On Nov 11-12, 2017 I attended the Rangemaster Instructor Conference held at the BDC Gun Room in Shawnee, Oklahoma. 49 instructors, out of the more than 800 graduates of the 3 day Rangemaster Instructor program, spent 2 days shooting and learning. I wrote an AAR about it after I returned.
Highlights from another presentation at the conference:
John Correia – Lessons from Watching 12,000 gunfights
Tom invited John to present on lessons he’s learned from watching more than 12,000 videos of gunfights. John has posted over 1100 videos of actual armed encounters on his channel, narrated with analysis. He estimates for every video he’s posted, he’s viewed at least 10 to select the video of the day. Two decades ago, a channel like John’s could not have existed, but as security cameras in facilities, car and body cameras on police officers, and cell phone cameras became omnipresent, the amount of video available from incidents has increased.
John had many lessons in his presentation. I’m going to share a few of them, with commentary.
The Pareto Principle
John explained that 20% of the skills taught in the typical defensive shooting course are all that are necessary in 80% of the incidents he’s viewed. The 20/80 rule is often called the Pareto Principle. As applied to firearms training, it means that roughly 20% of the exercises and habits have 80% of the impact and the trainee should not focus so much on a varied training. John pointed out that 80% is a “B”, and that for most, having a “B” grade in gunfighting is a practical “passing score”.
His list of 20% skills aligns pretty well with our thoughts on minimum standards as well as what has been taught in defensive shooting courses for the past 20 years or so.
Empty handed skills – From John’s presentation: “Empty handed skills are important for the 80% of assaults that don’t rise to the level of deadly force response.” Pepper spray is a frequently ignored, rarely carried tool that can fill the gap between physical skills and deadly force skills, and (like a firearm), its use requires less training and less fitness than true empty hand skills. Pepper spray is not the ideal solution in all situations, particularly enclosed areas, though.
Getting the First Hit Usually Wins – This observation is nothing new, going back to the days when point shooting was taught because the fraction of a second necessary to raise the gun to eye level and use the sights was considered “too long”, and the standards for what was an acceptable hit were lower. One of the biggest deficiencies the typical “I met the state minimum” permit holder has is zero concern about the critical skill of drawing from concealment and getting a realistically effective hit. Most ranges do not allow practice of that skill, because of the high probability an untrained person will injure themselves trying to practice a skill they have no training in and have not done the slower speed dry practice necessary to master the safe execution of that skill.
If there was one thing I could fix or change about the gun culture, in its present state, it would be greater awareness or concern among those with carry permits about the importance of a quick, effective presentation of the gun from concealment, which would bring with it motivation to carry using better holsters, carry in methods that facilitate meeting realistic standards for draw to first shot times, recognition of the importance of training and proper practice in that skill. This video shows how a slow draw from off-body carry works, but just barely.
This video shows why carrying on an empty chamber is another way to be too slow. Empty chamber is not taught or recommended by modern law enforcement trainers nor any private sector school, but remains popular with untrained permit holders, because they consider it ‘safer’ than loaded chamber carry. Often I see a sequence of bad decisions that cascade resulting in empty chamber carry, like this:
1) Start with a lack of understanding of the importance of draw speed in a defensive encounter.
2) Add some Dunning Kruger effect, causing the person to believe their draw speed is “fast enough”, despite never having measured that skill with a timer, or taken any training, or done any practice, in that skill.
3) Add some basic cheapness and/or obsession with “comfort”, causing the person to have no willingness to spend additional money on a quality holster to carry the gun and/or general unwillingness to carry using a belt holster, instead seeking any and all alternatives to avoid using the one carry method that offers the most advantages in incidents where the gun is actually needed.
4) This results in bad choices like choosing to pocket carry without a holster, just stuffing the gun in your waistband, gimmick holsters (Versacarry in particular), or having a loaded gun flopping around loose in the console, glove box or map pocket of the vehicle.
5) Mix in some lingering concern that those choices might actually bad if a round was chambered, leading to the wrong solution of choosing to carry on an empty chamber. (Because, as you recall from #2, their untimed, un-practiced draw speed will be “fast enough” thanks to Dunning-Kruger).
Follow Up Shots Are Often Necessary – Training that teaches students to expect a one-shot stop is unrealistic. We teach a minimum engagement, per threat, of 2-4 rounds, and John’s evidence based approach to defining skills supports that approach.
Trained Skills That Are Never Used
John gave a list of skills that are taught in many classes, including our own, that he’s never seen used in any incident video (so far). That’s useful data when defining minimum standards, making decisions about what gear is truly essential for every day carry, and setting training priorities. For those that have time and interest to go beyond the minimum, learning those skills can be interesting and challenging. Many of those skills are taught because there are examples of them being used in incidents that weren’t captured on video.
One handed gun manipulation – John says one handed shooting is common, not because the other arm is injured, but because the shooter fails to drop whatever is in his/her hand, or is doing some other task with the other hand. So if/when malfunctions occur or a reload is needed, both hands are available (and are used).
Strong hand to weak hand transition – Normally when one handed shooting is taught, the assumption is that the other hand is injured and is not longer available for use. Even in USPSA competition, requiring a strong hand only to weak hand only transition is not allowed because of the implausibility of that skill being relevant in a self-defense situation. The only time I’ve seen that skill required was in square range drills designed to improve one handed shooting. Having the shooter draw with strong hand only is simpler/faster/safer than requiring a weak-hand draw, and doing a strong hand to weak hand transition is just a lazy way of including both types of one handed shooting in a drill. So I’m not surprised this purely training-drill skill doesn’t occur in real fights.
Gun dropped and recovered in a fight – One workaround to doing weak hand only draw practice is to start with the gun on the ground (as if it were dropped when the strong hand was injured), and pick it up and resume shooting, firing weak hand only. I’m unaware of any actual incident that inspired that drill, which I’ve seen used in multiple handgun courses (with the strong hand injury presented as justification for the drill). Running that drill a few times can check the “I’ve done that before and can do it if needed” box, but the skill itself is not so difficult that someone needing to do it in a fight couldn’t succeed at it having never “trained” in it.
Use of the gun for a muzzle strike – Generally if someone can get the gun out in a close range fight, they want to use it for its intended purpose.
Backup guns used in any capacity – Despite many of the videos John uses coming from law enforcement sources, and carry of backup guns being much more common in law enforcement than among carry permit holders, those backup guns aren’t being used, even when malfunctions occur.
Reloads – Just as Tom Givens observed in the data from his student involved shootings, reloads are incredibly rare in defensive incidents. Fights are won and lost with the ammo that’s in the gun when it’s drawn and fired. Reloads, if they occur, typically happen after the fight is over, to top off the gun, as shown in this video. John estimated that fewer than 8 of the 12,000 videos he’s viewed included a reload that happened during the fight that had any bearing on the outcome.
Weapon Mounted Lights on handguns aren’t useful outside the home – Just as Tom observed in his student data, when armed citizen incidents occur at night, they typically occur in urban areas with sufficient ambient light that negates any value a weapon mounted handgun light might provide.
As someone that has taken a science- and evidence-based approach to training, from prioritization of skills & gear to setting training standards, I appreciate John’s approach of using a statistically valid number of trials to draw conclusions. Some of his conclusions conflict with “doctrine” taught by many well meaning trainers, particularly those with heavy law enforcement or military backgrounds, whose priorities and programs were often shaped by the different context of their uniformed work. As the database of gunfight videos grows over the next few (or 5, or 10) years, his efforts to archive and collate these incidents will continue to be important in shaping the direction and content of training programs.