Guns and Gear

Tactically Speaking: Know your weapons and know yourself

Guns and Gear Contributor
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By Dan Meadows,

Following my military career, I served for many years as a law enforcement professional in the southeast part of the United States.  I started with a small department and later transferred to another state, and to another agency. I worked the streets, walked a beat, patrolled the neighborhoods, arrested the criminals, been shot at several times, and have also shot others in the performance of my duties. I have delivered two babies, rescued families in need, investigated crimes, and have trained countless officers in tactical survival skills.  Throughout my incredible career, I served as a police officer / EMT, a patrol supervisor, ERT member, swat team leader, detective, senior homicide investigator and as a police academy instructor.

Through all of this, my passion was and still is, teaching others on how to protect themselves, and how to protect the others with whom they serve in society (their agencies, fellow officers and of course the public).

Since the 1970’s I have had the pleasure of teaching thousands of military members, law enforcement officers and civilians alike, on how to use weapons (firearms, impact tools, H2H, less lethal, tactical blades and others), as well as how to defend themselves and the lives of others.  As either created, real, or mocked up situations and scenarios presented themselves to our students, and through our many survival based training programs, our students have each learned valuable lessons on how to “Know Your Weapons And Know Yourself.”

As a military veteran and as a cop, I have been blessed to have “never” received a serious injury while I was protecting the lives of others. For this, I am very thankful!  As I think back over the many years of service, I can definitely attribute much of my success and training prowess in survival to my instructors and training partners, who were all reality based trainers and students. They all knew that without some measure of realism in your training programs that your chances of being injured or even killed on duty or off, while on the streets, increased dramatically throughout your law enforcement career.

So, it is with this sense of tactical training needs and survival awareness that “The Shooting Channel” has just re-launched a new and exciting “Tactical/LEO” section on our website, (including articles, videos and a tactical series) called “TACTICALY SPEAKING”. And with that folks, I give you our latest tactical article:

“Know Your Weapons And Know Yourself”

How important is it for you to know how a weapon works?  It may be a handgun, long gun, taser, extendable baton, or even a tactical folder.  How important is it for you to know that when you deploy your weapon you know it will work for you each and every time?  How important is it for you to know that your training and the tactics you received will work for you 100% of the time, because anything less is unacceptable, and quite frankly is dangerous to both you and to others alike?

So let’s talk briefly about your weapons arsenal for a moment, and let me ask you up front: Do you know your weapons?

Personal Weapons (Hands, Feet and Ground-Fighting) – Ok, so here’s a question for you: What kind of shape are you in? No really, ask yourself that question.  Are you surprised or concerned by your answer? For our sake, let’s hope not.  Do you participate in any reality based martial arts or ground-fighting training programs on a regular basis?  Do you work out regularly with fellow team members on tactics, self defense and techniques?  Do you do cardio kickboxing or Tae Bo training?  They may great for your cardio performance, but do very little for you in the self-defense realm or survival arena.

By us having a regular training program or by participating in a reality based martial arts class can help you to stay in shape, keep yourself energized, and can help provide you with the necessary street survival tools to survive the threat. Tactical proficiency with your personal weapons will also enable you to be better prepared for that street encounter with an attacker or active resister. Using reality based hand-to-hand or close quarters battle training and tactics can help you to prevent serious injury or death to yourself, and to others who deploy it, whenever necessary.

Impact Weapons (Batons – Straight, PR24, Extendable) – There are some of us out there who still remembers the straight stick baton or a slapjack (slap). Although the slapjack is seldom carried anymore, there are a few of us who still carries the straight stick baton. Others may also remember the day when the side handled or PR 24 baton was first deployed and trained with during our police academy classes. Many officers carried this tool, back in the day. It became popular with most law enforcement departments or agencies, and is still carried by some departments or officers today. I know this as I still get requests to teach or to recertify officers with the PR 24 from time to time. It gave us a new twist (realistically speaking) as a modern day impact weapon.

Years later, the extendable baton became quite popular and is still in use with most police departments around the world.  Smaller, easier to carry and to deploy, this extendable baton is a working tool for many law enforcement officers, both uniformed and in detective divisions. Officers who are trained to carry these tools, must initially be certified, but are seldom retrained often enough, other than the periodic recertification classes required to carry this tool/weapon. IMHO this is unacceptable, as continuous training programs helps to keep an officer sharp and better prepared for using or deploying it.  As a trainer, for any of the above listed batons, I find that it is also one of those tools that you need to have with you always, in order for it to be effective.  Many times, I have watched fellow officers jump out of their police cars and into action, thus leaving behind their batons inside of their police vehicles. And as we all know, it doesn’t do you much good when it’s not by your side, or tactically deployed whenever it is needed.

Less Lethal or Less Than Lethal Weapons (Tasers, OC, Specialty Impact Munitions) – Many officers train with these less lethal, or less than lethal tools or weapons, although it is not carried by everyone, or used in every department. It has limited use deployments, and that certain officer safety [safeguards] needs to be in place before they are used or deployed. The use of less lethal weapons is yet another part of the Force Continuum spectrum used by law enforcement officers today. The main idea here, as with other tools or weapons, is for us to stay trained and always be prepared to deploy them whenever needed, and whenever justified.

Edged Weapon (Tactical Folder) – This, without a doubt, is one of the most carried tools or weapons, and are the least trained upon weapon in a law enforcement officers arsenal. Many “tactical folders,” though menacing looking, are many times tactically dysfunctional and thus creates a false sense of tactical security for the carrying officer. In most cases, officers should talk with or should seek the advice of an edged weapons expert, versus their officer buddies, ever before purchasing the latest and greatest tactical folding knives on the market.  Officers should also attend an edged weapons training class or classes often. They should purchase and practice [often] with [safe] training blades that will give the officer a realistic feel while being deployed, but without injuring the officers or their training partners during practice.  Keeping well trained with an edged weapon also means knowing how to quickly deploy that weapon as needed. Your carry location (on a belt, front pocket, rear pocket, boot, etc.), is incredibly important. Knowing how to access, deploy and control your edged weapon quickly, from either a uniformed or plain clothes carry may mean the difference between life and death for an officer.  Keep the edge, and train often with your edged weapon.

Handguns (Duty Pistol) – The handgun is most carried weapon in a law enforcement officer’s arsenal, and in some cases can be the least trained with tool that an officer carries with them.

A friend of mine, who was a police officer for many years and retired a detective with a large police department in Canada, never found the time to train on his own with his service weapon.

His continuing whine or excuse was, “If the department cannot pay me for my time to go out to practice, or if they cannot provide me with the ammunition to practice with, then I just don’t have time for it”. Wow!  When I asked him about his annual firearms qualifications scores, he just stated that “he passed.” Another wow! Luckily, in his 30 plus years as a police constable, he never once had to pull his service weapon while on duty.

So, how many of you carry a semi-auto pistol? How many of you have a department that still requires its officers to carry a revolver? I see, not many! How often do you train with both?  How many of you carry a backup handgun on or off duty? OK, here’s another one for you, except for your semi-annual or annual qualifications, how often do you go out to the gun range, shooting club, or into the woods and put a few rounds down range?  How often?  Are you kidding me?  Another wow folks, to the 10th power!

How many of you go out and create your own shooter training scenarios, malfunction drills, or stress related shooting events when you train?  And how many of you put forth the necessary time, money and efforts to keep your “shooters edge,” your “survival edge”, above and beyond what many of your fellow officers might do now?  Many of you, not so many of you, or not as many as you might think!

IMHO, this would be unacceptable and quite frankly dangerous for you or others.

You must also learn to practice and shoot, in real situations, with a shooters mindset of 100% round accountability. That’s right! Anything less is dangerous for you and for others. Think not, just read the recent news stories around the country, regarding round accountability and collateral injuries or deaths. Now, let us not forget that the tactical deployment of your service weapon, the knowing all of your handguns functions, as well as its safety mechanisms and capabilities, along with your shooting techniques and your ability to “put it on target”, could mean the difference between you going home at night, or by you becoming another statistic on an “Officer Down” alert or website.  Practice with your handguns often.

Long Guns (Patrol Rifle, Tactical Shotgun) – Unless you are on a SWAT/ERT (team), you probably train less often with your long gun than you do with your duty pistol.  And yet the long gun (patrol rifle or tactical shotgun) can make a difference or outcome in a street gun battle, when they are properly deployed.  Whether they are stored in the front compartment, rear cargo area or trunk of your police vehicle, having those weapons “tactically ready” is vital to an officer or team of officers when coming into the gun battle zone, crime scene or staging area. Though many times costly, the need to practice and in keeping that shooters edge with your long guns is vital for your survivability. Practice often, practice scenarios, practice engaging and disengaging shooting patterns, and practice malfunction drills often.  You should also practice shooting single, multiple, long range or hostage situations types of targets regularly. Always practice and shoot [in real situations], with a shooters mindset and with a 100% round accountability. Anything less is unacceptable and is quite frankly dangerous for you and for others.

Know Your Weapons – As a survivalist, if you do not know how your weapons work, how they will deploy, how to use them, or how they function when they are needed then quite frankly they are “all” useless to you and to the safety of others. So why would you carry them in the first place, if you cannot use them effectively? Of course, that is a question that only you can answer!  Now as a survivalist, the only way to get beyond this lack of weapons knowledge is for us to stay trained, stay armed and stay prepared to; “fight the fight”, “survive the threat” and to “win the battle”, any battle that may or may not come our way!  You must know your weapons, in order to survive!

And Know Yourself – It has been said that you must first “know yourself, ever before you can know or understand others”.  For many of us, you will find that this quote is very true.  However for some of us, we will sometimes limit ourselves by knowing only “yourself”, and by not knowing the true or tragic nature of others. Today, we currently live in a time, place and world that is filled with criminals and terrorists [the wolves], and in a world whereas these criminals or terrorists may one day take away from you and from your families, the very things that you hold dear to yourself. You should never expect for them to give us anything back in return, ever. Therefore, as an officer and as a survivalist, we must train ourselves constantly and we must know; “how to react”, “how to respond”, and “how to survive the threat”. Whatever threat that might be.


Dan Meadows of TAP3X Group of Companies and Co-Host of The Shooting Channel.