August 20th, 2009 12:28 AM
Working with a gun in your hand
Recently I was working with a SWAT team that had just added two new guys that had not yet been to a SWAT school. We were just getting them accustomed to clearing rooms and then eventually entire houses with a pistol in their hand. Sounds pretty simple doesn't it?
The problem is that these officers like many other police and citizens who CCW have spent a lot of time on the range drawing, shooting, and moving, with two hands on the gun. This can be problematic when learning to do things such as opening doors, holding gear, using hand signals, keeping their balance, and moving people out of their way with the other hand. Due to what is called sympathetic reflex, when one hand contracts the other hand will do the same. This can result in negligent discharges. Another issue is that when both hands are glued to the gun it can force the shooter to extend his gun forward even when there is a non specified threat in front of him such as what appears to be an unarmed intruder that does no respond to verbal commands. I have found that many people's response to being "gun faced" at arms distance is to reach for the muzzle of the pistol. The more projected the gun forward the more likely this is to happen.
This occurred several times while training the new officers. From within a room or when confronted head on, I was able to take advantage of the officers having both hands on the gun and was able to sweep their pistol out of play. Of course I was immediatly dealt with by the officer behind them. A citizen clearing his home or business will not have this luxury.
Once they were taught that it was a handgun and not a handsgun and that while clearing with a gun it is a good idea to leave the reaction hand empty or to hold a light if needed, I was unable to take their guns.
It is a very natural thing to come task and tool fixated, you are amped up with a gun in your hand, upon encountering a threat that does not require rounds you squeeze the gun harder with both hands. If someone grabs the gun your reaction is to hold on as tight as possible to keep the gun, there is a good chance that they may also have both of their hands on the gun. Now you are both task/tool fixated. It becomes a wrestling match. Doing the same scenario but with only one hand on the gun you are not only able to step back drawing the pistol into your center and away from the threat but you can also use your other hand to push, pull, or swing at your attacker.
Being able to shoot a pistol and work with one in your hand are two very different skill sets.
August 20th, 2009 01:12 AM
In Louisiana police officers have to shoot 6 rounds stronghand only and 6 hands off-hand only, plus 6 rounds from the hip with their stronghand only as part of our yearly (and probably soon to be half-yearly) qualifications. I think this helps with what you're talking about, because it gets you used to having a free hand to defend yourself. Also many officers carry a gun light attached to their weapons so that you can have a hand free to open doors and such and still have light to illuminate the room as you open the door. However, I think the best defence against having your weapon grabbed while clearing a room is keeping your weapon at low ready when rounding corners and entering rooms or by "cutting the pie".
August 20th, 2009 04:04 AM
Thank you for that very informative post.
I agree, it's a HAND GUN, not a handsgun. I have found some gripping techniques, and where to place the trigger finger when it's not on the trigger that are helpful in minimizing the sympathetic reflex response. I'd like to take credit for them, but they are not mine.
If one is not used to opening doors and using a light and a gun, let alone fending off an attacker while having a gun in hand, it can be a rude awakening the first time one has to do it for real.
August 20th, 2009 04:48 AM
Granted that most civilians don't practice tactically like SWAT teams, but it is good practice to 'operate' with one hand free. Many of the USPSA matches I've attended have one or two stages set up with doors or windows to open. I have yet to participate in a weak hand only stage. Working with the single hand pistol should also bring up the point of muzzle control as the possibility of sweeping one's weak hand/arm while doing these tasks can be realized. Of course the finger should be outside the trigger guard until target engagement. Good points, and things taught or learned seem rather easy to retain short term. But unless one keeps practicing often enough to have it become habit, it is also easily lost.
August 21st, 2009 12:07 AM
good stuff....I like. Another aspect to practice on.
as always thx Mercop
August 21st, 2009 12:17 AM
Every time I go to the range, I shoot 6 rounds with one hand, 6 rounds with off hand, and three rounds close range quick shot, one at a time (not really hip shot, I only do that about once a year, and normally out in the woods).
Not the same as working with both hands doing different tasks, but I'm non-leo. I have held a flashlight in one hand as I fire.
S&W 642 (no-lock) with .38 Spl +P 135 GR Gold GDHP
Glock G31 & G33 with .357 Sig 125 GR. SXT Winchester Ranger
August 21st, 2009 12:36 AM
These are good tips. I'm sure they could be utilized in HD.
Don't believe what you hear and only half of what you see!
August 21st, 2009 04:48 AM
learning to operate with handgun in one hand and open a door,take a loved one by the hand,hit a switch,etc etc. is JUST as important as learning shot placement and such things. These things should ALL be practiced often, as Ram Rod said, Ill change the wording - Skills not practiced are skills lost.
BETTER TO BE TRIED BY 12 THAN CARRIED BY 6
Hesitation kills faster than a bullet.
If your head is up your *$$ you are unaware of danger. You are in the perfect position to kiss it goodbye.
Open Carry LAW for Pennsylvania
August 21st, 2009 03:37 PM
I have a very tragic example of this phenomenon of sympathetic reflex and also what is called transference of energy to share with you to hopefully bring this home.
We had an incident about 12 years ago, in my area, which also was the catalyst to putting tactical medics on our swat team at my urging.
Two State Troopers (and personal friends of mine) were serving an arrest warrant on a fugitive at his fathers house. The father was the one who called the police when the son had gone to the father in an attempt to strong arm him for money and a vehicle so he could escape the jurisdiction. Several of our deputies were on scene as well.
The suspect had known to have been armed with a knife and had assaulted officers in the past. Two State Troopers had him cornered in the basement of his fathers rural farm house. The basement really was just a crawl space just tall enough to stand up in and basically only housed the furnace for the house.
The suspect was hiding in the shadows behind the furnace and appeared to be holding something in his hands. It was also very small area, basically just a tall crawl space.
The Trooper Sergeant was giving commands to drop his weapon and slowly come out which were being ignored by the suspect. The sergeant who was holding his Glock 22 in his strong hand and an asp baton in his weak hand attempted to disarm him by striking the suspects hand with the asp baton.
As he struck the suspects wrist, his Glock discharged. (Obviously he had his finger on the trigger at the time). The shot exploded into the cinder block wall right next to the State Patrol Corporal who got hit with multiple cinder block fragments right in the face. The Corporal, who just heard a gunshot, saw a flash and was hit in the face immediately thought, (and rightfully so) he had just been shot in the face by the suspect. He instantly returned fire and shot the suspect 3 times in the chest, killing him, before the Trooper himself collapsed on the floor.
I was just coming on duty for work in the ER as our ambulance brought the Trooper to the hospital. He underwent 4 hours of emergency surgery where they removed well over 100 cinder block fragments from his face, both large and small. I saw the X-ray and it looked like he was hit in the face with a 12 ga. turkey load.
It turned out that the suspect was unarmed. A coroners inquest ensued in which the incident was ruled an accident and no charges were filed against the Trooper. Both Troopers remain on the job today however I have spoken with the Sergeant many times over the years. While he said he's ok, he is definitely a different person.
Ironically, I had just read an article by Mas Ayoob about three weeks prior to that incident which explained the phenomenon of "transference of energy" and the sympathetic response which causes it. You can not avoid it. It is how our neuropathways are hard wired from the brain and the amount of energy which is transferred from one hand to the other can be as great as 90%.
Several months after the incident I sat down with the Trooper and explained that phenomenon and how transference of energy worked, hoping it would help him rationalize why what happened did happen. He just shrugged and said, "I just thought I was an idiot for having my finger on the trigger."
My point is bad things happen to good people and a moment's inattention can and does lead to tragedy. A moments lapse in safety in the heat of the moment lead to the death of an unarmed person, albeit a real bad guy and even the guys father said it was no great loss. But that incident played real hard on both those State Troopers and changed them forever!
Be careful out there and practice good gun habits! You do fight like you train!
"The gun is the great equalizer... For it is the gun, that allows the meek to repel the monsters; Whom are bigger, stronger and without conscience, prey on those who without one, would surely perish."
August 21st, 2009 05:20 PM
Bark'n...wow. Glad it turned out the way it did.
The other thing I am puzzled by is the officer having an ASP in his weak-hand. It is definitely a strong side weapon. I have heard of deploying OC with the off hand with the gun in the other, this actually kept me from shooting a kid with a hatchet in 2001.
August 22nd, 2009 04:25 AM
Not to derail this thread, but more to piggyback on what you brought up, this is why I like a flashlight off the gun.
You can keep the gun pointed down, with your finger off the trigger. If you shine the flashlight and are "startled" by Grandma raiding the cookie jar you can keep from putting a bullet in her kiester. Sympathetic and Startle reflex actions are closely linked in many regards, and mimic each other in various ways. I'm no expert, but I do know that if Grandma "startles" me when I flash my light on her the convulsive hand grasping action on the flashlight hand is mimicked by the hand holding the gun.
Just pause for a moment and ask yourself, are you sure your finger is off the trigger in such a sphincter tightening moment? For the average homeowner I'll bet not. This same startle reflex is in motion when you have the light on the gun as you search for what made that "bump in the night". If it's not yet a verified threat do you really want to be pointing a gun at Grandma?
Once you have a verified threat then I'm all for a light on the gun. Until then though, it's a gun and a light in seperate hands. Of course, once I have a verified threat I'm going to a longarm if at all possible.
Sorry for the "hijack" of the thread but I think the two subjects are closely related and wanted to throw that food for thought out there. Many people seem to want to put a light on their gun to aide them when opening doors and such as they search the house for that "bump in the night". Given the "Startle Reflex Response" and "sympathetic reflex response" I have to ask if it's wise to have the light on the gun?
Mr. mercop, if you want me to I'll remove my post, as it does tend to hijack your thread.
August 22nd, 2009 05:11 AM
From personal experience, I know that my finger is off the trigger until the shoot decision is made, and that is based off of a couple of situations I have been in.
As always mercop, an interesting read. I know that we train to do a lot of stuff one handed with a rifle (adding in another aspect above that of just handguns), in order to make sure that we can retain the weapon and use it while still accomplishing the other task. Of course a good sling is an asset in such situations with a rifle. But kicking doors, turning knobs, searching suspects, physically restraining suspects and a million other things are much more difficult to do while utilizing one hand on your rifle.
Just my slight addition.
Fortes Fortuna Juvat
Former, USMC 0311, OIF/OEF vet
NRA Pistol/Rifle/Shotgun/Reloading Instructor, RSO, Ohio CHL Instructor
August 22nd, 2009 07:44 AM
Youre right on about weapons safety, we are trained to keep our trigger finger outside the trigger guard until ready to engage the threat.
We also have to qualify shooting strong side and weak side from both standing and the prone position, I think everyone should practice shooting strong side and weak side from different positions as well.
August 22nd, 2009 10:33 AM
+1 on the light mounted on the pistol. I like it for long guns, just makes more sense. But on pistols I am not a fan. I realized that as soon as we got them officers were going to start using them as a flashlight with a gun attached and not a gun with a flashlight attached. Many also stopped carrying a light on their belts.
They do have their uses for shield guns and K-9 handlers. But my finding in classes has been that been that too many citizen students have also adopted the gun light as their primary. You of course will need to illuminate more things that you will need to cover down on. If the only light you have the one on your gun you will eventually point your gun at something that you should not have.
If you do carry a pistol with a dedicated light you should also carry a primary light on your reaction side for regular lighting chores. This also allows you to have another force option for distraction and striking, allowing you to draw with your strong hand.- George
August 26th, 2009 10:18 PM
This was a very interesting thread! I have several new things to practise and think about / try. Thanks for the input.
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