What TV and Movie Cops Teach Us About Gun Use

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The TV show Charlie’s Angels, which ran from 1976 to 1981, gave viewers some of the most famous examples of movie cops. Kate Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, and Jaclyn Smith starred as gorgeous crime-fighting detectives in LA. The show was fun but not too believable — especially when it came to the women's gun use.

Movie Cops | The Do's And Don'ts Seen About Gun Use

On the show, the women could karate-chop people and seemingly handle their guns, but their actual gun technique was far-fetched. One repeated scene always showed Sabrina pointing her two-inch Chiefs special revolver skyward as she searched a building for a bad guy.

In police parlance, “the Sabrina” became known as an unsafe way for cops to hold their guns. Doing “the Sabrina,” shooters would hold the gun with barrels pointed upward near their heads and fingers inside the trigger guards.

“The Sabrina” is one of many tactical firearms errors made by TV and movie cops and detectives. The practices of these characters are a bit puzzling since these films and network shows are supposed to have technical consultants.

Presumably current or former cops — or military people — are hired to keep things looking as real as possible. However, Charlie's Angels show that this is not always the case. What follows are the ten most common TV and movie tactical errors that we should learn not to imitate.

It’s hard to hit a moving target.

It’s hard to hit a moving target. | What TV and Movie Cops Teach Us About Gun Use
TV and movie cops hit people on the run all the time. One reason it’s tough to shoot at a moving target is that we rarely have the chance to practice this process at a range. One benefit of training at an outdoor range is you may be able to ask the range instructors to set up a course of fire that allows you to build this skill. In a perfect world, you would practice shooting and move, reload as you go, and in daylight and low-light conditions.

Training Day
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Denzel Washington, Ethan Hawke, Scott Glenn (Actors)
  • Antoine Fuqua (Director) - David Ayer (Writer) - David Ayer (Producer)

Getting shot hurts, a lot.

Both bad guys and good guys get shot on the screen. If the bad guy gets it and doesn’t die, we see him get handcuffed and hauled away. If the good guy gets hit, we never see the reality of a gunshot injury. Getting shot means shock, fear, anxiety, pain, immobility, blood loss, and eventual death.

Every concealed carry person should have ready access to a small, gun-wound treatable first-aid kit. Whether it's in your car, EDC bag, or simply nearby, access to first-aid is always a good idea. Learn how to use it for yourself or a loved one.

Shooting at a moving car is never a good idea.

Firing a gun at a 6,000-pound piece of steel is never a great idea, even in those legally rare circumstances where it seems justified as it hurtles toward you. At best, shooting at a car when it’s going away from you is a good way to get arrested for negligent discharge of a firearm. At worst, you could be charged for attempted murder. Use your situational awareness to stay out of the way of bad guys. That way, regardless of if it's in a car, parking lot, or on the side of the freeway, you'll be safe.

7,448 Reviews
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Steve McQueen, Robert Vaughn, Jacqueline Bisset (Actors)
  • Peter Yates (Director) - Alan Trustman (Writer) - Philip D'Antoni (Producer)

Bullets fired back at you is scary.

One of the cool (if not painful) lessons from paintball training simulations is to get a real feel for what it’s like to be shot at. Punching holes in paper targets is always useful, but it will never replicate what it’s like to be in peril as projectiles come back your way. Find safe ways to train this way, as it’s invaluable as a stress-inoculation technique for the possibility of the real thing.

Never load or check to see if your gun is loaded right before a gun battle.

Never load or check to see if your gun is loaded right before a gun battle. | What TV and Movie Cops Teach Us About Gun Use
How many times have we seen movie cops, mere moments from the gun fight, check their revolvers to see if they’re loaded? Or they'll pull back the slide slightly to see if a round is in battery on their semis. Worst of all, how many times have movie cops actually dropped a round into the chamber of their pistols? None of that is safe gun practice. Make sure your gun is in the loaded-and-ready-to-fire position before you ever leave the house with it.

Point Break
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Patrick Swayze, Keanu Reeves, Gary Busey (Actors)
  • Kathryn Bigelow (Director) - W. Peter Iliff (Writer) - Peter Abrams (Producer)

Cover is cover; concealment is concealment.

Movies and TV are full of stupid scenes where bad guys send dozens of rounds toward our hero, who gamely fights back as the bullets shatter the wooden barricade or paper-thin car door he’s hiding behind. We’ve all seen scenes where the good guy runs through a hail of gunfire and doesn’t get a scratch. While it’s hard to hit a moving target (see above), it ain’t likely you’ll survive a run through a blast of lead. Pick bullet-stopping cover first, hide-me concealment second.

You will never need to yell “Freeze!” or “Drop the gun!” in a real gun fight.

This is complete Hollywood fiction. This practice goes back to the old trope that the bad guy needs to get shot in a way that seems fair. As real cops know, while they’re saying, “Drop the …!” the bad guy is already shooting at them. You have no legal requirement to give a warning to someone who is already pointing a gun at you.

Gun action is always faster than gun reaction.

Gun action is always faster than gun reaction. | What TV and Movie Cops Teach Us About Gun Use
Our on-screen heroes are always masters of the quick draw. Their lighting-fast holster pull either beats the bad guy out of his holster or waistband (possible) or gets the shot off faster when the bad guy is already pointing a gun at them (less possible).

Don’t get caught watching what your bad guy is doing. Instead, be ready first and fastest with your gun on target. Wondering what he is doing — as he does it — will get you killed.

Lethal Weapon
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Gary Busey (Actors)
  • Richard Donner (Director) - Shane Black (Writer) - Richard Donner (Producer)

Finger control is more important than sight picture.

Sights are useful, so use them. However, you should also train yourself to draw from your holster cleanly and quickly and get that gun on target. This is because you may not always have the time to line up a perfect front and rear sight shot. Point your gun where it needs to be, center mass, and pull the trigger smoothly without jerking it. Spraying and praying, like on TV and the movies, is a recipe for missed shots and rounds going where you don’t want them to go.

WatchMojo.com shows us a video on top 5 gun myths that Hollywood taught us:

What do you think about the blunders of movie cops using guns compared to real-life gun practices? Let us know in the comments section below!

Contact Steve at [email protected] or on Twitter @DrSteveAlbrecht

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