Your “table setting” and “know your table” have big meanings, in the self defense shooting world. Ever shoot from a chair, behind a table at the live fire range? Not often I’ll bet. When done, the seated, range training set up, the “table is set” this way – it takes-makes the assumption that you are the “Lone Ranger,” seated alone, shooting an unidentifiable, abstract somebody (the paper target imagined threat) always shooting straight forward from your seat.
I still some see gun courses on film and in photos with people sitting at tables and drawing and shooting while seated, (even reloading there in the chair! And at times doing really awkward 360 checks while seated.) Or shooters fully stand up exposing most of their bodies. Does the table ever get flipped over in this ‘Lone Ranger’ model? Think about all the calibers out there and the fickle deflection angles and how some flipped tables might help.
But this essay is not just about flipping tables. Sometimes you can’t, but rather about all the probable table situations and responses. “Know your table and the table-setting” shooting training via the “Who, what, where, when, how and why” question checklist.
The WHO questions. Who are you? Who else if any is at the table? Nearby tables? Who is the enemy?
The WHAT questions? What is going on? Robbery? Domestic? Crazy guy? What kind of table? May it offer you some level of protection, even concealment. Shape? Heavy? Metal? Plastic? What’s on it? What kind of gun does the enemy have? What kind of chair are you in?
The WHERE questions? Where is this happening? A home, restaurant, conference, meeting? Gun show? Trade-days? Thanksgiving dinner (don’t laugh!) Where exactly is this armed enemy? Where do you carry your pistol? In a booth – probably some 50% of the time you are in a booth not a table. Where is this table anyway? The table? Where are you seated? Is there space to do this between the table and the wall?
The WHEN questions. When exactly should you shoot in this situation? Or not shoot at all? Flip a table? Stand up? Dive? Finish dessert?
The HOW questions. How do you react? How close are you seated to the table for your draw? Will the chair move easily on the carpet? Maybe flip this table? How do you shoot around it? Will the table completely turn over? How often are you seated alone to flip a table over?
The WHY questions. Why did you go there? Why are you still there. Why are you still seated? Why reload while seated? Why stay seated?
Continue asking and exploring and answer these “Ws and H” quesions.
Set the real table with questions and answers. Hopefully in these live fire range classes, these samples of the “Ws and H” Questions checklist was-is mentioned in the opening lecture to introduce and remind the bigger problems of the table-setting shooting?
I do wonder, do the table-chair courses ever finish the live fire range segment with any of the best training experiences? Doing the simulated ammo situations with actors (just other attendees) in common makeshift table settings. (Sim-ammo is all I do.) Real, vital “shoot-don’t-shoot” decision making, interactive experiences.
Yes, you must shoot some live fire from the chair and table a bit. Yes. And then hopefully, in this ‘Lone Ranger’ range set-up, practitioners might practice a segment of oh…flipping tables over and shooting too, and also worrying about where Tonto is, and work on all the other probable things in simulated ammo situations, rather than completely ignore all the training of many other chair-table probabilities.
How do you set the table for table-related gunfights?
Years ago, I saw a western with Sam Elliot. I can’t remember the name of the western. Two guys came to kill him at a woodsy cabin. He shot them. One survived, and Sam immediately hauled him in the cabin and started treating him for his gut-shot wound. I realized I had a nickname for a situation that might help people remember an aftermath element all gun people need to consider more and more these days…
Years ago, then and now former Dallas PD officer Amber Guyger, came home late at night from a 12 hour shift, drove into and walked through her dark apartment building, a place where some 15% of residents have reported going to the wrong apartment. Call it bad “forensic architecture.” She entered an unlocked door, saw a guy in “her” living room and shot him dead. Its a big deal in Dallas and hit the national and even international news media. A big deal because the the poor victim watching TV on his couch was by all accounts, a terrific young black guy. And we were smothered with Black Lives Matter agitators here in North Texas and controversy. So, its a terrible mistake, and she paid. She was eventually found guilty of murder and got a ten year sentence.
She testified! Which is an oddity. Under prosecution questioning and in her testimony was the fact that she did not apply any tactical medicine methods to the save the guy. And she had some very handy too in a police backpack she was carrying. She did call 911, etc. but didn’t do much for the dying right away. This received many grimaces in court. It suggests a negativity. An uncaring intent. A secret racism is claimed. It fortified a guilty verdict. This is just one example of what I am talking about
Even the military can suffer from this. Think about Navy SEAL Gallagher recently accused of war crimes and killing off a wounded teenager-combatant for one example. One of the contentions was he did not treat the wounded enemy teen properly. (Read about it in The Man in the Arena)
Trouble for the military, the on-duty and off-duty police officer. But, in a criminal or civil court what then for a citizen? Aside from off-duty Amber, it is becoming more and more apparent to me through the years that if you shoot someone in self defense, the “law” – be it civil or criminal, the carefully selected jury, the media, is going to ponder in a later calm and cool courtroom and want to know, want to ask you why you did or did not try to save the life after you shot them. Could you? Should you? Would you? Can you articulate why?
Past training for the police? We in the business have always had some medical and first aid training, however simplistic and poor, as far back as my involvement starting in the early 1970s. Not much was said about situations and who deserves what kind of treatment. And when? The practice was that the wounded (or dead) bad guy had to be handcuffed. His weapons collected-secure. We had to close in, guns up and take care of this business. I have done this dozens and dozens of times, (more with prone, “unshot” suspects) but it’s dangerous, and I cannot expect citizens to do this all the time. An ambulance was called. Not much medical attention, if any, is given to the grounded, dying criminal. We had to and still must “make the scene safe,” and we couldn’t let the EMTS in close without securing the body and the scene.
Anecdotally, in the 1980s we shot an armed robber of restaurant one night. Now it being 35 years ago, I do not remember if he was dead yet, but we took his rifle and handcuffed him behind his back, and…let him be. Ambulance called. Neighbors watching complained that we let the guy die. His mother sued the department for not treating her kid. Nothing much came of it because it was Texas and 35 years ago. If the city settled? I don’t know. I can safely say, none of us thought of treating the guy.
This “no treat concept-decision,” was more publicly challenged after the infamous Los Angeles bank robbery decades ago, in the 90s, by the two guys tacted-out, vested and with machine guns. When the second robber was shot, there was news footage of the aftermath. The cops stood around. The family of that robber sued LAPD for ignoring their son’s treatment after being shot. Due to the carnage they wrought, there wasn’t much sympathy at all. But, of course, LAPD settled $$$.
This official scene-securing is not a civilian requirement. In a way, in a biological, psychological way, I think we all can understand how people shooting a robber/attacker, are reluctant to help them. “The SOB might get kicked rather than get a tourniquet!” Don’t just say, “Well he was trying to rob me, so F____ him.” That works at the bar, or the buddy BS session. And while I certainly really do appreciate gallows humor, your words might not hang well in at the grand jury, the criminal court, or the civil court.
Police, military, citizen or otherwise, nowadays, serious gun owners spend a lot time on tactical medicine, but for whom exactly? Medical technology improved so much, so quickly, in the last few decades. I remember the wonders of quick-clot! But think about it for a moment. The general thrust of these courses had been to heal yourself, family and co-workers. Not really, not ever the criminal.
But, is it sometimes safe to move in, kick the bad guy’s gun away (or pick it up) look the bad guy over, and maybe…do something? Do nothing? Don’t care to? Too scared to look? Don’t care to look? Are you alone? Mad, scared or cared? Think about it. Sometimes, under some situations and circumstances, church or school, wedding or workplace shootings to name just four, you are thee “man”, or thee “woman,” and you may have to move in, step up. Do. Sometimes you can’t or shouldn’t evacuate.
Anyway, my message is if you shoot anyone, lest of all kill Hannibal Lector himself, someone, somewhere will be looming around – prosecution, defense, lawyers, families, political groups – trying to torture you for not immediately performing a heart transplant to save him. I don’t think this reality has fully hit total ground zero with all the gun people in USA just yet. Just calling 911 and running and hiding out in the parking lot behind a car may not be enough anymore in all situations. It is VERY situational.
Some of my smartest gun trainers and legal beagle friends say they teach rescue care. As far as medical treatment, some more thoughtful ones suggest –
* treat yourself first, then, * family, comrades, friends, then, * third, consider the shot bad guy.
So for some, the wounded criminal is somehow on the medical list to at least think about. As a professional cop or soldier, you have to monitor him anyway. You have to get close to get his weapons away from him, anyway, we have to have cuff him, anyway. Again, that’s situational. What should a citizen do? It’s also situational.
I am not laying out a mandatory list here. I am just making a point for all people to think about ethics and the interpretations of law. Should every citizen shoot and run away as suggested by numerous self defense instructors? Always? Do you shoot a school shooter in a crowd or a church shooter in a crowd , or mall shooter in a crowd and immediately head for the hills? Is the bad guy dead? Stunned? Wounded? Up again and skulking around still? What constitutes closure? What constitutes closure in this situation?
A major consideration is of course, how wounded is the bad guy? We closing-in-to-secure-police (and military) have to speculate on this as we approach. What about citizens?
Get ready for more enforcement institutions to mandate more of this medical follow-up. I first wrote this essay in 2019. Since, I’ve seen numerous and way more body cam videos of police rushing in to save the lives of the people that they just shot (black or white). They have to now! It seems everyday in the USA, legal systems are becoming more “liberal.” More suspect-driven. Prosecutors are becoming more and more liberal (thank you Darth-George-Soros-Vader). In many places it appears that the movement is turning mere gun ownership into a sin and common sense, self defense into vigilantism! (Never mind the laws of other countries. It’s too late for most).
To treat or not to treat? This is a legal (and moral?) question. Lots of my friends and police say this emergency medical treatment is far too dangerous. No way will they. Citizen, police or military, you should be able to articulate why you did or did not choose to treat the shot person these days. But proclaiming you will leave every one to die, every time, all the time, no matter the circumstances is just not smart legalese, nor smart instruction.
What I am saying now is for everyone, what of a “Sam Elliot Decision?” You will have to articulate at some point, with understandable, common sense, why you did or did not do something medical to a bad guy, if just to your lawyer so they know in conversations with say…a prosecutor about your intent. There will be situational reasons for or against. But, you’d better think about, I hope you think about this… “Sam Elliot Decision.”
We have spent a lot of time and effort to remind police and citizens to message-
“I shot to stop him, not to kill him.”
This is just a further manifestation of that messaging. To survive the civil or criminal follow-up, it is much wiser to be the person who:
“thought about helping.”
“Who wanted to try and help but couldn’t-shouldn’t.”
“Who tried and did do something.”
Rather than someone who’s doctrine totally condemned the concept. (I think this could be troublesome, especially in the future, for the person or the subpoenaed teacher. Can you hear the questioning? “So you teach that you should simply let everyone die, no matter the circumstances? Is that what you teach?)
Okay, there’s more in answering various questions coming in.
Let me close by saying this. Many training systems innocently “perceive the gunfight.” And they teach to that perception. The perception of your first and next fight is VERY important because you wind up thinking and training for that perceived fight. Many instructors worry “small” about the parking lot or home invaders and a few events like that, that of course actually do happen, but so many other crazy things happen too. Tons of crazy things. But some create these generic ABC rules off of limited perceptions and insist on this one main rule, this universal “call 9-11 and MUST evacuate for safety.” Which of course fits a few scenarios but NOT ALL OF THEM.
So, it was Thanksgiving. Distant cousin Billy is drugged up on uppers and downers and goes nuts with the big turkey knife. He starts swinging and cutting folks and you shoot him in the stomach before somebody’s throat gets stabbed. He falls down and drops the knife. The knife is removed. You call 9-11 and…leave the party like the ABCs of Instructor Johnson advised? Clear and the room and hide in the parking lot? Response time sucks, maybe 20 minutes on average. Folks at the party treat the other victim’s superficial knife wounds. They are okay and you have courageously ignored the common escape-to-safety ABCs and have remained. And all the while there’s Billy on the floor. No sirens. He’s gurgling and dying. Do you holster up and help Billy live until the ambulance arrives? Or do you let him die? (Based on a true story.) I think you should make the “Sam Elliot Decision” as this “uncle-in-law” did and help the knucklehead live for a whole host of reasons. When the EMTs arrived before the police, they were waved inside to help the bad guy. (He did live.)
I do not want to start telling these many examples that don’t fit the “A” or “B” or “C.” I write and talk a lot about your perceptions of your first or next fight. This includes your instructors perceptions of your first or next fight too. They help or taint reality. How broad are their ABCs?
You cannot think that simply calling 9-11 and leaving for “safety,” absolutely fits EVERY occasion, every time in the craziness of life.
Here’s a one minute video Lexipol advice piece on this subject for police. Many of you are not going to like it. But, I think this will grow in the legal world. Click here
Through the 1970s to the 1990s, I noticed a tripping accident was fairly common in line operations, police work. Ankle juries. Line ops is often synonymous with chasing people and dashing to active crime scenes. Running. Running over the urban, suburban and rural terrain, and looking far off not on the objects and contours on the ground before you.
So that’s a bad enough invitation to an ankle twist or break or fall. But another thing I noticed and not just in my agency and the surrounding agencies, and then nationally – another unique accident. Police cars parking hurriedly beside curbs and other crap, and officers bailing out of cars, looking off to problem people and places, and catching their ankles on stuff. Sprain, Or break. Or fall. (I also heard similar stories from the military, where by the nature of what they do in total, the ankles are weak links in action.)
In one week, we had CID captain bail out and break an ankle, and a veteran patrol officer bail out and break his ankle because of curbs. Both were passengers by the the way. So the while driver could guess-see where he was going, the passenger was stuck with what he got over on his side. The captain’s gun was out. The officer was pulling his gun. Think of the residual mess a discharge would have made. Could have made. There are a number of discharges each year with falls. Fingers off the trigger!
That strange week was when I began to take notice of the problem. Many moons ago. This type of thing, a car bail-out, least of all a foot chase could happen to any ambitious person, gun or not, police or not. Military or not. (People have this problem on the supermarket parking lot!)
Look around. But, one more thing to do in preparation is to develop more resilient ankles. Not just calf raises up and down, but rotating your foot and rocking it side to side under a weight pressure. Leg work out, even running create a better ankle to withstand surprises in the future. This alone might not be the cure. In the 1980s while I was working out regularly and doing karate and old school jujitsu, I went through a whole period of jacking up my ankles. Stupid little accidents, like going down stairs too fast a little sideways. Then, perhaps mysteriously, with the same or “worse” regiments, I never had those problems again, even with some near spills and twists which should have. Maybe I was overdoing back then? Smarter workouts help. I and others are convinced that working out your legs (that’s ankles too) help protect your ankles. (I might add here that the two cases I mentioned above…neither worked out.)
Since all that, I take a quick look down. Or look fast and remember where I will be when I pull up somewhere. Sometimes it could just be junk, muck or a giant puddle out there. Warn your partner if you have one. Even today, as a “former-action-guy,” I warn my wife when I think I get to close to the curb or a mess for her to get out carefully when she is the passenger.
I think emergency folks need to…curb their enthusiasm… when first getting out of a vehicle at hot scenes (and work out for as long as you can in life).
Country and Disco. Rednecks and Hippies. Back then when I first patrolled the streets in the 1970s, be it in the Army or out, I … profiled … or rather nicknamed the guys I would see roaming the bars and restaurants at night. When the dancing parlors shut down each night, waves of “Country and Disco” folks would gravitate into the 24-hour diners. Some also gravitated into our jails. It didn’t take long to realize you were more likely to have trouble with a guy dressed in black with a felt cowboy hat than one duded up like a hair-sprayed member of the Bee Gees. Profiles in wardrobes. To our dispatcher, they were all “pay-tre-ons.”
Some of the bouncers in the country and Western clubs were rough and rowdy people, and I have written some of their stories before. Like them or not, we got to and had to work with them, and they were indeed the first line of eyes and ears for a lot of stuff. They tipped us off, they pulled us out of scrapes, and they watched our backs. We watched theirs. When I was a detective later on, they helped clear some cases, even murders, for me.
One night at the Duster’s Club, two bouncers I’ll just call Ralph and Randy were whistled over by a barkeep pointing to a loud patron who was starting trouble. As they approached the disturbance, the patron turned, yelled, and held them at bay with an open palm.
“You stay outta this!” the man screamed. Ralph thought the man was drugged more than he was drunk. “Say, padnah,” Randy said, “come on, we just need you to leave, hear?” “Fuck you, skunk!” the man declared, “I ain’t cha padnah!”
With that, the man pulled a big revolver from under his jacket and pointed it at them and shoved it straight out at arm’s length. Randy and Ralph ducked and backed away, and the customers nearby shrieked and ran. But overall, this place was noisy and big, and the shock wave didn’t rumble through the whole crowd. The rest of the place just two-stepped right on by. Kind of like life, really, when you think about it.
The man charged the bouncers swearing he would kill them. The barkeep called the police. And that would be me. I was about two miles away.
“Pay-tre-ron at the Duster with a pistol,” the dispatcher told me on the car radio. This “country-sounding” dispatcher, not a mental giant, always mispronounced the word “patron,” calling them “pay-tre-ons,” like they were some kind of an alien race. Our running joke for night shift when this dispatcher was on duty was – “wonder if we’ll be invaded by the Pay-tre-ons tonight?”
“Ten-four,”I said and, of course, there was no backup available. Everyone was busy with his or her own Saturday-night alien invasions.
As I pulled up into the Duster parking lot, to my surprise, I saw Randy and Ralph kneeling beside some parked cars in the parking lot. They were peeking over the trunks and hoods to the north to a cheap motel beside the nightclub. They ran to a wall and motioned me over.
“He’s in there!” Randy told me as I walked up to them. He pointed to the motel. I stared, ducking down, too, because … I can take a hint. “Who?” I asked. The guy with the gun? I thought he was in the Duster.
“He ran out the door and across the lot. Ralph and I follered behind him. Come here,” Randy said, and brought me to the corner of the motel. “He is in that room.” “He’s madder than hell. He is on drugs,” Ralph said. “I swear he was gonna kill us. He’s got a big-assed revolver. He pointed it at us and at half a dozen people in the bar.”
He singled out the room window for me; and I could see a light was on inside, and there was a lot of movement inside. The curtain was partially open. I worked my way around the corner while staring at the room window for any action. And then I slipped down the motel’s south wall and up the west wall until I was right beside this window.
This was an old-fashioned, cinder block-constructed motel. Each room had a horizontal window with a sliding glass, windowpane, and a curtain. The window was partially open. No screen on the window. I peered inside.
An angry man was pacing the small room from the bathroom door to the front door. Back and forth. He was quietly cursing to himself, clenching his fists, and waving his arms. On the corner of the dresser by the front door was this “big-assed revolver.” I pulled out my .357 Colt Python, my own big-assed gun, in case he decided to continue his angry walk out the door holding that damn thing and shooting up the place.
I stepped back and saw Randy and Ralph looking at me from across the parking lot. The loud and busy interstate highway ran behind them. I made a big circling motion with my hand and then pointed to a spot on the far side of the door, a signal for them to go up the service road and down the far side of the motel. I was all alone here and needed their help. But if my quick plan would work, I needed them; and they were itching to help.
I watched the man pace. When Randy and Ralph got into position on the far side of the door, I got into mine. At a moment when the man was near the bathroom door and far from his gun, I reached into the partially open window, hooked the curtain, shoved the window and curtain open as far as I could and pointed my Python at him.
“Police! Freeze!” I barked. Which he did. His eyes cut over to his pistol. “No! Don’t even think about it.”
Outside, Ralph tried to open the door, but it was locked.
“You will walk over to the door with your hands up. You will unlock the door,” I told him in the most menacing voice I could muster. “You keep your hands up. If you touch that pistol, I will cut you in half.”
He looked hard at me. He understood that message and marched over to the door. As he got close to his gun, I inched my pistol in just a bit more for a better angle. Yes, I would have cut him in half. He unlocked the door.
As soon as the knob jiggled, Ralph and Randy barged in with quite a double tackle on that guy right onto the bed. I thought the bed would collapse, but it didn’t. They immediately proceeded to pommel and beat the tar out of him. I casually stepped around the wall and into the room, got his gun and stuck it inside my Sam Brown belt . I took a quick peek into the bathroom for anyone else. Accomplices. Beaten-up girlfriend. Dead guys or gals. Yeah, no telling, as that stuff happens. But the stinky bathroom was empty that time. Meanwhile, the beating on the bed continued.
“Okay, okay, okay,” I said, trying to tone those guys down just enough to get a space to handcuff the guy. The suspect was busted up a bit by now. But way back then, which I still affectionately refer to as “the good ol’ days,” the jailers received and booked-in near-dead prisoners all the time, and never so much as offered an aspirin to them. Today? Today, they get new teeth, a manicure, special trip to the hospital, and a scholarship.
(I’ll just put this photo up here, just cuz I think it’s special.)
Off to jail. Detectives on Monday morning would work the rest of this. Get statements. The guy, a Texan but an out-of-towner, had no prior criminal history. I charged him with possession of a firearm in a bar, which was a felony then, and for the assault of pointing that pistol at Randy and Ralph. Etc. Why’d he do it? Hell if I know. I just did my part of the job. As usual, I never saw nor heard from that suspect again. He must have plea-bargained himself a deal.
I guess today, decades later, all this would have to be handled differently than “1970s Texas-style.” Today, a SWAT team would be called for a 4, or 6 or maybe 10 hour, negotiated stand-off. And well, those bouncers would’ve been able to beat the guy up either. Times have changed.
Yup, I never saw him again. Just a whole lot of folks like him. The world was full of those damn “Pay-tre-ons.” It was an invasion. He went back to his home planet.