Lethal Force Encounters: Psychology, Tactics and Dynamics

Course description (1-day workshop):

Firearms engagements are amongst of the most misrepresented events in the media and public consciousness. Lethal force encounters are dynamic and violent events, with highly unpredictable outcomes and physical effects. The evolution of such events can range from split-second exchanges of gunfire at close ranges to prolonged gun battles over many hours and over distance.

Understanding such events requires knowledge of five main factors:

  • The psychological state of the shooters and surrounding participants

  • Physiological responses to being shot (known as terminal ballistics)

  • The performance characteristics of the firearms being used

  • The physical environment in which the shooting occurs

  • The levels of firearms and tactical training possessed by the participants

The Lethal Force Encounters one-day workshop explains the reality, and dispels the myths, behind each of these factors. It explores in depth issues such as:

  • Why police officers might unavoidably fire more rounds than they intended during a shooting

  • Why the physical response to being shot is often completely misrepresented in the media, and how this distorts public judgement

  • How the type of weapons involved affects the levels of casualties and the how disparities between firepower can determine the outcome of the shooting

  • The key differences between cover and concealment, and how what constitutes cover is affected by the weapons involved

  • Typical psychological distortions in lethal-force encounters, and what they can mean for both the outcome of the shooting and the subsequent legal analysis

  • The key distinctions between trained and untrained shooters, and how to spot the differences.

By the end of the workshop, the delegates will have a firm understanding of the realities of firearm engagements, and will be able to analyse, plan for and assess such engagements with clarity and authority. The workshop is delivered through dynamic means, including video footage of actual shootings, handling of deactivated firearms, role play and audio-visual presentations.

Thinking about lethal force encounters

Caution: Graphic content warning – The following video contains bodycam footage of an actual police shooting with a fatal outcome.

Watch the following video on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QJQCYsuId9g

Video footage of a police shooting, 31 May 2015. Two Palestine, TX police officers were dispatched to a Walmart to investigate a theft. The suspect was located in the restroom of a nearby Applebee's. The officers escorted the suspect to the parking lot, at which point he pulled a gun on both officers. The officers immediately retaliated,  firing their weapons killing the suspect. When watching this video, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is there any suggestion at the beginning of the video that this incident would turn into a lethal force encounter?

  • How long do the officers have to identify and respond to the firearms threat?

  • How long does the whole encounter take?

  • How many rounds do the two officers fire? Why do you think they fired the number of rounds they did?

Session outline:
The following is a description of the standard course. Note that the training can be adapted according to the special requirements of your organization or staff.

Session 1: Terminal Ballistics
Understanding terminal ballistics – the effects of bullets on the human body – is also critical to comprehending how lethal force encounters evolve. This session explains the core principles of firearms wounding mechanisms, and how they relate to different types of firearm. Topics include primary and secondary cavitation, the different types of ammunition and their wound characteristics, and gunshot survivibility

Outcome: You gain a clear understanding of the penetrative and destructive effects of firearms on human bodies, and of how how these factors affect the tactical realities.

Session 2: Psychological Constants
Even for professional, trained individuals, lethal force encounters are high-stress situations, known for producing a range of altered mental states and perception distortions. In this session, the delegates learn about the latest research into psychological effects during shootings, and how these effects shape everything from the decision to shoot in the first place to the number of shots ultimately fired, and how shooters subsequently rationalize the events. 

Outcome: The delegates understand the range of psychological factors at play behind lethal force incidents, and why they are critically important to making a coherent assessment of any shooting incident or situation.

Session 3: Types of Firearm
This session explains the types of firearms typically used in specific shooting scenarios, civilian and military. It describes some of the most popular models and how they have achieved their popularity, in both legal and illegal use. It also looks at modifications that can be made to weapon types to improve their performance and lethality, and the role that imitation and deactivated weapons have played in deadly force situations.

Outcome: The delegates will understand the capabilities and limitations of the specific weapon types most commonly encountered in lethal force engagements, and how those weapons shape the tactical outcomes.

Session 4: Training to Survive
This session looks at what makes the difference between professionals and amateurs when it comes to firearms handling, explaining specific tactics and procedures imparted to both police and military personnel. It draws on the latest research to explain what works and what doesn't in situations ranging from single-individual active shootings to mass terrorist incidents. The session also looks at the typical urban environment and explores what constitutes effective cover from a variety of weapon types.

Outcome: The delegates gain useful insight into the tactical procedures and training methodologies of professional armed law enforcement groups and military units, an insight they can apply to real-world events.

Pricing/practical information:


Course location: Training is typically conducted at the client’s own premises, subject to security approval, but external training venues can be arranged.
Safety: The training makes extensive use of legally deactivated firearms (deactivation certificates provided) and antique firearms in obsolete calibres. Note: no 'live' firearms nor live ammunition will be present during the training.
Course adaptation: The course can be readily adapted to suit client needs. Options include extending the training to two days (to cover different topics) or arranging for live-fire workshops at ranges/shooting grounds through our associated organizations.



NB: Prices can be adjusted for multiple course bookings and special requirements. Please call Chris on 01792 324049 to discuss.