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Stickman
03-16-2004, 10:41 PM
On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society. By Lt.Colonel David Grossman.
This was recommended reading when I was in training. I personally found it very interesting. Col. Grossman is also a very good speaker. Doesn't deal directly with firearms, but is good info on the pyschological factors involved, how the military trains men to kill, causes of a violent society, etc. I recommend it highly.

V42
03-16-2004, 10:57 PM
Grossman bases a lot of stuff on SLA Marshall, who claimed that only 20% of soldiers (or some ridiculously low number) fired their rifles in combat. Marshall was posthumously proven to have cooked his figures, and I imagine when it came time to resupply ammunition someone would have noticed that only 20% of the soldiers needed more ammo. Further, Marshall's book now comes with a disclaimer stating that the figures he cites were fabricated.

Grossman theorizes that by playing violent video arcade games involving plastic firearms children are learning real shooting skills that can be transferred to real firearms. He was on 60 minutes pointing at some kids shooting with a plastic sawed off shotguns in a video arcade and remarked that they were learning to shoot sawed off shotguns.

No.

Sawed off shotguns are much heavier, have a different balance, and a horrendous recoil and muzzle jump.

To give a further example of my case I cite the firearm training of the California Hwy Patrol (among many agencies who experienced the same phenomenon) in the early 1980s. They were armed with .357 magnum revolvers but practiced with the lighter recoiling .38 specials, which have less muzzle blast. They did fine with the .38s, but things went to shit when they had to use their .357 magnums. So from then on they trained with .357 magnum loads.

Now imagine what it would be like if they tried practicing with guns that had no recoil and muzzle blast at all and then tried to trasition to the real thing.

Grossman gives the example of a shooter in Jonesbourgh, Arkansas. He killed several kids, five with head shots witha .22 pistol from what grossman claims was more than 15 yards. And according to Grossman, the only exposure this kid had to guns was video arcades.

I've seen the crime reports and it was not 15 yards, but much closer, more like 6-7 feet.

And what type of a marksman does it take to whip out a gun and shoot several unsuspecting people at close range? This is a lot easier than trying to hit someone who is shooting at you and evading you and maybe ducking behind cover and may be at a distance, which is the type of targets the police have to contend with.

The kid used a well balanced .22 semiautomatic Target pistol that has very little muzzle jump or recoil at close range to shoot a few people. The kid could not have had a better gun for this.

Grossman looked at this case and concluded that this kid achieved a better hit average than police officers.

This shows you how little Grossman knows about firearms or the dynamics of violent confrontations.

There are a number of factors. He was using an easy to shoot gun at close range, but more importantly he was probably in a zen-like detached mindstate, while officers who use their guns are often in terror: afraid for their lives, afraid of the legal consequences, afraid they might hit innocent bystanders with a stray bullet, afraid it will be reviewed and cost them their job, pension, and benefits, afraid of not being able to support their families. And all in all not, necessarily anxious to kill someone.

They are afraid because they *care* about a lot of things.
Do you think the kid cared about anything?

Grossman also advances a lot of theories that ignore common sense and make me question his military acumen.

He cites the fact that soldiers would rather shoot someone than have to use a bayonet as proof that people find violence repugnant. First, he should look at the Japanese in WWII, who trained heavily with the bayonet and considered it an extension of Bushido and preferred the bayonet to shooting (as well as practicing it on civilians and prisoners).

Yes, a bayonet is more up close and personal and gorey, but the author completely ignores the fact that closing with an adversary to kill them with a bayonet is much more dangerous than shooting them. You have to rush forward and expose yourself and might get shot in the process or get bayonetted. Much safer to fire from behind cover than expose yourself on the battlefield. Or better yet call in an air strike or artillery strike.

He then tries to show that this was true in other wars going back to antiquity with soldiers slashing with swords rather than thrusting as proof of finding close combat, like thrusting a sword deeply into someone, as repugnant: more proof, the author claims, that most soldiers will not kill their enemies due to a deeply conditioned response not to harm another human.

More proof that he has no tactical knowledge regarding close combat. Slashing is safer than thrusting, be it with a knife, or sword, because when you thrust you must move closer to your enemy, making it easier for him to stab you. Also, if you miss your thrust you are vulnerable to a counterthrust or being stabbed by your enemies buddy. Slashes are good for keeping someone away from you or dealling with multiple attackers. There is a tactical rational that seems to be over this guy's head. This is what pisses me off.

I mean most Viking Berserkers slashed rather than thrusted.
I guess they really were reluctant to hurt anyone.

Take a look at a streetfight or a riot on CNN. You will see many people punching and kicking from too far a distance to be able to strike the person they are trying to hit. This is not necessarily do to any reluctance to hurt another human being, but because they are afraid of getting hurt themselves, not because they are afraid of hurting others. This is a fundimental flaw in Grossman's reasoning.

Oh, yeah, and Grossman is antigun and would probaly take a look at this messageboard and conclude that the people who posted on it and read it were a bunch of sociopaths because of what he would describe as a fascination with violence.

I'm not saying that there might not be *some* validity to *some* of what he is saying about most people being confitioned not to hurt others and not wanting to, but it is his "Ah-Ha, this proves it" attitude to the things he is pointing out, while completely ignoring the tactical reality and the dynamics of close combat that makes me question his competancy. But the thing is he is a West Point instructor with a doctorate in Sociology saying something people want to hear, so the Oprahs of the world are fawning all over him.

michael
03-17-2004, 06:36 AM
V,
Good observations and points. Is he the same Grossman that is at Calibre Press?

Never mind, I answered my own question. The guy at Calibre Press is David Grossi, not Grossman.

The Searcher
03-17-2004, 10:48 AM
V42 nailed it. Grossman has a few credentials and says what the power elite want to hear - Instant Expert.

I read his book and I've read Marshall's. I think they are both snake oil salesman. They know enough lingo and facts to snow the ignorant and put together a psuedo argument. Both were selling audiences what they wanted to hear.

Both writers ignore a very basic fact. Most soldiers want to survive. They modify their behavior to achieve that goal. In certain situations survivial means shooting your weapon at the enemy. In others in means lying low and letting others do the shooting whether it be another rifleman, a crew served weapon or naval gunfire support.

Both claim that modern soldiers are more likely to fire their weapons in combat than WW2 era soldiers. Marshall credits the advent of universal full auto weapons and training the soldier to spray and pray. Grossman blames conditioning and desensitation to killing.

Accepting their explanations at face value, I can only conclude that the troops facing each other in the Napoleonic era played a lot of video games and had full auto muskets.

Stickman
03-17-2004, 09:52 PM
I read his book and I've read Marshall's. I think they are both snake oil salesman. They know enough lingo and facts to snow the ignorant and put together a psuedo argument. Both were selling audiences what they wanted to hear

I don't consider myself ignorant in matters of physical force or its proper use. In fact, I probably have an above average amount of experience with it, due to being in police work. That being said, it's been a little over three years since I read his book, so it's not fresh to me, but I don't remember him advocating gun control. I interpreted his book as more of how children are desensitized to violence through tv and games, not that they were actually learning tactics or the actual dynamics of how a particular weapon shoots. I have heard the name SLA Marshall, but I'm not familiar with his work. What you all have said makes sense, but do you have any suggestions for books that counter Grossman's claims? I am not as familiar with him as you all, having only read the one book and heard one speech. I wasn't aware that he was en vogue with all the libs and tv personalities--that's definitely a negative to me. I guess having preconceived notions about the follies of gun control made me blind to his underlying arguments. Thanks for the heads up.

Anthony Semone
03-19-2004, 03:44 PM
My good friend, David, can address the issue of Grossman's credibility (or lack thereof) far better than, for, save for an excursion into the belly of a series of embedded thunderstorms while flying a Piper Arrow many years ago, I have never stared into the maw of the "elephant." David has. I don't know whether or not Grossman has, so I'll defer judgment on that. What I can say is that he and Siddle are utterly full of the smelly dark stuff when it comes to heart rate and loss of bodily function.

I have acquired HRV (heart rate variability: a much more sensitive measure of cardiovascular activity than heart rate) on officers who were proceeding through decision-making courses of fire; while on "routine" patrol; while making "routine" traffic stops; while negotiating Simunitions courses; and these officers were showing HRV values above 175 bpm, and, in one instance, 200bpm. At no time did these officers show the degradation in their shooting abilities or in their decision making abilities that should have happened were Siddle and Grossman correct.

And I'm not the only one who has found that so-called "body alarm reactions," at least as conceptualized by Siddle and Grossman, to be vast oversimplifications and a helluva thing to teach to recruits: "your gonna lose it when your HR exceeds 145bpm. Kathy Vonk, a really very creative copd and an FTO w/ a PD in Michigan has gotten HRV data on officers in high speed pursuits, both actual and simulated: same thing - high levels of HR and no degradation in performance. Here think of Formula One drivers, NASCAR drivers, aerobatic pilots, etc.

As to the issues about who shot how much, go to www.theppsc.org and read what my dear friend and colleague, Tom Aveni has to say about it in the "Grossman Debate."

I've never met Mr. Grossman. I've heard his presentations are "slicker than snot rolling down a pane of hot, smooth glass." I can tell you I'd go first to listen to somebody who's been there and done that before I'd pay any of my money to listen to this guy or buy his tapes. Just my two cents.

Oh, David, a psychologist, not a psychiatrist. Difference? I charge more and don't prescribe drugs LOL. Thanks for giving me the chance to respond to this thread, my friend. Hope all is well with you.

tony

MTS
03-19-2004, 03:51 PM
Anthony Semone,

Welcome to WT. Please feel free to stop by any time.

I know Kathy Vonk from IALEFI courses in Dayton.

If you can contact her see if you can get her to start posting here.

DaveJames
03-19-2004, 05:55 PM
Doc, welcome aboard, nice responce!

Gabriel Suarez
03-19-2004, 08:06 PM
Dr. Semone,

Welcome. I'm humbled by the caliber of personnel posting here.

**************

Gents,

I read Grossman's work (and even listened to him speak once). All I can say to him is the same thing that Capt. Ramius (played by Sean Connery) said to Jack Ryan (played by Alec Baldwin). "Your conclusions are all wrong".

I had walked the walk that Grossman writes so eloquently about and experienced nothing of what he writes about. Nor, for that matter have any of the men I associate with. David D is quite right is suggesting that experience in the subject quickly clarifies any misconceptions on the issue.

BTW, Grossman is widely accepted by the some in the gun community regardless of the fact that he has come out against the civilian ownership of firearms, and other similarly idiotic notions.
Not for me.

Stickman
03-19-2004, 10:05 PM
BTW, Grossman is widely accepted by the some in the gun community regardless of the fact that he has come out against the civilian ownership of firearms, and other similarly idiotic notions.
Not for me.

Wow this has been an educational thread. I was not aware of any of this when I recommended the book. I'm going to have to dig it out and re-read it with a more critical eye. There's alot I don't remember about the book, as it got kind of dry in parts. I was not aware of Lt.Col. Grossman's political viewpoints as far as gun control. That's a big disappointment. I'm at the point where I'm going to write him off, simply from what I've read here.

If I understand Dr. Semone correctly, he is stating that our fine motor skills do not degenerate as much as we are told, correct? That is another startling revelation, considering I was being told as little as 3 years ago that you could roughly corroborate the loss of certain motorskills with the increase in heartrate. Anyone know of some good reading on this subject? Let me add that I have been in police work for less than 10 years, and while I have been in stressful situations, I have not been in any deadly force encounters, so I can't refer to first hand experience in the area of loss of fine motor skill functions.
One final question: When Dr. Semone refers to Siddle, is he talking about Bruce Siddle of PPCT? I don't recall him being referenced in the On Killing book.
Edit: Nevermind about Bruce Siddle, a little research reveals that it is the same. Didn't realize he had coauthored a book with Grossman. If he is as guilty of inaccurate work as Grossman, this makes me wonder about the stuff he teaches in the PPCT system, which has been practically gospel at both agencies I've worked for. I have more questions than answers after starting this thread...

karl johnson
03-20-2004, 02:32 AM
More proof that he has no tactical knowledge regarding close combat. Slashing is safer than thrusting, be it with a knife, or sword, because when you thrust you must move closer to your enemy, making it easier for him to stab you. Also, if you miss your thrust you are vulnerable to a counterthrust or being stabbed by your enemies buddy. Slashes are good for keeping someone away from you or dealling with multiple attackers. There is a tactical rational that seems to be over this guy's head. This is what pisses me off.


As a fencing teacher I have to disagree with this argument, though the rest of the discussion is, I think, spot on. Whether a cut is delivered with the first three inches of the blade, or a thrust is delivered with that same first three inches, one's arm and body are in the same place. If the thrust is delivered with a lunge, or "long step", the attacker's body is actually somewhat harder to hit as most of it is quartered away.

The reason sword using warriors cut rather than thrust is that the cut is far more likely to instantly incapacitate the enemy than the thrust. That said, it was understaood that the thrust was far more likely to kill, eventually, but, like us, they were far less concerned about that than about stopping the fight to their advantage. They were also fighting "on the pass" rather than in the strict linear fashion of the fencing piste, so the cut was far easier to deliver and recover from.

The cut vs thrust arguement was the aimed/point shooting arguement of its day, but I think that Englishman George Silver explained the efficacy of the cut in his "Paradoxes of Defense". This book is not a hard read for us and is available at http://www.pbm.com/~lindahl/paradoxes.html among other places. He was argueing against replacing the English short sword (which was rather similar to a machete) with the more fashionable Italian rapier (which is too straight and light to cut well, and is predominantly a thrust weapon).

Anthony Semone
03-20-2004, 05:07 AM
Thank you all for your kind welcome. I have over the years become increasingly concerned with the way in which psychological research has been lifted out of the laboratory context in which it was generated. E.g., the purported relationship between HR and skill proficiency; Cannon's emergency reactions, data that came from the study of mice; and, more recently, LeDoux's work on the role of the mid-brain in emotion. Siddle and Grossman's IALEFI article (or it may have been ASLET, I can't recall at the moment) on the role of cortisol in producing memory loss during confrontations.

It isn't as though this research is without utility, it's just that it is a really big leap from where the data was generated to its application to an officer on solo patrol in the combat zones of North Philly, an ESU entry team, HRT sniper rescue pair.

In contrast to this kind of database, when questions got raised as to how it could be that a subject could get shot in the back when the officer fired at the perpetrator who was facing him, Bill Lewinski, PhD, a really darn good police psychologist and real-world researcher, gathered a whole bunch of video based data to show how that could take place. Kathy Vonk's HR data looking at the physiological effects of high-speed pursuit;and check out the article from Institute of HeartMath at http://www.heartmath.org/research/research-papers/police/index.html.

As to PPCT, well, I'm clearly not qualified to weigh in on that "gospel," but a year ago I had the good fortune to train w/ Ken Good of Strategos International in his variation on the Russian Martial Art Systema that he calls PCR. While I'm fairly good w/ a firearm, the last DT training I had was at Parris Island far too many years ago, and some Kubotan training when I did a series of LFI courses. PCR was a revelation, and, because I was in the good company of my friend Jack Becker, a Supervising Parole Agent w/ PA's Parole Board, a highly trained PPCT guy, I had the chance to get his comparative analysis: in a few words - PCR far more useful in the real world. If you want to know more about PCR, go to Ken's website www.strategosintl.com/reading.html. If you are interested in a psychological analysis of PCR, I have written one halfway down the second column. (in the interest of full disclosure, I am an adjunct staff member of Ken's group, but I am not paid nor do I get any compensation for referring folks to his site).

Anyways, hope I haven't taken up too much bandwidth here. It sure is nice to be with a group of professionals as you all. thanks again, stay safe,

anthony semone

Marty Hayes
04-08-2004, 07:47 AM
Hey Tony, nice to see you here.

My work on heart rate and physical shooting skills mirrors yours. I have been wiring up students with heart rate monitors for 3 years now, and have see that while physical skills do degrade while under stress, (I don't think anyone says they don't), it is still possible to do fine work at 160 to 200 bpm.

It is my layman's conclusion that the better trained one is, the less effect severe stress has on their shooting skills. AND, the more experience one has while shooting under extreme stress, then stress effects them even less.

Marty Hayes, Director
The Firearms Academy of Seattle, Inc.

Decado
04-08-2004, 09:13 AM
This is a very interesting thread. I do not have nearly the knowledge that the other posters have but I will say that it is nice to see others share the same opinion of Grossman that I have had for years. My experience with Grossman came from seeing him on a talk show (possibly Phil Donahue) many years ago and the gist of his speil was blaming video games for inspiring kids to violence and teaching them how to shoot. I thought he was full of crap then and was surprised to see how prominent he has been in the LEO/Tactical Training community. In fact I think these are the first really negative opinions I have seen on Grossman.I look forward to reading more on this topic (and many others) from the knowledgable folks that post here.

Decado

Anthony Semone
04-08-2004, 02:25 PM
Hi Marty and all,

yes, good to be here! You've addressed what I've come to believe, namely, that there is just way too much psychologizing and physiologizing and neurologizing going on in LEO training these days. I'm not sure what the hell knowing that there are mid-brain, limbic circuits involved (maybe) in a deadly force confrontation has to do with helping a cop who's in one!!!

Crying out loud, I sure wish I had thought of an "On Killing" gimmick way back when - hell, we'd all be set!! So, I'm not surprised that your HR data reflects mine and that it is also similar to Kathy Vonk's. While there may be some degradation in human performance as a function of exposure to "stressing events," whatever the hell they are, there is no question but that real world data show that "TRAINING, TRAINING, AND MORE TRAINING, FOLLOWED BY MORE TRAINING," counteracts those alleged degradations in human performance. That is especially true where training specifically incorporates 'SURPRISE' and 'STARTLE' as the initiating event.

The other (among many) thing(s) that is (are) important, I think, is that if we teach naive people, LEO or non-sworn, that there is an inevitable association between "stress and degraded performance," then that expectation will certainly be shown to be true in the student's performance. That point was well–made to me by a Chief FTO in a major mid-atlantic PD FTU when he said "doc, if you roll into a class of recruits and teach them that they will fall apart when faced w/ a potentially deadly threat, then why would we be surprised if they fell apart?" Point made!!

Decado,

When LEO "gurus" make the Phil Donahue or Dr. Phil or Pooprah Winfrew shows, along w/ the "Is he really the father?," individuals, that begins to signal to me, just as it did for you, that there may be some issue here as to credibilty. Everybody is looking for simple answers about the variables involved in violent behavior, and the simple answer is "there ain't one." You all might be interested in the article on www.theppsc.org on the Grossman Debate, authored by a truly competent police trainer, Tom Aveni. However many folk might think that Tom is not politically correct (and thank God he's not), this guy has trained, on the line, behind a trigger, more cops world–wide than Grossman has seen, except for perhaps in Grossman's "motivational, hooah" talks - folks, that ain't training cops.

Just my two pennies worth,

tony

Stickman
04-08-2004, 07:25 PM
Interesting reading. I was first introduced to Grossman's work about 3.5 years ago. The instructors were very impressed with him, and I took their word on it. Until I mentioned the book at the beginning of this thread, I'd never heard about his stance against personal ownership of firearms, some of his claims about combat effectiveness, or the research that contradicts the "deterioration of fine motor skills" stuff I have been taught at two different agencies while learning PPCT. It has been an eye-opener for me.

cdi
04-15-2004, 02:34 PM
Calibre Press does sell a lot of GROSSMAN's stuff. I hate to admit it, but I may be one of the people responsible for CalibrePress's association with GROSSMAN. I first attended their Street Survival seminar back in 95 and had just read his book. I recommended it to Dave GROSSI (I think it was him) who had not heard of GROSSMAN at that time. The next year On Killing was in their catalog.

The part of the book I liked and found insightful at the time was the part about operant conditioning. The part about knife fighting being "sexual range" was stupid. I agree with the slashing vs. stabbing issue. Sorry, nothing sexual about stabbing someone. It is simply more violent. Although multiple stab wounds often are indicative of a relationship gone bad, it has nothing to do with sex, and everything to do with being very pissed off and losing control.

The video game stuff was likewise stupid as has been more than adequately described here. I really liked his work when I was a young soldier, but the more you learn...

Dr. Semone, thanks for clearing up a lot of issues. I've become a little irritated with people quoting Siddle and saying it is impossible to concentrate on your sights, etc. I don't mind the debate, but it's good to know there are other (more) scientific positions out there and we don't only have to rely on Colonel Cooper and Jim Cirillo said it works; which while valuable, doesn't win a debate.

C.

V42
04-15-2004, 08:35 PM
nothing sexual about stabbing someone. It is simply more violent. Although multiple stab wounds often are indicative of a relationship gone bad, it has nothing to do with sex, and everything to do with being very pissed off and losing control.

Also a matter of people generally not dropping from one stab wound, so the attacker must keep stabbing.


As a fencing teacher I have to disagree with this argument, though the rest of the discussion is, I think, spot on. Whether a cut is delivered with the first three inches of the blade, or a thrust is delivered with that same first three inches, one's arm and body are in the same place. If the thrust is delivered with a lunge, or "long step", the attacker's body is actually somewhat harder to hit as most of it is quartered away.

But most people are not trained fancers and to them a stab or thrust represents having to step in and get closer, hence a greater perception of risk