Today on the training ground, we’re going to take a quick look at an interesting fundamental split in the shooting community: moving then shooting vs. moving while shooting.
Move then Shoot – Upon recognizing a lethal threat, step out of the line of attack or “get off the X”, and begin to fire on the threat.
Move and Shoot – After recognizing and deciding to engage, step out of the of attack, and continue to move in a given direction while firing.
I recently spoke with a former Army Ranger who told me he struggled to adapt in some civilian training courses with standing still and shooting. He said he always “felt weird”, and felt like he should be engaging the targets while moving. I attribute this to two things: military training and military engagements. I can speak from experience that the military puts a weird amount of focus on shooting while moving, sometimes without the context of when or why to do it (moving to cover or advantage). Secondly, military engagements don’t often have the same level of accountability and legal responsibility compared to civilian or police engagements. Stray rounds in Fallujah are hardly given a second thought when your homie next to you is burning down belts from a 240G. But sling a stray one while CONUS, and be prepared for Ferguson 2.0 regardless of your justification or not.
In pretty much every regard, shooting while moving is less accurate than shooting from a stationary position. But staying fixed means you’re also a fixed target. Let’s take a look at this recent Police shooting in Alamogordo, NM.
At about the :40 second mark, the officer catches up to the shitbag, I mean suspect, after a pretty significant foot chase. For context, the subject was known to have outstanding warrants and believed to have been armed. Excellent control and verbal commands are displayed between :43 and nearly the 1:00 mark exactly.
In literally one second, at 1:03-1:04, the suspect draws a revolver and points it at the officer and his partner immediately behind him. The officer delivers two rounds, one of which hits the suspect in the hip, driving him to the ground. Note that the officer has both hands on his service weapon and is able to deliver precise, accurate fire.
At 1:05, the suspect then fires several rounds at the officers while on the ground, one of which ultimately strikes one of the officers in the arm/chest area; later killing him. During this volley of fire, the officer in the video can be seen firing with only his primary hand, while the camera angle seems to shift a little to the side. This is consistent with the officer blading his body towards the threat, in a subconscious attempt to both point the weapon at the threat and avoid incoming rounds. This one-handed, reflexive shooting is seen time and time again in law enforcement shootings. It’s the body’s natural response to an actual deadly threat: avoid it. The officer also takes several steps backward away from the suspect at a sort of oblique angle.
Between 1:10 and 1:14, the suspect flees and the officer steps toward him firing his service weapon. At approx. 1:15-1:18, the officer stops moving, and engages with a full, two-handed grip. This is when the officer delivers the finishing blow: one of his rounds strikes the suspect in the head; killing him. From the video, it seems that the range is at least 30+ yards.
So what can we learn? Despite your training, it might not be possible to completely overcome human nature. While shooting after moving is much more accurate, but with fire incoming your body might not allow you to actually do it. The solution is to train for both, but under realistic conditions. Simply walking around the range shooting isn’t going to improve your ability. Add some context: move quickly to cover or advantage while shooting or shoot on the move while simulating some sort of incoming threat. Better yet: Force on Force training. Seeing that gun come out and start pointing at you might elicit some surprising responses, despite whatever training you have. When I’ve had the opportunity to conduct Force on Force training, I’ve always been surprised at my body’s own natural response. I can still think and shoot, but I tend to move and twist in unusual ways when under a perceived lethal threat and find myself shooting primary hand only more often than not, particularly in close ranges and during surprise events. Be honest with yourself. Get exposure to more realistic training to gauge your body’s natural response vs your trained and conditioned response. If it’s not what you wanted, either get more training to fix it, or find a logical and efficient way to incorporate your natural response into your combat skill set.
Train hard and train with purpose.