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Departments : The Winning Edge

Off-the-Clock Robbery Response

Sure you qualify with your off-duty pistol, but are you trained to use it effectively in an impromptu crisis?

September 01, 2007  |  by Michael T. Rayburn - Also by this author


We are off duty more than we are on duty—that's pretty obvious. Yet very little training time, if any at all, is devoted to off-duty survival. Even less training time is devoted to off-duty firearms training. The general consensus is that firearms training…is firearms training, and it doesn't need to be broken down any further than that. Most departments will have their officers "qualify" with their off-duty guns, but offer no further specific training beyond that "qualification."

Of the hundreds of firearms instructors I've surveyed, very few (less than 10 percent) offer any firearms training for off-duty guns beyond qualification. This is unacceptable, especially when you look at the facts surrounding off-duty incidents. According to the FBI, the number one reason why officers are killed and or assaulted while off duty "is intervening in, or being the victim of, a robbery or robbery attempt." If this is the case, then we need to focus our attention on this area.

This is where the robbery drill comes in. In the past some have called this the "El Presidente" drill. When I hear El Presidente, I'm thinking of a really nice cigar, so I try to keep things simple and just call this the robbery drill.

The Scenario

You're off duty and the bad guy has gotten the drop on you, for whatever reason. We can talk about always keeping your guard up, color codes, and a host of other reasons why no one should ever get the drop on you, but the reality of life is that we sometimes get taken by surprise. How else can you explain the facts from the FBI? "Being the victim of" means exactly what it says.

So, you are now standing with your back to the bad guy while he is robbing you, or someone else. There are a couple of different ways to handle this. One is to give the robber the cash he desires, your car, or whatever other material items he wants. They can always be replaced. The last time I checked, it wasn't worth getting shot over a couple of hundred bucks. Once the robbery is completed, and the threat from behind you has subsided, then you can worry about enforcement action, if you elect to take some.

But let's say that "being a good witness" isn't an option here, and you need to either protect your life, or the life of an innocent person. We'll first go over the traditional "El Presidente" drill, and then I'll show you a faster—and I think a better—way to take out an adversary behind you.

The Robbery Drill

The traditional robbery drill has your back to the target, with your hands in the air. Never raise your hands as high as they will go; that's what we make the bad guys do. You want to keep your hands as close to your weapon system as possible. If someone tells you to raise your hands in the air, only raise them up to shoulder level.

This will allow you to "pivot" at the elbow to retrieve your gun from your waist, pocket, etc. If you routinely use an ankle holster to carry off duty, you're in trouble here. Although a number of officers carry off duty in an ankle holster, in my opinion it's not the best place to keep your gun. If that's the only place you can conceal a gun because of your attire, then having a gun in an ankle holster is better than not having a gun. If your agency allows it, you should always carry off duty.

For this drill, your gun is concealed on your waist. Your hands are in the air, and your back is to the target. The first thing you're going to do is look. Take a quick peek over your shoulder. You want to do this for a couple of reasons. One is to get target acquisition. How can you shoot the bad guy if you don't know exactly where he's standing?

The other reason you want to look first is to make sure the subject's attention is focused elsewhere, before you make your move. You cannot outdraw the bad guy's trigger squeeze. It takes roughly about one-quarter of a second to pull the trigger back on a gun. There is no way you can draw, pivot, and fire in under a quarter of a second; it's just not physically possible.

But if his attention is focused elsewhere, then you've got a fighting chance. Because of the action-versus-reaction phenomenon—action is always faster than reaction—the subject will be playing catch-up to your action. It will be close, but if a life is on the line, it's a chance you'll have to take.

Once you've taken a quick peek over your shoulder, and determined that the bad guy is distracted (maybe robbing the store clerk), then you need to draw and pivot at the same time. If you draw first, without pivoting, then you have successfully telegraphed your intentions to the bad guy. If you pivot first, and then draw your gun, you are behind the curve—a very dangerous curve. Pivot and draw at the same time.

Some officers feel that pivoting to their strong (gun) side is easier, while others say it makes no difference. Where you are, and the circumstances surrounding the incident, will dictate which side you pivot to, so practice doing both. When doing force-on-force simulations with Simunitions or Airsoft, everyone pivots to the strong side if given an option. The reason is that your strong side is faster, so your brain will automatically choose that direction under stress.

Practicing the Robbery Drill

As with any firearms tactic, this drill should be practiced on the firing range. Start off with a full-sized target, working your way down to smaller targets such as paper plates. You can number the plates, or use different colors of plates to turn it into a shoot/don't shoot drill.

Put up four plates and number them 1 to 4. The instructor, or your training partner, will call out the number he or she wants you to shoot. An example could be "1 and 3." As the shooter, you need to look first, then draw and pivot at the same time, and fire one round into target number one, and then one round into target number three. If you are using different colors of plates, then your training partner calls out the color(s) he or she wants you to shoot. Both drills prepare you to handle an unexpected threat from behind, should the need arise.

The Soviet Robbery Drill

This next somewhat non-traditional robbery drill was taken from our friends (yeah right) at the old Soviet KGB. They used it to confront someone who they suspected was following them. First we'll go over how it works, and then we'll duplicate it on the range, keeping safety in mind.

Basically you're being confronted from behind, just as in the first robbery drill. You'll still want to take that quick peek over your shoulder to get target acquisition, only this time make sure it's over your non-shooting side. For a right-handed shooter, you'll look over your left shoulder.

Once you do this, draw your handgun and tuck it up under your non-shooting-side arm. As you're doing this, grab the shoulder on your opposite side with your off hand. This will keep your off arm out of the way and will leave enough room for the slide to work on a semi-automatic. For example, a right-handed shooter would tuck the gun up under his left arm, while his left hand would cross over in front of him and grab his right shoulder. It's as simple as that; there is no need to pivot. Just cross over and tuck the gun up under your arm.

Practicing the Soviet Robbery Drill

Just as with the first robbery drill, we'll practice this one on the range. Put up a full-sized, realistic-looking paper target. Stand about five feet away from it, with your back to the target. For safety reasons, we'll start off with the gun out of the holster. Cross your arms in front of you, with your off hand resting on your other forearm. For a right-handed shooter your left hand will be resting on your right forearm.

A right-handed shooter will look over his left shoulder. As you do this, bring the gun up under your arm and fire one round into the target. Look for where you want the bullets to go, and adjust your fire if you're too low. A center-mass shot isn't as important as getting a quick round into the target, but you want to be somewhat close to hitting a vital area.

Practice this a few times, and then we'll add some movement to the drill. This time fire one round, when the gun is under your arm, and then spin or "roll" out of it firing multiple rounds. Go slow at first, and then build your speed into it. You'll soon realize how fast this drill is. Once you've built up some confidence, switch over to drawing the gun from the holster at the beginning of the drill. Again, start off slowly, and build your speed into it.

Winning a confrontation is all about having the right tools in your tactical toolbox. If you don't practice off-duty firearms tactics, then you won't have the skills needed to not only survive, but to win this deadly off-duty encounter. The robbery drill is just one of these necessary skills.

Tags: Off-Duty Incidents, officer survival

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