The article below has interesting statistics and information relating to police shootouts. The studies were made by the NYPD. The results are very interesting and are important enough for review by membership of VCOPS and all law enforcement officers in Virginia. We offer you this article for your information and advise that the information contained in it be evaluated as a part of your entire firearms training program.
NYPD SOP 9 - ANALYSIS OF POLICE COMBAT
In 1969, the Firearms and Tactics Section of the New York City Police
Department instituted a procedure for the in-depth documentation and study of
police combat situations. It was designated Department Order SOP 9 (s. 69).
Data gathering began in January 1970, and over 6000 cases were studied during the 1970s. The study results and findings were released in 1981. The following sets out many of those that focus on shooting situations and shooting techniques.
Since the results became available, pistols have replaced revolvers in most
agencies, and the results are dated. However, based what one reads in the
literature, and sees in police videos, the elements and conditions of
shooting situations have changed little over time. As such, the results can
be expected to prevail today. At a minimum, they form a solid and scientific
basis for self defense training and action until new study results and
findings come along.
Also, it is likely that the results are applicable most anywhere, as New York
City, in addition to tall buildings, has numerous suburban communities,
beaches, large parks, remote areas, highways, rivers, ocean fronts, etc.
All of the results and findings applicable to police combat situations, are
not provided here. Hopefully, the snippets below, will serve as a spur to
those in need of that information, to get, study, and act on it.
From Sept 1854 to Dec 1979, 254 officers died from wounds received in an
armed encounter. The shooting distance in 90% of those cases was less than
Contact to 3 feet ... 34%
3 feet to 6 feet ...... 47%
6 feet to 15 feet ..... 9%
The shooting distances where officers survived, remained almost the same
during the SOP years (1970-1979), and for a random sampling of cases going
back as far as 1929. 4,000 cases were reviewed. The shooting distance in
75% of those cases was less than 20 feet.
Contact to 10 feet ... 51%
10 feet to 20 feet .... 24%
The majority of incidents occurred in poor lighting conditions. None
occurred in what could be called total darkness. It was noted that
flashlights were not used as a marksmanship aid. Also, dim light firing
involves another element which is different from full light firing, muzzle
Firearms accounted for only 60% of the attacks on police. However, in the
254 cases of officers killed in an armed encounter, firearms were used in 90%
(230) of them, and knives in 5% (11).
The service revolver was used in 60% of the cases. The authorized smaller
frame civilian clothes revolver was used in 35% of them.
In all cases reviewed, an unauthorized or gimmick holster (ankle, shoulder,
skeleton, fast draw, clip-on etc.) was involved when the revolver was lost,
accidentally discharged, or the officer was disarmed.
Unintentional discharges averaged about 40 per year. This number is
relatively small given: the size of the force (28,000), that all officers are
required to be armed at all times when they are in the city, and that 4,000
non-police firearms are processed each year.
In 70% of the cases reviewed, sight alignment was not used. Officers
reported that they used instinctive or point shooting.
As the distance between the officer and his opponent increased, some type of
aiming was reported in 20% of the cases. This aiming or sighting ran from
using the barrel as an aiming reference to picking up the front sight and
utilizing fine sight alignment.
The remaining 10% could not remember whether they had aimed or pointed and fired the weapon instinctively.
65% of the officers who had knowledge of impending danger, had their
revolvers drawn and ready.
This is proper tactically for several reasons, the first being that holsters
which are designed with the proper element of security in mind, do not lend
themselves to quick draw. The old bromide, "Don't draw your gun and point it
at anyone unless you intend to shoot" is a tactical blunder.
Situations in which rapid escalation occurred, were most often activities
considered routine, such as car stops, guarding, transporting or
fingerprinting prisoners or handling people with mental problems.
Family disputes did not prove to be high on the police danger list. Sniper
and ambush incidents represented less than 1% of the cases reported.
Reports on incidents involving police death revealed that the officer was
alone more often than not and that he was confronted by at least two people.
The element reported as the single most important factor in the officer's
survival during an armed confrontation was cover.
In a stress situation an officer is likely to react as he was trained to
react. There is almost always some type of cover available, but it may not
be recognized as such without training.
In 84% of the cases reviewed, the officer was in a standing or crouch
position (supported and unsupported) when he fired.
(The training doctrine developed for use in an exposed condition involves use
of the crouch/point shoulder stance. The feet are spread for balance and the
arms locked at shoulder, elbow and wrist. The body becomes the gun platform,
swiveling at the knees. Multiple targets can be fired on with speed and
accuracy through an arc of 140 degrees without moving the feet.)
Strong Hand or Weak Hand
Officers, with an occasional exception, fired with the strong hand. That was
the case even when it appeared advantageous to use the weak hand. The value of placing heavy emphasis on weak hand shooting during training and
qualification is subject to question.
Single and Double Action
The double action technique was used in 90% of the situations and used almost without exceptions in close range, surprise, or immediate danger situations.
A warning shot may set off chain reaction firing.
Accurate fire from handheld weapons from a fast-moving vehicle is almost
impossible, even by a highly trained officer.
Firing while running changes the situation from one where skill has a bearing
into one in which the outcome depends on pure chance. It endangers the
officer unnecessarily by depleting his ammunition supply, and increases the
chance of shooting innocent persons who may be present.
The average number of shots fired by individual officers in an armed
confrontation was between two and three rounds. The two to three rounds per
incident remained constant over the years covered by the report. It also
substantiates an earlier study by the L.A.P.D. (1967) which found that 2.6
rounds per encounter were discharged.
The necessity for rapid reloading to prevent death or serious injury was not
a factor in any of the cases examined.
In close range encounters, under 15 feet, it was never reported as necessary
to continue the action.
In 6% of the total cases the officer reported reloading. These involved
cases of pursuit, barricaded persons, and other incidents where the action
was prolonged and the distance exceeded the 25 foot death zone.
During the period 1970 through 1979, the police inflicted 10 casualties for
every one suffered at the hands of their assailants.
In all of the cases investigated, one factor stood out as a proper measure of
bullet efficiency. It was not the size, shape, configuration, composition,
caliber, or velocity of the bullet.
Bullet placement was the cause of death or an injury that was serious enough
to end the confrontation.
Hit Potential In Gun Fights
The police officer's potential for hitting his adversary during armed
confrontation has increased over the years and stands at slightly over 25% of
the rounds fired. An assailant's skill was 11% in 1979.
In 1990 the overall police hit potential was 19%. Where distances could be
determined, the hit percentages at distances under 15 yards were:
Less than 3 yards ..... 38%
3 yards to 7 yards .. 11.5%
7 yards to 15 yards .. 9.4%
In 1992 the overall police hit potential was 17%. Where distances could be
determined, the hit percentages at distances under 15 yards were:
Less than 3 yards ..... 28%
3 yards to 7 yards .... 11%
7 yards to 15 yards . 4.2%
The Disconnect Between Range Marksmanship & Combat Hitsmanship
It has been assumed that if a man can hit a target at 50 yards he can
certainly do the same at three feet. That assumption is not borne out by the
An attempt was made to relate an officer's ability to strike a target in a
combat situation to his range qualification scores. After making over 200
such comparisons, no firm conclusion was reached. To this writer's mind,
the study result establishes that there is indeed a disconnect between the
If there was a connection between range marksmanship and combat hitsmanship, one would expect the combat hit potential percentages, to be well above the
dismal ones reported. That is because the shooting distance was less than 20
feet in 75 percent of the 4000 encounters studied.
The US Army recognizes that there is a disconnect. Its training manual, FM
23-35 Combat Training With Pistols & Revolvers (1988), calls for the use of
Point Shooting for combat at less than 15 feet, and when firing at night. It
does not call for using standard and traditional range marksmanship
"The weapon should be held in a two-hand grip and brought up close to the
body until it reaches chin level. It is then thrust forward until both arms
are straight. As the weapon is thrust forward, the trigger is smoothly
squeezed to the rear. The arms and body form a triangle which can be aimed
as a unit." For shooting at 5 to 10 yards, a modified version of the
technique is used.
Various Point Shooting techniques are available for use. They are simple,
direct, easy and quick to learn, and effective. With appropriate emphasis
and training time allotted to them, one can expect a better future than the
Target Focused shooting is taught to the CHP. It is similar to the shooting
methods of Fairbairn, Sykes, and Applegate, in that the sights are not used
in close quarters aiming.
There was an extensive write up of the system in the Oct, 2001 issue of Guns
& Weapons For Law Enforcement. Louis Chiodo is the developer of the method.
His site is Gunfighters Ltd., and the URL is:
Another innovative approach to Point Shooting is the C.A.R. or the Center
Axis Relock Method of Gunfighting. C.A.R. is a strong, stable, and flexible
platform that allows for quick target acquisition and rapid fire bursts of 4
shots to COM in under 1 second with standard pistols. It also can be used
effectively in small spaces and vehicles. It provides maximum weapon
retention, and also serves as a practical and effective base for contact
An article on the C.A.R. system was published in the Summer 2002 issue of The Deputy Sheriff Magazine which is published by the United States Deputy
Sheriffs' Association. Paul Castle is the developer of the system. His site
is Sabre Inc., and the URL is: http://www.sabretactical.com
The author is a fan of AIMED Point Shooting or P&S as he calls it. He has
patented a very simple, cheap, and practical aiming aid that has proven to be
very effective in recent test shoots. Information on it with pics is
available at http://www.pointshooting.com/guntests.htm
Anyone who wishes to make and add the aiming aid to their own personal
firearm/s, is welcome to do so, if done at their own risk and expense and if
they accept full responsibility for any and all results. This also applies
to police agencies who may wish to make and add them to various agency
weapons, and gunsmiths who may be needed to do the work.
To use the aid, one just grabs the gun, points the index finger at a target,
and pulls the trigger with the middle or left index finger. That is all
there is to it. Just point-n-pull, point-n-pull. No more, no less. It is
instinctive, and it works. The photos of the targets used in tests, show
that to be fact. One does not need to learn a special technique, grip,
stance, or dance. The full details on P&S are available for free at
The author has had several articles on Point Shooting and related topics
published over the past few years in a variety of Police publications. A
recent article titled: Is Front Sight Press, Front Sight Folly?, and one on
the C.A.R. system, can be reviewed on his site. He is not a professional, or
a gunslinger. He just objects to shooting methods that don't work when they
The US Army's Combat Training manual is free on the web at:
A final note:
I have recently completed another article titled "Is Front Sight Press, Front
Sight Folly?" I have not included it here as it would make this long e-mail,
much longer. I will send it to you if you wish, or you can review it on my
site. The URL is www.pointshooting.com/folly.htm
I wrote the Front Sight Press article after I happened upon the US Army's
combat pistol training manual a month or two ago. It describes in great
detail, the requirements that "must be met" to use the Front Sight Press
If those requirements are looked at closely, and considered in the light of
what is known about real life and death pistol gunfights, serious questions
come up about the use of FSP in gunfights. That is so, because some of the
requirements are patently unrealistic, and plainly impractical for
application in those situations. Even the US Army doesn't call for the use
of FSP at under five yards.
One article compliments the other.