Scan after shooting, in training. Smart or derp?

Probably about 20 years ago the notion that we ought to insist that students scan after a string of fire really took hold.  It was easy to teach, cost no money, everyone could do it, it took no time, was something macho-mean-tacticool that even the least competent instructor could demonstrate and teach, and just generally added to the idea that you were learning useful stuff on the range.

It was a good idea.

It was implemented very badly.

(Full disclosure: I was as bad as any other presenter in doing a perfunctory scan after drills on video, though in my defense, I did feel silly, and I didn’t insist on them when teaching in person.)

A lot has been written on this subject — much, but not all, that I agree with.  Let’s see if we can bottom line it.

After you shoot, and before you holster (and call 911) or exit the area (and call 911), you should look to see what’s around you.  Other BGs, BGs’ friends, witnesses, escape avenues, safe places, loved ones, friends, injuries (other than the guy you shot), other armed people, evidence, unsafe objects or places or situations.  All these and more are not just useful, but critical things to observe, register, and act on.  Seeing them is rightfully part of the aftermath that you need to manage.  And like any part of the aftermath, if you don’t train it, you’ll screw it up.  Doubledamnguaranteed.

But a quick scan left and right ain’t gonna do it.  You need, and instructors need to teach, that you look for something…something that’s variable.  It it the instructor’s responsibility to often create something that needs to be noticed after strings, like a “bad guy”, a “bomb”, an an injured loved one”,etc., and in a more realistic exercise, then acted on.  All of these things can be represented by props, and even reasonably realistic ones are cheap to make or acquire.  That doesn’t get you all the way to a fully functional and realistically useful scan, and certainly not to an appropriate set of actions based on what you see, but it does teach students to look for something that might really be there, not just quickly and perfunctorily wiggle their heads around.

For the umteenth time: there’s more to shooting than shooting.


3 thoughts on “Scan after shooting, in training. Smart or derp?

  1. Yeah, and a scan BEFORE shooting is a pretty good idea too.

    A little story- maybe it will be useful to someone.

    A few years back, I stopped at the very edge of a box store parking lot, along the road, where folks would leave their cars for sale. My wife was driving, and we pulled in to look at the lone vehicle parked there. I got out , looked at the car a bit, and was writing down the phone number when a guy approached from apparently nowhere, as there was no vehicle parked in that direction for 50 yards.
    He said, “hey man, nice car. That your car?” as he approached to within 25 feet. My spidey sense said “INTERVIEW!” (although at the time, I did not know the word for assessing a victim)

    Without conscious thought, I swiveled my head around to see, in back of me, about 15 yards away, another guy just standing there in the middle of the parking lot, and a big sedan diagonally parked with two more people in the back seat, about 30 yards away. This scan absolutely confirmed there was bad business going on, and I jumped in the car and told my wife “GO!”. NOW!” That was the end of that.

    This was pretty well set up- they had seen us, and either dropped off the first guy to approach from one direction and drove around us to park, or he had walked a long way around to flank us. They had positioned the second guy as a back up, so as not to alarm me with multiple visible men, and had the other two in the car- I had the weird feeling they were there as “observers”, trainee’s if you will, although no evidence to support it other than their presence and they seemed young.

    What I learned.
    What warned us was a immediate sense of “wrongness” – this is hard to explain to folks who have never been exposed to it, often I have heard it mentioned as a sense of confusion- it was a social interaction, but people can’t slot it into place. Things just seem odd. The words mean nothing, they are just a way to buy a little bit of time to get in close without alarming. Could have been, “got a light”, anything like that. Even my wife, in the car , felt it. We have an advantage, strange as it may seem, from having been independent from our teens, lived a lot of places , hitchhiked around, you get the idea- it was not a high school-college-desk job youth, but rough around the edges.
    What saved us from an ugly encounter was instant reaction- we were way inside the attackers loop. It showed them we knew what was going on, and that we would be a unrewarding target, or worse. So they abandoned the attack. I was unarmed , save for my brain and a knife.
    The next day, I started carrying again. And missed a wacko at the mall with an AK, that same day, by a last minute chance decision… never discount the power of luck, but don’t count on it either!

    One last thing I wanted to add, but not sure where in the story to put it- during this event, there was no internal sense of anger, or hostile emotions toward the attackers at all – it was if they were just some sort of natural disaster or dangerous wild creatures to be dealt with.


  2. Very good point. One of the things I learned in LE, and I hope I remember now as a civilian, is that when the hinky thing happens to the back of your neck, you put our back to a wall (or car, or something) and scan. I think that in FORTRAN (anyone remember that?) is goes like this:
    IF hinky
    THEN back to wall and scan.



    • Ralph,
      I don’t think you could un-learn that feeling if you tried- it is so deep, by the time the hinky feeling was gone, the human would be gone as well. And just like love and fear, I bet it is universal- the only reason people might deny it is because they have not experienced it, or they don’t have a name for it.
      I am in my 60’s, and remember the very first time it happened in my grade school years! And pretty much every time since.
      The absolute worst I ever got it was when I was 15 years old, in NYC with my girlfriend- I stopped for some reason in a little deli , buy a soda, ask directions, I don’t remember why–the guy behind the counter came out and started to talk to me and the fur instantly stood straight up all over my body. My subconscious was screaming at me to get out of there as fast as possible, and I did. To this day I have no idea why, just that it was best to go and ask any questions later. It’s probably best to be left wondering why, if you find out why, it could be unpleasant!


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