Field stripping the pie slice
The ‘Pie Slice’ is used often and often performed poorly.
I decided to write this after moving through my house as I would during a building search. I approached a room occupied by my unsuspecting wife and performed a pie slice. She spotted me before I spotted her. She rolled her eyes... I went to work re-evaluating my slice. I did this using a full-length mirror while slicing with my handgun and M4 (both unloaded).
Slicing the mirror as I would a room, I was able to position myself into a proper pie slice position relative to my reflection. Through this exercise, I brushed up on the fundamentals and became more attentive to how I and others sliced. I noticed I was not the only one needing a refresher. Elbows, shoulders, gear, and more gave away positions long before the officer had a muzzle on a threat.
This may seem elementary. The purpose of the pie slice is something every officer understands…but why is the pie slice often performed poorly? Before you stop reading, be critical of yourself and be open to reviewing a fundamental essential to your safety. We become complacent and neglect the basics of this movement, exposing ourselves to a risk, which we could otherwise avoid.
Here we will field strip the pie slice to help manage risks we encounter.
Bi-lateral Shooting — The ability to shoot with either hand will increase the effectiveness of slicing the pie.
Your choice of weapon and ability to operate that weapon with either hand will increase the effectiveness of pie slicing. For purposes of communication, I consider a “right hand corner” a corner able to be sliced with the weapon in the right hand and vice versa. For the sake of simplicity, I will only address right hand corners and assume you are a bi-lateral shooter.
Do not crowd the corner — Crowding the corner will decrease your reactionary gap as well as possibly giving the opposition an opportunity for a muzzle grab. Further, backing off the corner will allow you to move less to perform the slice and you have to move less to take a shot or take cover if needed. If you end up having to hold that corner, you can dominate it easier with the added distance.
Position for a long gun — If you are slicing with a long gun, your feet and hips should be perpendicular to the corner. On a right hand corner, your left foot and hip will be closest to the corner. Keep your elbows down.
Position for a handgun — If slicing with a handgun, cant your toes at a 45 degree angle towards the corner. Your right hip should be back further from the plane of the corner than your left hip.
Position of muzzle and head — Lock your muzzle on the corner and keep your head perpendicular to the floor so you are not tilting your head. If you tilt your head, you will inadvertently expose the top of your head to the threat area, offering your adversary a great target area. Since your muzzle is locked on the corner, this limits the time and space you will need to cover if you acquire a target. Don’t forget your weapon at ‘the ready’ creates a blind spot for you to overcome, so don’t forget to look below the level of your weapon for potential threats.
Torso Movement — Lean your torso out by bending at the waist. Leading with your eyes and muzzle, take care not to allow your head to tilt. Be sure you are leading with your eyes and muzzle. This is when shoulders tend to try to lead the movement. Do not lean too far out and come off balance.
Feet Movement — Your feet are bringing up the rear. Move as if you were hinged to the corner by your eyes and muzzle. As you reach the end of your lean, take small steps to move your hips back under your torso, then lean again to slice a little further. Move in an arcing motion to view more and more of the threat area. Never cross your feet or you will likely stumble if you need to change directions quickly. Be aware of obstacles you may need to negotiate as you move to avoid tripping.
Change & Adapt
The pie slice can be applied to nearly every situation. Making modifications to the slice will allow you to change and adapt to your obstacle. Speed it up, slow it down, kneel, whatever, just keep the principles the same: limit exposure to an unknown area and be able to respond quickly to a threat.
The dynamic pie slice — Although the pie slice is generally thought of as a slow, methodical, stealth search technique, it can be applied in dynamic situations. Crawl before you walk, then ramp up the slice to work dynamically.
Kneeling pie slice — A handy variation to the slice is the kneeling position. Handgun or long gun, it will be executed the same. Begin by positioning your feet and hips at a bladed, forty-five degree angle from the corner. Drop onto your back knee, and have the front knee extended slightly beyond ninety degrees. To slice, rock forward toward your front leg, but do not overextend and lose your balance. You will see you are taking small slices from a controlled, balanced stance. To take more of a slice, pull your back knee under you after extending your front knee, then rock forward again. Bit by bit you will get around the corner.
All skills are perishable without practice. Outside of structured training sessions and real-world applications, an officer may not slice enough to stay proficient. So to stay sharp for when you will need it, try practicing through your daily routine.
Make it a habit — Slice at the store, in your house, anywhere.
Force on Force training — Everyone is seeing the benefits of force on force training. If you have access to these tools, use them. You will quickly find out if your slice is working.
Around every corner is an opportunity — As you move through your day, whether it is your house, a store, or your headquarters, you pass corners constantly. Make that an opportunity to hone your slice. I don’t mean draw your weapon and scare the unsuspecting shopper in the adjacent isle. I suggest being cognizant of your movement and visualizing an actual application. Lock your eyes on the corner, slice the area and quickly interpret what is in your field of vision. (You can do this without looking like you’re crazy.) And when you are in a place where you are not going to draw strange looks, step it up and practice to include your weapon.
Recruit observers — Spouse, girlfriend, boyfriend, or co-workers can be the guinea pigs of your impromptu training. When you approach them in the room, quickly start to slice and ask them, “Can you see me?” Solicit feedback and see where you can improve. When you start to annoy everyone around you with it, use a full-length mirror and see for yourself.
Fit for duty
The pie slice is one of the best-known and oldest tactics we have in our trick bag. Nonetheless, the movement is still sound and can give us the upper hand when searching/confronting threats. What may be a simple tactic may simply be neglected. With a little refresher from time to time, this tool will be ready when needed and will help you manage risks in an inherently dangerous job.
Greg Primm is a member of the Missouri State Highway Patrol’s Special Emergency Response Team and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.