Drop it! In police work we are told to never have anything in our gun hand, in case we suddenly have to draw our pistols. But we know that is impossible. Even when writing a simple traffic ticket, both hands are busy. Fortunately, citizens do not live by this advice, this constant edge, as they go about their daily business. But, dear citizen, what if…?
Much later, police trainers then passed around the idea, the realization, that when you drop your hand to pull your gun, you have to open your hand to grab your gun anyway. So, police, military or citizen, if you have something in your hand? Clip board. Grocery bag. Cup of coffee. Cheeseburger. You are going to open your hand anyway. You just have to learn to drop the item as your hand descends to your weapon carry site.
This actually takes a bit of “dropsy” practice. Practice while holding what you think you might hold, then drop and draw. Use live fire first, then switch to safe, simulated ammo of course versus a real live person, but you can make some live-fire reps on targets at the range first, (providing you are somewhere you can draw from a holster, as those no-draw, range rules are increasing. If restricted, all the more reason to at least do this with simulated ammo and dodge those cumbersome range rules.)
Oh, and when making an emergency call? Always use your off-hand to run the cell phone. (I have a simulated ammo scenario for that process too.)
Sometimes we discover that we can chunk the item at the bad guy’s face. But, that option is not always available due to time, space and situation. Lots of people ASSUME they know what their first or next confrontation will be like, and think that a good guy should always throw their hats, coffee, etc. at the bad guy before they draw. Such is an idea with a pre-emptive draw, maybe. It is very situational. But if the bad guy is drawing first, you are already behind the eight-ball of action-beats-reaction, and taking the step of tossing something first, then drawing makes things worse for you. Don’t believe me? Check it put with simulated ammo training.
(The Mexican Hat Toss is a “chunking” old-school classic. I learned this from old FBI agents who were taught to toss their mandatory fedoras at a suspect when appropriate. As the hat flew as a distraction, the pistol came out. They were never photographed doing this, nor was the method in any “public release,” to keep the trick a secret.)
So in your “Drop It” scenario training, have a holstered pistol on your carry site. Hold something in your gun hand. Drop, draw and shoot. Get the drop routine running in your head and hand.
Then it is vital to eventually, as quickly as possible, have a real person in front of you, doing something dangerous for you to properly draw your simulated ammo weapon for the right, justified and legal reasons, not a bell, not a whistle or timer, not flash cards, nor a paper target. A person! (One example of trouble? He crouches for a draw! Hand going to a primary, secondary or tertiary weapon carry site. Anyway, remember an opponent suddenly crouching is always a bad indication of trouble!). Learn, experiment and make a list as to what moves would cause you to legally draw.
Thus, the desperate need for more interactive, safe simulated ammo training. (Simunitions NOT needed here because why would you hurt your training partner 25 times with painful Sims, while he is trying to help you train! Safer methods and ammo required and smarter.)
Live fire is always half your training battle. The other training half is shooting moving, thinking people who want to shoot you, or who are in the act of shooting you with safe ammunition.
“If I die in combat zone. Box me up and ship me home.”
You’ve all heard that ditty? Or, maybe you haven’t? It comes for most who have had it as a cadence – a song – we all sang while marching and running in the military. It has been bastardized, or satired and altered for various messaging. One paraphrased version we don’t see much anymore, but old-timers will remember, was popularized on some t-shirts and posters years back. It was about you dying in a combat zone and having your gear split up by survivors, the words accompanied by the artwork of a rip-shirt, commando. This splitting-up is a very good idea for several reasons, but I don’t think the commandment reaches deep enough in citizen and police training methodology.
“If I die in a combat zone? Get my ammo, guns and gear and…continue to kill the enemy.”
It is common advice in shoot-outs that drawing and using a second gun is faster than reloading your first one. This of course depends on where you are carrying that second gun, but the advice is classic and comes from veterans. Did you arrive at this scene with a second gun? Can you find a second gun at the scene? More ammo? Was there a “second” gun, loose and back on the ground that you just ran right by?
There are numerous, vitally important, physical, gun-survival things you cannot and will not learn or get to do, should you decide to forever shoot on a paper target range and consider that practice to be the end-all to gun-fighting.
This year, 2022 marks the 26th year that I have routinely, almost weekly, (barring Covid madness) created and supervised simulated ammo shooting scenarios of some sort. Some are short and involve two people. Some are much longer and involve numerous people, all are in numerous situations and locations. Urban. Suburban. Rural. Inside and outside. Daytime. Nighttime. People get shot by whatever simulated ammo we get to use for the training session. This reality can be very demoralizing. But, it happens.
In the briefing, I ask the participants, once “shot,” to evaluate their wounds when hit. If shot in their shooting limb, then they switch hands and carry on a bit. If shot in the leg, they limp on for a bit. If they take one or two serious shots, like shot in the head, I ask them to drop right where they are and essentially…“they be dead.” Playing this dead part, however demoralizing, is important, as you will soon read. Loose, or with lanyards and slings, you and your gun are laying there for all to seize.
Remember this is a very situational thing. How many guns and how much ammo did you bring? How long will this last? What to do about a “drop dead gun,” or the dropped gun – one dropped by a seriously wounded or dead person. Comrade or enemy? You can lecture on this, show charts, and talk it up. On the live-fire range, you can put various kinds of domestic or foreign guns in various conditions on a bench and suddenly make people pick them up, make-ready, load them, etc. and shoot them (which has been done forever by a few clever instructors by the way, but not enough, but done). The true savvy and timing of doing this pick up inside a hot, under-fire, hunter-hunted situation is hardly if ever practiced on the live-fire range. Too dangerous? A sims only endeavor?
Loser-Taker Disarming. Technically, disarming should end with concerns of “weapon recovery.” Weapon recovery is often ignored in training. Recovering disarmed or dropped weapons is a missing link in most hand, stick, knife and gun martial, art or otherwise, systems. On the subject of weapon disarming training, two folks play parts. One the gun-loser, one the gun-taker. Most ignore the fact that either one could be the good guy or the bad guy, and typically the good guy gets to disarm-take from the bad guy in most typical training. This one-sided, prioritizing hinders good-guy, weapon recovery skills, but…look around you, this is the usual format, isn’t it?.
What if you are the good guy loser? When your pistol has been disarmed from you, holstered or out, you MUST recover it, hopefully while the taker is fumbling around with it, to get it aimed back at you. In practice, gun-takers often just take the gun, flip it around, fiddle with it into position, etc. Still the good-guy-loser must get his weapon back from bad-guy-taker, and instantly. Rush him! Now! (It is also a great training idea to have the bad-guy-loser instantly rush the good-guy-taker for the good-guy-taker to realize he has to instantly grapple with this reality heat. Are you following me with the whose-who?)
(Some instructors demand that the taker should perform impossible checks, fixes and repairs in those few split-seconds right upon acquisition, not expecting a vicious counter attack, weapon recovery from the loser. And in the real world, was the taken gun a replica? Out of battery? Empty? These are issues for another distinct, subject-centric article just about these very things.)
But weapon recovery is a bigger issue that just good-guy, bad-guy, taker-loser disarming. There’s the rarely mentioned recovery of your downed comrade’s or enemy’s weapon, what this essay is actually about.
Aside from disarming, guns are dropped. I run only situational, simulated ammo gun courses, never teaching marksmanship. I once saw a range master, and trophy winner cop, standing before an armed training partner in a scenario. Both with gas guns. The draw! And the police instructor vet lost his pistol in the air, mid-draw. He had never drawn right in front of an armed man with a pain-delivering gun. Gas gun hit the floor. Just the first time. Next time, he adjusted.
We also see photos and hear about such fumbles in both normal and stressful times. We see them dropped in simulated ammo scenario training. We even see them dropped at live fire ranges. Long guns and pistols are dropped with some frequency in non-combat life, of which we have no stats on, but they get dropped from time to time. I can’t recall dropping mine in some 50 years, but I’ve seen my friends and co-workers drop theirs a time or two. And we certainly see them dropped on youtube. One example, we were doing a street shooting situation in Las Vegas. A very athletic, concealed carry guy ran from car to car and dropped his pistol. The metal gun hit the street in front of him and to make matters even worse, when it landed, he KICKED it! Kicked it right under a parked car…needless to say. He was killed.
Dropped When Shot. I can say with some experience that four common things happen when someone holding a firearm is shot. The shot person:
Drops the gun, or…
Convulsively fires the weapon, no aiming, or…
Aims and shoots back, or…
Gun does nothing. The gun remains unfired in their hands.
What about the dropped weapon of a shot, severely wounded or dead compatriot? Or enemy? A “drop dead gun,” just laying there.
As the organizer, over-seer of these scenarios, as the “ref” if you will, I see so many things in all of these shoot-outs. I see things people really do when in various predicaments. These occurrences, these experiences are quite remarkable and extremely educational. And one of the many things I consistently see is teammates, running past and around their deeply wounded, still or dead, yet still armed partners. Whatever kinds of weapons we are using, Airsoft, gas, markers, Simuntions, whatever – the training weapons we can get wherever I am – these guns run out of ammo, gas, power or break down at the damndest instances.
To aid in the failures, I so want to advise, “pick up THAT gun!” as they run by the fallen. Sometimes they have the time to do so. But, I do not want to bark orders or suggestions to interfere in the middle of the freestyle, firefight exercise. I’ve see many folks run right by other available guns and ammo. As an “invisible” ref, I wait until the after-action review to bring the subject up and next time? They still often forget to do it.
Once in a while I see a practitioner who instantly knows to snatch up his dead buddy’s gun. Either, it is something trained and remembered, or they are just that naturally gun-and-ammo-hungry to simply know this and do this instinctively. They swoop down and snatch up the weapon as they go by. This is an event that never happens in live fire range training, but rather could happen in real life, and should be bolstered in simulated ammo, scenario training whenever possible. I say oddly but, many video game players of complicated war games, obsess about collecting weapons and ammo as a mainstay, and are prone to thinking about picking up “leftover” weapons. I say oddly because they have readily absorbed a concept from a totally, abstract reality.
I might remind quickly here, that weapons are sometimes attached to people by lanyards and slings, something that can be very life-saving for the original holder, but also may flummox your partner’s attempt to get your weapons once you are down and out. Know your partner’s gear. Look them all over. Know your team or squad mates stuff. Which leads us to different issued gear topics.
Different gear? Different guns? Different ammo? In many organizations such as with the military or police, certain weapons are mandated for all in policy for good reason. If we all have the same guns, we all have the same ammo, magazines and we can pick up, exchange, provide, etc., weapons. It can make for good sense. I am not advocating for the “one-gun, one-ammo” policy, I am just reporting on it here. There is something to be said too for personalized guns and gear, too.
When military people move into policing jobs, they often and should carry-on with them these overall concepts. Well, I mean, if you were an Army “clerk,” you might not have take this to heart, but people trained for dangerous jobs and have experienced danger are better carriers of this idea.
So often, citizens minus these background, may not consider this at all, or not have the deep heartfelt, burn, understanding of the concepts of gear and the weapon recovery. Shooting instructors of all types may never even know to suggest this topic. You must realize that you might be missing huge chunks of important tactics, topics, subjects and situations. You might instead begin to dwell deeper and deeper into repetitive, endless “gun minutiae” within your teaching. Why are they stuck in this redundancy when there is so much more diverse combative situations with sims ammo to dissect and experiment with?
Such experiments are psychologically and neurologically proven better learning experiences. Many experts call it “deep learning” in “wicked” environments. In other words, simply put – get off the range and do these interactive, situational shoot-outs with simulated ammo.
Active Shooters Talk Yet Again. Martial arts instructors, ones who appear to have zero gun, police and military experience or at best very limited exposures, have organized some active shooter response classes. There should be something of a newer concern and movement in this “pick up” weapon subject, as more people should contemplate picking up the guns of shot police, downed security, etc. This pick-up-off-the-ground could be practiced with live fire too, with little imagination.
Remember that when you snatch up another’s gun? You might well not know how many rounds are left in it! Oh, and in certain crime and war circumstances, when citizens pick up the dead guy’s gun and the authorities arrive? Do I need to remind you? You could look like the bad guy at first. You could be shot. Phone in, act and surrender accordingly – well, the same rules as if you were armed in the first place should the authorities arrive.
Souvenirs Anyone? This discussion cannot be complete with the pick-up-weapon-souvenir concept. Usually after the battle? My father landed on the beach in WW II and made it all the way to Berlin in Patten’s army. He collected German Lugers and had a box of them mailed home. They never made it through the US Post Office. I recall in Vietnam era, folks trying to get AK-47s. Often though, in many wars, watch out! Such things are BOOBY TRAPPED!
Evidence!This a crime scene? Is the bad guy dead-dead. Control the scene for authorities or supervisors or crime scene people. Sometimes weapons are stolen by onlookers. Consider this and other problems before automatically, cavalierly picking up enemy guns (knives, etc.) Sometimes EMTs can really disorganize your organized crime scene, too.
In Some Kind of Summary. It has been my experience that if frequently suggested in a briefing and-or corrected in after-action reviews, many people may think of this when the action starts and the possibility arises. The more they do it in training? The better. Again the pick-up is very situational.
That gun may be dropped, but it ain’t dead.
“If I die in a combat zone? Get my ammo, guns and gear and…continue to kill the enemy.”
Wooden, rubber band guns. Why do I use them? Let me count the ways…
At seminars, police or others, I have seen and organized a whole lot of “force-on-force” style work-outs these last 26 years and without exaggeration, all over the world. This “FOF” nickname became popular in the later 1990s. The majority of these FOFs were and still are done with “no-shoot,” classic rubber guns. I have always preferred to use guns that shoot something VERY safely so we can get many repetitions tallied and a whole lot of “external focus” experience in.
I am a true-blue believer in the motto that “YOU are not fully learning gun combatives unless you are shooting at moving, thinking people who are shooting back at you.” And of course with simulated ammo…you learn quickly, that it sucks. Never stop working on marksmanship, dubbed by experts like Force Science as “internal focus,” but never forget this “external,” sucky part.
I have decided to only teach the interactive, external part. And due to travel, locations, expenses, safety, logistics, etc, I mostly use wooden, semi-auto, rubber band guns that shoot pretty straight for about ten feet to experiment with. Remember, if you do use gas guns or official SIMUNITIONS? They can break eyes, skin, windows, mirrors, chip room paint, bust ceilings and blow out lights, ding and dent cars, etc., etc.
“I thought simulated ammo is supposed to hurt!” One military vet told me years ago. In certain training exercises yes, like room clearances and so forth. There is certainly a time and a place for painful ammo. But there is also a time and place for pain-free ammo. A whole lot of time and a lot of places. I use the wooden, rubber band guns…that shoot something.
In the 1990s I was laughed at in national training circles and ridiculed for using “toys.” In fact, even Airsoft (popular then in Japan) was considered toys back then. In my defense I never used toy-toys. I used these wooden, rubber band guns that fired multi-shots. There was little available and affordable to simulate any close, interactive shooting back then. By about 2000 or so cops worldwide were seeing my drills and buying a lot of these wooden guns from me for their repetition training. Of course, citizens too.
Easy. Safe. Quick. Great for lots of short, realistic vignette experimentation with lots of reps, anywhere. Anytime. (I even had life sized M-16s that shot very well at about 30 feet.)
OKAY! “No-Shoot” Rubber Guns, versus “Do-Shoot” Wooden Guns. When it comes time to draw these classic rubber guns under stress, or when just fighting over them for a draw, and when one person gets free of the other enough to successfully pull, point and theoretically “shoot” the pistol at the partner/bad-guy, – this is what I have seen for years – these two participating folks just freeze and look at each other. Once in a while someone might yell “bang!” But they frequently just freeze. It’s over! They act like the scenario is over, like the fake trigger pulling part and the wounding or killing part is automatically over. No follow-up action needed, taken or practiced. Just…just freeze!
What Happens Next? In my great collection of “Ws & H” questions, one of the greatest questions is “WHAT happens next? Then next? Then next? Of course, it’s not over with the classic freeze. It’s not. I mean what can happen? The other guy surrenders, or is shot and wounded, or even if he receives a mortal shot, he can still shoot back, stab, fight back a bit, or fall upon the good guy with a weapon like a knife in his hand. Even if the attacker “surrenders,” if they surrender, do citizens know what to say or do next? Orderly or disorderly escape? “Citizen’s arrest,” so to speak? Often this never enters gun instructor’s minds. What happens next? The fight is not over with the mere pointing of a rubber gun. The freeze is totally unreal, incomplete and inadequate training.
The Trainer-Actor’s Part. The scenario IS NOT OVER! If the bad guy is shot, he or she should act like they are shot – it’s he trainer’s job! But it helps the trainer to know where they were shot, to properly act-out responses. Impossible with classic rubber guns and no “bullets.” You need something that safely shoots, tens or even hundreds of times to get the reps in. The trainer doesn’t have to win the Oscar, but act out in common sense.
Light Beams? Somewhat popular these last few years are the SERT guns. To say “popular” might be a “financial” misnomer. They are about $225 to $500. They shoot light beams. They are very real in look, size and wright. Everybody knows about them but few can afford them. How many people do you know will afford to buy one? If you teach seminars, how many people show up with one? In my many year teaching experience, very, very few show up with SERT guns. $$$! And here’s the training rub, when battling with CQC force on force, the attacker-actor almost never knows where the light beam landed so they can simulate a leg shot, hip or gut shot, or throat shot, whatever. They always see, feel where the rubber band lands. Okay, SERT is neat for solo practice, but almost useless for me in the type of hardcore, close quarters drills I do.
When Suggesting the Wooden Gun “Route”…I have often said to folks:
“You like those rubber guns, huh?”
“Hey, what would you think about wooden guns?”
“Yeah, using wooden guns shaped like your real guns, or shaped like your rubber guns?”
“I guess that would be okay.”
“Now, what if I told you…what if I told you that these wooden guns could shoot something? A safe something? Wouldn’t that be cool? You could do all the stuff you are already doing, and – you could actually pull the trigger shoot something and see if you could successfully, actually shoot the gun, hit your enemy while fighting, standing or on the ground. And multiple shots like a semi-auto. You wouldn’t have to stop when you pointed the gun. You could actually exercise pulling the trigger and aiming under stress, explore the next events. Anytime. Anyplace.”
“I guess that would be smart. But we do that with Simunitions.”
“Oh, about once every two years.”
“Sometimes more years than that. Some people never do it. ”
“I know. Because you need special gear and a special location that won’t be destroyed by the Sims. Lots of set up and gear. Sometimes the setup and expense just pushes the workouts off and off. And who wants to be shot with Simunitions 30-40 times in one hour when working on an important scenario?What if I told you could use these wooden guns – which cost about 15 bucks each – anytime, anyplace, aiming, shooting with no safety gear, easy experimentation with moves and problems. You can get a lot done, safe, and cheap.
“I guess that would be okay.”
“I am talking about using wooden rubber band guns. I am not talking about giving up routine live fire. I am not talking about never using electric, gas or Sims again. I am not saying throw away your rubber gun. It too has uses. I am just talking about the potential of wood over rubber. I am talking about the easy, safe study of moves & shooting. I am talking about more access to important experimentation and reps. You are already using rubber. Why not wood? Why not wood that shoots something? Did I mention the wooden gun cost about $15?”
And a Safety Idea. Sometimes these gas guns look really real. Horrible switch mistakes can happen, especially after lunch (another long story) and they, rarely thank goodness, get into the classes. And, with wood, within the class, everyone can see instantly see that each other has a safe, light-colored, wooden, training gun.
I can travel the entire world with a box of wooden guns without breaking ANY laws in any state or country. Can you with a suitcase full of gas guns? Sims guns? Easily? Effortlessly? One more point for traveling practitioners and instructors, these wooden guns weigh almost nothing in your luggage.
In my External Focus Gun seminars, or regular mixed seminars of hand, stick, knife and gun, you will probably be shot 30 to 60 or so times a day as you work out with a good-guy or bad-guy partner in different situations. And very close up in standing, seated and ground situations. Battery powered guns will not damage the facilities (and will not hurt cars) but you still need some thick clothes and face protection. And I still can’t outfit all, half, or even a quarter of attendees with these guns and safety gear, and furthermore protect their walls, lights, windows and cars. Out come the wooden guns.
Don’t let your custom fit holster stop you from doing this training. I hear this complaint or excuse. Just get a real cheap “ol bucket,” universal holster for this type of training. The emphasis is on interactive goals about movements and fighting, and many skills more important than exactly how your replica pistol fits perfectly snug your custom fit holster. Rubber training guns don’t always fit into your custom holster, either. Yet people have persevered for decades with rubber gun training stuck in bad-fitting holsters.
Where ever we are, lets move the ball downfield every chance we get. I know what folks are saying about Airsoft, that it is superior training in versatility. There are two kinds, 1) gas and, 2) electric-battery. With Airsoft, you still need eye protection and the pellets can still sting. (gas hurts more.) When you do a combat scenario like this one in the photo above, 10-15 times, then 3 more scenarios in the hour, you are shooting your friend, or being shot 45-70 times in just one or two hours. Close-up. Then add 4 or 5 hours to that. This becomes a “pain in the neck,” especially with Airsoft gas guns. Everyone in the whole room must have at very least eye protection but some people wear more and more safety stuff. Even with electric-battery Airsoft, this becomes a logistic-gear-expanding training endeavor. (I like to use electric-battery Airsoft around cars because cars will not be dented or hurt.) The higher quality sims gun? The less reps your people can stand for the basics. The more pain, less reps means way less experimentation and “muscle memory.
In Summary Pain is not the only reason to have safer, ammo shooting gun. Not by a long shot, ducking pain is part of the training. I would like to use the best gear in the best locations were we can ignore the destruction of people, buildings and vehicles. But that dream is both impractical and expensive for most of the places I travel to teach. I do the best I can, with what I can at the moment to move the learning ball down the field. A wooden pistol that shoots something and safely is better than a rubber gun that doesn’t. The wooden rubber band gun. It utterly harmless, still shoots semi-auto style and you get to see where your shots land. Totally superior to no-shoot, rubber gun. I ditched the rubber gun for a wooden one that at least shoots something. Why have a “shoot-less” rubber gun, some cost $50 or more, when you can get a wooden one for $15 that shoots something?
And this is why I use them a lot. I think I have counted the ways.