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* Why and how *

by Kim Foster

Here's the scenario: you've just been forced to shoot an attacker in a public venue. Parking lot, store, whatever.   Anybody with any training knows that after you neutralize the threat, you wait for the police to arrive.  If you are a law enforcement officer, you wait for more cops to arrive.  There is, however, one important thing you need to do immediately after the shooting to insure your survival...a Post-shooting assessment.  Incorporated in your post-shooting assessment should be a 360 degree scan of the area, looking for additional threats. Never assume your attacker was acting alone.

My Post Shooting Assessment is prioritized as follows:

  • The attacker--did I hit him, is he down?
  • A loud statement along the lines of "I shot in self-defense, call the police!"
  • Additional threats, are there any? (Perform 360 scan)
  • My gun, does it need reloading?
  • Myself, am I hit or injured?

The 360 Scan: to an extent, your environment will dictate your tactics.  Here are a couple techniques that should be adequate for most situations:

  • If you cannot, or choose not, to move to cover, assess to your front, in the direction of the threat and to your right and left as far as you can without breaking your shooting platform.  Assuming a right-handed shooter with the threat at twelve o'clock, this should take you clockwise from twelve to about five and then counter-clockwise past twelve to about eight.  I refer to this as the frontal scan.  Pivot left to nine o'clock, so that your left shoulder is now pointed to what was your six. This will allow you to continue checking from eight, counter-clockwise around to five o'clock.  If you observe threats, deal with them as appropriate.  This enables you to conduct a 360 scan without completely turning your back on your original threat or losing visual contact with him for more than a couple seconds.  This method provides a very rapid view of your surroundings but does leave you exposed to incoming fire.
  • After neutralizing the threat, it is probably a good idea to move immediately to cover and then conduct the 360 scan  from this position.  If you find yourself in a kneeling position, think of your knees as your feet and adapt the method used above.  This technique gets you moving as quickly as possible after shooting.  A moving target is harder for your opponent to hit, if there are additional threats.  It places you in a more defendable location from threats to your front.  However, if there are additional threats behind you, you may inadvertently move to a position that gives them an advantage.

While conducting the frontal scan (twelve to five back to eight o'clock) your pistol should be in a low ready position.  You should be looking over the sights, not through them.  The pistol should be low enough so you can see the hands of anyone that may be a threat.  As you turn to check your rear, move the pistol to a compressed indoor ready position (forearms high on your stomach, muzzle pointed about four feet in front of your toes), a retention position, or position SUL (left side of weapon placed on the back of the non-shooting hand.  Non-shooting hand sandwiched between pistol and your stomach with your thumbs touching.  See photo). This is done for two reasons:

  1. It facilitates weapon retention, making it harder for someone behind you to grab your gun. 
  2. It makes you appear less threatening to bystanders. This is important because most people, even CCW license holders and off-duty police officers walk around in Cooper's "Condition White", oblivious to what's going on around them.  They weren't paying attention, so they didn't hear or see you try to de-escalate the situation.  All they see is someone who just shot someone and appears to be looking for another target so they draw down on you.  And you thought your day couldn't get any worse!

Perform the scan rapidly so you aren't caught unaware by additional adversaries but focus on what your doing.  If you make eye contact with bystanders, you will appear more threatening and that may not be a good thing.  The hands are the threat indicators, focus on their hands.  That guy with his hand behind his back, is he holding a gun or shielding a child?

Once you have determined there are no more threats, place your weapon back in your holster and again state that you shot in self-defense and need the police.  Also call 911 yourself.

This is the method I've come up with after a lot of thought and research and some force on force.  I welcome your questions and comments and opinions here on the forum.

The author has spent a combined total of 23 years in the military and Federal Law Enforcement.  He has served as a Sniper and Entry Team member on a US Air Force Emergency Services Team.  He has been employed by the private security firm ‘Vance International' where he was member of the security and transport detail at the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Washington DC. He is currently employed by the Federal Bureau of Prisons where he holds positions as Firearms Instructor and Disturbance Control Team member. Kim has taken classes from several schools including H&K and has a master class rating from the Chapman Academy and is a member of the International Association of Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors.

Uploaded: 12/6/2006