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Missed Shots - Frontline Debriefs (permalink)

A couple of months ago, one of my ITTS students was involved in a shooting. He had just attended a class and two weeks later was forced to put what he had learned to the test.

He is a sworn police officer and was pursuing an armed suspect. At the termination of the pursuit, the suspect engaged him in gunfire. The officer returned fire and the suspect was neutralized.

The officer’s very first shots had missed. He further expressed that when he realized he had missed, he settled down, fell back on what he had learned and then connected with the target. It was his first officer-involved shooting and the distances were beyond the norm. He was also somewhat upset that he had missed his first shots.

I told him that in fact he had accomplished quite a bit. When he realized that he had not connected (which can be somewhat unsettling), he refocused and then performed admirably. I went on to explain that this isn’t always easy when things go south in a critical situation. It was his presence of mind and calm demeanor that allowed him to bring the situation back under control.

In a very real sense, it took more resolve and presence of mind to rein himself in, rely on mechanics and perform successfully when he realized things were not going as well as he’d hoped. This is presence of mind.

I’ve had a number of students over the years express dismay that they missed any shots at all in the field. This is not an uncommon phenomenon. The mere fact that we are the good guys does not mean our rounds will always find their mark. Rounds cannot distinguish between malicious motive and good intent.

As I have written in the past, certain factors are beyond our control. Suspects move rapidly, they move erratically, and they can alter distances and angles in the blink of an eye. A host of other variables play into shootings as well, and are somewhat difficult to replicate in standard range settings. You are in essence being presented with a situation that you have never experienced before.

Twenty-twenty hindsight is nifty after the fact—which is why they call it hindsight and not foresight.

As a point of fact, each shooting is wholly unique unto itself. You have to solve a stressful and perhaps complex problem for the first time with little information upfront, and you are almost never afforded the latitude of a warm-up. Sure, you might miss shots, but the final outcome is what counts. In a perfect world, all shots would connect, all decisions would be on line, and everything you accomplished could not possibly be improved upon.

However, this is life, and life is as imperfect as we are. I am as proud of a student who missed, hung in there and prevailed as I am of a student who connected right out of the gate. Both have accomplished difficult tasks under demanding criteria and should be proud that they did what was right and prevailed.

Anyone can miss. Were I to tell you that I will never miss a single shot ever again, it would mean that I would never fire a single shot ever again!

In other words, you can’t beat yourself up over things you have no control of. To paraphrase, “It’s just war.” One might be dismayed with his personal performance in the field, but this is relatively minor in the grand scheme of things, especially if you prevail.

A shooter should critically examine what he has done—both right and wrong—after a real-world evolution. From this, lessons are drawn and improvements are made. This moves us forward progressively and raises the standards for performance in the future.

However, life is not always as we would like it to be. The fact that the officer was able to talk to me is satisfaction enough that he performed professionally in the field, and I am proud of him for that.

Scott Reitz is a 30-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department and the director of the highly acclaimed International Tactical Training Seminars. Course information and schedules are available at their website at http://www.internationaltactical.com Looki.ng Back, a free monthly newsletter, is available by email at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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