By Mark V. Lonsdale, Training Director
Your level of performance is directly related to your commitment to training
By Mark V. Lonsdale, Training Director
Your level of performance is directly related to your commitment to training
By Mark V. Lonsdale, Training Director
As the name indicates, Special Weapons & Tactics, weapons play a significant role in SWAT operations and training. Since most tactical operations are of the high-risk variety, often directed against suspects that are known to be armed and dangerous, it is obviously important that the law enforcement response have at least equal, if not superior firepower. However, it is equally important not to lose sight of the fact that select personnel, realistic training and competent leadership are the most important factors in resolving a tactical situation. As Mao Tse-tung wrote, “Weapons are an important factor in war, but not he decisive one; it is man and not materials that count”
Training and philosophy aside, any man, woman or team intentionally going in harms way will benefit from the reassuring company of a suitable weapon. Exactly what constitutes a suitable weapon is the subject of this article.
Before a special response team can even consider responding to tactical operations in an urban environment, it is important that they first have a sound working knowledge of combat weapons, and more specifically close quarters weapons. For CQB (Close Quarters Battle), building clearing and room combat there is no need at this point to concern ourselves with the longer range sniper weapons, high powered assault rifles, or squad automatic weapons. Because of their significant size, weight and lack of maneuverability, these larger weapons are simply not suited to hostage rescue training except as perimeter support weapons. It is handguns, submachine guns, carbines and, to a lesser degree, shotguns that are more suited to entry work and close quarters combat.
Although many special operations teams consider the handgun a secondary weapon, only to be used if the SMG (submachine gun) malfunctions, at STTU we consider the handgun a potentially effective primary weapon in the right situations. Since most SWAT/HRT teams are drawn from the law enforcement community, and the handgun is the standard sidearm carried at all times, it is therefore logical that this be the weapon with which one should be most proficient. In addition, a high percentage of SWAT operations are directed against lone barricade suspects, in single level dwellings, with relatively small rooms. A four to eight man entry team can more than handle this with handguns if necessary.
Once a team acquires automatic weapons they tend to neglect their handgun skills. However, at STTU we have found that if an operator can shoot well with a handgun, he or she will be able to master the SMG or carbine with ease. But since handgun shooting is a perishable skill, those who do not dedicate time to disciplined, structured handgun shooting will lose these skills quite quickly.
Another reason for emphasis on the handgun in tactical training is one of budget. A team will shoot less ammunition and attain a higher degree of accuracy with disciplined handgun training than they will with the hungrier burst‑fire and fully automatic weapons such as the MP-5 or M4 clone.
A good handgun is also a valuable tool that is far more versatile when working covert operations, undercover, dignitary protection, or in plain-clothes mode.
So let’s analyze exactly what constitutes a “suitable” handgun. A combat handgun must be first and foremost a reliable weapon with a proven record of good service under prolonged use in arduous conditions. This is important enough to repeat so read these words carefully. A handgun MUST be RELIABLE. I would personally rather stake my life on a marginally accurate handgun that goes bang every time I pull the trigger, than a custom built, high-dollar, state-of-the-art, race gun that periodically jams at the most inopportune times.
In addition, a combat handgun should have the following:
Finally, the weapon / caliber combination must be controllable enough to allow for rapid shot placement on multiple targets, or second and third shot follow‑up on a single determined attacker. The size and grip strength of the operator may be a consideration with recoil management.
A large majority of US and overseas agencies are currently using high capacity nine millimeter (9 x 19mm Parabellum) weapons, such as the Beretta 92F, SIG 226/228/229, H&K USP, Glock, or Smith & Wesson. A few, including the British SAS switched from the venerable Browning Hi‑Power to the SIG P226, which is also an issue weapon for US Navy Seals. Both units are now also using Glocks. However, several of the elite teams are still firm believers in their tried and proven Government model forty‑fives (.45ACP). This includes components of US SOCOM, USMC Force Recon, DELTA (CAG), SEALs (DEVGRU), FBI-HRT, FBI-SWAT and LAPD SWAT.
The Colt Government Model still reigns supreme for the “big bore” crowd but some police agencies have adopted the first round double-action Smith & Wessons, SIG P220s or HK USP .45s. US Special Operations Command has also opted for a forty-five in the form of the H&K USP Mk21, complete with optional suppressor, light mount and laser systems.
Many an argument has been started over the topic of which caliber is the “best” man‑stopper – usually by armchair commandos and the so-called “experts” who write for gun magazines. Well let’s put it all to rest here and now. Any of the current combat calibers – including 9mm, .45ACP, .357 Magnum, 10mm, or 40 S&W – in the hands of a good shooter will do the job just fine. It is shot placement that is the single most important factor in stopping capability, not bullet design, velocity, diameter, or construction. As long as the bullet has sufficient power and structural integrity to penetrate the intervening body tissue and to reach a vital organ, everything else is secondary.
Granted, permanent wound cavity is more important than temporary wound cavity, but the reality is that the projectile must penetrate to a vital organ before it dissipates its energy in expansion. A slow bleed-out is not acceptable in hostage rescue operations. Of significant importance in hostage rescue is that the villain cease all motor function immediately upon being shot, thus protecting the hostage and fellow rescue team members. So understanding that there is no “guaranteed first shot stop,” the venerable forty-five still seems to be one of the most popular rounds with a the solid track record for accuracy and reliability. But it could also be argued that more hostage takers and barricade suspects have been killed with 9mm than any other caliber.
So just to keep everything in perspective, a good shooter should not feel handicapped with a nine millimeter, provided the weapon has proven itself to be 100% reliable and accurate. When teaching, I always demonstrate and shoot with the same make, model and caliber of weapon that is issued to the team that I am training, immaterial of my personal preferences or biases. It is more important that the trainees see their weapons shot well, than to lose confidence in the weapons because of my perceived preference for another make, model or caliber. However, if an agency is in the market to up-grade their handguns, then I will give them an opportunity to shoot a variety of combat handguns that we keep at STTU just for T&E purposes.
Again, personal biases must be put aside when selecting a gun for a team. All team members should be issued the same type and caliber of weapon, and new weapons should be thoroughly tested on the range (at least 500–1000 rounds) before going into the field or used on operations. The only modifications permitted on the weapons should be those that enhance performance and do not include non‑functional gadgets that could loosen and become a liability.
Acceptable modifications could include:
Most of the currently available combat handguns (SIG, H&K, Beretta, Glock, S&W) require little or no work, and can be considered “combat ready” out of the box after checking for zero and reliability.
Most feeding problems and malfunctions with modern combat handguns can usually be traced to bad magazines or inferior / incompatible ammunition. The easiest way to identify these problems is to test fire the weapon with a set of proven reliable magazines and high-grade duty ammo. Magazines should be marked and numbered to facilitate the identification of one that consistently causes malfunctions. If magazines have been dropped on a hard surface, the lips may have become bent and changed the angle of attack of the round trying to transition to the chamber. Some can be repaired, while others will have to be discarded.
The primary advantages of the submachine gun (SMG) are greater ammunition capacity (25-30 rounds), increased firepower and compact size. But more importantly, it is the number of accessories that can be attached to enhance performance for room combat – such as Sure-Fire light mounts and suppressors. Lastly, and not insignificantly, it is the confidence gained by the assault team members from the weapon’s appearance, increased capacity, and rate of fire.
In selecting an SMG, keep in mind that it must be capable of not only rapid fire at close range, but also extremely accurate select fire. In close-proximity hostage situations, it is important that operators can engage armed suspects with precise, confident, surgical shooting, without endangering the hostages. A “hose job” may be applicable in some military operations, but is not an acceptable form of shooting when dealing with drug raids or hostage rescues.
There is also the psychological effect that the SMG may have on an adversary. Drug dealers, clandestine lab operators or even gang members may be less inclined to try and shoot it out with the authorities when it is noted that the raid team is armed with big, black automatic weapons. That said, an agency can’t count on the mere presence of a SWAT team and superior firepower to terminate a crisis. There will always be political or religious fanatics gladly willing to give their lives for the cause – not to forget society’s over abundance of criminals and crazies. If you flaunt it, you had better be prepared to use it.
As with any weapon system, the SMG selection criteria should be: rugged reliability; time proven performance; accuracy; quality construction; and availability of spare parts and service. The selection of a submachine gun may well be the easiest choice your team has to make. There is one that has become the standard for most police and military special operations, and the one by which all others are judged – the H&K MP‑5, and its related systems.
The MP‑5 was the trademark of the world’s elite – British SAS, German GSG‑9, French GIGN, US Army DELTA and US Navy SEALs. And on a local level, LASD‑SEB, LAPD SWAT, FBI‑SWAT and FBI‑HRT. This is not to say that the MP‑5 is the only suitable weapon out there, it is simply the most popular and has proven itself on countless occasions.
Keep in mind that the MP-5 is still only a 9mm – a caliber that is not very effective beyond 50-100 meters. Therefore many teams have opted to also issue the current version of the Colt Carbine, the flat-top M-4 in .223 Remington (5.56mm), or one of the many clones.
Where there is a risk of being caught in the open, or a little more range and power is called for, many teams have adopted the M4 or H&K‑53, a 5.56mm version of the MP‑5. US Customs teams were working with the Steyr AUG in .223 Rem, while others still have the Ruger AC556 in inventory. Our first choice at STTU is the M4 or one of many high quality clones with their wide variety of day and night optical and laser sighting systems.
In our experience, for the teams who already have MP-5s, the HK53 makes for a very good partnership since both function the same and require little retraining. But if the team is already familiar with and using the M‑16 / CAR-15, then the M4s in 5.56mm may be a more convenient or cost effective route to take. Retraining requires time, money and considerable effort and it is wise to avoid switching between functionally different weapons systems.
One of the carbine or submachine guns’ most significant advantages over the handgun as an offensive weapon is the number of accessories that can be integrated into the weapon system. These include but are not limited to:
The most important accessory listed above is the light mount. If you can’t see ‘em, ya can’t shoot ‘em – or at least the correct ones. Since most criminal activity and the related tactical operations take place at night, and most room combat is in poorly lighted rooms, hallways, stairwells and structures, it is only logical that the shooter would need to be able to illuminate rooms, suspects and potential targets. It is also difficult at the best of times to juggle both a flashlight and a weapon, let alone open doors and handle the occupants. With the light attached to the weapon, the shooter can conveniently bring the weapon to bear, wherever the light is pointed. Light mounts are not intended or factory recommended as aiming devices, but they definitely hasten and simplify the aiming process.
The shotgun is an excellent multi‑purpose weapon in many situations, but its role in crisis entry and hostage rescue is restricted. There is no denying the awesome knock‑down power of a full load of magnum buckshot at close range, but the shotgun’s limited magazine capacity (4 – 8 rounds) and marginal accuracy make it unsuitable as a primary entry weapon. In addition, the shotgun’s length makes it difficult to get through doorways and the heavier recoil only slows second shot follow‑up.
Any assault weapon intended for CQB, must be able to make guaranteed close proximity hostage-taker headshots. The increasing spread of the shot pattern (approximately 1″ per meter) will only serve to endanger the hostages, fellow team members. or other by‑standers.
The shotgun can be used is as a perimeter or breaching weapon. Perimeter teams can use the shotgun to fire Ferret rounds (OC/CS/CN gas) or launch larger gas grenades into a structure. Entry teams can use the shotgun with the frangible Shok‑Lock type breaching rounds to blow hinges or locks, especially on interior doors. Some team members will carry a sawn‑off Remington 870 in a leg holster or on a sling, for the sole purpose of blowing locks and hinges, especially when internal door charges (IDC) are neither available nor appropriate.
If for budgetary or policy reasons the team is stuck with shotguns as an alternative to SMGs, then the shooters have two options. They either use their handguns as the primary entry weapon, or put a lot of time into understanding shot spread and perfecting scalloping techniques for partially exposed headshots. It is possible but it takes hard work and continuous practice.
Ammunition is probably one of the single highest, recurring, budgetary expenditures incurred in the training of a special weapons team. It is not unusual for high speed teams to shoot 500 to 1000 rounds per week, per man. We often shoot 200 to 400 rounds per day, per man when involved in firearms training. After initial weapons skills have been mastered, a maintenance program should still allow each man 100 – 200 rounds per week for each weapon system – handgun, SMG, and carbine. Agencies and operators training on less are incurring a significant liability exposure.
The basic criteria for ammunition selection should be:
We recommend avoiding the expensive trick ammunition, “super hot” loads and “killer” bullets that are constantly being advertised as the solution to all problems. They tend to be too expensive to train with, tend to have erratic feeding and function, and are seldom accurate. Go for consistency, reliability, accuracy, quality and economy.
Rather than waste money on expensive ammo, simply invest in a larger quantity of less expensive but still reliable ammunition. More bullets means more practice and that is most important. Better to hit with one or two less expensive bullets than miss with several expensive bullets.
Whatever weapons a team is equipped with, it is critical that they master them. There is no substitute for many hours of structured, disciplined training and trigger time behind the weapon. If the budget for new toys is simply not there, don’t waste time complaining about the issued weapons. Do the best with what you have and try to substitute good training and tactics for marginal firepower.
Where training time is limited, SWAT team members should be encourage to hone individual shooting skills on their own time, and save those all too precious training days for working on team skills such as live‑fire entry and room combat. Team members who are not willing to spend some of their own time and money on individual training are not an asset to the team and should be replaced by more motivated individuals.
For As We Train ‑ So Shall We Fight
For as We Fight – So Must We Train
By Mark V. Lonsdale, STTU Training Director
A significant part of surviving a lethal encounter is a combat mindset. The other components are reality-based training and a willingness to use it. So how does one develop a combat mindset?
You do not have to be former military or law enforcement to adopt a warrior ethos and to improve the probabilities of surviving a dangerous confrontation. You just have to accept that your personal survival is your responsibility, and then commit to do something about it.
The newspapers and nightly news carry literally dozens of accounts of assaults, street muggings, robberies, home invasions, car jackings, stabbings, rapes, kidnappings, and murders, so it would be foolish to believe that you or your loved ones will never be a victim of street crime. And now, with the police being forced to stand down by leftist politicians, weak mayors, and gutless city councils, it’s even more important that regular citizens develop the skills and mindset to protect themselves. Face it, the police aren’t coming!
So developing a warrior ethos and combat mindset begins by accepting that it could happen to you. Next it is necessary to do your research on attack methodology to better understand how these violent thugs and criminals operate and the tactics they employ. This process of educating yourself serves two purposes: 1. It allows you to tailor your choice of weapons and training to meet the threat, and, 2. It will improve your ability to recognize a dangerous situation or emerging threat.
An additional part of your education is developing an understanding of the legal constraints for self-defense and use of deadly force. In essence, deadly force should be used in “defense of life” only, or imminent risk of grievous bodily harm. You must be “in fear of your life” or that of your loved ones. But each state has different “home & castle” and “stand your ground laws” related to threats, intruders, home invasion, and self-defense. It is therefore essential that you seek out training, such as provided in most concealed weapons courses, on the laws specific to your location. The reason for this is your need for moral and legal clarity as to the use of force, which in turn will reduce hesitation in the heat of the moment.
Part of your mental preparation is to refine your Situational Awareness. One of the single most important skills for personal protection is the power of observation which provides the ability to recognize and avoid danger. Unfortunately, most people go about their everyday lives with little appreciation for what’s happening around them. They are focused on what they are doing or where they are going, while talking on their cell phones, plugged into music, or just day dreaming. These are the easy, soft targets that street thugs and criminals profile and seek out. It is not surprising that a person who has ear-buds in or wearing headphones is easy to approach and surprise, plus that thousand-dollar cell phone is a valuable prize in itself.
On the physical side there are several levels to training, the first of which is basic physical fitness. Being able to out run a threat is a valuable street survival skill, but if you can’t run, then you need the strength and stamina to meet the threat head on. You will be fighting for your life, so you need to train like your life depends on it. Being morbidly obese, chain smoking, and simply doing yoga or Pilates is not going to cut it. The foundation of the warrior ethos is personal fitness and becoming hard.
The extension of physical training is skills training. This includes fight training, martial arts, firearms training, self defense classes, and even driver training. Martial arts need to be practiced at least twice a week to develop the required muscle memory, and firearms training should be both frequent and realistic. Plinking with a .22 rifle at 50 yards is not the same as engaging multiple man-sized targets, at close to medium range, in less than ideal low-light conditions. Keep in mind that bad things happen at night, so close quarters low-light training must be a part of your training routine.
In addition, part of the fight or firearms training should be the conditioning to act or react decisively and not to freeze. People react differently under stress – Freeze, Fight or Flee. Fleeing and avoiding the confrontation is often preferable; Freezing will get you killed or seriously injured; so Fighting is the option that you must train for. Essentially, reality-based training should instill the reactions and reflexes to block, pivot, strike, draw, or engage – depending on the situational dictates.
Two parts of the combat mindset worth developing are the ability to make a cold, calm assessment of the situation, followed by an aggressive, even ferocious, counter-attack. An individual in a panicked mental state can neither think rationally nor react correctly. This is what the thugs and scumbags are counting on – that you will freeze. This goes back to the importance of reality-based training that exposes you to simulated dangerous situations based on real world attack methodologies. In these situations you need to be able to tap into your primal rage while maintaining control of that aggression. Make the bad guys feel like they have kicked a hornets nest.
When you combine all of the above, and after a suitable amount of training time, you should develop the confidence and ability to handle a variety of street level situations. It’s that confidence that will allow you to think clearly and react correctly to the threat.
Finally, once it is “fight on,” never quit, never give-up, never surrender. Inflict so much damage that the assailant(s) realize that the return is not worth the effort. In addition, the more injuries you can inflict, the greater the probability that law enforcement may catch them. You should also expect to get hurt and fight through it, but at the end of the day, your survival depends on your combat mindset, training, and willingness to use it.
Thanks to Police 1 for the share
Bodycam video published Friday by Mercury News details the moments surrounding a deadly March 24 shootout. Footage shows the suspect shot at Officer Brian Burch, who immediately returned fire and hit the suspect.
By Mark V. Lonsdale – STTU
Police 1 article
A group of retired Los Angeles Police Department veterans and others reviewed the response of the Los Angeles Police Department to demonstrations and disturbances in Los Angeles in late May and early June 2020 following the death of George Floyd. The result was a 100-page report titled “An Independent Examination of the Los Angeles Police Department 2020 Protest Response” that was made public on March 11, 2021.
Worth a read and discussion with your senior administrators
Decisions to use force, especially deadly force, are unquestionably the most critical an officer will ever make
Today at 10:27 AM
By Jim Glennon
A loaded question and a loaded title, right?
Calibre Press articles generally focus on police training and decision-making is an essential part of all training. We also address issues that impact the profession and today we find ourselves with no lack of impactful issues.
I repeat the title because decisions to use force, especially deadly force, are unquestionably the most critical an officer will ever make. They’re very often made in the blink of an eye, under extreme stress and being processed with incomplete information and restricted cognitive abilities. They’re also something that officers will have to explain, justify and live with for the rest of their lives. That’s a fact that those disparaging the police on a regular basis never talk about.
The police are taught that if their lives or the lives of innocent others are in imminent jeopardy, they are legally allowed to use the force necessary to stop the threat. The advent of body cameras and our ability to review force encounters confirms that in the vast majority of cases where officers decide to use deadly force, they are justified in doing so.
Go to YouTube and look at the dozens and dozens of examples of that. People charging officers with knives and guns and after receiving multiple warnings to stop, still deciding to attack. The legal justification is clear; the officers had to shoot.
A terrible decision to have to make, but a decision that was obviously necessary. The decision was to save a life by taking one.
It’s life altering.
But what if the decision is not so clear cut?
Case in point: Congress is in session. We basically have the entire House of Representatives and members of the Senate all in one building. There are countless offices in that same building filled with staff members and rife with top-secret documents and electronic equipment storing government secrets.
And someone with a backpack ignores law enforcement orders, breaks through a window and begins climbing through. They’re breaching the United States Capitol.
Now what? Watch this footage and think about what YOU would do…https://www.youtube.com/embed/LMTfP6chPMQ?rel=0
Forget what you have seen; the videos of the mob and rioters disrespecting our laws and brazenly overtaking and occupying the Capitol building on January 6th. Imagine it was just one person effecting the breach.
What do you do if you are a Capitol police officer or a member of the United States Secret Service?
What sane person would ignore orders from a duly appointed, armed law enforcement official? What is their purpose, goal, intent?
What about that backpack? What’s in it?
What if it contains explosives? Anthrax?
What if it doesn’t contain anything but clothing and a rambling political manifesto?
The decision to shoot or not to shoot would take place in less time than it took me to type those questions.
Now imagine that it’s not just one person breaching. It’s one thousand.
When I watched the movie “White House Down” I wondered how possible it would be to take one building, whether the White House or the Capitol. I thought the movie, while very entertaining, was too farfetched to be believed.
The shooting of the former military veteran by a sworn Capitol police officer climbing through that window is tragic on so many levels.
But disregarding emotion, was it a good shoot?
What would you have done?
The second-guessing is already starting.
Let’s forget the Capitol.
Imagine this: A riot is in full swing. A man with a Molotov cocktail, the wick burning, isn’t running toward the Capitol full of elected Representatives and Senators, but a house with regular citizens in it.
Do you shoot to stop?
A burning cart is being pushed toward a car dealership. You have no way of knowing if anyone is inside the business.
Do you shoot to stop?
A police station has officers trapped inside unable to escape because the doors have been locked from the outside by attackers who are setting the building on fire.
Do you shoot to stop?
Thirty people are smashing windows and storming a store filled with frightened women who locked the doors because of the violent behavior of the rioters. Do you allow them to break, enter, pillage and perhaps assault and rape those women?
How do you stop them?
This job has never been easy when it comes to making deadly force decisions in the moment. The second-guessing is easy. It’s also arrogant and presumptuous.
It’s usually done with malicious bias, self-righteousness and complete ignorance of the deadly realities and immense complexities of these situations. It also totally disregards the humanity of the officers involved and the emotional, psychological and often legal aftermath they face. For doing their jobs. For protecting others.
What happened at the Capitol a few days ago is mind-boggling on so many levels. It was an embarrassment to the country and what we stand for. It was unnecessary. It was egregious.
The question will forever be: Was it preventable?
Could someone in power have done something, anything, to have prevented that moment where the Capitol police officer was put in a position to discharge his weapon and kill the women coming through the window? Why was she the only one shot?
Were there clear warnings to those approaching the Capitol that they would in fact be shot if they attempted to breach? Was there a plan to convey that message to the masses?
Was there too much of an attempt to de-escalate and avoid force on the part of the command and consequently the officers on the ground?
Did the fact that the multitude of other protests in major cities over the past eight months – protests that quickly exploded into violent, destructive riots, in many cases with impunity – impact the mindset of the protesters in D.C. on January 6?
Finally, did the Capitol police officers fear that if they used force their own careers would be in jeopardy?
While those questions are being asked and will be examined and investigated in the aftermath, it was a Capitol police officer who was put in the position to make the decision to shoot.
Let’s think of that officer while we scrutinize the unfortunate moment. Let’s consider his humanity.
He made a decision. A decision he didn’t want to make.
Why did he have to?
About the author
Lt. Jim Glennon (ret.) is the owner and lead instructor for Calibre Press. He is a third-generation LEO, retired from the Lombard (Illinois) PD after 29 years of service. Rising to the rank of lieutenant, he commanded both patrol and the Investigations Unit. In 1998, he was selected as the first Commander of Investigations for the newly formed DuPage County Major Crimes (Homicide) Task Force. He has a BA in Psychology, a Masters in Law Enforcement Justice Administration, is the author of the book “Arresting Communication: Essential Interaction Skills for Law Enforcement.”
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