This article has been out floating around for a while but the topic came up recently and was a good time to bring this back into circulation.
STAND, MOVE, OR SEEK COVER…WHAT WORKS IN A GUNFIGHT
By: Greg Elefritz
As the full-time training officer and firearms instructor for my police department, I often have the opportunity to attend firearms training sessions from some of the best trainers in the world. I have noticed that most of these trainers teach students to shoot their firearms while moving, with the premise being that a student is less likely to be struck by incoming fire if he/she is a moving target. In addition to “shooting on the move”, almost all trainers advocate moving to cover in a gunfight, if said cover is nearby. These two techniques make seem to be very logical. Most people would agree that making yourself a moving target and seeking bullet-resistant cover could only help one’s chances of winning a gunfight. Having an inquisitive mind, however, I’ve always wondered exactly how much of an advantage one could expect to gain over his opponent through the use of movement and cover.
To answer this question, I began an exhaustive search of hundreds of firearm tactics books and countless accounts of police-involved shootings looking for examples where utilizing movement or cover saved a person’s life during a gunfight. During my search I found many instances where officers and civilians reported that they used cover and/or movement to help them win a firefight. I also found quite a few articles and books extolling the perceived benefits of cover and movement. I did not, however, find any concrete scientific evidence describing any quantifiable advantages of using movement or cover in a gunfight. The question remained: Which is the best tactic to use in a gunfight…remain stationary, move, or seek cover?
Because I couldn’t find the type of information I wanted, I designed a scientific experiment to get my own data. Besides training law enforcement officers, I also teach firearms skills at the Tactical Defense Institute (TDI), a shooting school in southern Ohio. John Benner, the owner and chief instructor at TDI was very supportive of the idea of my experiment and was curious what the data might show. He suggested that the ideal test subjects would be in his soon-to-be–held “final intensive scenario training” (FIST) class. The students enrolled in this class were highly trained, all having graduated at least six levels (ten days) of TDI’s handgun curriculum. Most had additional training from other shooting schools as well. John graciously allowed me to perform my experiment during a segment of the two-day FIST course.
The test I conducted was loosely based on some training drills created by Sam Faulkner, an innovative trainer recently retired from the Ohio Peace Officers Training Academy. The experiment had three phases. During each phase, one student faced another with a distance of fifteen feet separating them. Each student was outfitted with safety gear and armed with a .38 caliber revolver loaded with two “Code Eagle” brand marking cartridges. For those of you unfamiliar with this technology, the marking cartridge is a .38 paintball powered by a special primed plastic case. It chambers in any .38 revolver without modification and shoots the paint ball at approximately 300 feet per second. The rounds produce a sharp stinging sensation and a bright smear of red paint on the bodies of the people who are hit. Obviously it is necessary to wear protective face shields when using these rounds in order to prevent eye injuries. In prior training exercises I’ve found the Code Eagle rounds to be very valuable in gunfight simulations. They are reasonably accurate, and produce quite a “pain penalty” to the person who is struck. Anticipation of even the small amount of pain these projectiles generate causes considerable anxiety for most people. This anxiety at least partially duplicates the stress reaction one is likely to experience in a gunfight.
In the first phase of the experiment, shooters were given orders to fire their two rounds at each other as quickly as possible after a surprise start signal was given. I instructed the students to remain stationary during the simulated gunfight. Absolutely no movement of the feet was allowed. Phase two was identical to the first phase, except that students were allowed free movement (forward, backward, or lateral) after I gave the surprise start signal. In phase three, students started a step away from one of two fifty-five gallon steel drums. These drums were to simulate cover. On the start command, students were instructed to move to their steel drum and use it for cover while engaging their respective adversaries.
A total of nineteen students participated in the experiment. One hundred fourteen rounds were fired, with thirty-eight rounds fired per phase. I tracked and compared hit percentages during all three phases, differentiating between hits on the torso and the more peripheral hits on the arms and legs. The data are as follows:
PHASE HIT RATE TORSO HITS
#1-STANDING 85% 51%
#2- MOVING 47% 11%
#3- USING COVER 26% 6%
The students who participated in my study were as surprised by the results as I was. We all expected that movement and the use of cover would reduce the hit rates of the rounds fired. We were astonished, however, at how much difference moving and seeking cover made. The difference in hit rates between standing and moving cannot be explained away by a lack of skills by the shooters. Each shooter had extensively practiced shooting on the move, with most being able to hit a twelve-inch steel plate on demand any distance inside of fifty feet while moving. Similarly, these students are adept at hitting a moving target while standing still. The critical factor seemed to be the difficulty the shooter experienced in hitting a moving target while moving his own body at the same time. This clearly identifies a need for additional training and highlights the critical importance of making yourself a moving target during a gunfight. If highly trained shooters hit their opponents’ torsos with only eleven percent of rounds fired, imagine how much worse the average street thug with no training and minimal experience will perform under similar conditions!
It is also clear that when students used cover they fared even better than they did while moving. The hit rates would be far less than reported if several students didn’t break cover and retreat after running out of ammunition during the drill. Most of the hits occurred when this happened. Proper use of cover almost eliminated the chance of being hit.
One other critical statistic needs to be noted. Thirteen percent of the hits across all phases of the experiment struck the hands or guns of the person at which they were fired. This indicates a strong focus on the threat being directed against the shooter and a lack of attention to the front sight, creating some implications for future training. These shooters are strongly indoctrinated in the use of their weapon sights for most shooting situations. Even when shooting fast, they generally utilize a “flash” sight picture when shooting on targets. Even with extensive practice, very few students reported seeing their sights in this experiment. Not wanting to bring up the dreaded “point shooting versus sighted fire” debate in this forum, I’ll simply say that we as trainers need to do some more work. We need to find a better solution to allow our students to hit their targets with a greater percentage of rounds during the stressful, fast-evolving nature of a gunfight. Whatever that solution is, be it training in point shooting techniques, an enhanced sighted shooting curriculum, or stress-inoculating scenario-based training, it is our collective responsibility as trainers to find it.
It was interesting to note that some of the shooters in the above experiment shot with only one hand despite doing the majority of their training from a two-handed platform. When asked why they had done this, most were unaware that they had fired one-handed. Their bodies seemed to be on autopilot, self-selecting what was perceived to be the fastest way to get their guns on target. This fact, combined with the prevalence of hits on the hands or guns of the shooters indicates that we should focus much more of our time training one-hand shooting, hand transitions, and support-hand shooting techniques. We should also emphasize the importance of carrying secondary weapons in case our primary gun becomes inoperative after taking a bullet.
Overall, this experiment generates more questions than it does answers. I set two very critical limits in this experiment…a fifteen-foot separation distance and the firing of two rounds per shooter. I chose the distance because a large percentage of law enforcement officers are killed while facing gunmen at this range or even closer. For this study, it seemed an appropriate balance between a range that was so close that hits were virtually guaranteed and one that was too far for the Code Eagle projectiles to be effective. It is likely that the results would be somewhat different if the ranges were altered. Similarly, firing more or fewer rounds will probably change the results. Who knows what to expect when variables such as multiple attackers are injected into the equation. The true value of this experiment may not be the data obtained, but the experience given to the students. They received a chance to see for themselves what techniques worked and which were not as successful. I do not expect anyone to alter their tactical doctrines or teaching styles as a result of this article. I only encourage all trainers to examine the tactics they present to their students and be willing to put them to the test in a somewhat more chaotic environment than the traditional “square range”. It is only this type of thorough examination that will promote a greater understanding of tactical issues and, in the process, save our students’ lives.
The April BHPC monthly USPSA match is being held on April 1st (normal match day is Easter Sunday). Location is @ The Cedar Valley Pistol Range MAP for details.
Sign in starts @ 8am.
There will be 5 stages (range conditions permitting) with a round count of approximately 100.
**Set up for the match is Saturday, March 31st @ 8AM.** Help with set-up is always appreciated.
If anything changes regarding the match details it will be posted HERE.
Managed to get some holster work with the HK P30S in today working the plate rack, there was one incidents where on gripping the gun to draw, my thumb did in fact de-cock the pistol. While there is a way to convert the HK45 to a no de-cock model, there is currently NOT a function to do that with a P30S…..
But I’m going to do it any way. A replacement release latch with the de-cocker button shaved off and a nice bevel added to the newly cut edge should work nicely.
Not sure when this is going to happen, but I will probably do this before April or May. Should make a good experiment.
All matches will be held @ the Cedar Valley Pistol Range (See MAP for details)
BHPC has it’s own discussion forum where additional match info will be posted.
June 30th* (5th Saturday of June)
September 29th* (5th Saturday of September)
October 28th (Halloween themed Match)
Match times for the season are as follows:
Sign in: 08:30
New Shooter Orientation: 09:00
Safety brief – stage walk through: 09:30
Shooting starts: 10:00
Regarding the addition of an Amendment to the Iowa Constitution protecting the right to keep and bear arms:
Rep. Horbach’s Closing Remarks for the 2nd Amendment Debate
Iowa House of Representatives
I am not the public face for Gun Rights in this body.
However, the task at hand today is not only about guns, it’s about freedom, the people of Iowa and the freedoms that make this country great….
DO NOT TAKE THIS TASK LIGHTLY! On a much different scale, we are taking on a similar task to our country’s founders.
Noah Webster – (dictionary Lexicographer) – said this –
“There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters.” Does that describe me? Does that describe you? Are we the master of Iowan’s rights, promising to govern well, but making sure we remain the master of their rights? Or will we relinquish our “power to govern” and trade it for freedom for all?
An American patriot, Patrick Henry made a statement that summed up my position on Iowa’s Constitutional Amendment vote. He said:
“Are we at last brought to such humiliating and debasing degradation, that we cannot be trusted with arms for our defense?” Have we reached a point in society where we as legislators look out the windows of this capitol, we see our law abiding constituents, and we deem that they cannot handle the responsibility of the “intended” rights provided by this country’s founders? This issue is not about just guns.
I have the highest respect for our founding Fathers, their ability to speak and write amazes me every time I experience it. (The use of brevity should be a lesson to us). The entire second amendment only encompasses 27 words…
A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.[
With this amendment, the US Constitution was demanding, not asking, demanding Congress, and now due to the McDonald ruling, lawmakers at the state or local levels too, shall NOT infringe upon the right of the people to keep and bear arms.
As I said earlier, Iowan’s are reasonable people. Your law abiding constituents will continue to make the right decisions every day, criminals will not. Do not judge the freedoms we seek today by the acts of those that commit crimes, REMEMBER the second amendment protects the good and offers no protection for evil. The intent of the 2nd amendment was to allow the people to protect themselves from an unknown evil…..the tyranny in government. The exact scenario we find ourselves in today.
The shot you fire today will not come from a gun, yet it has the power to be heard around the world…tyranny in government is our target, and freedom is our prize.
Finally, there is one symbol of this state that stands as a reminder to us EVERY day in the chambers. The Iowa Flag…..Drug through the mud and blood of battles around the world, it stands silent with no wind to open its fold. Hidden within are the words of our state motto:
“Our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain.”
Above all other issues of extreme importance, our forefathers left us with this one statement…Our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain. We have the opportunity today to be the wind that lifts that flag for all to see.
Remember the statement by Noah Webster describing his fear of lawmakers…. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters.” Let this vote be our response…
Mr. Webster, Iowa has no masters!
Bravo Mr. Horbach!
Just a reminder that this class is coming up and slots are almost full.
Guns, Guns, and More Gosh Darn Guns: Suarez Intl. Point Shooting Progressions – Searsbo…: I’ve been wanting to take this class since I lived Back East, something always came up when these were being held but Roger is coming to Iowa…
My picture from yesterday, I’m in Starbucks deprived zone, so that had to do.
And just to clarify, the gun is unloaded, yes there is a magazine inserted, yes the hammer is cocked and the safeties are activated, but there is no ammunition in the magazine or chamber.
For anyone that looks at this and gasps, here is a new picture for you that is less scary.
First and foremost, I regret the taking of any life as I do feel that life is sacred, I feel for the wounded officer for having to take a life, I feel for Mettinger family and all those involved.
But I love this story. I’ve referenced this article in two sepearate posts:
And I want to take a little more time to address why I find this article so worth hanging onto and discussing any time I can.
It contradicts everything about “average gun fights”
Yes, this is a story about a law enforcement officer, but is it too hard to think of a scenario where this could be you against a felon inside your home with your family that is armed with a shotgun?
From the failure of the .45ACP with six (6) center mass hits (and a severed foot), to the amount of ammo expended, to the fact that a pistol beat a long gun, to the fact that an officer almost had to draw his back up gun, this story smacks down every thing that is erroneously regurgitated by the masses regarding training, prepardness, mindset, and equipment.
“Two shots from a .45 center mass will take a person out of the fight”
WRONG! This guy took 6 hits to the chest and had his foot taken off, AND NO he was not “on drugs”
“But the average gun fight is 3-5 shots”
TOO BAD! While covering and suppressive fire are seldom found in civilian shootings, it’s not a far fetch to admit that it may be required. As gang activity continues to increase and the “issues with Mexico” continue to spill over who knows what some may encounter.
“I don’t need to carry a spare mag, let alone two.”
THINK AGAIN! This officer was carrying a Glock 21, it has a capacity of 13+1, he almost expended ALL of the ammo for his duty gun and was looking to pull his back up, a revolver holding five (5) cartridges. He fired 39 times and scored 10 hits, 7 of those hits were to vital areas.
“If the bad guy has a long gun and all you have is a pistol, you’re done for”
NOT IF YOU HAVE THE WILL, AND THE SKILL TO SURVIVE. (a whole lot of luck also goes a long way)
“The basic class I took six years ago was more than enough”
FIREARMS TRAINING IS NOT A ONE TIME DEAL!
Officer Borders credits his firearms training for much of his success. He scored 10 hits out of 39 rounds fired, for a hit ratio of 26 percent, and seven of his hits were to vital areas. Although a 26 percent hit ratio is only about average for a police shooting, Borders’ accuracy was far better than his hit ratio seems to indicate. Besides the fact that Mettinger was often more than 20 yards away, never closer than eight yards, and moving or behind good cover for most of the gunfight, Borders also expended a large number of rounds in his successful effort to keep Mettinger from reaching the 00 buckshot stored in the back of the garage. In addition, Borders had to deal with the blood flowing into his eyes, which distracted him, blurred his vision and forced him to pause several times to wipe it away. Under the circumstances, Officer Borders’ accuracy was exceptional and that kind of proficiency cannot be achieved without good training.
Did your eight hour NRA Basic Pistol Class prepare you for this? Did the on-line class you took even teach you how to shoot? How long ago was that class? Have you ever drawn from your concealed holster and fired a single shot? Have you ever performed a reload from a magazine carrier on your belt? When the gunsmoke is filling the air and people are screaming, you’re not going to have a range bag on a nice tidy bench for your to fish through at your leisure.
Training is paramount.
It is also important to note that Borders is a person who is never content with just being good enough. Rather than settle for the firearms training provided by his department, as good as it was, he trained on his own as often as possible. In addition, he practiced not only his basic shooting skills, but advanced skills as well, like the ricochet shots that served him so well in this case. This is typical of winners. They recognize that police work is a serious business that exposes its practitioners to violent people in desperate situations. Rather than be frightened by that fact, they plan for the day when it may happen by training as hard and as often as possible.
Some key points from the summary of the article:
*I do not carry three magazines, and have on occasion carried a secondary firearm, at least one spare magazine should be the bare minimum for a “civilian” conealed (or open) carrier. For any LE that may be reading, up your mags to at least three, if your agency allows back up guns (BUGs), carry one of thsoe as well.
**This works both ways, both Mettinger and Borders were hit and continued to stay in the fight. Do not expect one, two, or even three rounds to stop an attacker. I’d rather be surprised after the fact that it only took two or three than standing there in bewilderment that two didn’t do the job.
In closing, “The Average Gun Fight Is…” If you’re in a gun fight, the law of averages is all ready against you. The argument of the average gun fight being 7 yards or less, 3-5 shots and over in 3-5 seconds is just that, average. If you want your capabilities to be “average”, you’re not looking at this self defense thing the right way. Do you really want to be prepard for the “average” situation when defending your life, or do you want to be prepared for an above average situation?
Thanks to A Girl and Her Gun I’ve been roped into a “shout out” type deal thingy… Not that I mind.
“Here are the rules:
1. Copy and paste the award on your blog.
2. Link back to the blogger who gave us the award
3. Pick your five favorite blogs with less than 200 followers, and leave a comment on their blog to let them know they have received the award.
4. Hope that the five blogs chosen will keep spreading the love and pass it on to five more blogs. “
My five favorites under 200?
Corn, beans, spent brass, an empty page and a deadline: Frank James’ blog. His book “Effective Handgun Defense” was the first book I read related to concealed carry and it’s been a great learning experience ever since. My copy of that book was handed over to another new carrier that I met while living in VA.
10-8 Performance: If you’re into 1911s (and M&Ps), it’s a must.
Rational Gun: Another prior service Jar-head that enjoys firearms and training.
Weapons Related: Always a good dose of humor and wit…
Guns & Coffee : My 2nd Favorite Cheese-head blogger.
There’s a discussion going on about XS sights, and while that topic can get kind of laborious, what I am finding interesting in this debate is that a lot of people are just regurgitating the “center mass” chant.
Well guess what, sometimes center mass just isn’t good enough.
Mettinger absorbed nine rounds from Borders’ .45—six of which hit him in the torso and two more of which literally severed his right foot—without any significant effect on his fighting ability. This would have been remarkable even if Officer Borders had been firing marginally effective rounds, but he was using .45 caliber Gold Dot ammunition, which is considered by many to be the best man-stopper on the market.
He stopped next to his cruiser’s back fender, squatted there briefly as he took another deep breath and then brought the gun up to fire. His vision narrowed until he could see nothing but Mettinger’s anger-laden face and his sights resting on the bridge of the man’s nose. He fired, sending the big .45 caliber slug through Mettinger’s left eye and deep into his brain, dropping him instantly.
Sometimes, you might just have to aim…