Ayoob, Massad. The Ayoob Files: The Book. Concord: The Police Bookshelf, 1995.
BOTTOM LINE UP FRONT: A series of case studies -- learn from the blood and sweat of others and understand why police have made certain doctrinal decisions over the last 30 years. 3.5/5.
The Ayoob Files are a series of case studies revolving around lethal force encounters pulled from Massad Ayoob's popular American Handgunner magazine column, "Cop Talk." Massad Ayoob is a police officer and instructor who runs the Lethal Force Institute. The author's purpose in The Ayoob Files was to discuss carefully researched and reconstructed lethal force encounters with an eye towards distilling key lessons about tactics, legalities, equipment, and mindset.
The 223 pages cover 15 vignettes with a good mix of both police encounters and armed civilians. They range from the widely publicized FBI Miami shootout and Rodney King incident to little known encounters with armed pizza delivery men and taxi drivers. Each review seems to focus on one aspect; one might center on equipment choice (the importance of a backup gun, shotgun vs. handgun scenarios, etc), another on an effective or ineffective tactic, or a third on a mindset that enabled survival. This tight focus belies the book's origins as concise magazine columns. Some of the more complicated incidents, however, have been fleshed out and receive more thorough treatment.
As is expected with Mr. Ayoob, the prose is clear and instructive. Although he may not win any literature awards, his narratives are engaging and easy to read.
Moving on, the layout of the book is functional and workmanlike but doesn't add much. I found quotes that were set out in sidebars to be occasionally distracting or irrelevant, and the illustrations were pedestrian. Some of the more complex scenarios could have benefited from diagrams or maps showing the locations of the participants over time; only the Miami shootout receives this treatment, and its diagram was blurry and hard to interpret. One nice feature is the small size of this book; at about 5" x 9", its easy to slip into a pocket for convenient reading "on the go." The bright pink color and bloody front cover picture are a bit unsettling to some people so be careful when reading in public places.
One criticism I have of this book is that it is showing its age. The Miami shootout is the most recent vignette and it occurred in 1991. With a copyright date of '95, I'd expect some additional updating. The book could use a facelift that incorporates newer scenarios, perhaps comparing contemporary training and equipment against older methods in similar scenarios.
Another criticism is Mr. Ayoob's lack of sourcing. The reconstructions are detailed but it is not always clear how they have been put together, and rarely are competing versions of the story given. The book would have more credibility if all sides of the incident were given and the reader allowed to draw his or her own conclusions about what actually happened.
This book has a place on your bookshelf if you're interested in self-defense, law enforcement, or lethal force. I would suggest reading Grossman's On Killing first. That will set up a theoretical model for you to use when evaluating Ayoob's case studies. It will also help you to understand why certain training methods are used, and why police have gravitated to certain equipment. It allows you to evaluate those choices as you make your own decisions (revolver vs. semiauto, when to carry, tactics against longarms, etc.).
Overall rating: 3.5/5 Moose. Good value for the price, but of niche interest. Not the first book I'd buy, but a quick, useful read deserving of a spot on your bookshelf.
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