Intermediate-distance shooting: A cop's tactical advantage?

You will have a very real edge if you can hit at the intermediate and extended distances quickly and reliably

Most gunfights happen up close. Most police officers already know this. Many departments are switching to qualification designed to emphasize the shorter distances — from zero to 15 yards.

If we listen to NIJ stats on officer-involved shootings, we might be inclined to think that 90 percent of our training should be within 21 feet, and the majority within ten feet.

Here, however, I would like to offer some food for thought (and discussion) as well as training ideas you might consider implementing.

Deterioration of Accuracy
Over the years, we’ve found that most individuals — officers and other people alike — tend to have a hard time hitting a target quickly and reliably when the distance approaches 12-15 yards and beyond.

In the hit probability study done with the Force Science Research Center, we confirmed those results among many subjects of varying levels of skill. Move beyond 12-15 yards, and hit probability goes down dramatically.

Why does this happen?

This is where pointing, soft focus, and trigger control at speed deteriorate to the point where hitting anything becomes erratic — on both sides of the gunfight — if you are not more-highly trained in peak-performance shooting.

Make it an Advantage
While most officers understand the “21-foot rule” with edged weapons, most are not familiar with the “12-15 yard rule” for gunfighting where handguns are involved.

For me, 12-15 yards is my “magic distance” that I try to keep between myself and a potential threat in an open situation — while assessing the subject and his behavior.

I would either engage — or attempt to engage — the subject in a conversation if it wasn’t an arrest situation or I would start verbal control of behavior and hands prior to closing the distance.

If I closed the distance, in my mind I was ready for instant action.

As the distance gets closer — within the 7-10 yard range — hit probability goes up substantially. At this point, depending on the situation, you can decide whether or not to have your weapon drawn or be instantly ready to draw while moving etc. if things go south.

By keeping this distancing where the situation allows. If the subject does decide to engage or give away his hand early, you will be much less likely to be struck by a bullet or it may not be a serious hit.

Intermediate and Longer Ranges
I believe that training for 15-50 yard shooting and beyond should be increased for officers on the street. Too many have not been trained to shoot effectively at 15 yards and beyond or the time limits allowed for the shots are ridiculously long.

Where officers have a true advantage of superior marksmanship with handguns is from 15-50 yards (or should be!), and this advantage needs to be exploited.

I’ve spent a lot of time with my students shooting out past 100 yards quickly with handguns. Using a combination of various steel and paper targets in different configurations and shooting from a variety of positions and conditions under time stress, effective real world marksmanship can be developed.

We need to lay aside the PPC style, 25- and 50-yard style qualifications geared toward a smaller X-ring, under way-too-generous time limits. Threat acquisition drills, faster trigger rhythms, more precise gun-handling, and superior mental conditioning will give officers a crucial edge with their handguns even against long guns, should the need arise.

Here are some basic drills I do in my academy to get you started.

Standing, Unsupported Drills
Use either a 10” plate or an 8” x 12” rectangle of steel, set at a range of 15 yards. Draw and fire two hits in 2.0 to 2.5 seconds from the holster or 1.5 to 2.0 seconds from an imminent-threat position. Cut the time down below 2.0 seconds from the holster and down to 1.0 to 1.25 from imminent threat position when you can hit reliably at the longer times. Now, do some longer ranges. 

• 25 yards: Two hits in 3.0 seconds from the holster — work down to 2.25 or lower
• 35 yards: Two hits in 3.5 seconds — again, work down
• 50 yards: Two hits in 4.0 seconds — This is a harder shot on small steel (you need to be dialed in with your trigger control!)

Then spend some practice time hitting after acquiring a kneeling or other position or going to prone. Practice left and right side barricades, then practice around vehicle and particularly under vehicles. Use varying distances and get used to the 25-yard shot on an 8” or 10” plate under time stress.

Firing from Prone
Most agencies I’ve seen don’t even shoot prone for a qualification skills. It is time to reintroduce it if you haven’t already done so!  Prone is an important skill with a handgun or a carbine. Different variations of prone — “ball of shoulder,” rollover, and others — should also be implemented.

Yes it will get your uniform dirty. Get used to it. Better dirty than dead if there is a need to do it.

I will be putting up some videos in September showing some of these drills. But, don’t wait until then. It is time to get out there and start practicing!

You will have a very real edge if you can hit at the intermediate and extended distances quickly and reliably. Realistic, extended-range training will keep you cool and calm and hitting when it counts!

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