Pro Tip: Dont lose a gun fight in the first 3 seconds…

OK – so I posted this video up on Friday, but I didnt have any time to comment on it, but I want to do that here since I really believe that this is a powerful video and it certainly deserves to be talked about. Its also something that I believe that everyone who carries a firearm should watch.

In this video below you will see a force-on-force training scenario in which they act out a robber coming into a restaurant to rob the place. They have in the crowd of patrons a concealed carry holder who engages the threat once the robber burst in and fires off some shots into the ceiling. Like I said, this is a great video to watch if you carry a firearm, and its something that I think really needs to be dissected and talked about in detail. You can watch the whole thing if you’d like, or you can skip the commercials and back story and just jump to the 4:15 mark and watch the gun fight and the after action report.

If you do jump ahead, you should note that the man representing the concealed carry holder is no slouch… he is a concealed carry instructor, he carries everyday, and shoots often. He is a good example of what an armed citizen should be. Also, the “crew” in yellow vest are technically non-existent to everyone in the scenario.


OK – so now that you have watched the video, lets talk about what we just saw, because there are a few take-aways that I feel are very important.

Upon entering the restaurant, the bad guy shoots two shots into the air and yells “this is a robbery”… Its hard to notice (I didnt see it at first), but he is immediately met with a concealed carry holder drawing his weapon to engage him. The robber quickly shoots him and kills him.

Shootout 01

Next, in less than 10 seconds we see the main character in this training video draw his gun and engage the bad guy in what becomes the main incident of the training scenario.

Shootout02

1. OK, first of all I want to point out that yes, the bad guy was stopped (hurray! great training scenario!), BUT… both of the good guys here are dead. Our first good guy was dropped nearly as soon as the bad guy came in the door, and our second good guy took about 6 shots (several to the head, two in the chest, and one in the shoulder) that would most certainly prove to be lethal.

Now, I dont know about you, but to me that is a complete and total failure. Yes, if I have to lay down my life for my family I will most certainly do so to get them home safely. HOWEVER, isnt the ultimate goal to get all the good guys home safely? If these good guys are not with their families at that restaurant… if they are just in having a lunch by themselves, then guess what… They were not saving loved ones. Their wives are now widows and their kids just lost their father.

So here is the biggest lesson I think that can be learned from this… Its not IDPA. Yes, I said it. And NO, I am not anti-IDPA. No, I dont want to start a flame war over “training is gonna get you killed”. No, I do not think that IDPA training will get you killed. All that I am saying here is that not every defensive gun use is going to be a quick draw contest. And unlike IDPA matches sometimes getting your gun out ASAP can indeed get you killed. We have seen this in other force-on-force training scenarios and I honestly believe thats what we saw here. The good guys got killed because they engaged and got into a shootout with the bad guy way too quickly.

Stick with me on this one and lets dissect this further… What we had here was a robber coming into a restaurant and trying to control the situation through shock and awe. This was not an active shooter who wanted to slaughter everyone. This was a robbery. He immediately put his shots into the ceiling not into the people in the restaurant. He even yelled out at the very beginning that it was a robbery. What he was trying to do when he started shooting was control the situation.

I am not saying this guy was not a lethal threat and I am not saying that he should not be stopped using lethal force. What I am saying is that lethal force in this particular instance as we see it unfold needs to be delivered when the timing is right. In the video, it was delivered at the absolute wrong time proven by the fact that both of the good guys ended up at the morgue.

Think about it… what would have happened had our two good guys just stayed seated? What would have happened if they kept their cool, remained concealed, and acted just like everyone else in the restaurant. Say, 20-30 seconds or so longer and let the robber settle in and believe that he achieved control of the room???

The next logical step for the robber is that he starts robbing the place. Either he goes around seat-to-seat and gathers up everyone’s valuables or he goes and finds the manager so that he can rob the safe. At this point, he is no longer on high alert for an armed response. He believes that he has shocked everyone into compliance, and he is going to turn his focus and attention to the task of gathering the money that he seeks.

It actually would have been amusing to see the good guys do this in the scenario and see what the “bad guy” would have done. There is obviously no safe to rob, and he is expecting someone to engage him and start a gun fight because thats what the training scenario lays out. What would have happened when all he gets is “crickets”? Would he have at some point taken off his helmet and question ‘what the hell?’??? He would have to do something like that because he wouldn’t know what to do next. Thats because this entire scenario was predicated on the idea that there would be an instant gunfight. Well, that approach got the two good guys killed, and because of that I think it is the wrong approach.

If a real robbery were to unfold just like this (remember, no one is shot yet, and there are two good guys with guns) if the two armed good guys keep their cool and keep concealed they are essentially going to be viewed by the robber as no additional threat than anyone else in the restaurant. He has no idea that there is someone armed (two people actually). He has no idea that the person who is armed is in a particular area of the restaurant, at a particular table(s), sitting in a particular seat(s). If they hold steady and dont tip their hand then they essentially remain invisible… just faces in the crowd, and the robber will go about his business of collecting the money he seeks. If the scenario is allowed to unfold in this manner our two good guys (who have the bad guy flanked from two different areas in the restaurant) hold all the cards and they can engage and deliver lethal force on their terms… ideally once the bad guy’s attention is refocused and probably once he has turned a blind eye to them.

So I will ask you this… on what terms would you rather engage a bad guy with a gun? Trying to outdraw a bad guy who already has gun in hand? Or being able to take a slow measured shot at the bad guy while he isn’t even looking in your direction? I believe the approach I have outlined is better. At the very least, probably both of the bad guys wont get killed.

2. Another take away here is the idea of carrying enough gun/ammo. In the video they debrief the main concealed carry holder and he was quoted to say this:

“As much as I preach revolvers, all I could think of is all I have are five shots”

Wow. Thats a powerful statement. No, I am not bashing revolver carry (I carry one). However, I think we are kidding ourselves if we dont fully grasp the shortcomings of a 5 round capacity. Revolvers are an important tool in the concealed carry toolbox, but like the man says… you will never be in a gun fight and complain that you have too much ammo.

This is a very different world that we live in now and mass murdering psychopaths are a very real danger. Do you want to take one of them on with a mouse gun or a 5 shot snubbie? How about this training scenario we saw in this video? These are hard questions that we have to ask ourselves.

3. The last thing that I want to talk about is the idea that they point out in this video that you probably are not gonna get a one shot stop…. Even you .45 ACP guys.

Run the gun until you believe that the bad guy is out of commission… certainly at the very least until he goes down. Like they talk about in the video, be prepared for follow up shots to the head/neck (I would also add hips and groin). There are several reasons stated in the video as to why a bad guy might not go down, but in that situation it does not really matter. All of the reasons listed are realistic and relevant, and each of them are a great example of why we have to train ourselves mentally to keep shooting.

We have to teach ourselves that these are not magic laser guns that are gonna drop anything they hit. We must, repeat must mentally prepare ourselves for the idea that it might play out that the bad guy doesnt go down. Remember, we default to our training, so we must train to keep running the gun and to adjust our shot placement if that first center mass shot does not work.

Go back and look at the debrief where they talk to the good guy about the fact that the robber was wearing body armor. You can see the look on his face of embarrassment because he never really thought of that possibility. It looks like it was a very humbling moment for him. Had this been a real life situation, he would have paid with his life for that short sightedness. So use that drill they show in the video, but most importantly… prepare your mind.

Second scenario…

The second scenario they run at the 12:30 mark runs a little differently in that the good guy scrambling for cover allows the scenario to unfold a little longer before the gun fight actually begins. However, he is still clearly drawing and working to engage the bad guy… displaying tell tale signs that he is an immediate threat.

Once again, you have a clear cut robbery… shock and awe is the name of the game, and no one is yet shot before the gun fight begins.

The second scenario ends with the good guy victorious and unscathed. They attribute it to the good guy scrambling to find cover, but I think it is more so the shorter duration of this particular gunfight. Head shots indeed ended it much faster and gave the bad guy much less time to shoot back. BUT, he was also very lucky that the bad guy did not recognize him as a threat and begin shooting.

Also important to note is the change in gun used by our good guy… which is a good thing because he already took five shots and would have needed a reload if the bad guy didn’t drop when he did.

Shootout03

  1. And we still don’t know if the perp had an acomplice seated in the crowd just waiting to engage an activated defender.

  2. I recall the restaurant robbery scene in Pulp Fiction. The hired assassin simply waited patiently for the bad guy to come around to his table to collect his valuables before producing his gun.

    Of course in the movie a standoff ensued because, acting! But in real life such a ruthless character would’ve simply shot the robber in the guts from under the table when the guy reached for his wallet.

  3. Great Write up, and very valid points. Only “flaming” you should have to worry about is those that never have been in dangers path and those whose sacred cow you just butchered by saying it wasn’t the answer to self defense training.
    (even though you didn’t say they weren’t valid training, just not the do all-end all in training, as the gent from this scenario said if you ain’t learning every day you don’t know anything…)

    The Vertical Track Drill is “new” to me and makes much more sense than that “forever” pause that typically is trained in with a failure/Mozambique drill. I do think I will start training with it, as it makes more sense than blasting away center mass hoping to stop the threat long enough to get that “perfect” headshot…..

  4. I shoot IPDA. I also know that a double-tap may or may not be enough. Anyone who can’t figure out the difference between a game (IDPA) and the real world is probably also expecting Space Invaders to fall from night sky.

    The “Vertical Line Drill” alternative to the failure to stop/Mozambique is quite interesting and (IMO) a pretty good idea.

  5. It’s a nice scenario, but all the good guys are dead. I assume that more drills were followed to overcome possible mishaps.
    Not always an immediate reaction is best. As a concealed handgun carry instructor (military and police) my quick input – assessing the situation and timing may be a key for survival.
    I also would like to see instructor/student working on fundamentals.

  6. I was trained to do the 3 shot pattern, two to the chest one to the head. When I go to the range this is what I do, every shot. I’m teaching my daughter to shoot and I teach her the same.
    I carry 2, 9 round mags, If it takes 18 shots to stop the threat. So be it.

  7. Eric,
    Your analysis is spot on and in some realms of lore, that sometimes you have to exercise tactical patience and let the bad guy make the mistakes and you capitalize on them. Also with the Mozambique or failure drill that is predominately trained in most organizations and tacticalcourse’s is purposeful and effective. However, a gentlemen in a far away land, some time ago, instilled in me that you shoot until the threat is down and completely subdued, he used the term “you shoot ’em to the ground”. Also an almost forgotten war that still is being fought taught some hard lesson’s on this topic as well. Thank you for an excellent presentation and commentary. V/R James

  8. In real life without a time machine you will never know whether or not you made the right decision (Assuming you survived of course.), in fact I would go so far as to say there is never the perfectly right choice in a situation like the restaurant robbery scenario. For example if a robber comes in and you do nothing to stop him, he might just take some money and leave without physically hurting anyone, or he might round everyone up place them in the walk in freezer and kill everyone so there are no witnesses, or he may take a young woman customer hostage when he leaves and then rape and kill her later.
    What is for certain is that the difference between having a gun and not having a gun, is that having a gun will greatly increase what choices you will be able to make at the crushell time.
    Weather or not those choices are the right ones only time will tell, and training in whatever way makes it more likely that you will succeed if you choose to act can only be a good thing.
    From what I saw I believe people who have gone through the kind of training in the video will be far better equipped to succeed in such a situation, should they choose to do so, than those people who have not had that type of training.

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