- Jeffrey Denning (WarriorSOS.com)
- I'm the author of four books: Warrior SOS, The Work of Death, Together Forever, and Leaders Wanted. I'm in the doc film Please Remove Your Shoes. I've blogged for The Washington Times, and I write for Guns.com. I've worked for the high-profile U.S.-led Roadmap to Mideast Peace in Israel and Palestine. I've also worked as a SWAT team leader, a Federal Air Marshal and a sole-source training instructor on a classified contract with a U.S. government customer. My master's degree is in Military Studies and terrorism. I'm a former noncommissioned and commissioned Army officer, with service in Iraq. I've been Scuba diving and skydiving; I have trained with members of the U.S. Olympic Ski Team, and I'm an FBI-trained crisis negotiator. My interests lie in helping others and in strengthening America through inspiring moral courage, government fiscal responsibility and accountability, and maintaining principles that have made--and will continue to make--the United States of America a blessed and prosperous country. I'm a father of six, a husband, and a police officer. I reside in Utah, and I'm a Mormon. See also www.WarriorSOS.com.
October 22, 2010
How to win a Gunfight! by Sandy Wall
Sandy Wall retired from Houston Police Department after 28-years. He served for 22 years on SWAT, and was a three-term president with the Texas Tactical Police Officer Association (TTPOA). He is currently the Training Director for Safariland Training Group. Sandy is the founder of the Less Lethal Solutions, Inc. and the inventor of "The Wall Banger."
On behalf of Warrior SOS, thank you for your service Sandy, and thanks for sharing this great article with us!
How to win a Gunfight!
By: Sandy Wall
It’s high noon and the Sheriff slowly steps out onto a vacant Street to meet his adversary and maybe his death. His duster is slung back to expose the gun belt and six-shooter that he carries low and tethered to his leg. With his hat pulled down firmly to where one can barely see his steely eyes that pierce the day, he scans left and right for the ambush that would change this gun-fight into something he could not survive. Yet there is not a trace of fear or worry about his fate or the unknown the end of the street will bring.
How many times have you watched this scenario play out in some of your favorite western movies? The anticipation of what is about to happen makes us all admire the Sheriff for what he has the courage to face. Did it ever really happen like that? Probably not as much as the movie makers would like for us to believe, but it fun to live that experience through the eyes of someone else. We would all like to believe that should that moment come, when we have to fight for our lives, we would have the same steel grit, courage, and coolness under pressure the Sheriff displayed. This is something that we in Law Enforcement (LE) have all pondered and some have experienced first hand. For many of us that have, our performance may not have been what it could or should have been but we survived just the same.
In this article I will attempt to point out what I feel are some of the factors that can make a difference in a gunfight. I base my opinions not only with my own experiences but also the experiences of numerous friends and colleagues over my 28 years in LE. I have also drawn from Dr. David Klinger’s book, “Into the Kill Zone”. This book is a treasure trove of LE gun-fighting experiences. Dr. Klinger interviewed 80 current and former LE Officers and then detailed information surrounding their experiences. His research was funded in part by a Federal grant to research but with all that information compiled he was compelled to write this book to share the experiences with us all. If you haven’t read it, go now and get it.
I’ll start with the obvious…
We all know how important training can be but it is not just training but the right training, performed with purpose, meaning, and on a repetitive basis. The first thing to get cut from LE budgets in TOUGH economic times like these is OFTEN training. Yet the threat is clear and present and does not care about the economy.
Too often LE will go out and perform the same drills/courses with no purpose or passion. It comes down to just trigger time on the range. This is often just a waste of time and money. To go out and sling lead down range with no training objective, skill set, or meaningful purpose in mind, is not efficient/effective firearms training. Every round should have a purpose. It’s not just repetition, but rather MEANINGFUL repetition. The basics are a great place to start. No matter what the skill is, break it down to the mechanics and improve those fundamentals. Once you have the mechanics mastered, start adding stress to the point of failure. As the failure threshold is reached, then back it off a bit and train at that level until the failure threshold can be advanced.
One of the best shooters I have ever trained with told me that to shoot fast and accurate requires the same things you learned in the Academy. Grip, sight alignment, trigger control. Learn to do those three things very fast and under pressure and you will be a very good shooter. WOW! No magic or trick involved, just a lot of practice with a purpose. DRY FIRE until you master the skill and then test yourself with bullets. It’s a lot less expensive, you can do it almost anywhere, and you don’t have to deal with all that anticipation of muzzle blast and recoil. You can focus on the skill set and master it before you test yourself with bullets.
The same process can be applied to any skill set. I don’t care if it’s Dynamic Entry, Rappelling, or Covert Entry. Break it down to its basic mechanics, learn to do them smoothly under pressure and add stress until you start making mistakes. Back off that threshold a bit and work the basics until the bar can be moved. Time limits, scenarios, difficulties, all are a great way to add stress.
All of the great athletes of the world don’t just play the game to get better. They break it down to fundamental skill sets and spend their time improving those. The scrimmages and games are a way of finding out how well they have been practicing.
The last thing I will say about training is please don’t become stagnate. There are always new ways of doing things and you never know it all or can’t improve. Go out and seek new training from creditable sources. TTPOA is a great source of training as well as several training companies and subject matter experts that instruct for a living.
This part of the equation is harder to learn, if it can be learned at all. I like to call it the Joe Montana or Roger Stauback syndrome. It’s that ice water in the veins, that coolness under pressure effect that is hard to teach. Most people that have it were born with it to an extent. They just don’t tend to get that excited even when others all around them are. This can be a huge advantage in a gun-fight.
I do believe a significant amount of exposure and experience will somewhat de-sensitize one to the stimulus that others become alarmed by. I believe that frequent exposure to the real thing or realistic training can help. One of the best gun fighters I ever knew was not that great a shot, but he was a deadly adversary to his opponents. He was born with ice water in his veins and it served him well.
In the immortal words of a US Marine Corps. Gunny Sgt., “You, you, and you, panic, the rest of you come with me.” That’s the guy you want on your side in a gun fight.
One of my best friends used to say all the time, “I’d rather be lucky than good”. He was a hell of a good guy to have on your side in a gun-fight. I did a few times and I was glad he was there. The fact is that I got lucky more than I would like to admit and I know others reading this article, if they are honest with themselves, will admit that they got lucky a few times or they may not be in a position to enjoy my ramblings.
Luck is nothing one should count on nor is it something to brag about, but it has had an impact on LE surviving a gunfight more than a few times, so I thought it worth mentioning. Or do we create our own luck? Louis Pastur once said, “Chance favors the prepared mind.”
You must be smart about when and where you decide to fight. LE doesn’t always have the luxury of picking when to fight, but often I read or hear about officers that forced a confrontation or made the fight fair when they didn’t have to. Things like leaving cover and closing distance to their adversary when it wasn’t necessary or moving ahead of their Team or Partner, which in effect means taking them out of the fight. Never make it a fair fight if you have a choice. The Sheriff at the beginning of this article may have picked High Noon because he knew his opponent doesn’t see well in the bright sun light. Better yet, he should have waited until the sun was at his back and in his opponent’s eyes, or positioned someone with a long weapon and high ground. Maybe put on a good set of body armor as a fighting platform or just brought as many friends with him to the fight as he could find. It may not be as sexy but it improves the ability to predict the outcome. Live to fight another day, I always say.
How about shooting first? I love the line in the movie, “The Shootest”. Ron Howard is explaining to John Wayne what Bat Masterson wrote about in his book about gun fighting. He was mentioning things like proficiency with a firearm and accuracy and Wayne interrupts him and asks, “Did he mention that some people will hesitate, or blink, or draw a breath? I won’t.” As with any type of fight, the one who strikes first has a distinct advantage. Strike first, strike hard, and repeat as necessary.
How about not being an easy target to hit. This could mean that you are behind cover, or you may just be moving really fast. Both are good things, and if you don’t have cover, how about moving really fast toward it.
In closing I would like to put in a plug for the Safariland Training Group’s new course, “Startle Response to an Ambush”. We include many of the things that can determine who wins a gun fight. A friend of mine who used to lecture on the subject would say, “Bring a bigger gun”. It’s hard to argue with that logic either. I say, focus on the things you can do something about.
The true warrior will not hesitate, is not stupid, not ill equipped, is not unprepared, and definitely not easy to hit. You must prepare and train for what you hope and pray you never have to do, or be prepared to suffer the consequences. I love this quote about soldiers: “of every 100 men you send me 90 shouldn’t even be here, 9 are good combatants and they the fight make, ahh but the one… he is a true warrior and will bring the rest home safe”. Unknown
Best of luck, but don’t count on it. Train hard, be smart, and stay safe!
To read amazing interviews with warriors, check out Warrior SOS: Interviews, Insights and Inspiration, the book on Amazon.com. Here's the link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00D3WO7VK