Blurred Vision Back-Ups

By Massad Ayoob

I was recently reading Inside Hoover’s FBI, co-authored by famed former agent Neil Welch. Among many other high-profile arrests, he was the man who captured escaped multiple-murderer Winston Mosely, whose most famous victim was Kitty Genovese. The year was 1968. Police had determined Mosely was holed up in a house in Buffalo, N.Y., with hostages and a stolen, loaded handgun. Welch, bravely — if unwisely, by today’s tactical standards — entered the home to negotiate with the barricaded killer.

Welch recounted, “I rapped on the door. He opened it just enough for me to edge through, then he jammed his automatic pistol in my stomach and I was off balance and it pushed me backward into a chair.” As the tense dialogue between the two men continued, Welch said, “He kept cocking and recocking his gun, holding it dead center on my chest. He didn’t realize it, but I had a small snub-nosed revolver pointed at him too, although it was in my weak left hand, in my overcoat pocket.”

Welch added, “Worst of all, it was my first day with new bifocals. I was trying to judge sight angles, the angle of his fire and mine, and no matter where I moved he seemed to be in that fuzzy breaking point between far distance and close distance on my new bifocals. It was a helluva way to get ready for a gun battle.”

Fortunately, no shots were fired. Welch managed to talk Mosely into surrendering his pistol, and at this writing, many decades later, Mosely still rots in prison. Very shortly after the arrest, a newsman asked the agent, “How do you talk to a man like that?” Welch paused momentarily and then replied, “Very … politely.”

COP-1

With gun out of focus and eye on target, front sight is
still visible in this StressPoint Index. Pistol is HK VP9.

COP-2

Even with gun out of focus, Tactical Advantage sights
on this Glock 17 are visible to the shooter.

Corrected Vision

There was a time when many departments demanded 20/20 uncorrected vision for any applicant, and some may still. Even so, few cops are likely to keep perfect vision for the rest of their careers, and we don’t want to discard potentially fine applicants because their vision is less than perfect.

Lasik surgery is one option, and soft contacts are popular. Such role model officer survival instructors as Bob Lindsey and Gary Klugiewicz wore their shatterproof eyeglasses strapped to their heads: constant vision and constant eye protection!

Agent Welch’s problem, we know now, is that like most bifocals, his were “upside down” for shooting. For decades, I’ve recommended students with multifocal lenses instruct their opticians to make their glasses with the reading plane — the focal plane most suitable for the front sight — at the top of the lens, not the bottom. As the head comes down into a natural “fighting posture” the target has already been identified, and with the proper plane in the upper portion of the lens, focus is now perfect for the front sight.

COP-3

Shooting glasses with securing strap, and a
light/laser combo (like this one from Streamlight
on a duty pistol) can both be lifesavers.

Fixes

Other options exist if the department allows them. Laser sights, distance and light can be a godsend in these situations. Does your duty pistol carry a mounted light? Spend some time “point shooting” and see if your particular combination puts shots in the center of the beam at across-the-room distances, and perhaps high in the center of the beam in closer. The bright-colored, pyramidal Tactical Advantage sights work great even in fuzzy secondary focus, and are available to fit all the popular service pistols.

Out to about seven yards, a fuzzy image of the front sight above the rear sight will get pistol shots where they need to go. I called it StressPoint Index back in the ’70’s. Jim Cirillo, famed NYPD Stakeout Squad gunfighter and pistol champ, developed the “gun silhouette” alternate aiming technique, in which the shape of the gun as seen from the rear is superimposed over the target when the shooter can’t get a proper sight picture.

Have fallbacks. Even if you do have perfect 20/20 vision, a blow to your head can leave vision fuzzy when you need to shoot or die. We can never forget Special Agent Ben Grogan, a SWAT team leader and the top shot in the Miami office of the FBI, who was killed in the famous 1986 gunfight he should have dominated. Myopic, his glasses knocked off in a car crash that preceded the lethal shootout, he fired without effect and just before he was shot dead, his last words were “Where is everybody? Oh my God …”

If we don’t learn from a hero like him, his sacrifice was wasted.

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