Motor patrol: Bringing the street to the range
Not all cops are the same, not all environments are the same, and not all gunfights are the same, yet so often we find ourselves doing the same qualification style drills in a square, static firearms range. The truth is, there is no perfectly flat, straight, red firing line or berm backstop at the Wal-Mart in “Your-Town, USA.” When the gunfight comes to your officer at your Wal-Mart, what training will he/she have received that prepared him for the fight he is now having. We cannot bring the sterile, controlled qualification environment to the street; we must “bring the street to the range.”
Bringing the Street to the Range is NRA LEAD’s philosophy that the goal of LE firearms training should not be just to meet a qualification test standard, but to prepare the officer for the environment where he/she must fight and win. Over the past several years, several instructors across the nation have sought new ways to analyze the conditions officers must fight and find a way to adapt specific training to those environmental parameters.
PoliceOne has asked me to deliver an occasional article on these concepts, and this is the first in that ongoing effort. To begin, this article will look at some of environmental factors that can affect the Motorcycle Officer. I’ll then offer some basic training principles and offer some suggestions for motorcycle based firearms training you can bring to your department.
Last order of business before I begin: I want to hear back from the officers who choose to read my columns, so add your comments below or send me an e-mail.
The reality of the Motor Officer’s potential gunfight
In analyzing the Motor Officer’s environment a few things become apparent.
Several years ago Dr. Enoka cited three causal factors in the unintentional contraction of a human hand which could result in an accidental discharge of a firearm.
Those factors were:
Now for a moment, imagine a scenario where a motor officer is dismounting his motor as a suspect suddenly charges at him or displays a deadly weapon. He attempts to draw his firearm to defend himself while his leg is coming over the back of his motorcycle, so his balance is potentially disrupted. One hand is grasping the firearm while the other is grasping the handlebar balancing the weight of the bike and possibly a brake or clutch so he now has a potential sympathetic reflex. Finally, the attack from the suspect is sudden and chaotic and the officer recognizes an impending chaotic attack is imminent, so there could be an argument that he also has a startle effect.
As you can see, we have a “perfect storm” of all three factors occurring simultaneously for the officer as he tries to stop, get off the motor and defend himself. Can he effectively fight? Might he have an unintentional discharge? What training has he had on the “range” to prepare him for this “street” problem?
Training principles identified
Principle 1: The Officer cannot fight and ride the motorcycle at the same time. He must make a conscious choice to do one and abandon the other if he is to succeed at either. Despite what we see in Hollywood movies, there are simply too many skills involved in riding a motorcycle to concentrate on the principles of marksmanship and adequately fight simultaneously. The officer must make a conscious decision to either ride and escape or commit to the fight.
Principle 2: The Officer cannot dismount and draw a handgun at the same time without a realistic expectation of unintentional discharges and the potential for innocent people endangered. Because of the realities of Dr. Enoka’s research, officers must operate the handgun deliberately either from the motionless saddle or ditch the motorcycle entirely to focus attention and skills to the effort of shooting. Rounds errantly fired because of accidental discharge are both a great liability and also a waste of time while trying to win a fight.
Principle 3: Motor Officers must train with the equipment they use daily to gain a realistic proficiency in the environment they work. It’s not enough that the officer is a well trained rider and a well trained gunfighter; there must be a smooth transition from one to the other which allows the officer to minimize his risk and quickly overcome his aggressor. This means that he must train in the uniform he actually works in and train in any of the positions or phases of the attack he might find himself. These include:
In-service firearms training solutions
Drill 1: Full Uniform Familiarization
He needs to experience the limits of his mobility with a helmet, heavy coat and riding boots and the loss of dexterity with gloves.
Officers should practically fire fast, accurate hits with multiple weapons handling tasks such as draws, reloads, and malfunction clearing with lateral movement and “pivots and turns” incorporated. Instructors who train SWAT officers regularly will already have a laundry list of drills because the SWAT officers must also train similarly in their heavy gear.
Drill 2: Static Dismounting Drills
Based on the second principle, the officer must complete the dismount before the draw and return fire.
After a few repetitions the instructor should then have the officers turn the entire motor a different direction to simulate the attack coming from a different direction. This is where that muscle memory I mentioned can become an issue. If the officer always dismounts off of the low side or the high side, he may be actually stepping into the problem. The instructor uses this opportunity to train the officer to incorporate his dismount to use the minimal cover offered by the motor.
Throughout these drills, the officer should avoid extra movements that waste time, such as removing a helmet or gloves or even disconnecting a radio tether from the motor; his goal should be to return fire as quickly as possible once safely dismounted.
Drill 3: Stop, Dismount and Fire
After hitting the target, the officer returns to the motor and rotates out of the drill. As the officers rotate through repetitions, the instructor should choose different location from which to have the officer engage so that he must engage the target from all angles (in front of him, to his left, to his right and from behind him).
Drill 4: In the Saddle
It’s times like these that my good friend Jeff Hall of the Alaska State Troopers teaches in his class called “Finish the Fight” that the officers first instinct must be to simply fight back and in referring to the firearm, he uses the mantra, “Get it out, Get it on and Get it over!”
In this case, the officer must be able to quickly draw while in the saddle and return fire prior to dismounting. Once again we use a line drill in which the officers are on the motor and now they simply draw and return fire when the target turns, being cognizant of their own windshield, radio tethers and their own bodies. As before, every few repetitions, the motorcycles are turned 90 degrees so that the officer must simulate attacks from all angles. The officers will be holding the bikes upright with their stance while firing, so a slow progression in speed is fine and attention must be given to not muzzling other officers or the officers themselves during the drill.
Drill 5: Tie it All Together
We add a few pieces of random cover around the range as well. This time as the officer is driving around the range in a figure 8 or large circle, when the target turns, the officer stops the motor and immediately draws and fires from the saddle hitting the target 2-3 times. Now with the motor stopped, he simply side steps from the motor allowing it to drop onto the bars and crouches or kneels behind it to deliver a few more hits from the partial cover of the motor.
Finally, he disconnects any radio tethers quickly and moves to the nearest safe cover on the range and fires 2-3 more hits from its protection. The goal of this drill is to allow the officer to move through all the potential phases of the gunfight from the saddle to partial motor cover to movement to superior cover.
Some officers may be reluctant to allow the bike to drop and lean over onto the bars but that is exactly what they were designed for and the reality is that the motorcycle itself is of little concern in a fight for your life. Once again, as officers rotate through the drill, the location and angle of the attack should change to allow the officers the reality that the attack can come from any angle.
Drill 6: Scenario-based Drills
Start with student officers conducting normal traffic enforcement stops. The suspect might attack prior to the officers dismount, during the officer’s initial approach, at the suspect’s door, while the officer is writing the ticket, during a simulated arrest or even from a person who is not the driver. At some point, you may even have the scenario start with the officers leg pinned under the bike as though he has crashed or has been rammed by a vehicle and is down. While this is a worst case scenario, it certainly has merit. Can the officer fight from the ground, free himself and radio for help? The instructor’s imagination is the source for great training in this realm once the principles are trained.
For those concerned with the safety aspects of bringing Motorcycles onto the range or perhaps don’t have access to a range that will allow this type of training, consider doing all the drills with Air-soft or FX guns in a parking lot with a few cardboard targets on stands. Those who absolutely don’t want to scratch their beautiful BMW or Harley-Davidson motorcycle on concrete might be more willing to do so in the middle of a large grass field using an Air-soft gun. The range and the actual duty firearm are not the essential ingredients to this training, the student and the motorcycle are.
All of the drills mentioned are simply my way of implementing the training principles and are offered as an example; each instructor should carefully tailor make the training to meet the needs of their own officers and agency.
At the end of the day, the goal is to recognize that the Motorcycle Officer’s world is a little different than the average patrolman. Bringing the street to the range for our Motors is an investment in their survivability — a small investment that reduces liability and just might save their life someday.
|Back to previous page|