Thursday, April 28, 2016


I was reminded this morning this morning in the pre-dawn darkness that I let an anniversary pass with no fanfare.  In April of 1981, I first put on a badge and strapped on a duty belt as a police officer.  Thirty five years as a peace officer.  I'm now in the autumn of my career, and it's been a good one.

What reminded me of the anniversary was a comment thread on The Book of Face talking about gun fights.  The guy posting said that they are generally short, fast, and lethal.  For years, gun fights fell into what we call the 3-3-3 rule, which meant that the majority of real-world gun fights happen in 3 seconds, with 3 shots, inside of 3 yards.  They're very fast, close and personal. You can google it yourself, and while some of the gun fights that make the news fall outside of those parameters, we compile data and we compare averages, and those hold up fairly well.

I've been in two real-world gunfights in my 35 years.  Neither one of them met the standard. In one, no shots were fired, in the other, only one side did any shooting.  Weird, but I consider them my closest to being in a gunfight.

The first, my partner and I were serving an arrest warrant at a home on the edge of town.  The house was a stick structure, an off-the-ground frame house.  We knocked on the door, we heard moving feet, a woman answered the door and, visibly distraught, told us that our perp had just run out the back door.  And that he had a gun.

I was first in the door, and saw the screen door on the back of the home, swing shut.  My partner bolted around the house and I went through the back door.   The only thing in the back yard was a clothesline and a small storage building, so I drew my revolver, saw my partner come around the side of the house and we closed on the storage building.

My partner gestured to me to look behind the building, so I started "cutting the pie" around the back of the building and saw my perp, looking toward where my partner was approaching.  I took a good sight picture on his spine between his shoulder blades and calmly told him that I was about to shoot him down if he didn't surrender.  I don't remember my exact words.  The perp surrendered.  We cuffed him and stuffed him, and I consider that my first gunfight.  I had cleared leather, identified a target, and he surrendered before I had to shoot him.  Everyone went home safe.  Except for the perp, who went to jail safe.  I still remember his name, and I'm pretty sure that he's through serving his sentence.

The second gunfight is more problematic. I didn't even realize I was in a gunfight until it was over.

I had stopped to help a fellow officer with some task (honestly, I don't recall, probably a traffic accident).  Several of us were standing nearby, when we heard a Pop, Pop, Pop. I heard a bullet whistle past, and we ducked.  Some jazzbo had decided to do a drive-by on the Po-Po. Another officer who was responding took him down about 100 yards away without incident.  I consider that my second shooting-related incident.  No one was hurt, and I don't even remember that guy's name.

In the intervening years, I've shot IPSC, USPSA, the standard police training. I've been on two SWAT teams.  Now I'm shooting Cowboy Fast Draw. It's a heck of a lot of fun, but don't confuse it with a real-world gunfight.  What you see in the movies, or on TV, isn't anything like the real world.

As far as I know, the 3-3-3 rule still applies.  Training is good, training is great, training keeps your skill-set sharp, but don't confuse it with the real world either.


Old NFO said...

Glad you didn't have to cap anyone either time, and yes training and real-world are SIGNIFICANTLY different!

David aka True Blue Sam said...

It is a great feeling when the threat is over and no-one is hurt. The Mother-In-Law is as keen as ever to put .22s on steel now that winter is over. She even looked at new guns this morning at a local shop. Our little deal seems to have a sharpening effect on her mind. Our guy goes in front of the judge next week to plead or ask for a trial.