It is certainly true that you don’t want to “grow roots” or “stay planted” in a close range gunfight. Imagine, you’re checking out two suspicious persons on a late night shift. You’re standing around six feet from the subjects and have developed reasonable suspicion to believe that they are breaking the law and for your own safety you want to pat them down for concealed weapons. You tell them, “Gentlemen, I need you to turn around, put your hands behind your head and interlaced your fingers.” One of the suspects, knowing you’ll soon discover his illegally concealed handgun makes his move. He grabs at the 9mm pistol stuffed into his waistband under his t-shirt.
You perceive the movement as a deadly threat. Do you: A) Stand in one spot as you draw your pistol to fire, or B) Move as you draw and fire?
Recently my training bureau put officers into a live-fire scenario based on that question. Magazines were stuffed with either three, five or seven rounds and a piece of cover was within 10 feet of the shooter/officer. This was the second of three exercises and each officer’s magazine capacity for his holstered pistol might be different so no “lemming effect” or watching a previous shooter run the drill and copying them, wouldn’t work. Officers were instructed to put four hits on each target. What they did and how they did it would be up to them with reminders not to turn up range with a pistol in hand (muzzle down low ready position or Sul could be used).
What were the responses? A mixture with most officers moving slightly during the draw-stroke and then shooting. A small minority stood their ground and fired with some shooting four rounds on one target while remaining stationary and then transitioning to the other target for four rounds. Some of these shooters even stood in one spot when they went to slide lock back.
Other shooters moved a step or two, then planted and fired. Movement was slight during reloads as well. It was interesting to note that many tactical personnel wanted to move toward the threat. So conditioned by shooting on the move on the advance during their training they continued to aggress the target inside of eight or ten feet.
Some shooters, on the other hand, were harder targets. They aggressively moved off the attack line while drawing and shooting. When their pistols went to slide lock back, they quickly moved towards available cover, reloaded and then properly used cover (not the hop out and fully expose yourself technique).
Why was this training important and what did it show?
Random training is where we need to go but mostly don’t. Random training requires that the student “download” his skills from short-term memory. In other words, like the street, the officer has to reach into his gray matter and respond per his mental processes, skills and abilities. Here is where we see shooters who are good static position shooters engaged in blocked practice, i.e. good standing in one spot, have issues. We also see students who have not mastered or at least not adequately learned the basics, have issues as well. Note here, random training is not confrontation simulation training. As an example, we force the student to draw, move, use cover, reload and deliver accurate fire (all isolated skills that we frequently learn in a static, blocked manner) while solving tactical problems unfolding in front or towards them. We do repetitions of random training to learn this download process and to be able to effectively move and accurately shoot while moving and dynamically assuming cover and running the gun.
Learning to Move
We must instill movement at the onset of firearms training. This can be done with Blue Guns or by double and triple checking that firearms are unloaded in the training environment with no ammunition present. Footwork patterns are begun with a lateral step off the attack line (shuffle step) but must progress through angular movements off line, as well as aggressive turn and move drills while drawing. Although there is a place for straight line movements such as while moving forward down a hallway, straight back rearward movements are dangerous, especially dynamic backpedaling in a cluttered area, where trips and falls can result. These movements must be practiced and the skills developed just like any other firearms skills and incorporated into most firearms training. Even use of cover should incorporate movement. If the officer is one to two steps away he can draw while moving toward cover and can afford to wait to shoot until he is safely behind it. If she has to move more than a couple steps, then she should shoot as she moves behind the cover position.
Progressing from unloaded firearms or better yet Blue Guns, S.I.R.T. – Shot Indicating Resetting Trigger pistols which emit a red or green laser “shot” when fired can be used or airsoft pistols. To see how airsoft pistols can be used, check out firearm’s trainer Rich Daniel’s website FFKG.com and the videos he has available to view online. For SIRT pistols check out YouTube.com and the videos available from Next Level Training. I must say that Rich’s Defensive Handgun Drills (DHD1) video, available for viewing online, more than makes the case for teaching movement during armed encounters.
Using both these modalities we can incorporate heavy bags, humanoid striking targets such as the BOB – Body Opponent Bag, or air shields, teaching officers how to incorporate striking into close range gunfighting so that they can create the time and space needed to draw their handgun while moving, as well as how to move dynamically when avoiding or moving towards cover. Note here – beginning exercises may be trained in open spaces but clutter and obstacles should be introduced while training with blue, SIRT or airsoft pistols as soon as possible. Officers must learn how to scan their environment and move safely in cluttered environments. Techniques trained on open ranges or gymnasiums have no relationship to the cluttered reality of real life!
Sufficient repetitions must be practiced to get good at the movement patterns and skills. We cannot show a student a new skill, give limited reps and then expect them to incorporate the training into practice. We can also begin incorporating random training using adversaries armed with contact, Blue Gun, SIRT or airsoft pistols themselves. Having a student respond in massed reps to an adversary role-player, is a missing link in most training programs and really develops an officer’s tactics and training. Once again, this is not a scenario but a dynamic firearms training program.
As long as muzzle awareness and safe practices such as controlled movement versus uncontrolled movement are mandated, most of these movement patterns can be practiced live fire. To do this we must isolate the skill so that the movements are safely orchestrated with other students on a line to avoid dangerous situations. We may also need to reduce the number of shooters on the line at one time to improve safety considerations. We can thus back up, or otherwise reinforce and be consistent with the non-live-fire programs practiced in the mat room.
This recipe for movement and moving while shooting: non-firing plastic gun training – SIRT pistol training – airsoft training – then live fire, develops an officer who is a harder target to hit on the street but can still hit a threat, versus an officer who stands planted in one spot while shooting at a suspect who is shooting back. Training and practice improves performance on the street. Officers who have engaged in realistic training increase their ability to win a gunfight, instead of training by standing in one spot, shooting holes in a piece of paper.
Take a look at dashboard or officer worn camera videos. Few if any include officers standing in one spot. We must teach the fundamentals of marksmanship but we must also teach them how to move. Footwork is a vital part of ALL other combat arts – empty hand, stick, and blade and must become a part of a successful firearms program!
As Rich Daniel states, “If you fight with feet in concrete, you’re gonna get killed.”
Kevin Davis is a full-time officer assigned to the Training Bureau of his police agency where he specializes as a suspect control, firearms and tactics instructor. He is a former Team Leader and Lead Instructor for S.W.A.T. with over 500 tactical deployments. He welcomes your feedback at [email protected]