Tactical Tip Of The Week
Grand Master Louis M. Chiodo
Welcome back to those who have been reading the “Tactical Tip Of The Week”. For those who are new to these postings, you can find the previous postings in my website, www.gunfightersltd.com or in my Face Book page, Gunfighters Ltd. Combat Shooting Methods Inc. I sincerely hope you can benefit from the information in these postings.
In this article, I want to explore the issue of “scanning”. Let’s examine this in the context of the period of time immediately after the combat shooting has happened and the suspect has been hit and his/her actions have been stopped. This usually means the suspect has been shot to the ground at a given distance from us and no further engagement of the suspect is necessary. The fight with this suspect is over.
Over the years, I have read many articles and listened to many people discussing this issue. Some of what I read and heard made sense while some of it could potentially be dangerous to the person following the advice. What I want to do in this article is get our heads and bodies OFF THE RANGE and into the time IMMEDIATELY following a VIOLENT FIGHT with someone who just attempted to murder us. I am not going to approach this issue of “scanning” from the standpoint of a “range drill”. So when you read the article, please refer back to this paragraph if what is written seems to go against the standard way this issue of “scanning” is taught and practiced on the range and in other training evolutions.
I must first discuss some thoughts about range training itself. In my view, the range is a place where we can develop skills that are critical to our overall use of our firearms as a defensive tool. Under live fire conditions on the range, we can verify that our “fighting platform” (every part of our body from the ground to the top of our head) is developing our ability to help control our firearm. Also, we can verify under live fire conditions that we can coordinate shooting while moving with combat accuracy. In addition, the proper use of cover can be taught and practiced, reloading skills developed, clearing stoppages and all the basic safe gun-handling skills can be practiced. Range training under live fire conditions is an essential part of the overall training needed to be proficient with any of the firearms we use for self-defense. As I develop this article, please understand that what I have written in this paragraph is very important to the overall message that I will be trying to convey to you. Yes, THE RANGE IS A CRITICAL ELEMENT IN OUR OVERALL TRAINING PROGRAM.
In relation to the issue of “scanning” I want to spend some time developing the concept of training methodology to better understand how the process of “scanning” should be ingrained into our post combat shooting responses. I will develop this training model with you and then apply it to the process of “Scanning”.
When teaching defensive tactics, there is a sequence of training that is followed to help the trainee systematically learn and then develop skill with the material presented. It starts at the very basics of fighting platform (Stance/body positioning), the way to deliver a particular strike at low speed gradually building up the speed of the strike. Then the trainee is introduced to striking a heavy bag or similar training aid to ensure they are striking properly so they don’t injure their hand or foot. Then we drill the trainee using a training partner to learn how to adjust for distance, target the specific point where the strike needs to be delivered and gradually build up speed in these drills. The next step is to allow the training partner to more aggressively interact with the trainee. This allows the trainee to get used to the additional challenges of everything being more dynamic. The next step is to have the training partner in appropriate protective gear present a very aggressive challenge to the trainee by attacking in real time speed.
What was described above is a “training methodology”. It is a way of training to ingrain proper responses in a dynamic environment. It begins at the most simple of points in the process ending with as close to reality as we can make it in training. Now let’s apply a “training methodology” to the issue of scanning.
As stated earlier, the range is an integral part of our training program. The problem is the range cannot account for everything we need to do to ingrain proper responses in a trainee. The range is the place where we learn to control our firearms during live fire. It is where we develop skill with the numerous elements of combat shooting. It is like the “heavy bag” in defensive tactics training. It is the place we go to hone specific skills. The thing we can’t do on the range is fight another person(s). Here is how I have seen “scanning” taught and integrated into training in numerous venues and training programs throughout the country:
The trainee gets on line, is told what the firing sequence is going to be, the start signal is given and the trainee engages the paper and cardboard target or steel plate with the given drill. The shooter is stationary during this sequence. Upon completion of the drill the trainee has been instructed to “scan the area” in order to determine if there are more threats in the area and try to regain situational awareness.
Here is where it gets murky. First, we are teaching someone to stand still during a close-quarters engagement (read the last article about movement if you haven’t already for more info about why this is unsound). So the trainee has remained stationary during the drill/fight and then told to stand there in the open and “scan”. I have observed the “scanning” done in one of two ways. Either the trainee waves his firearm from side to side following the muzzle with his/her eyes or the muzzle is stationary in the direction of the suspect that was just shot and the eyes and head are moved from side to side and, at times, completely behind each shoulder in order to attempt to scan the “360 degree” area surrounding the trainee. This process is all done while OUT IN THE OPEN AND STATIONARY.
Before going further, I want to make it emphatically clear. Is “scanning” something important to do? OF COURSE IT IS!! BUT, it has to be done in a tactically sound way that minimizes us as a target IF a secondary threat is present or the downed suspect attempts to continue to fight from the ground.
Referring back to the issue of programming or ingraining responses into trainees during training, let’s briefly analyze the “scanning” process I illustrated above:
- The trainee is stationary
- The threat is engaged per the specific drill
- The trainee will either keep the muzzle in the direction of the “threat” – a paper of cardboard target or steel plate- and then move their eyes and head attempting to “scan” the “360” around them.
- The other option is the muzzle will follow the eyes while “scanning” the “360” around them
Now we have to ask what we have just taught the trainee:
- Stand still in a close-quarters fight
- Don’t move to cover as you are engaging the threat (again read the previous article about movement for more perspective on this issue)
- Stand out in the open and cover the suspect after engaging the suspect in a stationary position
- Then the trainee is allowed to stay in the open and use one of the methods described above to “scan for an additional threat from an exposed, stationary position
I have a few quick points to make:
- What happens when you are stationary, exposed out in the open and just engaged a suspect, shot the suspect to the ground and there is a secondary threat in the immediate area?
- Is the secondary threat (if present) going to wait for you to shoot the suspect to the ground and/or wait for you to pick up on them via your “scanning” before opening fire on you?
- Would you rather “scan” from behind cover or exposed out in the open?
- What happens when your eyes and/or muzzle or both are pointing in a different direction from where the secondary threat is located? Are you going to even pick up on the secondary threat?
I remind you that we are discussing events that begin in close-quarters with the suspect and initially you are out in the open.
So what can be done to program or ingrain a way to “scan” (which is a critical phase of an incident) that can decrease our vulnerability to getting shot by the first threat if he/she is on the ground but not completely out of the fight? And if there is a secondary threat, decrease our vulnerability to getting shot by the secondary threat if present? The answer is MOVEMENT! This movement needs to be towards the nearest cover available. Now here is where the scanning part of the engagement comes into play. Once at cover, any scanning and assessment of what is going on with the first threat engaged can be accomplished from a position that offers more protection than standing stationary out in the open. Also, the “scanning for additional threats, if either undetected or actively engaging you (you may not realize they are actually shooting at you due to your focus on the first threat) can be accomplished from this position.
So how do we program or ingrain a more efficient and tactically sound way of doing this critical phase of the incident – “scanning?
It’s simple. On the range, place cover nearby the trainee. If you are practicing close-quarters engagements, first instruct the trainee with an appropriate methodology to use in close-quarters engagements, and then teach them how to integrate it into movement. Once that is accomplished. then you can instruct the trainee to move to cover while engaging the threat and then once there, do their “scanning” from a position of cover. As I said –SIMPLE! Make this immediate action to a close-quarters threat part of their sub-conscious processing and it will be programmed into them the same way as in the martial arts we program a student to use movement to avoid getting hit.
Another outstanding way to teach this principle of shooting while moving to cover and then “scanning” from cover is to do the training in a force-on force environment. We can work the trainee through specific drills with a role player using airsoft or other gear available to project “rounds” at each other. We can introduce a second role player to actually be there and have the ability to engage the trainee to teach how important it is to get to cover and scan from cover. Once again, it’s SIMPLE!
Once the above is accomplished and trained, then you can add reloading to “top off” the handgun once no further threat is encountered or engaged. Then add communicating into the drill. So the process is as follows:
- Shooting and movement to cover then,
- Initially cover the downed suspect in case there is need for reengagement of the initial threat
- “Scan” for additional threats and if necessary, engage additional threats from cover, not out in the open
- Reload once the scenario doesn’t present any further threats or reload, of course, anytime the handgun is run dry and then
- Communicate what has just happened either to a dispatch center or call 911 if you are off-duty or a civilian involved on an incident.
“Scanning” after engaging the initial threat is essential. The way we train to scan IS the issue. If all we are doing in training is waving a muzzle or head side to side or looking behind us while out in the open, we are programming a process that can be extremely dangerous to do in an actually incident. Remember, the range isn’t combat. Programming a method or tactic devoid of reality can lead to failure in combat. Use the range for the great things that can be accomplished in that environment. However, provide a training environment that allows for a realistic way to practice scanning so that the trainee doesn’t default to a way to scan that exposes them to the danger of remaining stationary out in the open.
Thank you for taking the time to read this article. I hope it has generated thought about how we are teaching “scanning”. Be safe.
Louis M. Chiodo