Saturday, May 25, 2019

Thugs kicking in the door--Burglar Nikusubila Makwangwala


Kaufman County Texas—23 May 2019: Nikusubila Makwangwala (born in Texas as Bobby Reynard Emerson) probably thought he had picked out the perfect house. A semi-rural neighborhood with really large, expensive houses that were spaced well apart from each other. Makwangwala pulled his red pickup in the driveway and looked the house over.

It was late morning and the homeowners were likely to be at work—perfect. Just to be certain, he went to the front door and banged on it several times. With no response, he went around to the back of the house and discovered a back door he could easily kick open. Several kicks and he was inside. Makwangwala headed for the bedroom where most people keep jewelry, money, guns, and other valuables. Ideal for a quick entry, grab the stuff, and exit back to I-20 and Dallas. 


However, the home was occupied. Makwangwala’s loud banging on the front door awakened the homeowner who did not answer the door because she did not recognize Makwangwala nor his red pickup in the driveway. She immediately called 911; however, the sheriff’s response time can be a bit slow as you would reasonably expect for a rural area. When she heard Makwangwala kick in the back door, she grabbed a gun, retreated to the bedroom, and hid in the closet—all the while telling the 911 dispatcher what was happening.

As Makwangwala started toward the bedroom did he hear her talking? Did he hear her in the closet? We’ll never know. What we do know is that once he entered the bedroom, he opened the closet door and confronted the homeowner who fatally shot him.

Makwangwala was a career criminal with an extensive arrest record dating back to 1989 when he was 16 years old. Makwangwala had twelve felony convictions for Aggravated Robbery, Burglary of a Habitation, a Felon in Possession of a Firearm, Robbery, Theft, and Illegal Drug Possession. He had been in and out of the Texas prison system numerous times and was on probation at the time of his last burglary. Poor Makwangwala, no more felonies for you.

In Texas, using force against an intruder who you know or have reason to believe was unlawfully and with force entering or attempting to enter unlawfully and with force your occupied habitation, vehicle, or place of business or employment is presumed reasonable under certain circumstances. Therefore, the homeowner is unlikely to face any criminal charges associated with Makwangwala’s death. Civil action on Makwangwala’s relatives’ part is another issue—you can always be sued civilly.

A key step in home security is to make it as difficult as possible for someone to enter your home. Most pre-hung doors are not very sturdy and therefore it is relatively easy for a burglar to kick them open as shown in this video: Home Burglary

One solution to ensure that no one can simply kick in your exterior doors is to install heavy metal doors and frames, very decorative and somewhat costly; however, no human can kick them in.

For exterior wooden doors (make sure they are solid wood at least 1-3/4 to 2 inches thick), you can install the Strikemaster II Pro or similar products such as the Door Armor Max (formerly EZ Armor), or Door Security Pro to reinforce the door jams and hinges. I did this as the house was being built so it was relatively painless; however, they are not that difficult to install.

Your home security plan should also include a safe room or rooms. A wood bedroom door made from at least 1-1/2 solid wood, with a deadbolt, and reinforced frame and hinges will make it impossible to enter the bedroom without power tools to breach the door. Once you retreat to the secure bedroom or other safe room you can call 911 and prepare to take other necessary action as the homeowner did in this instance.  


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Sunday, April 28, 2019

The New FBI Qualification -- Low Light


In January 2019 the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) adopted a new qualification course for its agents.  This new course is somewhat different that the one the FBI adopted in 2013 which itself represented a substantial departure from the older FBI qualification.

Inexplicably, although the 2013 qualification required all draws from concealment, the Bureau dropped this requirement for the 2019 qualification.  Given that FBI agents generally wear plain clothes and carry concealed, this seems counter intuitive (they did not ask my opinion however).

The 2013 qualification was a 60-round course of fire which likely produced a lot of partially filled boxes of ammunition. The new qualification is a 50-round course of fire and agents must achieve a minimum of 80% (40 hits) while instructors need 90% (45 hits) to qualify.   From an admin perspective, a 50 round course certainly makes sense.

The January 2019 qualification uses an FBI QIT-99 silhouette as follows:

3 yards

    -- Draw and fire 3 rds (strong hand only) switch hands and fire 3 rds (support hand only), 6 seconds

5 yards

    -- Draw and fire 3 rds, 3 seconds
    -- From the Ready, fire 3 rds, 2 seconds
    -- From the Ready, fire 6 rds, 4 seconds

7 yards

    -- Draw and fire 5 rds, 5 seconds
    -- From the Ready, fire 4 rounds, reload the empty pistol, and fire 4 more rds, 8 seconds
    -- From the Ready, fire 5 rounds, 4 seconds


15 yards

    -- Draw and fire 3 rds, 6 seconds
    -- From the Ready, fire 3 rds, 5 seconds

25 yards

    -- Draw and fire 4 rds from Standing, drop to kneeling, and fire 4 more rds from kneeling, 20 seconds. 

Scoring:Shooters receive 2 points for every round that lands inside the Q99 target outline.  There is no disqualification or penalty for hitting outside the bottle or for missing the target entirely.

Well everyone and their brother is shooting and pontificating about this new qualification, so . . ., we decided to shoot the FBI qualification under low light conditions with different light systems. We did not have the QIT-99; however, the QIT-97 bottle is the same size so not an issue.

I shot a control qualification in daylight (picture 1), with all draws from concealment scoring a 100. I shot everything within the prescribed time limits with no problem.  I then shot a low light qualification (very dark night) using a handheld flashlight (picture 2).  Given the requirement that you switch hands mid-string, I could not use a light for the 3-yard string and essentially used point shooting. I dropped two shots at 3-yards (weak hand) for a score of 96.


I then shot a low light qualification (picture 3) using a handheld flashlight to initially identify the target and then using a pistol-mounted light for the actual target engagement.  Pistol mounted lights with the proper switch configuration can make hitting a target under low light conditions easier. However, learning the tighten/relax grip to turn the light on and off requires practice—particularly for someone accustomed to maintaining a firm firing grip on the pistol.


In my classes, I always require everyone to master hand held light techniques before I allow them to use a pistol-mounted light for several reasons. Searching with a mounted light virtually guarantees that you will point the pistol in an unsafe direction at some point. For that reason, I ask shooters to search with their hand-held light (as I did in this qualification) and then to release it and go to the pistol mounted light once they identify a threat. I used a San Antonio, TX police target for this qualification and scored a 100.  Even though the target was different, all shots would have been in the FBI QIT-97 target bottle.

Finally, I used the SIG P320 Lima Laser system (with a green laser) to fire the last qualification using the laser sighting system at 3-yards and then a handheld flashlight in combination with the laser thereafter (picture 4).  Although I used the SIG P320 Lima system, I believe any laser sighting system with a grip switch (see picture below) on the market would have worked equally well. I scored a 100 on this qualification also.


The one issue with firing the FBI qualification under low light conditions is the string of fire at 7-yards where you fire 4 rounds, reload the empty pistol, and fire 4 more rds in 8 seconds. I do not believe it is possible to do this with a handheld flashlight within the 8-second time limit.  My normal reload for a semi-automatic pistol is 2.0 – 2.5 seconds, so 4 reload 4 in 8 seconds is no problem.  With a handheld flashlight my reloads averaged 5.5 seconds so 4 reload 4 is problematic when you must release the light, reload, recover the light, reacquire a firing grip, and then engage the target.

This was the first time I used the Lima system in low light (very dark night w/ no moon) and I was very impressed.  It does require a purpose-built holster; however, with a such a holster it carries very well.  I think the laser in combination with a with a handheld flashlight will make a superb low light system.  In a couple of weeks I am teaching a low light, close range gun fighting class and I look forward to seeing how the Lima works under these conditions.

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Saturday, February 23, 2019

Pistol Mounted Lights--A Solution in Search of a Problem?

Denver — A Denver Police officer faces a 10-day suspension for accidentally firing his weapon nearly striking a suspect. Officer Asher Rose accidentally pulled the trigger of his pistol while trying to turn on his pistol mounted light. Officer Rose was attempting to use his light to illuminate a suspect hiding under a truck when he fired a bullet that hit a rear tire inches away from the suspect’s head.

We just started our 6th year of low light classes and we have had several police officers attend our classes and practice sessions--some are issued pistols with mounted lights. These officers did very well; however, in general I don’t believe that issuing pistol mounted flashlights to police officers is a good policy.  Unlike the officers in our classes who come to learn and practice low light techniques, the average officer is unlikely to practice activating and using the light under stress.

Pistol mounted lights with the proper switch configuration can make hitting a target under low light conditions easier. However, searching with a mounted light virtually guarantees that you will point the pistol in an unsafe direction. For that reason, I require students to master hand held light techniques and search with their hand-held light. If they decide to engage a target, they are free to release the hand-held light and go to the pistol mounted light if they have one.

Lights that require you to change your grip or that require you to push a button with your support hand or trigger finger to activate are awkward at best and impossible at worst under stress.

A remote switch that activates when you tighten your grip on the pistol (such as the one in the picture above) greatly simplifies the process of activating the light; however, it also carries a substantial risk of accidentally firing the pistol if you fail to apply proper trigger finger discipline.

KEEP YOUR FINGER OFF THE TRIGGER UNTIL YOU HAVE MADE A CONSCIOUS DECISION TO INTENTIONALLY FIRE A SHOT!

Even with a remote switch, training remains a critical component. The human body’s sympathetic nervous response makes it difficult to tighten your grip without simultaneously tightening your trigger finger. For the same reason, it is difficult to squeeze one hand and not squeeze the other hand. If you have your finger on the trigger and tighten your grip to activate a light, you will likely tighten your finger on the trigger and fire the pistol.

On 13 October 2010, an undercover Plano, Tx police sergeant shot and killed Michael Anthony Alcala as he was trying to turn on his pistol mounted light. The sergeant told investigators he was trying to turn on the light when he accidentally fired his weapon.

The sergeant stated that he never intended to have his finger on the trigger nor did he intend to shoot Alcala. The light the sergeant had mounted on his pistol was a Surefire x300 without the DG remote switch. The sergeant had used remote switches in the past and tightened his grip thinking he was activating the light. Finger on the trigger, tightening his grip, pistol firing--the sympathetic nervous response in action.

During the last practice session we completed the Texas Department of Public Safety (Texas state police) old 60 round qualification course with a possible score of 300 as outlined below. The new qualification deletes the support hand string at seven yards.

3-yard line - 19 shots:

-- Holstered: 2 steps right, 3 shots, 5 seconds

-- Holstered: 2 steps left, 2 shots, 4 seconds

-- Holstered: 2 steps right, 2 shots, 4 seconds

-- Holstered: Strong Hand, 6 shots (3-2-1); 4,3,2 seconds

-- Ready: Support Hand, 6 shots (3-2-1); 4,3,2 seconds

7-yard line - 18 shots:

-- Holstered: 6 shots, while reloading 1 step right, 6 shots, 20 seconds

-- Ready: Pistol in Support Hand (you may use two hands), 6 shots, 15 seconds

15-yard line - 12 shots:

-- Holstered: 6 shots, 1 step left, 6 shots, 20 seconds

25-yard line - 11 shots:

-- Holstered: 6 shots, 1 step right, 5 shots (standing or kneeling), 25 seconds

We used the Austin Police Department modified Q19 target with shots within the Q19 outline (red zone--see picture below) scored as 5 points and shots outside that zone but on the threat as 2 points. Everyone passed (80% or 240 points) and I shot a possible score of 300 with my SIG P320 using a hand-held light with only three shots outside the center rectangle.




Is a light on a long gun a good idea? Absolutely. However, a pistol mounted light may be a solution in search of a problem. They are expensive, speciality lights designed for a single purpose. You can purchase a superb hand-held light for much less and it will serve for everyday use as well as for the rare emergency when you must engage a threat with your pistol under low light conditions.

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Sunday, February 17, 2019

Don't Get Shot -- Interacting with Police at Home

On January 4, 2019 a Knox County Sheriff's Deputy was performing a security check in response to a home alarm. The deputy’s bodycam shows him examining the property and as he approached a rear door on the house, the homeowner yanked open the door pointing a pistol at the deputy. The deputy fired one shot without hitting the homeowner. Although uninjured, you can hear the homeowner ask: “Why did you shoot me?”  (click here for the video)

Well duh! You yanked open a door and pointed a pistol at the deputy—that’s why. Although there is no public information concerning why the homeowner’s alarm was triggered, it is possible that the homeowner inadvertently entered the duress code on his house alarm. A duress code is a secondary, covert signal designed to be entered on the alarm keypad in the event that an intruder ambushes you at home and forces you to disarm the system. On monitored alarm systems, the duress code appears to disarm the alarm; however, it sends send a silent panic alert to a monitoring station that something is amiss in the home. This often causes the alarm company to call the police without calling the house first to see if everything is OK.

I do not believe that the deputy involved in this incident did anything wrong. The deputy was responding to an alarm at a home that indicated that an intruder might be present and his reaction to someone opening a door and pointing a pistol at him was perfectly reasonable and justified. In the end, no one got shot and everything turned out fine; however, this incident could have ended very differently.

How do we prevent situations like this? Although the homeowner believed he was defending his home from a suspicious intruder on his property, in reality there was no reason to open the door. The deputy was in uniform and simply looking out the window would have demonstrated this fact. It is unclear if the homeowner called 911; however, had he done so and provided his address, it is probable that the dispatcher would have told him the police were at his home.

In Texas, using force against an intruder who you know or have reason to believe was unlawfully and with force entering or attempting to enter unlawfully and with force your occupied habitation, vehicle, or place of business or employment is presumed reasonable under certain circumstances. Therefore, someone in similar circumstances can simply wait to see if the intruder attempts to enter their house and respond accordingly from a cover position (in Texas at least—if you live in another state your results may vary).

The first step in home security is to have a plan and that plan should probably not include “exit the home and confront intruder.” I am not a fan of leaving your home to confront intruders. I did that once and learned just how foolish that can be. Exiting your home and confronting a possible intruder outside increases your physical risk and may negate the presumption of reasonableness for your actions depending upon the laws in your jurisdiction.

If you exit your home armed and find yourself facing the police instead of an intruder, you may well finish up on the receiving end of police gunfire as happened on May 7, 2015 when Bryan Heyward called 911 to report armed men attempting to break into his mother’s home. When sheriff's deputies arrived at the scene, Heyward exited the house through the back door holding a gun. A deputy yelled “show me your hands!” and fired twice at Heyward less than a second later. One bullet struck Heyward in the neck and he may be permanently paralyzed.

Ensure that no one can simply kick in your exterior doors as shown in this video. One solution is heavy metal doors and frames, very decorative (somewhat costly) and no human can kick them in.

Other than metal doors, most pre-hung doors are not very sturdy. For exterior wooden doors (make sure they are solid wood), I personally used the Strikemaster II Pro to reinforce my door jams and hinges. I did this as the house was being built and asked the builder to install them so it was relatively painless. Similar products are the Door Armor Max (formerly EZ Armor) that Armor Concepts produces and Door Security Pro. There are probably others on the market that perform a similar function.

If someone does manage to defeat your door and enters your home, responding from a cover position increases your chances of survival and builds the foundation of “reasonableness” for your actions.

Your home security plan should also include a safe room or rooms. In my house, someone yelling “BEDROOM!” is giving the command for everyone to instantly stop what they are doing and retreat to a secure bedroom with a reinforced bedroom door. From there you can call 911 and prepare to take other necessary action.

The door on you safe room or rooms should be made from at least 1-1/2 solid wood, with a deadbolt, and have a frame reinforced with the Strikemaster or similar product. Even if someone gets in the house, attempting to enter the bedroom is impossible without power tools and significant noise that will alert the homeowner.

Remember, not every possible “intruder” is necessarily a criminal. The homeowner in this incident probably did not have reason to believe that the police would be at his house. Regardless, there was a completely valid reason for the police to be poking around his back yard and coming to his back door. There are many completely legitimate and legal reasons why you could find a police officer, fireman, or utility worker on your property. In most neighborhoods it is more likely that someone on your property is either a neighbor or first responder rather than a criminal.

It is much safer to stay put and deal with a possible intruder on your terms rather than exiting your home and charging into a situation where you may not have enough information nor enough time to make a good decision. Additionally, making contact with police on the scene is much safer if you are not visibly armed.

Police officers don’t want to get shot. Legally armed citizens don’t want to mistakenly shoot a police officer who is trying to help them and certainly don’t want the police to shoot them. In reality, both parties want the same outcome. 

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