Shootouts at 21 feet are “Lethal To Cops”
By: Clark Vargas
The impression one gets from reading about lethal gunfights in which LEO’s are involved is that LEO’s are killed at very close distances. So, why are LEO’s allowed to get closer than 21-ft to a perpetrator without having absolute control of the situation? Why, is the Police Pistol Combat (PPC) Training, Courses fired at 7, 15, 25 and 50 yards not being taught?
Police Pistol Combat Shooting (PPC) was institutionalized long ago in the 1920’s by the FBI, as a minimum level training program a good program which taught firearms familiarization and marksmanship. Since then, PPC, as well as Action Pistol Shooting –have been turned into sports.
PPC is very challenging, because the variety of shooting positions and distances required and demonstrate marksmanship ability of the trainer. The firing done at the various distances teach excellent marksmanship and calls for the shooter to assume several shooting positions, barricades, shoot with strong and weak hand, and prepares LEO’s for all situations with marksmanship, and not just close-in reactive firing. Since it is a scored system the trainer finds out who is and who is not a good shooter. The required longer shots will definitely demonstrate whether the shooter can or cannot shoot, is he flinching is he closing his eyes. Before he is taught tactics PPC long shoots will instill confidence in the shooter.
Historical, as well as current data however, certainly, gives the impression that close shooting should be taught but not all at the exclusion of marksmanship training. To only teach close reactive shooting, has not been the answer.
Retired Lt. Frank J. McGee, pioneer and Commanding Officer in the New York City Police Dept. Firearms and Tactics Unit initially provided the historical data on how LEO’s are shot. In his benchmark 1981 report, Analysis of Police Combat Situations, he noted that records from September 1854 to December 1979 showed that, of the 254 LEO’s killed by gunshots in an armed encounter, that the distance between the officer and the adversary was: contact to 3 feet, 34%, 3 feet to 6 feet, 47%, 6 feet to 15 feet, 9% and 15 to 25 feet, 5%.
The 1993 NYCPD Firearms Discharge Assault Report by Deputy Inspector John C. Cerar reported that, “In 1993, 48% of all gunfights of a known distance occurred at 7 yards (21 feet) or less,”.
The FBI’s annual Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted, provides the following figures that pertain to 1246 LEO’s feloniously killed by firearms nationwide between 1978 to 1994: inside 5-ft, 54%, inside 10-ft, 73%, inside 20-ft, 88% and inside 50-ft, 95%
What all the data does not tell us, however, is whether the deceased were tactically aware or simply acting as social workers unaware of the lethal situation they were in.
Conventional wisdom has, however had, wrongfully in my opinion, us forego marksmanship training, which is unfortunate and to train mostly and solely in close reactive shooting. This is also to boot done on a pass-fail basis.
Over the past 20 years hit ratios have improved. However, today, the benchmark for 2005 accurately is still a dismal 20%, hit ratio. 4 out of 5 bullets shot by an LEO at an assailant missed the target complete most. Not that the bullet did not hit the center mass of the assailant but that the entire body was missed.
Current training does not teach marksmanship and since the targets are not scored, we don’t know if we are progressing or not and the data says we are not. The answer is better tactics, but better tactics or being fast won’t help if you cannot hit the target.
From my perspective, as a training range designer, I don’t believe that any amount of training with a handgun will improve the current record of officers being shot. Officers are being shot at close distances because of the tactics employed and lack of practice marksmanship. If the officer is situationally unaware when the encounter went bad, he will be shot by a perpetrator which is a worst shooter that the downed officer. The perpetrator just shot first at close range.
If 88% of the shooting occurred at 21 feet or less administratetively, do not allow any LEO to enter that distance from any potential assailant without that potential assailant being covered. LEO’s are Law Enforcement Officer first and Welfare Charity Workers a distant second. Even if the LEO’s are careless or inattentive we can’t have our LEO’s shot because that wastes resources. By edict don’t let them get closer than 21 feet without a partner, being there to cover the perpetrator.
The pistol is but one of the tools that are available to LEO’s and just as the general population LEO’s are just not very good with handguns. It takes a mind-set practice and persistent dedication to be proficient with a handgun
The impression given that the handgun portrayed by modern police burocrats is that it is a defensive weapon is baloney. A handgun is a close quarter weapon, as design by John M. Browning, the epitome of the handgun is the 1911 .45 caliber ACP, a fast, accurate and a powerful handgun. Whether it is defensive or offensive is up to the operator, and that will always be determined by the character and mind set of the operator and nothing else. That offensive/defensive determination is always made in the trigger pullers brain.
If one practices 50-yard shooting, and can become accomplished enough to do headshots consistently and on demand a 50-yards that is certainly offensive enough for any firearm for that type work. What that degree of proficiency also does, is that it teaches gun handling and gives the practitioner tremendous confidence in the ability to shoot closer in, in any situation.
I submit that there are human limits that cannot be changed. In a confrontation situation, reaction time is one of them. It takes 1.5 seconds for a human to react even when expecting action. 1.5 seconds is an awful long time for an assailant to initiate action to shoot or to cut a mostly unsuspecting or tactically and situationally unaware LEO. The reaction time may be longer as much as 2.5 seconds because of the perception of the threat time. It, however, only takes 1.5 to 2 seconds for the attacker to cover 21 feet.
So how do you design shooting ranges.
Anthropometric data is the study of the size of man.. It tells us the average size, the average of the largest size in the top 2.5% and the smallest, the average of the lowest 2.5%.
It tells us man is 75”, 69.8” and 64.6” on average, respectively, tallest, average and smallest and weighs 203, 178 and 155 respectively heaviest, average and lightest. The average man has a trunk, thorax abdominal cavity which are 18” high and the width is 13.8” wide and fairly well corresponding to the 8 ring on a B-27 target of 18” high by 12” wide. The center of mass on the average man is 4’-6”, above ground. That is the height that targets centers always need to be to teach shooters how to index on targets always shooting center always shooting at 4’-6” from the ground the B-27 10-ring is 6”x4”, heart size, so it is incumbent on the range designer to have center of mass targets set at 4’-6”.
How do you to shoot an assailant to incapacitate him immediately?
Newgard reviewed the physiological mechanisms of gunshot wound incapacitation tell us,
“The only method of reliably stopping a human with a handgun is to decrease the functioning capability of the central nervous system (CNS) specifically, the brain and cervical spinal cord. There are two ways to accomplish this goal: one is direct trauma to the CNS tissue resulting in tissue destruction and the second is lack of oxygen to the brain caused by bleeding and loss of blood pressure.”
Newgard discusses the body’s blood loss sensory and compensatory mechanisms venous constriction, increased cardiac output and vascular fluid transfer, and the degree in which these mechanisms respond to, and compensate for, hemorrhagic shock. He reviewed clinical tests of human tolerance for blood loss, which “demonstrate that adequate blood pressure can be maintained with minimal symptoms until a 20% blood loss is reached.”
For a 155 lb. male the cardiac output will be 1.4 gallons per minute. His blood volume will be 0.92 fl. oz. per lb or 1.1 gallons, assuming his cardiac output will double under stress 70 to 140 beats per minute, as his heart beats faster and with greater force, his aortic blood flow can reach 2.8 gallons per minute. If one assumes the wound totally severs the thoracic aorta, then it would take 4.6 seconds to lose 20% of his blood volume from one time of injury. This is the minimum time in which a person could lose 20% of his blood volume…. This does not account for oxygen contained in the blood already existing in the brain that will keep the brain functioning for an even longer period of time, 20 seconds or more.
Most wounds will not bleed at the severed aorta rate assumption because, one, bullets usually does not transect completely and sever blood vessels, two, as blood pressure falls, the bleeding slows, three, surrounding tissue acts as a barrier to blood loss, four, the bullet may only penetrate smaller blood vessels, five, bullets can disrupt tissue without hitting any major blood vessels resulting in a slow ooze rather than rapid bleeding, and six, the compensatory mechanisms.
Investigation of the survival times of persons who received fatal gunshot wounds to determine if the person who was shot had enough time to shoot back, concludes that:
Instantaneous incapacitation is not possible with non central nervous system wounds and does not always occur with central nervous system wounds. The intrinsic physiologic compensatory mechanisms of humans makes it difficult to inhibit a determined, aggressive person’s activities until he has lost enough blood to cause hemorrhagic shock. The body’s compensatory mechanisms designed to save a person’s life after sustaining a bleeding wound, allow a person to continue to be a threat after receiving an eventually fatal wound, thus necessitating more rounds being fired in order to incapacitate and stop the assailant.
To stop the threat immediately, if you always shoot center mass first, you may be successful. If you measure and keep records, you can always accomplish your goals. If you fail to keep records because the agency is afraid to be asked by a dead assailant’s family’s attorney, why a “600 shooter” did not shoot the gun out of the assailant’s hand? Submit it is preferable of the police chief to defend that lawsuit, than to have to pay a dead LEO’s widow and children compensatory fund dollars because the system does not properly train the dead officer.
Keep score and provide the time and ammunition to train your LEO’s in accuracy. Accuracy Power & Speed DVC.
You can teach any LEO how to shoot accurately.
You will never know if the LEO will engage or not until after the incident.
You will know that the LEO will engage, only after he has been to town and seen the elephant.