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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

Practice Makes Better

Besides occurring in low light, you'll also find that the vast majority of officer-involved shootings occur at close distances. Most are at a distance of 21 feet or less. Well over half of all officer-involved shootings occur at five feet or less. Think back to the last incident you were involved in where the "pucker factor" ran a little high. I'm willing to bet you were in close proximity to that person. How much close quarters shooting does your agency practice? Do you practice weapon retention shooting or hip shooting? If not, do you go to the range on your own time to practice these drills?

In one of the FBI's 10-year studies on officers killed and assaulted in the line of duty, they determined that of the cases studied 46 percent of the bad guys were "in the company of others" when they assaulted and killed the officer. Does your firearms training and force-on-force training include multiple-assailant scenarios? If not, do you seek out this training on your own, at your own expense?

If you "can't seem to find the time" or find other excuses for not being able to read these reports, then sit on the sofa and watch a little television. There are a number of programs titled "wildest this" or "wildest that" featuring video taken from an officer's dash-mounted camera. Watch these videos, not only from an entertainment perspective, but from an educational perspective. Look for the visual cues that the suspect gives just before the attack. Pre-attack warning signs are almost always present.

Watch for the suspect to blade his body, clench his fists, and tighten his jaw, just before the attack. Listen to the suspect's repetitive questioning or other attempts at distraction. Watch the suspect's eyes as he sizes you up or gives your weapon a "target glance." Educate yourself to these danger cues and you'll amaze your friends and family as you point out an attack just before it happens. You'll spend half the night convincing them you haven't already seen that episode.

The bottom line here is: Don't rely on other people—Ph.D. or not—to keep you safe on the street. Your survival is your responsibility, no one else's. If I came to you and said that in two weeks I was going to come back and push you off a bridge into the water below, would you learn how to swim? Even if you had to do it on your own time, at your own expense? Or would you wait for someone from the department to teach you how to do it, and hope that they themselves know how to swim?

Don't rely on others to keep you safe. Keep yourself safe, and the others around you will be safe.

Michael T. Rayburn is a 30-year veteran of law enforcement and is currently an adjunct instructor at the Smith & Wesson Academy. He is the author of four books: "Advanced Vehicle Stop Tactics," "Advanced Patrol Tactics," "Combat Gunfighting," and "Combat Shotgun." His instructional video "Instinctive Point Shooting with Mike Rayburn" is a top seller in the law enforcement and combat shooting communities. Rayburn can be reached at

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

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