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American Handgunner Jul/Aug 2010 - Page 22

COPTALK Massad Ayoob . resulting in unitended discharge. We keep our trigger fingers in register on the frames even in gunpoint situations, because . OPINION AND FACTS FROM THE MEAN STREETS . if the finger is on the trigger, any of several stimuli can cause a muscular convulsion . Pistol is Springfield Armory XD45 ACP Tactical with SureFire X200 light. hen I was a young puppy with a shiny new badge, we were taught to have our fingers on the trigger if danger beckoned. Heck, if we were going to need to shoot, we’d need to shoot quickly, right? Back in the day, a great many duty holsters and concealment scabbards alike were cut to expose the trigger guard so that the “booger hook” could get on the “bang switch” all the sooner. But one officer would shoot himself in the butt on the draw when his trigger finger got faster than the rest of his hand; and one more would accidentally shoot a surrendered suspect when he was startled; and another would plug the dashboard with his prematurely drawn gun when his partner stopped the patrol car more suddenly than expected in a hairy situation. The time came when America’s Of Fingers And Triggers W police standardized on a doctrine of keep your finger out of the trigger guard and “in register” on the frame until you are intentionally firing the weapon. Sometimes, the dictum wasn’t worded as well as it could have been. It’s not, “finger on trigger when you’re ready to shoot.” Hell, in at least one sense, we should be “ready to shoot” any time we strap the damn thing on. Some used the phrase “on target, on trigger; off target, off trigger.” Fine for the range, but a cop (or armed citizen, for that matter) taking a criminal at gunpoint was on target both semantically and psychologically, and therefore tended to go on trigger, setting the stage for an unintentional shooting all over again. In my own teaching, I tightened the rule to: the finger will be outside the trigger guard unless and until you are in the very act of intentionally firing the weapon. The rationale for keeping the finger outside the guard is one that has been written in blood and tragedy — good guys and unarmed, surrendering bad guys alike, shot and sometimes killed or permanently crippled, when they shouldn’t have been. Careers destroyed. Charges of manslaughter and negligent homicide filed. Massive lawsuits. The pioneering work of physiologist Roger Enoka showed the unintentional discharge with finger on trigger could happen in many ways. Inter-limb response: when one hand tightens, the other sympathetically tightens with it. Startle response: the flexor muscles in our hands tighten when something startles us. Postural disturbance: when we lose our balance or slip and fall, our hands reflexively clutch. hat we give up when we keep the finger “in register” on the drawn gun is a very tiny sliver of time. Veteran trainer Manny Kapelsohn proved it many years ago. Retired cop Lance Biddle, now active in IDPA (International Defensive Pistol Associaton, www.idpa. com), proved it yet again in November ’09 at one of the creative and educational matches he runs monthly at The Gun Shop in Leesburg, Florida. When Lance was told by recent graduates of two different police academies they’d been taught to take suspects at gunpoint with fingers on triggers, he went back to an object lesson he had been teaching for many, many years. Biddle created a match stage with multiple strings of fire, all electronically timed. Half the time the shooter began on target with trigger finger on frame, and half the time on target with the finger actually on the trigger. They were instructed to fire “on the beep,” and their times were meticulously recorded. A third of the firing was headshots, the rest aimed at the torso, but all shot at five yards. The results? With relatively precise headshots, the average time to get one shot on target was 0.437 seconds, with finger starting on trigger. Biddle’s group recorded a low of 0.21 and a high of 1.24 seconds among the field of 22 competitors. With the finger outside the trigger guard to start, average time for the same headshot was 0.732 seconds, with a fastest of 0.26 and a slowest of 1.69. The difference? About 0.295 seconds on average — less than a third of a second. 22 Giving Up Little W ith more forgiving body shots at the same 15' distance, shooters starting on target with finger on trigger went from a fastest of 0.22 to a slowest of 1.67 seconds, averaging 0.457 seconds. With the finger starting outside the trigger guard, the same body-shot was accomplished in an average of 0.554 seconds, with a low time of 0.29 and a high of 1.10. A difference of 0.096 on the average, less than a tenth of a second. This is solidly in line with Kapelsohn’s pioneering early work. It’s something you can do yourself in a training drill with an electronic timer and a very small amount of ammunition per shooter. Lance Biddle reminds us we’re giving up very little by keeping our trigger fingers outside the guard and up on the frame unless we’re actually, intentionally shooting. For that small price, we go a huge way toward eliminating negligent shooting tragedies that can destroy the people on both sides of the gun. A fact as true for the armed citizen as it is for the working cop. W 0.096 Seconds * WWW.AMERICANHANDGUNNER.COM • JULY/AUGUST2010

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