The shoot-to-wound debate continues

Presenting levelheaded counterarguments to generally uninformed opponents of police deadly force practices requires perspective and patience


Last month, I read all three of the installments posted by Roy Bedard in his multi-angled approach to the subject of “shooting to wound.” I also reviewed all of the comments and responses to each article. Having once spent a good deal of time teaching and working with Departments and Agencies in Europe and the Pacific Rim, I can tell you first hand that there are many approaches out there that are much different than what is practiced here in the U.S. and there are some that to me (as a foreigner in their lands) seemed almost in conflict with each other and not just with what we here in the United States might consider to be good sense.

Someday, when I have more time, I’ll bore (or incite) you with my beliefs on a number of the topics brought up by the readers in the three threads of comments made about what he had to say but in something of an overall commentary here today, let me use this post from “pjdonnelly” made in response to Mr. Bedard as a launching point.

Posted by pjdonnelly on Saturday, April 16, 2011 08:46 AM Pacific
I shot in a Police Olympics match in Illinois about twenty years ago. One of the events was a "European Combat Match" The scoring areas were the arms and legs only on the target. If you put a round center of mass, you lost.

I thought I was the only one who remembered that event! I want to say that those same targets might (read: “MIGHT”) have been used in an Illinois Police Combat Association (IPCA) match as well.

Anyway, I thought of how (back then) some of us viewed with a wary eye, not only the purpose of the targets, but also from where they came. I think we were merely told “Europe.” We also wondered how the use of them in something as visible as the Police Olympics, could have had serious repercussions regarding policy-making at a local level.

You could shoot the regular IPCA matches that were held all over the place in the Chicagoland area or you could participate in the monthly Governor’s Twenty matches that were held throughout the state and nobody would ever notice. But the Police Olympics showed up in the local papers and on TV News.

Center Mass of Whatever is Available
I thought the approach of forcing you to shoot into the generally narrow and noticeably different-colored extremities on a humanoid outline drawn onto a good-sized paper target was an interesting one. It would cause the more practiced among us — those of us so used to shooting into the scoring rings of a B27 target, that we probably could have shot effectively into the same area had we just been shooting a blank piece of paper of the same height and width — to no longer have that built-in edge that the shooting games we played developed within us.

And I thought that was a good thing for several reasons.

It brought people to the event who might otherwise not have shot it, because they knew there had been some attempt made by the officials to level the playing field. In addition to the abovementioned lack-of-familiarity affect, the targets themselves were something generally not available for purchase so that the “gamespeople” in the state couldn’t just race out and buy some in an effort to “practice-and-(re)program” themselves to build that kind of advantage back in.

And it made everyone, in essence, use the concept of shooting for the center mass of whatever was available to us — something that is being presented in the three sets of responses to Mr. Bedard’s articles as a generally valuable concept.

Although I must admit that such a benefit was probably incidental for once again, I believe that the real reason (again for the sake of equalization) was to apply timed, marksmanship-driven shots to less-common-but-still-designated points on the target instead of just firing six, 12, or 18 round strings into the same place as always as if by rote in a typical and historical Police Pistol Combat (PPC) Match target.

But as I said in my opening remarks, the “goodness” ended there. For some of us who “thought beyond our guns” (if I may be allowed to bastardize that quote), were very concerned that something we felt so impractical in real life might be seen either by the public or by some of the more-removed-from-the-practicalities-of-the-job policy makers to whom we reported, as an effective, reliable, and possible-to-perform practice for the field.

Thankfully, it never came to that back then and hopefully, it will not come to that now or in the future.

A General Public Generally Unaware
But with the number of outcries against the use of firearms in incidents where they are permissible by both case law and departmental policy, there will always be people asking not only why the gun was used but also why it wasn’t directed to what they see as a less lethal (and potentially less terminal) part of the body. And there will always be a public (and a national jury pool) that through no fault of their own, knows nothing about violence, bullet performance, physiology, or practical marksmanship (especially under stress). Finally and unfortunately, there will always be some people in power who will seize any opportunity to employ a serious and in some cases, tragic, event to further their own agendas or own careers.

As a result, we need to remain aware and levelheaded in our responses to such attempts to wrongly shift our focus (and aiming points) in dealing with deadly force threats and we need to remain united in our opposition to them in a vocal but technically-supportable manner.

About the author

Tom Marx left the Chicago Police Department in 1988 to become an instructor at the Smith & Wesson Academy. After several years of teaching full time both nationally and internationally, he shifted roles at Smith: first to a series of technical positions and then as Head of their Domestic Law Enforcement Operations. He left S&W to organize a Law Enforcement Division for Michaels of Oregon as well as to help design much of their police-related duty gear. Leaving Uncle Mike’s, Tom became Director of Intellectual Property for BLACKHAWK Products Group; focusing on the patent efforts for all of their divisions. Today, he is a consultant in various firearms, accessory and training matters. Throughout the years, Tom has continued to lecture and instruct both inside and outside the US with such diverse groups as ILEETA, IALEFI, WIFLE, LETC, NDIA, the NRA, and Team One Network. .

Contact Tom Marx.

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