Some intriguing data has emerged regarding the typical reaction to confronting an assailant who is armed with a firearm. A recent posting by the Force Science Institute explores some of the common, and often fatal, mistakes that even trained police officers make in such circumstances.

In an interview with Inspector Chris Butler, one of North America’s leading use-of-force experts, the FSI staff noted that Mr. Butler “minced no words” in assessing present shortcomings of police training: (Force Science News Extra – April 11, 2016).

“Currently,” [Butler] asserts, “many agencies have training paradigms that are directly leading to deaths of officers in the line of duty. This is hard for trainers to swallow, but not all training is good training. And bad training will get officers killed just as fast as no training at all.”

One of the topics covered applies just as much to civilians as it does to police, which is to employ training that emphasizes learning to move, and move quickly, when facing a gun-wielding attacker. I’ve noted that in the carry community, the scenarios described seem to focus too often on “down-weapon” threats—the imagined attacker is either unarmed, or carrying some weapon other than a firearm, such as a knife or a tire iron. Very seldom does civilian training involve facing an adversary who has a gun.

This is important, because as Mr. Butler describes the situation, “Force Science’s well-known Hit Probability study, which revealed the natural instinct of many offenders to shoot at an officer’s head from close range, also confirms the value of immediately moving as a threat response.” [Emphasis ours]

Too often, Butler explains, “Officers see the threat coming and they tend to stand still while drawing their weapon to respond.” But drawing your weapon should be your second priority. “Moving to get your body off-line is the single most important piece of mitigating action you can take,” he argues. [Emphasis ours]

“Shooting at a moving target, especially with a handgun, is a trained skill, particularly if the movement is lateral. Very few offenders have that skill. When you’re moving, offenders end up ‘shooting in the present but hitting in the past,'” and thus missing their intended target—that’s YOU, by the way.

Butler refuses to accept the excuse from trainers who claim that they “can’t teach movement on the range” because of safety considerations or other facility limitations. “We can’t allow ourselves to fall into that fallacy of thinking,” he declares. “Every time you let an officer stand still and draw, you reinforce a habit that can get the officer killed.”

“Trainers need to be creative. There are always solutions. Even taking a dramatic step to the right or left as you draw and fire can help. It may not be the optimal solution, but we can certainly start to implement small advances and do it now without waiting for the ‘big’ solution.”

Most trainers I know agree. It’s one of the reasons I prefer outdoor ranges whenever possible—movement is either difficult, or prohibited, at many indoor ranges. But even at an inside facility, where “lanes” are often cramped, it is usually possible to have a student step to one side or the other, at least a little bit, as they acquire the target. And getting at least some movement ingrained is better than having people fire exclusively from a fixed position.

Stay safe. Train often, train well, and train for the real world.