News Station Uses ‘Active Shooter’ Drills to Test Concealed Carriers

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.

A look at the armed assailant., Shaw Clary, who is a SWAT team member.

A look at the armed assailant., Shaw Clary, who is a SWAT team member.

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.

A look at the first scenario, in the busy office setting.

A look at the first scenario, in the busy office setting.

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.

The crowded conference room, scenario 2.

The crowded conference room, scenario 2.

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?

About the author: S.H. Blannelberry is the News Editor of GunsAmerica.

{ 39 comments… add one }
  • Buff May 18, 2018, 8:10 am

    Who here thinks that a shot to the chest with a .40, .45 or even a 9 mm with body armor wouldn’t knock this guy d**k in the dirk? We are pretending that body armor is some kind of Star Wars space aged shield that allows the wearer to take round after and not feel them!

    Ridiculous. He would be knocked for a loop, long enough to pop him again and again.

    Stupid liberal media. Results would have been real had the test not been designed to fail from the beginning, skewed against the concealed carry holders by giving them tiny targets to shoot at. Head, groin … ridiculous.

    Body armor Is not a magic bullet deflector. It’s simply a life saver if you happen to get hit, you will live, but, you are going to feel it. He will think Someone just hit him with a sledgehammer in the chest. It’s going to possibly break ribs. Shoot him in the chest, keep shooting him, walk up to him and pop him again. He will think he’s dying.

  • Brian Rouleau June 6, 2017, 9:11 pm

    This proves the opposite point. Even knowing that a bad guy with a gun would eventually show up, it was only a coin flip. When you have no idea it’s coming, you’re just providing an active shooter another weapon and more ammo. Thanks for nothing, gun humpers.

    • Jeremy October 2, 2017, 5:28 am

      @ Brian Rouleau. Enjoy being a sheeple.

    • MaxW November 5, 2017, 11:58 pm

      Not really Brian. Yes, the CCW guys weren’t caught as flat-footed as they would be in real life. But Breely is a SWAT officer/trainer, w 22yrs of experience. Against newbie carriers. Most (MOST!) times a shooter/robber comes in, he’s head and body soft from too much lite beer and movie watching, lotsa dreaming about being a baddass. It doesn’t take much to outthink them.
      And if all this happens tomorrow, for real? The good guys will this time have tons more experience than the loose cannon coming in.

  • K Bayard May 26, 2017, 5:20 am

    Great idea and great training. There probably won’t be too many active shooter nuts as well trained as a SWAT team member too.

  • Dave March 26, 2016, 12:23 pm

    Good training and testing. I can’t believe one guy refused a head shot because he said it wasn’t real. There is an old saying in the military. So how you train, so how you will fight. Constitutional carry should be accepted nation wide. Period. You use your weapon in the commission of a violent crime then you go to prison. Preferably for life.

  • Steve January 27, 2016, 9:38 pm

    I could not believe the guy who said “It was not real life to me”. Isnt that the point of scenario training? The older female needs to work more on marksmanship (BIG TIME)…..and both need to work on combat mindset.just my two cents.

  • Bret Maverick January 18, 2016, 7:59 pm

    Nice write up. I would suggest those who need more of real life exercises/drills to try out your methods on a good paintball course once a week until sharp enough, then once per month. This would help provide a mindset response. Then keep practicing your regular shooting at the indoor range or the open range.

  • Donald Parker January 15, 2016, 9:01 pm

    Would like to see more of this done. I am a fire arms instructor, 25 years now. It would give the Needed push to show why we carry and can we do what is nessecary at the heat of the moment. Paper targets standing still, just don’t get it in the Real world..

  • Pat J January 15, 2016, 7:19 pm

    I have switched my range and dryfire practice from center-mass focus to shoulder-level, center-line focus, that is, above the plates.
    It relies on CNS lethality rather than a big leak, but there’s also a windpipe, and a few big blood carriers.
    It is indeed impossible to predict the behavior of others, but it’s my own behavior that I need to rely on. Simulation has been a great and humbling guide to learning weakness and delusion. I have to budget for frequent training, my skills are perishable.

    • Chris Baker January 15, 2016, 11:01 pm

      Double tap. Center of mass and forehead in that order so you take advantage of the recoil. Better chance of stopping the bad guy quickly. Something to think about, the instant kill zone on a human being is just about the same shape and size as a bowling pin. Good practice is to enter a bowling pin shoot. They’re great fun too.

  • Brian Mitchell January 15, 2016, 6:53 pm

    All right, every criticism has been leveled, salvos fired, body count taken and the critics win. Come on people, no simulated situation is going to exactly fit with a real world situation, do the participants need to go through two days of boring meetings waiting for a random attack to satisfy you? The bottom line I was interested in was that the guys with minimal training performed fairly well in the situations. Some training is better than none, this simulation was more difficult due to the “televised” aspects of camera men, etc. In an active shooter situation there are thousands of variables, the best a participant can hope for is better situational awareness and some under pressure shooting from any exercise. No one at a range has someone shooting back, at least this is closer to real than imagination with a paper target or empty beer cans. I think I’d rather train against a swat officer who has been under fire, he could really put you through more difficult possibilities better than an actor. Fact is every responsible firearms owner has a duty to move to a higher level of ability, even through low level training. Great article by the way, honest reporting.

    • Michael thevenin January 16, 2016, 12:57 am

      Hello, I always love reading articles from Guns America and other sites. I like how you performed the simulation in this article. It may not be safely possible but, if somehow someone could invite ccw carriers to a simulation without their knowledge and maybe having them check in their weapons which would be later returned with military style paint ammo that does not require any modification to the weapon. I know this probably far fetched but I also believe this would give real life statistics in the situation. I know I sure would be scared as hell. I apologize for saying this but I work in the hood at an apartment complex. Me and my property manager are ccw holders and we carry at work. It is against our work policy but, our district manager says he will not repremand us for carrying. We deal with hostile people, evict drug dealers on a monthly and sometimes a daily basis. We would rather be fired for having our self defense weapon during a deadly encounter than to die defenseless. I’m normally in bed by now so sorry if I got a little off track. I train daily with either dry firing, laser training, drawing my loaded weopon while im alone, finger never on the trigger. It may not be for everyone but for me knowing its loaded is almost like a discipline on its own. I don’t really recommend this but while working or alone in the house alone i often do this. I don’t really want to take the time unload. I hope you don’t see this as setting a bad example. I know for many it would be but that’s just me, I’m very careful I understand this is not real world training. Hopefully we will never have a real deadly encounter but it’s a dangerous world out there.

  • Dennis January 15, 2016, 5:40 pm

    A great way to find out what a gun fight might feel like and learn how you might respond is with one on one simmunition training. I guarantee you will have an adrenalin dump and your hands will be shaking for some time. Also a good 38 special double action revolver, concealed carry holster, and primer powered wax bullets make practicing fun and you get really fast and accurate. No need to go to a range just a cardboard box with a towel over the back to stop the bullets. Doesn’t cost much money, the wax can be reused and brick of small pistol primers go a long way.

  • Byron January 15, 2016, 2:00 pm

    Not a lot of criminals go around wearing body armor for their crimes. They are definitely in the minority.
    Not truly a fair “everyday” situation, useful though after you have them confident enough to deal with body shots and armed assailants.

    • Jeremiah January 15, 2016, 4:01 pm

      Body-armored bad guys are becoming more and more common, even de-rigor. Look at San Benardino.

      In future attacks, it makes sense for all terrorists who choose to use semi-auto/automatic weapons to opt for body armor. Why wouldn’t they? It just seems more logical – better protection with body armor means terrorist can take out more victims, offering them protection from police as well as those who might be concealed carrying. Maybe the average robber or burglar wouldn’t consider the use of body armor, but certainly terrorists will. I believe you can count on that from our enemies.

      I hadn’t thought about taking head, arm or groin shots, but certainly I’ll factor that into any “terror” equation I happen upon in the future.

      Suicide bombers, probably will not wear body-armor. What good would it be?

      • Chris Baker January 15, 2016, 11:04 pm

        Ouch. I never considered the groin shot. Sheesh! I hope that says something nice about me, not that I’m to boxed in to think outside it.

  • Phil January 15, 2016, 1:30 pm

    The “realism” of this scenario is suspect. An active shooter will hopefully not have 22 years of SWAT training. That guy was instinctively moving, scanning and handling his weapon in ways he could never “unlearn” to pretend to be an untrained or moderately trained “bad guy”. He called out the guy who carried openly, the armed citizen was also the only one in the conference room wearing a mask. You could see the confusion to the “bad guy” in the office when people were darting around cubicles. If it were real, it would be a crap shoot, the “good guy” could be the first shot in the room or not noticed at all because he’d be undistinguishable.
    I’ve done quite a bit of force on force scenario based training. It’s a great way to learn what works and what your mistakes are. One of my favorite quotes is from Col Cooper “Owning a handgun doesn’t make you armed any more than owning a guitar makes you a musician.”
    Practice your handling skills, learn to think tactically, have thick skin when you find out you messed up and stay in mental “condition yellow”.

  • DG January 15, 2016, 11:00 am

    Lets not forget; Most active shooters have taken their life once a “good guy” with a gun shows up. So the faster someone is there with a gun, the less victims there will be! Also, most likely, there will be more then one CCW person so the chances should go up from 50/50.
    If you have someone bent on killing everyone in an area, then the people there have a 0% chance. It’s always better to have armed Law Abiding Citizens, at least then the odds of living are much better!

    • Chris Baker January 15, 2016, 11:08 pm

      I don’t know if that’s true or not but I know it certainly happens in some cases. Besides the fact that I can’t understand why someone would just go murder people, why would they kill themselves if a person is shown to have a gun instead of being an unarmed target. Why wouldn’t they continue shooting people till they themselves were killed?

      • Mark Robinson August 5, 2016, 4:40 pm

        If they kill themselves, it was a planned suicide all along. They would much prefer an instant death than risk being incapacitated and/or maimed and taken alive.

  • John Nicholson January 15, 2016, 10:43 am

    Obviously for these sort of tests to approximate reality, the “good guys” should not know which others, if any, are armed and the “bad guy” should not know which of the people he is attacking may be armed.

  • retrocon January 15, 2016, 10:16 am

    A lot of “nay-sayers” here. That’s too bad.

    The demander-in-chief claims that “if my actions save even one life, it’s worth it.” Considering that there is absolutely no proof that his measures could “save even one life” in the entire country (wouldn’t have stopped any one of the known mass killings), he gives us the standard from which to work. This test showed, even in conditions that highly favored the shooter (knowledge), that there was still a 50/50 chance, with minimally trained CCW holders, to save lives. So, proving that eliminating gun-free zones has a very high probability of saving “even one life,” should mandate the change.

    I have more training than most civilians, and probably more than most non-SWAT cops, but i really think that the 50/50 is probably reasonable odds for any one individual at an event. But, i think the chances improve for every armed individual on the scene. Any friendly firearm at an active shooter scene is better than none.

  • DocLoch January 15, 2016, 10:00 am

    What is useful in these scenarios is the practice and thought process that can be gained by doing these things repeatedly at home with airsoft. Laugh all you want, but a person who has played paintball and airsoft WILL be more effective than most law enforcement who have their puny hours of training and range time.

    • retrocon January 15, 2016, 12:35 pm

      And the winner is!

      My wife and i practice with airsoft regularly. The 1911’s we use have the same feel, weight, manual of arms of our “real” 1911’s. Only recoil is less. We use our carry holsters, too. While no slouch to begin with, our firearms muscle memory has improved significantly, because we can go out our porch and pop off a few drills every day, instead of every week or two at the range.

      Unfortunately, a lot of “traditionalist” don’t recognize that the VAST majority of the population with firearms either don’t have the money to shoot on a regular basis, or the time to travel to and from a range, that’s probably not in their neighborhood.

      The high-quality “training” airsoft guns out there today were, after all, are a result of folks in nations with strict gun laws (Japan mostly), who wanted to compete in practical shooting, but couldn’t own real firearms in their country.

      • Stephie January 15, 2016, 8:11 pm

        Can you tell me which Air Soft you are using to emulate a 1911? Its time to practice!!!

    • Mark Robinson August 5, 2016, 5:03 pm

      I won’t laugh at your paintball suggestion if you won’t laugh at mine: play first person shooter games online against humans.
      I got to be pretty dang good online and developed some respectable chops. When you start to get good and earnest in trying to survive, it’s remarkable how much adrenaline you will burn up while playing, even though you know can’t get hurt. I always enjoyed engaging the best of the best when I played because they were best teachers. Of course, you will never learn any REAL shooting skills, but things like keeping cover and moving when being shot at will become instinctive and automatic.

      About a year ago, I was awakened by what sounded like a door being broken down at or near my house in the middle of the night. I armed myself, but did not turn on any lights that would alert an intruder, and slipped quietly outside my bedroom to listen further. When I was relatively certain there was no one in the house, I snuck outside to the porch, keeping in the shadows, again not turning on lights, gun ready but finger off the trigger. After not hearing anything for a full five minutes, I quietly checked the integrity of all doors and windows, finding nothing. Never did find out what made the noise, but it struck me how my gameplay instincts kicked in right away. It could only improve your fighting skills to “kill and be killed” by other humans online. And I’m 60.

  • DocLoch January 15, 2016, 9:51 am

    This scenario design has EXTREMELY limited conclusion results. It is at best unscientific, and at worst dishonest and part of the conspiracy to restrict the right to self defense. 1. The scenario is not blinded for knowledge bias-i.e. the participants know that they are involved and are prepared for the event. 2. The “assailant does not in any way represent the group he is designed to represent-i.e. how many active shooters have been highly trained SWAT tacticians? 3. The thesis being investigated is what, and what are the motives in communication of the investigators? Are they try to improve something? If so, what? Due to safety, this type of design is always doomed to fail.

  • Chris Baker January 15, 2016, 9:42 am

    I’d lots rather have that 50-50 chance of survival than that zero chance of survival. I’m curious about the simulation. Were all of the people being tested done so individually or one at a time and were the other people in the situation, the “stage dressing” if you will, changed between iterations? Would the person who didn’t score a “survived” have done so if the vest had not been worn? What’s up with the guy in the helmet in that last picture? Given a no gun situation, how many would throw one of those chairs?

  • gregg January 15, 2016, 9:34 am

    My 2 cents:
    What kind of “weapons training” did they have?
    even if only target practice – 6-10 hours isn’t enough

    When a media outlet does these – they seem to be a bit skewed in favor of their position, which typically is – ya don’t need guns.

    This one didn’t seem to be media skewed; which was refreshing.

    Seems I remember a really skewed drill like this a year ago where a perp came into a large college classroom and immediately started shooting at the person w/ concealed weapon – BEFORE he even showed/produced the firearm (hmm – how did perp know HE was the one with the gun??)
    Bull Shit Meter pegged out with that one.

    I would dare say most ‘perps’ don’t have SWAT training and 22 year tactical instructor experience.
    A typical perp is probably going to be nervous, jacked up on drugs, alcohol or the very least Adrenalin – and will not be as proficient and poised as this SWAT perp.

    Scenario 1:
    Good tips of shooting above/below vest for ‘kill shots’; however I would guess a large % of the ‘perps’ won’t have vests on.

    Also – not mentioned or factored in, those that did hit the vests only, the perp’s actions and maybe accuracy returning fire may be compromised as the perp is absorbing those impacts, more-so w/ larger caliber bullets.

    Scenario 2: open carry guy, while ‘Brian’ was sitting like that I’m unsure perp is going to spot it out in the open that quickly, although I understand and appreciate the point they were making.

    On the flip-side: they weren’t 100% “flying blind” as each of these people had the slight advantage of knowing they were going to be attacked sometime in drill – so they already had the chance to think about how they might react – thus making the results possibly better.

    Yes. I would rather take a 50% success rate/’shot” so to speak than be dead.

  • Ray James January 15, 2016, 9:28 am

    A question (and suggestion): Can you clarify whether the concealed carrying person did any “harm” to anyone besides the active shooter? Much of the opposition I hear (in a state university setting, soon to allow concealed carry), is that an “untrained” individual resisting an active shooter might make things worse (seems impossible to me) by shooting bystanders instead of the active shooter. If this didn’t happen in the simulations, you should emphasize this, as it is one of the most common objections I hear to allowing concealed carry.

    • Chris Baker January 15, 2016, 11:15 pm

      I hate to be a devil’s advocate on this but consider the number of rounds fired by police in a shoot out compared to the number of hits on the perp they’re trying to stop. How many other people are injured by those missed shots? Couldn’t that be used as a logical reason to take guns away from cops? I’m surprised the liberal progressives haven’t used that one already.

  • Jay January 15, 2016, 8:42 am

    The bottom line is, this isn’t real life! We can train and train, it doesn’t matter, we can not predict the movement and minds of someone hell bent on harming others! If put in this situation without prior knowledge of anything going on, it would all be different. Until you are actually in a situation like this you just don’t know. I for one always walk into a place knowing my surroundings, at least positioning myself in the place of my choice, looking for those who just don’t fit, knowing the ways in and out, angles of possible attack and always being prepared for anything is better than just being armed. Getting too comfortable with the fact that your armed is enough, will get you killed!. It doesn’t take but a few seconds to be some what aware of your surroundings! “A mans got to know his limitations!”

  • Tom Benton January 15, 2016, 8:23 am

    Two points. First, though being able to shoot effectively and eliminate an assailant quickly and safely is the goal of every
    concealed carrier who chooses to intervene, sometimes the mere presence of a weapon alters the course of the assault. Take the
    case of the Oregon mall shooting. The concealed carry citizen did not fire his weapon for fear of injuring shoppers behind the
    assailant. Yet the assailant took his own life when confronted with the firearm ending a larger catastrophe.
    Second, though realistic training should be sought by anyone carrying a concealed weapon, understand that Police miss
    assailants 66% of the time at 21 ft despite their training. Civilians can not expect any better result. Do not enter a gunfight unless you understand this. Fight when you must not because you can.
    I made my decision, I am not a sheep. I would rather die in a hail of bullets than cowering in a corner and I would risk my life to save others. That keeps me human.

    • Huapakechi January 15, 2016, 9:39 am

      *** Police miss assailants 66% of the time at 21 ft despite their training. ***
      Civilians buy their own ammunition, and they practice more. Don’t have the source to hand, but I’ve read in several studies that cops hit bystanders eleven times more than citizen shooters in armed assailant situations.

  • MThomas January 15, 2016, 7:00 am

    Maybe fighting back is better than not doing anything. Just like anything else, keep getting training and keep practicing.
    Get fit.

  • Sean K. January 14, 2016, 2:00 pm

    This is the second time I’ve seen a video trying to test the effectiveness of armed civilians against an active shooter. Both times, ONLY the person carrying is wearing a protective mask and they are always sitting in the same location. I would trust the results more if the active shooter had no way of knowing which person is carrying.

    • Steve January 15, 2016, 8:34 am

      I see your point but if the role-players are good at what they do it really doesn’t matter. I’ve been on both sides of the coin, a student and an instructor, for many years and I’ve seen both good and bad role-players. For this particular “experiment” it was very apparent that a lot of the decision to not have masks on everyone is due to them filming the event and not as much about the safety or ability to identify the two actors.

      But, as they’ve shown you can pull off training under these conditions safely. You can also pull off creating a realistic environment with only the suspect and hero wearing protective gear. The key to this is getting someone to play the bad guy who can stay in role and simply “pretend” he doesn’t know the only guy/girl with the helmet has a gun unless, as seen in the video, he’s presented with circumstances that would allow him to ID the CCW carrier.

    • Chris Baker January 15, 2016, 9:44 am

      Simple answer, give everyone the same protective gear.

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