Here’s the scene: OIF in Northern Iraq. Vehicle stopped by a “message” from an OH58 (smoke rocket impact in front of the vehicle). because it appeared they were trying to set off a cell phone initiated IED on the American vehicle patrol (Duke system was indicating signal in the area). Six Iraqi’s exit the vehicle (a Toyota sedan), and are being searched. One man searching personnel, One man pulling near security. One man supervising the search. All the Iraqi men have been asked for ID’s (which they produced), all the men had been asked if they had weapons, to which they all said “No.”.
Is this guy a threat?
In the midst of the “Search” guy doing his thing, “Security” yells “He’s got a gun!” (directed towards a man who hadn’t been searched yet), at which time “In Charge” guy (approximately 5 feet from the armed person in question) throw his rifle to his shoulder (from low ready) while flipping off the safety, and in the midst of taking up the slack in the trigger, notices two things. One, he can’t see the guy’s right hand (no weapon pointed at anyone…yet), and two, the guy looks scared shitless. In that moment, “In Charge” makes a decision to flip the safety back on, and hit the Iraqi in the sternum with the muzzle of his rifle knocking him to the ground, at which point he then secures the Iraqi “bad guy”, and disarms him of his Glock 19. Was the guy who took action wrong for not shooting someone who gave indications of being a threat? Maybe. What would you have done?
I hear a lot of talk about speed draws, buzzer to shot times with a rifle in fractions of a second. and split times that would make Jerry Mikulek look like an arthritic geriatric. The accuracy crowd is just as bad, claiming the need for sub MOA groups, or you’re not at “Operator” level (should we care about that?). Here’s a question. In the Accuracy, Speed, and Target ID tripod, what is the most important leg? Training to be accurate is great and necessary, simply due to the fact that “minute of angle’ training in good conditions, will translate to “minute of bad guy” performance under bad conditions. Training to be fast, especially with a handgun, is also important (up close and personal requires speed more than accuracy), and being able to run your gun fast, whether a rifle or pistol, will again translate to acceptable “second nature” performance when shit has gone airborne.
So tell me, what are you doing for your “target discrimination” training? Are you like most groups or trainers I’ve seen, who throw a “Don’t shoot” target in at the end of a course of fire, just to see if you’re paying attention, and to say, “Look, we make you think, right?”. What are you training for? Is it for a “Battle Royale with Gov forces? (I know, I know, you’re all “Grunts” right?) Is it to be an extra in the next “Mad Max” sequel gone “reality”? Is it for hard times in CONUS where the majority of the people out there will be innocents just trying to get through another day? Most people I talk to are Survivalists, and are concerned and preparing for situations that are similar to “One Second After”, what happened in Argentina in 2001, or what Selco talks about here. If this is what your training is geared towards, shouldn’t your weapons training reflect what you will probably run into?
Most would agree that especially in the initial phases of any of these scenarios, 90-95% (hopefully 99%) of the people you will deal with on a daily basis are not bad guys. Obviously, this is not necessarily true in certain urban enclaves, but for the most part, although you should be cautious when approaching anyone except those already known to you, the large majority are not a threat. When training for the reality you feel you’re going to face, why would you only use one “Don’t shoot” target, in a group of ten. When more than likely, you will only have one or two “Shoot” targets (out of 10 or more) in reality. Muscle memory is a bitch, and if you primary training concern is accuracy and speed, and you only give a cursory overview to the importance of IDing the target, you will shoot an innocent before you’ve even thought to actually ID them, just because a certain “threat trigger” (like ” He’s got a GUN”) was initiated.
How fast can you ID a real threat? What are the signs? Because they’re armed? So are you. Because they seem jumpy? So are you, right? What would you do if you were out on a “Presence Patrol” of your area, and another patrol was coming up the trail towards you? Would you automatically throw up your weapon and demand they drop theirs? Have you thought that scenario through? Pointing your weapon at someone is an implied threat, correct? What other courses of action do you have? How’s about getting behind cover and communicating to those you’ve seen, asking who they are. and why they’re there.
One type of scenario I use in my classes during patrols is the “don’t shoot” guy. An armed guy (one of the MDT OpFor) runs across the trail in front of the patrol. Usually the patrol lights him up (blanks), so at that point we take an admin break, and conduct a “hotwash” AAR (quick on the spot after action review). I ask “Why did you shoot that guy?”. “Well…. he was armed.” is the normal response. To that I say “So are you.” Upon reflection, the students realize “Holy Cow, he’s right.”
I teach students to always be looking for the next available cover while on patrol, and that way, if they have a situation like this (THIS IS NOT THE SAME AS “REACT TO AMBUSH”!) they seek cover, and loudly communicate with those they feel could be a threat. Who knows, you might meet some kindred spirits in that situation. So back to the question “How fast can you ID a real threat?” I guarantee that your ability to ID a threat (unless they are shooting at you) is slower than the speed and accuracy response you can acquire with good training. So when you think about it, what good does that “light” speed, and “laser” accuracy do for you in a real world SHTF scenario? It is great as long as you keep it in perspective, and don’t forget the most important part of training should be target identification. Fast and accurate is still important, but not useful until after you’ve identified that it is a threat.
Things to look for: 1) Train yourself to always look at the hands. Their face can’t hurt you (well, most can’t LOL), but the hands are what holds the weapons that will kill you. 2) If you can’t see the hands, or a hand, look at their facial expression. It’s not hard to tell if someone is scared shitless (not that that means they aren’t a threat) by their facial expression, but usually, it is an indicator that if you appear less threatening (not pointing your weapon at them), it might deescalate the situation (regardless, on a patrol, you should take cover). 3) If they are holding a long gun, what position is it in? “Low ready”, “High Port Arms”, pointed at you? If it’s Low Ready, or High Port Arms, and stays that way, they haven’t become a threat yet (that’s how you should be carrying your weapon, right?), but if it’s pointed at you, it could be a threat, or it might not, and as said earlier, take cover.
What’s the point of this post? The point is that you should realistically evaluate your training scenarios, and make them reflect as closely as possible the situations you are preparing for and think are most likely. Making 8 out of 10 targets, “Don’t shoot” targets, might not be as fun as “getting your gun off” to ten to one “shoot” targets, but it’s not supposed to be fun, it’s supposed to be important. Training is about being prepared for “When” you have to use it, not “If” you’ll have to use it (that’s the proper mindset). “Train Hard, Train Right, Train realistically.” Anything else is just playing “Modern Warfare 3” in a fantasy camp.
By the way, the earlier story about the Soldiers and the Iraqi with the Glock. He was an undercover Iraqi cop, and was trying to catch guys who were setting off IED’s on American troops, and had gotten into their ring and was preparing to stop them when the .mil stop happened. He didn’t want to be ID’ed as a cop, and that’s why he didn’t tell the patrol Leader (Me) when asked. Think about that one after you already had said to yourself “I’d have shot that guy!”
"Parata Vivere"- Live Prepared.