After recent events in Barcelona, Orlando, Paris, Las Vegas and other places, the prospect of a lone wolf or organized attack with severe consequence seems more and more plausible. I am certain any right-minded person would stop a terror attack if it was within their ability. But that is the question: “Do you have the ability?” The first thing you have to consider is that you may be killed. Many terrorists, unlike common killers, are on a hell-bound trip. Holding a gun on them or threatening them will be meaningless.
Editor’s Note: Be sure to scroll through the picture gallery at the end of the article for additional training tips from the author.
As the instructors at the police academy taught me, when dealing with suicidal individuals, they are to be regarded as homicidal as well. They do not care about their own life and certainly fear no consequence for taking yours.
In Europe during the first wave of terrorism gunfire was the early option and later replaced by bombs. Shooting a terrorist with a bomb pack simply means you have chosen the moment of detonation, not he. No good answer for that one. If he doesn’t have a dead man’s switch in his hand, then perhaps there is a clear opportunity.
Another question that must be asked during training to address school shootings and other incidents, which is overlooked by almost every trainer and correspondent, is are you willing to shoot and kill a 16-year old boy or girl? Are you willing to kill what many of us regard as a child?
Domestic shooters such as the ones at Columbine shot themselves and then the cops came in and counted the bodies. Fast direct action and initiative at Virginia Tech, as officers quickly arrived and broke through chains barricading doors and began moving the wounded, resulted in the shooter killing himself rather than confront the police and shortened the death cycle. He had plenty of ammunition left.
Taking a shot in this case may initiate the shooter’s suicide whether you hit him or not, but is he a spree killer or a terrorist? Each is an individual. My thoughts are not random but based on the study of many instances. You train for what may occur in order to be flexible, but you must train for what has occurred and have skills in place for each individual incident. If you are concerned with the possibility of a terror attack, and would not like to be helpless, then the usual range mantra isn’t adequate.
About all we guarantee in the average concealed carry class is that the graduate is safe with his or her handgun and should not shoot himself or someone else by accident. You would wish to be helpful during a critical incident and not add to the carnage by attempting to engage a moving target at 20 yards. If most of your practice involves firing at stationary targets, to which you are directly facing, in slow fire drills, then you will not be a problem solver.
Prepare for the task you are concerned with. Are you physically able to move to cover or run ahead of the threat to a more advantageous firing position? Everyone will be running. You should be the one that runs and doesn’t draw exposing yourself as an armed individual until you are behind cover.
Assess your capabilities honestly. Your skills may be better than most peace officers. Almost all of the folks who engage in regular IDPA matches are much better shots than all but the best institutional shooters. The big difference in addressing a terror shooter or spree shooter is that the terrorist isn’t out to kill you; he is out to kill anyone and everyone he can.
He is going to kill the sheep in his mind. One sheep looks up and looks different, and that is you. You must respond quickly and accurately with enough power to put him down. That is the goal. But the lone wolf isn’t always alone. Perhaps a fast sprint to cover and firing from a concealed position will give you every advantage.
The next consideration is your carry piece. You are no longer a defensive shooter if you are practicing anti-terror drills. You are now on the offensive. When you have made the commitment to engage in a worst-case scenario, you leave behind the pocket guns. Snub .38s and many of the compact 9mm handguns are less than desirable to worthless.
The Glock 43 is more accurate than most realize, and so is the Walther PPS, but the Glock 19 or CZ P01 are far better choices. You must think now at a different level. Take a hard look at the SIG P229 or the CZP10C. They just might be among the most useful handguns that are compact enough for concealed carry.
The military and police may use long slide Glock pistols, the Beretta 92, or LAPD’s special Kimber 1911 handguns. Perhaps they are too large for daily carry. But beginning with the CZ P01-sized handguns, you will have very accurate and controllable handguns.
The ability to engage in rapid, accurate fire is important. The bad guys do not always go down when hit, and you may miss. Bullet wounds take time to take effect. The other consideration is that the subject may be encountered at long range. I have in my confirmed, documented database a hit on a criminal at 60 yards with a Glock 19 by a police officer, and a brilliant event in which a military police officer struck and killed a shooter at a long 80 yards with the Beretta 92.
Twenty-five yards is challenging enough for most shooters. I test fire handguns and ammunition on a weekly basis and some combinations are more accurate than others, but many quality handguns will stay in four inches at 25 yards if the shooter does his part. The SIG P220 .45 is among the most accurate service pistols in the world, so is the SIG P226 9mm.
Federal Cartridge Company offers ammunition accurate enough to make good use of these handguns accuracy potential. Wilson Combat’s modified Beretta illustrated it will group five rounds of Federal 124-grain HST into a 1.75-inch group at 25 yards. It is up to the shooter to do the rest.
Marksmanship is the problem. Some shooting and self-defense schools are run by ex Special Forces operatives who show you how the military does it. This is a good thing and a great course to take for character and marksmanship development. But you will never shoot like a SEAL or Delta Force, FBI SWAT, LAPD SWAT or NYPC Special Services District. You will be good and have brilliant moments.
A select budget team that includes individuals firing up to 10,000 rounds per year in weekly training is trained to the highest possible standard and will not miss. They cannot afford to miss. Your budget and time schedule probably are not up to this. There are competitors who fire a similar number, or more, in practice every year, and they win very competitive contests.
If you really want to shoot like a pro there is no short cut. I see many great shots, some almost amazing, in local matches that are better shots than I am. They have a lot of time and effort invested. They have set a goal.
When considering the possibilities of personal combat, most of us attempt to cut spare motion, work on the presentation, and speed loads. The casual range load isn’t fast enough. You do carry two spare loads at all times, correct?
You must be able to load quickly without looking at the firearm but keeping an eye on the target. You must choose appropriate to superior gear, practice to master the firearm to the best of your ability, and be prepared to accept the consequences of your action. If you do not train properly, you will not be successful.
What others training tips or tactics would you recommend the other readers add to their practice sessions and why? Share your answers in the comment section.
Bob Campbell is a former peace officer and published author with over 40 years combined shooting and police and security experience. Bob holds a degree in Criminal Justice. Bob is the author of the books, The Handgun in Personal Defense, Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry, The 1911 Automatic Pistol, The Gun Digest Book of Personal Protection and Home Defense, The Shooters Guide to the 1911, The Hunter and the Hunted, and The Complete Illustrated Manual of Handgun Skills. His latest book is Dealing with the Great Ammo Shortage. He is also a regular contributor to Gun Tests, American Gunsmith, Small Arms Review, Gun Digest, Concealed Carry Magazine, Knife World, Women and Guns, Handloader and other publications. Bob is well-known for his firearm testing.
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