Monday, December 31, 2018

Thugs in the Dark: A Low Light Practice Session

Police say a husband opened fire on two home invasion suspects as they tried to hold his wife at gunpoint as she arrived home around 10:30 p.m. According to the Houston Police, it started when the man’s wife pulled into their driveway. Two armed suspects ran up and tried to rob her. They took her purse and then tried to force her into the house. However, her husband heard the commotion from inside the house, grabbed his gun, and ended up exchanging gunfire with the intruders. Fortunately, the couple weren’t hit; however, the husband shot one of the suspects in the head, the other suspect took off running.

This real-life incident is exactly like one of our decision-based scenarios that we use during our low light classes and practice sessions. I ran this during our final practice session last season and several participants found it difficult, so we did it once again for our first session this season. Situation: The participants were at home expecting their spouse or other family member accompanied by a young child to arrive soon. Headlights appear in their driveway; however, their family members do not come in the house. The participant steps outside to determine the cause for delay; but, cannot see past the headlights. The participant calls out to their family member who immediately responds with cries for help.

This year everyone did fairly well; only one participant clipped the child’s ear with a 9mm round which would have still hit the bad guy. After everyone ran the scenario, the guys reset it for me with different targets. The setup for my run is shown below.

The idea is to “slice the pie” using the wall as cover to determine what you are facing and then to engage any threats from cover. From cover position one, you can engage target one.  Then moving once again (still using the wall as cover), from cover two you can engage T2, etc, until you have solved the problem. As I saw each threat, I engaged it with a head shot. The first shot I fired was at the female and hit her pistol. I thought I hit her in the head, but I probably jerked the trigger a bit. My hit on the pistol would have potentially taken it out of action and probably would have forced her to drop it. I then settled down and did fairly well with the remaining threats one shot each to the head. Distances were from 5-10 yards.

For scenario number two, I had a picture target of a kid with a phone and headphones in his ears (a non-threat) and a police officer (also a non-threat) visible under a street lamp some distance behind the headlights. As soon as the participant cleared the wall the police officer challenged him with “Police, Don’t Move! Hand up!” Amazingly, some participants drew their pistols. Not a good idea. Others turned and ran—also not a good idea. No one did what the police officer was commanding them to do.

I added this scenario because we get too accustomed to thinking that every training scenario is solved with a pistol. I have noticed this over the years, so now I often provide potential choices in the scenario that do not involve shooting someone.

This was the case with scenario three. I told the participant to go get in his car and leave. As soon as he cleared the wall, a man with a knife was demanding his keys. Everyone immediately engaged the knife wielder with gunfire rather than retreating back into their “house” which was closer and quicker. The point of this scenario of course was to avoid the threat if possible—always a better choice if you can do so safely.

As we continue the 2018-19 Low Light season, I plan to hold a class in Jan 19 and more practice sessions in the following months. Once you take the class, you can participate in the practice sessions. I also plan to incorporate more low light decision-based scenarios. These are challenging and I had gotten out of the habit of including them because they were so difficult; however, I see their value and we will do more. I also plan to add force-on-force with airsoft for the more advanced participants to add a little more realism.

If you enjoy reading these please subscribe. The link is on the upper right side of the page. All that will happen is that you will receive an e-mail when I post an article. Your information will never be distributed.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Gunshot Residue and Personal Carry Ammunition

In September 1997, after 8-1/2 years and four trials, Daniel Bias Jr. began a six-year prison sentence for murdering his wife. One of the key issues associated with the case was the presence or lack of gunshot residue on Lise Bias after the shooting. The defense attorney in Bias’s trial argued that Lise Bias died accidentally as she was pointing a pistol at her head: however, the prosecution argued that the lack of gunshot residue on Lise Bias's nightgown and head wound shows she could not have shot herself.

A prosecution witness and ballistics expert testified that the bullet that killed Lise Bias would have left a powder residue if it had been fired from any distance under 45 inches. However, ballistics testing on the ammunition Lise Bias’s wounds could not be run because the ammunition in the pistol that killed Lise Bias was ammunition that Daniel Bias had reloaded. As a result, there was no way of knowing if the cartridges were all the same reloads or not and therefore they could not be relied upon for gunshot residue (GSR) testing.

Per Massad Ayoob: Defensive shootings are often very close-range affairs in which gunshot residue from your muzzle is deposited on your attacker’s body or clothing. This can become a critical evidentiary factor if the other side insists he was too far away from you to endanger you at the moment he was shot.* With reloaded ammunition, the forensic examiner cannot verify distances because there is no un-biased sample to measure it against. The accused has literally manufactured the evidence; therefore, judge is unlikely to admit the reloaded ammunition as an exhibit in the trial.

Picture #1 below shows powder burns on a white t-shirt when I fired a 9mm pistol with the muzzle in contact with the shirt.

#1: Muzzle Contacting T-Shirt

From a distance perspective, the lead deposits in picture #2 is similar to what happens with gunshot residue. Closer shots deposit more material, while more distant shots deposit less. These are pictures of reloaded ammunition firing plated bullets. The rifling in the barrel will often cut the plating and the bullet will spray an extremely fine mist of lead as it initially leaves the barrel. Bullet “A” was 12 inches away, bullet “B” 24 inches, and bullet “C” was 36 inches from the t-shirt.
#2: Muzzle at 3 Different Distances
Picture #3 shows the same phenomena on cardboard with bullets fired from various distances. Picture #4 is gunshot residue deposited on a target from a pistol approximately six inches away.

#3: Muzzle Various Distances

#4: GSR Six Inches

What can we learn from this? GSR distance testing is often done with exemplar ammunition or ammunition that is identical to what was in your pistol. This is the primary reason to carry factory ammunition for personal defense. When you purchase this ammunition, try to buy several boxes from the same lot. Write the date you entered the ammunition into service on the box. Load all of your carry magazines with the same ammunition from the same box—do not mix ammunition lots or brands in your carry magazines.

After you load your magazines for carry, save at least five rounds in the box. If you find yourself in a short range defensive situation, the forensics examiner can use the ammunition sample from the lot that you have saved to verify distances with powder testing. If the prosecution objects to this, your attorney can request an independent sample from the manufacturer. Large ammunition makers keep samples for each lot for exemplar testing for 10 years. This is why keeping the box intact with the lot numbers is important.

This does not mean you must practice only with expensive carry ammunition, reloads can have a role in this process. Reloading your ammunition can provide a more economical practice round for matches and training if you can match the point of impact for your carry ammunition. For example, I carry the Hornady Critical Defense 135gr standard pressure 9mm round. My reloads with 135gr plated bullets closely match my carry round. In the picture below, you can see a 15-yard group with the Hornady Critical Duty circled in red and three groups of my reloads circled in black. I was shooting my normal P320 carry pistol with a Trijicon RMR06 red dot sight. I adjusted the RMR so the Critical Duty impacted in the center of the one inch square.  Good enough.

If you enjoy reading these please subscribe. The link is on the upper right side of the page. All that will happen is that you will receive an e-mail when I post an article. Your information will never be distributed.


15 Yard Groups of 3 Shots

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Practice 2018: IDPA 5x5 Qualification Drill

IDPA 5x5; SAPD Target
I managed to get to the range for a short time this last weekend and continued to practice self-defense drills.

For this session I started with the IDPA 5x5 qualifier. This qualifier serves as a good baseline measure of competence.

The 5x5 is shot on a single target placed 10 yards from the shooter as follows:

String 1: Draw and fire 5 shots freestyle

String 2: Draw and fire 5 shots using primary hand only

String 3: Start with only 5 rounds in your pistol. Draw and fire 5 shots, emergency reload (slide lock) and fire 5 additional shots freestyle

String 4: Draw and fire 4 shots to the body and one shot to the head freestyle

I shot the first qualifier cold on the San Antonio Police Department (SAPD) qualifier target. This target is slightly more forgiving than the standard IDPA target with a 9-1/2 x 9 inch “zero down” area in the body and a 5 x 2-3/4 inch zero down rectangle in the head.

I used my SIG P320 carry pistol. This pistol has an X-Carry Grip Module, a 3.9 inch barrel, and the slide modified to use the Trijicon RMR06 with the 3.25 MOA dot.

My times on the first qualifier were:

String 1: 3.29;  String 2: 4.41;  String 3: 7.52;  String 4: 3.68

Points down: 1 point

Score: 19.90

As you can see in the photo, I dropped on shot in the -1 equivalent on the target. The head shot on the target is a down zero when measured from the center of the rectangle. The score would have been a Master run on a standard IDPA target. 

I then shot three more qualifiers with the red dot and got progressively slower on each. My average times for all four were:

String 1: 3.42;  String 2: 4.48;  String 3: 7.56; String 4: 4.10

Average Points down: 1.5 points

Average Score: 20.64

I finished the 5x5 session with two qualifiers using iron sights only. I did OK with the irons shooting the exact same overall score of 21.42 for two runs. Even if you use a red dot sight, you should continue practicing with you iron sights periodically.

I stepped back to the 50 yard line and shot five head shots with my reloads and five with a new lot of Hornady Critical Duty standard pressure ammunition using iron sights. I periodically rotate my carry ammunition and always confirm that the point of impact for a new lot is where I expect it to be. The Hornady Critical Duty is typically a bit more accurate than my reloads at longer distances.


At 50 yards, the front sight that I have on my SIG completely covers the standard IDPA target's head.

I then did several 4-yard speed drills on a standard IDPA target of 2-shots to the body followed instantly by a head shot. I started with my hand on a concealed pistol. My average times were:

Draw: 0.99 seconds        Total for 3-shots: 1.43 seconds

I then completed the Texas Department of Public Safety license to carry qualification course. I shot the course using the DPS times; however, drew the pistol from concealment and reloaded the pistol when necessary on the clock for the 10 and 15-second strings. (Note: The standard LTC course is shot from low ready and does not require reloads on the clock)

Texas Department of Public Safety LTC Qualification

I finished the practice session with five head shots from 75 yards using the red dot sight and the Hornady Critical Duty ammunition. The picture below shows the results of these shots on the SAPD qualification target. This target’s inner (light-colored) bottle measures 6-1/4 x 3-3/4 inches.

Does the red dot sight make someone who cannot shoot a better shot? No, it does not; however, it can make a good shooter more precise.  The red dot sight shines at longer distances

If you enjoy reading these please subscribe. The link is on the upper right side of the page. All that will happen is that you will receive an e-mail when I post an article. Your information will never be distributed.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Practice: The KR Training Three Second Drill

For the last several months, getting to the range has been challenging so my live fire practice has suffered. We’ve had lots of rain in San Antonio which has rendered range conditions unacceptable. In this practice session I decided to focus on self defense shooting skills.

I started with the KR Training Three Seconds or Less Drill. Per KR Training, this drill is roughly twice as hard as the Texas LTC shooting test. It is intended to define a baseline minimum competency level that every person who carries concealed should be able to achieve. Please go here for the full drill description, background, and scoring: KR Training

The drill requires you to shoot at three and seven yards, starting holstered and concealed or from the low ready. The shooter must complete all strings in 3 seconds or less and scoring is standard IDPA or IPSC scoring. For this drill I used a photorealistic target with the “down zero” circle centered over the heart for the body and the down zero circle centered between the eyes for the head shot for scoring purposes. (Note: I added the circles for illustration in the photo—they were not present on the target while I was shooting.)

I shot the drill cold with no warm up using my normal carry pistol. I carry a SIG P320 with an X-Carry Grip Module, a 3.9 inch barrel, and the slide modified to use the Trijicon RMR. I use the RMR06 with the 3.25 MOA dot for reasons I will explain below; however, I used the back-up iron sights only for this drill.

Seventeen shots to the body, three shots to the head for a possible score of 100.  As you can see in the photo (small circle), I dropped one shot in what would have been the -1 equivalent on an IDPA target. Per KR Training scoring, this would equate to a score of 98 out of a possible 100.

After the KR Training warm-up drill, I did several short range getting off the “X” drills. You start at 3-4 yards with the target at the 12 o’clock position. Several repetitions moving off the X to the 1-2 o’clock, 10-11 o’clock, 9 and 3 o’clock, and then a confined space drill. The confined space drill is something I picked up from Suarez International as an affiliate instructor. Gabe later posted it in a blog entry you can read here. Suarez International 

I then completed the Texas Department of Public Safety (Texas State Police) old-style qualification course as follows:

Stage I: 3-yard line - 19 shots fired in the following sequence: (two-handed grip)

     -- From the holstered position on command draw while moving 2 steps to the right and engage the target with 3 shots. Re holster on command. Remain in position to the right of the target. (time limit: 5 seconds)

     -- From the holstered position on command draw while moving 2 steps to the left and engage the target with 2 shots. Re holster on command. Remain in position in front of the target (time limit: 4 seconds)

     -- From the holstered position on command draw while moving 2 steps to the right and engage the target with 2 shots. Re holster on command. (time limit: 4 seconds)

     -- From a holstered position on command draw and engage the target weapon hand only, standing position, with 6 shots in a 3-2-1 sequence without returning to the holster. Shooters will remain in place during this sequence of fire. (time limit: 4-3-2 seconds) Reload.

     -- From the ready position on command with support hand only, standing position, engage the target with 6 shots in a 3-2-1 sequence. Shooters will remain in place during this sequence of fire. (time limit: 4-3-2 seconds)

Stage II: 7-yard line – 18 rounds fired in the following sequence:

     -- From the holstered position, on command draw and engage the target with 6 shots standing (two- handed grip), while reloading move one step to the right and engage the target with 6 more shots. (time limit: 20 seconds)

     -- From the ready position; engage the target with 6 shots support hand (two-handed grip). (Time limit: 15 seconds) Shooters will remain in place during this sequence of fire.

Stage III: 15-yard line - 12 rounds fired in the following sequence:

     -- From the holstered position, on command draw and engage the target with 6 shots standing (two- handed) move one step left and engage the target with 6 more shots. (Time limit: 20 seconds) Reload and on command re center on target.

Stage IV: 25-yard line - 11 rounds fired in the following sequence:

     -- From the holstered position, on command draw and engage the target with 6 shots standing (two- handed) move one step right and engage the target with 5 shots standing or kneeling. (Time limit: 25 seconds).

Total number of shots fired is 60. Qualifying score is 240 or above out of a possible of 300 or 80 percent. My score was 300 using the more stringent IDPA-style scoring. 

I finished the practice session with five head shots from 75 yards. Twenty-five yards and beyond is where the red dot really becomes a significant aid. My first encounter with a red dot on a pistol was in NRA Bullseye competition many years ago as competitors began mounting the Aimpoint G2 and MKIII on bullseye pistols. We had guys that could hold the 1.695 inch “X ring” at 50 yards on a standard NRA bullseye target with one hand. I personally detested the red dot because I simply did not have the skill to hold it steady enough and the bouncing red dot was a distraction.

Fast forward to the modern red dot that the Trijicon, Delta Point, and others represent. Although a quality red dot is not cheap and it does take practice to master its use, the red dot will enhance your capabilities as a shooter beyond what "traditional" equipment will allow.

In 2018 I worked on my longer-range pistol skills. At one point I was using a 6.5 MOA dot and discovered that the dot size covered up too much of the target at longer ranges. I switched to the 3.25 MOA dot of the RMR06 which is visible enough for fast-paced, closer range precision shots while also working well for longer range (greater than 50 yard) shots.

The picture below shows the results of five shots fired from 75 yards at the head of the photorealistic target. This target’s head is 20% larger than the IDPA target so the shot in the upper left would have missed an IDPA target.

If you enjoy reading these please subscribe. The link is on the upper right side of the page. All that will happen is that you will receive an e-mail when I post an article. Your information will never be distributed.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

The Socialist Rifle Association—Coming to a Range Near You?

The SRA Logo©
I was reading John Farnam’s blog when I encountered an entry concerning the Socialist Rifle Association. Wait!! The what? 

Yes, the Socialist Rifle Association. I immediately did an internet search and indeed the Socialist Rifle Association exists and per their website has “chapters” across the country. On 8 October 2018, the Socialist Rifle Association Inc was formed in Kansas as a not-for-profit corporation that qualifies under 501c4 tax code provisions.

So what is the Socialist Rifle Association? The Socialist Rifle Association purports to be an educational organization to provide working class people information to permit self and community defense through a left-leaning platform free from what they characterize as racist and reactionary prejudices. 

They claim no specific ideology beyond generic socialism, but rather state that their membership includes Anarcho-Syndicalists, Marxist-Leninists, Luxembourgists, Maoists, and many others. Educational material on their website includes the Communist Manifesto, Anarcho-Syndicalism, and the ABC's of Socialism which discusses Bernie Sanders views in some detail.

Per the SRA website, the SRA focuses their opposition on state, fascist, and reactionary right attempts to maintain a monopoly on lethal force. They advocate a counter to that monopoly through training and readiness to “take our fate into our own hands.”*

The “state, fascists, and the reactionary right.” I assume by the “state” they mean the duly elected federal and state governments in the United States. I’m pretty sure that they are talking about you and me when they discuss “fascists and the reactionary right.” 

The SRA takes square aim at the National Rifle Association calling it an organization aligned with the Republican Party. They decried the NRA’s appointment of Oliver North as President and call upon “principled gun owners” to abandon the NRA and join the SRA. 

It is ironic that the rights SRA members enjoy are absolutely the result of the NRA and its member’s efforts over decades to prevent the erosion of all law-abiding citizen’s right to own firearms. 

Taking a close look at the SRA may well be worth the time and effort. In particular, their education and resources sections. I believe that these people are serious. Their brochure shows the Tulsa, OK chapter's September 2018 range day; however, the faces of those who are training is obscured.  Hmmm.

We also have a chapter here in San Antonio—this might explain some of the interesting folks that have begun coming to some of the local rifle and pistol matches.  

You can find the SRA here.

If you enjoy reading these please subscribe. The link is on the upper right side of the page. All that will happen is that you will receive an e-mail when I post an article. Your information will never be distributed. 

* The SRA logo and all material I quote in this article from the SRA is copyright of that organization. Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. 

Friday, November 2, 2018

Pop goes the Squib

A squib load is a round that fires immediately upon impact of the firing pin; however, the round’s propelling energy is less than what is necessary to push the projectile out of the bore. This results in a bullet being lodged somewhere between the chamber and the muzzle--a condition that could cause damage to the firearm or serious injury should you fire another round with the bore obstructed. With many squibs, you will only hear the light "pop" of the primer firing and a puff of smoke as shown in the picture just behind the slide. 
Although squibs are usually the result of faulty powder charges and these often from careless reloading, they can happen with any ammunition. I've seen squibs in questionable factory ammunition (from those countries), reloads with contaminated powder or insufficient charge, and older factory ammunition that was stored incorrectly, contaminated at some point, or whose powder or primer has deteriorated. Since squib loads generally fail to expel the bullet from the barrel, you must use a metal rod or wooden dowel and some impact (e.g. a hammer or hard surface) to drive the bullet out before the firearm can be placed back into action.

A while back during an IDPA match I witnessed a squib load result in the destruction of a pistol. The competitor believed she had failed to chamber a round when she reloaded the pistol, she then executed a Tap-Rack Type 1 malfunction clearance, and immediately came back on target and fired another round. This round was noticeably louder and pistol jammed with the slide locked in place. The Safety Officer didn’t realize the competitor had a squib due to the shooter’s body obstructing the SO’s ability to see the pistol (a tight corridor in the stage) and the noise from nearby shooting bays.

The competitor had trained herself (as many of us have) to clear the malfunction automatically. The Tap-Rack maneuver chambered a fresh round, which when fired blew the stuck bullet free, causing excessive pressure that bulged the barrel, stressed the slide rails out of specification and jammed the pistol solidly in a partially open position. Smith and Wesson later x-rayed the plastic frame and determined that it was stressed as well—the pistol was essentially a total loss. If this happened in a self defense situation instead of during a competition, the competitor would have had a serious problem; a problem only a backup gun could likely have solved.

How do you identify a possible squib?

The key indicator of a squib round is a quieter than normal report when the firearm fires. It is much quieter than a normal round and often it is just the sound of the primer popping. If you hear a gunshot that is significantly quieter than normal, stop and check for a blocked barrel. Squibs can happen with any type of cartridge including those fired out of rifles, shotguns, or pistols.

In this video I set up two squibs. One with a P320 in 9mm and one with a S&W M&P .45 ACP. I demonstrate what the squib sounds like and show how to clear the bore with a FreeBore tool. Click Here for the Video 

What should you do if you suspect a squib?

STOP SHOOTING! You don’t want to take the chance of an obstructed barrel blowing up your gun and injuring you or someone else if you continue firing. Unload the gun and inspect the barrel to determine if the bore is blocked. If firing a rifle and a bullet is stuck in the barrel, use a cleaning rod and a mallet/hammer to drive it out of the barrel. I normally do this from the receiver end if the rifle design permits since the bullet is oriented that direction. After you get the bullet out, inspect the barrel for any bulges, cracks, or deformities. 
If firing a pistol, use a FreeBore or similar tool to drive the bullet out. You can see a FreeBore in the picture on the right. No obstruction in the barrel.

If this occurs during a match STOP SHOOTING! Clear the pistol bore and restart the stage. The potential consequences of a blown-up pistol are not worth the risk. It is a match after all--no one is shooting at you. 

If a squib occurs during a self defense situation--go to your back-up pistol if you are carrying one. Otherwise, drop the magazine (retain it if it is your only one) then use your FreeBore or a similar object to check the bore. If it is obstructed, drive the bullet out, reload, and continue as appropriate. Obviously not the best of circumstances so carrying quality factory ammunition and rotating your ammunition periodically is a great idea.

Shameless plug: We manufacture the FreeBore. If you wish to purchase one click here: FreeBore.

The FreeBore is solid titanium and will go into pistol bores of 9mm or larger. If you have a squib, unload the pistol, insert the FreeBore to confirm that you have a bore obstruction, and whack out the bullet. 

The FreeBore is strong enough that it will not be damaged nor will it damage the rifling. It also works as an emergency tool for dislodging jammed shells in a revolver, an autoloader with a broken extractor, or freeing stuck mechanical parts. 

The FreeBore will carry your keys as well. I have discovered (as many before me have) that having your keys on a rod to slip inside your pants with your keys does several things: it frees up a pocket, it makes your keys more accessible with either hand, and it holds them securely (unless you must go to half-mast—then stick it in your pocket for the duration). 

Although it looks like and could function in a manner similar to a kubotan, persuader, or like device, the FreeBore is not designed to be a weapon.  Regardless, the laws in some states (including Texas) might consider the FreeBore a weapon depending upon the totality of the circumstances surrounding its use outside of its intended purpose.

If you enjoy reading these please subscribe. The link is on the upper right side of the page. All that will happen is that you will receive an e-mail when I post an article. Your information will never be distributed.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Gunfight Analysis: The Richard Mendoza Incident

Los Angeles: With only 9 months left on probation, Richard Mendoza was not going back to prison. When the the female officer told him to get out of the car, he knew the police would discover his pistol. Mendoza also knew that surprise was on his side so he decided to take the chance.

The Los Angeles Police Department released video of an officer-involved shooting that left the suspect Richard Mendoza dead and one officer wounded in the leg. The shooting happened during a traffic stop in North Hills, California, on the night of July 27, 2018. The video shows a female officer speaking to Mendoza who appears to be cooperating and following her instructions when she tells him to step out of the car. (Click here to view the video)

Video then shows Mendoza pulling out a pistol and shooting her in the leg. He then turns to shoot at her partner, Officer Miguel Alarcon, over the car.  However, Officer Alarcon quickly fires striking Mendoza in the head and torso. Mendoza later died at a hospital. Police records show that Mendoza was a gang member and had previous convictions on drug and weapons charges. Mendoza indicated during the verbal exchange with the female officer that he had nine months left on probation at the time of the shooting. Mendoza likely attacked the officers hoping to escape rather than be arrested and returned to prison for charges of a felon in possession of a firearm.

In the video you can see Mendoza glancing at Officer Alarcon out of the corner of his eye just before he exits the car and shoots the female officer. Mendoza was likely trying to confirm the male officer’s position in preparation for engaging that officer. You can see Mendoza’s pistol on Officer Alarcon’s body cam video as Mendoza exits the vehicle. The female officer’s body cam shows Alarcon glancing away at just that moment—understandable if unfortunate. Officer Alarcon was simply maintaining situational awareness of their surroundings.

From the time the female officer could have seen Mendoza’s pistol until he shot her was approximately 0.86 seconds—far too short a time for her to react. Officer Alarcon clearly reacted an instant before Mendoza fired at the female officer and before Mendoza turned to fire at him. It is not clear from the various videos whether Officer Alarcon was reacting to Mendoza’s aggressive move toward the female officer or whether he glanced into the car just in time to see Mendoza’s pistol as Mendoza was exiting his car.*

I believe it was the latter. Officer Alarcon fired his first shot in 0.72 seconds after Mendoza’s shot which leads me to believe that he saw and reacted to Mendoza’s pistol. The car dashcam video shows Alarcon dip his shoulder in a manner indicative of drawing his pistol an instant before Mendoza shoots the female officer. The dashcam and Officer Alarcon’s body cam both show that he had started lateral movement to his left at the instant of Mendoza’s shot.

After he shoots the female officer, Mendoza turns and aims his pistol where he likely believed Alarcon was still standing; however, Alarcon had moved.  Video analysis does not show Mendoza firing a second shot and I believe not seeing Alarcon where he expected to see him caused momentary hesitation.  In any event, it is likely that Officer Alarcon’s first shot strikes Mendoza before he can fire. The video shows Mendoza beginning to fall 0.5 seconds after Alarcon’s first shot and Mendoza continues falling until he hits the pavement. Alarcon’s second shot ricochets off the top of the car and may not have hit Mendoza.

Officer Alarcon is positioned over the car trunk at this point, likely out of Mendoza’s immediate line of fire. Alarcon’s 3rd and 4th shots go through the car’s rear window. His 3rd shot may have struck Mendoza, his 4th shot probably did not because Mendoza had fallen out of his line of sight by this time. Officer Alarcon fires four shots in 0.90 seconds or a rate of fire of 0.30 seconds between shots. Studies show that Alarcon’s rate of fire would fall within the range of a typical police officer of 0.25 – 0.30 seconds between shots.**

What can we learn from this incident? The person who takes the initiative gets to start the fight—all they require is decisiveness, marksmanship, and the will to win. Mendoza had the initiative in this fight and his surprise attack immediately dropped the female officer.

Officer Alarcon in this incident faced a reactive event where the bad guy was already preparing to shoot him. Studies and countless officer involved shooting videos have shown that the initial reaction of many officers (and private citizens for that matter) who are facing a deadly threat is to stand flat-footed, draw, and try to return fire—this is how most departments train their officers—stand and deliver. That is also what square range practice and many “shooting courses” typically teach.

However, Officer Alarcon did not employ the typical stand and deliver tactic, but rather he dynamically moved off the “X”, drew his pistol, and fired before Mendoza could fire at him thereby ending the gunfight.

If you enjoy reading these please subscribe. The link is on the upper right side of the page. All that will happen is that you will receive an e-mail when I post an article. Your information will never be distributed.

* The Los Angeles Police have not released any accounts of the incident from the officer’s perspective; so some of my analysis is educated guess. 

** Police Officer Reaction Time to Start and Stop Shooting: The Influence of Decision-Making and Pattern Recognition, William J. Lewinski, PhD; et al.; Law Enforcement Executive Forum, Vol. 14, No. 2 • June 2014

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Mindset: The Cooper Color Codes

Dominick Maldonado
“When I changed into another position, I see just the most surreal sight,” McKown said from his bed at Tacoma General Hospital "It's a young Arabic-looking boy . . . with a ball cap on and an AK in his hand. McKown drew his 9mm pistol but then had second thoughts of shooting "a kid."

McKown told Dominick Maldonado (the shooter), "I think you need to put that gun down, young man."* 

The “kid” turned and shot McKown five times, once in the leg and four times in the torso. "Every one of his shots got some part of me," McKown said. McKown’s reluctance could easily have cost him his life.

Cooper’s Color Code

The Cooper Color Code as Jeff Cooper promulgated it was not a system for describing levels of potential danger, but rather a technique to enable a law-abiding citizen (i.e. someone in McKown’s circumstance) to overcome a natural reluctance to use lawful deadly force against another. Quoting Jeff Cooper: “The color code is not a means of assessing danger or formulating a tactical solution. It is rather a psychological means of overcoming your innate reluctance to shoot a man down. Normal people have a natural and healthy mental block against delivering the irrevocable blow. This is good, but in a gunfight it may well get you killed. The color code enables you to change your state of mind by three steps, each of which enables you to overcome your mental block and take lifesaving action.” **

Cooper’s color code conditions are White, Yellow, Orange, and Red as follows:

    -- Condition White: Completely unprepared and unaware of your surroundings. In Condition White you may be in deadly danger and not realize it. If you are attacked in Condition White you are unlikely to be able to effectively respond and you may be seriously injured or killed.

    -- Condition Yellow: State of relaxed alertness and situational awareness. In Condition Yellow although you are not aware of any specific situation which may call for immediate action, you know that you may have to defend yourself today. You understand that the world is full of hazards, many of which are human, and that your readiness to take defensive action can mitigate these threats. If you are attacked in Condition Yellow you will probably prevail if you are armed and may be able to take effective action even if unarmed. 

    -- Condition Orange: In Condition Orange you become alert to the possibility deadly threat in your immediate environment. In Condition Orange you understand that you may have to shoot a specific threat, right now, today. At this point your normal reluctance becomes easier to overcome because your training tells you that someone is threatening to use unlawful deadly force against you or another innocent. You begin actively looking for threat indicators and start conscious analysis and assessments of potential threats.

Although you remain cognizant of the legal and moral aspects of the situation, you focus your mind on the possible need for immediate defensive action. Looking deep—what’s in their hands? Are they looking at you or past you? Can you safely leave the area? Should you? Your hand may establish a firing grip on the pistol, you may draw the pistol at home, but probably not in the shopping mall or other crowded public place. The actions of that threat—standing right there—dictate your next moves.

    -- Condition Red: You have drawn your pistol because you are justified in taking the threat at gunpoint; you can articulate why this is so. In Condition Red you have decided to act the instant the threat’s behavior warrants an immediate response. You wait for a trigger or take other lifesaving actions as the totality of the circumstances dictate.

An addition to the Cooper Color Code: 

    -- Condition Black: The color code as many instructors currently teach: The threat has tripped a final trigger. You must immediately use proportional deadly force to defend yourself or another innocent.

Cooper contended that “Condition Black” was unnecessary and that Condition Red sufficed because in his view you have decided you are ready to use lawful deadly force when you enter Condition Red and as a result, there is no need to go beyond that condition. As stated above, many who teach Condition Black contend that there is a difference between being ready to act and deciding to act; that being in a Condition Red state of readiness does not necessarily imply immediate action.

Cooper himself alluded to this fact: “In Condition Red, you are ready to fight. You may not actually have to act on that, but your body and mind are now prepared for physical conflict. While this does not mean you instantly attack someone, you are certainly ready and waiting for a specific trigger or predetermined action that will launch the process. This state is where you have made a decision that you are ready and willing to fight back. Most people quite properly find this a difficult step, but the difficulty may be eased if it is anticipated. Thus you cannot shift any farther upscale than Red, because in Red you have already surmounted the barrier. Adding categories merely complicates the problem without achieving any useful objective.”*** 

So is Condition Black necessary? I guess it depends on how you view the problem. If the color code “conditions” describe a state of readiness as well as a mindset, then Condition Black is not necessary as Cooper contends. Once a critical trigger is tripped in Condition Red, you are no longer in a state of readiness, but rather a state of action—you are actively responding to a deadly threat. If you accept this view, black may be a decision point; however, it is not a condition.

Massad Ayoob teaches that Condition Red delineates the gunpoint situation where you have clearly identified a threat (I am ready to shoot this person) but the threat is not using unlawful deadly force at that instant (I am not going to shoot this person yet). Massad defines Condition Black as the instant an unlawful assault using deadly force is in progress upon you or other innocent people. In other words, a trigger or decision point at which we have no alternative but to use lawful deadly force to neutralize the threat. In this view, Condition Black, describes the various triggering events that cause you go from readiness to action. 

The threat does appear and you take the threat at gunpoint ready to fire. Do you need another psychological mechanism to help you pull the trigger? Jeff Cooper would have said no and I tend to agree. I don’t think we need a “Condition” Black; however, describing Black as a decision or trigger point may be useful after the event. 

This is the first of two articles on the topic. In part 2, I will provide examples of how the color code can equate to judicial standards of proof and some specific examples of the color code conditions addressing real world events such as the Tacoma Mall shooting I mentioned in the introduction. 

If you enjoy reading these please subscribe. The link is on the upper right side of the page. All that will happen is that you will receive an e-mail when I post an article. Your information will never be distributed. 

* Tacoma News Tribune, 

** Jeff Cooper's Commentaries Volume Six, No 9, pg 45-46

*** Jeff Cooper's Commentaries Volume Eleven, No 12, pg 56

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Thugs Partying: The Kidnapping, Rape, and Murder of Kelly Donovan

Senior Airman Kelly Donovan
August 8, 1988 Kelly Air Force Base: Senior Airman Kelly Donovan failed to report for duty. The lieutenant in charge of the flight in a misguided effort to allow SrA Donovan more time to report, did not inform me until eight hours later. Although an Army Captain, I was officer in charge of a mixed Army and Air Force organization conducting a sensitive mission and due to this sensitivity, military personnel were declared deserters after just 24 hours of unauthorized absence instead of the usual 30 days. The lieutenant had just burned eight of those hours.

I immediately dispatched her sergeant to her barracks room to see if she was there and directed several individuals to start calling the San Antonio Police, Sheriff's Department, etc. A few minutes passed and a sergeant told me that the San Antonio Police had found the body of a young woman not far from the base in a secluded area. A short time later it was my duty to identify the body of SrA Kelly Donovan at the Bexar County Morgue. She had been stabbed multiple times and the police later told us that she had been raped.

Kelly liked to walk alone and apparently decided to go for a walk the evening of 7 August 1988. From their confessions and contemporary accounts, David Cruz and his friend Jerry Kemplin, saw Kelly as they drove home from a party where they had been binge drinking and using illegal drugs. They turned around, stopped, grabbed Kelly, and forced her into their pickup. Cruz and Kemplin drove Kelly to a secluded area, told her to get out of the pick-up, and demanded that she take off her clothes. Cruz raped Kelly twice and then asked Kemplin if he wanted to rape Kelly, but he refused. As Kelly lay on the ground crying, Cruz remarked to Kemplin, "That's all I need to do is go to jail for rape." Cruz then retrieved a knife and stabbed Kelly over twenty times resulting in her death.

David Cruz
As the days passed after the murder, Kemplin told Cruz that he could not stand the knowledge of what they had done and planned to go to the police. Cruz then called police and turned himself in. Cruz also gave police a detailed statement about the murder, as did Kemplin, who corroborated Cruz's confession.

Cruz was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death for Kelly’s rape and murder. The State of Texas executed David Cruz via lethal injection on 9 August 2000, twelve years and two days after he murdered SrA Kelly Donovan. His accomplice Jerry Kemplin was sentenced to 65 years imprisonment.

I had not thought about Kelly in a long time. Perhaps the recent murders of young women who were out alone prompted me to remember Kelly 30 years later. I wondered then and still do what might have happened if Kelly had fought her kidnappers. Never let someone take you to a secondary location—they are death traps. This is particularly true if you are a woman, but applies to men as well. If you are a woman and you allow someone to take you to another location, typically the absolute best that you can hope for is that you will only be raped. If being raped is the best that will happen, think about the other possible outcomes.

I absolutely agree that women (and everyone else for that matter) have a right to go about their business in the world without discrimination, harassment, or violence. Recently there has been a social media debate over supposed victim-blaming and women's right to safely travel alone. One woman’s comment after a recent murder: “Every time you say 'be safe. Be aware. Do this.' It's not just the victim blaming that makes us so mad. It's that we already do that and men still murder us. This is not our fault. We are not to blame for the violence of men.” 

No person is to blame for the violent acts of another. Kelly had a right to walk alone without being kidnapped, raped, and murdered. I get it—in a perfect world we would all be able to go about our business without fear of becoming the victim of a violent crime. Unfortunately, the world is not perfect. I tell women the same thing that I tell men. Pay attention to your surroundings, train to defend yourself—unarmed as well as armed. Be extra cautious and vigilant in transit or fringe areas, particularly if you are alone.

Criminals typically do not operate openly in a crowd and they don’t like witnesses or commotion. Too many witnesses or obvious commotion might prompt someone to interfere or notify the police. For a criminal to successfully kidnap someone they have to get close to that person and take control of them through physical force or force cooperation through intimidation and fear. If this is happening to you, your “right” to go safely about your business is no longer relevant. You have a choice to fight where you are or try to fight later when your options are going to be significantly reduced.

Someone is kidnapping you and in eyes of the law, the only crime worse than kidnapping is premeditated murder. Given that he will spend a significant part of the rest of his life in prison if caught, from the kidnapper’s perspective there is little reason for him NOT to rape and kill you. As David Cruz said: "That's all I need to do is go to jail for rape." 

If you enjoy reading these please subscribe. The link is on the upper right side of the page. Your information will never be distributed.