Shooting is Easy, Thinking is Hard

27-Feb-14 – 14:27 by ToddG

One of the first force-on-force (FOF) scenarios I ever went through as a student back in the mid-90’s: I walk around a corner and se two guys, one in a camo jacket and one in a red jacket, basically slap fighting. The guy in the red jacket — short, overweight — draws a gun, shoots camo jacket, and runs around a corner so fast I don’t even really process what’s happened.

Then a few seconds later, a guy in a red jacket — tall, skinny — comes running back around the corner with his empty hands stretched out in front of him. I shoot him in the face three times. Because: red jacket.

He rocked backwards enough that I got the mental signal to stop shooting but, instead of doing the typical “fall to the ground dead” role-player thing he just stopped with three blue paint marks on his face mask and yelled, “why did you shoot me?” I was completely stunned. There he is, clearly unarmed, and I have just made a life-destroying mistake. Actually, I destroyed multiple lives. The guy I shot. Mine. My wife’s.

So I read the following account about Craig “Southnarc” Douglas‘s experiment at the Rangemaster Tactical Conference with more sympathy than surprise.

Polite Society 2014 – Southnarc Force on Force AAR

Read it. And don’t kid yourself into thinking that you’re too good to make the same mistakes.

Huge thanks to Karl Rehn and Dave Reichek of KR Training for taking the time to put this information out for the rest of us to chew on.

Train hard & stay safe! ToddG

  1. 24 Responses to “Shooting is Easy, Thinking is Hard”

  2. The video will not play at the moment, but i can imagine easily becoming overwhelmed with the thought processes. I have hears several times that we are more likely to not shoot when it is justified, than shoot when it is not.
    After this exercise, I wonder about that. I imagine there is a certain bit of ‘This is a self defense exercise, I must have to fight my way out of it’ going on in the participant’s mind.

    I am anxious to see the video, and read others comments.


    By Bill Lance on Feb 27, 2014

  3. Todd, is there any place with a comprehensive listing, or regional listing of similar courses, and other instruction? Frankly, I find it difficult to find good instruction close by, or at all, outside of the large, well knowns, such as Gunsite.

    By Elliott on Feb 27, 2014

  4. I am converting the video from a dropbox video to youtube and will re-post the link

    By Dave Reichek on Feb 27, 2014

  5. Bill, that’s a valid point – however, downstairs waiting for my turn, all I heard was gunfire on all the participants that went before me, so I was FULLY expecting to end up shooting someone going in, and yet I never even felt compelled to draw my gun. After we get the video re-linked to youtube, you’ll see what I was very hesitant to trust what I was seeing and believe that he was LEO because of what I had heard previously.

    By Dave Reichek on Feb 27, 2014

  6. Elliot — The number of people doing this at a high level is so small, and so subjective, that I’d hesitate to offer beyond the two groups mentioned in the post: Craig Douglas and KR Training. I’ve never taken a class from KR (they’re in TX) but I know many people have tremendous respect for their force on force program which they’ve been running for many, many years.

    There may well be others who are equally deserving of recommendations but I just don’t have personal knowledge.

    Be warned, however, that there are plenty of people putting on FOF training that aren’t qualified, licensed, and/or even insured. Bad FOF is probably worse than no FOF.

    By ToddG on Feb 27, 2014

  7. Dave: I think that’s a great point. Even primed for a big fight because you knew it happened to everyone else you still checked fire and played out the scenario as you saw it. Bravo.

    By ToddG on Feb 27, 2014

  8. Youtube link to video:

    By Dave Reichek on Feb 27, 2014

  9. Hmm. Well, you talked me into trying it–I just registered for an airsoft FOF one-day course near Chicago, put on by Black Flag Training on March 16th. I don’t really have the experience to judge qualifications, but I think Black Flag/Spartan Security have strong reputations in this area, and they advertise that all their instructors are “IALEFI instructors or Law Enforcement Rapid Response/Active Shooter instructors.”
    Course material is taught by LE and Rapid Response Instructors who have all received additional certifications as civilian NRA Instructors. I have hand picked this group. All have considerable shoot house and force on force stress inoculation training, and have run dynamic coursework for Law Enforcement.

    I’m a little anxious about this, ’cause I don’t expect to do well this time out. But I think it’ll be a chance to learn a lot about decision-making under closer-to-real pressure, and you have to start somewhere.

    By Don Gwinn on Feb 28, 2014

  10. Don — The most important piece of advice I can give you is “safety first” and if anything feels risky, set pride aside and walk away.

    Beyond that, don’t think about it in terms of whether you’re doing well or not. You’re not there to prove you know it all. You’re going specifically because you accept you DON’T know it all and you want to learn. Put yourself and your ego on the line, accept that you might make some soul-crushing mistakes, and GET BETTER.

    Perhaps over the weekend I’ll post up a list of some of the massively boneheaded things I’ve done in FOF scenarios.

    By ToddG on Feb 28, 2014

  11. Point on post that helps me answer some of my own self-doubt. Thanks for that.

    Happy (recreational) shooting,

    By dustyvarmint on Feb 28, 2014

  12. 10 out of 12 participants either shot the officer, were shot by the officer, or both.

    It would be interesting to have that figure broken down even more:

    – how many shot the “officer”
    – how many were shot by the “officer”
    – how many both shot and were shot by the “officer”

    Staggeringly, more than a few of the participants SAW THE BADGE and chose to engage in a standoff with the officer (and eventually get shot) or engage him with gunfire out of a mistrust that he was actually law enforcement.

    I put “officer” in quotes, because I would not have believed the person claiming to be a law enforcement officer.

    By anonymous on Feb 28, 2014

  13. I think people are walking a very dangerous line when they try to outthink whether a badge & a gun equals a cop. Anything is possible but to a jury, not to mention responding officers post-shooting, you’re going to have a Himalaya-sized mountain to climb to justify that. Anyone who thinks it’s as easy as “I heard this story about a guy…” or “I’ve seen fake badges before…” is in for a world of sorrow.

    By ToddG on Feb 28, 2014

  14. Well, I’ve seen CCW badges before. That’s pretty close . . .

    Thanks, Todd, I’ll take that advice to heart and make sure I learn something (about checking the ego and keeping safety first and foremost.)
    Honestly, I see no reason not to take a badge at face value most, if not all, of the time, either. BUT how long does that common-sense advice survive these two problems?

    1. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’ve never had an interaction with a police officer more stressful than a traffic stop, and I’ve never had a police officer try to identify herself or prove that she was a police officer. I’ve also never trained for that possibility. Maybe the people in this FOF exercise have never seen it in real life or trained for it, either? In fact, you know where I *have* seen police officers identify themselves in critically dynamic incidental occurrences? On TV, where a lot of them turned out to be faking. How much impact does that have?

    2. Despite making our best effort not to “game” a scenario–how much was the above problem exacerbated by the fact that most people in the exercise were “ready for a trick” or “looking for the twist?” Dave expected to have to shoot, but was able to put that expectation aside when the information in the moment didn’t turn out that way. How many others just knew there had to be some kind of clever trick, not just because it’s a FOF exercise, but because it’s a FOF exercise at this big-deal conference with all these big-deal people, so obviously they’re going to do something tricky to set it apart?
    (Actually . . . that wouldn’t have been far off, would it? It WAS tricky, and my impression is that it was unusual, right?)

    By Don Gwinn on Feb 28, 2014

  15. One of the ideas behind the Experiential Learning Lab is to try and give someone the benefit of an “experience” without the consequences of real life. It’s a place to make mistakes, learn about yourself, and add an interactivty component to firearms training. It’s fascinating to watch the reactions of the participants, the role-players, and the observers come together. I personally don’t draw alot of definitive conclusions, but I do observe trends.
    One thing I do feel pretty strongly about is this: If you can manage to inject a living, breathing, thinking human being into your firearms training, then I believe that your chance of success in a complex and/or ambiguous real world event goes up significantly.

    The cardboard and paper doesn’t move, say anything, or have a mind of it’s own. All these human facotrs that are rarely incorporated into our firearms training significantly diminsh performance, especially when experienced for the first time.

    Just my take…

    By Craig Douglas on Feb 28, 2014

  16. “I think people are walking a very dangerous line when they try to outthink whether a badge & a gun equals a cop.”

    Yes, I’m aware of that, but what is the solution? Submit to anyone claiming to be a cop, and hope he’s telling the truth?

    The reason I would have been suspicious of the guy in the scenario is that where I live, badge numbers indicate the year of hire, and order of hire in that year. For example, badge number 9525 would have been assigned to the 25th officer hired by the department in 1995.

    So when he said that his badge number was “2”, it set off alarms in my mind.

    Is the badge numbering system different in other places? Probably.

    By anonymous on Feb 28, 2014

  17. Tangentially, a badge doesn’t automatically mean a police officer. In my state, Probation Officers and Parole Officers are plainclothes and carry a badge (and are armed, depending on the county of employment (for probation; parole officers are all armed)).

    By Rob Colling on Feb 28, 2014

  18. That is probably the case here, too . . . but then, does it matter? Those are also people I don’t want to get into a gunfight with . . . on the other hand, I worked with a volunteer EMT who carried an EMT badge on a belt slide. Wore it on his belt when on call.

    “Yes, I’m aware of that, but what is the solution? Submit to anyone claiming to be a cop, and hope he’s telling the truth?”
    As a heuristic, that’s not bad. Statistically, it’ll probably pay off a LOT more often than not, and the odds of being able to detect a fake cop behind a badge while he’s pointing a gun at you don’t seem a) good or b) likely to be improved by trying to develop the skill of sniffing out fake cops.

    By Don Gwinn on Feb 28, 2014

  19. I was a participant and this was my first fof event. I think I was the fifth one to go. Granted there was a lot of anxiety and I was nervous and I think everyone before me shot the cop and or the girl so it was in my head that I would be shooting. Big mistake on my part. What was shocking to me was how quickly I had tunnel vision and I failed to see the whole picture. I did not quickly see the scissors in the girls hand until many seconds later. I failed to see the badge in the cops hand when he entered the room. Had he announced that he was a cop I may have acted differently. But he didn’t and in real life I would have made a grave mistake.
    Although there was a lot of valuable information given by many top notch instructors during this particular weekend I learned more in this scenerio than any other class I sat in and I learned a lot about myself. I will be training in a whole new way. Paper targets have their place in any training program but they can’t prepare you for a real life situation like fof can. You do not know how you will react until you are in a bad situation and this is as close to the real thing as you can get. Thankfully this was not for real and I am able to learn from it and seek the training I need. I want to give a big thank you to Craig Douglas for this experience. I do take this seriously and I will be seeking out more of your training.

    By Brian on Feb 28, 2014

  20. Here’s the thing ya’ll are missing.

    If you put your money on the fact that he’s a fake cop … and you’re wrong … you’re going to go to prison in addition to possibly being shot.

    If you put your money on the fact that he’s a fake cop … and you’re right … he already has the drop on you and you’re probably going to get shot.

    You are way behind the curve in a situation like this. Taking cover like Dave did and giving yourself time to think is probably the best option.

    If this happened in real life, and I was chasing after an armed suspect (chick with a knife) I would be and have been ready to use lethal force. When suddenly I get involved in a bigger problem, I am going to escalate my level of force because now I am dealing with a bigger problem. If and when my backup arrives, they too are going to come in full tilt to restore order.

    Dave will be able to talk things out later. He chose … wisely. I think a lot of people think that just because they have a hammer everything is a nail. Using your weapon really should be a last resort.

    By Aaron on Feb 28, 2014

  21. “he already has the drop on you and you’re probably going to get shot.”

    But that’s true of a lot of self-defense situations. Do we just give up because of that? Maybe. But in this case, Dave was behind cover, increasing his odds. And the “cop” has to divide his attention between two persons.

    There’s also two other parts of the decision matrix you left out:

    If you put your money on the fact that he’s a real cop … and you’re wrong … really bad things could happen to you. Really bad things.

    If you put your money on the fact that he’s a real cop … and you’re right … you (probably) won’t get shot or charged with some crime for complying.

    By anonymous on Mar 1, 2014

  22. Brian thank you for the kind words I appreciate them. I’m glad you found the experience beneficial and I enjoyed working with you.

    Aaron that’s a cogent observation and one of the reasons I coached Shane to act the way he did was to simulate a paunchy, frustrated, detective who just lost control of his detainee. That’s real life and actually I’ve seen alot of investigators get in trouble from solo transports and field contacts.

    On the false flag issue: It’s a possibility but in over 20 years on the job the only time I ever saw this was a crew of dopers knocking over other dopers. It’s certainly possible but not very probable when put into the context of victimizing regular people.

    Dave definitely had the most elegant solution of the group and his use of the environment gave him a time advantage that resulted in no one shot and no one going to jail who didn’t need to.

    By Craig Douglas on Mar 1, 2014

  23. I think what a lot of people are overlooking is that not only did the “officer” display a badge, but he behaved like a cop. When he first entered the room, he was focused on the woman and was issuing her verbal commands. If he was some psycho who was “trying to kill her”, which is what she was claiming, why wasn’t he shooting at her? If he was a criminal, why wasn’t he behaving as such? Looks like a cop + talks like a cop + walks like a cop + has a badge = cop

    By Ben C on Mar 1, 2014

  24. “You are way behind the curve in a situation like this.”

    Pete Shields advised his readers to respond to criminal aggression by writing that:

    “The best defense against injury is to put up no defense — give them what they want, or run.”

    It’s from his book Guns Don’t Die, People Do. At the time he wrote that, he was president of Handgun Control, Inc.

    I understand why the police mentality is that, if we’re minding our own business and some guy waving a badge claims to be a police officer, we’re supposed to submit to him and hope for the best. I find that unsatisfactory, for several reasons I won’t go into here. What’s the answer? I don’t know.

    By anonymous on Mar 2, 2014

  25. Anyone who has worked plain clothes and has had violent interactions with suspects should be well aware of the danger of doing things with just a badge in your hand. Everyone out there knows that tin badges are a dime a dozen and the badge does not make the man/woman. Any well trained officer would have announced himself “police, don’t move.” Then giving commands such as “When I tell you, step away from the post with your hands up.” “Step over to where she is at, then go to your knees.” Making short, easy to follow instructions would make things a lot easier than just yelling vulgarities as someone.

    The “cop” actor was giving some commands and didn’t just start shooting, immediately that was a clue. I’m not fond of cops using vulgarity to get compliance, it lowers your stature and raises questions of who you really are. And in most agencies will get you a complaint and discipline.

    The “cop” now has to watch the original suspect and now the secondary person not knowing what their part could be, so the “cop” is on high alert and any aggressive action would be met with force. The student did a good job keeping distance and concealment between them until he decided to comply.

    By KennyT on Mar 11, 2014

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