Visual Perception Delay and In-The-Back Shootings

*Quick note:  This article has been updated with experiences and observations that have happened since the shooting originally happened.*

In April, 2015, there was a horrible story about an officer shooting a man 8 times in the back while fleeing on foot after a traffic stop.

What I’ve seen and read so far is not good…simply by the number of shots the officer fired, but do you know why that is?

Or do you know why it’s common for civilians or law enforcement to shoot their attackers 1, 2, or even 3 times in the back before realizing that their attacker has turned?  Do you know how to use this phenomenon to make yourself harder to hit if someone’s shooting at you?

In short, reality isn’t what you see, and you have walked around your entire life consciously SEEING a reality that happened .5-.75 seconds ago. You don’t realize it normally, but everyone has memories of times where this came into play.

  • One trick/illusion is to have someone lay a $20 on a table and put their hand 4” above it. You put your hand 4” above theirs and tell them to slap the table and trap the $20 bill as soon as they see your hand move. You (or a 6 year old) can take money from people using this trick all day long.
  • Some people get into car wrecks where they “never saw it coming.”
  • If you’ve ever tried blocking punches/strikes from someone who was within arm’s length, you have felt the effects of this visual delay. (Eventually, with the right training, you get past this by using your subconscious to identify pre-strike indicators and unconsciously react to the strike before it actually happens…we’ll get to this in a minute.)
  • If you’ve ever done quick draw contests where you react to the other person, you know how it’s almost impossible to “catch up” if you wait until you see them move.
  • With driving, the visual perception delay/reactionary gap is generally accepted to be 2 seconds instead of .5 and drivers are continually told to stay at least 2 seconds behind the car in front of them to be able to consciously identify and react to threats/dangers.

When we look around, it looks like everything is moving fluidly, but we really see in frames…kind of like a movie.  And that “frame rate” varies TREMENDOUSLY.  Movies are shot at 24 frames per second, and they look smooth.  Fighter pilots who have done eye training can identify planes with only 1/200th of a second of exposure…but it might take them a quarter second, half a second or more to process that 1/200th of a second exposure.

The frame rate that you see at is dependent on light, the colors your observing at the time, and your specific neurology.  The details are fascinating, but not necessarily helpful for this discussion.

Now the South Carolina shoot appears to have been a bad shoot. The officer is in jail.  The family of the victim has already received a $6.5 million settlement.  It sickens me on several levels that I don’t want to get into. In fact, there’s almost no connection whatsoever between that shooting and the rest of this article…but it’s incredibly important for you to know the difference between someone who shoots an attacker 1, 2, or even 3 times in the back and someone who shoots an attacker 8 times in the back.

Keep in mind that in many cases, good people DO justifiably shoot attackers in the back after they’ve stopped attacking and started to run away.

How can this be?

Because of the fact that there’s a half to three-quarter second delay between what our eyes see and what the conscious mind is able to process.

During that ½-3/4 second delay, the attacker has plenty of time to drop their weapon, turn, and depending on the situation, start moving away…all the while, the shooter is seeing what happened earlier—which was the attacker facing them and posing a threat.

If you’re firing off shots with quarter second splits, that means that you could feasibly shoot your attacker once in the side and a time or two in the back without even realizing that they were no longer a threat.

In fact, one use-of-force expert witness who testifies several times a month told a class that I was in that he could probably defend 1 or 2 shots in the back because of visual perception delay. 3 would be questionable, but 4 would be incredibly difficult because by that time, the fact that your attacker is no longer a threat should have made it to your conscious mind.

Other than cool trivia, how can you use this information?  We’ll cover a practical application and a few tactical ones.

First off, and most practical, be conscious of the 2 second rule when you’re driving.

If you’re like me, you probably wondered, “If the visual perception delay is only .5 seconds, why do I need to stay 2 seconds back from the car in front of me?” and it’s a great question.

The answer is that if you’re on-alert and ready for something to happen, it only takes .5 seconds for your conscious mind to process simple pre-defined stimuli like “if his brake lights go on, I’ll hit my brakes.”

But the more complex the stimulus is, the longer the delay. If you have to judge approach speed, weather conditions, or other factors like how hard to hit the brakes, the processing/reaction time increases. If you’re distracted by talking, texting, or adjusting the radio in the micro-second where the stimulus happens, there will be a delay between when the stimulus happens and when you get fully engaged BEFORE the .5 second visual perception delay even starts.

As an example, the average person can handle 7 chunks of information at a time and process those 7 chunks 18 times per second for a total of 126 chunks per second. Listening to a human voice, like a radio, phone, or another person in the car takes 40 chunks. Processing what they’re saying and thinking of a response takes a few more chunks. Paying attention to the car(s) in front of you takes a few more. Add in the cars around you, maintaining your speed, distance, place in the lane, and navigating and you see that you’re probably only devoting a chunk or two per second to the brake lights on the car ahead of you. That means that it might take a half second or more before the half second visual perception delay clock even starts!

In short, respect the 2 second gap rule.

The other examples are going to be less likely and more “tactical.”

One of the things that I’ve observed and experienced in the last few months is the difference between how vision works and how people perform in traditional range training and force-on-force training.

In low stress shooting, or even competition shooting, it’s EASY to shoot moving targets.

Take a friend and have him stand 10 feet away.  Hold your thumb so it’s between your eye and his chest and have him try to move fast enough that your thumb comes off of his chest.  It won’t happen.  Your thumb will track his chest like it’s attached.

BUT, what I’ve seen (and experienced) is that in force-on-force scenarios, a simple, properly timed, 2-3 foot sudden lateral movement will cause about 1/2 of shooters to shoot to where you were and not where you are.

Roughly half of the time, the shooter’s visual frame rate is fast enough that they are able to track the movement and put rounds on target.

The other half of the time, they will swear that the target was there when they pressed the trigger and that the person “just moved really fast.”  Observation and video proves otherwise.  Regardless of what they THOUGHT they saw, they were shooting at empty air.

Two lessons from this:

  1. Make DARN sure of what’s beyond your target.
  2. Build up to stress training at a level where you experience choppy vision so you can identify it for what it is and compensate for it when you realize you’ve got it.

Next, we’ve talked about the reactionary gap before. In short, it’s the amount of time/distance that you want between you and a threat/attacker so that you can effectively respond to whatever they do. For an attacker with a knife with no obstacles between you and them, it’s generally thought of as 21 feet (but is really much more).

If you’re within that reactionary gap…say a mugger or a heated argument within a couple of feet…you MUST switch to pre-defined triggers, pre-defined responses, stay focused, avoid talking, and keep them talking.


Because even though the conscious mind is .5-.75 seconds behind reality, the unconscious mind is about .1 seconds behind reality. In addition, the conscious mind processes things sequentially, or one at a time, one after another. The unconscious mind uses parallel processing and processes several things at once…as many as 10,000 to 1 million times more chunks of information per second than the conscious mind.

But you can do a few things to switch your mind from that .5 second delay that your conscious mind has to the .1 second delay that the unconscious mind has.

First off, stay calm. The calmer you can stay, the more likely you can tap into the speed of the unconscious mind.

Second, define 1, 2, or 3 triggers that will cause you to take action…the fewer the better, but better doesn’t always mesh with reality. The triggers should be, “If he does x.”

Keep in mind that in an altercation, your attacker is either attacking, complying, trying to limit loss, or delaying (sometimes with sweet words) to create an advantage to destroy you more effectively. This concept of 4 options is a tiny part of an incredible book from Ken Murray called, “Training At The Speed Of Life.” As far as you’re concerned, if they’re not complying 100%, they’re still a threat. Words mean nothing and action means everything.

It’s better to game these triggers out in your mind ahead of time so that you aren’t trying to figure stuff out in the heat of the moment.

Third, pre-define your response. “If he does x, I’ll do y”. And the more specific “y” is, the better. As an example, “If he goes for a weapon, I’ll shoot” may not be specific enough.

If you’ve got your gun drawn, pre-define your action with detail, as in, “If he goes for a weapon, I’ll step to the side, fire 2 shots midway between his armpits, step to the side, and re-asses.” It could be 1 shot, 2 shots, or 3 shots…depending on your department, prosecutor, political climate, and/or your ability to put fast, accurate rounds on target.

If someone had been trained or trained themselves to think along the lines of, “if he moves, kill him” then it might explain why they would shoot someone 8 times in the back when the person was fleeing–this shows how important it is to have your triggers and actions pre-defined correctly.

Specifically, make sure that you’re verbally and mentally training, practicing, and rehearsing shooting to stop a threat…not shooting to kill or shooting to prevent someone from stealing your stuff, but shooting to stop a threat.  If you train your mind to only shoot at a threat, you could save yourself a lot of grief.

Next, get them talking and avoid talking.

Unless you’ve practiced talking while your unconscious mind is driving the ship…normally indicated by a monotone voice and an “odd” cadence, don’t talk.  If you need to talk, stick to simple, pre-rehearsed commands. As soon as you “think” about what you’re going to say, you virtually guarantee a half to ¾ second delay in reaction time.

Similarly, keep your attacker talking. If you’re going to try to surprise him, see if you can ask him something along the lines of, “What do you want to get out of this?” or some other open ended question that forces them to come up with a multi-word answer that will increase their visual perception delay and reactionary gap.

Finally, train, practice, and practice some more. If you’ve practiced your skills to the point where they’re almost boring and you don’t have to consciously think about them, you’re much more likely to actually be able to perform at a high level under stress.

For most people, this means spending a TON of money on ammo and range fees, but the fact that you’re here means you’ve got a HUGE leg up. You’ve got resources at your fingertips that are used by US Tier I units and our allies. High speed, low cost, at-home firearms training resources like Dry Fire Training Cards, Dry Fire Fit, The “Shoot Better Than SWAT in 30 Days” Force Recon 3010Pistol, Navy SEAL Concealed Carry Masters Course, and more.

Could you feasibly fire 8 rounds into someone’s back without realizing it?  Yes…it’s possible.  Anti-depressants, anti-psychotics, extreme exhaustion, pain, painkillers, sheer panic, bad triggers, and bad pre-defined reactions all COULD do that.  Is it likely?  Who knows…it doesn’t really matter what’s possible theoretically.  There’s video of the officer in SC that appears to make a pretty clear case and you want to train/practice enough so that you’re never that disconnected from reality.

Questions? Comments? Sound off below.

Leave A Reply (56 comments So Far)

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  1. PeaceSouljer
    2 years ago

    Great Article – it sounds like part of it is referring to the OODA loop. Many smaller police departments, like N. Charleston, and where there is not a predominance of violent clashes between perps and the police, the training you refer to is either not mandated or unaffordable.
    My concern was how they got from the Autozone parking lot to what looked like a walking path, and why the officer was initially going to deploy his tazer. These are things the video did not show. Also, how is the officer going to get a fair trial with all the “bad” press, even from the likes of the police chief? It surely is sickening to think of these two lives ruined because of a few seconds of panic.

  2. Mike Southerland
    2 years ago

    Great tips! Thanks for the article.

  3. Mike Southerland
    2 years ago

    Typo alert:
    “For most people, this means spending a TON of money on ammo and range fees, but the fact that you’re hear means you’ve got a HUGE leg up. ”

    It should be “you’re here”

    • Ox
      2 years ago

      Thanks, Mike…can you guess that I’m an audible thinker :)

  4. Anthony Cole
    2 years ago

    Great article! I will definitely be applying these lessons.

  5. rappini
    2 years ago

    Great piece very interesting. I forwarded your piece but I took the liberty of changing the word breaks to brakes, I hope you don’t mind.
    After ready your article it appears that I need more training thanks.

    • Ox
      2 years ago

      Yup…I made the change too :) If you don’t mind, it’d be awesome if you forwarded the link to the article.

  6. Aaron Bjorklund
    2 years ago

    Great article. Valid points. Something to truly stop and think about.

  7. Steve
    2 years ago

    Good article but the multitude of spelling errors was distracting.

    • Ox
      2 years ago

      That’s not good…I saw my mistake on break/brake, but neither I nor 2 spell checks picked up any others…I’d love to know & fix the rest if you could tell me.

      • Firewagon
        12 months ago

        “Cover his chest with his thumb….”

        Pretty sure U miss-audibiled/wrote? ;)

        • Ox
          12 months ago

          Good catch…fixing it now. Thank you!

  8. Steve
    2 years ago

    Great article on an extremely important subject.

    Thank You!!

    • Jerry
      2 years ago

      There is always someone who can come up with many possible reasons for anything. Seconds? The officer had time to stop and think why he was even shooting at the man, why he needed to even pull out his gun and RUNNING AWAY. It doesn’t matter what the man did before that time. There was no threat to the officer when a person IS RUNNING AWAY & with no gun.

      • Ox
        2 years ago

        Jerry, I’m a little confused. There was nothing in this article that defended the officer choosing to shoot the fleeing man in the back. If there was something I said that gave that impression, please let me know so I can change it.

      • Bill
        2 years ago

        You are right! He shot the man, period. This is in response to Jerry`s comment.

  9. Alpenliter
    2 years ago

    Thus far, we have seen the beginning of the encounter from the dash cam, and the end; the fatal conclusions from the cell phone video. But we haven’t seen the most important part; the taser attack, the fight over the taser, the verbal commands, etc. etc. It will only fall upon the most dubious standard: the eyewitness. What bothers me the most is the “throwdown” of the taser next to the victim and the lack of first aid. Great article Ox!

  10. Penny Jo
    2 years ago

    Hi – a great, informative article. Can NOT believe folks take the time to point out spelling mistakes………. scheesch. Take the info and learn ! Thanks for a great article.

    • Ox
      2 years ago

      Thanks, Penny :) Other people’s spelling mistakes drive me nuts, so I get it. In fact, I’m such a stickler over spelling mistakes that it’s very embarrassing when I make them.

    • Sharon morris
      3 months ago

      NO KIDDING!! I’ve been thinking the EXACT SAME THING! who cares about some typos!? The information is INVALUABLE AND COULD SAVE YOUR LIFE SOME DAY! STOP BEING SO ANAL PEOPLE! And Ox, THANK YOU FOR THE AWESOME ARTICLE! :) I’m sharing now!

  11. Hondo
    2 years ago

    Thank you for the article. I agree completely. Had the officer stopped firing after the second shot (standard defensive response) and responded in accordance with his departments SOP’s from that point on rather than dumping half a magazine, reholstering and cuffing a suspect without overwatch in place, and manipulating the crime scene by moving his Taser, I don’t think he’d be behind bars today. It’s sad that one officers lack of training and compromised judgment led to this unfortunate event.

  12. Stuart
    2 years ago

    Great article Ox. It’s an unfortunate truth that too many civilians and LE personnel carry a gun, without having a good training regimen to build and maintain all of the skills that you, and others, advocate. And, all too often, even for LE personnel, it comes down to a personal commitment to skills development, because departments don’t always have a big enough budget.

    I appreciated the info on visual response delay and reaction times. I don’t think I’ve seen it laid out this clearly before. The article was a great reminder of WHY we need to continually refresh our training and work on building those pre-defined reactions. Thanks again.

    • Timothy
      2 years ago

      Should the person who can’t afford regular frequent ammo supply and range time to that extent then give up on carry or keeping for protection? That’s the reason I got the dry fire training cards.

      • Ox
        2 years ago

        You did the right thing…that’s why we made Dry Fire Training Cards :)

  13. Big Al
    2 years ago

    Makes me want to think very carefully be fore deploying a cc weapon. I can now appreciate the training any LE officer should have, as well as a ccw licensee. Officer in this incident possibly lacked recurrent training or is quite slow mentally. Let’s all hold judgment till more facts come to light.

  14. Samw
    2 years ago

    Unfortunately training might be to blame. Some are training 20 shots in under 5 seconds to qualify.

    • Trevor
      12 months ago

      Could you name the state or department that uses that standard as a qualification? I have never heard of it being a qualification standard for any actual agency. Maybe I am wrong, but it seems so extreme as to be questionable.

      • Ox
        12 months ago

        I think it must be the department that carries 20 round mags.

        Or, it could be a mis-remembering of Jerry Miculek shooting 20 rounds from 2 double barrelled 1911s in 1.5 seconds. It wasn’t a training video or a qual…it was a demonstration.

  15. Tom Cox
    2 years ago

    Excellent information, well-presented. There is a LOT to think about, here. The processing lag (“latency” in networking terms), and the dependency on load, all make perfect sense, and I have never seen that presented at all, let alone that clearly. I imagine all processing times go up with age, and parallel processing capacity goes down, for the same reason — certainly factors of importance for me and other aging Boomers.

    One, tiny quibble, from an amateur writer: check “break” vs. “brake,” and “hear” vs. “here.”

    Thanks for sharing hard-won knowledge.


    • Ox
      2 years ago

      Thanks, Tom.

      The biggest factor in a lack of parallel processing is a lack of use of that functionality of the brain and a lot of brain exercises focus on building that skill back up.

      As to the quibble about spelling…not sure how you saw that stuff since it was fixed 9 hours earlier :) but I apologize for it.

  16. Samw
    2 years ago

    I have heard of security training where the focus was speed. Twenty shots in under five seconds. Perhaps this was a case of poor training. Once he started shooting difficult to stop.
    As you train so you do.

    • Ox
      2 years ago

      Well…there’s a couple of different angles to what you said…

      As an example, in the third video on this page: I react to a buzzer, draw a Glock 26 subcompact from a Serpa holster and put 10 rounds on an 8.5×11 sheet 15 feet away in 2.83 seconds. I do the kinds of drills that you’re talking about and so do many other people, but they’re not defensive drills…they’re proof of ability drills that QUICKLY expose problems/weaknesses/opportunities for improvement in your technique. I don’t know anyone teaching that you use 10 or 20 rounds per target in a defensive situation.

      Once you get to the point where you can run a gun like this, it pretty much has to be driven unconsciously. The conscious mind just can’t keep up. One benefit of this happened last week when I was shooting steel with some local SWAT/bomb squad guys. The drill was to draw and put 5 rounds on steel as fast as possible from 20 feet. I drew, started putting rounds on steel with about .18-.2 second splits, realized I missed my 3rd one, and put a 6th round on target with the exact same splits as the first 5 rounds. I’m in no way special, in fact, I’m incredibly average in my physical characteristics as they relate to shooting. It just shows the power of the subconscious and how quickly it can react. In this case, there was about .4 seconds between the miss on #3 and when I shot #5 and immediately began the process of shooting #6, which is faster than my mind would have been able to consciously process what happened.

      If you have a pre-defined sequence of 2-3 shots, that IS hard to stop. When people empty their gun in shooting situations (it’s common), it’s usually because they got over-amped on adrenaline and lost their ability to think clearly. Sometimes it’s just their nature to lose control, sometimes it’s a lack of stress inoculation, and sometimes it’s a freak occurance.

      My point in mentioning the officer wasn’t to pick apart what he may or may not have done…it was to use as a transition between a story that most of my readers have heard about and a mental/visual phoenomenon that you want to be aware of.

      • Jeff
        12 months ago

        Ox, I know the shooting wasn’t the main topic, but curious….I have read several after action reports of officer related shootings in which when asked how many shots the officer had thought he had fired (in the heat of the moment)…. they responded with 2-3 when in fact they had emptied the mag and in some cases, 2 mags without consciously recalling it. Often surprised themselves when they found out. Due to the chemical dump on the body and the bodies responses, such as time dilation, distortion etc that Colonel Grossman speaks of. Just curious of your thoughts on that and if its possible that could have played a part in this case?

        Thank you

        • Ox
          12 months ago

          I’m not sure what kind of training the officer had or that his department does, but the event is a harbinger of sorts that we MUST support our local law enforcement and help them get the training that they need. It’s incredibly unfair to limit their basic firearms training time/money budgets AND limit their exposure to stress training and then expect them to pull a rabbit out of a hat and perform like a trained Delta operator on command.

      • Mike
        12 months ago

        Hello Ox,

        Nice article. I am neither condemning nor defending the officer since I have not seen any video or other information on the situation. I do know however that in these situations reaction dictates actions more than thought process, even in minor instances. How many people do you know that are instantly mad when these minor incidents ( and others ) happen: You stub your toe on something, hit your head on something, or get swatted in the face with a tree branch ? It’s reaction, it’s instant, it overrides thought process. If you had time to think about it ( and usually afterwards when you do ) you would say to yourself “you dumb ass, how did you let yourself do that ?”

        I have also seen MANY places teach to shoot till the “threat” is neutralized. If someone had this teaching burned into their subconscious they would likely fixate on that and not even realize the threat situation had drastically changed.

        In spite of all the teaching, training, and practice, no one knows how they would perform in a similar situation, except perhaps experienced combat veterans. I’m not saying that learning, training, and practice are useless. On the contrary, I believe they are beneficial to try to “program” the subconscious to get the ” reaction” you want. I just don’t believe you will necessarily always get the “reaction” you programmed for.

        Just my thoughts, experiences, and opinions. Keep up the good work.


        P.S. If it interests you I would like to see this scenario addressed : Either with shots fired or not, an assailant turns away with a gun still in his possession. At what point is he no longer considered a threat ? Is he just going for cover to continue the fight or has he given up the fight ? How would this situation likely be viewed by law enforcement ?

        • Mahatma Muhjesbude
          11 months ago

          Mike, the situation you described has already been ‘tested’ in police shooting trials. And a lot can happen in the time frame between the initial deadly violent assault on an officer, which places them in fear for their lives, and justifies the return use of deadly force, and the time when the threat is actually ‘neutralized’ and ‘over’. In an exchange of multiple shot gunfire either shooter often automatically performs reflex movements like ducking, turning and running, even diving down behind cars, which NEVER absolutely guarantees the ‘threat’ is eliminated or even mitigated because firepower can still be commenced from these positions. In fact this type of awkward position shooting is practiced in training courses.

          This is why police usually are allowed to shoot a fleeing Felon–which does not mean one merely wanted on warrants because the term ‘felon’ can mean non violent crimes as well–but which ‘reasonably’ means a subject who has just committed a dangerous violent act, is also armed, and therefore in the ‘heat of the moment’ is more likely than not to continue the deadly violence unless they are stopped, so shooting one of these offenders in the back while running away if they don’t obey the police command to stop and drop their weapon while from a crime scene, especially a capital offense, usually does not indict the officer.

          The problem with Ox’s cop example and with other cop shootings is two fold. Shooting a suspect in the back or the front while fleeing or not, is difficult to ‘justify’ if the person does not have a firearm, or even a knife. (Chicago right at the moment is having a real public outrage problem with releasing dash cam video of officers who gunned down an obviously mentally ill teenager waving a knife and running around between parked cars. Not attacking anyone, but obviously in need of restraint. But not summary on-the-spot execution because the kid did not IMMEDIATELY obey the ‘police order’ to drop the knife and get on the ground! Mentally deranged or drugged out people often don’t even comprehend the order. I literally handled hundreds of similar incidents in my career and never had to ‘execute’ a mentally ill person ‘acting out’ or a PTSD’d out homeless Vet, or a teenager waving a toy gun?

          There are other ways to handle potentially violent situations before jumping the bridge from ‘necessary force’ to deadly force.

          Of course there are exceptions to this depending upon particular specific incident circumstances. but mostly this has to do an ‘imminence’ of threat factor. In other words how can an officer say that he shot an unarmed person running from a traffic stop– because he had warrants– in the back, because ‘of the imminent threat to the officer’s life’, when all the officer had to do was stop chasing him and his life would not be in any even potential danger anymore? Officers have wide discretionary authority to determine if even a pursuit or any aggressive action at all is really in the best interest of public safety or on the scene danger circumstances. But lately too many of them have lost their cognitive ability to do that? Anytime a cop shoots down an unarmed person because he ‘belives’ (translation ‘imagines, but doesn’t really ‘know’) that something is going to hurt him, almost invariable this delusion creates further danger to the public instead of preventing it. This ‘perception disorder’ then causes innocent bystanders like the Autistic 6 year old child –in Louisiana, i think–that was murdered just recently by city marshals who shot his Unarmed father after a traffic stop for no other reason than apparently his failure to immediately comply with a so-called ‘police order’?

          And that’s why all these questionable cop shootings are occurring. Over the last generation there has been an absence of proper ‘training’ and social psychology justice perception in police work. The ‘mentality’ required to be a ‘good cop’ has been ‘altered’ for agenda based motives. Too much emphasis on ‘Search and Destroy’ instead of ‘Serve and Protect’. Too much weight on ‘Going home at night at all costs therefore eliminating all risk, including wrongly perceived potential danger, instead of actual danger’, instead of understanding the risk you volunteered for– which is what you are getting paid for?

          In any case Mike, Ox’s very interesting analysis of ‘action v. reaction’ cognitive time sequencing with regard to rapid shooting muscle memory response as it mitigates entry/exit wound influence in police shootings will no doubt be utilized by police defense attorneys in the future. In fact, having been an ‘expert witness’ in such cases, I guarantee it.

  17. Stu.
    2 years ago

    Hi All;
    Back in high school we were confronted with a machine to measure reaction time. It was part of driver education. The machine simulated the accelerator and brake pedal in the appropriate geometric arrangement. It measured the time it took to move your foot from accelerator to brake after seeing a stimulus. The least time the machine could measure was 0.1 second. Unlike the rest, I could reliably beat .1 second every time. Another point is about involuntary reaction time. I used to grind metals without safety glasses (young and dumb). I never was hit by metal particles in the eye. My eyes would automatically close, with out conscious realization that something was coming. The particle would bounce off my closed eyelid. I did have 20/15 vision at the time, but must also have had much faster reaction time than the times mentioned in your article. My guess is that humans are quite variable in this respect.
    Cheers! Stu.

    • Ox
      2 years ago

      Hey Stu,

      I wouldn’t know simply by interacting through the written word, but here’s a couple of thoughts…

      First, I remember that machine and I had a similar experience. I beat the machine by watching the person pushing the button rather than watching the light :) So, you may have consciously/unconsciously been able to see the person pushing the button, been able to accurately anticipate when the button was going to be pushed, unknowingly been able to disengage your conscious mind and fully engage your unconscious mind, or you might have exceptionally fast reflexes. Every human attribute exists on a Bell curve and there are outliers…in this case either WAY faster or WAY slower.

      Second, most of the factors are the same with the grinder but you said something that few people know…that your ability to see things at 20 feet (your 20/15 vision) doesn’t translate to your ability to shift focus, visually identify threats, or process the information.

  18. katangro
    2 years ago

    Sounds good but please remember this started as a traffic stop for a broken tail-light. The man got out of his car, the policeman confronted him, said something to him and the man turned and ran. The officer did not even have to pull his gun. The car with a license plate was right there. He could have called it in and that would have been the end of story. Fine and ticket could have been sent to the man’s home. Why did this happen?

    • Ox
      2 years ago

      Right…please remember what I said: “In fact, there’s almost no connection whatsoever between that shooting and the rest of this article…but it’s incredibly important for you to know the difference between someone who shoots an attacker 1, 2, or even 3 times in the back and someone who shoots an attacker 8 times in the back.”

      This article is about visual perception delay. I mentioned the SC incident simply to tie pop culture to a very important aspect of brain & visual function that many don’t know exists.

    • Trevor
      12 months ago

      Why would you fully ignore mentioning the struggle with the officer? Your first comment is purposely deceitful. So if someone runs out of a car on a traffic stop, the police are supposed to just let them flee? Your second comment is ridiculous, why don’t you stay on subject. You clearly have an agenda and a bias.

      • Sharon morris
        3 months ago

        you missed the whole point of this article

  19. Rob
    2 years ago

    Great article that covered a ton of information. Makes it worth re-reading at a later date.

    All the “time” issues are spot on and were a part of military, private security contractor and training with LE Officers. There was an incident recently where two LEOs shot and killed a disabled person with a screw driver. A could of their shots were in the back as he turned from the first shot(s) that hit him. Visually, they didn’t have time to see him turning.

    Still opens the question of why large numbers of shots are fired at a suspect. My initial training was special ops military and I don’t recall ever shooting more than two shots (maybe two to chest and/or one to chest and one to the head). After thousands of rounds I’m sure that is imprinted so well that I don’t know if I would shot more than two rounds before reassessing the situation. Training with LEO’s I was taught the “zipper”. Shooting when you or down or off hand has its challenges so…keep firing. Never had to do it but it makes sense.

    It matters a great deal what you plan to do and what the triggers are. Couldn’t be more important than when approaching an Iraqi checkpoint. You better know the triggers and what you are going to do because you can’t learn this in two seconds (when the trigger is tripped).

    Thanks again!

  20. RobertinTexas
    2 years ago

    Thank you again for broadening my mind and educating me on such finer points. Reading the article a couple of times and processing the part about the unconscious response times vs. conscious response times (saying things that require the brain to process.) made me wonder where adrenaline fits into the scheme. Aren’t we talking about our brain firing off messages and our body’s ability to comply with the message right? I just think a big ol’ slathering of adrenaline has got to influence that – maybe positively? If “channeled” (I hate using that word, it sounds too New Agey) correctly? To the point you made of staying calm. I mean if I have drawn my weapon, I may want to be calm but based on experience, I’m going to be pretty fired up – heart rate, etc. I hope you can share your thoughts on my question. Hopefully you haven’t already answered it!

    p.s. I’m way OCD about misspellings, I just think when someone is providing very useful information, it’s just flat our rude to bring it up. It’s like complaining about free food. My folks didn’t raise me like that!

    Thanks and God bless

    • RobertinTexas
      2 years ago

      Oh one more thing I meant to mention- the dry fire cards are definitely on my wish list. I just picked up Tactical Firearms Training Secrets. (Great book by the way.)
      Any other recommendations? I had the cards on my birthday list, but apparently I have the wrong set of friends because they just got me a nice shirt. Not that I don’t need a nice shirt but… anyway. Thanks again for all you guys provide and share with “The Community”.

    • Ox
      2 years ago

      Thanks, Robert. I’ve got to put the boys to bed and can’t go into detail now, but controlling adrenaline is a key factor in how you will handle an extreme stress incident. I’m not sure if you saw this article from a month or so ago, but it *kind of* addresses what you’re asking: Let me know. If it doesn’t answer your question, I can go into more detail.

  21. Yadayada
    2 years ago

    Force Science Research has done many studies on this subject. they also have videos with actors as bad guys or LE with action/reaction times for you to observe and study. they are THE go-to organization for LE force trainers to study. here is just a sample of their work;

  22. Steve Doran
    12 months ago

    A lot of people develop and live in a complete fear of the uncontrollable and the unknown. As a result, they experience ordinary stressors as life-or-death situations when in reality they’re simply over-thinking. There own thought processes has them Freaking out all the time all you have to do is look at a good deal of the weapons training. It is not practical,has little of no basis in fact and when you hear people discussing why they are there or why the training is so valuable it is based on false perception.

    Instructors and students need to stop exaggerating and using distorted conversational terms and phrases that aren’t accurate, either in their head or in conversation. They literally scare and talk themselves into inappropriate responses.

    No body ever helped themselves by overstating their situation. Creating an exaggerated scenario is a lie at best and dangerous to others who may get sucked into it. I have been at training that when that BS starts with one guy everyone around me then begins to use the drama queens language to describe their life and their experiences. Sorry it is time to stop the nonsense and get back to reality. Exaggerated and over thinking in training equals making every situation worse.

    To get along in this world which has enough real problems and worries to contend with you have to be able to separate each and every situation and put it in it’s own category. Stick to the facts A mouthy A-hole you come in contact with could just be a mouthy A-hole why would you escalate it to anything other than what it is, You have to focus on the facts. Being mouthy does not make a person dangerous ask anyone with teenage kids. You never escalate anything unless it is needed. If you do you are not only a drama queen you are a coward. You feel the need to meet every situation with instant overwhelming force. Sorry but that is not how real people behave. You are a danger to everyone around you.

    The other thing I always see is to justify overzealous “dangerous behavior” is they quote others they believe are experts. How many times have I heard in their best dramatic voice ” I carry a 1911 because if it was good enough for the Colonel it is good enough for me”. Or whatever the latest gun writer is spewing out that day.

    No person is an expert on another person’s mind ability or situation. You are the only expert on yourself, and the current situation you are in. So why in the hell would you put yourself in a unrealistic situation based on what someone else said or did .

    In every situation you have to ask questions not make statements to yourself or worse put yourself in the hero role of some action flick I have seen that more than I care to as well. “By God not in my town” You don’t own a cape if you do you probably should not carry a gun.

    It’s very anxiety-provoking to put another person on the spot. It escalates the situation for no reason. If i walk into a room and say to you in a loud obnoxious voice ‘What the hell did you do” You are probably going to get a little froggy at best and the situation whet from laid back to tense.

    These kind of statements typically have a hidden agenda about the person making them. It tell the person you are making them to that you are either a bully, an idiot or a coward trying to hide behind your words. You are because you think that gun is the next logical step to go for if the person does not do what they were told or do not comply.

    You have to be honest with yourself . You have to live your life like a normal human being. That gun is a tool, having one should make you respond no differently then not having one. I have seen guy with a gun go from 100 to 0 when they do not have it. They go from the baddest boy on the block to sticking their nose so far up peoples behinds you cant see their face.There is no pressure to respond a certain way or the adding stress or force because you did not hear a certain answer. It’s being open to whatever the truth may be and being reasonable in your responses .

    We are not perfect people. Let me remind you human beings make mistakes and “We” make a hell of a lot of them of them. If you think that a persons mistake equals escalating the situation or your use of force you better be prepared for some penitentiary time. Which you will deserve, even if you get off I would not want to be you as those other drama queens you hang and train with and everyone made aware of you across the nation will do their best to destroy and humiliate you to others for the rest of your life.

    It’s more accurate and effective to just deal with the reality of the situation Quit escalating things in your own mind. You are not a hero, you are not an action hero, you are not a Navy Seal OCONUS going in to eliminate the terrorist cell and your team has just been blown up in the other chopper and now you are all alone to complete the mission. . Take the day and the situations that arise for what they are and nothing more. Open your eyes keep your mind clear and respond accordingly. It is not rocket science. It is the same way in combat no one can stay on alert indefinitely you deal with what comes you way when it does, which is all anyone can do.

  23. arationofreason
    12 months ago

    What about distracting oneself with rapid sequence trigger pulls which might interfere with processing new visual inputs. If trained with multiple trigger pull responses it might be difficult to interrupt the trained reaction.
    Just wondering.

    • Ox
      12 months ago

      That’s part of the argument for shooting a 2-3 shot burst between assessments of the attacker.

  24. nick
    12 months ago

    Pursonally, I dount caer how ugh spel , GRATE rtickle. Thancs four taking the tyme to rite it. this kind of writing savz lievz.

  25. Sam W.
    12 months ago

    Yes in my car it is dogs or radio. And the dogs must behave! It still takes some interaction to communicate with them.

  26. Gary W
    12 months ago

    Great article! In the police department I’m now retired from, an officer shot at a driver who was purposely trying to run him over. The officer was able to jump out of the way. But what caused him grief was that he fired once more after the car passed him. Fortunately the investigators were aware of the mental delay that occurs. This delay makes it impossible to not shoot once your mind has decided to, even though the circumstances may not appear to warrant another shot.

  27. Marcus Pickett
    12 months ago

    I hope three shots would stop the threat so I don’t have to use eight.

    3 months ago

    i always use the locking your keys in the car example. your hand is moving to push the door shut, you see the keys on the front seat but your hand continues to move and the door closes and locks before your hand gets the signal to stop.

  29. Mike
    3 months ago

    Several years ago I was riding my mountain bike in the Sierras, on my hip the 3 inch S&W .44 mag I always carry in the wilderness. As I came around a bend in the trail, there was a black bear about 10 feet up a tree only about 5 feet from me. Instantly the bear released it’s hold on the tree & hit the ground on it’s rump, loudly breaking branches. In that instant two images each as real as the other flashed before my eyes, one the bear was coming at me & I was firing the .44 at it & the other the bear was running the opposite direction. In an instant everything righted itself & I was holding the unfired revolver in my hand & the bear was standing about 40 feet away looking at me & making mournful sounds. Then I heard a noise in the tree & looked up to see two cubs. Immediately I turned & pedaled away. This event was very disturbing to me when I realized that if a person had suddenly attacked me I could have killed or been killed without really knowing what had actually happened.

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