Bank Protection—The Instructor

The following information on bank protection instruction comes from Section 61 of Shooting by J. Henry FitzGerald. Shooting is also available to purchase in print.

Bank and police shooting are in the same class, the one difference being that the clerks behind the counter do not carry the revolver. It is placed on a shelf or on a rubber-covered steel rod to hold it in the proper position for drawing. This is preferable to the shelf. It is faster and the revolver can be grasped in proper position instantly.

We may start with a package of twelve, more or less, revolvers delivered to a bank for protection. It is unbelievable to think that a bank would hire any number of guards without employing at least one who was familiar with firearms. By being familiar I mean one who can handle firearms safely and who can impart this information to others; one who will think and study the protection of this particular bank; that is, if the bank is ever held up, how the trouble will come, and what must be done to defeat it. In every bank it will be ninety-nine per cent close work (not over twelve feet) and this eliminates long range target shooting and all kinds except silhouette target shooting, speed and accuracy at short range.

The package of revolvers is opened; the next question is what to do with them? The guard chosen for instructor should call a meeting, composed of all guards and clerks who may be called upon to use a revolver, and from a book or from his own knowledge instruct each one on the safe handling of firearms. Instruct one at a time; the others may stand at a safe distance and benefit by the instruction. The first instructions should be with the revolver empty. The trigger squeeze should be carefully practiced and the proper grip is very important. As ladies will be expected to take this course of shooting as well as gentlemen, a slight change in the prescribed grips may be used; a little higher hold on the arm will usually take care of this. The Police Positive Special four-inch barrel is the favorite for this work and in this arm the grip is perfect for either the large or small hand. With the large hand lock the little finger under grip. Start right, as it is easier to do this than to correct mistakes afterward.

The hands and wrists of bank employees are not usually as strong as the hands of the outdoor officer and the recoil from the lighter revolvers is greater than from the heavier arms. A very good plan is to purchase a .22 target revolver for the preliminary practice. Do not forget to occasionally practice with the regulation arm. The instructor should carefully instruct each shooter as to flinching. A very good way to overcome it is by dry shooting and the use of a .22 revolver. The first actual shooting should take place after the instructor is convinced that the pupil is familiar with the foregoing instructions at short range, as bank shooting is necessarily at short range. The first actual shooting should be at fifteen feet and the Colt’s Silhouette or the Langrish Limbless target used. The object is to create confidence in the shooter.

Bank Protection Course No. 2 (Preliminary)

Distance, 15 feet
Silhouette Target
6 shots at center of target (See scoring of silhouette targets)
Double action

After you are able to hit the target regularly try:

Bank Protection Course No. 2

Distance, 15 feet
Silhouette Target
6 shots at head, single action

Correct holding of sights is very important, also trigger squeeze. Courses No. 1 and No. 2 are preparatory to the faster work that is to follow. Double action is less dangerous than single action. Your revolver will explode all perfect ammunition double action and all quick shooting at short range will be double action. In fact, a good double-action shot can do good work at all ranges and it is faster than single action at short ranges.

A table or counter should be provided to insure the safety of the shooter’s feet. Too much care cannot be taken with new shooters in the safe handling of firearms.

 Bank Protection Advanced Course No. 1 (Timed)

Guard’s Course:
15 yards, revolver in holster (double action)
At command “FIRE,” draw and fire with favorite gun hand
2 shots at K or center zone of Silhouette Target
Run to 10 yards (carrying revolver safety finger out of trigger)
Fire 2 shots with right hand, change gun to left hand and fire 2 shots with left hand
K zone to count

Bank Protection Advanced Course 2 (Timed)

For employees at desk or window:
Stand behind a section of counter
Hands placed on top for Courses 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
Revolver in position used in the bank
At command “FIRE,” draw and fire
2 shots holding Colt with both hands
2 shots with right hand
2 shots with left hand

Any person unable to pull the trigger double action should fire the entire six shots, holding the arm with both hands (the gun hand placed firmly in the palm of the other hand, closing bottom hand firmly about the gun hand, in such a manner as not to interfere with pulling the trigger). Ladies with small hands may find this necessary. 1/3 of one point is deducted from all but Course No. 6 (which is slow fire) for each second used. Example: Add the scores in the first five courses and subtract 1/3 of the total of seconds used; then add score in Course No. 6 for total score.

Bank Protection Advanced Course 3 (Timed)

2 shots, revolver in usual position
10 feet double action
At command “FIRE,” draw and fire at center of body
K zone only to count

Bank Protection Advanced Course 4 (Timed)

Same as Course 3, except 2 shots for the head.
Head only to count.

Bank Protection Advanced Course 5 (Timed)

Same as Course No. 3, except 2 shots for the right arm of silhouette (D) zone.
Right arm to count.

Bank Protection Advanced Course 6 (Not Timed)

6 shots at 15 yards, slow fire, single action, at head.
Head shot only to count, to top of white figures in neck.
It is well for all guards to practice Course No. 2, as they may be inside the windows when trouble comes.


By “Single Action” is meant cocking the hammer and squeezing the trigger for each shot. In using “Double Action” the hammer is raised by a steady squeeze on the trigger and falls when it has reached a sufficient height to insure firing the cartridge. In timing a stop watch should be used; taking the time from the word “FIRE” to the report of the last shot. Always look at your revolver before going on duty. See that it is properly loaded and working properly, with no obstruction in the barrel and properly cleaned. Be sure that your ammunition is fresh. Oil-soaked cartridges may render your revolver useless in an emergency. It is a good plan to change cartridges every four weeks and use old ammunition for target practice. Target practice should be compulsory at least once each week.

Many other courses may be constructed from the silhouette target. See New York State Trooper’s shooting courses.

I remember an instance that happened in a bank which I visited. The instructor informed me that he had four girls who could neither cock a revolver nor fire it double action. I asked if they might go to the range with us for instruction and, as he had stated, they were unable to fire the revolver. I then asked each to hold the revolver with both hands and shoot double action. They could all fire the revolver in this manner. One of the young ladies hit the silhouette six times in seven seconds,—very good shooting for one who, up to that time, had not been able to fire at all.

The point to be driven home is the fact that this work is not play and must be taken seriously. I have been asked the question: What is to be done if one is suddenly confronted at the window with a revolver and the command, “Hands up”? Only two things to do—stand still, hands up (this is dangerous for if a shot is fired in the bank, your hold-up man will shoot you), or as the hands go up drop to the floor, getting revolver as you go down. I have tried this many times and have yet to find any one who could snap quick enough to touch me; the revolver was empty. Another question, Is it best to lock all bank doors in connection with alarm? Yes, if the guards are able to handle the situation and, whether they are or not, I believe any bank robber would hesitate before entering a bank with an alarm so constructed, with a separate secret button to open one door when police arrive.

All this practice and expense is to prepare for the one minute when lives and property are in danger and it must be done well when that minute arrives. The only way to prevent it is to be ready. The properly protected bank is never held up, as the system of protection is studied weeks in advance by the robber. Observation of the guards will locate strangers, who place themselves in advantageous positions for no apparent reason. Money should be placed on traps which, as a button or spring is pressed, will drop it into a drawer below the counter. Gas may be used in cartridges but it is a hardship for the clerks, customers, and guards as well as for the robbers.

(The following article, by Mr. Harry C. Almy, is the best on bank protection that I have ever read and I believe it covers the situation fully. Mr. Almy is not only an expert target shot but a practical shot as well, and is thoroughly versed in all branches of revolver shooting.—The Author)

Bank Protection
By Harry C. Almy

The subject of bank protection is one that is occupying a prominent place in the minds of bankers, especially in the smaller cities and towns.

Various reasons are advanced for the increasing number of holdups. Perhaps the chief contributing cause lies in the good roads and fast automobiles, as the success of this form of outlawry depends upon the surprise of attack and the speed of escape.

The daylight holdup, as now practiced, is more or less a development of the present day. A comparatively few years ago the banker paid for burglary insurance and robbery protection was included without extra charge. Today the robbery rate is approximately double that of burglary. Equipment has been developed to such a degree that the burglar has been baffled, but the uneasiness which he causes, is ably taken care of by the modern holdup man, who furnishes all of the thrills and lacks none of the disagreeable attributes of his predecessor.

The solution of the problem is simple,—it is to make the holdup industry so hazardous and the fruits of the labor so uncertain that those practicing the profession will be inclined to turn to more peaceful and profitable pursuits.

Just how to carry out the terms of the solution is not so simple. However, it can be done, but in the successful working out of a remedy the banks must be brought to a realization of the fact that it is chiefly their own problem and that nothing less than an earnest, aggressive, and continuous effort on their part must be put forth in cooperating with peace officers, as well as by the installation of efficient safety devices, the employment of guards, and the elimination of practices in their institutions which contribute to the ease with which robberies can be perpetrated.

It is well for the banker first to look to the customs which have become established. Man is a habit-forming creature and if not interfered with will do the same thing about the same way repeatedly; and so, because currency accumulates Monday and Tuesday, Wednesday becomes the day on which the surplus is shipped out, and month after month on the same day of the week, about the same hour of the day, the same procedure is gone through in transporting the funds to the post-office or express company, or, if the flow of currency is the other way, a regular method of handling incoming shipments usually develops. It is also true, frequently, in the manner of handling payrolls: with monotonous regularity, week after week, the same day, the same hour, the same men carry the payroll over the same route to the same factory. A smart football coach can be depended upon to figure out the signals of the opposing team in spite of a careful effort to prevent it. It is well known that advance men look over a territory when an assault is in contemplation, and it is reasonable to believe that a man who is sizing up a situation does not overlook customs which in themselves constitute invitations for attack. In many cases partition doors between the lobby and the bank proper are not only unlocked but are sometimes propped open; day gates are left open because it is inconvenient for employees to unlock them when it is necessary to enter the vault; money-safes and securities chests are unlocked for the reason that it takes time for the tellers to run combinations. The careful locking of all of these would not defeat a holdup, but it might influence the advance man, who is looking for the largest haul along the line of least resistance, to pass the bank which is exercising caution in these particulars because, we repeat, the success of this form of banditry depends upon the elements of surprise and speed, and even light locks militate against both of these. So it is well for the banker to take stock of his institution with a view of making it physically as resistant as practicable and to ascertain if the customs are such as to not menace its safety.

It is a question if some banks do not rely too much upon the protection of the police, sheriffs, and the law. It is proper that there should be confidence in these ministrations, but bankers are lacking in their full duty when they fail to give every aid within their power toward their own protection. The sheriff’s office was designed to protect the county in the horse and buggy days when a trip across a county was one measured in hours. Today a few minutes is ample, yet the sheriff’s office remains in equipment, man power, and limitations much as it was originally set up. Usually towns are under-policed. With approximately one officer to each one thousand population in the average small city, the police department is expected to regulate traffic, to protect thousands of homes, scores of factories and places of business, and cannot give an undue amount of time to the few banks. Therefore the banker must accept a certain responsibility in his own protection; nor can he rest secure in the knowledge that his funds are adequately covered by insurance, for, in addition to the money loss, there is the more vital thing, the potential danger to employees and customers, which should make him more determined to wipe out the evil which has assailed his business. Insurance rates have been advanced and if losses justify, further increases will be made. It is within the range of possibility that the cost of this protection will reach a figure that will be prohibitive for some of the smaller banks. When this occurs then, indeed, will the needs of the community, which has been deprived of banking facilities, have been sacrificed because the many cannot protect themselves against the few. Such a condition could not or would not exist in America if those most interested would awaken to the need of aggressive action.

There is a way to put an end to these bank attacks and the answer will be found if bankers will acknowledge the responsibility that is theirs and undertake the solution with the same energy that they have brought to other problems which they have worked out to successful conclusions. If it becomes necessary for a customer to have a passport before being allowed to enter a bank it might seriously hamper the operations of financial institutions. To avoid this it may be necessary for banks in the afflicted areas to maintain armed guards so located and so protected that they would, without danger to themselves, be able to control any situation that might arise.

Banks should encourage their employees to learn to shoot, not with a view of putting up armed resistance in case of a holdup. In fact, if the other man has the drop on the best shooter in the world, that best shooter would be a very foolish person if he didn’t throw his hands up just as high as he could reach and do everything else he is told to do. But if an employee is a trained shooter, is fast and accurate with a gun, and an opportunity presents itself, he is then in a position to do something for the protection of himself, his institution, and the banking business in general. The robber is no superman,—he makes mistakes. Within the week in our state one made a very serious error. He tried to handle too many men and a courageous banker, who was in the group he was herding into a back room, grappled with him, took the gun away from him and according to the latest newspaper reports the body is still in the morgue unclaimed. But while this robber was making the mistake of his life an accomplice climbed over the counter in an effort to get away and one of the tellers had time to empty a revolver at him, but nothing resulted except a loud noise and he got into an automobile and drove away. If the teller had been a trained shot at least two of the band would have remained among those present and several rounds of ammunition would have been saved.

One of the indispensable pieces of bank furniture is the revolver. Regardless of size perhaps a banking institution would be as likely to attempt to carry on its business without an adding machine as without a revolver, and usually one is found at every window and the banker is serene in his belief that he has armed his force. As a matter of fact he may have provided a bunch of nondescript weapons, including various calibers in varying states of preservation, with possibly a few cheap foreigners and a scattering of the pot metal variety never intended to handle the modern powders.

There is only one kind of gun that is worthy of consideration if there is any chance of it being used for defense, and that is a good gun, and to go into action with one that is not dependable is to court disaster. A good gun in the hands of one incapable of handling it is more a source of danger than protection. Messenger policies require that one or more armed guards accompany the messenger. In the actual carrying out of this provision several employees, who could not hit the ground with their hats, put guns in their pockets and imagine they are armed; whereas, in fact, they constitute a menace to the safety of themselves and others for the reason that if they were to encounter the holdup man and attempted to use the weapons with which they are wholly unfamiliar it would unquestionably cause the yegg to start shooting, possibly resulting in the loss of lives as well as the valuables they have undertaken to guard.

With very small expenditure banks can establish shooting ranges in their basements or elsewhere and provide for the teaching of their employees to shoot. Then, when the opportunity comes, if it does come, they will be effective. The National Rifle Association, the Arms Companies, the Ammunition Manufacturers, men like our good friend Fitz, the author of this book, and others high up in the shooting game are always glad to lend assistance in teaching marksmanship and the safe handling of firearms to the right kind of people. Generally in every community there is to be found a shooter or two who will advise and aid an institution which desires to undertake such an activity.

If every banker was as expert with a hand gun as he is with an interest table bank holdups would be a lost art. How many times have the marines been stuck up and made to lie face down on the floor while their money has been gathered up? So long as the robber knows that a fast car, a big gun, and a little “hop” with a banker ready to offer no resistance will yield him rich reward, just so long will holdups continue and with increasing boldness.

Bankers should give thoughtful consideration to the subject of anti-firearms legislation. This is especially invidious for the reason that arguments of its proponents are apparently so reasonable to one who is not well versed in the subject. Many well-intentioned persons have the honest, though mistaken, belief that if laws were passed that would prohibit the manufacture, sale and possession of hand guns, crimes with these weapons would cease. Such laws would result in the disarmament of the law-abiding citizen, leaving him unprotected against the criminal who has no regard for law. The enforcement of such laws would greatly aid the crook, so the banker should be especially interested in preventing their passage.

The answer to the holdup challenge may lie in an extension of the state police system, in providing armed guards according to the needs of the individual bank, or it may not lie in force. It may be more severe and more certain punishment for offenders or in the wiping out of organized crime by the forces of the government itself. But whatever the answer is, if the powerful bankers’ group will tackle it with the spirit of “Whatever it takes we have” the solution will be found.

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Bank Protection Instruction

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