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Armed robbery in progress. Armed, barricaded felon. Roadblock to apprehend armed and dangerous suspects. Active shooter at the school or mall. These are the calls that nightmares are made of, and they are the sort of calls for which, in the last quarter century, the patrol rifle has been called upon to answer. For some officers, the shotgun will be the only long arm to which they have recourse.

We know that in any firefight, there is a high likelihood of being shot in the gun hand or gun arm. The noted psychologist Dr. Elizabeth Loftus called it “weapon focus”—the tendency of a person facing a gun to consciously or subconsciously perceive that weapon as the threat and focus upon it. Martial artists and physiologists alike tell us that “where the head goes, the body follows,” and when we tunnel in on the opponent’s weapon, our shots cluster around that weapon. We see it on FATS machines and similar simulators, we see it with reality-based Simunitions training, and of course, we see it when we analyze real gunfights.

If you’ve had sufficient warning of a grave situation to deploy a patrol rifle or shotgun, it means you’re at higher risk of “taking incoming” than usual. Hopefully, your body armor is up to the threat—but it won’t do much good for your hands and arms, nor for your legs. Hence the need for putting wounded-officer response techniques in your on-board body/mind computer now.

Stay in the Fight

Case One occurred in Dade County, Florida. An agent, one of several, was involved in a shootout with two heavily armed robber-killers. Early in the fight, the agent was hit by a .223 bullet from a stolen Mini-14 that shattered his left arm and put him on the ground. Using his legs to scoot himself backward in a supine position to the cover of a brother agent’s car, the agent extended his one good arm and, one-handed, launched a 12-pellet blast of buckshot from his Remington 870 that tore up the foot of the primary cop-killer, who had just murdered two brother agents and wounded this agent and others.

Thinking quickly, the agent then pushed himself up to a sitting position and, bracing the butt of the Remington on the ground and stabilizing it with his knees, pumped a fresh shell into the chamber. He then brought the gun to his shoulder and braced the forend on the bumper of the car to aim and fire. He repeated, sustaining recoil so violent that it chipped the forend of the Remington, until the shotgun was empty.

He then dropped the 870, got to his feet, drew his S&W Model 686 service revolver, and moved toward the vehicle in which the two murderers were ensconced. He hit them with five out of six shots, killing them both and ending the fight.

More recently, Case Two occurred in “the sandbox” of Iraq. An Army captain’s vehicle came under heavy attack from small-arms fire and at least one IED. With his left arm rendered useless by his wounds, the captain brought his M4 to his right shoulder and, firing only with his right hand, finished the fight. He prevailed and survived.

Back in the U.S., Case Three occurred in Glowmawr Hollow, Kentucky. A huge, vicious gunman with nothing to lose ambushed a state police team serving a warrant on him. One trooper fell with a bullet-shattered spine, dropping his department-issue Mini-14 carbine, and was shot twice more by the killer. Moments later, a brother trooper trying to drag him to safety was shot and wounded but saved by his body armor.

The downed officer picked up the 12-gauge pump his rescuer had dropped and, from a supine position on the floor, emptied it into the gunman, killing him. Though permanently paralyzed, the valiant wounded trooper saved the lives of brother troopers and himself.

Brace Yourself

The heroic agent in Case One used a physical object, the rear bumper of a fellow agent’s car, not only for cover but also to support the front of his shotgun as he fired one-handed and put lead into his opponents. When he returned to duty to finish an exemplary career, he received special authorization to carry a Benelli M4 Super 90 semi-automatic shotgun with a pistol-grip stock—a configuration that would have served him much better in the actual fight.

The courageous soldier in Case Two had nothing to brace his gun on. He lowered the elbow of the one arm he had left to fight with—aligning the skeletal-muscular support structure of his arm in a way that better supported the weight of the gun—and was able to deliver rapid, accurate fire from his M4.

Bracing the weapon on whatever is available—be it a car bumper or auto hood under the foreend, or the bottom of a patrol rifle’s magazine on the ground, or any other hard surface, or whatever—can greatly improve your one-handed fire. If your only cover is vertical, such as the corner of a building, lay the forend of your autoloading police rifle or shotgun (or the part of the barrel ahead of the slide handle on a pump shotgun) against the wall. This seems to direct recoil straight back instead of upward, getting you back on target sooner for follow-up shots. It also stabilizes the front of the firearm to some degree.

If your long gun jams—or runs dry, as the agent’s shotgun did in Case One—recourse to the service sidearm is generally your fastest response. If time and circumstance permit (and if the totality of the circumstances tell you that you need the long gun to finish the fight), dropping to one knee and bracing the gun in the “cradle” formed by the upraised other knee and the juncture of the thigh should stabilize the long gun sufficiently for you to perform a one-handed reload.

Going Prone

If your wound has taken out one or both of your lower limbs and dropped you to the ground, but both of your arms still work, the prone position is an option. If you’re down on your butt, lean your upper body forward to get your weight into the rifle or shotgun to control recoil as you return fire. If you can get your back against a patrol car, wall or tree, that will stabilize you well enough to return fire with a 5.56mm rifle.

If you fire a 12-gauge from the shoulder with your back and shoulder against a hard object, however, the recoil could injure the shoulder and impair your ability to return fire thereafter; in that situation, put the comb of the shotgun’s stock under your armpit, brace the butt against whatever hard object is supporting your back, and lean your head forward and down like a vulture to aim. You’ll sustain no recoil impact at all, but you’ll be positioned to effectively return fire.

Think about it and prepare for it before it happens, because there will be precious little time to figure it out when and if it happens.

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