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"There is No Bad Weather..."

Written by Ed Sanow

…only bad gear.” Also, “A good officer never gets hungry, tired, wet or cold.” Right…I say those things, too. But do we train that way? With all that gear? Under those kinds of ambient conditions? Or is really all “fair weather” training? At any rate, what firearms instructor in his right mind would do training in the driving rain or frigid cold? And, what officer would even attend such training?

The last time our patrol guys deployed with the AR-15 (I mean really deployed – known and present threat) was against a barricaded gunman in a truck. The truck was stuck a couple of hundred yards off the road in an open, muddy field. The subject was clearly waving a handgun.

It was raining. It was cold. It was windy. The good guys were using the squad’s PA to hail the subject. Of course, in that weather and at those distances, no one could hear any sort of verbal response. This had been a zero-contact stand-off for a few hours and it was getting dark.

The crisis negotiator decided to try a face-to-face negotiation. You may challenge the negotiator’s on-scene decision but the incident commander agreed. Finding out the subject was on numerous mental illness drugs, the negotiator’s goal was to defuse the situation, to lower the tension, to avoid provoking either a suicide or a suicide by cop. Against this sort of clear, open-air threat, the negotiator needed a couple of riflemen to flank him walking out to the subject. Two officers volunteered.

Stop right there! Rain, wind, cold, dusk, unknown engagement distances, moving, walking on slippery ground, with the decision to use lethal force based only on visual observations in a fluid environment. Does that sound like typical firearms training conditions? Or does sunny, warm, calm, dry, structured shooting distances, tee-shirt and tactical pants, and stationary with an obvious “shoot” signal better describe it?

In fact, if your officers simply attend firearms training and qualification in full duty gear, and shoot at unknown distances, you are way head of the power curve. Let alone training under foul weather conditions. Sure, range safety and officer safety during firearms training is a definite factor. But training can also be so sterile and so sanitary that it has no relevance whatsoever to a real patrol-level deployment.

Your officers wear winter gloves. Have they ever done any duty pistol shooting with them on? Drawing from a security holster, getting a proper grip, getting their finger inside the trigger guard, pressing the magazine release, working the safety or slide release are a whole different game with gloves on.

Have the officers been trained how to find and quickly draw their duty gun wearing all that heavy winter clothing, or draping rain gear? Same for the effects of rain and snow on the patrol rifle. Have they been taught how to protect the muzzle? And what to do if the rain fills their peep sights or clouds their aiming device?

Some think if they shoot a bit with handheld flashlights or weapon-mounted lights, all the hard bases are covered – the box is checked. It is not. It has taken law enforcement decades to routinely train under low light conditions, even through low light is a patrol reality for fully half of the officers on the force.

The next step toward reality is a safe and structured introduction to foul weather training. It rains in almost every part of the country and half the country gets cold and snow. We can’t continue to ignore those obvious patrol conditions as we strive for more realistic and relevant training.

Oh, yeah…that mentally ill, barricaded gunman? The face-to-face negotiation worked. The subject surrendered the gun. It turned out to be good training – and a cheap lesson – in the realities of patrol rifle deployment for a couple of brave and determined patrol officers.

Published in Tactical Response, Jan/Feb 2012

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