Saturday, March 10, 2018

Low Light 18: Decision-Based Scenarios #1

Don't Shoot the Good Guy!
We just completed our final practice session for 2017/18. This is the 5th year for our low light curriculum and the shooters who have taken these classes and continued with practice sessions have noticeably improved in most low light tasks.

We started the session with the new IDPA 5x5 classifier to provide the participants the opportunity to test their skills against a known standard without using the flashlights. However, as light began to fade cardboard targets against a cardboard-colored dirt berm posed some challenges with precision for some (me included, I was having a hard time precisely indexing the target and dropped 5 points).

Once it was dark, we then conducted the IDPA 5x5 classifier with lights. Several participants did much better point-wise with lights, but times were significantly slower. My average for every time I have fired the 5x5 CCP is 19.61. My time for the 5x5 using a flashlight was 35.56 with zero points down. This was 55% slower as I manipulated the flashlight during the draw, firing, reloading, etc. I was approximately 3 seconds slower for stages 1, 2, and 4 and my time for stage 3 was almost double what I normally shoot. I am uncertain how to categorize the results using flashlights. 

One of the participants requested some decision-based scenarios so we conducted two scenarios. I have not conducted too many scenarios over the last couple of years, preferring instead to provide participants an opportunity to practice and master low light techniques. As I have mentioned previously, these practice sessions have led to substantial improvements in the participant’s ability to accurately engage targets under low light conditions. However, these practice sessions do not test a participant’s ability to employ these techniques and make sound decisions under stress and that can be a challenge as well.

Decision Based Scenarios

The decision based scenarios we use are surprise scenarios where proper target recognition, flashlight techniques, movement, and marksmanship are critical to success. We use photo realistic targets with a mix of threats and non-threats. 

In the scenario prebrief I asked participants if they were licensed to carry handguns and if they routinely carried their pistol. All five indicated they were licensed and routinely carried. We then discussed the possibility of encountering an armed “good guy” on the scene who, just like them, was caught in an unfolding violent event. All agreed that was a distinct possibility and something to consider. I also discussed the fact that rifle fire and pistol fire made clearly different sounds and what each might sound like during the course of the scenarios so the participants could distinguish between the two weapons.

As you look at the scenario pictures, potentially disabling hits are shown in green, marginal hits in yellow, and misses in red. 

Scenario #1: You are leaving an evening event and walking to your car. You are alone and have no family members or friends present. The parking lot is lit, but not real well. Suddenly you hear a male screaming Jihad! Jihad! and rifle fire erupts in front of you. What do you do?

The first participant quickly scanned the scene using his flashlight while moving laterally. He then abruptly turned and ran away from the rifle fire without drawing his pistol. I stopped the scenario and asked the participant why he decided to run from the scene. He responded that when he scanned with his light there were too many people present to quickly decide who was/was not a threat and that he thought the best decision was to run. Textbook solution—if you are alone and violence erupts, leave immediately if possible.

The second participant quickly scanned the scene using his flashlight and immediately noticed the armed “good guy” who was present, but not pointing his pistol at the participant. He then fixated on this individual and fired at him every time he heard rifle fire—hitting him a couple of times. I asked the participant why he did not scan the scene and he responded that he was concerned the person with the pistol was the primary threat. He never noticed the three Jihadi ten yards away.

The third participant quickly scanned the scene using his flashlight and noticed the armed “good guy.” He then fired at this individual hitting him a couple of times. The participant continued to move and scan the scene and he noticed and fired at 2 of the 3 Jihadi hitting one.

The fourth participant quickly scanned the scene using his flashlight and noticed the armed “good guy;” however, he did not fire at this individual nor did he fire at the police officer or bystander. The participant continued to move and scan the scene and he noticed and engaged all 3 Jihadi hitting 2 several times and the 3rd Jihadi’s rifle scope turret. Participant 4 applied good tactics and used his light to his advantage. 

Participant five noticed the armed “good guy” and fixated on this individual; firing at him several times and missing with most of his shots. Every time he heard rifle fire, he fired at the armed good guy.

This was the first decision scenario for one participant. The other 4 had completed decision scenarios previously; however, not for 2 years. For 4 of the 5 participants, low light tactics, techniques, and procedures went completely out the window. Several shooters managed to completely avoid hitting targets that were well within ten yards even though they fired several rounds. Others misidentified non threat targets and engaged them with enthusiasm. 

However, no one shot at the unarmed, innocent bystander--that is not always the case as you can see from the picture below. 

I’ll provide an overview of Scenario #2, some overall comments, and lessons learned in the next post.

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