that. I always hold center. More body mass to hit, and a plethora of vital organs. Head shots are ideal if the target is stationary and the backdrop allows, but the body is where it's at in my opinion.

Jake75
Jake75

@Reaper375  Awesome, thanks. I'll do these next time I go to the range. The range I go to is outdoors so no problems there. Another plus is the pistol range put concrete walls in-between each lane so you can do walking and shooting or be as close to the target(s) as you want. 

Reaper375
Reaper375

Absolutely. You an simulate stress a few ways. Elevated heart rate, time hacks, etc. are great ways. At an outdoor range, if possible, get your heart rate elevated before engaging a scenario, I sprint (50-100 yards) and engage the targets presented, shoot and no shoot targets to work your decision making skills. All of this is done to a time. Also, have a buddy load your mags randomly. You may get to the line and only have a few rounds in the mag to engage a number of targets, forcing you to conduct a magazine change. You can even go as far as having a buddy force a malfunction on your weapon that you have to clear. No matter the situation, the time standards never change. Incorporating all of this forces you to move fast, shoot accurately, etc., without getting flustered and keeping a cool since about you. This is how we train as well as just about any special operations unit to simulate stress.

Jake75
Jake75

@Reaper375  How can someone incorporate these stress into their shooting drills? 

It's easy enough to shoot when you're totally calm but is there any way to train so that under stressful situations you're more calm?