Gunsite instructors John Hall and Walt Wilkinson demonstrate shooting techniques in a recent 250 Pistol class.
Gunsite Academy instructors John Hall (left) and Walt Wilkinson (right) demonstrate shooting techniques in a recent 250 Pistol class.

I’m in the process of wrapping up my first post in a series about my week at the “Harvard of Handguns,” Gunsite Academy. I spent five days (and part of a night) in the celebrated 250 Pistol course first developed by legendary firearms expert Col. Jeff Cooper.

The four instructors that led the class are among the best in the world. They average 25 years of experience in the military or in law enforcement. Each has fired hundreds of thousands of rounds in training, in addition to the rounds they’ve fired on duty either keeping us safe from criminals at home, or terrorists overseas. They’ve “seen the elephant” firsthand.

It isn’t an exaggeration to say that Gunsite instructors have been a driving force behind how America’s military, police, and concealed carriers use handguns. Cooper’s Modern Technique of the Pistol, color coded awareness system, and the four rules of gun safety, along with Harries’s flashlight technique, and the Tueller Drill all came from Gunsite instructors.

It is fresh off of this seminal  experience that I come down from the proverbial mountain to this spew of idiocy by Marc Ambinder on how police should handle violent criminals.

The problem being — these officers did the right thing. They weren’t trained to use less-than-lethal force even when faced with a man who brought a knife to a gunfight. They weren’t trained to fire once. They’re trained to fire when they believe their lives (or the lives of civilians) are in imminent danger. This training helps protect the lives of police officers, and that’s good.

It is also, I think, training that poses significant costs and even danger to the public. Last year, New York City cops shot a man with a gun who had just killed a colleague on the sidewalk next to the Empire State Building. The suspect died. But nine New Yorkers were injured by gunfire that came from the guns of the police officers. Nine people shot, innocents, all, by the police. Even if, in this instance, the officers had much more of a reason to believe their lives were in jeopardy, we should not accept as a fait accompli, simply because this is true, the civilian casualties.

There are reasons officers, who are often technically trained to “shoot to incapacitate,” actually shoot to kill and shoot multiple times. Aim for the torso, they are taught. It’s a larger target. It will incapacitate the offender much more quickly. Of course, the level of incapacitation is most likely death if the torso is the target.

There are also good reasons to recalibrate this training to account for differences in the type of threat posed, and even differences in the aim points. I don’t expect officers to approach any scene of a strong-armed robbery with tear-gas cannisters. Guns they will have, and guns they must use.

Oh, really?

To his credit, Marc Ambinder is not trying to ratchet up racial tension in his screed. His “crime” is spreading his ignorance of:

  • the use of force continuum,
  • human physiology and psychology,
  • short-range self-defense,
  • ballistics,
  • firearms operation,
  • reaction times,
  • and human nature.

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