Random Thoughts

Examining the current state of gunfighting training.

Constant training maintains your skills and keeps your brain engaged—leading the author, for one, to continually seek new ideas on gunfighting.


On occasion, things pop into my head that I cannot get rid of. As I age, this happens more often, and I believe it is because I now question things more than I did in my youth. I think this comes with age, experience and training because, without it, we just take what we are told at face value as we really don't know any better. Anyway, here are a few of the cop-related things that have been tumbling around inside my brain recently.

Admittedly, I am a training junkie. I went to my first "gun school" in 1980 and have been hooked ever since. While I do teach classes of my own, I would rather be taught as I find the experience more satisfying. The problem is, after 30 years, I find it increasingly difficult to learn anything new.

The one thing that I have learned as I have taken this journey is that simplicity is the best methodology. I first used the term "the SIG principle" (Simple Is Good) in an article in 1998, and a number of folks have used it since. It is a philosophy that I have tried to live by as I have developed my own set of combative skills. Why? Simple is easy to learn, master, practice and maintain over a long period of time with less of a commitment in both time and money.

It seems to me there is a trend to make training seem "sexier" than needed, and I believe this is because there are so many people trying to make a living from training and must separate themselves from the rest of the pack by making their programs seem more "high speed."

I recently attended a course taught by a well-known instructor titled "CQB in the Unforgiving Urban Environment" or something along those lines. It was in my area, so I paid my money and went.

I was expecting some new "super secret, spec ops" military-style techniques, but all I got was a fairly complicated lesson on building search and room clearing.

Between 12 years on SWAT, five years in narcotics and a bunch of time on patrol, I have been through my share of building searches, raids, search warrant executions and even a couple of real, honest-to-goodness hostage rescues where we forced our way in and brought innocents out. So I have a good idea of how this should be done, but all the course delivered was a fairly complicated, too-fast application of "slice the pie" and dynamic entry that was both noisy and did not allow time to see what was going on around me.

When one goes too fast, things go wrong—people slip, trip, knock things over and make noise. Our exercises looked really cool and were a lot of fun to do, but no one was shooting at us for real. I just don't think you should be in a hurry to get shot. I want to hold that experience off as long as I can.

Holster Hang-Ups
I have seen a trend to ban the Blackhawk SERPA holster from some training courses. Apparently, this is due to the trigger finger of some users ending up inside the trigger guard after the gun is removed from the holster. This is certainly a concern as this can result in a gun being fired unintentionally.

I have used the SERPA off and on since its introduction with no problems, so I had some difficulty understanding this until I saw it happen in one of my classes. Fortunately, the gun did not discharge, but I did investigate immediately.

It turns out the student was concerned that he would not be able to release the safety button quickly enough, so he used the tip of his finger to push in on the SERPA release button instead of the recommended straight-finger placement. This curved finger makes it much more likely that the trigger finger will go into the trigger guard as the weapon is withdrawn than if the finger remains straight.

This is not an unusual occurrence with security holsters; it has been a reality for years. Officers purchase such holsters to guard against being disarmed but then put little time into practicing the additional manipulation needed to draw the gun.

In order to transfer this familiar task into one's motor skill set, it must be practiced regularly. There is debate over how many repetitions it takes to do this, and I won't debate that here. What I will say is that it takes whatever it takes for you to draw the gun without conscious thought.

In the case of the SERPA, the solution is simple: Build up the button until it can be depressed with a straight finger. I do this by adding a piece of rubber and some skateboard tape that helps grab the skin of my trigger finger.

My hand goes to secure a shooting grip with my trigger finger straight, depressing the built-up button with no inward pressure of the finger tip. As the gun is drawn, my finger stays straight and out of the trigger guard. Simple and effective.

The Mumbai Attacks
The attack on Mumbai, India, in 2008 got me thinking about how well American law enforcement would respond to such a situation. Some of the best preparation and training is being carried out by Jeff Chudwin, Chuck Soltoys and the rest of the Illinois Tactical Officer's Association. This organization is leading the way in such areas as carbine training for patrol officers, street-level trauma care for first responders and active-shooter response.

The folks from ITOA are also deeply involved in the International Law Enforcement Education and Training Association, and much of what they are doing is showcased at their two annual conferences. If you are eligible, you should be a member of these two associations, .

So what should you do if you face an active-shooter situation alone? In many areas of the country, officers patrol vast areas by themselves, and legally armed citizens seldom have a "team." John Benner at the Tactical Defense Institute and a number of others have been working on developing single-officer and armed-civilian responses to the active-shooter threat, and a course for civilians is planned for this year. I will be there.

While I do not expect to engage a group of armed terrorists who attack Mumbai-style, I do want to be ready to escape and evade with my loved ones as best as I can.

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