FRONTLINE DEBRIEFS:
Common-Sense Tactics

I’ve been in the game for a few weeks now. I’ve fired some guns. I’ve seen my share of theories and techniques. Some have e-mailed me videos of some rather interesting, if not perplexing, techniques espoused by individuals of the “If I told you, I’d have to kill you” persuasion. Fascinating.

Now I embrace something that seems to fast be going out of vogue—common sense. As I was reared up in the old-school technique of parenting, common sense and the application thereof were what enabled some of us to survive and others to perish. My mom: “Well, what did you think was going to happen?” My father: “What were you thinking?”

This went a long way toward developing the ability (which is in a constant state of refinement) to observe something, determine the fail points and, with every bit of judicious dispatch mustered, attempt to avoid said fail points. In short, observe, determine validity, and either act or avoid.

Enter the modern age of digital media, wherein everyone, regardless of background or experience, weighs in on all manner of subjects, be it underwater basket weaving or orbital mechanics for Mars missions. And so it goes with deadly force techniques and tactics.

In the past decade, I have observed a plethora of absolutely hare-brained, beyond-absurd techniques, most of which are a sure-fire recipe for disaster, if not as outright dangerous to the applier as to the intended recipient.

For example: have the person you’re protecting bend over, then position yourself behind them and utilize the area between their neck and shoulder as a barricaded support for your pistol mid-point in a gunfight. Cool! How’s that?

There’s also the, “Check behind every degree on the compass” after each and every shot is fired tactic. I’ll go along with this to a degree, but the vast majority of the time, you will be dealing with a single opponent. Unless one is forward deployed in military units, your most probable opponents will be of the criminal persuasion, and the vast majority of these ne’er-do-wells operate on a singular basis. If there are multiple opponents, I would rationally assume one might be aware of this factor as well.

Taken to the extreme, this “check-six” routine devolves into spinning around 360 degrees covering everything in sight with whatever weapons platform our ersatz gunfighter can possibly cover. In other words, fair citizens, “duck and cover.”

A rather simple formula exists for such potential events. If you believe you need to check about you, then do so but ensure you are actually observing what it is you are checking. A rapid glance to either side and behind and stepping to one side or the other after each and every shot or evolution ensures neck issues down the road. But if you want to continue down this path, by all means do so.

If you don’t feel the pressing need to check all angles because you and one bad guy are smack-dab in the middle of the Mojave Desert, remain focused on him to ensure all is well. See? Common sense.

I have run my fair share of live-fire shoot-house evolutions with all manner of units. Unless one can physically defy gravity, there are only so many methods one can utilize to enter a room or clear a threshold. Unless one can truly and physically “run the walls,” your little feet will remain affixed to terra firma. As such is the case, we are all relegated to employing common-sense techniques to move from point A to point B.

Simply because something is “newer” does not necessarily mean it is “better.” Spin and marketing, and smoke and mirrors are all the rage these days. If you can find a rounder tire for my car, I’ll take it, but it seems it’s as round as it’s going to be. I’m as much for new-fangled ideas and neat and shiny objects as the next person, but only when they pass the common-sense test.

I am a bit intimate with one police department in particular, and they constantly strive to change things up. Sometimes this is beneficial and sometimes it is not. Sometimes they retain the same method and simply label it with different terminology to impress the “higher-ups” with their grasp of the latest law enforcement lexicon.

For example, RHD/OIS was Robbery Homicide Division/Officer Involved Shooting (my era), which then evolved into CIID or Critical Incident Investigative Division, which then further evolved into FID or Force Investigative Division. See? “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” (Shakespeare).

When training, I seek to impart that which is common sense driven based on experience, as opposed to pure conjecture. This seems to work well. I have lost count of how many who have employed our techniques have stated, “Hey, it was just as you said it would be.”

In my day, we were taught in the Academy that all suspects shot high and right and therefore, each time we drew our trusty four-inch revolvers, we were to drop low and left. How and why this philosophy came about is mired in ancient mystery, but that was the way it was, plain and simple.

I questioned this rather skewed logic at the time, yet never openly voiced my skepticism, as this would only ensure swift retribution in the form of my partner performing the official, departmentally approved “carotid hold” and, well, good night, sweet prince!

So there you have it. Employ common sense and question that which seems irrational. Perhaps some form or semblance of order can then be restored. Unless you can defy gravity, you are pretty much earth bound.

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.

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