Sunday, May 27, 2018

Thugs Driving By--A Low Light Gunfight

The Thug's Shot Up Nissan
An attempted drive-by shooting this time last year didn’t work out so well for the shooters when the intended target shot back. Police reported that three men in a maroon Nissan sedan were driving near Mercedes Lane in Houston around 2:15 a.m. and likely intended to at a house. According to officers, as the Nissan drove past the house the men inside started shooting. 

However, the homeowner who was standing in his yard fired back at the car hitting all three men inside the vehicle. The Nissan’s driver then crashed into another vehicle whereupon the men got out of the Nissan and continued to exchange gunfire with the homeowner. The homeowner was a better shot (surprise!) and hit all three of his assailants.

Police said one man died at the scene and although an ambulance transported another individual to a near-by hospital he was dead on arrival. An ambulance took the third assailant to a hospital where he was treated for his injuries.

The homeowner who was standing in his yard was uninjured. Police took him in for questioning; however, police released him and he has not been charged. Investigating officers said it appeared to be self-defense.

Standing in his yard at 2:15 a.m. Hmmm. . .

How many of you plan to be standing in your yard tomorrow morning at 2:15 a.m.? Perhaps the homeowner always stands in his yard at 2:15 a.m. Perhaps he knew some former friends or colleagues were planning to come for a quick visit and he was there to greet them.

It turns out that the homeowner coincidentally standing in his yard also had a semi-automatic Modern Sporting Rifle or MSR—also commonly known as an AR-15. Police reported that the participants fired over forty rounds during the gunfight; however, they did not assign credit for who fired what or how much.

Still the homeowner’s performance in this gunfight under low light conditions is impressive. I’ve been teaching low light classes for a number of years and students often have a very difficult time when they first experience low light conditions. Based upon what I can see in the video, the car crashed approximately 50 yards from the homeowner who had taken cover behind a substantial tree (bullet strikes visible on the tree). If his AR was equipped with a flashlight and if the assailants were armed with pistols, they likely had no chance in the gunfight.

Seems like a breakdown in the victim selection process on the part of the bad guys.

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Sunday, May 20, 2018

Is Stand and Deliver a Good Idea?

Those who are familiar with the modern technique understand the concept of Stand and Deliver. This is the tactic of the good guy, upon seeing a lethal threat, immediately and rapidly drawing his pistol and placing effective fire on the bad guy—before the bad guy can react.

Action versus reaction—we’ve all heard it, but is it true? I think there is a fundamental flaw with this technique--in reality; your action will rarely beat their reaction if the bad guy is paying attention and committed.


One of the drills we do in force on force training is for each student, one with pistol drawn, the other drawing their pistol to both attempt to shoot each other with Airsoft while standing in place. In the force on force drill each student invariably shoots the other with a little plastic pellet; however this is not what happens in real life.


We recently conducted an experiment with 100 different trials. We had four participants: one advanced shooter, one intermediate, one somewhat trained, and one basically untrained. The advanced shooter has studied the modern technique for 30+ years, attended close range gunfighting and force on force courses, and is an affiliated instructor with Suarez International. The intermediate shooter has attended a couple of modern technique classes and is an IDPA sharpshooter. The somewhat trained shooter has attended no formal instruction and is an IDPA Marksman while the basically untrained shooter has had no formal instruction and only limited experience drawing and firing a pistol from the holster.


The experiment has two shooters standing side-by-side, one drawing and shooting a target 3 meters down range. The shooter drawing from the holster (good guy) starts with his hand on the pistol grip, draws his pistol when he chooses, and fires one shot at the silhouette. The other shooter (bad guy) starts with his pistol aimed at the head of a silhouette target (also 3 meters away); reacting and firing when he sees (using peripheral vision) the good guy draw his pistol. In 98 out of 100 trials, the bad guy with his pistol aimed at the head of his target fired and hit first. Only once did both shooters fires simultaneously and only one time did the good guy fire first.


We used a video camera at 60 frames per second to time the movements.  We measured the draw time starting with the first frame indicating upward movement of the pistol from the good guy’s holster and ending with the first frame indicating that the shooter has fired. We measure the bad guy’s shot as the first frame indicating the bad guy is firing his pistol (e.g. bullet has departed the barrel, pistol is unlocking, etc.).


Some numbers: The average draw time for all shooters starting with their hand on the pistol was .372 seconds. The fastest draw time recorded was .300 seconds while the slowest draw time recorded was .479 seconds--all draws in less than half a second. The advanced shooter recorded the fastest draw time while the basically untrained shooter recorded the slowest. The average reaction time for all bad guy shots was .279 seconds; the fastest reaction time we recorded was .133 seconds, the slowest reaction time was .383 seconds. The intermediate shooter recorded the fastest reaction time while the basically untrained shooter had the slowest.


Observers of our experiment often thought both shooters fired simultaneously; however, that was not the case. The shortest split time between the bad guy firing and the good guy firing was .017 seconds or 17/100s of a second. However, even in this short timeframe the good guy's finger was not on the trigger and his pistol was not yet on the target when the bad guy fired. So unlike Airsoft where both get hit with a little plastic pellet, in the stand and deliver mode the good guy gets hit in the forehead with a bullet and never fires a shot in 98 out of 100 times. The bottom line to these numbers--if you attempt to stand and out draw your opponent and the bad guy is paying attention, then his pistol muzzle is likely the last thing you will ever see. 


The solution is to move, draw, and shoot—-in that order. When I first began practicing the skills I learned in Close Range Gunfighting, I genuinely believed that I was moving and then drawing and firing my pistol. The video proved I was not and I discovered it takes some effort to overcome this tendency. Based upon our experiment, the time I was taking to begin my draw before I started moving would have likely resulted in me taking a bullet.


I believe this is a common training scar associated with those who have only received traditional square range training or (surprisingly) those regularly shooting IDPA. I believe IDPA courses of fire or stages that require moving while shooting over a short distance encourage this bad habit; the way these stages are typically designed, if you move first and then draw you either must slow down or you do not have time to fire the shots.


One final word. If you wish to replicate this experiment, ensure that your participants have the trigger finger discipline and skill to rapidly and safely draw their pistol. Newer shooters often place their finger on the trigger too early in the draw stroke and end up with unintended discharges. 


Saturday, May 12, 2018

Thugs at the Door: The Murder of Pedro Cain

Pedro "Pete" Cain
Pedro “Pete” Cain was killed when he was trying to stop a robbery. Cain was socializing with some neighbors at his apartment building when two women, Ashanta Parker and Felicia Ries came to the neighbor’s apartment and asked to use someone’s phone. The group told the women they didn’t have one they could use. Cain who correctly suspected the women might be casing the place, ran to his apartment, retrieved his loaded handgun, and returned to his neighbor’s apartment.

Parker and Ries told their companions Kevin Hill; David Barrington; and Russell Barrington (17 years old at the time), that there were four people in the apartment where Cain was located.  Kevin Hill who was armed with a pistol went to the apartment’s back door and knocked while Parker and Ries returned to the front of the apartment. Witnesses said Cain answered his neighbor’s door, saw Hill with a firearm and pointed his pistol at Hill. Cain commanded Hill to drop his pistol and Hill apologized and seemed to comply, slowly lowering it, but then he jerked up and fired, hitting Cain in the stomach. A medical examiner stated that Hill’s bullet struck Cain’s left upper abdomen hitting his stomach, small intestine and abdominal aorta causing his death.

The Thugs
As Pete Cain lay dying, Ries, the Barrington brothers, and Hill took off, leaving Parker at the scene.  Police officers caught Parker nearby a short time later with a letter in her purse that she never delivered. It said: “What goes around comes back around Broke Ugly Bitch.” It was signed “Karma.” Parker said the robbery was for revenge because she suspected that an occupant of the neighbor’s apartment had stolen her cell phone as well as some shoes from Ries. Shoes and a cell phone.

We can learn a few lessons from this incident.  The first and perhaps most obvious is that if you think a bad guy is on the other side of a locked door—don’t open it. Call the police (that’s what they get paid for), take cover, and wait.  If the bad guy somehow gets through the door, in most states you can engage the home invader from solid legal ground.  See below.

If someone other than a law enforcement officer is pointing a firearm at you or another innocent party, that is a threat of unlawful deadly force. The law generally permits a private citizen to use equal force in that circumstance/situation without verbal warning (check your local laws).

Trying to hold an armed individual at gunpoint is extremely dangerous.  At least for the moment, the thug knows that you have decided not to shoot—otherwise you would have already fired. That gives him the advantage of being able to plan an immediate response to your inaction. If you are in the open and in close proximity, the thug has a clear (if fleeting) time advantage. 

Your ability to react to the thug’s movements come into play as well. The Force Science Institute conducted several experiments in a 2014 study to measure police officer reaction time to start and stop shooting. In experiment one the officers were positioned in a firing stance with a training pistol, finger on the trigger, and were instructed to fire the pistol when a green light came on for 0.5 sec. On average, it took officers .25 sec to begin the trigger pull (i.e. react to the stimulus) and .06 sec to complete the trigger pull (defined as the actual travel time of the trigger from a position of rest to a position back against the frame) for a total reaction time of .31 sec.*

It took the officers almost 1/3 of a second to react even when their finger was on the trigger and they knew that they were going to shoot when the green light came on. Undoubtedly their reaction would have been slower if their finger was in a proper index position on the pistol frame. Also, it would add additional reaction time if the officer had to raise the pistol from low ready to a point of aim before firing.  So, 1/3 of a second is probably the best-case scenario in reacting to a stimulus that would justifying shooting an armed assailant like Hill.

Was it possible for Cain to react this fast?  Probably not.  Although we do not know how Cain was holding his pistol, that fact that Hill appeared to be following Cain’s command to drop his pistol likely lulled Cain into a belief that Hill was complying. Hill’s sudden movement to aim and fire at Cain was likely much faster than Cain’s potential reaction time.

A friend of mine and I did an experiment to determine just how fast someone who appeared to be lowering their pistol could rapidly aim, fire, and hit a nearby target. Out of ten trials each, I did it in an average of .34 seconds and my friend did it in an average of .37 seconds. To see a video of portions of our experiment, click here. 

Our time to aim and fire was .03 and .06 seconds slower that the officer’s best-case reaction time in the Force Science study. To put it in perspective, according to the Harvard Database of Useful Biological Numbers the average duration for a single blink of a human eye is .10 to .40 seconds. Additionally, we were not under adrenal influence as Hill undoubtedly was experiencing so his movement was likely faster than our movements in the experiment. Our hits were reasonable as well (see picture below). 

The simple elements of an individual’s response such as perceiving, deciding, and reacting take time. If you are in the open and trying to hold an armed bad guy at gunpoint, it is highly unlikely that you will be able to react in time to prevent him from shooting you if he decides that is his best course of action.

So what should you do in a similar circumstance?  As I stated above, leave the door closed and locked. If the thug goes away, you have avoided potentially having to use deadly force with all the challenges that use entails. If the thug breaks through the door into a residence while possessing a firearm the thug’s actions clearly meet the Ability, Opportunity, and Jeopardy requirement.**

Remember you also have the option of simply letting the thug leave. That is exactly what Hill did immediately after shooting Cain.  You are under no obligation to attempt to detain a thug and as we see here doing so may be very dangerous.  Although we can never know, would Cain be alive today if he had simply pointed his pistol at Hill and told him leave?

If you are going to try and take someone at gunpoint, it is critical that you do so from a position of cover if at all possible.  While true cover is hard to find inside a residence, a door jamb, corner, counter, or other obstruction is better than standing in the open. Even if such material does not stop a bullet, it may deflect it or slow it down and reduce its wounding potential.  

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* Lewinski, Hudson, & Dysterheft (2014). Police Officer Reaction Time to Start and Stop Shooting: The Influence of Decision-Making and Pattern Recognition. Law Enforcement Executive Forum 14(2), 1-16

** The legal system often deems use of deadly force justifiable when the defendant demonstrates that three criteria were present in the incident: Ability, Opportunity and Jeopardy, or AOJ when viewed under the Reasonable Person Standard. This standard is typically defined as "what would a reasonable, prudent person have done in the same situation knowing what the defendant knew at that time."  

Ability: Ability is most commonly associated with some kind of weapon. In this case, Hill’s possession of a pistol met the ability requirement. Hill had the power — or ability — to cause serious bodily injury or death.

Opportunity: The person with the ability to attack you with deadly force must also have the opportunity to do so immediately. Hill’s immediate proximity to Cain met the opportunity requirement. If Cain had left the door closed and locked, Hill would not have had an opportunity unless he breached the door—then he would have.  

Jeopardy: In order to fulfill the jeopardy criteria, Hill would have had to clearly indicate that he was going to carry out an attack. Jeopardy speaks to the attacker's intent. This is where the totality of the circumstances could have come into play.  Hill arriving at the apartment with a pistol immediately after a woman had been there acting suspiciously could clearly have spoken to jeopardy, particularly of he had broken through a locked door.  

Preclusion: An additional factor that occasionally comes into play with AOJ is preclusion. Preclusion speaks to the unavoidability of your use of deadly force when analyzed under the Reasonable Person Standard. Under preclusion, Cain would have had to demonstrate that as a reasonable person he saw no way to avoid having to employ deadly force against Hill such as running away or employing some lesser level of force other than deadly force.

Always know your local laws—this is not legal advice. Some state statutes have a duty to retreat if you can safely do so before using force.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Don't Blow up Your Pistol--Segregate Your Ammo

Picture One
A great many IDPA competitors often have pistols of different calibers and normally that is no issue unless you fail to segregate your ammunition. I frequently see competitors in local IDPA matches shooting two guns, each one a different caliber. It is not uncommon to see competitors loading and unloading magazines as they switch pistols during a stage. This is one instance where the potential for a problem creeps in because competitors occasionally mix calibers in this process—at times with disastrous results. 

The cartridge on the left in picture one is a 9mm Luger that an IDPA competitor loaded in a .40 S&W magazine. It then chambered and fired in a Glock 23 with essentially no problem other than failing to eject. The cartridge on the right is a .40 S&W that a competitor unintentionally chambered and fired in a 1911 .45 ACP. Once again, essentially no problem other than failing to eject. 

The center piece of 9mm brass in the picture has an unusual characteristic. Can you spot it? The center 9mm has rifling marks. I was a Safety Officer during a Pistol Caliber Carbine (PCC match when a competitor who was shooting a .40 S&W carbine had a “click” when he expected a bang (I forget the model—not an AR platform). He retracted the bolt and nothing ejected so we both assumed he had a failure to feed (he had just inserted a new magazine). Tap, Rack and the next round fired; however, now he had a failure to eject. As he retracted the bolt I saw shiny metal slivers spilling out of the ejection port. 

Upon seeing this, I stopped him and had him clear the carbine. As I examined the ejection port I realized the shiny slivers were remnants of a .40 caliber bullet. I dropped a rod down the bore and there was an obstruction. We tapped the obstruction out and discovered the 9mm brass you see in the picture. He had loaded a 9mm round in his magazine and when the bolt when forward I believe it pushed the 9mm cartridge into the carbine’s bore. At least when he chambered the next .40 S&W round it fully seated and fired. The .40 bullet struck the 9mm round which then fired as well with the 9mm bullet exiting the bore. The .40 bullet destroyed itself when it hit the 9mm cartridge. 

The rifle was undamaged. The competitor checked his magazines for any additional stray 9mm rounds and finished the match. I suspect that the competitor was lucky in that the carbine he was using was strong enough to deal with the .40 S&W’s pressure. 

Shooting ammunition in a pistol or PCC that is not designed for that particular round is dangerous and can result in catastrophic damage to the firearm and potentially serious injury to the shooter or bystanders. Using the wrong ammunition can result in the release of high-pressure gas in a pistol's barrel, chamber, and/or action that exceeds the design specifications for that particular pistol. 

To be safe, you should use only ammunition of the caliber the firearm manufacturer designates for that particular firearm. Every modern firearm has markings indicating the correct caliber or gauge of ammunition to be used in that particular firearm and these markings are usually found on the firearm’s barrel, frame, or receiver. 

One way to verify that you are using the correct ammunition is to check the head stamp on the ammunition to confirm that it matches the caliber or gauge that particular firearm is designed to fireSome types of ammunition (typically military ammunition) do not have stamp markings on the head of the cartridge. In that case, check the original ammunition packaging to determine its caliber. 

If you have any doubt about the caliber of the ammunition, you should not use the ammunition until you have it examined by a qualified person who can determine its caliber. Remember just because a round of ammunition can fit into a firearm does not necessarily mean it is designed for or safe to fire in that firearm. 

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Thursday, May 3, 2018

Time to reload: The importance of hydration in the summer heat.

Although it may not seem like it in some parts of the country, summer will be upon us soon. A challenge we always face during shooting competitions in the summer heat is the risk of dehydration — something I experienced firsthand.

Just as we finished cleaning up from a match, I began to feel uncomfortable. I sat down and quickly started to have vision problems. Literally, everything was beginning to "white out." I was not seeing any color.

Clearly something was wrong and I suspected I was dehydrated. I drank the better part of a liter of water and was feeling somewhat better so I left the range and drove home to rest.

Shortly after lying down, my muscles started to cramp — arms, legs, abdomen — all of them. At one point, I stood up and almost immediately fainted. I regained consciousness lying on the floor near a chair (thankfully I did not hit the chair) with the cramps continuing. The pain was so intense I could not call out to my wife who found me a short time later literally rolling on the floor.

I was experiencing severe heat cramps, undoubtedly resulting from dehydration and electrolyte loss. My wife immediately began first aid (she's a physician) and I recovered sometime later. I learned a good lesson about dehydration. However, if I had been alone, I might not be around to pass it on.

Besides being unpleasant and dangerous, dehydration can also interfere with shooting performance and can do so quickly in hot conditions — in less than one hour. So how do we avoid dehydration? Start hydrating early — ideally throughout the day before a match.

Avoid drinks with caffeine (coffee, tea), high sugar and caffeinated sodas, and drinks containing alcohol, all of which act as diuretics and actually reduce hydration. These drinks will aggravate dehydration, not improve it, as the body will take water from tissues to filter and excrete these substances or their derivatives.

According to the American College of Sports Medicine, active people should drink at least 16 to 24 ounces of fluid one to two hours before a vigorous outdoor activity to avoid dehydration. After that, you should consume 6 to 12 ounces of fluid every 10 to 15 minutes you are outside. When you are finished with the activity, you should drink at least another 16 to 24 ounces (2-3 cups). In the course of leading up to, during, and after a four hour match that could literally be 2.5 gallons or 8 liters of fluid.

What to drink? Drinks with electrolytes are better than plain water if you are exercising or perspiring heavily. Sports drinks work well and contain electrolytes that you must replenish. Those who don't want to spend the money can make their own rehydrating drink with six level teaspoons of sugar, a half-teaspoon salt and one quart or liter of water — adding juice from a fresh lime or lemon can help taste.

Coconut water (not to be confused with coconut milk or oil) is also a good rehydrating drink. Coconut water is low in calories, naturally fat and cholesterol-free, has more potassium than four bananas and is super-hydrating. You can mix coconut water with plain water if you wish.

One way to make sure you are properly hydrated is to check your urine. If it's clear, pale or straw-colored, it's OK. If it's darker than that, keep drinking. If you are not urinating, then you are already experiencing the early signs of dehydration and should drink at least 32 ounces of fluid within 30 minutes. Keep drinking after a match until your urine is normal once again.

I tell everyone shooting on my squad that if they do not urinate at least twice during the course of a match, then they are behind on hydration. Pay attention to your fellow competitors. If they are flushed or seem confused or weak, get them in the shade immediately. If they have a headache, difficulty breathing, chest or abdominal pains, seizures or cramps, or if they faint, get them in the shade and seek medical attention for them. They may not be a good judge of their condition.

Dehydration can lead to heat stroke which is the most serious form of heat injury. Symptoms of heat stroke include:

-- a lack of sweating despite the heat

-- red, hot and dry skin

-- rapid heartbeat, which may be either strong or weak

-- rapid, shallow breathing

-- confusion, disorientation, staggering, or other behavioral changes

-- seizures

-- unconsciousness

Heat stroke is a medical emergency, so if you suspect someone has heat stroke, call 911 immediately and give first aid until paramedics arrive.

Along with changes in physiological performance, dehydration affects judgement, concentration, reaction and coordination — assets vital to competitors in the shooting sports.

You must take in adequate fluid and the choice of beverage depends on the intensity and duration of the match. Water is fine for a low-to-moderately intense match that lasts less than two hours or one with frequent rest periods in the shade. Carbohydrate-electrolyte drinks become more important as the intensity and duration increases.

However, everyone is different in terms of age, physical fitness and medical condition. Each must take the responsibility to educate himself about his personal optimal hydration levels.

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