“Solution” Of More Concern Than The Problem
Thomas J. Aveni
A “pessimist” has been described as one who sees things as they are, rather
than how he’d like them to be. For better or for worse, this article might
well serve to broadly define me as a pessimist. But, before I begin to elaborate
in detail my pessimism for someone’s regurgitation of an old idea, let me
inject some cause for optimism. In my 16 years as a police trainer, I’ve never
witnessed use-of-force trainers as compelled to apply creativity and ingenuity
to solve nagging, residual problems as they are today. This is a far cry from the
complacency that I recall from most police trainers 20 years ago.
Yes, many trainers are now commonly thinking "out of the box" about
recurring problems that their officers experience. This is a quantum leap
forward. If there is a downside, it could be that we've lost some of the
skepticism of our training forefathers, while in pursuit of progressive training
One case in point that has received scattered attention in recent months is the
so-called "Vermont Technique." Promoted widely in gun magazines and
across the Internet, it is a technique being touted somewhat as a shooter’s
panacea. Yes, a panacea for problems ranging from being digitally impaired (as
with a finger amputation) to accommodating smaller pocket-type semi-automatic
pistols, even to enhancing the way the pistol points.
technique apparently isn’t as new as it’s current crop of promoters would
have you believe it is, as I’ve received numerous pieces of correspondence
from people attributing this technique to entities ranging from the Polish
Cavalry, to the Mob. One person attributing this technique to the Mob provided
me with an old photo of Jack Ruby’s assassination of Lee Harvey Oswald, who
does appear to be using this technique in a virtual contact shooting of Oswald.
many "solutions" that involve technical compromise, the Vermont
Technique (VT-T) embodies some concessions that might well relegate this concept
to Al Gore's "risky scheme" bin.
Why? Primarily because this technique involves a direct and
unmistakable conflict with fundamental firearms safety doctrine. If you haven't
already read my mind, that issue in itself is enough to condemn this technique
to training oblivion.
How is safety so adversely affected? The VT-T utilizes the
middle-finger (see Illustration A) of the strong hand as the alternative
trigger-finger. We are told that by using the middle finger, we inherit certain
desirable advantages. One is that the "dangling pinky" finger we
associate with smaller pocket pistols would no longer be a problem. By
permanently "bumping-up" the index finger to the frame (where it
normally would transitionally reside in the "register position"), the
pinky-finger is no longer homeless, as it now acquires some purchase of the
handgun grip. Nice, until you think about you've just sacrificed for this
at the corresponding illustration and then ask yourself how your trainee
will keep his/her trigger finger (in this case, the middle-finger) off the trigger,
and out of the trigger-guard? The only answer one could hope for is that anyone
employing this technique would be vigilant enough to keep his\her middle-finger
braced against the forward side of the trigger-guard. But, one must first hope
that their middle-finger is long enough to achieve contact (with sufficient
purchase) of the forward side of the trigger-guard. Otherwise, that alternative
trigger-finger (i.e. middle finger) will now rest, precariously, inside of the
That's right, it would seem that all of your endless admonitions to trainees
about "never commit your finger to the trigger unless committed to firing a
shot" have been compromised
when employing this technique. It's that painfully simple! What we don't need
are more ambiguous signals to trainees regarding anything that might impinge
upon firearms safety.
And yet, there are
other problems with this technique.
As a general rule, when we compromise, we want to get something better in return
for that which we've given up. Right? That's not even remotely true with this
technique. The "pinky" finger is the digit that offers the least in
terms of grip strength, and grip purchase. That should be painfully obvious to
anyone advocating this technique. And yet, by using the middle-finger as your
trigger-finger, you've just sacrificed one of your most capable digits (the
middle-finger) for one of your least capable digits (the pinky). In effect, you
would now only be gripping the pistol with your thumb, index, and pinky fingers.
By relegating the index-finger to being a permanent fixture along the frame,
you've almost entirely removed this digit from the gripping equation. You
should be considering the myriad of handgun retention implications here as well.
(see Illustration B)
Proponents of this technique argue that by having the index finger of the strong
hand positioned in this manner, you've enhanced weapon point-ability. As the
index-finger remains outstretched, it, in effect, points towards a potential
target. I would argue that contemporary pistol designs point quite well without
having to make the extreme sacrifice of losing efficient function of one's
when could one actually make a justifiable case for this troubled technique?
I can only foresee one viable application for the VT-T. That being when the
index finger of the strong hand has been disabled during a confrontation, and,
for whatever reason, the officer elects not to shift the handgun to his/her
Would I advocate teaching a person who is missing a digit to use this technique?
Only under two circumstances would I consider employing this technique.
If the officer, perhaps due to equal or worse disfigurement of the
support hand, gains no advantage by shooting with their support hand. My
preference would always be to use the hand that has not been digitally
compromised by injury or disfigurement.
If the officer's missing or impaired finger happens to the index finger
of their strong hand. In this case, the officer would be encouraged to place
their middle-finger (the de facto trigger-finger) along the frame when not
committed to a shot.
summary, I would inject an observation many of us have had reinforced over the
years; strive to keep an open mind, but never stop questioning ideas that
involve questionable compromise.
©2004 The Police Policy Studies Council. All rights reserved.