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By John V.

The 2011 NYPD Annual Firearms Discharge Report drives a stake through the sacred mantra that self defense handgun shots must be aimed using the sights. The NYPD gauges officers’ success in close quarters battle (CQB) by the simple measure of whether he or she ultimately hits and stops the subject. That’s determined regardless of the number of shots fired at the subject . . .

NYPD Success Rate
There were 36 incidents in 2011 in which officers hit at least one subject per incident 28 times, for a success rate of 78%. When officers were being fired upon, they struck subjects two thirds of the time for a success rate of 66.6% (six out of nine such incidents).

Hit Rate
311 shots were fired by officers in the 36 incidents. The hit rate was 12% (36/311). That means that nine out of ten shots fired missed and went somewhere else. In two of the incidents a high volume of shots were fired. Excluding those, the hit rate was 19% (36/193). Looked at the other way around, eight out of ten shots fired missed and went astray. And in 2011, 1 bystander was killed.

Non-Use of Sights
The hit rate validates the reality that sight shooting just can not be used or is not used in CQB situations. That’s supported by the officers themselves. Thirty-four officers (44%) reported that they had used their sights, or 56 percent of the officers shot without them.

Per the NYPD, “utilizing a two-handed grip, standing, and lining up a target using the firearm’s sights is the preferred method of discharging a firearm, but it is not always practical during an adversarial conflict.” Basically, achieving marksmanship mechanics in close quarters combat, is just “a bridge to far.”

The use of the new gauge for success supports the thought that teaching the use of the sights for aiming in real life threat close quarters defensive situations is just a game played on citizens who bought a gun for self defense with the thought that they would be able to use it effectively in their self defense. And the same is true in regard to teaching distance shooting to citizens for self defense use, or the inclusion of combat reloading in drills and training courses.

Now, there are alternative methods of shooting at close quarters distances that don’t rely on the use of the sights. They are simple, effective, and easier and quicker to learn than sight shooting.

And they don’t rely on the mechanics of pistol shooting in a controlled environment which include a “proper grip, sight alignment, sight picture, trigger control, and breath control. All of these require a degree of concentration and fine motor skills. Unfortunately, in a combat situation, concentration and fine motor skills are sometimes among the first casualties.”

The 20% or less hit rate in CQB situations is nothing new. Though it has highlighted the need for training in alternative shooting methods, institutionalized dogma and established training programs have squelched and stomped out such heretical thoughts and measures.

Hopefully, the official recognition by the NYPD of the reality of adversarial conflicts will result in adjustments or modifications to existing firearms training programs.

That would be good, as one has the greatest chance of being shot and/or killed in CQB instances. Continuing to train only in sight shooting — and sending 8 out of 10 shots somewhere other than the target —  is a recipe for disaster.

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  1. If you happen to hit your target you aligned your sights on it ( at least at the time the gun fired ) whether you intended to or not.

    • Well, by definition the weapon’s sights are always aligned with themselves. What they don’t necessarily need to be aligned with for a good close-range shot is your eyes.

  2. In other words, all the firing range time as prep for a DGU is a big waste of time? Sure seems that way to me.

    Obviously there are other reasons to hit the range. But if TTAG buys the cited article’s line of reasoning, will we see a change in TTAG’s editorial stance toward “institutionalized dogma and established training programs” as they relate to DGU?

    • Not at all, Splash. In fact, I recommend even more range time. You just have to use it differently. If you want to train CQB, you need to spend a lot of time developing the muscle memory for a good shot. It’s like a golf swing or a free throw. You need to train your muscles as to where the weapon needs to be to hit the target. What you don’t need to do is get a good three point sight picture every time, breath and squeeze. Punch the gun out, and as you see the barrel come level, you start shooting. With an AR, I was taught to use the whole front sight assembly, not the actual front sight, as a benchmark. When the top of that triangle broke the belt line, you started the trigger. It takes a lot of trigger time to get accurate like this, but it is absolutely possible and recommended.

  3. On second thought, since they don’t appear to even be wearing vests, maybe they’re actors… oops.

  4. Now that this is public knowledge, lets wait until the next time some NYPD officers hit an innocent and hope some good lawyers have the above information.

  5. I am no expert but I think either lasers or even red dot’s on their glocks could help the situation. So could ditching that crazy 12 pound trigger.

  6. I don’t necessarily disagree with the author’s conclusion, but I have a hard time with the inference that the NYPD’s shooting statistics alone are determinative of the usefulness of sights in a self-defense situation. If the same determination was to be drawn from a survey of shooting statistics from a broader cross-section of law enforcement agencies, then the conclusion might be better supported. But using only one agency fails to take into account training, or lack thereof, and many other variables that may, or may not, be uniform across different agencies.

    In sum, the NYPD is notorious for poor firearms training, so using their statistics in firearm deployment to support a hypothesis concerning the deployment of firearms in general seems to be painting with strokes that are a bit too broad. Again, I am not saying the conclusion is wrong, I’m just saying it is not sufficiently supported by the narrow cross-section of evidence used to reach the conclusion.

    • This is true, but military CQB training focuses on fast reactive shooting, followed by aimed shots if necessary. The mantra is “get lead into the target”. In your shooting drills, if your groups are good, you are going too slow. If you miss altogether, you are going too fast.

    • Maybe the whole thing is indicative of poor quality/quantity of training in the NYPD. Dad was an MP and always finds marksmanship laughably poor among average cops

  7. Is this shooting of bad guys or tourists covered in this report? With the NYPD, you have to double check.

  8. Summary: Most people don’t (have time to) aim in DGU situations.

    Not news to me. You?

    • Training to shoot under stress requires training that creates stress.

      It’s less about not having the time and more about an instinctive vs. trained response. There are plenty of units that can go in and put aimed fire onto targets. But you have to train correctly to do it, and you don’t get that at the local range.

  9. I don’t think basing any training assumptions on the rather low proficiency on the NYPD is a good idea.

  10. This is why training to point shoot is so important. Most self-defense live fire handgun training should be based on it.

    • I have recently changed my practice routine to include both eyes point and shoot for ranges of 10 yards or less. After a little practice I found that I was just as accurate as when I used the sights. I am not all the much worse at 25 yards using point and shoot over aimed fire.

  11. So, they should go back to the Applegate Method like they did when they had revolvers and shot with a single hand?

    IMHO, they need better training and get rid of the 12lb trigger, other that nobody knows what they will do when the lead starts flying. While they are at it, they should also be trained when not to shoot.

    • If you practice, point shooting can be very effective.
      But then again practicing period tends to improve
      ability; something the NYPD doesn’t seem to stress
      at all.

    • Yeah, 12lb triggers are not conducive to making well placed shots whether using the sights or not. Of course, Booberg had them put in there to make it harder for the cops to accidentally shoot someone. Seems to have been counter productive.

      • That’s why our beloved AG wants us all to have 10# triggers. So an effective case can be made for citizen inaccuracy & thusly further disarmament.

  12. Any in other news: The Air Force hits the earth with ONEHUNDRED PERCENT of ordinance dropped and fired. Somewhere or other. Is the club open yet?

    Oh, we also need an increase in funding and we don’t do CAS.

    • Actually, they don’t even manage that. There were a number of our bombers taken out by being hit by bombs dropped by other planes in WWII

    • Yeah, they just declared war on the Great Barrier reef in Australia (what? You didn’t know?). We’ve had lessons in coping with stress in New Zealand the last few days, with several large earthquakes each day this week. You get a quick, massive adrenaline dump, which feels good at the time. Your fine motor skills go out the window, but at least your bowels get a good clear out. If I had to fire in this situation, it would definitely be spray and pray. Man, it’s hard to sleep when the bed starts shaking (and not because anything fun is happening!), and after a few days your mind is mush. Sheesh!

      • They were inert, concrete-filled training bombs, and were dropped in a deep trench which coral finds inhospitable.

        16 miles south of the UNESCO-designated protected zone.

        But that’s a lot less fun to mention, isn’t it?
        Darn those responsible airmen, they’re so inconvenient to internet trolls.

    • Whoa whoa whoa… everyone knows NYPD are unbelievably well trained professional LEO’s and that us civilians should hand our rights of self defense to them for safekeeping.

  13. I’m about as likely to take shooting advice from the NYPD as I am to take Feinstein on my next hunting trip.

  14. If there’s a collective 400 IQ in that quartet, it’s because of the guy on the right. And he’s kinky and possibly dangerous.

  15. “The hit rate validates the reality that sight shooting just can not be used or is not used in CQB situations. That’s supported by the officers themselves. Thirty-four officers (44%) reported that they had used their sights, or 56 percent of the officers shot without them.”

    You have almost half of the officers using their sights, and you’re saying sight shooting can’t be or isn’t used? How does that follow?

    “Basically, achieving marksmanship mechanics in close quarters combat, is just ‘a bridge to far.’”

    It’s a bridge to far, so we’d better far it. =p

  16. Bull.

    The problem is a politically-sensitive NYPD training chief knows that if he actually starts training his officers to use their sights under fire, some leftist nutjob at the “Times” will say he’s training his officers to kill black people.

    If the NYPD did stuff like we see at Haley’s training class, the Liberals in New York City would crap bricks. Ohmygawd, the cops are training to KILL attackers? The HORROR! Someone call Al Sharpton!…

  17. As said prior the NYPD is about 70 or 80 years too late. Applegate realized this stuff in Shanghai. What is sad is that even our institutions have corporate amnesia. Nothing existed prior to iPhone. Go back and look at early FBI training and WWII mil shooting. Only after lots of combat experience will shooter gain control of self. Hell, open a GD book and read about training the Roman soliders had. What all the Asian martial arts training is about. Carrying a Glock doesn ‘t mean anything about changing human wiring. All the ape responses of crouch, point, muscle tensing, tunnel vision are very difficult to overcome.

    • That should be Fairbairn in China. Applegate followed up on Fairbairn’s techniques.

      • Yep, and for all my recommending “Shoot to Live With the One-Handed Gun” (he also covers two hands) as a nostalgic and practical read, who listens? Laugh. Whether writing on knife use, handguns, or unarmed combat, he was innovative and sensible.

        • LOL will I be flamed if I say there is a ton to learn from the likes of these men? I ‘ll add Bill Jordan’s No Second Place Winner and even Jack Dempsey’s How to Fight Tough to an essential education.

          Young folks think if you dont have the latest laser or plastic gun somehow your unable to defend yourself. I ‘ll even say it has permeated the police departments. The mindset you have is the most important combat factor.

    • Using the stats from the above-mentioned NYPD Annual Firearms Discharge Report 2011 and taking an apples-to-apples comparison of stats claimed by Fairbairn and Sykes after implementing their approach (as outlined in their book, “Shooting To Live With The One Hand Gun”), a point shooting trained force will fare considerably worse than the current NYPD results.

      Moving to an inferior approach advocated by lesser-trained and lower skilled personnel will never yield improvement.

  18. Glock triggers are bad enough to make precision marksmanship difficult enough in stock trigger form.

    Ad the stupid New York 10-lb connector and it’s surprising that they can get any hits at all.

    • Oh, I dont know about GLOCK triggers being all that bad. They sure are if you put the wrong connector in them, but 5.5 pounds and a very tacticle reset works for me.

  19. Please bear in mind that the NYPD’s qualification course is 50 rounds long, and done quarterley. So that means most officers fire about 200 rounds a year…

    So why the hell would you take anything they have to say seriously? The NYPD is well known for being not only unsafe, but also dangerously poor marksmen.

    Shit, they cant even teach more than half of their officers to use the sights mounted on top of their gun, apparently.

    And keep in mind there is a huge, huge difference between the situations police officers will face when they need to shoot v.s what civilians will face.

    • Thank you Dr. I was begging to think I’d have to type all that out. The basic problem is that the NYPD consists mainly of non-gun types who seek no outside range time or training and receive very little of it from the department. As stated, they shoot 200 rounds a year. . . that’s not even a decent hour at the range for many of us (at least before the ammo dried up).
      What I consider decent handgun work is keeping 7 rnds of 230 grain .45 from a 1911 on a torso target at 5 yards while firing ‘full panic’, that is no sight use and attempting to cycle the weapon as rapidly as possible. On the other end of the spectrum, firing unsupported slow fire strings on a torso target at 70 yards with the same weapon should not produce any misses. If this sounds like fantasy land you’re probably not shooting enough. I figure before the ammo crisis I was shooting about 15,000-16,000 rounds a year just in handgun ammo (.40 and .45). Put another way, I was personally shooting more rounds a year than an entire station house full of NYPD cops. It’s no wonder they can’t hit anything, they are basically untrained personnel. I don’t think it’s so much what they have been training them as it is a failure to really train them at all. Whether it’s point shooting or anything else, just getting them to the range and shooting would produce a huge improvement.

  20. I can’t believe no one picked up on this tidbit at the point shooting link:

    “For example: during 2006, only 156 Officers out of the force of some 37,000, were involved in a firearm-discharge incident. And fewer than half of those incidents involved an Officer shooting at a human being. Most involved Officers shooting at dogs.”

    Color me surprised.

  21. So called point shooting is great if the target is standing exactly where you’ve grooved in your “muscle memory” during point shooting practice – typically at 3-7 yards with the target placed directly in front of you. But how many point shooting proponents actually put a target above or below them, or off to a side, or rapidly charging them? That technique breaks down as quickly as sighted shooting, unless you’re someone like Ed McGivern – it’s certainly no panacea.

    • Anyone who claims to be training for defensive/combative use of a handgun who is only shooting at targets placed directly in front of them is a liar or a fool. That said, if the target presentation is serious funky (really high, way below you, too far, only partially exposed) the only use of point shooting is likely as suppressive fire and transitioning to sighted fire is called for. On the other hand there are times when rattling a few near the target while seeking cover is preferable to not firing at all.
      Then again, I avoid highly populated areas like plague quarantine zones. . . out here there’s not much to hit behind the target but trees.

  22. “Most current training theories are pointless, based on the experience of this virtually untrained group.”

    That about sum it up?

  23. No one else mentioned it so I will. The NYS gov’t wants to limit the private gun owner to 7 rounds. The “trained professionals” of the NYPD are getting a 20% hit rate. They carry 17 rounds. What’s 20% of 7? 1.4 . Either the gov’t expects way more precision from us amatures or they don’t care if we survive an attack.

  24. 200 rounds a year?!! No wonder the hit rate is so low.

    I wonder if there are other studies from other big city PDs,
    or a better database for some national average –
    surely this can’t be representative of all LEO training.

    Any LEOs care to opine?

    • It’s even worse in some places (though some departments are very good as well). Of course this is only an anecdote but it gives an interesting glimpse into the magnitude of the problem;

      I was told by a local LEO about a fellow of his who had complained after yearly (yes they shoot once per year per department requirement) qualification that his trigger pull was far to heavy. He took his revolver to a friend that very week and the friend lightened the set screw on the mainspring. A bit of dry fire and the deputy was satisfied that the trigger pull was much improved. Fast forward a year and it’s qualification time again. The deputy un-holsters his duty weapon, pulls the trigger and click. . . the spring was now too light to detonate the primers. For an entire year he had carried a non-firing weapon.
      Obviously not every or perhaps even most officers are this hapless, but some are. Cop doesn’t necessarily equal firearms skills or enthusiasm. Like anyone else in anything else, some are very good, most are average and some are flat out terrible.

  25. So, with a 10 round magazine citizens are limited to,they may hit the criminal once, maybe twice? Perfect example of why you need a standard capacity magazine.

    • That was my point above. In NYS they want us to only load 7. Better hope you only have one attacker and put him down with one shot or you are royally f’cked.

  26. You don’t need sights to shoot effectively, or quickly. Just natural ability and practice.

  27. What we’re talking about is the Chow Yun Fat method of shooting.
    Pull it, point it, fire it, bad guys take dirt naps. No, it’s not impossible,
    but to say, that it’s hard to achieve, would be a grand understatement.
    Most people couldn’t afford to shoot the volume of bullets needed to
    achieve that kind of proficiency, or even the time to do it. But here is
    where technology rides to help out in your quest to achieve 1 or 2 gun
    awesomeness. The Gander Mountain store down here in FL has the
    Gander Mountain Academy that has a 180 and 360 degree simulation
    range with guns that simulate the shot with a generated recoil. I don’t
    know that they have a Chow Yun Fat 2 gun course, but practicing your
    free-hand in the augmented reality world is a lot easier on the wallet.

    • +1. Anything that helps. Really anything that gets you to stop thinking about every shot and just doing it. I came of age in an ammunition and shooting opportunity rich environment that must have been a bit like one of those simulators. Several days a week I’d find myself with opportunity to shoot, and always had several guns and a duffle bag of ammo in the trunk just in case the opportunity presented it’s self.
      I realize that there are many (most of us these days) who can’t afford the ammo, and that some people are restricted to public ranges, but I guess the short answer is shoot all you can. It’s not magic, the more you do it the better you are at it.

  28. This article misses a huge point: the degree of training these officers had. Shooting accurately under fire is a very difficult skill to learn, and requires a fair amount of dedication. Most cops didn’t sign up to shoot people, and departments don’t have large budgets to dedicate to shooting training, so this sample isn’t an indictment of technique as much as it is a critique on the training and mindset of the personnel involved. Does the NYPD train officers to shoot on the move, in low light, or in other ideal circumstances on a regular basis? Sadly, when all the factors are weighed, this may be “good enough,” or perhaps all that is practical for a large police force. I’m confident a similiar study focused on units in LE or military specifically focused on CQB employment would yield a much different result.

  29. We are doomed to repeat history if we do not study and learn from it. I find the conclusions of this ridiculous study to be completely wrong.

    Decades ago point shooting was taught to police officers. It was found to be totally useless and got a lot of cops killed.

    Anyone can point shoot and hit a can in the sand with enough practice. Muscle memory and hand/eye coordination will get you to where you can hit the can almost every time. If your shot is just a little bit off, you can see your bullet strike the sand and compensate a bit for your next shot.

    The same is true for shooting paper targets. You can get very, very good at point shooting on paper targets because you can see where your shots are hitting and compensate a little left, a little right, a little low, a little high. Muscle memory will work for you in this manner very well. Your confidence will build and you will think you’re a great shot a closer distances with your point shooting.

    The reality is that in real life shootings, there is no way to see where your shots are hitting. A complete miss of human trying to kill you has no point of recognition to compensate for. You can’t see your miss and then have muscle memory kick in and change your point of aim.

    Even hitting the threat does not usually produce any kind visual confirmation. A guy in a white tshirt will not bleed fast enough to show you where your shot hit. A guy in a blue plaid shirt or black leather jacket, even if hit with your first round, will not give any indication of where that shot landed.

    Watch Top Shot on the History Channel and you’ll see the competitors note that the hardest targets to hit are those with no backstop. There is no way to see where you’re missing. Shooting at a target a mile away with a scoped sniper rifle and seeing your shot hit the dirt a foot to the left allows you to compensate and change our aim to hit the target. If the shooter can’t see where his shot hit, he or she can’t change point of aim. The worst thing a sniper can hear from his or her spotter is, “No hit, no idea” which means no feedback and no means to compensate for the next shot.

    We covered our standard silhouette targets with blue plaid shirts and our officers couldn’t hit anything by point shooting. They couldn’t tell if they were hitting or missing and no reference point to compensate with muscle memory.

    They were fine when they used their sights.

    Use your sights. All the time. It may be a flash sight picture and not perfect and not let off perfectly, but use your sights all the time.

    The NYPD should be teaching their officers to use their sights all the time and they need to get rid of that stupid trigger on their Glocks. Their management needs to start using some TQI (Total Quality Involvement) and listen to their range officers who know what they’re talking about. I’m sure their range officers would recommend 5 pound triggers and more range time using the dang sights.

  30. They DO train to use the sights and STILL more than half reported NOT using them when the time to shoot came which is why its important to train that way. I very highly doubt if someone brakes into my house and is rushing down the hallway at me that im going to line up my sights. Sure I will probably bring my gun up to eye level, but lining up the 3 dots? I dont see that happening which I why I practice point shooting. I dont compensate for my misses because I fire so fast that I cant tell where im hitting until after i stop and look at the target. Your officers couldnt hit anything point shooting because they probably had no training in doing so since your obviously against it.

  31. I can put 8 out of 8, in an 8 in pie plate. at 30 feet with my 9mm Shield, from just forward of the hip.

    Proved it to my law enforcement son the other day at the range. His only comment was that they were all center of mass.

    Then we shot shotguns at 30 feet. My 00 buck hit the pie plat 7 of the 9 BBs, his hit 2 of 9. I know there is something to be said for spread in close quarters, but I use my gun for home protection and I want to hit anything in my neighborhood that I shoot at, while minimizing collateral damage. .

    The shotgun is not my primary self-defense weapon.

    Can the NYPD do anything different? All PDs can improve on what I do. Lets encourage them to get better.

    As for the PDs violence, from what I’ve seen, it is still less than in countries where weapons are controlled by law. You know like Italy, Spain, Cal, CT, NY etc.

  32. “311 shots were fired by officers in the 36 incidents.
    The hit rate was 12% (36/311).
    That means that nine out of ten shots fired missed and went somewhere else.”

    SMALL WONDER, LEOs not using sight alignment when firing their handguns.

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