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Survival Shooting Techniques (1979)

Texas Department of Public Safety Historical Museum and Research Center

Sound | 1979

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  •  Prisoners  describing shootings involving policemen 
  •  Prisoners talking about condition of policemen and their knowledge of guns 
  •  Policemen talking about using their guns and getting shot 
  •  Demonstration in shooting range 
  •  Shooting outside at targets 
  •  Discussing survival shooting techniques 
  •  Discussing pull over techniques 
  •  Discussing silent alarms 
  •  Informants on a shots fired call 
  •  Field interrogations at night 
  •  Verbal challenges 
  •  Taking immediate action 
  •  Shooting and taking cover 
  •  Penetrating cover 
  •  Using point shooting techniques 
  •  Reloading under fire 
  •  I had my gun about like this, when I announced the stick up. I noticed at that time their were three people standing to my right and the guy in the center, I realized her was a police man and he just charged, ducked his head down and came through the guy to his left and at the same time was pulling his gun out and anyway when I had my gun about like so he hit me and we both went up against the wall and the gun discharged when we hit the wall and he was shot somewhere in the top of the center of his head and the bullet excited somewhere tot he top right of his head.   
  •  2: and when he hit me I backed off of him and at the time he went for his gun and I went for mine and I just, I shot him and as I (???) I also shot his partner.  
  •  3: I would say he was 15-20 feet directly in front of  several officers, I think the exact number was 6 officers, who were shooting over his shoulders. 
  •  4: My hand instinctively went up and shot one off and he was hit in the head. At that time he went down and I continued running.  
  •  3: The police officers, they just come through the door, not knowing where the criminal or the alleged armed robbery is located.  
  •  1: I don't think it was prepared. I don't think he really wanted to shoot me or otherwise he probably would have from the beginning. 
  •  4: Uhh, police officers job just not for everyone. Some people become a police officer because they can't find any other job. I would say a great percentage of the police officers are not prepared mentally for the job. 
  •  5: Well, most police officers are not conditioned because they're overweight, they drink a lot of booze, they drink a lot of beer, they stay up at night and they don't sleep very well. But a person that's well conditioned and his eyes are clear, his hand is steady, his aim is good - even if he never had very much practice with a pistol, I think that anyone can point a revolver and shoot it at a subject and hit it. 
  •  6: I just put it in my hand and pulled the trigger. You know. Bang, bang and that was it. Actually it was just really instinctive. Instinctive moves.  
  •  1: It would stand to reason, that if a guy practiced he would be pretty good. 
  •  3: When I went off into the life of crime, I knew that the most successful criminal would be that one that had the most experience in handling a gun. With a moderate size target moving at a moderate pace at a distance of twenty-five to thirty feet, I believe I would hit that target either out of ten times. I don't think my vocabulary contained the words to describe, you know, the lousiness of the way the police uses their handguns.  
  •  1: Oh, one thought, and I only wish that the police officer in my situation had been very prepared for what happened. And I guess, basically, it's that simple. If he had known what to do, he wouldn't have been killed.  
  •  7: Hey, on TV and movies they portray the law enforcement officer as being the best shot in the West, where he can drop anybody and 2-300 yards with a revolver, and his gun never empties, and he doesn't have to worry about reloading at critical times.  
  •  8: I was under the impression that nothing would ever happen to me. It doesn't always work that way. Too many times, the officer is not mentally or physically prepared. 
  •  9: Don't think that that blue uniform is going to stop bullets.  
  •  8: Well, in my case, I got shot in the thigh and at the time I didn't feel that it was a serious wound.  But I understand that had I not been close to hospital I would have died within four minutes.  
  •  9: I also recall a puff of smoke coming from the weapon at which time I felt that I had been hit in the area of the neck. 
  •  10: The weapon came up from his side and immediately discharged, and I was struck, right here, below where the pins are in my pocket. When I was struck, it felt like I was hit in the chest by a closed fist and someone ran a hot poker through an imaginary hole.  
  •  9: And I broke the golden rule of the policeman in that I did not see his hands. 
  •  11: The point came in my mind that I had to shoot at the person. I did it as an instinct. 
  •  8: But firing at an individual whose returning fire is just an unbelievable experience. 
  •  9: And I'll be willing to guarantee you that it won't happen again for the simple reason that I will be better prepared than a normal creep on the street. 
  •  8: I don't know what one piece of advice that I could give you, I don't know. Uh - keep your head about cha. Don't panic. 
  •  Narrator: Remember to do something - immediately 
  •  10:  You have a chance for preparation. You have a chance to get away from paranoia and go into your individual efforts. Preparation is the name of the game, not paranoia.  
  •  Narrator: The point is that in an actual shooting situation, you must know exactly how you are going to react. That process began with learning proper grip, side alignment and trigger squeeze. But once you've mastered these basics. Remember that on the street, you're going to face a target who's alive and returning fire. In an average confrontation, you'll fire less than three shots. Things will happen fast. The average shooting incident is over in two-and-one-half seconds - less time than it takes for you to exit your patrol car.   
  •  Civilians will probably be near your field of fire and slow to react to what's happening. Most shootings occur at distances of 4-12 feet, less than half the length of your patrol car. Most officers who die fail to shoot behind available cover. 
  •  40% of officer shootings involve more than one gunman.When was the last time you practiced shooting at multiple targets. 
  •  2 out of every 3 shootings occur in darkness or hours of reduced light. When was the last time you fired under night conditions, or in the rain, high winds, or extreme heat or cold. In a shoot out the odds are you are so excited you may not know how many rounds you've fired. You'll be under an incredible amount of stress. You will automatically revert back to whatever techniques have become second nature. 
  •  Keep in mind, slain officers have been found with spent rounds in their pockets because that's what they practiced.  
  •  How good are your survival shooting techniques?  
  •  Officer: Hey, guy. Hey, come on out here. 
  •  Narrator: Among the 4 million people that carry concealed handguns are a lot of criminals. 
  •  Officer: Are there any weapons in his car? You mind if we look through he car? 
  •  Narrator:  On duty you are a highly visible authority symbol and there are those who will try to take advantage of that fact. Many will be seasoned criminals or psychos or someone who has thought up his own survival plan, should he get caught. Unlike you, he's probably less concerned about his emotions. He may have killed before. He may have had prior self-defense or military training. He may have practiced disarming techniques and other police tactics in prison.  
  •  He's not worried about Shooting Review Boards, department policy or justifying his actions in a report. Unlike you, he expects to be shot if he takes you on - to him, it's just a matter of when.  
  •  Their weapons are most often like those of most police or smaller caliber. Some will be armed with a loaded shotgun. A few will use more exotic or homemade guns. Criminals who kill officer usually fire double action, often choose the time and know when the shooting will occur and are often only an eye-blink away from getting on target first.  
  •  Yet, the overwhelming majority of officers who die in gunfights most probably could have survived if they had only practiced a plan, followed survival shooting procedures, and anticipated danger.  
  •  The first step to minimizing risk is to think about your approach to any scene. You want to develop a habit of doing the unexpected.  
  •  So on the chance that someone at the scene might shoot, you'd park several houses away and approach on foot.  
  •  You'll want to take your time and use all your sense to confirm the situation before you take action. 
  •  Officer: Sheriff's office![gun shot blasts through the door from the inside out]Narrator: The rule remains, don't prejudge your call. Unfortunately, this police officer approached a "shots fired" call by parking out front without using cover. The complainant thought he would pull up front and he did and this was the result. 
  •  Patrol officer: Traffic stop, 3600 block of Bandini.Narrator: Your approach to a suspicious pullover situation requires similar caution and planning. Cranking your steering wheel to the left can provide some protection from low rounds or ricocheting bullets.[police communicates over the radio]Narrator: How about the driver's door? Is it ajar? If so, ask yourself why? Is there a trunk lock, if so, is the trunk lid closed? Armed suspects have been known to secrete themselves inside a trunk, ready for a routine pullover and approach. It's also important to check the back seat thoroughly for other suspects or guns.  You stand where its hardest for the driver to shoot back at you.Bank robber: Alright, get a bag! Fill it up with money, now! Narrator: As you make an approach on a silent alarm, being aware of your surroundings may prevent a shooting or hostage situation. Just because you can't see a subject doesn't meant that he doesn't see you. Therefore, you establish and maintain visible deployment and notify your backup of any suspect movement because when he comes out, he'He'll probably be armed and you want the element of surprise working to your advantage, not his. Whether his reaction is this....or this.Officer: what room is it?Informant: Room 310 around to the leftOfficer: Okay, and it's just around here to the left Narrator: It's important to remember that informants on a shots fired call may provide inaccurate information, or the suspect may have changed locations. As a result, you and your backup never pass a doorway without checking it first because you don't want the suspect coming out behind you. The technique you want to employ is one that provides constant fire cover while your backup moves into position. Should an armed suspect appear, you now have target acquisition. On your approach you want to check the hallway for backlighting, recesses and obstructions where you could take cover if you had to. You always want to notice which way the doors open as you adjust your eyes to the light level. As you check each doorway from a kneeling position, below your backups line of fire, he again assumes a standing cover position. Now the suspect is also seeking target acquisition through sight and sounds. Part of his plan may also be an assumption that his gun is holstered and your guard is down. As you approach the objective, taking a fire cover position, your partner moves behind you, taking a position just short of the doorway. When possible, your approach also includes controlling light to avoid becoming a silhouette. Your position must be outside and below the kill zone, otherwise you have to scan the entire room to locate the suspect because you're standing in the fatal funnel - the only areas the suspect has for directing his vision and firepower. Regardless of his position, his visual is on you at all times. With the door now flanked on both sides and without exposing any vital portion of your body, open the door until it hits against the back wall. Before you enter, you want a visual on the open room, from both sides of the doorway. By rolling your flashlight into the general area, a quick search can be made safely.Officer: Hands up, keep'em up. Right there, don't move. Officers on patrol: Radio communicationNarrator: Field interrogations at night provide circumstances when your lights can keep you from becoming a target. Officers on patrol: We have some suspects in the alleywayNarrator: Of course you and your partner do the unexpected. In staying back behind the curtain of light, you quietly flank out to a position away from your unit Officers on patrol: Police officer! Step away from that wall! Don't move!Narrator: From the suspect's position, you become invisible. If they did choose to fire, they would probably fire at the driver's side. You are making it harder for them to kill you because they cant' see you. All along you watch their hands. If there's a concealed gun, the hands will be the key, not the eyes.  Narrator: In other cases, a verbal challenge may work. It may be hard for a suspect to talk and shoot at the same time. Officer: Put your gun down, you haven't shot anybody yet.Suspect: You want to be firstNarrator: You also want to challenge him verbally, before he challenges you. As you use a verbal command, movement to a position of cover can buy you more time to access what his ultimate action will be. Officer: Three steps to your left. Narrator: In any case, you want to keep the suspects hands in plain view at all times. Patrol Officer: Traffic stopNarrator:  Some suspects, who will use your gun against you, depend on you being inattentive, careless, or distracted. If you are alert and in good physical condition, you can minimize lag time: the amount of time it takes for you to see, identify, and react to danger. Officer: Hello, will you turn your engine off please.Suspect: Did I do something wrong?Officer: Yes, you were speeding back there on Locus. Can you turn your engine off please?Suspect: Yeah, sure.Officer: Will you get your driver's license out please?Suspect: Yeah, sure. Narrator: If you can't get your citation book in front of the barrel, through it into the suspects eyes to pull her off target. Any item in your non-gun hand can be used as a distracter. This officer's double citation book stopped a 38 round at a distance of 36 inches. In this case, an officer believed that what he held in his non-gun hand could maintain the advantage. The point is, once the eyeball is threatened the suspects body alarm reaction forces an uncontrollable response and allows you time to quickly exit the kill zone. Officer: Police officer. Hold on, I want to talk to you. Hold it, I said! Hold it!. Take your hand out of your pocket slowly. Narrator: The best way you can eliminate lag time is to develop a plan and practice it so your reactions to danger become second nature. However, some situations won't allow you to use a good approach and verbal challenges. They'll require you to take immediate action by exiting the kill zone and notifying communications. But once the shooting starts, unanticipated movement is effective because it makes you a harder target to hit. If you are in your vehicle, get down low in your seat, look through the steering wheel and immediately exit the kill zone to a position of cover. Other situations may force you to use movement inside the kill zone. The first tactic is to drive perpendicular to the line of fire. After exiting your vehicle, your response will be to move and shoot simultaneously. With your shotgun, you rack in a new round on your back and fire as you roll. Each time, you maintain target acquisition. With a suspect who is not expecting movement your shots, coming low an fast, will delay his reaction and make his return fire less effective as you take cover. Where you sense a shooting situation, and have time to react, you want to return fire from behind cover, anything that will stop bullets or at least slow them down. You choose a position that allows you to blend with the shape of your cover, maintain fire superiority and mobility. In some cases, the best cover may be standing behind a tree or utility pole, rather than a squatting position which will make you a visible target. If you expect to move to better cover, the kneeling position may work. but only if it offers concealment too. Here the body is lowered by sitting back on the ankle and leg with the shooting hand supported. The recommended position for shooting behind a mailbox is with both legs spread behind each of the rear supports with your barrel position slightly over the top. Other departments recommend a support position to the side, exposing no more of your head than necessary. Even proning out below a curb may become cover. When shooting behind cover, you want to use a position that offers concealment, comfort and is easily applied stress. For accuracy and control, use the two-handed support, with the back of the weak hand resting against the barricade. Behind the barricade, your support hand should cup the bottom three fingers of your gun hand. It's also important to remember that your gun should never actually touch the barricade or it will bounce as you shoot. In all these examples of shooting behind right-hand barricades, you now have the opportunity for safe, return fire. Starting with a solid foot position, the two-handed position from a left-sided barricade should be executed with your gun in the weak hand. Practice with both strong and weak hand shooting will just give you better odds in this kind of situation. Remember that if you were to revert back to your right hand when shooting from the left side of the barricade, you would become a much easier target.Your vehicle may be the only source of cover in a shooting situation. The first position you'll take is one that shields your legs from low or ricocheting rounds by bracing your outside leg against the open door and door jam. Here your face and chest will be partially protected behind heavy metal. Officer: Driver, put your hands where I can see them!Narrator: If the incident lasts a long time, you're in a bench rest position for your weapon with a back brace support.Patrol Officers: On the radioNarrator: Now that the backup vehicle is occupied y only one officer, the engine block is kept between himself and hostile weapons fire. Knowing the penetration power of your weapon will sometimes allow you to penetrate what the suspect thinks is covered. In some instances, penetrating his cover can be combined with rapid movement out of the kill zone.Officer: Can I see your driver's license, sir.Narrator: Once outside your vehicle you are usually better protected if you shoot from kneeling position around the side, placing your hands on the bumper for balance with your legs behind the wheel base.  Even this ground position affords much better cover and control than shooting over the top or over the door or shooting in any position where your torso is vulnerable. In every case, you want to remember what officers in this case didn't apply: have a plan, seek cover and maintain target acquisition. But often a situation escalates before you have a chance to take cover. Here, survival depends on your ability to use instinct and point-shooting techniques. The goal is to get off fast, accurate shots without taking the time to line up a site picture. The reason is simple: it only takes one half-second for a suspect to fire a gun that's already aimed. Even the best take twice that long to draw, aim, and fire. In instinct shooting, you don't have to bring your gun up to eye level or take time to close one eye. In effect, your gun becomes an extension of your arms and fingers. Your primary vision should be your suspect, not your sites. As you bring your arms straight out, your wrists and elbows are locked and your torso is bent slightly forward. Your arms will then absorb the recoil and prevent you from pulling off target. With practice, your hands will instinctively follow your eyes, even if you drop to a lower position to shoot, or if you use a close quarters position, where the elbow is bent, the gun hand is drawn close to the upper hip. With multiple armed suspects, a swivel motion from the waist-up, allows you control of eye, gun, and shoulder movement. Remember to return fire at the one with the most dangerous weapon first, then return fire to the next most dangerous. In some cases you may not be able to fire directly at  your target to hit it. Ricochet shooting works against any flat, hard, surface. If you maintain proper cover and fire at less that a 45degree angle the bullet will flatten out and travel between one and eight inches off the surface. You want to apply instinct shooting technique from behind cover to avoid becoming a victim of the technique yourself. Instinct shooting also works under dim light conditions where you might not be able to see your fingers, let alone your sites. Try to move after each time the suspect fires to a position of better cover. This will make it difficult for him to get on target and allow you time to adjust your night vision. A smart suspect will try to use your muscle flash to his advantage. Try to fire at the muscle flash or at least one round on each side of the muscle flash. Again, your gun hand follows your eyes. If you can point towards your target, you can hit it. If you reload a revolver under fire, maintain cover while dumping the shell cases directly on to the ground. Regardless of whether you reload with a belt loop or a dump pouch, you want to reload by feel - rotating the cylinder with your thumb and middle finger as you feed in each new round. If you can't reload before your position is assaulted, be sure a live round will rotate under the handle? Utilizing a speed loader will allow you to get back on target the quickest because all 6 rounds can be released into the cylinder at the same time. If you are firing a semi automatic, you will have more rounds available than with a revolver. However, you may still face the possibility of having to reload under fire. At the appropriate time and from a position of cover, place a loaded magazine from your non-gun hand and insert it by feel. To speed load an empty shotgun, eject the last spent shell, leaving the ejection port open. Cup the shell in the curl of your fingers with the primer ends supported by the little finger. Here, in review, reach under the receiver up to the open ejection port and rack in the first round. You also load your second round while maintaining target acquisition at all times. Spare rounds are loaded by feel from underneath into the magazine port . A suspect who is shot may not react the way you expect him to. In fact, 20 percent of the time, one round will not stop the action at all.  In this situation officers fires thirty-three times into this offender before he dropped.  However, notice the number of shots which penetrated on-vital areas. When you shoot, aim for center mass. Usually shots to the chest cavity are the most devastating because they penetrate vital organs and shatter bone. Often drugs, adrenaline flow, or sheer attitude will keep a suspect from knowing he's badly hit. The animal instinct to stay alive is very powerful. However, this officer was shot just once in the arm, his psychological reaction told him that his only response was to die. How strong is your will to survive?  It should be as strong as the suspects. Just because you've been shot, doesn't mean you're going to die or can't use your week hand to continue defending yourself. After a shooting, you are going to be hyper. Your pulse and breathing will be rapid. Your pupils will be strict because of increased adrenaline to your system and your first impulse will be to rush up, disarm, and handcuff him. Before you leave cover, give yourself a ten count and assess your situation. Officers who have been in your situation survived because they didn't let their guard down, like these officers did. Or this officer, who assumed the suspect had left because he stopped hearing shots.  His attention was so distracted by seeing a dead officer in the gutter he never unholstered his revolver. This detective was so occupied by the threats of a mental patient he forgot all about natural cover and his gun. This officer didn't notice his partner shooting in his line of fire. It's during periods when you tunnel vision when officers usually take the fatal round in a shooting. The truth is, every suspect you encounter will be different. Your actions right now will determine who will survive and you can bet survival is foremost in their minds too. So before you make your move remember that your survival may ultimately depend on preparation, not paranoia.     
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Produced with the aid of multiple police departments, this film was created to teach law enforcement officers proper gun-fighting techniques. Framed by testimonials from both prisoners and police officers, "Survival Shooting Techniques" takes viewers through extreme scenarios designed to stress the importance of having a plan, anticipating danger, using cover, exploiting the element of surprise, and relying on proper training. Police officers demonstrate the do's and don'ts of firefights in a variety of settings including public streets, dark alleys, warehouses, and apartment complex. Viewers should be forewarned that, as a realistic training tool, this film includes graphic content and adult language.

Established by the Texas Legislature on August 10, 1935, the Texas Department of Public Safety was created by the consolidation of the Texas Highway Motor Patrol with the Texas Rangers. Since that time, its duties have grown to include such activities as the state licensing of drivers, vehicle inspection, narcotics enforcement, and the State Civil Defense Office, (now the Division of Emergency Management,) which aids local governments during times of natural disaster or social upheaval. While its duties have evolved over time, the mission of the DPS has remained constant - to provide public safety services to those people in the state of Texas by enforcing laws, administering regulatory programs, managing records, educating the public, and managing emergencies, both directly and through interaction with other agencies.

Among the DPS's many activities is the preparation of its officers for the many facets of their jobs. Included in the training curriculum are educational films, some produced by the TX DPS itself.