Early in my military career, I had the honor and pleasure to serve with several Vietnam veterans. One of them was a survivor of the Tet Offensive. He told me about the first time he ever came under enemy fire while on patrol: “The first time the bullets came flying, I was in an open field. I managed to get my entire body, including my legs, under my steel pot [helmet]” The truth is that when under fire, I’m quite certain anyone would try to make themselves as tiny as possible.
The purpose of the pinned officer drill is for LE officers to train using a vehicle for cover without having to drive a vehicle onto the range.
The setup is simple. The drill can be incorporated into larger training missions, and it addresses three shooting skills in the same session.
SETTING UP THE PINNED OFFICER DRILL
This drill can be used on any range designed for handgun training. It requires a torso-sized target, like a B-27 qualification target, or an IDPA cardboard silhouette, and a portable target stand (barricade) with a cardboard backer.
Start with about 7 yards between the portable target stand and the target.
The portable target stand barricade will simulate the front wheel of a vehicle parked parallel to the targets downrange. Shooters shoot from behind the front wheel of the car, keeping the engine and wheel between themselves and the threat. The top of the cardboard backer should be about the height of the hood. The bottom almost touches the ground like the vehicle's wheel.
HOW THE PINNED OFFICER DRILL OPERATES
This drill can be done with a shooter/coach or solo.
As the officer faces the target from behind the barricade, each shooting position is a number of a clock face, as if the vehicle’s wheel was a clock. For example, shooting from over the barricade is 12 o’clock, the left side is 9 o’clock, and the right side is 3 o’clock. The coach calls out the clock positions in random sequences (“12…3…7…”), and the shooter must shoot from them, without breaking cover.
Coaches, mix it up a little. Tell the shooter to re-holster occasionally, so they have to draw and go prone at the same time. When doing this drill solo, run through each clock position on the dial.
Use all 12 clock positions for this drill. The 6 o’clock position can be fired with the gun almost touching the ground, either right or left of the center of the barricade. I know of one situation where an officer trained like this and ended up using this training to incapacitate an armed suspect, which saved his life and that of another officer.
Shooters must strive for effective hits while minimizing exposure. For each shot, the maximum exposure time should be 3 seconds. The goal is to get it under 1 second. Coaches should initially allow 6 seconds after the number is called out until a cadence is established.
WHAT THE PINNED OFFICER DRILL TEACHES
Although I don’t often teach shooting over the hood of the car because of the amount of exposure for the officer, it depends on the situation. This particular shooting position causes the person to have to squat low enough to prevent exposure and, at the same time, organize a good sight picture. The training value here is the fact that it teaches good head position at a different angle than standing straight up.
The same goes for shooting at the 5 o’clock and 7 o’clock positions. Although some tactical situations might dictate going to prone, shooting from behind a tire often means placing the souls of the shoes against the tire and firing from a slightly compressed position on one’s back. This gets a lot of the person’s body behind the tire and engine area.
What’s hardest is being a dominant side/dominant eye shooter, for example, right-handed/right eye dominant, and shooting from the non-dominant (left, in this case) side. Thus, shooting the 9 o’clock means holding the gun in the left hand, canting the top of the gun right and using the right eye for alignment. This can put the entire head out of the protection of cover. The alternate method is to use the non-dominant hand and align with the non-dominant eye. No everyone can shoot that well under pressure. I certainly cannot.
THE TRAINING BENEFITS OF THE PINNED OFFICER DRILL
There are three benefits from regularly doing the pinned officer drill:
1. The drill improves shooting accuracy.
The only conventional shooting positions here are the two kneeling positions at 9 and 3 o’clock. Everyone shoots those. Deliberate practice should always include challenging shooting situations.
Agencies can run this drill at 7 to 100 yards with a handgun. Let me encourage you to do this at 20 yards, sinus cavity shots only.
2. The drill improves gun handling.
There are some fundamentals that we don’t think of practicing, like swapping hands and going to prone without re-holstering. If I can make a suggestion here: Do not shoot your feet when shooting while on your back.
3. The drill is cardio training.
Run it in 20 round sessions. On their own, officers will figure out which knee is down when shooting the in-between numbers on the sides of the barricade. The first time I started using this, I was winded.
The pinned officer drill needs to be one of many tools in your training toolbox. Stay safe!