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Departments : The Winning Edge

Survival is Your Responsibility

Don’t wait for others to train you to react to the dangers of the street.

January 01, 2009  |  by Michael T. Rayburn - Also by this author

Shed Some Light on the Subject

As you read these reports, you'll find some alarming trends when it comes to time of day, distances, multiple assailants, etc. You'll find that the majority of officer-involved shootings occur between dusk and dawn, with the vast majority occurring between the hours of 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. This means that the majority of these incidents occur in low light environments, yet a number of agencies still don't have their officers practice shooting in low light.

Or, if they do have some type of low light training, it usually consists of having the officer stand static on a firing line, punching holes in a paper target, using one of the myriad of flashlight techniques that are out there. Think about this for just a second: Why have so many different flashlight shooting techniques been developed? Because they don't work out on the street under actual gunfight conditions when we go up against bad guys.

Let me take a guess at what your low-light firearms training consists of. You go to the range where you are shown several different flashlight techniques. You're given a couple of minutes to try each one, and then told to "pick the one you like best" and use that. Some of you may even have a firearms instructor tell you what his or her preference is.

After that, you step up to the firing line and practice shooting using whatever technique you prefer. The problem with these techniques is that they were devised out on the range for active shooters: "Shooters on the firing line, when given the command to FIRE, you'll draw your weapon, get into whatever flashlight technique you prefer, and fire two rounds into the target." Sound familiar to any of you?

With the scenario we just laid out, you are actively shooting. The problem is that we are reactive shooters. We don't go around shooting at people just because we thought they were armed. We have to wait for some type of danger cue and react to it. Hence, we are reactive shooters.

The other problem is that we are not given a sufficient amount of training time to practice a flashlight technique. Years ago the "experts" said it would take 4,000 to 6,000 repetitions to make a tactic intuitive to the officer. Years later, the estimate rose to 6,000 to 8,000, and now some say 8,000 to 10,000 repetitions are required to make a tactic "instinctive" to the officer. In reality, no amount of training time is going to override your instinct to survive. It's just that simple.

If a tactic is too slow, too complicated, or too confusing, then the tactic will not be used under stress. Your brain will automatically override it for one that is easier, quicker, and simpler to perform. Or, the flashlight will not be used at all. In some cases, you may purposefully not want to use your flashlight.

The problem is that sometimes mistakes are made. There have been studies conducted by police organizations in which the officer couldn't tell the difference between a wallet, a cell phone, and a handgun in low light. So some type of additional light source, like your flashlight, is beneficial.

Let me give you a flashlight technique that will work every time, under any condition. Turn the damn light on and point it at whatever you're trying to shoot. Why do we need to complicate things with all these different techniques? I'll say it again. Turn the damn light on and point it at what you're trying to shoot. You don't have to be exact, just as long as you can see the bad guy and what he's doing. If that means that only a portion of the halo around the center beam of the light shines on the bad guy, then so be it. Just as long as you can see the bad guy well enough to acquire and identify the target. In other words, yes he is a bad guy, I can see him, and he does pose a threat.

Tags: target practice, Firearms Training, Officer Safety, Officer Involved Shootings, Flashlight Techniques, shooting techniques

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