Key factors in fight survival

Finally got to read the March 2012 Rangemaster Newsletter.

There is an excellent article in there, “Survival in the Line of Duty”, written by Lt. Marlan J. Ingram of the Memphis Law Enforcement Unit . Lt. Ingram examines FBI data about officers killed or assaulted in the line of duty and examines common themes that run through successful cases (i.e. where the officer lives).

Here are the conclusions from the article:

  1. Take your training seriously.
  2. Don’t give up, don’t surrender – survive no matter what.
  3. If you are shot, keep fighting.
  4. Learn to shoot accurately under all conditions – even if your sight is compromised.
  5. Learn to shoot, reload and clear malfunctions with either hand, long-guns included.
  6. Carry your weapons and spare ammunition on your person, both on duty and off.
  7. Carry as much ammunition as you can.
  8. Once you make up your mind to fight, do so quickly and effectively.
  9. Never underestimate your opponent – always expect the unexpected.

Here’s my responses to each point.

1. Take your training seriously.

This cannot be stated strong enough. Why are you training? To fight? To win? To survive? To live? If so, why aren’t you training with that goal in mind?

I cut some slack to beginners, because at their stage they’re still feeling things out and trying to find their place. In KR Training curriculum terms, once you start coming to classes like Defensive Pistol Skills 1, you need to start taking things seriously. I don’t necessarily expect people to be that serious about it at the start of DPS1 class, but by the end I hope some realities have settled in and when the student comes back for DPS2 and DPS3, they’re of that more serious mindset. That these are skills towards keeping you alive… else why did you get that CHL and why are you carrying a gun?

It takes us all some time to find our “seriousness”. We don’t start out with it because we don’t know it and it’s not innate. But hopefully sooner or later something will kick in and help you not just take classes, but engage in serious training.

2. Don’t give up, don’t surrender – survive no matter what.
3. If you are shot, keep fighting.

I’m grouping #2 and #3 together because they are related. If the fight is on, keep fighting until the fight is over or you’re dead. You should never decide to die; sounds funny, but read the article and you’ll see that too much Hollywood has influenced people to think if I’m shot I’m dead and they truly give up and fall over and die. Don’t be That Guy. When you are dead, you’ll be dead — that’s a decision that will be made for you. So until that time, keep fighting.

One recent event? In this past Saturday’s AT-2 Force On Force Scenarios class, TXGunGeek and I were running the indoor segments. One of those segments discusses realities of building clearing. During the “fast clearing” practice I like to hide in a particular room in a particular location and play “bad guy ambush”. The goal of the scenario? You’re on this end of the house, your child is in the far room and screaming for you: get to the child, fast clearing along the way. And so then I shoot them… and they stop. Why? Why did they stop? Well, because we get so conditioned to being shot being the “end game”, whether from video games, movies, or just playing with our friends and learning that “tag, you’re it”. We have to break that mindset and continue to our goal.

Keep fighting.

4. Learn to shoot accurately under all conditions – even if your sight is compromised.

This is where you need to break out of static range training. That is, shooting at tin cans on the fence rail, or being a good range citizen and only shooting cardboard targets from 3 to 7 yards down your lane, slow fire, and so on.  This is why you need to seek out further training and ranges that can allow safe practice of drawing from a holster, movement, and other such things. Consider trying IDPA or IPSC competition, not that those are “tactical training” but they sure do let you shoot in non-standard ways.

But what really struck me about #4 was “even if your sight is compromised”.

I wear glasses and without them my vision isn’t that great. I need to try shooting without my glasses on and see how it goes. See what can I do. Find my skills, find my limits, find what I can work on.

It’s not just thinking about the middle of the night home break-in situation, which is real. But a more likely situation is that I just lose my glasses in the heat of the fight. I need to try this out.

5. Learn to shoot, reload and clear malfunctions with either hand, long-guns included.

Not much to elaborate on here. Speaks for itself.

But I will say to look into having a rear sight for your pistol that can hook on to something (belt, shoe, edge of table, etc.). Something like Dawson Precision’s Charger rear sight.

6. Carry your weapons and spare ammunition on your person, both on duty and off.
7. Carry as much ammunition as you can. 

You’d think this would be one that doesn’t need elaboration, but alas it does.

You cannot know when the flag is going to fly. If you are fortunate to have the ability to see in the future, I’d like to talk to you about some stock picks. But since most of us don’t have superpowers, you just have to carry your gun — always.

I hear of too many people who only want to carry if they know they’re going into a bad place. Uh… if you know it’s a questionable or bad place, why are you going there in the first place? And as well, what makes you think that “good places” are immune to bad things happening?

And yes, spare ammo. Sure, the statistics might say “3 shots”, but you know how Murphy’s Law works… you’ll be the anomaly. So do you want that 5 shot snub? or would you rather have a M&P9 wth 17+1? and a reload? I think the only time you can have too much ammo is when you’re swimming or on fire, but otherwise, who sits there and wishes to have less ammo on them? If that’s the case, just carry 1 .45 ACP bullet, because that’s all you need to put down a charging rhino, right?

Carry your gun. Carry a reload. Always.

8. Once you make up your mind to fight, do so quickly and effectively.

This means you have to learn how to fight. You have to discard useless techniques. You have to work on your skills, you have to work on your tactics. This means taking more training than just marksmanship stuff. Try Force-on-Force. I know it sounds scary and intimidating, but really it’s not. If anything, it’s sobering and helps you really get your head in the right place.

9. Never underestimate your opponent – always expect the unexpected.

Skip ahead to 1:58

I know I’m a big guy. I know I’m a strong guy. I know I’m fair-to-midland with a gun. I can get along in a fistfight.

But there’s always someone that’ll be bigger, stronger, faster, better. More clever, willing to fight more dirty, willing to care less about the law, willing to have lower standards of conduct and do things I’d be unwilling to do.. or may never think of doing.

And so this goes back to #8, that you have to be quick and effective, to get it over with as fast as possible.


Go read the whole article. It’s well worth your time.

4 thoughts on “Key factors in fight survival

  1. Some great points.

    There is plenty of time to be dead when you are in fact dead. I agree that too many people seem to think the situation ends as soon as they shoot the guy or get shoot. Taking a few close quarters classes, namely Southnarc’s ECQC, the scenarios didn’t end until the instructor said they did. This was both frustrating and enlightening to say the least.

    Too many people don’t take their training seriously. Too many people take that single class every year and don’t invest the dry-fire or range time to keep their skills up to date. Or just as bad they head to the range just to throw lead down range with no real purpose.

    • Yeah, SouthNarc keeps you going. I recall doing something with Ferrell and we just kept rolling, just kept fighting… Craig didn’t call it off for some time. It was killer. 🙂

      I’ll say this tho. Everyone has a different notion of what their training should be. And frankly, that’s fine. We all have different goals. I know some people love to shoot for no other reason than it’s an enjoyable pasttime, and that’s perfectly fine. What I think tho is that people need to keep their goals in line with their expectations. So if you expect to use a gun in a self-defense situation, you ought to gain instruction in that particular area and work on that. Just keep things in line. Liken it to anything in life… you can go swimming for recreation, but don’t think Michael Phelps won all those gold medals by just playing Marco Polo at the rec center pool every summer afternoon. If you want to play Marco Polo, great, just don’t expect to win any gold medals. And if you are gunning for the gold, don’t forget to stop and play Marco Polo every once in a while. 🙂

      Just know what you want, be clear on that goal, and seek what it takes to accomplish it.

  2. I always tell my students to carry what you shoot best and train every chance you get. I like to carry a smaller caliber, because I like having more rounds. They disappear quickly when someone is shooting back.

    • By “smaller caliber” I assume you mean say 9mm over .45 ACP? I’d agree with that, since the generally recognized effective self-defense calibers: 9mm Luger, .40 S&W, .45 ACP, they all suck about the same, so why not carry 9 which gives greater capacity… because more rounds is good. You cannot know what your situation may call for, and when you look at statistics like say Tom Givens’ almost 60 students and how the number of shots fired in those indicents ranged from 1 to 11 well… 11. Compare that number against what a lot of magazines hold, and who is to say your situation wouldn’t increase those statistics?

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