Frontline Debriefs: Bad Advice

Bad advice is replete throughout the shooting industry. I caution individuals not to adhere to advice rendered by those not qualified to do so.

This would seem to follow along the lines of common sense in just about any profession one could envision. Yet it does not seem to be the case when it comes to tactics, shooting techniques and, more importantly, the application of deadly force itself.

I have been in this game for some time now. I have seen many off-line techniques and listened to even more off-line philosophies. If one does not possess a certain degree of humor, life is indeed a more difficult proposition to get through, which is why my sense of humor is now a bit more refined with experienced seasoning.

As an example: I have observed other training wherein entire magazines are emptied one after another into a target at incredible speeds. If this is conducted in order to peg one’s “fun meter” with no apparent objective other than to play live-fire video games, I couldn’t care less.

If, on the other hand, it is conducted with the attendant instruction that this is the “real world,” then you’re in for a rather rude awakening. You are accountable for each and every round you discharge, irrespective of your background as military, law enforcement, private security or citizen. This will become increasingly more apparent in the not-so-distant future—trust me.

I warn against listening to advice rendered on the subject of deadly force unless that individual is a verifiable expert on the subject and preferably one who is court qualified. Many “court qualified” experts are nothing more than paper tigers and come from rather dubious pasts, though a handful out there are the real thing.

Here’s a good one: “An instructor told me to change out the barrel after a shooting.” Really? If this does not smack of collusion, cover-up and outright deceit, I don’t know what does. Total stupidity.

Another great one: Move the body back inside. Again, total and supreme stupidity.

Yet another example in states that regulate magazine capacity and bullet buttons: Change out an illegal device before the police arrive. Again this follows under the “fruit of the poison tree” doctrine. If there is one bit of disingenuous fact, then whatever follows can be expected to be disingenuous as well.

A basic certificate does not render instant validity to instruct hostage rescue and high-end evolutions, and yet this is precisely what has happened in the industry. “In one half day, we’ll teach you everything you need to know, and you’ll be going into a live-fire shoot house with other [equally oblivious] students who have never fired a gun before.”

I won’t even begin to address the level of incompetency of this statement. The current state of affairs is distressing because many individuals buy into whatever is posted on a website. My own website is constantly being copied—almost word for word in some cases. (Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I suppose.)

In the past, people had to “make their bones” before they even dared to instruct, let alone run dangerous evolutions or dispense advice on which lives and careers hinged. You had to prove yourself again and again over a protracted period of time before others would even begin to listen to you. This has changed for the worse, not the better, in my opinion.

A good rule of thumb is to conduct due diligence when seeking advice or instruction. Check the credentials and make the calls. Deadly force application is anything but a game or an evolution that you can manipulate.

The process for investigating and examining a shooting has evolved far beyond that which existed over two decades ago. The scientific process has radically changed. The comprehension of all aspects of deadly force, whether it be the psychology, physiology or applied mechanics, has been significantly upgraded.

Our ability to faithfully and accurately reconstruct the events and present them within a judicial format has become more refined than ever before. There will always be exceptions depending on who is driving the train, yet by and large these factors hold true.

Imagine pilots, surgeons or trial lawyers with a single flight, operation or trial under their belts instructing in the very field they have just entered. You cannot buy experience. It must be earned.

Common sense will always be common sense. Newest and latest are not always the best. There are only so many ways one can go through the door unless gravity itself is defied. (I’m anxiously awaiting this one.)

Sound advice is derived from individuals who have spent years perfecting their expertise in the field. Bad advice will always remain just that.

Scott Reitz is a 30-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department and director of the highly acclaimed International Tactical Training Seminars. Course information and schedules are available at their website at www.internationaltactical.com. Looking Back, a free monthly newsletter, is available by email at itts@gte.net.

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