2 Aug 02

Fatal shooting last week by one of our LEO students in TX. This is a patrol officer who attended our Advanced Defensive Handgun Course earlier this year. He came to us as a competent shooter. I trust what he learned from us was helpful in this incident:

“I was coming to the end of my day shift. Our department runs all one-man, beat cars. I fell in behind a speeder, got a radar fix, and attempted to pull him over in traffic. It was late afternoon but still light. I became suspicions and concerned when the driver was slow to respond and started moving things around in the front seat with his right hand and arm. Eventually, he pulled over and stopped.

The moment the vehicle stopped, the driver (an extremely large, Hispanic male) hopped out and started walking back toward me. I ordered him to get back in his car, but he continued to walk as he put his hand in his right pocket, all the time saying, “License, license!” in Spanish.

I got him to stop, put his hands out front, and turn around. As I approached and frisked him, I detected a pistol in his right, front pocket. The moment I touched the pistol, he started to turn toward me. I jumped back and moved laterally while drawing my own pistol. I ended up with my vehicle between him and me.

The suspect was confused by my moment and started looking around, apparently trying to figure out where I had gone. By this time he had produced a small, chrome pistol from his pocket (the same one I had felt) and was holding it in front of him. I started firing (SIG P229 40S&W, w/155gr Speer Gold Dot). The suspect stumbled backward and struck a utility pole. I knew I had hit him. He then slumped down into a sitting position. He was transported to a local hospital, but died on the way. He was pronounced DOA.

As it turns out, I fired three shots at a range of fifteen feet. The fist impacted just to the right of the navel. The second five inches higher. The third struck high on the left chest. Yes, I ‘zippered’ him, just as I had been taught. None of my bullets exited. No one else was hurt.

Our ‘friends’ in the local news media were quick to point out that ‘Witnesses saw no weapon on the suspect.’ The suspect was a local, six-time loser with no driver’s license, and, yes, we did recover his pistol at the scene.

Training kicked in. I moved, shot, and then moved again. It definitely confused the suspect. I got on his body midline and just started working my way up. I never once doubted that all my shots were hitting him.”

I asked this student if he could recall seeing his front sight. Without hesitation, he replied, “It was there!”

Good show!



3 Aug 03

We may be having some influence! From one of our instructors in TX:

“While practicing at a local indoor range last weekend, I discovered that I was shooting next to three brand new Federal Air Marshals who were there, like me, practicing on their own. They were shooting SIG 220s.

They all used an exaggerated ‘buzzard’ version of the isosceles stance, similar to what is often seen in competitive pistol events. They had their upper bodies so extended, they were on the verge of falling over forward! When finished firing, each would retract their pistols into their chest, hyper-extending each elbow to the side. Gripping technique was rueful and trigger press was jerky. Their accuracy on paper targets at seven meters was embarrassingly poor!

In a subsequent conversation with one, I discovered they were all, in fact, instructors trying to get some practice on their own. I mentioned to her that it concerned me that, with their hyper-extended stance and unstable grip, forcibly disarming any of them would be a simple task, even for an amateur. It struck me that, within the confines of a commercial airplane, this surely should be a concern. When my comments were greeted with a blank look, I offered to demonstrate.

They were all astonished with the ease with which I was able to take away their pistols, from any angle (we used plastic props for the demonstration), even when they resisted enthusiastically. They then became defensive and told me that they were only ‘authorized’ (there is that word again!) to use certain techniques. I replied, ‘I just showed you a grievous deficiency in your method. If what you just saw with your own eyes doesn’t concern you, there is no point in continuing this conversation.’

The result is that all three are going to come to a class I’m doing next week, on their own dime. I have to hand it to them. They didn’t just stick their heads in the sand. Hopefully, in the process of working with them I can clean up their grip and trigger press too!”

Lesson: Lucidity is irrepressible, no matter how enthusiastically institutions try to stamp it out. Warriors will always see through self-serving twaddle and cleave to the True Way.



5 Aug 02

Sage comments on the TX shooting from a seasoned LEO trainer and colleague:

“Training and repetition works! At no time in this scenario is there mention of conscious thought about a response after ‘I became suspicious and concerned…’ All of the officer’s actions after contacting the subject were tactically sound and appropriate; when the SUBJECT decided that it was time for the officer to shoot, the officer responded promptly and without hesitation – a trained and measured response to a lethally hostile stimulus.

Important points:

1 GET OFF THE LINE OF FORCE! The officer says that the subject was confused by the officer’s lateral movement. Putting the other guy in a defensive/reactive mode by moving yields a huge advantage in time and position.

2 WATCH YOUR FRONT SIGHT! Fifteen feet is within the distance that proponents of ‘point’ shooting claim to be too close for the sights to be practical to use. 100% solid hits for three rounds speaks volumes.

3 FINISH THE FIGHT! This officer did not stop shooting to ‘evaluate’ the effect of his shots. While the suspect was still up and armed, the officer continued to service the target. When the threat ended, so did the shooting.

4 PEOPLE IN THE NEWS MEDIA ARE NOT YOUR FRIENDS! Their job is to sell papers, not to be objective or to get the facts straight.

For the officer: You were handed the worst task in our profession and handled it properly and professionally. Thank you from all of us.”



11 Aug 02

DPMS and D&S

We just finished an Urban Rifle/Shotgun Course in MN. We had one D&S FAL which never experienced so much as a single hiccup during the entire three days. Excellent rifle!

We had one Steyr AUG (original version). It also functioned perfectly during the entire three days.

We had one Ruger Mini-30. Within the first fifty rounds, its firing pin broke, and it was down for the duration.

DPMS AR-15s are manufactured nearby, and we had several in the course. All functioned well, except for the ones that had their triggers “customized.” All of them experienced continuous functional distress One went down completely.

Lesson: PLAY GUNS CANNOT DOUBLE AS SERIOUS GUNS. Military rifles are pretty well set up for serious fighting as the come from the factory. Attempts to “customize” triggers and “accurize” the system are ill advised if the weapon is to be put to serious use. Increases in accuracy from such modifications are negligible, but compromises in reliability are disastrous, as we saw this weekend.



13 Aug 02

Sage rifle comments from a friend in the Philippines:

“AR15’s have always been popular here. They were made locally from 1983-1987 under license from Colt. Most are still in active service. The black market is the ONLY source for these rifles, as none can be transferred legally.

Connected (‘qualified’) civilians are allowed to possess and even carry them outside their homes. Many are thus ditching their MP5s and UZIs. Pent up demand, coupled with news photos of US soldiers armed with M4s during their local exercises, has driven the cost of these black-market ARs through the roof.

In the last few months, among my friends I’ve seen every conceivable permutation of this rifle! Anything from an eight-inch barrel to a twenty-four inch, heavy barrel, with every imaginable gimmick glued, screwed, taped, or pinned onto them.

You Americans are not the only gimmick-happy race in the world! Most folks here too just can’t seem to be content with any species of ‘stock’ rifle. They predictably load them up with widgets until they weigh more than an M-14.

‘Accuracy’ jobs are just as common. Like you, I’ve seen nearly all of these modified guns malfunction with monotonous regularity. Curiously, their demonstrated unreliability is usually lost on their naive owners. Some things never change!

Standing in stark contrast are full-time military people I know whose lives literally depend on the reliability of their individual weapons every time they go on an operation. Most of my military friends have been on many. Their M-16s are all stock, ‘plain vanilla’ as you would say. These men have survived numerous, live contacts with the enemy. Their rifles work, every time. Those with unreliable rifles are no longer with us!”

Lesson: Take this advice from the mouth of one who knows. You need to be serious about your “serious” weapons.



16 Aug 02

Comments From a Student on Defensive Rifle Modifications:

“You now have me thinking about just how much I really want to ‘work’ my new Springfield M1A. I just purchased it for CMP Service Rifle Competition. It’s the ‘loaded’ version: heavy stock, ground sear/trigger, and stainless steel barrel. However, I’ve seen some with what appears to be the entire contents of the latest Radio Shack catalog hanging off of them! Do I want to at least have mine ‘bedded’ and forend ‘stabilized’?”

My reply:

“Here is the dilemma: legitimate, defensive firearms must be highly reliable under a broad spectrum of circumstances and, simultaneously, reasonably accurate.

Be that as it may, if you are determined to have a weapon that is exceptionally accurate, you may get it, but reliability will be critically compromised. Your rifle will still be reasonably functional, as long as you maintain it at a high level. However, severe environments and lack of maintenance will predictably conspire to bring it to its knees.

Ultimately, if you are determined to have a weapon that is extravagantly accurate, reliability will be fatally compromised, and you will be thus saddled with a tight, unreliable, temperamental, ammunition-sensitive prima donna. It will never be reliable, no matter how well you maintain it. With few exceptions, everything you add to your rifle for the sake of increased accuracy is just something else that will eventually peel, chip, delaminate, come unglued, come loose, stop working, break into pieces, fall off, etc. Pray you’re not fighting for you life when any of that happens.

No single rifle will adequately fulfill both missions. If you want a serious, defensive rifle, it will be reliable, but its accuracy will never be better than mediocre. If you want a single-purpose, competition rifle, its accuracy may be unsurpassed, but its reliability will always be untrustworthy. You can’t have it both ways. You need to make up your mind. Far be it from me to tell others what to do, but, as for myself, every rifle, indeed every weapon I own, is a legitimate, fighting implement. As a matter of personal policy, I don’t, and won’t, keep a ‘play’ gun.”



19 Aug 02

Browning Pistol of 1900:

The Model 1900 (produced in that year) was the first commercially successful pistol designed by young American design genius, John M Browning. It was manufactured by Fabrique National (FN) in Belgium in only one caliber, 7.65mm (nearly identical to the present-day 32ACP). The pistol is small, short, and flat, designed to be carried concealed in a pants pocket. Its simple layout employs an unsophisticated blow-back system of operation. Long since superseded by superior designs in improved calibers, the little M1900 has been out of production for many years and would today be altogether forgotten, were it not for a weedy, insalubrious Bosnian teenager named Gavrilo Princip, who was standing on Franz Joseph Street in Sarajevo (capital of Bosnia), directly in front of Shiller’s Delicatessen and Pub, with a copy of Browning’s M1900 concealed in his right pants pocket, on the sunny, Sunday afternoon of 28 June 1914.

In 330AD, Emperor Constantine moved the capital of the Roman Empire from Rome to Byzantium. Not surprisingly, the city was renamed “Constantinople” after him, and also not surprisingly, the Empire split into Eastern and Western Segments in 395AD. The Western portion lasted only until 487AD when the City of Rome finally fell to invading barbarians, and imperial succession came to an end, but the Eastern Roman Empire continued on for many centuries until Ottomans (Turks) conquered Constantinople in 1453 (renaming it “Istanbul”). While it lasted, The Eastern Roman Empire became known as the Byzantine Empire, after Byzantium, the Greek name for a city on the Bosporus (a strait connecting the Black and the Mediterranean Seas). Byzantines were well and truly Romans and Christians.

Charlemagne in Gaul (France) attempted to resurrect the Western Roman Empire in 800AD, calling it the Holy Roman Empire, but it was mostly a fantasy. However, sometimes even fantasies have influence, and the House of Habsburg (from Habichtsburg , “Hawk’s Castle,” built in 1020AD in Switzerland) took hold of and ruled the “Holy Roman Empire” for four hundred years, starting in 1200AD. Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf conquered present-day Austria in 1276, and the Hapsburgs thereafter settled in to their new home.

The Ottomans (from Osman, the first sultan) were nomadic Turkish tribes who (like the Huns before them) migrated to the Middle East from central Asia. By the 1500s, Ottomans ruled Asia Minor, including the Balkans. Ottomans were Muslims and violently evangelistic, “converting” all they conquered. Ottomans (by now called “Turks”) allied themselves with Germany during WWI and, of course, found themselves on the losing side. Allied occupation of what was left of the Ottoman Empire ended in 1923 with its abolishment and the establishment of the new and independent Republic of Turkey.

A significant number of British soldiers were taken prisoner by the Turks during the course of the Gallipoli Campaign during WWI. Not one survived captivity. To a man, they were summarily shot shortly after being captured, most in the back of the head. The bodies were not buried but were left to rot where they fell. After the War, a British commission was briefly allowed to survey Gallipoli in an effort to identify remains. A clumsy attempt at a cover up on the part of the Turks fell apart, and many skulls of British soldiers were found with holes in the back and with uniforms still intact. Embarrassed, the Turks abruptly ended the probe and, on a flimsy ruse, hastily escorted commission members off the peninsula. The probe was never resumed. In the following decades, the resultant sour relations between Britain and Turkey would result in Turkey being excluded from the European Union. As if to punctuate the fissure of the Roman Empire into Eastern and Western camps, Germans and Austrians were eventually forgiven. Turks never were.

“Slav” translates to “slave” in Latin. Roman Legionnaires lumped eastern European tribesman into one group and enslaved them all. The title has stuck with them to this day. Their history since has been characterized by successive conquests and hopelessly entangled loyalties and religions. The Great Moravian Empire of the 800s was the first attempt at internal consolidation, but Slavs were then successively conquered by Magyars (Huns), Byzantines, Ottomans, and the Holy Roman Empire under the Hapsburgs.

Eastern Slavs are Russians, Belarusians, and Ukrainians, which accounts for Russia’s continued interest in the region. Most Eastern Slavs are Christian (Eastern Orthodox). There are only a few Catholics. Western Slavs are Czechs, Slovaks, Poles, Bohemians, and Wends (Sorbs and Lusatians). Western Slavs are nearly all Catholic, owing to their close proximity to Western Europe. Southern (Balkan) Slavs are Bulgars, Croats, Macedonians, Serbs, Bosnians, and Slovenes. Most are Eastern Orthodox and Catholic, but there is a significant Moslem minority, inherited via the Ottoman occupation.

Back to our story: Princip was, of course, not standing there on Franz Joseph Street purely by chance. He was one of five assassins, mostly teenagers, who had been covertly recruited and trained to carry out the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria. The mastermind of the conspiracy was Dragutin Dimitrijevic (called Apis, Latin for “The Bee”), outwardly an amiable Serbian Army officer, but in reality, a clandestine, hardened purveyor of political violence for whom the quixotic notion of a “united Slavic nation,” or Yugoslavia, provided a reason to live. His secret organization was called “Union or Death,” better know as “The Black Hand.”

In Dimitrijevic’s mind, Austria and the Habsburgs stood squarely in the way of a united Slavia. In the late 1800s, Russia assisted indigenous Slavs in finally ejecting the last of the Ottomans (Turks) from the Balkans. Assuming Russia had self-serving territorial interests in the region, Britain and France pressured Russia into backing off and allowing Austria (the Habsburgs) to administer the territory. Only too happy to do so, Austria unilaterally annexed the entire region in 1908. Now, officially a part of Austria-Hungary, many Slavs actually welcomed their new, upscale landlords and were thus quickly losing interest in local, independence movements. In order to keep his dream alive, Dimitrijevic thus decided Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand, popular among Slavs, had to be eliminated. Unfortunately, like all those given to political violence (terrorism), he never gave much thought to the aftermath. He should have, because the resultant world conflagration, WWI, would see more combatants die than in any war before or since. WWII saw many civilian deaths but never matched the number of dead soldiers generated by WWI, over ten million in four-and-a half years of fighting!

At the time, when political radicals needed a place to meet, they would invariably gather at the local coffee house. From Dublin to Moscow, coffee houses were breeding grounds for young revolutionaries. It was at just such a coffee house in Belgrade that Gavrilo Princip and his four coconspirators were recruited. All idealistic losers in poor health, they were equipped with M1900 Browning pistols, hand grenades, and vials of cyanide with which they were all to commit suicide after the deed was done. All were Christian except for one, the token Moslem, there to give the project ecumenical color. Dimitrijevic knew that his new nation would include a significant Moslem minority, and he wanted to appeal to them too. To him, genetic nationalism was a more powerful uniting force than religion. How wrong he was!

Like all Habsburgs, Archduke Franz Ferdinand had a solid grasp of his political position and duties. His uncle, Emperor Franz Joseph (the current Habsburg-in-Charge), liked that about him. But, Franz Ferdinand was unsatisfied with being a mere figurehead. He was an aggressive reformer and a competent administrator. He disliked entrenched bureaucracies, and he particularly disliked the expressions of ethnic superiority displayed by his fellow Austrians and Hungarians toward Slavs. In fact, he married a Slav, the beautiful Sophie (a Czech), over the objections of his uncle. He also disliked bodyguards and military escorts, because they insulated them from direct contact with crowds. He routinely dismissed them. Besides, on this particular Sunday morning, Franz was in Sarajevo, among his wife’s own people. He couldn’t think of a safer place to be, as he, wearing a green-plumed helmet, waved to them from the open back of his carriage on its way to city hall. This was the 28th of June, Franz’s and Sophie’s fourteenth wedding anniversary. Sophie had recently been informed by her doctors that she was pregnant with her and Franz’s fourth child.

While the procession made its way up Apple Quay, three of the five assassins lined the street. As the carriage passed, one of them threw a grenade. Franz saw it coming, thinking it was a brick, and slapped it down. It exploded at it hit the street. Several bystanders were injured, but the royal party was unhurt, except for a scratch on Sophie’s cheek. As the driver started to race off, Franz stopped the caravan, got out, and personally attended to the wounded himself. Only when he was satisfied they were all going to be safely evacuated did he jump back into the carriage. Franz could have easily been shot as he attended to the wounded, but the assassins had all fled.

Once safely at city hall, Franz insisted on going to the hospital immediately to visit the wounded. Franz told Sophie to stay behind, citing the obvious danger. She would have none of it. “I will not leave you,” she was heard to say sternly. So, he and Sophie got back into the same carriage and went right back down the same street, Apple Quay. No one thought to vary the route!

The driver got lost anyway and turned down Franz Joseph Street by mistake. One of the escorts yelled at him to stop and return to Apple Quay. As instructed, the driver stopped, directly in front of Shiller’s Delicatessen and Pub, and started to back up. The fifth assassin, Gavrilo Princip, had assumed the earlier assassination attempt had been successful and was walking home after having a few congratulatory drinks at Shiller’s. He was standing right there when the carriage stopped. Shocked to see Franz there and apparently unhurt, he drew his Browning Pistol and fired twice, once at Franz and once at Sophie. The range was less than five feet. The “pop, pop” of the underpowered cartridge was nearly inaudible, and many bystanders didn’t even hear the shots. A crowd immediately enveloped Princip. The carriage sped away. Franz, struck in the neck, started to speak as blood poured from his mouth. Sophie, struck in the stomach, slumped to the floor. Franz implored the now unconscious Sophie to survive for the sake of their children. He was then heard to say, “It is nothing.” Those were his last words. He died moments later. Sophie hung on for several hours, but died also.

As instructed, all five assassins swallowed their cyanide, but it was dated and too weak. All were arrested and brutally interrogated. All remained silent, save one. He told all, and all stood trial. Only one was over twenty. He was hanged. The others, including Princip, got prison terms. Upon being released years later, one became a museum curator. Another became a history teacher. Princip himself, always in poor health, died in prison of tuberculosis in 1918, just months before the end fo the war. He was twenty-three. Dimitrijevic died before a firing squad, along with a number of associates, calling for a united Slavia to the end.

Shocked by the assassination, Austria invaded Serbia. Russia declared war on Austria. Germany came to Austria’s aid. Britain and France came to Russia’s aid, and the Great War was on!

Austria and Hungary were punished by the Allies after WWI by having chunks of their real estate taken away and given to the new states of Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, and Rumania. Yes, Dimitrijevic would have been happy to know that Yugoslavia did become a brief reality, but he would have been crushed to learn that the nation never came close to including all Slavs. Croats and Serbs made up the vast majority, and they were never able to blend together into a functioning nation. Adding to the unsavory mix, Moslems didn’t want to be part of any nation where they were a minority. Warfare between rival groups was continuous. After WWII, Josop Broz (Tito) kept a lid on the nation for a while, but, the moment he died in 1980, Serbs and Croats began open warfare once more.

When the Soviet Union finally broke up in 1991, Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina immediately broke away from Serb-dominated Yugoslavia. Dimitrijevic’s impossible dream, Yugoslavia, dissolved, and the fighting has been continuous ever since. Even today, Slavic ex-patriots worldwide, echoing long-dead Dimitrijevic, still talk wistfully about a united Slavia!

Lessons: Passionate political ideologues, like religious ideologues, are extremely dangerous in any age, and their “cause,” no matter how lofty, always attracts losers looking for action. How many acts of unspeakable cruelty have been committed in the name of the righteous pursuit of some great (and unlikely) dream? Beware of anyone on the philosophical fringe.

No matter where you travel, vary your route. Who knows how many acts of political violence could have been avoided if important people just did that!

Economics is a greater uniting force than either genetics or religion. Those actively pursing attainable economic goals seldom have time to listen to ideological rabble rousers. The creation and maintenance of a permanent and hopeless underclass is always the precursor to violent, political upheaval. As John Kennedy said, “Those who make peaceful change impossible, make violent change inevitable.”

Personal security is an individual requisite and not something that can be lightly dismissed or casually assigned to someone else. You don’t need “a lot of enemies.” It only takes one, once!



26 Aug 02

Fight avoided through aggressive disengagement. This is from one of our students on the West Coast:

“CCW permits in our state are not hard to get. I’ve had mine for several years, and (since I attended your course) I carry concealed regularly. Earlier this month, my wife and I went to a local race track with another couple. During the festivities, I left my wife and friends in the stands as I went looking for a restroom. Near the main entrance, I notice an apparently intoxicated man stumbling about with a beer in his hand. We made eye contact, and he turned to walk toward me, signaling me with his hand to come over to him. Not wanting contact, I brushed past him as he started to speak to me, saying, “Sorry sir, but I don’t think I can help you” as I walked away.

I was sincerely hoping I had seen the last of him, but, when I left the restroom to return to the stands, he was still there. When he saw me, he moved directly in front of me in a deliberate attempt to block my path. I feigned to the left, then jogged to the right as I had been taught. It caught him off guard, but he then turned to run after me. He caught up with me and again got in front and blocked my path. He started pushing me and shouting curses. Curiously, his state of “drunkenness” began to look more and more like an act.

For a moment, I thought he had me mixed up with someone else, but I soon discovered the real story. As I, in my interview stance, attempted to maneuver around him, I snapped my head around in order to look behind me. Sure enough, there was a second man moving rapidly in an attempt to flank me. I now saw that I was being maneuvered into a corner in a dark area of the building. The “drunk” was just a decoy, placed there to absorb my attention. I was being set up.

With this new information, I moved aggressively in an effort to “stack” both attackers, one behind the other, all the time shouting at them to get away from me. It worked! They abruptly broke it off when they could see their plan was not working. Taking advantage of the pause, I quickly got distance and exited the area. When I looked back, I could see both men walking together back toward the main entrance.

I rejoined my wife and friends and we continued our evening. I never saw the two suspects again.

I am convinced that aggressive verbal and postural disengagement, combined with constant alertness and scanning, prevented me from being cornered and forced to confront both suspects at gunpoint. However, I am (finally) taking your advice and am now carrying OC, in addition to my pistol, as my standard procedure. During the encounter, I was sincerely wishing I had an OC bottle with me. I won’t make that mistake again.”

Lesson: Avoidance, combined with alertness and aggressive physical and verbal disengagement, is something that we all need to practice as enthusiastically as we practice out shooting skills. Most situations in which a gun has to be drawn and brandished are avoidable if we (1) arrange not to be places where victimization attempts are likely, (2) employ a bearing and posture that gets us continuously deselected by predators, (3) see trouble in the making well in advance and take assertive steps to avoid it, (3) disengage aggressively when, notwithstanding the foregoing, we are selected for victimization.

Our student did well. Good show!



29 Aug 02

Concealment holsters:

We spent this morning with my old friend Lou Alessi, famous holster maker in Buffalo, NY. His leather work is superb, as usual.

He confirms what many other holster makers have told me: that a large percentage of working police officers are now carrying concealed ALL THE TIME, having NEVER have done it before in their careers. He is presently supplying these officers with superlative concealment holsters. Since last September, my good friend, Dave Grossman, has been urging all police officers to carry a gun at all times, on duty and off, particularly entreating those who have had a casual attitude about the subject up until now. He has apparently been successful. Good show, Dave! Great job as always, Lou!



30 Aug 02

Training risks and benefits:

I hesitate to call it a “trend,” but a number of defensive firearms trainers (some I’ve seen on TV news programs) have decided to place students (real people) in the impact area, standing next to paper targets during live fire exercises. The supposed benefit of this practice is to dramatically increase the seriousness with which students approach the training session. It surely does that, but it strikes me that this practice fairly begs the question. It surely has no place in mainstream training.

As part of our overall philosophical approach, we teach students that deliberately or inadvertently pointing a gun in the direction of another person (who is posing no threat) is not only unsafe, it is rude. It is a display of bad manners. In the same breath, of course, we say that sometimes, in actual incidents, pointing a gun at an innocent person, though regrettable, is unavoidable. In training, in fact, we often place inert “non-targets” next to the target we want the student to shoot so that the student will experience the situation where his target is in close proximity with innocent people.

However, if I were a student at a shooting course, and my instructor asked me to walk downrange and stand next to a paper target while other students shot at it with live ammunition, I would politely decline. And, if my instructor asked me to fire at a paper target when another student was standing next to it, I would also decline. Shortly thereafter, I would unilaterally withdraw from the program.

Placing live people next to targets strikes me as a dare. It is an attempt to temp fate, to titillate the student’s sense of adventure. It is also an attempt to be trendy and exciting. Unfortunately, it is little else. I fail to see any substantial benefit, and, as indicated above, it begs the question. Training casualties are always a risk, no matter how careful we all try to be. Training goals must always be balanced against acceptable risk. Risk needs to be effectively managed, not courted or, in this case, virtually invited.

The four gun safety rules by which we all live have served us well, and I recommend sticking with them. They are imperfect and must be occasionally redefined, but they have and continue to provide a good foundation for all gunmen.