Sunday, February 22, 2015

They don't think like you do!

When I entered law enforcement in 1976, my first assignment was the county jail. Over the 3 decades I worked at this agency I spent seven years at various times working the jail and another year in the courts, where guarding prisoners was routine. I hated corrections; however, looking back on it, I realize it was good for me. I’ve come to believe that every cop in America should spend some time in corrections—maybe in their first year as to know your enemy is of great importance. We gather intelligence to better understand the enemies we face. Knowing how criminals and terrorists think, act, fight, worship, behave and perform allows us to create a battle plan that increases mission success. Sun Tzu, author of
The Art of War, wrote “If you know your enemy and you know yourself, you need not fear the result of one hundred battles. If you know yourself but not your enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

Do you truly understand the individual you may fight? Violence is part of our society whether you want it or not. Bad guys will bring it to you… do you understand how they think? Many armed citizens and cops like to think they do…maybe they have even attended a lecture on the subject…but in reality they don’t. I have attended lectures on this subject taught by “professionals” who have never spent time with a felon, merely studies literature on the subject and became an “expert”. It’s like the students who attended a bunch of shooting schools and then becomes an instructor, they understand how to shoot but they don’t know shit about fighting! In both cases, you end up with the wrong information to prepare with.

To truly understand your potential adversary you need to consider what they might do when confronted? If you take nothing else away from this rant understand this: They don’t think like you do!  I can see many of you nodding your heads up and down but that does not mean you really comprehend what I just said. Why should you? Most have NO experience with these types of predators, so they relate it to what they do know…movies and TV. Criminals and terrorists aren’t reasonable, compassionate, kind or misunderstood…and no THEY DON’T NEED JOBS! They have one…attacking you! They’re predators with only one goal in mind: to commit and complete the act they started—and get away. Nothing more, nothing less.

Cops have been murdered trying to reason with criminals. In a Midwestern city, an officer got on her knees and put her gun down to talk with an active shooter, wanting to quell the situation without bloodshed. The suspect was so impressed with her compassion that he shot her through the throat. Her major mistake was taking how she thought about the situation and applying it to him. With this in mind, we need to ask ourselves, “How do armed citizens and police officers prepare for armed conflict with criminals?”

Hopefully you’re well trained, but it’s doubtful that your training will give you all the skills needed to win in armed conflict. Many shooting students focus on drills and trying to shoot them within a certain time frame, totally ignoring the skills the drill is trying to anchor and thus missing the point. Most police firearms programs are directed at qualification, not preparation. It’s very likely that you’ll have to invest your own time and money acquiring the skills you’ll need to go home in the same condition—both physically and mentally—as you did when you left. I hear it all the time “I don’t have the time or money to go to training” but these same folks seem to have the time and money to buy the best computers and debate firearms related topics on the “stupidnet”. Just because you have read about a tactic or skill does not mean you possess it to the level you can perform. Typing a good fight is not the same as fighting! Most American LEOs and armed citizens are minimally to moderately trained in firearm skills. How about you? If you don’t know, then you’re probably lacking.

Keep in mind; although terrorism is our nation’s primary security concern these days, it’s far more likely you’ll confront an armed robber than Al Qaeda. Sure, it depends on your job and location, but I’m willing to bet most officers and citizens confront street thugs FAR more often than radical Islamic killers. Do you train for such a confrontation under their rules or yours? Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about. This is going to irritate some of you…especially trainers…but I don’t give a shit. It may affect your training doctrine and what you know to be true about preparation for armed conflict. But sometimes reality bites and change comes hard.

I’ve taken the opportunity to talk with felons every time I get the chance. Most cops avoid this, but I’ve found it to be a real asset over the years. A while back, I sat down with a prisoner who was headed to court on a racketeering charge. The arresting officers knew he was suspected of several contract murders but evidence was lacking, so they went with what they could. I initiated a conversation with him (you don’t talk about their case) and worked my way to guns and his thoughts on them. He started laughing and stated he’d recently seen “a funny show” on cable TV about firearms training. As most of you know, jails are required to offer so many hours of recreation to each inmate and cable TV is a way to help meet this standard.

On the show in question, an instructor was demonstrating movement during a gunfight to avoid being shot. After all, a moving target is harder to hit, right? The instructor showed how to step sideways while drawing, and to move back and forth in a figure eight while reloading. This sounded OK to me but the prisoner didn’t agree. While telling me about the show, he started laughing and said, “It was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen!” Confused, I asked him why. He replied, “Because that’s training to your rules, not mine. Cops worry about placing their shots, street guys don’t. If a cop is dancing back and forth in front of a bad guy, he’s just going to shoot a bunch in the direction of the cop. He’ll hit something; he doesn’t care. Dancing around won’t confuse him long. He’ll just shoot because all he wants to do is get away.” Realizing he was telling the truth, I had nothing to say. Cops train to be the good guys and seldom consider that bad guys don’t have rules…nor care about where they shoot!

Don’t believe this? Talk to any of the officers involved in the North Hollywood bank robbery during which rapid and unrelenting fire from the suspects overwhelmed the cops. The suspects didn’t care what they hit, they just fired rounds in order to quell the response and get away. Of course, these suspects relished the gunfight, which certainly makes them far more formidable. Check out surveillance videos of robberies gone bad and watch to see if the suspects care where or what they shoot. You’ll soon see that they don’t and we do and that’s where we differ in our threat response!

I’ve thought long and hard about what this suspect told me and I’ve relayed it to a number of trainers. Surprisingly, instead of taking the information into account, they’ve dismissed it. The information doesn’t jibe with what they know to be true. For example, I recently played the suspect in a convenience store robbery during a force-on-force scenario. When confronted by a role-playing officer who told me to put down my gun, I instead launched into an explosive counter-attack, shooting in all directions, doing anything I could to make my escape. I quickly overwhelmed the officer while hitting numerous bystanders. The instructor stopped the scenario, angrily yelling, “What do you think you’re doing?!”

I told the instructor and the officers in the class, “Who do you think you’ll fight? An armed robber won’t always give up, and if he fights, it won’t be based on your agency’s force guidelines. He also won’t care who he hits. He’ll just want to complete his act and get away.” Now, how do you conduct interactive training? Is it reality or just a time to feel good about yourself? Is it training or entertainment? As role players we will act based on the training we have received which includes precise shot placement…is this what your opponent will do. How much training doctrine have we established based on erroneous information because we acted like good guys instead of bad guys!!! Is it correct?!

Recently, I was teaching a class in Florida and we discussed the possible downside of a single lateral step while drawing. One student (a local instructor trying to be impressive…they guy was a complete and total asshole, misbehaving the entire time. It’s hard to believe this child had any students!) objected and stated, “It [the move] might keep me from taking a vital hit.” True, but you might also be moving into a shot that would have missed you. How do you know? The truth is you don’t and you never will.  Movement must be with purpose, not “just because”.

Am I saying not to move in a fight? Of course not! Gunfights are fluid and movement to gain advantage, seek cover, flank or get a better shot is a good tactic. But, is movement for the sake of movement a good idea? The suspect I spoke with didn’t think so and the truth is, like all things in combat, it will be situationally dependent. If you do move, it needs to be aggressive—explosive really—as far as the environment will allow. If you can keep moving, do so because minimal movement won’t interrupt your opponent’s response loop. A single step to the side at 20 feet is a fraction of an inch to the muzzle you’re trying to avoid. Movement with Purpose:

1.     Move until you are ready to shoot back ACCURATELY.
2.     Move to a position of cover or concealment
3.     Move to exit the kill zone completely

The Bottom Line is this, it’s a good idea to better understand how your opponent thinks and build a training regimen accordingly. It doesn’t matter if the tactic or technique is the latest trend or is taught by a cool instructor, especially one in short shorts or a bikini (really folks? These videos get tens of thousands of hits…I hope it’s due to horny guys and not people wanting true combative information. If so, you’re an idiot!) . Instead, you should ask yourself, “Will it help defeat an opponent who doesn’t think and act like I do?”


  1. This may be the single best article I have ever seen on the internet. Thanks.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. As a former Marine, I train to this day in the spirit of One Shot One Kill, and if my Drill instructor doesnt order me to die then I dont. Your message is so clear to me. Training dose not have to be in any way complex to get the point across. You must act fast, you must act Violent, and You must act first. The only way to destroy any enemy is to Completly brake there Will to Fight. Cover and Concealment and being ready to react and act in the way that you Train. It,s not at all a game, to be put in a situation were you don,t know how to react will get u killed and thats not good.

  2. Good article. Your points are well received. Thanks!

  3. This is so spot on - thanks for a great article.

  4. Excellent article. I shared it on my company facebook page. Stay Safe

  5. As a previous, city, county and current federal LEO, I agree with you. Everyone needs to know what animals lurk out there.

  6. I have a hard time believing that a thug would hold a gun 12 inches from my face or chest allowing me to use some special move to disarm him like they show in the videos. I don't believe that throwing my wallet on the ground and having them pick it up so I can kick them in the face is a good tactic either. They would probably shoot me for dropping it. I believe some of these tactics and videos sell a sense of false hope. Great article!!!

    1. Only the stupid new ones. Not the ones that have been in jail a few times already.

  7. great article and good perspective. hope it reaches the "target" audience.

  8. Thanks for giving me something to think about.

  9. Well like he says they probably won't listen. I've seen that a lot myself. I've worked in prisons, security, and as a shooting instructor.
    Once a person is "qualified" by their instructors. They never need to listen to anything again. Never mind how many people end up in the hospital for turning their back on something, or worse.
    Our how many cops that showed up at the range that could barely control their handguns. Forget cleaning jams.
    I got so tiredin security with all the idiots with the "law & security" degree. That basics just teaches them how to full out paperwork. But the instructors, that have never worked on the streets. Tell them they are fully qualified to.
    They were constantly ending up in the hospital. Or putting someone in the hospital. Or just screwing up royally.
    Literally from turning their back on things.
    Working in the prison was the easiest job I had.

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  11. Makes good sense to me-the more i train and teach self defense the more i have the trainee go crazy-batshit and attack the attacker. It made good sense reading about the gun pointed at someone and it is taken away as shown in vidios-thanks for putting this up.

  12. This goes back to something I was taught to remember early on; their want/drive/desire to get away will always be higher than ours to catch them.

  13. Excellent article.

    World Champ Tyson, said "Every one has a plan, till they get punched in the face" that is so true.

    Most Police Officers, are not very good fighters. They do not get the practice, do not have the mind set to be one.

    Reacting to a threat? Hopefully you have done it enough to have gained some skill in it. Your response has to be instantaneous!

    One of the better skills, boxing, the art of the punch, while still on your feet. Be aware of the weapons that God gave all animals, one, teeth! Rolling around on the ground, a piece of face becomes available, cheek/nose/ear? Bite it off!

    That's enough, my skills come from the School of Hard Knocks, 5 years as a Bouncer, on the doors of Clubs in Liverpool, UK.

    Had a nut case try to kill me with a home made ice pick. Aimed for my heart! No provocation at all, he was just nuts!
    Have you all noticed the biggest reason that is so common with mass shooters? They are all mental! Also, in the sights of LE prior to the act. FBI ICE Local City Police.
    Last comment, does anyone believe that the Flying Instructors (Nearly all Ex Air Force) did not contact the FBI? Saying these Foreign nationals are taking training, but only to fly? Not take off and land? Really.

  14. I like to hear more about the case of the negotiating officer who was shot.

  15. Well said. I would venture to say that 90% of the people who own firearms for self-defense, including LEO, are woefully unprepared to face extreme violence. As someone who teaches close-combat self defense, I try to drill this same point home to every one I teach: when confronted with violence, you yourself have to become violent to survive. Thanks to movies and television, people think they they just have to learn a cool roundhouse kick or to throw a good punch and the bad guy goes down and you walk away with your chest puffed out. Violent criminals are sociopaths. They have zero concern about hurting or even killing you. They don't shoot to just wound you. They shoot to kill you. If they physically assault you, they won't stop their assault until you are dead. You have to have the mindset that when attacked, you think like your attacker and respond with brutal violence until they are no longer a threat to you and your family. I know this doesn't fit in with the mindset of the liberals that the criminals just need a hug and that if you are nice and give them what they want then they'll leave you alone but "them's the facts!"