Gunfights

As an instructor, I try to convey a sense of realism into everything that I teach. Whether it is firearms or defensive tactics, the last thing that I want to have happen is to teach a method or tactic that is not realistic, or that has students thinking the end result will be something other than what I tell them. But try as I may, some still buy into the "hype" that television and Hollywood continue to mass-produce. You know what I am talking about: the guy shot with the shotgun who gets blown through a window; or, the guy shot with a .45 caliber that does a back flip over a chair. It is never ending--the stunt men in filmmaking are rich because the more dramatic the result of a gunshot wound, the more the film becomes a "must see." It has gone to such an extreme now that it almost rivals the "kung-fu"-type movies, with bodies flying all over the place as a result of unrealistic kicks and punches.

I was recently conducting an instructor course involving a firearms simulator with video-based scenarios. The officers that I was training were guys that had time on the job, not fresh-faced rookies. While we were reviewing some of the situations and allowing them to shoot in several scenarios, I was surprised when one of them asked me a question about after having shot someone twice, the subject failed to drop to the ground. The officer asked me if there was a glitch in the filming. I questioned him as to why he would ask me that, and he replied, "If I shot someone twice, I would expect that he would fall down." Really...?

That was interesting to me, and it was the genesis for a discussion about what really happens in a gunfight. What are your expectations as to how either you or the bad guy will react if struck by a bullet(s)? The simple answer is to expect the unexpected. So many variables come into play when trying to explain terminal ballistics. What are some of these variables? Adrenaline, physical and mental condition, clothing, mental state, drugs present in the system, size of the projectile, motivation, and bullet placement are just some of the components of the gunfight equation that will impact the eventual result of a round(s) striking someone.

There can be no "expected" result when you are engaged in a gun battle--I don't care if you have been involved in one, two, or 100 shootings, each battle is unique. I have walked subjects into emergency rooms that have been shot in the head with a .45 pistol. Conversely, I have carried subjects into those same ERs that have died from a single shot from a .22 rifle. How do you explain the disparity? What were the people's expectations when they took the shot? Moreover, what was their reaction when that expectation failed to materialize? The problem: too much hype from media and not enough real-world training and research.

Last November, a police department in Pennsylvania had three of their officers involved in a gun battle with a lone 18-year-old cretin. The assailant was armed with a .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol; the officers had Glock 22 .40 caliber handguns and M-4 223s. The bad guy was shot 16 times with .223 rounds, causing massive internal damage, striking his aorta and collapsing a lung. The incident lasted 3 ½ minutes; the bad guy fired 26 rounds and also reloaded from a box of ammo. The police shot 117 rounds from both calibers, and from two officers. The first officer on the scene was immediately hit with a round to the forearm, and was not able to engage. After having been hit that many times, with some pretty formidable projectiles, the officers still had to fight with him to get the handcuffs on. In case you are wondering, the end result was Satan gained another pellet for the fire.

A little over 20 years ago, my good friend and FBI Hero Ed Mierles, was involved in a gunfight that took the lives of two other heroes, Gerald Dove and Benjamin Grogan. Their adversaries were two dolts that were completely insane and out of touch with reality. Although outmanned by the agents, and despite being shot repeatedly (the very first shots would later prove to be those that caused their deaths), the two knuckledraggers continued their assault with rifles and handguns. The autopsy would show that both Matix and Platt were not on any type of drug, yet they continued to fight even though they had been stuck with numerous traumatic gunshots. Although critically wounded himself, Ed eventually brought this "hell on earth" experience to an end, by mustering enough strength and courage to make a final assault. Ed shot both subjects point blank with his revolver. The two scumbags were DRT (dead right there).

So what are the lessons learned from the above incidents? The answer is three-fold; first, expect that your expectations will not be met. There are just too many variables--too many things beyond your control. Remember the phrase: shoot until the threat is no longer a threat. Second, bullet placement is always more important than the number of rounds that you fire. Rounds that hit limbs, or are otherwise non-lethal, may actually increase the aggression of your adversary. Finally, cover is the best predictor of who will win a gunfight. If you are standing out on "Front Street" during a gun battle, your chances of victory are diminished--not eliminated, but the likelihood for survival is not good.

I cannot emphasize strongly enough, that if you are involved in a gunfight, you must not have any unreal expectations. Do not think that your adversary will drop after one shot, or even several. Expect to stay in the fight until you have completely dominated the bad guy's world. You must take control from the start and never let up. What happens if you get hit? Nothing. Fight on until you win the battle--not just survive, but win! That is the "Warrior Mindset" that will keep you and your partner alive; anything less than that is not acceptable. Do not buy into the Hollywood hype; that will get you killed. Know the difference between entertainment and reality. Stay safe, brothers and sisters.

Loading