Sunday, June 9, 2024

Tactical Anatomy's Shooting With X-Ray Vision

I recently attended Dr James William’s Shooting With XRay Vision (SXRV) instructor’s course at Meade Hall Range in Oklahoma. I had desired to attend this class for some time and was pleased with the opportunity.

Dr Williams originally developed the SXRV curriculum to teach peace officers how to quickly end gunfights. With the proliferation of private citizens legally carrying firearms, the course is now open to them as well.

Of course, the only justification for shooting another human is the overwhelming need to immediately stop that person’s threat or use of unlawful deadly force. The SXRV goal is to teach students the location of vital zones where a bullet strike will likely lead to rapid incapacitation. The SXRV curriculum uses anatomic drawings, x-rays, and photographs to show these zones of incapacitation and the anatomy of vital structures within these zones.

The instructor then translates these two-dimensional drawings into a 3-D model by drawing the anatomy onto a live human assistant wearing a tight, white t-shirt. Demonstrating the relationship between a 2-D flat drawing and a 3-D model helps students understand the location of these vital structures – something that is difficult to do with 2-D targets.  This exercise helps the students visualize the locations of these vital structures from a 360-degree perspective.

The class then uses laser-enabled dummy guns such as the Next Level Training SIRT pistol to target and illuminate the locations of these vital structures on the model. Doc Williams makes corrections as necessary during this exercise. We finished the classroom portion with an exercise on an electronic simulator where the students were challenged to make anatomically correct hits during deadly force scenarios such as armed robberies, kidnappings, etc.

The class live fire exercise uses 3-D plastic targets also covered with tight, white t-shirts. Students place anatomically correct hits on the 3-D targets, while rotating the targets through 360 degrees between strings of fire. Once again, Doc made necessary corrections.

I have been using 2-D anatomical targets for several years in my classes and matches. Typically, I cover the targets with t-shirts so the shooter must decide where to shoot without having a typical reference aiming point. These work well for targets squarely facing or at a slight angle to the shooter; however, they do not work well for targets at more severe angles. The 3-D targets we used in the class are the Action Target 3-D targets. These targets are expensive and not ideal. They offer no means to easily score multiple hits beyond putting an intact t-shirt on the target; however, they appear to be the only 3-D targets available as of this writing.

I am a firm believer in Dr William’s Shooting With XRay Vision concept and plan to teach it as a stand-alone class and incorporate SXRV principles in my other classes where possible.

Friday, May 17, 2024

Mindset: The Cooper Color Codes Revisited

Dominick Maldonado, Pierce 
County (WA) Sheriff's Department.
“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."(1)

The “kid” turned and shot McKown five times, once in the leg and four times in the torso. Per McKown: "Every one of his shots got some part of me."

Cooper’s Color Code

The Cooper Color Code as Jeff Cooper promulgated it was not a system for describing levels of potential danger or situational awareness, 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.” (2)

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

-- Condition White: Completely unprepared mentally to take a human life. 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. 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 of a deadly threat in your immediate environment. In Condition Orange you understand that you may have to shoot a specific threat, right now, today. 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.

Although you remain cognizant of the legal and moral aspects of the situation, the actions of that threat—right there—dictate your next move.

-- Condition Red: In Condition Red you have decided to act the instant the threat’s behavior warrants an immediate response. You have drawn your pistol because you are justified in taking the threat at gunpoint (and therefore justified in immediately using lawful deadly force); you can articulate why this is so. You wait for a trigger or immediately take 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 lawful deadly force to defend yourself or another innocent.

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). Ayoob defines 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, Black, describes the various triggering events that cause you go from readiness (Condition Red) to action.

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 mental 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 decided 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.” (3)

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 then Condition Black is not necessary as Cooper contends. Once a critical trigger is tripped moving you to 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.

Do you need another psychological condition to help you pull the trigger? Jeff Cooper would have said no, and I tend to agree. (4) I don’t think we need Black as a readiness condition; however, describing Black as a decision or trigger point may be useful after the event to enable you to articulate your mindset during the incident and how/why you knew you were facing unlawful deadly force.

Dan McKown was unable to shoot someone that looked to his eyes like a kid (see opening picture) even though that kid was actively shooting people in a crowded mall. McKown was in Condition White and his reluctance could easily have cost him his life and did likely cost him a lifetime of pain.

McKown's hesitancy had nothing to do with situational awareness, he was fully aware that he faced an immediate deadly threat. The tactically sound action at that moment would have been to immediately shoot Maldonado; however, he had not resolved in his own mind what he was and was not capable of doing. I am not criticizing McKown’s choice; however, if he had not been armed, McKown likely would not have confronted Maldonado.

I have been a Texas License to Carry (LTC) instructor for over eleven years and have taught over 1500 LTC students. Prior to COVID when I was doing in-person classes, I always asked every student why they wanted to get an LTC and whether they planned to carry a pistol. “I don’t want to shoot someone; I just want to be able to scare them if I am threatened” or “I only plan to carry my pistol when I think I might need it” were common answers. I believe that these students were in Condition White.

In classes, I have always stressed that the time to make such decisions is before, not during an incident. If you are not capable of using lawful deadly force, then all the training you may have completed and the fact that you possess a pistol is irrelevant.


(1) Tacoma News Tribune,

(2) Jeff Cooper's Commentaries Volume Six, No 9, pg 45-46

(3) Jeff Cooper's Commentaries Volume Eleven, No 12, pg 56

(4) Jeff Cooper's Commentaries Volume Thirteen, No 1, pg 4: “Moving from the various Conditions into each other is easy to accomplish once it is understood. If you are attacked in White you will lose the fight. In Yellow you will have the advantage of initiative response over your antagonist. In Orange you are pretty safe, provided you are armed, alert and aware. In Red you win. Simple, isn't it? Clearly you cannot go any further than Red because in Red you have already made the lethal decision. Complications are unproductive.”

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Tunnel Vision, Tunnel Hearing, and Stress

Sometimes during a dangerous or life-threatening situation it simply becomes impossible for you to attend to all the stimuli coming at you simultaneously. A temporary blindness or deafness effect can take place as a result. A variety of factors that include high levels of adrenaline in the body from stress or anger cause inattentional blindness--a temporary loss of peripheral vision, also referred to as temporary tunnel vision. Inattentional blindness is a psychological lack of visual perception that is not associated with any vision defects or deficits. Inattentional deafness is a similar phenomenon that affects hearing and is not associated with any hearing defects or deficits.

Everyone’s reaction to a life-threatening situation will be somewhat unpredictable. Although many accounts of traumatic incidents have similarities, no two are the same. People working in the military, police, fire, or medical fields have experienced numerous sensory distortions including tunnel vision while under stress. If you are not aware that you could experience the world in such a bizarre way, it could add to your stress levels.

“I told the SWAT team that the suspect was firing at me from down a long dark hallway about 40 feet long. When I went back to the scene the next day, I was shocked to discover that he had actually been only about 5 feet in front of me in an open room. There was no dark hallway.”

Tunnel Vision: Tunnel vision can result from the combination of a fear-induced adrenaline dump associated with a specific, dangerous threat. Because kind of danger you have to be in to experience a fear-induced adrenaline rush isn’t something we can practice in a safe training environment, it is important to study the symptoms so we can recognize them when they occur.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University ran a series of tests on human subjects with a goal of measuring the loss of visual acuity while engaging them in activities designed to narrow attention. The experiment was designed to cause tunnel vision—and it did. However, while the subjects experienced tunneled vision, they also experienced decreased auditory attention (tunnel hearing?).

Researchers discovered that visually focusing on something intently led the audio cortex to turn down the volume as well. According to Drs. Yantis and Shomstein: "Our findings support several conclusions. First attention affects early visual and auditory sensory responses. The “push-pull” effect of switching attention between vision and hearing suggests that focusing attention on auditory input (e.g., a cellular telephone conversation) can impair the ability to detect important visual events (e.g., driving an automobile). When attention is directed to the visual system the strength of audial attention is compromised (and vice versa) leading to potentially significant behavioral impairments." In other words, a person intently focused on something visual could have diminished hearing. Conversely, a person intently listening to audible cues such as a radio or cell phone could have diminished visual performance.

In this article, I focus on these sensory distortions--tunnel vision and tunnel hearing.

Look at the sequence of pictures below. In this incident, three armed individuals invade a home. As they are searching through the house, they awaken a woman who steps into a doorway. One of the home invaders (white hat & jacket) notices the woman, points his pistol at her, and begins moving toward her. She opens fire with her pistol. Surprise!

Invaders #1 & #2 immediately begin scrambling to escape through the door they kicked in to gain entry. The woman advances toward the escaping home invaders and fires another shot. As she does this, home invader #3 comes running out of a hallway to the woman’s left with his pistol pointed toward her (see movement 1). As he careens past, at one point his pistol is pointed toward her head while her pistol is simultaneously pointed at him (movement 2). Their arms collide as invader #3 continues running—deflecting both pistols—neither fire (movement 3).

Invader #3 continues running toward the back door (movement 4) while she continues advancing and shooting at invaders #1 & #2 who are firing back at her without even glancing at invader #3 (movement 5).

Based on the video, I believe the woman and invader #3 were both experiencing tunnel vision. I doubt they even noticed each other at all. She was focusing on the two invaders to her front who were also shooting at her and invader #3 was fixated on escaping (he ran through the glass door at the rear of the kitchen). The video is available here: Home Invasion

Tunnel Hearing or Audio Exclusion: Tunnel hearing is like tunnel vision. In October 2021, Mr. Prince Riley and a colleague had advertised dirt bikes for sale. Two men approached Riley at his home and indicated they were interested in purchasing the bikes and Riley invited them into his garage to view the bikes. One of the men indicated that he wished to purchase the dirt bikes and that he needed to return to his car to obtain cash. The man returned and brandishing a pistol, announced a robbery. The perpetrator moved to close the garage door when he stated his intent to kill everyone.

As Prince Riley reacted to this announcement and began drawing a concealed handgun, the perpetrator fired at Riley six times missing him with all six. Riley fired once, ending the attack. Riley later stated that he thought the attacker shot at him three times. Audio from Riley’s surveillance system made it clear that the perpetrator had fired six distinct shots. Riley had experienced auditory exclusion.

So, are we are stuck with a genetic predisposition that prevents us from dealing with dangerous modern emergencies? No, because we can learn, remember, adopt and practice a plan to deal with emergencies. Look at the video at the link below. The gentleman in the black shirt with a white stripe on the shoulder is an off-duty police officer who chooses to engage a robbery team at a supermarket. The wisdom of engaging in a gunfight with numerous children in the vicinity notwithstanding, the officer does not become so fixated on the bad guys to his front that he fails to notice shots coming from behind him. In other words, he does not succumb to tunnel vision nor tunnel hearing. He immediately moves to a cover position and confronts the threat behind him in response to the unexpected sound of shots to his rear (at the 24 second mark in the video). An example of good training. Supermarket video: Supermarket

These psychological and physiological reactions to dangerous events have worked very well to ensure the survival of our species. Maintaining an intense and narrow visual focus on a cave lion spotted in the brush may have been a very good survival mechanism for the early modern human. Individuals with these traits survived encounters with wild animals and their families benefited from the increased safety in the immediate environment and more protein available in their diet. This increased their chance of passing their genes onto modern humans.

Going through any simple series of motions causes the neurons in your brain that control that movement to fire in a particular sequence. The more often you repeat a physical sequence, the more “automatic” the sequence becomes. Just thinking about making those movements stimulates both the neurons in the brain that control those movements as well as the neural pathways in the muscles that command the muscles to move. Research has shown that visualizing emergency procedures is almost as good as actually performing them.

The first step in dealing with narrowing attention is understanding that it can happen as your stress level rises and your body does an adrenaline dump in response. Being able to control your stress is one of the best ways to combat the ill-effects of the hormonal chemical dump that changes your psychological, cognitive, and physical performance. Breathing techniques are very effective if you have time. If you find you are fixating on one sound or one task, make a conscious effort to unlock your senses from it and force yourself to scan your environment. It may also help combat the effects of tunneled senses if you ask yourself: What am I missing?

Practicing reactions to emergencies increases our confidence and increased confidence lowers the stress response of our bodies when we actually face dangerous situations. Our field of vision is not as narrow as it might be otherwise and our tendency to fixate on a “fear object” diminishes. Because our brain is in a more relaxed state, it is more able to dedicate resources to creatively addressing new challenges (for example, incoming gunfire from an unexpected direction). If we practice the right thing instead of simply allowing our natural reactions to rule the situation we are better able to successfully manage our behavior.

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1 Anecdotal statement from a Law Enforcement Officer. Perceptual and Memory Distortion During Officer-Involved Shootings by Alexis Artwohl, Ph.D. FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, October 2002/18

2 Control of Attention Shifts between Vision and Audition in Human Cortex, Sarah Shomstein and Steven Yantis Journal of Neuroscience 24 November 2004, 24 (47) 10702-10706

3 Stay Ready So You Don't Have to Get Ready -- The Prince Riley Story, Concealed Carry Magazine, January 2024, Vol 21, Issue 1, pages 70-75

Sunday, March 31, 2024

Ed Monk’s Active Shooter Instructor Class -- An After Class Review

I recently attended Ed Monk’s Active Shooter Instructor class at Karl Rehn’s KR Training facility. The counter Active Shooter Instructor class is a two-day course for firearm instructors structured to provide an outline for experienced firearms instructors to develop and teach citizens, law enforcement, churches, schools, and businesses an effective active shooter response program. The classroom training provided extensive coverage of trends, lessons-learned, and valuable insight into the reality of an active shooter attack.

The Federal Government defines an active shooter as “an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area.” In addition to the term “active shooter,” several other terms to describe someone committing these atrocities are in use in the United States including mass murderer, active killer, mass shooter, active mass murderer, and probably others. Many within the firearms community decry the use of “active shooter” because a first responder deploying a firearm is in fact an active shooter as well. Ed stated that he uses the term “active shooter” because that term is the one most used in the United States.

Time and math. While it is theoretically possible to stop an active shooter before he causes any casualties, it is statistically unlikely. The question then becomes “How many casualties are acceptable?” This number is a function of time and math. Ed’s research indicates that the typical active shooter will shoot someone every ten seconds. Therefore in 30 seconds, on average the shooter will shoot three people.

I live in the small city of Garden Ridge, TX. Occasionally the Garden Ridge Police Department hosts short, private-citizen  active shooter response classes. In an announcement for a class, the Garden Ridge PD stated that: “Once notified, law enforcement will respond as quickly as possible with an average response time of three minutes.” Few would argue that three minutes is a good response time; however, in three minutes, the average shooter will have shot eighteen people. Some active shooters shoot many more than one every ten seconds in the initial moments of the attack so the casualty numbers in three minutes could be much higher.

Ed discusses the skills, tactics, techniques, and mindset necessary to stop an active shooter. Per Ed: “The best way to save the most lives once an active shooter attack starts . . . is to stop the shooter quickly!” The most successful technique is to attack the shooter and shoot him down. Other techniques include causing him to commit suicide and/or disabling the shooter or his weapon. Ed also discusses the unfortunate fact facing those who choose to be or are forced to be unarmed: you can fight (unarmed) or watch him shoot people.

Ed provides detailed data and analysis of all varieties of active shooter incidents and locations. He then provides an overview showing how to design and manage training specifically for the different types of locations where active shooter events typically occur.

Since this was an instructor class, the range training focused on live-fire drills and scenarios that train and assess skills critical to stopping this threat. The range training discussed how to run scenarios using both 3D and photo targets and how to manage these decision-based scenarios.

Hunting an Active Shooter


Found Him

I have taken enough training over the years that I consider the class a success if I walk away with one or two new concepts or instructional techniques. Ed Monk’s Active Shooter Instructor class was worth the time and effort to attend—I learned a lot and walked away with a wealth of new material.

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Monday, March 18, 2024

My Friend Could Not Stop the Bleed

A close friend of mine died recently—he shot himself in the left femoral artery and bled to death. It may have been an accident or it may have been intentional, the totality of recent circumstances in his life leave me and his other friends in doubt. We will never know with certainty; however, we do know that regardless of the original intent, he did try to apply a tourniquet but was not successful.

This prompted some reflection on my part. I consulted a friend of mine (Troy M.), a retired emergency room physician and my wife (also a former ER physician) and asked that given a “worst case scenario” how fast could you bleed out from a cut femoral artery? They both stated that worse case would be 60 – 90 seconds depending upon where and how the artery was damaged.

If the worst case is that you are by yourself (as my friend was), dealing with the shock and trauma from a gunshot, and with a 60 second clock ticking, digging through boxes to find the tourniquet you need to save your life is probably not going to work.

I tend to handle firearms in only two places in my home – the master bedroom and my workroom. The master bedroom is where I don and remove my every day carry pistol and my workroom is where I dry practice, clean, and maintain firearms.

Our master bedroom doubles as our safe room, so we have a complete trauma kit with tourniquets properly staged and other medical supplies ready to treat gunshot wounds and to stop the bleed.

That was not the case in my workroom. Although I do store medical supplies in my workroom, I did not have anything properly staged and ready for immediate use. I have corrected that oversight. Rest in peace my friend.

Sunday, February 25, 2024

Gunfight Anatomy: The Bruce Lua Incident

This is the first in a series of articles and accompanying videos demonstrating just how fast deadly encounters can evolve. I have heard people say, “there is no timer in a gunfight.” The statement is obviously silly – the timing of your opponent’s actions dictates how fast your reaction (your timer if you will) must be in a gunfight.

One of the challenges anyone faces in a reactive gunfight is their perception-reaction time. The time required to respond to a given stimulus varies greatly across different tasks and even within the same task under different conditions. It can range from less than 0.15 seconds to many seconds depending upon the type of stimulus, the observer’s circumstances, the environment, and the stimulus complexity.

In the discussion below, I analyze the actions of three individuals involved in a gunfight. Two were Chicago Police Officers and one was a run of the mill violent criminal actor.

The Background:

On 16 May 2021, Chicago Police began to receive 911 calls concerning shots being fired in a North Lawndale suburb of Chicago, IL. Simultaneously, the Chicago ShotSpotter system began registering gunfire (see note #1 below). Chicago police responded to the area and a bystander indicated that Bruce L. Lua might have been the shooter. The police (in a marked patrol car and on foot) followed Lua for several blocks; however, Lua did not acknowledge the officers and did not follow their instructions to stop.

Other officers arrived and encountered Lua walking down an alley toward their marked patrol SUV that was stopped in and partially blocking the alley exit facing Lua. Officers Garcia and Nakayama exited their marked SUV and ordered Lua to stop and show his hands. Lua ignored their commands to stop and continued walking toward the officers with his hands concealed in his hoodie pockets.

The Gunfight:

As Officer Garcia exited the passenger side, he drew his Glock 19 to a low ready with his right hand and continued to order Lua to stop as he approached him--Lua ignored his command and continued to walk forward. Officer Nakayama exited the SUV driver’s side and began moving to his left away from the vehicle into Lua's likely path but did not draw his pistol.

When he was within three yards of Officer Garcia, Lua began withdrawing both hands from his hoodie pockets just like the officers had commanded. Lua used his left hand to shield the fact that he had a pistol in his right hand as he fired one shot at Officer Garcia striking Garcia’s pistol and hand. Lua then turned to Officer Nakayama and fired five shots, shooting him in the right shoulder and left hip respectively with the first three rounds.

Gunfight Analysis:

Lua drew and fired his pistol at Officer Garcia in 0.60 seconds; however, Lua’s pistol was only visible to Officer Garcia for 0.52 seconds before Lua fired (see red arrow below).

The Moment Lua's Pistol Becomes Visible
Based upon a review of the body worn camera (BOC) videos and police reporting, I believe the bullet Lua fired at Officer Garcia struck the trigger guard of Officer Garcia’s Glock 19 pistol. The bullet then entered the pistol grip, damaging several rounds in the pistol’s magazine (and partially ejecting the magazine) before entering Officer Garcia’s right palm and exiting the back of his hand. 

Officer Garcia’s pistol fired when Lua’s bullet struck it and this bullet impacted the concrete at Lua’s feet (see red arrow below). In an instant, Officer Garcia’s primary pistol was rendered inoperable. If he had a backup pistol, Officer Garcia never attempted to draw it.

Officer Garcia's Pistol Fires the Moment Lua's Bullet Strikes It

Lua turned and fired his first shot at Officer Nakayama 1.28 seconds into the gunfight and within 0.68 seconds of shooting Officer Garcia striking Officer Nakayama’s right shoulder on his bullet resistant vest. Lua fired a second shot at Officer Nakayama 0.50 seconds after the first which likely missed. Lua fires a third shot 0.33 seconds later likely striking Officer Nakayama in the left hip which caused the officer to stumble backwards and ultimately fall. Lua fires fourth shot 0.25 seconds later and a final shot, both of which miss Officer Nakayama. Lua's fifth shot hits the ground. In the image below left, you can see LUA firing his first shot at Officer Nakayama in the below right, Lua is firing his third shot.  Notice, Lua continued to aggressively advance toward Officer Nakayama as this exchange of gunfire unfolded.

Officer Nakayama drew his pistol and fired his first shot one handed 1.74 seconds after Lua initiated the gunfight and 0.66 seconds after Lua’s first shot had struck him. Officer Nakayama’s first shot appears to have struck the ground—not surprising since he had just taken a hit to his primary shoulder. Even though it was on the vest, the hit likely disrupted his draw to a degree. Nakayama point shoots a second shot with two hands 0.38 seconds later which likely struck Lua in the shin because Lua begins to fall.

Within 1.70 seconds of initiating the gunfight, Lua had shot at and hit two police officers with the first four rounds he fired. The entire gunfight lasted 2.62 seconds. (see note #3)

Perception and Reaction -- Is There a Lesson Here?

Events happen very fast in deadly force encounters. Quickly recognizing what is happening and then rapidly executing a pre-programed response is the key to prevailing in a deadly force encounter.

The person who takes the initiative gets to start the fight—all they require is decisiveness. Lua initiated the gunfight which gave him a significant time-advantage over the police officers.

Although Officer Garcia had drawn his pistol, he had no indication that Lua was going to use unlawful deadly force until an instant before Lua shot him. It is unlikely that Officer Garcia could have successfully engaged Lua before he was hit.

Lua’s first shot transition to Officer Nakayama was likely much faster than Officer Nakayama could have drawn his pistol from a retention holster. Nakayama was in the process of drawing his pistol when Lua’s shot struck him.

If we look at this incident using Boyd’s Observe, Orient, Decide, Act (OODA) decision cycle from the officer’s and the Lua’s perspective, Lua has already passed through a full OODA cycle. He Observed the officers approaching, Oriented when they parked the car, Decided to engage them, and began Acting while the officers were still in the Observe stage.

The quicker the defender (in this case the officers) perceives what is happening (observe), the quicker the defender can act (i.e. execute a response) (see notes #3 and #4).

The defender is typically behind in the decision cycle because the violent criminal actor is usually in the act stage while the defender is still observing. This is true of police and the private citizen.

Mental awareness and mindset is a critical component to surviving any defensive encounter involving deadly force. However, mindset alone is insufficient. It must be coupled with awareness, proper training, and a willingness to act. The solution to this challenge is to develop mental models of if “X” observation, then “Y” reaction. This allows one to skip the intervening steps in the OODA cycle.

In this example, Chicago Police policy (G03-02-05) permits the use of OC spray against “active resisters.” I am not going to second guess these officers and I recognize the difficulties all officers face in today’s politically charged environment. However, Lua was clearly an active resister and the immediate use of oleoresin capsicum spray may have precluded his ability to effectively engage the officers with deadly force.

The same holds true for the private citizen. If an unknown contact is approaching and attempting to engage you, there are several immediate actions you can take depending upon the totality of the circumstances. The key is to have a set of pre-planned actions to execute in response to a given stimulus.

For example, if I am pulling into my driveway and a car stops at the driveway entrance with young men exiting, I have several options. If I am still in the car, I can simply drive away. If I have exited the car, I can take cover and covertly draw my pistol and challenge them. Going through “what if” scenarios based upon your daily activities and deciding what your action would be in each scenario will significantly speed up your reaction if you are suddenly facing unlawful deadly force.

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(1) ShotSpotter uses a series of microphones and sensors to detect and geolocate gunfire. 

(2) I base my time analysis on the FPS or frames per second of the videos the Chicago PD released which provides data to the 100ths of a second accuracy assuming the frame rates have not been altered.

(3) "Understanding that the simple elements of an officer’s response such as perceiving, deciding, and reacting take time, and understanding how much time is critical in assessing train-ing tactics and in investigating the dynamics of officer-involved use-of-force scenarios." 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

 (4) For an in-depth discussion of Boy’s concepts:

Monday, February 5, 2024

The Dirty Dozen: Twelve Bad Shooting Habits Updated

This is an update to an article I published over seven years ago.

Bad habits are something we all try to guard against, but they often creep into our shooting. Some shooters learn bad habits because the people teaching them do not know any better. Even when taught correctly, others develop bad habits through failing to apply what they have been taught. Flinching, anticipating the shot, chasing the sights, changing your grip, etc., are all bad habits. In this article I examine some of the more interesting variations I typically see.

1. Going too fast for your skill level.

This is an issue for shooters, instructors, and match safety officers. From the shooter perspective, do not try to go faster than you can safely perform the task. I tell novice shooters they must master the fundamentals of safely drawing and presenting the pistol before they try to speed up. 

The picture at right shows a video frame capture of a of a novice shooter trying to draw faster than his skill level. In this draw sequence, he fired the round into the ground approximately 3 feet in front of where he was standing. Although he did not believe he was doing it, he was subconsciously placing his finger on the trigger early in the draw process before his pistol cleared the holster and was pointed toward the target--a negligent discharge waiting to happen. 

This is not just a novice issue. I recently asked several accomplished Expert and Master-level shooters if they had ever felt the pistol muzzle with their support hand when they were trying to draw quickly. In other words, had they ever let the support hand get ahead of the firing hand on a draw? All admitted that had happened at least once when they were learning to draw and shoot quickly. Speed comes with the mastery of the fundamentals. Don't go too fast for your skill level. 

2. Performing ritualistic movements during static range training.

I see this all the time from novice shooters in classes and during pistol matches. One student would rotate the pistol to the left every time after he reloaded — even when doing the reload at speed. When I asked him why he did this, he sheepishly admitted he had seen someone else do it and thought it looked cool.

Unnecessary flourishes and motion might look cool to some, but this does nothing more than add time and inefficiency to the task. That extra half-second required to get your sights back on target adds up and could cost you your life in a self-defense encounter. Efficient pistol manipulation is critical to developing speed and eliminating unnecessary movement is the key.

3. Drawing slower as distance to the target increases.

I routinely see shooters who draw quickly when the target is close and who literally go into slow motion for distant targets. Your draw speed must be the same regardless of distance.

Indeed, the faster you draw for distant targets, the more time you will have to settle the sights and make an accurate shot. Keep your draw speed the same for every distance. 

4. Taking your finger out of the trigger guard between shots.

The only time your finger should be in the trigger guard is when you are intentionally firing a shot. That said, new shooters often take their finger completely out of the trigger guard between shots even when they intend to fire a follow-up shot. Instead, the shooter should release the trigger and allow the sear to reset and prepare for the next shot.

Trigger reset is the distance the trigger moves back toward its "at rest" position before it re-engages the internal linkages (sear, etc.) at which point the pistol may be fired again. This distance varies among pistol designs. All motion equals time, so you want to eliminate unnecessary motion.

For those who wish to advance further, the next step is to train yourself to begin resetting the trigger as soon as you feel the pistol start to recoil. Your goal is to have the sear reset as soon as your gun returns to battery (slide fully closed). Then, as the pistol settles and the sights return to the target after recoil recovery, you are ready to press the trigger once again. 

With practice, most shooters should be able to easily achieve splits (the time between shots) of 0.25 - 0.30 seconds. Many shooters will get in the 0.19 to 0.24 range and truly advanced shooters will get into the 0.14 to 0.18 range with some going beyond. Gordon Carrell, who has more than 60 national, regional and state titles including the 2011 Smith & Wesson Indoor National Championship, once told me his fastest recorded split was 0.11 seconds. A friend of mine who is an IDPA 6-gun Master did it in 0.10 seconds as measured frame-by-frame in a video.

5. Failure to maintain a solid firing grip.

Anytime you have your pistol in your hand, have it in a solid firing grip with your finger along the slide or frame outside the trigger guard. This includes initially loading the pistol. Do not switch hands when loading -- have the magazine in a pouch or pocket accessible to the non-firing hand. When holstering the pistol, some shooters just sort of hold the pistol’s slide and grip--a sure recipe for eventually dropping the loaded pistol when they snag something as they attempt to holster. Maintain a solid grip with the firing hand.

6. Unnecessarily adjusting your grip:

Another common problem is the shooter who unnecessarily adjusts or re-grasps his pistol before and during a firing string. This is a bad habit that always seems to be waiting in the wings. I typically see this immediately after the draw; however I've seen novice and even experienced shooters do it after every shot.

More unnecessary motion. Learn to acquire a solid firing grip as you initially grasp the pistol while it is in the holster, then maintain that grip as your support hand comes into play and you begin to fire. 

7. Pointing the pistol at yourself when you holster: 

Some shooters tend to dig for the holster with the pistol's muzzle when they holster the pistol. This is often accompanied by the shooter pointing the pistol inward toward his hip or waist. 

This is common when the shooter is using an inside-the-waistband holster (IWB) or when using a holster design that allows the mouth of the holster to collapse when the pistol is withdrawn. Although not as much of a problem with outside-the-waistband (OWB) holsters, I've seen shooters do it with this design as well. Don't point a loaded pistol at yourself. (Note: Some IDPA guys had an absolute fit when I originally used this picture.  The pistol had a chamber flag and was clear of ammunition.)

8. Failure to train with the auto-lock trigger finger manipulation holster:

The auto-lock trigger finger manipulation holster has been commercially available since 2006 with at least four variations currently on the market. As a retention holster, this design protects and retains the pistol well and automatically "locks" the pistol in the holster when it is inserted without the need to manipulate anything.

The retention release mechanism is located on the outboard side, in the pistol's trigger/trigger guard area. To properly operate the release, the shooter establishes a strong-hand grip, extending and straightening the trigger finger exactly like a draw from any style of holster. The shooter then applies finger-pad pressure with the trigger finger to the "release button" that deactivates the retention and allows the shooter to draw the pistol.

However, unless the shooter deactivates the retention before beginning upward pressure as part of the draw, the retention continues to hold the pistol in the holster. Often, the inexperienced shooter then begins tugging on the pistol and tends to transition from finger-pad to finger-tip pressure causing the trigger finger to bend.

When the novice shooter finally manages to deactivate the retention and draws the pistol, this bend in the trigger finger positions the finger near or on the trigger, and the finger tends to stay in motion. As the trigger guard clears the holster, the finger enters the trigger guard and contacts the trigger — occasionally with unpleasant results. I have witnessed two people shoot themselves doing exactly this.

The holster is not the problem, it works exactly as designed. If you are going to use an auto-lock trigger finger manipulation holster, you absolutely must train with the holster until a safe draw is second nature — for that matter, you should do this with any holster you use.

For Safety Officers: You will see the belt rise if someone is doing this. Stop them immediately and explain what they are doing incorrectly.

9. Failure to clear cloth in holster: 

IDPA, USPSA, IPSC, CAS, etc are all active sports, and shooters often have their shirt tails or other garments drift out during the course of a stage. If the shooter fails to clear this cloth from the mouth of the holster when he re-holsters his pistol, this cloth can find its way into the trigger guard.

As the shooter presses the pistol into the holster, the cloth jams, which can lead to an unwelcome loud noise as the cloth tightens around and pulls the trigger. Always visually confirm that your holster is completely clear of any cloth or other obstruction when you holster a loaded pistol.

10. Placing empty or partially empty magazines in your mag pouch:

I cannot guess the number of times I've seen shooters put an empty or partially empty magazine into their mag pouch, then later discover it is not fully charged when they run out of ammunition. In a match, this is cause for laughter at the competitor's expense, but in a self-defense encounter it could be fatal.

Stow your empties in a pocket, not in the pouch.

11. Crowding Cover:

Novices frequently want to crowd (get extremely close to) cover. This limits their available work-space to manipulate the pistol and may lead them to point the pistol in an unsafe direction as they maneuver to the next firing position.

With IDPA fault lines, a shooter is considered behind cover no matter how of much his upper torso is exposed, as long as his feet are not touching the ground on the other side of the fault line. The fault line must extend at least three feet from the cover barrier. Not crowding the cover provides space to manipulate your pistol and maneuver.

On the competition stage design side, I occasionally see stages designed in such a manner that they force shooters to crowd cover. In a IDPA match where I served as safety officer, one stage required the shooter to maneuver in a tight V-shaped barricade space and fire through ports. The stage had a barrel obstacle in the center of the V which forced the shooter to maneuver close to cover and prevented the Safety Officers from staying with the shooter as they fired the stage — obviously a less-than-optimal design.

On a related note, many stages have ports through which the shooter must engage a target. Shooting through the port does not mean you must stick the entire pistol through the port. The time you lose poking your pistol through is doubled when you now must pull it back out before you can move on. More inefficient and unnecessary motion.

12. Hollywood Ready

At some point, film and television producers began directing the actors to hold the pistol vertically next to their face so both were visible in the scene. This generated a bad habit among novice shooters who believe pointing the barrel at the sky is an appropriate ready position.

There are several reasons not to do this, including the fact that if you fire a round with the pistol next to your face you will likely cause permanent hearing loss. 

I often see novice competitors who are crowding cover use the "Hollywood ready" as they move away from a shooting position. Step away from the cover and use a low ready or compressed ready when you move. 

Bad Habits

These are some of the bad habits I've seen — I suspect there are others and welcome comments or input.

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Friday, January 19, 2024

Shotgun Light: A Review of the Olight Baldr Pro R with a Green Laser

This is a quick review of the Olight Baldr Pro R rechargeable light with a green laser. The Baldr Pro R has a flashlight with a 1,350-lumen output and five milliwatt (5mW) class llla green laser located within the flashlight’s reflector. I wanted a light for my home defense shotgun to replace a Surefire® light with a fragile plastic latch that frequently failed. I believe the light failed due to the light’s inability to handle the shotgun’s recoil.

A compact light with a laser seemed to be just the trick and the Olight Baldr Pro R fit my requirements. The Baldr Pro has a selector which gives you the ability to switch between white light only, green laser only, or both white light and green laser. The Baldr Pro is rechargeable and has an internal battery charged via a magnetic charging port. This port also accepts a remote pressure switch which attaches to the magnetic port (the picture below is the light installed on my Beretta 1301).

Recharging the light is simple. Simply take it off the Picatinny rail (it also works with Glock rails) and plug the (included) USB recharging cord into a charging device (not included). You could also charge the light while mounted on the gun although this might not be as convenient. The small LEDs turn green when the battery is fully charged. I always replace the light in the same position on the rail and have had no problems with the laser’s zero wandering.

The Baldr Pro has held up very well so far. I have fired over 300 rounds of buckshot and slugs with the light attached to my home defense shotgun without any problems. 

I zeroed the laser at twenty five yards with the Federal LE-132 low recoil slug—putting four of five shots in a five-inch circle (picture below left). This zero gave me the same point of impact for Federal LE-133 8-pellet buckshot at twenty yards  (picture below right - five shots of Federal LE-133). 

I still had some slugs (I hate partial boxes) so I finished the session shooting four Federal slugs at a 10x12 inch plate 65 yards away.  Four hits for four shots (see picture below and video here).

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Note: I purchased this light and received no remuneration from Olight.

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Pattern Your Home Defense Shotgun

A critical, but often overlooked aspect of being prepared to use your home defense shotgun is determining the pattern that your shotgun produces with a particular buckshot load. In shotgun circles, this process is called patterning your shotgun.

Without patterning you will not know the size and shape of your shotgun’s pattern with a given load at a given distance. You must do this with the ammunition you intend to use in your home defense shotgun. The way manufacturers produce shotgun barrels means that no two guns will pattern exactly alike--even with the exact same ammunition. Your gun may pattern very poorly with one brand or size of buckshot, yet do very well with another. The only way to know is to shoot the buckshot loads at varying distances.

Pattern Size: A rough estimate is that your pattern size will grow about one inch per yard of travel in a typical home defense shotgun with standard buckshot loads. Federal LE133 and the equivalent Speer loads are the exception and usually shoot a much tighter pattern. You should experiment with different loads and different brands to find the load that works the best in your particular gun.

Pattern Concentricity and Consistency: The pattern needs to be roughly round in shape with pellets evenly distributed throughout the covered area.

Effective Range: With buckshot, your maximum defensive range is the distance that all of your pellets impact within 4-inches of your point of aim (i.e. within an 8-inch circle). This may be 10, 15, 20, or even 25 yards or more depending upon the load/gun combination you select. The distance where your gun with the particular load you are using throws even one pellet outside of the 8-inch circle is the maximum defensive range for your shotgun with that load. Once you reach a distance where your pellets impact farther than 4-inches from your point of aim, the odds are very high that you will miss with one or more of the pellets and potentially endanger others in addition to your target.

A Pattern Experiment: In December of 2023 I experimented with the Federal LE-133 8-pellet buckshot load in two different shotguns—one was a Remington 870 pump shotgun and one was a Beretta 1301. Both shotguns had cylinder bores. I fired five rounds from each gun at 5, 10, 15, 20, and 25 yards.

The pattern from both guns at five and ten yards was essentially one hole (the lower right hole at ten yards with the 1301 was shooter error. 

At fifteen yards, the Remington 870 and the Beretta 1301 patterns remained acceptable. At twenty yards, the Remington 870 threw one pellet out of the acceptable pattern circumference (small circle). The Beretta 1301’s pattern remained within tolerance. 

At twenty five yards, the Remington 870’s pattern was over fifteen inches in diameter while the 1301 remained (barely) within an eight inch circle. I need to check the zero of the Beretta 1301's optic and laser at twenty five yards. For a YouTube video of the patterning process click here.

Unless your house is very large, the maximum home defense engagement distance is likely to be less than twenty yards and for most of us, less than fifteen yards. That said, both of these shotguns patterned acceptably at five - fifteen yards with the Federal LE-133 buckshot lot that I used in this experiment. 

If your target is beyond the maximum defensive buckshot range for your gun, you would either need to transition to a slug load or maneuver to get closer. Never forget that a single buckshot pellet can kill and you are accountable for every pellet that leaves your gun.

As we saw in this experiment, at shorter ranges your buckshot charge will not have opened and you are essentially shooting a very large single projectile that must be precisely aimed just like any bullet.

In an earlier experiment, a Fiocchi 9-pellet standard buckshot load in my Beretta 1301 shotgun at a distance of twelve yards generally put all nine pellets within a ten inch circle. I say generally because occasionally this load throws one wild pellet off the target at that distance. 

With the wild 9th pellet flyer potential, I consider the Fiocchi 9-pellet buckshot load to have a ten yard effective range in that particular gun. In contrast, the Federal 8-pellet 00 LE133 Buckshot load put all 8 pellets through a hole 2-inches in diameter at the same distance.

My Remington 870 and my Beretta 1301 have occasionally patterned acceptably out to 35 yards with some lots of Federal LE133 in the past. That said, I have noticed erratic behavior from Federal 8-pellet LE133 lots at times so I will stick to 25 yards or less for the Beretta and fifteen yards or less with the Remington 870 which exceeds the maximum potential defensive engagement distances in my home. 

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