The 4/11/86 FBI gunfight changed the face of American police
firearms and training. The hero lawman who concluded
that deadly battle offers his own perspectives.
By Massad Ayoob
In this issue’s Ayoob Files we share the memories of Ed Mireles, the hero of the notorious 1986 FBI firefight in Miami. Ed agrees with the FBI Firearms Training Unit’s assessment that all other things aside, the tragic outcome was a failure of bullet performance when one 115-gr. 9mm Silvertip stopped an inch or two from the cop-killer’s heart. However, “all other things aside” covers a lot of ground. This incident led to a review of felony stop tactics, and a widespread adoption of pistol caliber HK carbines and subsequently, .223 caliber rifles with “barrier blind” ammunition, all but obsoleting the shotgun in the Bureau today. Here are some of Ed’s hardware-related observations from his new book, FBI Miami Firefight, with Ed’s own words in Italics.
Ed and his wife, Liz, in October 1986, six months after the fight.
Shotguns And Buckshot
During the shootout, Mireles fired five aimed rounds of 00 buckshot. Each hit exactly where aimed, but the pellets did no more than disable one of the suspects. Ed writes, … the car that Platt and Matix were trying to escape in ate up the 00 buckshot … after the shooting incident I only loaded rifle slugs in my shotgun.
Choice Of Fighting Handguns
Mireles says, … bullet size does matter when trying to stop a large land mammal like a human being. That is why the FBI’s ballistic testing was so cutting edge and important for law enforcement across the country. When I met Ed in the early 1990s he was carrying a SIG P220 .45, which he had chosen after a flirtation with the S&W 4506 .45 and the briefly-issued Model 1076 10mm. He told me recently, I carried my SIG P220 until 2001. I was transferred to the FTU in 2001. I was told that as a firearms instructor, I had to carry the same weapon that was issued to new agents. Makes sense. So I was issued a GLOCK 22, .40 caliber. I carried the .40 till I retired in 2004. When I retired I bought a GLOCK 21 with a compensated barrel. It is a sweet ride even one handed. Ed’s G21C carries 14 rounds of .45 ACP.
Dealing With The Unexpected
In the book Ed writes, When I exited our car, I did not know where the subjects were, and I ran right into the teeth of Platt and Matix’s position as they fired a dozen rifle shots in my direction. Platt fired a rifle shot directly at my heart. At the exact right moment, I moved my left arm directly between my heart and that rifle round flying towards me. As a result, my left arm deflected and prevented that bullet from hitting my heart. Another round hit me on the left temple. My reaction from the hit to my left arm made me jerk and move my head back and to the side. Again, perfect timing. Instead of hitting me square in the forehead or in my left eye, the bullet grazed the left side of my head. It caused a lot of bleeding and rang my bell, causing temporary hearing loss, but no harm no foul.
One of the greatest strengths of Mireles’ book is found in his deep insights born in his desperate kill-or-be-killed incident. These observations run through the entire book. Here’s an example:
I survived on good tactics, good cover, looking for targets, moving to try to flank the subjects, good firearms techniques and firearms discipline, and the teamwork shown by Gilbert and Ron by providing overwatch and covering fire on my position. With all of that said, I should have been killed five or six times over! Was it luck? Fate? God’s will? The answer is yes. Can I prove it? No. But I really don’t have to prove anything. My survival is proof enough.
Anyone who has studied gunfighting in general and the 4/11/86 incident in particular understands why Mireles became famous for his courage and indomitable will to live. In the book, you find more. An element of faith, and an ability to channel rage into a dynamic and absolutely necessary physical response in spite of terribly debilitating injury.
FBI Miami Firefight is an inspiration even for those who do not own a gun and can’t imagine themselves wearing a badge. For those who do carry one or both of those things, the book is simply a “must read.” American Handgunner and I thank Ed Mireles for giving us permission to publish the quotes found in this issue.
You can order the book at www.edmireles.com, or call (540) 841-2124.