Technology oftentimes drives an advancement of tactics and application of weapons platforms. One of the most innovative sighting systems I have ever read about was once employed by a U.S. Border Patrol agent in the 1930’s or 1940’s. While engaging individuals of a criminal bent on the border, he realized that the forward end of the shotgun did not provide any practical sighting system of note. Being the forward thinking individual that he was, he resolved the issue by affixing a white bandanna to the end of the shotgun barrel with an upright “bunny ear” knot which was readily observable in the dark hours among the cane brakes and scrub brush bordering the Rio Bravo River. This seemed to resolve the problem quite readily. (This innovative sighting kit can be purchased through any clothing store purveying ascots or bandannas and such.)
The Red Dot, RMR or Reflex pistol sights are becoming more prevalent both on firing ranges and in field deployment. The LAPD is in the process of equipping all incoming Officers with pistols fitted with red dot sight systems.
I am not going to go into all of the details behind the technology of this system, nor the different options that are available. There are plenty of articles out there on that. Rather, assuming one has chosen a quality option (meaning not made oversees and costing $100), I am solely interested in sharing my thoughts on the practical application and what it means for someone who intends to train and potentially defend their life with one whether they be a LEO/MIL professional or civilian.
First and foremost, a red dot sight system will not correct for an improper trigger press or the absence of “follow through.” It will not correct for improper decision making in critical scenarios. It will not discern between a viable or non-viable threat. It is simply an aiming device.
My first rifle was given to me by my father after I had been on the Fort Meade Junior rifle team for about a year. It was a Winchester model 56 in .22 Long Rifle. I still have it (pictured below). This was when I was 12.
My father and I would drive from Bowie Maryland to Fort Meade in the evening through the guard gates and proceed to the curved metal roofed Quonset huts prevalent on all military bases at the time. Prior to firing a single shot, I and other youngsters of my age, sat through lectures provided by Army personnel on safety, marksmanship principles and the operation of the bolt action .22 Long Rifle. If I recall correctly, there were about 2 or 3 of these sessions along with written tests before we could even go “hands-on” the rifles.
Cold weather will cause certain body parts to work more slowly than usual so…I would advise that you keep this in mind when you try to go to speed as you would on a balmy sunny day when in fact, it’s really 27 degrees and overcast.
Indiana training was in December and it was cooold…at least for me. The flight attendant’s (in the old days these were stewardesses and they weren’t 80 plus years) had to pull me off the plane as I was kicking and shouting, “I’m not going…I’m not going!” Kind of like an outtake from the scene in Apocalypse Now. The interesting thing is that in order to survive in even colder weather, there is no running about on the range in shorts, a tank top and Tiva sandals. Nope. If you want to get to your gun you’ll have to work through gloves, layers of clothes and whatever else it may be that shields you from the weather. This not altogether an insignificant fact and it should never go unnoticed. Attempting to go to the same speed in cold weather that you can pull off time and again in warm weather, may not prove to be as effective as you thought it might be. Trigger presses may take longer and the simple manipulative actions one takes for granted may be fumbled when frozen fingers do not respond well to mental commands. Just be aware of this.
Many years ago I was afforded the opportunity to train with Blue team of SEAL Team 6 (Now Dev Group) in Kentucky. Now only two of us (Greg Horton and myself) went back there for three weeks in the field with these guys. It was something else, believe me. Their idea of fun – is far different than my idea of fun – so here’s one of the many ‘fun’ evolutions that we gleefully participated in.
It was in November in Kentucky mind you and since frogs do all things at night this evolution was to be no exception to this unwritten frog rule. We were to conduct an ambush deep in the woods after having been inserted by Blackhawks shortly after nightfall. We moved in and set down without a sound and of course we went to ground right in the middle of a slow running stream about two inches deep and began waiting. In about twenty minutes I couldn’t feel most of my body parts so I just concentrated on the fact that soon, this would be over. In about two hours, my lips felt like they were injected full of Novocain and my eyeballs were actually shivering. In about fours hours I had no real concentrated thoughts at all and the only relief that ever came was when you had to relieve yourself without moving and of course that particular warmth only lasts about five to ten seconds at most but at least you knew that your insides were still warm. It was somewhere around dawn that we finally launched the ambush and then had to move like hell for several miles to extraction. In the first five minutes of movement nothing on me seemed to work. Not my legs, my feet, my arms, my hands…nothing. Everything was stiff from the running water and the cold of the night and the complete absence of any physical motion. We looked like flailing apes tanked up on torpedo juice for the first few hundred meters. I learned one thing that night and that – was that these guys…are real hard core, they operate in a totally different world, and that their sense of fun is much different than mine.
I recently was invited by the LAPD firearms training unit to participate in a focus study group with the goal of improving LAPD’s existing firearms qualification course. In addition to myself, four former SWAT officers that I worked with also participated in the meeting. The history among all of us is amazing (but that’s a story for another time). Collectively, were instrumental years ago in ushering in the modern gunfighting techniques, which proved to greatly improve LAPD’s existing firearms program. We were all thrilled and honored to be invited to take part in this effort.
The current LAPD qualification course is a 30 round course of fire with set times distances, staging of the pistol, courses of fire and standard LAPD silhouette. As far as I can tell this course of fire is the same that I conducted in 1976 and it certainly extended on well before my time. In other words, this course of fire is entirely predictable. It has been conducted multiple times and is guided by continual range commands via a loudspeaker.
Some of you may have heard about a firearms mishap at a Riverside range a few weeks ago during a concealed carry class. Apparently the civilian instructor shot a student in the leg. This was what we consider to be a negligent incident and not an ‘accident’ as reported. Why do we characterize it as such? Because something like that should never happen and if it does, it is indeed negligence.
As many of you know, we have been training for 30 years and have never had such an occurrence. Safety is, and always should be, the number one issue. Drawing from a concealed carry position can be tricky and that’s why a student must attend Handgun I and Handgun II in order to qualify for our concealed carry class. http://internationaltactical.com/concealedcarry.html Brand new shooters should not be drawing from a concealed position and instructors have no excuse for shooting students in the leg, even if they are extremely annoying individuals.
I recently had a long conversation with a fellow SWAT officer who retired some years ago. We discussed life after the LAPD and our retirements.
Now there are retirements and there are retirements. Some individuals are immensely popular with their colleagues and the event is commensurate with such respect and esteem. Others could be held in a telephone booth with room to spare. I have known of both and have always eschewed the telephone booth retirement. I mean what’s the point?
With the really memorable retirements there is an aspect of hilarity, irreverence and unexpected revelations, which come as a surprise to no one in the law enforcement community but are nothing short of shocking to immediate family members and friends. When a speaker (this occurs in the really, really good one’s where there are many speakers) elicits an audible gasp from the wife or kids or mother and father of the retiree…you know you’re in for a good party.
The food served at most retirements is comprised of rubber steak, rubber chicken, and some sort of sea creature, which to this very day remains an oceanic, saline mystery. A basic roll, some generic salad of tossed lawn clippings finished with some overly sweetened cake usually tops off the affair. After that if the retiree is still surviving those that feel obliged to remain will do so for many hours uncorking even more salacious details and so on.
Now there are always the perfunctory plaques, City Proclamations and awards that are presented by numerous individuals to the honoree. These are always good for the “I love me” wall. The real good ones however, are inventive and one-of-a-kind awards, which have never and will never be replicated. I’ve got some of those and they are very treasured. Some have language inscribed upon them that is not even fitting for a drunken sailor on leave in Hong Kong. A very special one I received was that of a stripped down LAPD black and white vehicle door. On it, everyone who attended was able to inscribe any comment they wished to. The day after, I read the comments and they cover the gamut from respectful, to downright offensive, which of course, are always, always the best ones! The door hangs in our office to this day.
(Reprinted from 2018 Frontline Debriefs – SWAT Magazine)
(Note: The majority of our instructors are full time SWAT officers- most from LAPD SWAT. This past weekend, one of our students asked me what functions SWAT performs and how it differs from patrol. Here is an article I wrote last year for SWAT magazine.)
Many years ago a great friend of mine, Ray Coffman of Albuquerque New Mexico, made the prescient comment that our reliance on SWAT would be omnipresent. In other words, that past evolutions, which normal field grade officers might have addressed in the past, would automatically be placed into the purview of SWAT. Ray was an instructor for the Department of Energy and a group of us from LAPD SWAT would instruct the 10 day hostage rescue course on the Sandia Military Base grounds in Albuquerque under his direction. The program was centered around the security of special nuclear materials.
Fast forward to 2018 and his prediction has come to fruition. Having worked on shooting cases as an expert deadly force witness in both Federal and Superior Courts, the case is being made more frequently that SWAT should have been employed on, “such and such” an incident. In some situations this is a cogent argument while in others – not so much.
Young Officers often find it amusing when I tell them of the LAPD Academy back many years ago when I came on the department and what was expected of you. So with this thought in mind I thought I’d take you down memory lane to November 22, 1976. Today the LAPD and many departments have a hard time finding recruits to fill their ranks, but back in 1976 this was not the case… not by a long shot!
Thousands of applicants had applied for positions on the Department that year and from these numbers, only 2500 were actively processed. From this applicant pool they took less than a hundred of us. Since you didn’t want to screw this up after all the hand wringing and pressure, you did everything by the numbers. The roll call was at 0500 hours at the Academy grounds in the gymnasium in a suit and tie and sporting a very, very short haircut. Almost all of us were there in the parking lot at 0300 staring at one another from inside our personal vehicles.
Years ago when I was still on LAPD, a hostage situation developed in a large metropolitan city. The suspect held the hostage in the typical configuration of a controlling arm about the neck of the victim while positioning himself behind the victim with a large knife pressed against her neck. Field Officer’s had responded and positioned themselves about the suspect and victim. While other events occurred surrounding this incident, a decision was made at some point, to engage the suspect. The Officer’s fired a number of rounds simultaneously, resulting in the demise of both the suspect and victim.
Brett and I and two of our sons were in Europe this year combining training and vacation. During a break we spent two days in Normandy, France. It was a humbling experience. The day we visited Omaha Beach the sky was overcast and the wind was churning the ocean waves. The tide was low as well and the waters edge was all the way out to exactly where it was when the Allied Expeditionary Forces landed on that fateful day June 6, 1944. I stood at the waters edge and looked back from the sea to the green hills and cliffs that stretch from one end of the horizon to the other. There were few people in either direction. There are no billboards, no souvenir stands, no carnivals and no development, save a hotel and a lifeguard station that rents out beach-sailor’s that fly up and down the vast sands on three wheels.
From the waters edge to the first small sand berm that could be used as any kind of protection from incoming fire is easily 300 yards. The beach itself is very level and the sand is fine and clean. There is a continual row of water-smoothed pebbles that is just before the berm and it measures about twenty to thirty feet wide on average. This sand berm and this fragile ribbon of pebbles were all that the soldiers had to cling onto when they hit the beach assuming that they could ever reach them. They were young men, nineteen years on average. They were armed with gear that by today’s standards would seem antiquated. Canvas, wool, brass fasteners and wood stocked rifles were all that they had. They were of a generation that did what was asked of them with few questions and little fanfare.