** We originally published this post August 29, 2017 **
I have wanted to address this topic for quite some time. I hope the accompanying video is a visual of the ever-present danger law enforcement officers (LEOs) face during every contact. But not just LEOs, but anyone targeted by an armed criminal. What happens in the video also illustrates a technique you may deploy under specific circumstances.
I used to be an LEO, and still have many friends who place their lives on the line while patrolling the streets. Now I write articles like these and provide firearms training to civilian everyday carriers. There is a topic though that I think applies to everyone, so I wanted to address both groups in this post.
Action Beats Reaction Every Time
- Were you expecting to be shot?
- Would you have perceived me as a threat if you were on a disturbance or trespassing call?
- Did you key in on my hand movements, mainly the ones around my waist?
- Looking back, could you see how I used my talking and hand movements to distract you from my intention. I feigned compliance, allowing me to grab the firearm when I felt most ready?
For Concealed Carriers:
- Have you ever thought about shooting through a garment of clothing?
- Have you ever practiced shooting from retention?
- Can you think of a scenario where exposing your firearm may put you at a disadvantage, but shooting through a garment like in the video may be the best or only option?
- I use a revolver in the video, but have you tried it with a semi-auto? (spoiler alert, it still works)
The above questions are just the obvious ones that you, as an LEO or Concealed Carrier, should think about and be able to answer.
Watch the hands and any movements toward the waist, as most people carry a firearm on their waistline. Also, be aware of distraction techniques that suspects use to buy time, so they can pick the most optimal time to strike or run.
Of course, sometimes there are no clues to someone's violent intent, but don't discount red flags that pop up during the contact. For example:
- subtle or obvious non-compliance
- repeatedly asking questions or parroting responses
- scanning of the area
- visual targeting of your gun or your partner's gun
- odd, overly compliant behavior
Looking back at my many uses of force, the suspect rarely gave me just one clue or pre-assault indicator. Instead, several minor actions usually add up to an obvious picture when looked at in their totality. It's our responsibility to pick up on these indicators.
While we're talking about the hands of the suspect, let's move far away from shouting “let me see your hands” anytime a suspect has their hands in their pockets. You're asking the suspect to comply immediately and quickly pull their hands from their pockets.
Instead, try telling the suspect, “don't move your hands.” Then follow up with something like, “without holding anything in your hands, I want you to slowly take your hands out of your pockets.”
Removing the hands from the pockets and putting them above one's head is common response to being stopped by police for many people, especially if they are startled, so keep this in mind.
While your mission as an armed civilian differs from that of an LEO, there is some crossover as far as identifying a threat and response to them. So pay attention to all the indicators of someone considering an assault.
Sometimes criminals will threaten deadly force with a simulated weapon, ie, an object obscured under a coat or held in a bag. I am not implying that in every one of these instances you should assume the object is a gun, or shrug it off as nothing more than the criminal using their finger gun under their jacket.
However, I hope this video opens your eyes and provides you with the ability to explain why, coupled with other factors, you took the criminals threats of deadly force seriously.
Shooting Through Your Shirt—
For obvious reasons, practicing this technique requires extra caution. Before attempting this live on the range, first practice it through dry fire. Start slow and ensure you can manipulate the gun before even thinking about loading live ammunition. The nature of the technique increases the opportunity for injury; execute it responsibly.
And by the way, there probably isn't a public range that allows anyone to shoot through their shirt. So, unless you have property to shoot on, your only option for practicing this will be during dry fire.
A note on dry fire practice of your draw. First, learn the proper technique, and establish the fundamentals of the draw stroke. Then while practicing, if you get a sub-optimal grip, or caught up on your shirt, etc., work through it. I am not saying to ingrain poor technique; but the other side of the argument is you don't want to ingrain the idea that you should stop your draw unless everything is perfect.
The point is to prove to yourself that if things don't go as planned (as they often don't), you can still adapt, overcome, and win.
I recommend pausing if you catch your gun inside your shirt during live-fire. The risk-reward during live-fire just isn't there.
Now, think about a scenario where exposing your firearm may place you at a disadvantage.
Most times, drawing your firearm on a threat that already has a firearm drawn is a bad idea. Instead, choosing the right time to draw your firearm makes all the difference in these situations. Factors to consider is if the suspect has the gun pointed at you, or if the suspect is looking at you. This is where the practicality of understanding your draw speed comes into play.
What about a situation where the suspect has a firearm out, and you don't think you have the ability to draw and get shots on target before the suspect shoots? It may be very rare, but don't rule out the possibility of engaging the threat with the gun beneath the shirt. Could this technique allow you the element of surprise, shifting the balance in your favor?
Yes, it's probably an extremely rare incident, but better to know that you have the skill in that rare situation, than discount it as too unlikely to ever happen.
Remaining alert and aware of our surroundings will probably reduce the compromising positions we find ourselves in, but can't eliminate every risk factor. However, training for many things to go wrong and overcoming them helps give you options in real-world incidents.
As a final note, yes, I use a revolver in this example. Revolvers are less-likely to malfunction when shot under a shirt or from inside a pocket, because they don't have a reciprocating slide like a semi-auto. However, you can still make it work with a semi-auto. And if your shirt or body induces a malfunction, at least you got a round off and can start your immediate action of clearing the stoppage and getting the gun back in the fight.
Stay safe and God bless.