We all know that good guys with guns can stop bad guys with guns. Perhaps the better question is, how reliably can good guys with guns stop bad guys with guns, specifically in “active shooter” scenarios?
Well, a north Texas news station, WFAA, decided to put some concealed carriers to the test to see how they’d perform in various simulations. The four volunteers had different levels of experience and training. They were:
- Brian Martin, 30, of Lewisville, who has 10 hours of training
- Matthew Beeman, 41, of Denton County, who has six hours of training
- Mary Bannan, 67, of Lantana, who has 25 hours of training
- Royce Hardin, 68, of Lantana, who has the most experience — 50 hours of training
The drills were being supervised by Travis Bond, who manages DFW Shooters Academy in Highland Village. Bond is an instructor with over 30 years of training and law enforcement experience.
The armed assailant in each drill was Shaw Clary, a SWAT officer and tactical instructor with 22 years on the job. During each simulation, Clary carried an AR-15 converted to shoot plastic pellets.
Aside from the fact that they knew they’d confront a bad guy with a gun, participants were not given much info about each situation. They were pretty much flying blind. And they did not know that Clary would be wearing body armor, so that in order to neutralize his attack they’d have to score a hit to the head, neck or pelvis.
In the first scenario, the “busy office setting,” the good guys were placed in the fourth cubicle from the doorway. When the bad guy — a disgruntled employee — enters the room he fires off a few shots and then begins to kill workers. The good guys had to decide whether they would open fire, bunker down under a desk or attempt to flee the scene.
All opted to open fire. Though not all stayed put in the cubicle. Upon hearing shots, Beeman exited his cubicle and took cover in a darkened area. He then opened fire on the suspect. The other three fired from their original position in the cubicle.
In total, two of the four — Martin and Beeman — fired shots that would have neutralized the target while Bannan and Hardin did not though Hardin claimed that he purposely avoided shooting the bad guy in the head because it was just a simulation.
“I shot him in the vest on purpose,” Hardin said afterward. “I didn’t want to hit him in the head, because it wasn’t real life to me.”
In the second scenario, the “crowded conference room” the gunman entered, told everyone to put their hands on their head and then began to execute the captives one by one. Once again, the participants had to decide how to respond.
Hardin complied with the initial directive to put his hands on his head. Yet, when the opportunity arose, he took his hands down, drew his gun and fired successfully at the target.
Bannan, who had struggled with accuracy in the first scenario, also waited for the right moment to open fire. However, once again, she failed to land a kill shot.
“She fired a lot of shots, but she didn’t hit me until well after I had hit her,” Clary said. “The only thing was her marksmanship. She didn’t hit me, but she kept shooting, which was good.”
Like in the first scenario, Beeman performed well in the crowded conference room. He hit Clary in the arm and head.
“He did a good job,” Clary said. “Plus, his weapon was concealed, so I didn’t know he was a threat.”
When it came time for Martin’s turn, he made a fatal mistake, at least in the eyes of the instructor. He chose to open carry his pistol, which made him a prime target for the bad guy.
“If you want to take that as an open carry kind of scenario, that’s exactly what I would have done as a bad guy coming in,” Clary explained. “I saw that he was armed — he’s my first target.”
Martin, who typically carries concealed, said with respect to his decision to open carry, “I feel like that probably did escalate the scenario quicker than I would have liked.”
So, in the end, it was another 50 percent success rate with two of the four neutralizing the target.
This was only part 1 of a two-part experiment. But I think there are some important takeaways. For starters, training — not just on the range but in high-stress, real-life environments — is critically important.
As Travis Bond said, “By going through the training and experiencing different things — and specifically looking for opportunities to engage, and knowing when not to engage — is as important as anything.”
There is no substitute for combat experience, but the closer one can get to mimicking those real-life scenarios in training, the better. In short, static training at a calm and tranquil range will only raise your skill level so much. One needs to practice force-on-force.
Another takeaway is 50/50 odds (the success rate of the good guys in both scenarios) of taking down a killer are better than no odds at all. In other words, some armed resistance is always better than no armed resistance. Maybe the good guy with the gun will not always kill the bad guy with the gun, as we saw in both scenario 1 & 2, but the capacity to take down an assailant can make all the difference. Even the most rabid anti-gunner knows deep down that it is better to have a gun in these situations than not have a gun.
Age, gender, weapon type? Are these determining factors in how well one responds to an armed assailant? It’s too small of a sample size to make any concrete conclusions. But it would be interesting to see a larger study examining whether one’s age, gender or weapon type makes a difference.
What are your thoughts about the experiment? And do you partake in any force-on-force training?