Before I begin, let me first say that there has been much said on the topic of the importance of Verbal Commands during a Self-Defense scenario by trainers and authors far more talented than myself. For those of you that like a visual (and audio) aid, try Southnarcs PUC DVD. For those of you that like to read, check out Mr. Aaron Cowan’s excellent treatise on the topic at BreachBangClear.
Since Aaron’s article I linked above covers virtually every angle of the verbal command subject, what I want to cover is how we can integrate these two CORE principles of Firearms Self-Defense Training: Issuing Verbal Commands AND Practicing Discretionary Shooting into our drills.
As the article stressed, to stay REALISTIC and RESPONSIBLE, we should strive to NOT make every drill a SHOOT drill. Out there, on the street, there are far more guns pointed at people and verbal commands given than there are people shot; our training should reflect that. One of the ways we can do this is to make ourselves THINK before we pull the trigger. Contrary to popular belief, ANY Firearm self-defense training that endorses making “Draw and Shoot” a Conditioned Response is both unrealistic and reckless. As any CO should be aware, anytime there is a self-defense shooting by a legally armed citizen, be it deemed a justified shooting or not, very often that citizens firearm training records, due to our uber-litigious society, will be pulled and scrutinized by the DA’s office. Prudence dictates therefore your training be up to snuff when it comes to responsible training.
The question then becomes to make this PRACTICAL, how do I transplant this into my Drills?
The best way to practice verbal commands is without a doubt Force on Force, since as Mr. Cowan stated, we are practicing to shoot PEOPLE not PAPER. But, if FOF is not an option for you and you wanted to work on it at the range, I came up with a “2 birds with 1 stone” type drill where you can work on both your discretionary shooting and verbalized commands.
This method uses 2D paper targets, so you can either buy some Discretionary Targets from LE Targets or make your own with some butcher paper and colored Sharpies (I mean all you are gonna do is SHOOT IT, right?) If you want to work on multiple targets, you will need to number each target so as to avoid confusion. You will also need a friend with a LOUD voice to be your caller. I like to stagger my distances, for pistol start at 5 yds, Rifle, 15 yds. Move your targets up in 5 yard increments each round until you reach your desired max distance.
- Start by going thru your script for verbalized commands, be sure to go thru ENTIRE script, not just part of it.
- At some point during this script, *as random as possible* the Caller calls out either a number, color or shape on target.
- The shooter then engages said number, color or shape (Keep in mind there may be more than 1 shot required: this enforces not always shooting the same number of rounds)
- If using Multiple targets, to lessen confusion, the Caller will call out which Target (1,2 or 3) and then just a color or shape. For Example: “One, Triangle” “Two, Blue”, etc.
- Caller must also integrate ” No Shoots” by issuing No Command at all; as I said, make it random and mix it up.
There is a ton of ways you can vary this drill to include reloads, malfunctions, use of cover, etc. But typically, the best thing to do is just concentrate on a solid, LOUD and CLEAR Verbal Command Script and then making a clean and smooth discretionary shot.
I know this drill does not activate the “visual” stimulus of a weapon or threat gesture, like some 3D targets can, but it does do one very important thing: IT GETS OUR BRAIN WORKING! As Cowan’s article reiterated, always having a “Conditioned Reflex” of “draw and fire” is not REALISTIC nor PRUDENT.
Also remember if you are giving verbal commands to a person, you have to be equally prepared for the person to FOLLOW those commands as you are to SHOOT them; thus, the importance of the caller not giving you any targets (NO SHOOT) as randomly as possible. This is also the time to work out in your mind how you are going to handle the perp following your commands. As is obvious, these types of scenarios have so many “X” variables it is silly to try and “plan” what exactly you are going to do, but just like your verbal script, having a “Rough” draft at least gets you mentally prepared for the eventuality.
So there it is, two skills practiced for the time of one range visit. Always look for better way to improve both your time and ammo efficiency, as both ammo and your TRAINING time is valuable!
Stay Alert, Stay Armed, Keep Training and Stay Dangerous!