The Miami Shootout, as it has come to be known, is partially or completely responsible for many significant changes in how law enforcement deploys its weapons and what those weapons are. It is most widely known for the move to a different handgun by the FBI. In 1987, the FBI conducted a wound ballistics seminar, looking to see what caliber was best suited to deal with the increased firepower being wielded by the criminal element. Three rounds were tested for penetration and wound cavity size. They were 9mm, 10mm, and .45 ACP. As a result of the tests, the 10mm was chosen. It ultimately resulted in the FBI moving to a semi-automatic handgun in this caliber. Although the weapons change was significant, it was this testing process that became the basis for FBI ballistics testing that continues to this day. Although upgraded significantly, it was really the first time such extensive testing went into choosing a caliber. Arguments abound as to how the transition went, but in the long run, the process of selecting the 10mm ultimately led to the birth of the most prolific police cartridge in America, the .40 S&W, and a move to semi-automatic handguns.
What gets lost at times in the talk about the gun change are the other aspects of the shooting that resulted in tactical modifications. One of the agents had set his revolver on the seat preparing for the stop, only to have it fall onto the floorboards when the collision occurred. Another agent had his glasses fall off, making it more difficult for him to see. Although the PIT maneuver is used, ramming cars is certainly not the first choice in initiating felony stops anymore. Although not an uncommon tactic at the time, there isn’t a reputable trainer out there advocating such an action today. Meanwhile, the inability to quickly reload in a prolonged gun battle contributed to the move to magazine-fed pistols. Another critical aspect was the need for more firepower. Even though they were looking for armed robbery suspects, only two agents were armed with shotguns. It is a lesson re-visited by LAPD in the equally infamous LA bank robbery. The suspects in this case outgunned the agents almost immediately. The fight had changed, and we needed to change with it.
One of the most compelling lessons learned is best illustrated by a quote from Clint Smith. “Just because you fired it does not mean the fight is over—you just had your turn.” In this case at least one suspect received a lethal round almost immediately. He not only continued the fight, but pressed it—killing two agents and seriously wounding another.
Among the many lessons learned are the facts that we need to continue the fight until it is done and never underestimate our adversary. We learned to prepare for gunfighting, not target practice. It became important to be practical, not expedient. It ultimately changed how we train both mentally and physically, what we use, and how often we evaluate them all.
As is often the case, brave men sacrificed their lives in order for more brave men and women to survive. Let’s hope we continue to evaluate what we do and what we do it with so these brave souls did not make the ultimate sacrifice in vain. It truly brings meaning to the saying, “Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it!”