Monday, August 11, 2014

Training - Scan and Assess . . .


Scan: to look carefully usually in order to find someone or something

Assess: to make a judgment about (something)

“Don’t forget to scan and assess after each drill. I don’t want you to just turn your head . . . I want you to learn something about someone on the line!”

It’s early on in the Combat Focus Shooting course and Rob Pincus is attempting to work out some old and bad habits that most of us have accumulated over the years. At this particular instant we are fleshing out the “scan and assess” process.

Read virtually any account of an assault regardless of the type of weapon – be it a firearm or a balled fist – on one thing becomes apparent very quickly. In the majority of cases there is more than one attacker. And they are not all guaranteed to be directly in front of the victim, they could come from virtually any direction. An individual needs a method to help them pickup other possible attackers and a way to evaluate their environment to determine their level of safety. Hence . . . the “scan and assess” portion of a shooting drill.

The shooter “scans” the area and then “assesses” the situation to help them determine if they’re safe, should they move, are there more potential threats . . . and then they act accordingly.

How this has shaken out in far too many “tacti-cool” range drills is a shooter in the High Compressed Ready taking a quick glance left and right, returning to the front and then reholstering their weapon, confident they are done with the drill. Next time you see someone do this walk up and ask; “Hey, what is the color of the ball cap on the girl three positions to your left?” My suspicion is that they will have no clue.

In all too many cases shooters on the range go through the process of looking . . . but they simply don’t see . . . and that’s a problem.

The other issue that can crop up here is doing a complete 360 degree scan while not muzzling the line, your spouse or kids. That too can be a real problem, especially in an amped up encounter with adrenaline roaring through your body and a bad guy on the floor in front of you.

So let’s work through the scan process in two steps. First, a 90 degree scan left and right and then complete the scan to extend fully to your rear.

The mechanics are simple and familiar – come to the High Compressed Ready and turn your head left and right while keeping your weapon pointed forward – at your primary threat.



Like I said, the mechanics are simple . . . the process is more difficult. It is so much more than just turning your head. In this moment you must quiet your mind, focus and actually SEE what you are looking at. Is there anyone else? Where can I move to in need be? Is anyone else hurt? It can be a difficult thing – made that much more difficult by a “range habit” of looking left and right rather than actually SCANNING left and right and truly seeing what you are looking at.

This is a place where a training partner can come in handy. After they run the drill, and as you are doing your scan and assess, they can hold up fingers or different items and then quiz you what they held up. Or, in a training environment, the instructor can quiz individual shooters on what the noticed about the shooters on the line with them.

The key is noticing DETAIL and not just the general texture of your surroundings.

Once you move past the 90 degree point you will need to physically turn your body. Keep your feet planted – simply turn at the waist. This brings up the next issue – muzzle discipline. If you maintain a High Compressed Ready position and turn at the waist you will sweep everyone in front and about 45 degrees on either side of you. NOT GOOD.

The solution to this is the use of the Sul position. Sul means “south”. South in this case means you point your weapon down while keeping it close to your body.

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Place your support hand flat on your chest and lay your weapon across its knuckles. The importance of this position is that the muzzle is in a relatively safe position allowing you to turn your body to “check your 6”.

Should you need to move and use your support hand to gesture, keep someone away, control a child . . . a one-handed Sul position will serve the same purpose – keeping your weapon pointed in a safe direction.

At this time you can complete your scan by turning your body at the waist far enough left and right to see the entire 360 degree environment.


While scanning, you also need to be rolling through an assessment of your situation. Are there other threats? Where are the exits or direction of egress? Is anyone else hurt? The process of slowing your brain down during your scan will aid you in making a clear and well-reasoned assessment of what the heck is going on around you.

Remember – the best way to win a fight is to avoid it. If you can’t . . . make sure you aren’t blind-sided by a second or third attacker.

Work on this the next time you training at the range. Get rid of the “tacti-cool” quick glance and truly scan for problems, SEE WHAT YOU ARE LOOKING AT, and make good choices during your assessment.

Surprises in gunfights can be the end of a very bad day!


  1. Great post Bill, and exactly right. But most people have to be taught position Sul... sigh

  2. Yep - sul isn't one of those items that are on the top of the civilian instructor to teach there students. Comes in handy though! :)