Today’s LEOs are defending against more violence on the streets than in any time in modern law enforcement history. If that weren’t challenging enough, LEOs are also encountering more advanced weaponry. We are seeing large numbers of Internet-educated bomb makers, homemade gunsmiths and idealistic radicals.
We must be able to protect ourselves from these encounters so we can continue to protect the public. To do that, we will need to maintain the skills necessary to overcome violent offenders and do it in a way that still maintains the status quo of what the public expects from us as police officers.
Lt. Col. Jeff Cooper was considered to be the father of the “Modern Technique” of defensive combat handgun operations. He is responsible for the development of the Combat Triad and the motto, “Diligentia, Vis, Celeritas,” which translates to “Accuracy, Power, Speed.” Col.
Cooper’s Combat Triad consists of an equilateral triangle with each side having a specific meaning: Mindset, Marksmanship and Manipulation (aka gun handling). Knowing and maintaining these two schools of thought will provide you with everything you need to survive a gun fight.
It would be nice to offer comparisons on accuracy, power and speed, but I would have to compare them to each other in order to do that. In doing so, it would imply that one is more important than the other. That is definitely not the case.
You can’t have one or two of the three and expect to be successful in a gun fight. You must be accurate when you fire your gun. You need the rounds to hit your target or you may not be going home that night.
You also don’t want to go home knowing that your rounds hit an unintended target, so accuracy is a must. You need power to stop a threat. Would you rather be carrying a .22 rimfire pistol on your hip or a .45 ACP? Which has more stopping power? That is the question you need to ask yourself when choosing a sidearm.
You want to be able to fire rounds at your target knowing that those rounds will impact and create enough hydrostatic shock to stop whatever threat is facing you in that moment. Speed refers to your ability to quickly and accurately identify a threat, draw your handgun, engage the target and asses the situation efficiently and without delay.
When you find yourself in a deadly force encounter, you are already running behind. The bad guy has already decided the action he is going to take and it is your job to play catch-up. In order to win that battle, you are going to need every single bit of speed, power and accuracy.
The Combat Triad is equally necessary if you expect to win a gunfight. It is just as important as accuracy, power and speed. Having the right mindset is essential to police work. If you plan on going to work with the same mindset you have at home, you are going to get hurt. You can’t show up on calls and walk into a room like you are going to the fridge to grab a snack.
You need to be in operational readiness mode. This mindset allows you to maintain a friendly demeanor while preparing yourself for a fight. One of my mentors always said it best. He would be all smiles with an inviting demeanor and southern boy charm while picking out targets on the people he was talking to in case they decided to do something stupid. Mindset is everything. If you can visualize yourself winning the fight, you will find a way to do it.
Marksmanship is equally important. I’m not talking about shooting a 1-inch group at 25 yards with your pistol. Save that crap for the competitions. I’m talking about gun fighting. Gun fighting is getting your gun out of the holster in less than a second, putting the front sight on your target and putting some rounds down range at the suspect who is trying to kill you.
Marksmanship in gunfighting means spreading those rounds out on your target, not shooting at the same exact spot over and over again. If you do this, you will be successful and you will be able to go home that night.
Manipulation, like marksmanship, comes with practice. Working under the assumption that most LEO’s carry semi-auto handguns, you must be proficient at cycling the slide on your handgun and performing your magazine exchanges. You need to be prepared for any malfunction and have a plan for working your way through it.
The tap, rack, ready method must be hardwired in your mind. You should be able to do it without looking at your gun or thinking about it. If you practice these things regularly, you will win the fight. If you don’t practice these things regularly, you need to start now.
Every method you have read in this article is considered to be a perishable skill. If you don’t train with these methods regularly, you will fail in combat. I am lucky enough to work for an administration that realizes the importance of training. We hit the firing range at least 7 to 9 times a year. We also conduct force-on-force training and defensive tactics multiple times per year.
If you are reading this article as an administrator and you don’t allow your officers to train at this level, you may want to reconsider your standards. You have already made a substantial investment in your hiring process with training, salary, benefits and equipment. Why not protect that investment by reinforcing proper techniques.
Better yet, if you don’t want to spend the money or invest the time for your officers, think about the public that you are protecting. Failure to train can be very costly when it comes to litigation against police departments. If you send your officers out to the street with a gun and the only training you provide is a yearly qualification, you will find yourself in a precarious position if their rounds don’t hit the intended target.
This doesn’t just refer to handguns and shooting; it involves every single aspect of our job, from the proper mindset to knowing your general orders and legal guidelines. Training, along with good leadership, is paramount to the success of a law enforcement organization and the key to a good relationship with the public.
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Corporal Jacob Eubanks has been a police officer for 13 years. Jacob Eubanks is a use of force instructor and holds TCOLE licenses as an Instructor and Firearms Instructor. Jacob Eubanks is certified as both a 1911 and AR-15/M16 armorer and is currently assigned to criminal investigations. Cpl Eubanks is LET’s use of force expert.