BANG! BANG BANG! “And Recover! Ok, Recruit, how many fingers did I hold up?”
“I don’t know?”
“Ok, lets do a PROPER recovery to the holster this time. Now how many fingers did I hold up.”
I’ve seen this scenario repeated countless times in my career, both as a shooter on the line and now also as an Instructor. I know what concept is being attempted to be taught, the idea of scan and assess. The problem is is that I think many instructors are doing a disservice to shooters, both Police and Citizen, in that the concept itself is only being given lip service, and few are actually doing any explaining of how and why, nor are they establishing priorities during the scan. As a result, we see people going through automated motions of turning their heads back and forth, only to look around without actually seeing anything.
The above example is one I’ve seen countless times on police ranges, and I’m sad to say I have been unable to address it as an Instructor with the limited time factors and structured program and primary instructors lead we have to follow at an academy. Recruits worry more about whipping their heads back and forth to glance over their shoulders, and their eyes never stop at the target they have just shot, ensuring that the threat still remains stopped. When you ask many people why they are moving their heads around, you hear a variety of responses. Some say it is to break up tunnel vision, some say to look for other threats, but few are actually putting those into actual practice, and many rush the whole process of scanning and decompressing much like they are in a rush to put that pistol back in the holster or reset or get ready for the next drill repetition. Speed speed speed, go go go. And every time shooters do it this way, or we as instructors allow students to do a hurried or improper scan post shooting, a habit is forming that under stress or a real situation will be repeated.
Another difference is people look, but not scan the environment. The difference is looking is just images, like when you’re walking through a crowd of people. You see them, but you don’t really pick up on any details of anyone. Scanning is when you allow your brain to process your environment in front of you and around you. You pick up on details of the red-haired woman that looks like the Wendy’s girl, or you see the man looking straight at you as he hides his right hand. That is scanning, the processing details of additional threats or lack thereof. Holding fingers up somewhere over a shoulder of a recruit is an attempt to teach scanning, but unfortunately it still becomes a habit where recruits are merely looking for the fingers, and they still aren’t actually scanning for a threat.
There are three types of scans that we need to allow time for in between drills on the range. The first is the scan of the target itself, and this is actually the most important of all scans. We’ve shot him to the ground, but did my intervention actually work? Did he trip and fall and I actually missed? Is he down but still able to fight? Too often do we just go BANG BANG at the target and automatically proceed into the rest of the looking around. You were just in a fight with this target, make sure the fight with him is finished.
The threat is stopped, so the next scan is the Immediate Area scan. Does the threat have buddies? We look to one side of the downed threat, keeping our eyes, sights, and muzzle together, back to the threat to make sure he still is no longer a danger, and then check the other side. I’m not looking over my shoulder yet, and I’ll move my head to where my peripheral vision can see when I’m facing the threat, and it may only be 45-degrees.
Once I am satisfied no additional threats are in front of me, I’ll perform the third scan, the Area scan. Now is when I take the time to start looking behind me, high, low, wherever else my environment tells me a threat from his buddies could be. I also don’t limit this to just behind me or to the sides. If the threat is on the ground in front of them, they will look at the ground. What about some distance past the threat in front of them? Could there be a stairway in view towards the front, or a multi story building? Again, we do a disservice as instructors by not teaching this.
Post shooting, our scan is accomplished with a 1,2,3 count. Tunnel vision is not broke up by merely looking around, up down, over our shoulders. Tunnel vision is broken up by processing the scans we are doing for additional threats.
There is more to post shooting where you also include your next and last pieces of cover, where is your partner/family/teammates is you weren’t alone, where is your escape route, but one thing at a time. For now, lets make sure we have a purpose to the scans during our post shooting procedures, and that we’re not just going through motions or forming bad habits.