Fighting in the hole

     Statistically, an officer is most likely to have to make a lethal force decision at contact distance more than any other moment. The problem is, there is often a training disconnect when it comes to preparing officers for these incidents...


     If we look at fighting in the hole coupled with legal precedent and policies, it is evident that we have designed a system whose purpose is to cause officers to be injured or killed. Evidence confirms that relying on response time alone can be fatal — officers can and will be disarmed, based entirely on reactions.

     Agencies, then, have a due diligence responsibility to provide a steady stream of realistic training.

Firearms and defensive tactics trainings must be seamless

     For some reason, administrators are sometimes reluctant in firearms trainings to allow officers to touch the target. But we know that placing one's hand in front of where one is drawing a firearm raises the risk of shooting the reaction hand. If we don't trust officers enough to train them, they're probably in the wrong business.

     Officers must first be trained on delivering a devastating soft tissue strike or similar technique while simultaneously drawing their firearm. The soft tissue strike should be something that agrees with the agency's training system; it could be the web of the hand at the throat, a strike to the cartilage bridge of the nose or a spear hand in the solar plexus. Whatever it is, the motion should be seamless with the drawing of the firearm.

     The way to train for this is to begin with a Red Gun (ASP Red Gun), and a flesh-and-blood opponent wearing proper safety equipment. Practice striking and drawing. If the officer allows his gun to point at his own hand, correct the action. The officer and suspect should engage and dance a little.

     The second step is for officers to train with airsoft rifles, force-on-force. We asked Wes Doss to comment about using airsoft products and realistic training. The airsoft allows officers to make mistakes, intensifies training and provides a platform for "working through" any training deficiencies. Doss explained that using airsoft products that closely replicate the actual duty weapon adds to training intensity as well as allows officers to go through a technique hundreds of times, as plastic BB's are inexpensive.

     The third step is for officers to shoot live fire on targets at the range. This follows many sessions of dedicated training, dry runs and confidence in our officers.

A timely decisive strike will circumvent the OODA Loop

     If the officer is forced to be reactive to an assault, then the suspect is already inside the officer's OODA loop. If the officer's response is to create distance (by backing away), then the armed suspect has time to settle into a shooting platform or worse — bracket the officer with subsequent rounds.

     In military small unit tactics, the universal template for an ambush is to fight through the ambush, which is exactly what the officer should do. The individual officer version of this should include a decisive strike or charging the aggressive suspect, thus requiring the suspect to react to the officer's actions. This is getting inside the OODA loop, indeed.

Ensure training is realistic

     Create a range scenario that looks like the inside of the convenience store. Do not let officers see this scenario before conducting training. Do not tell them what to expect. Tell them, "This is a convenience store. Go in and respond to an unknown disturbance;" or "This is Gary's Cozy Shack. Go in and get your morning coffee ... "

     Let officers touch their targets. Make them drive up to the range floor, run a quarter-mile and wrestle a Red Man (officer in a Red Man suit), then shoot at targets they can touch. They should work force-on-force scenarios where they can experiment with striking, jamming the draw and upsetting the balance of the aggressor.

Get good hits

     When we asked Doss about the use of lasers, he told us about an exercise where students in a training session worked from a tight clinch with an aggressor. The object was to maneuver until the training gun could be fired from a tucked retention position. Even though the shooting was from extreme close quarters, the shots-to-hits ratio was surprisingly low. When they used lasers, students received an immediate visual confirmation and prevailed. Lasers allow an officer to quickly reference, even in unconventional shooting positions.

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