Dear Tom

Here is the quip I put out on the subject of NYPD shooting statistics.

John Farnam

Enough Ammunition?

20 December 2000

SOP-9, as it is called, is NYPD's ongoing statistical study of lethal-force incidents in which MOSs (Members of Service) are involved. It dates from the 1860s to the present and is a credible source of information, one of the few available.

For years, we were all told SOP-9 established the "average" number of rounds fired by an MOS during a lethal encounter was two to three. We later learned that figure was incorrect and was actually the result of sloppy statistical analysis. Naive statisticians simply took the total of all rounds fired outside of the firing range and divided it by the total number of shooting "incidents." Unhappily, "incidents" included accidents and suicides!

A more careful analysis of the data (which included only intentional shootings) revealed the actual figure to be very close to six rounds. What that said to us all was that officers, when threatened with lethal violence, were firing every round they had in their six-shot revolvers. After six shots, there was a mandatory pause for a conventional reload or a "NY reload," which consisted of producing a second revolver! After the reload, additional shooting was rarely necessary.

That was prior to 1994. In 1994 autoloading pistols were introduced to the NYPD system.

When autoloaders (mostly Glocks, with an occasional S&W and Beretta) came into the NYPD system, we all expected that figure (six) to go up into the teens, fully expecting officers to continue to fire every round they have. The latest data has shown our expectations to be incorrect!

The new "average" number of rounds fired is eight. Subsequent data may alter that number, but that is what we have now. What jumps out at me is that, after eight rounds are fired, the parties separate or accommodate to the point where additional shooting is not necessary, at least in the short term, even though the officer is fully capable of firing more rounds. NYPD shooting accuracy has improved steadily, but the average hit percentage is still below twenty, so, out of eight rounds fired, only one or two are likely to impact anywhere on the suspect. In most cases, hit or not, the suspect disengages and runs away.

If you're wondering if there is a point lurking in all this:

If you have enough rounds in your magazine to get you through the initial exchange and still have some rounds left, you can then reload at your leisure. If you go to slide lock prior to the fight ending, then you'll have to reload and resume firing on an emergency basis. We teach students to reload on an emergency basis in any event, but having enough rounds to get you through the fight without the necessity of a reload bringing about an inconvenient interruption would appear to provide a genuine advantage.

Debates about calibers, accuracy, and ammunition aside, a fifteen-shooter or even an eleven-shooter would appear to be a better choice than a seven or eight-shooter, at least in New York City!




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