Do you have a training deficit?  There are two different types of deadly force encounters you need to train for and if you’re not addressing both types then you may have a training shortfall.

At this year’s ILEETA – International Law Enforcement Trainers and Educators conference, (and a “must attend” conference for any serious LE trainer), on the “Deadly Force Panel of Experts” moderated by Mas Ayoob, fellow panelist Manny Kapelsohn posed a question about performance under stress in actual shootings.  In response, I pointed out that oftentimes we train for non-spontaneous incidents and this training does not translate well to spontaneous attacks on the street.  So let’s start out with definitions and training methodologies for each.


You’re given some type of warning or advance notice.  “Man with gun,” or some type of violent felony call in which the suspects may be armed.  Your approach is different, oftentimes with gun out, you and other officers seek cover, you slow things down and take a more methodical approach.  If enough time is available, a carbine or shotgun may be grabbed to offer more distance and accuracy potential.  You have time to breathe and although a SNS – Sympathetic Nervous System response (fight or flight) is going to happen, you can focus and use those stress chemicals and body physiological changes to empower and prep you for battle.


If a shooting occurs, there is usually more distance, use of cover, less rounds fired and less movement by the officers.  In other words, because of the availability of time, officers involved are more controlled.

Training for the Non-Spontaneous Event: Static Drills focusing on the (FOM’s) – fundamentals of marksmanship, help develop the basics.  After the FOM’s are practiced at 20 feet and beyond, distance is increased, movement to and effective use of cover is introduced.  Varying heights of cover – standing, kneeling, prone, supine are practiced.  Note here – a couple of points which are endemic to most officers in firearms training, A) Effective use of cover means not hugging cover which limits your ability to see what threats are developing, B) “Rolling Out” means having the firearm – pistol or long-gun up prior to exposing any part of yourself.  In this way you can shoot as a threat presents itself versus rolling out, giving the bad guy a potential shot before you raise your firearm, C) Acknowledging that the quick peek is not a valid technique.  You can’t see much, make a good target, and can’t shoot.  Static line drills give way to line scramblers requiring officers to move laterally from cover position to cover position.  We can introduce “Moving – Move,” drills in the line scramblers.  These drills allow officers to coordinate movement and covering as they work with fellow officers.  Scramblers allow officers to cover and move as they move toward the threat or as they recover rearward from the threat (lines of fire are dictated and instructors enforce safety).

Value added elements such as malfunction clearance based on inert training cartridges loaded in magazines, transitions to pistols while using carbines as primary arms, low light, injured officer drills (running a course with strong or weak hand only), on and on can be added.



In these encounters the officer has little to no warning.  Think arrest scenario where a suspect makes a move for a gun; or a traffic stop which erupts in gunfire with no warning.  Pistols are the rule of day here for officers, and they tend to be holstered when the affray commences.

Spontaneous 2

We see more movement, more rounds fired at closer distances, less use of cover (at least at the start, officers can and do move to cover).  We see more multiple suspects in spontaneous incidents, after all, if we knew that there were multiple deadly threats we would not walk up to them or close distance.  Spontaneous incidents look like “fights with guns” instead of a mythical “gunfight” i.e. shootout at high noon on Main St. as in the movies.  Guns tend to be pointed versus careful aiming.  Note here – We will get into point shooting in a future blogpost, but suffice to say that we learn presentation of the pistol and kinesthetic awareness of where to bring the sights in static training on the fundamentals.  The sights are the training wheels with which we learn to shoot.  We also see more one handed shooting in spontaneous incidents.

Training for the Spontaneous Event: Once the basics have been learned to a consistent motor program, we start adding movement off the attack line.  We must be careful to practice realistic movements and training.  Drills that only work on flat, uncluttered ranges, don’t transition to real environs such as hallways, living rooms, parking garages, offices, etc.  That “duck and run” exercise will not work out for you well if you run into the wall of an apartment or trip over a Barcalounger in your uncontrolled movement.  We can start closer to a target employ striking onto our Omaha Target, prior to moving rearward at an angle, drawing and shooting.  We can begin with one handed, close-quarters retention shooting and transition to two handed eye-level as we create space by moving.


Drills run prepping for armed encounters around vehicles are realistic when training for spontaneous assaults.  Officers arrive on scene and are frequently ambushed while behind the wheel of their patrol cars.  Knowing how to draw, defend and debus safely are vital.

Shooting accuracy in spontaneous events tends to drop off.  We can increase hits on target by shooting at eye level and using two hands whenever possible.  “Shooting through the pistol” or creating an eye, pistol, target alignment increases hits on target tremendously.  As the late, great Colonel Rex Applegate acknowledged, hip shooting or the body point should be limited to five feet or less.  Because of the lack of eye/hand coordination and the angling of the wrist, accuracy beyond five feet cannot be guaranteed.

Drills run including movement, one-handed shooting, shooting on reactive targets that drop or fall increase follow through and tracking of a threat.  Handgun retention as well as blocking or fouling an assailant’s firearm or edged weapon at touching distance needs to be trained and practiced.  Standing in one spot attempting to outdraw an already drawn weapon frequently turns out bad for officers and armed citizens.

Spontaneous 3

We can really increase our prep for spontaneous armed encounters by engaging in airsoft drills with partners.  With minimal protective equipment (especially eye/face/throat protection) you can engage in stimulus/response training.  The partner or uke (martial arts term meaning feeder or receiver of a technique) can have a secreted Bluegun or plastic training knife on his person.  The officer or tori responds with armed techniques using an airsoft pistol.  Strikes can even be practiced if the uke has a focus mitt on one hand or a protective martial arts chest guard.  Our friend Rich Daniel has done some excellent work with airsoft and his DVD’s are excellent.

Train for Both

Preparations for armed encounters means examining where those threats will present themselves and developing skill sets or motor programs to stop and control the threat.  That means learning and continuing to practice the basics while at the same time learning to apply those solid fundamentals to solve problems.  The idea is to stop and/or control a deadly threat against you and it frequently will be a messy – gnashing of teeth, punching, kicking affair.  Failing to train for the spontaneous encounters means you are training to fail.  A hole in your training regimen may be too deep for you to climb out of on the street.  Don’t let it happen…now go train…

Kevin Davis

Leave a Reply