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? Maybe you haven’t? It comes for most who have 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 dying in a combat zone and having your gear split up, the words accompanied by art 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.
It is a common theory 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? Such is great in a firefight.
There are numerous, vitally important, physical, survival things you cannot and will not learn or get to do, if you decide to forever shoot on a paper target range and consider that practice to be the end-all to gun-fighting.
One such subject is what to do about a “drop dead gun,” or the dropped gun. One dropped by a seriously wounded or dead person. You can lecture on this, show charts, and talk it up, you can put various kinds of guns in various conditions on a bench at the shooting range and make people pick them up, make-ready, load them and shoot them (which has been done forever by clever people by the way), but the true savvy and timing of doing this pick up inside a hot, under-fire, being-hunted situation is hardly practiced on the range.
Technically, this is weapon recovery. Weapon recovery is typically discussed in inner circles when your pistol has been disarmed from you and how you must recover it. You instantly charge in to get it back while the taker is hopefully fumbling with it. Recovering disarmed weapons is a missing link in most martial art systems when students work pistol disarms. Students take the gun from an attacker, the students usually are quite oblivious to fact that that a real world, bad-guy may mad-rush in to get the gun back at a hundred miles an hour! These students often just take the gun, flip it around, fiddle with it (some instructors demand that the student tap the magazine and rack the side), not expecting the vicious counter attack and weapon recovery.
But weapon recovery is a bigger issue that just disarming and the recovery of your gun. There’s the recovery of your comrade’s weapon and even the recovery of your enemy’s weapon.
Aside from disarming, guns are dropped by accident, taken or dropped/lost in combat. Long guns and pistols are dropped with some frequency in non-combat life, of which we have no stats on, but my hunch is they get dropped from time to time. I can’t recall dropping mine in some 45 years, but I’ve seen my friends/co-workers drop theirs a time or two. And we see them drop on youtube. 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.
What about a fumble during a draw or inside a grappling fight? 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 two feet before him.
I can say with some experience that four common things happen when someone holding a firearm is shot. The person:
Drops the gun, or
Convulsively fires the weapon, 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. This year, 2020 marks the 24th year that I have routinely, almost weekly, 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. In the briefing, I ask the people, once “shot,” to evaluate their wounds when hit. If shot in their shooting limb, then they switch hands. If shot in the leg, they limp on for a bit. If they take two serious shots, or shot in the head, I ask them to drop right where they are and essentially…”they be dead.” Playing this part is important, as you will soon read.
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 I can get wherever I am, these guns run out of ammo, gas, power or break down at the damndest instances. I want to advise, “pick up that gun!” as they run by their fallen compatriots. 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 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 still they often forget to do it the next time.
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 and should happen in real life, and bolstered in simulated ammo, scenario training whenever possible.
I might add 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 over. Know your team or squad mates stuff.
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 gun, 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, too.
When military people move into policing jobs, they often and should carry with them these overall concepts. Well, I mean, if you were an Army “clerk,” you might not take this to heart, but people trained for dangerous jobs and have experienced danger are better carriers of this idea.
So often, citizens minus this background, police management, etc. may not consider this, or not have the deep heartfelt, burn, understanding of the concept. Shooting instructors of all types may never even know to suggest this topic.
Minus police and military experiences, If you just teach or do live fire on a range, essentially that being that “clerk,” with no emotional attachment to experience, you must realize that you might be missing huge chunks of important tactics, topics, subjects and situations. You might begin to dwell deeper and deeper into repetitive “gun minutiae” within your teaching (haven’t gun magazines really been publishing the same redundant information, redone and re-shaped for decades now? Over, and over and over. Why? Why, do they stick in this redundancy when there is so much more diverse combative situations to dissect and train about?).
Two answers to these teaching and training problems. One is to continue educating yourself on real experiences. What precisely has happened to you? Your friends? Your teammates? Your neighbors? Victims? Cops? Military? Learning second or third-hand is better than not learning at all. Who can possibly experience the common spectrum of such problems? No one. We all must keep this education up. Second? Simulated ammo scenarios. Simunitions or likewise, otherwise, at some level. Take your “power point” tips and your segmented, live fire examples and move them into physical experience with safe ammo. Move them over into a stressful, interactive, situational scenarios with simulated ammo. Such are psychologically and neurologically proven better learning experiences. The experts call it “deep learning.” In other words, simply put – get off the range and do these interactive shoot-outs.
There has been something of a newer concern and movement in this “pick up” subject, as people contemplate the active shooter problem and consider picking up the guns of shot police, downed security, etc. This concern has manifested in a slight increase in related speeches and some abstract, live fire exercises. Martial arts instructors, ones who appear to have zero gun experience or limited gun backgrounds, have also organized some active shooter response classes. But when working out and testing the unarmed response methods, the attendees all bum-rush a stuntman in a helmet holding a rubber gun. I would wish that they, at least once, let the actor carry in a sims-ammo, (and this could be with very safe ammo) machine gun and let him cut loose on the crowd so that the attendees could truly experience the hideous, quick, devastation one can do with such firearms to a group. Perhaps this might be too demoralizing? Or change the strategy.
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 bad guy’s gun and the police arrive? Do I need to remind you? You look like the bad guy at first. You could be shot. Act, surrender accordingly.
But, be it that sort of “mass shooting,” or a crime or in war, in the case of the drop dead gun and simulated ammo training, a prep speech can first be made about the weapon recovery from downed and dead rescuers, teammates or bad guys. It has been my experience that once suggested in this briefing, many people do think of it when the action starts and the possibility arises. The more they do it in training? The better.
The gun may be dropped, but it ain’t dead. So, the next t-shirt or poster rant and chant?
“If I die in a combat zone? Get my ammo, guns and gear and…continue to kill the enemy.”
At seminars, police or others, I have seen a lot of “force-on-force” work-outs. This nickname became popular in the later 1990s. The majority of these have been with rubber guns. When it comes time to draw these rubber guns under stress, or when just fighting over them, and when one person gets free of the other enough to successfully pull, point and theoretically shot the pistol at the partner/bad-guy, these folks just freeze and look at each other. Once in a while someone yells “bang!” But they freeze. They act like the scenario is over, like the trigger pulling part and the wounding or killing part is automatically over.
It’s not over. I mean, if the other guy 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 in is hand. The fight is not over with the mere pointing of a rubber gun. The freeze is totally unreal. The scenario IS NOT OVER! 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 guns, or shaped like your rubber guns?”
“I guess that would be okay.”
“Now, what if I told you…what if I told you 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 place 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. 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 wood over rubber. I am talking about the easy, safe study of moves & shooting. I am talking about more access to important experimentation. You are already using rubber. Why not wood? Why not wood that shoots something? Did I mention the wooden gun cost about $15?”
In the 1990s I was laughed at in training circles and ridiculed for using “toys.” In my defense I never used toy-toys. I used wooden, rubber band guns that fired multi-shots. There was little available and affordable to simulate any 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 training. Of course, citizens too. Easy. Safe. Quick. Great for lots of short, realistic vignette experimentation, anywhere. Anytime. (I even had life sized M-16s that shot very well about 30 feet.) Remember, if you do use gas guns? They can break eyes, skin, windows, mirrors, chip paint and blow out lights, ding cars, etc.
There is no doubt I settle for wood because we can’t be anywhere better, and use anything better when and where we are. That, sadly, is most of the time. Sadly, many places I go, with groups of 18 or more people up to 100, not everyone shows up with these expensive guns, ammo and safety gear. Even the gas or battery-powered guns. (And the cheap, battery-powered break very easy.) I ask them to bring this equipment but they often can’t, won’t or don’t. Every week in fact. I am left with using the the wooden guns I bring.
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 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) and you still need some thick clothes and face protection. But I still can’t frequently outfit all, half, or even a quarter of attendees with these guns. Out come the wooden guns.
I want to create a training environment where everyone is working out, not just two people while 18 other people are standing around watching, waiting their turn, for a short supply of weapons and safety gear to rotate over to them. Everyone should be working out, not watching two people work out.
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 bigger 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. One more point for traveling practitioners, these wooden guns weigh almost nothing in your luggage.
In a perfect world, we would live in a wonderland of Simunitions mixed with live fire, in and around buildings, cars, etc., supporting each situation in crafted unison. Show me where that is? And I mean, daily, weekly or cheaply and reachable for all citizens, police and military to access? Can everyone afford to fly there? In the end, we are left with what we are left with, and most of the time, that ain’t much.
Where ever we are. Lets move the ball downfield every chance we get. 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 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.
If left down to it? A wooden pistol that shoots something and safely is better than a rubber gun that doesn’t.