Written by Greg Ellifritz. Republished with permission from activeresponsetraining.net
Most people “know” that criminal attackers don’t take formal training classes and they assume that if an honest citizen has a couple of good training classes under his belt, he will beat the untrained, poorly skilled criminal in a fight. This may be true, but in some cases it’s not. Let’s look at the research . . .
The FBI put out a publication several years ago titled “Violent Encounters: A Study of Felonious Assaults on Our Nation’s Law Enforcement Officers.” Researchers identified 40 cases of serious attacks on police officers. In each case, they interviewed both the officers and the attackers involved. They investigated the training, weapons usage, practice habits, and attitudes towards violence. The results were remarkable.
The first thing the researchers learned: our assumptions about criminals not training are wrong. Nearly 40 percent of the criminal attackers in this study had received formal firearms training (mostly in the military). More than 80 percent of the criminal attackers regularly practiced with their firearms, with an average number of 23 Practice Sessions Per Year.
The bad guys conducted these practice sessions in trash dumps, wooded areas, back yards and “street corners in known drug trafficking areas.” In other words, the practice sessions occurred in realistic environments, under conditions similar to those the attackers were likely to face in combat.
The cops involved in these incidents all had some type of formal training at their departments. On average, they fired their guns 2.5 times per year. All of that training was conducted on a static shooting range that had little relevance to the environmental conditions where the cops actually fought.
In this sample study the criminal was better trained than the cop. If you aren’t a cop and carry a concealed weapon to defend against criminal attack, how does your training stack up against the bad guys in this study?
Many people who carry a firearm for self-defense take a state-mandated concealed carry course and call it good. These courses are geared to novices; they focus on safe firearms handing, basic marksmanship and legal issues surrounding armed self-defense. They don’t count as “formal training.” The instructors don’t teach anything that could be considered “tactical“: presentation, close-quarters combat, escape and evasion, etc.
And then there’s practice. How many of armed self-defenders shoot their weapons 23 times a year in a realistic environment? Some shooters who achieve that level of frequency—by shooting at a static target at a gun range. I don’t know many people other than hobbyist shooters who seek-out proper self-defense training.
In short, the average CCW permit holder is outmatched by any violent criminal similar to the type interviewed in this study. But it’s not all about training. When calculating your odds of survival in an armed encounter, experience is an even more important variable.
The “Violent Encounters” study compared the criminals’ experience levels compared to the cops. More than 40 percent of the criminals identified in the study had at least one gunfight experience before attacking the officer. Twenty-five percent of the attackers had been involved in more than five gunfights.
Practical, real world experience of a gunfight changes one’s perceptions of fighting with a gun. One of the interviewed criminals summed it up perfectly when he stated: “I made up my mind that nobody was going to shoot me again.”
Take a look at this guy. He was 29-years-old when he was killed by a homeowner during a home invasion. He had previously been shot in 10 other incidents and survived. Do you think that he might have picked up a few insights about gunfighting during some of those shootings?
I train cops for a living. Its my job to talk to cops about what works and what doesn’t. I don’t know a single cop who has been involved in 10 on-the-job gunfights.
Less than 25 percent of the officers The officers in the Violent Encounters study had been involved in a shooting incident before their attacks. The largest number of shootings in which any of the officers had been involved: three. On average, each officer had been involved in four incidents in which they were legally justified in shooting a criminal, but they chose not to shoot.
As a result of their differing levels of training and experience, both groups—criminals and cops—had different attitudes The officers went out of their way to avoid gunfights. The study noted “It appeared clear that none of the officers were willing to use deadly force against an opponent if other options were available.”
Contrast that with the attitude of their attackers. The report noted “Offenders typically displayed no moral or ethical restraints in using firearms . . . In fact, the street combat veterans survived by developing a shoot- first mentality.”
This study showed that the police officers were outmatched by their criminal opponents in every domain studied…training, experience, and mindset. If trained police officers are outmatched, where does that put the average citizen? It is actually quite astounding that citizens do as well as they do when they confront violent criminals.
Short of becoming a thug, what can you, a cop or armed citizen, do to better his training and experience?
The first thing that you could do is to increase the frequency of your practice sessions. Shorter, more frequent practice sessions are more effective than long sessions that are spaced months apart. Even if you don’t have regular access to a firing range, you can still practice drawing your gun and dry firing. There have been several research studies that have shown dry firing to be just as valuable as real shooting for maintaining marksmanship abilities.
One idea is to learn from the experiences of others. Even if it isn’t a direct experience, there are lots of lessons to learn by studying the success and failure of others. I make a point to interview as many gunfight participants (on both sides of the law) as possible. All of them have taught me valuable lessons that I’m glad I didn’t have to learn on the street. If you don’t know any gunfighters, read as much as you can on the subject. Many of the monthly firearms magazines have feature articles that provide a detailed analysis of a certain gunfight. Study those articles and read as many books as you can find on the topic.
The other method of acquiring experience is to do so in the context of force-on-force training. The best type of this training is conducted at professional shooting schools and uses tightly-scripted professional role players. It is costly, but worth the expense. You will learn more in one day of this type of training than you will learn in weeks of practicing by yourself.
The mindset, training, and experiences of your opponent are outside of your sphere of influence. You can’t control them. You can control those factors in your own life. Practice often, study, and do everything you can to make the odds in your favor. But above all: don’t underestimate your enemy.