Surviving armed attacks: Why cops must practice the 'menu of movements'

Before the event of an armed attack, you must prepare your practiced response – the following 'menu of movements' can help you survive and win

Visualize the following scenarios (and your response). You are:

  • Knocking on a door. It swings open and there is a man with a gun.
  • Seated in your squad. A man walks up and rips a black semi-automatic handgun from his waistband.
  • Walking up to a person to make contact. He suddenly spins with a stainless steel revolver.
  • Off duty and seated at a restaurant. A masked male bursts through the front door, Glock in hand.

In each of these cases, you have arrived at that mudroom between life and death, but the bullet has not yet left the muzzle. What do you do?

In a fight for your life, you will be making decisions throughout that struggle to survive.
In a fight for your life, you will be making decisions throughout that struggle to survive. (Photo/Dan Marcou)

As someone who has literally been shot at in my career, I would like to share with you some lessons I have learned the hard way. A "step one, step two, step three" process approach is not applicable here – everything you do must be performed nearly simultaneously. I recommend that every police officer practice in advance for this moment. For safety reasons, you should practice these movements with a blue or red training gun.

After pre-planning and practice, you can seamlessly initiate your practiced response when faced with a sudden firearms assault. The “menu of movements” to prepare to perform are as follows.


In a fight for your life, you will be making decisions throughout that struggle to survive. You will decide to fight or disengage. If you decide to disengage, you will decide to do so on foot or in your vehicle. If you decide to fight, you will decide whether to access your sidearm, your long gun or use the vehicle that you’re in as a weapon. If you are unarmed and are forced into a fighting situation, you must decide what technique to perform.

There may be a decision made to shoot, who to shoot and when you should stop shooting. The decision-making process is always engaged.

If you have practiced extensively for the sudden assault, this decision-making process will seem automatic, but it most certainly is not. People who have trained little (or not at all) for the moment will often opt to perform the universal response of many – a hapless prey when faced with a predator. They will freeze.

There is another decision that must be made before the event. You must decide to practice in an ongoing manner for all the possible moments of decision you will face from the beginning to the end of your career.

Too many officers leave their survival up to the limited budgets of their departments. Much survival practice can be done on your own time and on your own dime.


If the suspect is close and the muzzle is suddenly in your face, you need to deflect the muzzle to change the trajectory of the bullets enough to survive. With effort, you may even be able to put the suspect’s weapon out of battery.

If you are unarmed at the time of the assault, you must have the ability to disarm the subject. Why should a police officer worry about disarming techniques? Because statistics show the weapon you are about to be shot with may be your own.


You may or may not be close enough to deflect, but regardless of the distance, you can dodge and/or duck.

The dodge can be a pre-practiced side-step or pivot out of the line of fire, preferably to cover, but there may be no cover. At the very least, the dodge or pivot gets your vitals momentarily out of the line of fire.

The duck can be as exaggerated as an instantaneous drop to the ground or leaning over in the seat of your car if that is where you are at the moment of the assault. It may also be simply the lowering of your center of gravity to make a smaller target as you bring yourself into the fight.


If you are seated in a car, use it take you out of the line of fire. Hit the accelerator. Take the first path available out of the line of fire. If it is legally defensible under the circumstances, you may decide to use your vehicle as a weapon to defend yourself.


While all of this movement is taking place, even if you are shot and hit in the process, you must get your weapon out.

Prepare for this moment by purchasing your own blue or red training gun. With it you may practice drawing from a seated position (in the squad), drawing from a prone position, drawing on the move, drawing while disengaging, etc.


Once your weapon is out you must make the decision to shoot or not shoot, considering the circumstances at that moment. In these dynamic situations, circumstances can change from moment to moment.

Prepare Now

By reading this article, you have already started the training process by mentally visualizing the assault you may someday face as well as your response. Now is the time to prepare. When it happens, the suspect will give you almost no time to dodge-draw-decide.

Remember, there is no time like the present to prepare to survive your future. 

This article, originally published 04/06/2016, has been updated. 

Request product info from top Police Firearms Training companies

Thank You!

By submitting your information, you agree to be contacted by the selected vendor(s) and that the data you submit is exempt from Do Not Sell My Personal Information requests. View our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Copyright © 2022 Police1. All rights reserved.