1986 FBI Miami Firefight

On April 11, 1986 two serial bank robbers were engaged in a gunfight with 8 FBI agents. This moment is the evidence used to justify upgrading to more powerful handguns in the FBI and law enforcement. The only other moment more important than this would be the infamous North Hollywood Bank Robbery.

The video has personal recounts of the day and analyzed by FBI agents. The re-enactments are a bit cheesy, like watching an episode of CHIPS. It is interesting how much has changed from this time. The tactics and equipment used is drastically different with regards to how to engage a target. Take training seriously. 104 rounds fired in just 5 mins. The suspects were only shot 12 times and 6 times respectively before dying.

Nicholas C

Co-Founder of KRISSTALK forums, an owner’s support group and all things KRISS Vector related. Nick found his passion through competitive shooting while living in NY. He participates in USPSA and 3Gun. He loves all things that shoots and flashlights. Really really bright flashlights.

Any questions please email him at nicholas.c@staff.thefirearmblog.com


  • sianmink

    Is this the one with Michael Gross (the dad on Family Ties) as Matix?

    • 1911a145acp

      The made for TV version had the two real life bad guys- Platt and Matix played by Michael Gross ( why didn’t he change his last name!?) from the sitcom Family Ties, and David Soul of Starsky and Hutch TV show detective fame. In the made for TV movie, they actually got many of the facets of the gunfight right- really amazing for a TV production- except David Soul’s character had a Full-auto RUGER AC 556 instead of a semi-auto Mini -14. At least they got the brand and folding stock right. The FBI/Miami shootout WAS a tactics and weapons game changer for ALL law enforcement. It is really the reason we have 10mm and 40 S&W cartridges today.

      • sianmink

        Yeah, I remember that one as being remarkably accurate in the details for the time, and about anything modern is better than .38 +P Lead SWC, especially through auto glass.

      • El Duderino

        It pretty much killed the .38 +P snub, the 9mm 115gr Silvertip, and 12g vs. a rifle in law enforcement in one day.

  • The Hun

    An MRAP in every podunk town’s pot.

  • MrSatyre

    When this happened, some friends of mine were nearby, having lunch. They told me afterwards that everyone believed it was another episode of Miami Vice being filmed, so no one was worried.

    • gunslinger

      complacent much?

      kind of crazy

  • Joe

    “Forensic Analysis” by W French Anderson is a very interesting book on the shootout showing the sequence of events and wound paths on the two suspects. One of the suspects was shot in the head but only knocked out then got back into the fight. Really shows that shot placement and bullet construction/energy are both major concerns. The lessons learned from this incident still reverberate today.

    • Hyok Kim

      “Forensic Analysis” by W French Anderson is a very interesting book on the shootout showing the sequence of events and wound paths on the two suspects. One of the suspects was shot in the head but only knocked out then got back into the fight.”

      I read that he didn’t really recover.

  • Lance

    That’s why they went with 10mm AUTO. They got rid of it because female agents hated its recoil. Its a pity 10mm is a good round.

    • dannye

      There is no scientific or medical evidence that 10mm is any better than 9mm at incapacitating a human. Blaming “weak” rounds and the introduction of the 10mm round is the FBI bureaucratic response to agent incompetence.

      • Eric S

        As rule #0 states; Shot placement is king, penetration is queen, and everything else is angels dancing on the head of a pin.

        Besides, with a smaller slug, they can hold more rounds which allows people to miss twice as fast.

      • John

        When it came down to it, the 1986 Miami Shootout was a case of Rifle vs. Handgun

        • 1911a145acp

          More to the point – 2 hardened criminals with former military training were determined not to go down without a fight. For a while-they out fought, out flanked a superior number of FBI agents/ investigators/accountants who were well intentioned – but likely unprepared and certainly under-trained to deal with the hyper violent, well armed adversaries they encountered that fateful day. As to the fairy tale notion that shot placement solves all issues- one bad guy was struck in the head and recovered to get back in the fight, the other was shot through the heart with a “non survivable wound”-Every agent he shot, was shot AFTER he took a round through the arm AND heart. The Dade County Medical Examiner was quoted as stating- “Had you shot him on my operating table with that wound- I could not have saved him.” The FBI/Miami shootout was tragic lesson. Maneuvering, determined adversaries with high capacity, low recoiling Carbines tend to dominate pistol equipped, bulls-eye trained agents in a fight. No news there. 80+% of the FBI rounds failed to connect at close range. You cannot change a “hits” problem by changing calibers.

        • n0truscotsman


          Adopting the 10mm, then the 40, was a gargantuan waste of energy. There should have been discussions about CAR15s and changes in training and equipment when arresting bank robbers.

          The whole ideal would have undoubtedly been prevented, or at least not resulting in as many casualties, had the FBI cooperated with local law enforcement and had them conduct the arrest (like they do most of the time anyways).

          But, to reinforce what dannye is saying, 17 rounds of 9mm sure beats 10 of 10mm. just my 2 cents.

          • 1911a145acp

            Seems like it would, but think of it this way- the 11th through 17th rounds of 9mm are NOT any more powerful than the first 10 rounds of 9mm. If you didn’t solve the problem with 10 rounds of 10mm, 11.25mm, 9mm, 5.7mm ( or insert your favorite fanboy cartridge there) are another SEVEN rounds of whatever cartridge magically going to do it? Can we realistically say we are more likely to solve the problem with the 16th and 17th rounds than we were the first through fifth? More rounds on tap is almost always a good thing unless we make them smaller to get MORE OF them… or, if in the real world, we are still MISSING with them……

          • billyoblivion

            It’s very likely that those extra 6 rounds *will* help you solve the problem.

            First off, for people who go chasing bad guys–heck, even for those on the unlucky side of averages–multiple bad guys are a fact of life,

            All handgun calibers and a lot of rifle calibers are inadequate to ensure rapid stops (including the 10mm and .44) without very precise bullet placement.

            Also these events are not like your weekly shooting session at the local firing range. They happen in odd/low light more often than broad daylight. There is often movement too. And you’re unlikely to be mentally “on the step”.

            You mix these things together–light, movement, multiple bad guys, you being surprised or expecting something different, the intentional or accident use of cover/concealment[1] and yeah, you might actually be really, really happy to have 11 through 17. Or in my case 11 through 31 (Beretta CX4 with a 30 round magazine) before I go to the pistol (19 rounds).

            Ammo sucks to hump over hill and dale, but no one EVER had too much ammo in a gunfight.

            The diameter of the round is of little consequence. ER doc after ER–even those who shoot–have admitted that until they find the bullet they have *no* idea what caliber it is (well, once you pass .25 I would guess) because soft tissue is incredibly elastic so it tends to stretch, get a hole, then snap back quickly.

            For most shootings (against a human) a 10mm isn’t significantly better than a 9mm in 115 grain or heavier bullet. Once you get 12 to 18 inches of penetration you’re geting into the organs that need to be punctured to bleed them out fast. That’s the best you can hope for.

            So yeah, I’ll take the extra bullets to either share out amongst the recipients (to each according to their need, don’tcha know) or to just keep hitting them until they stop.

          • William

            Thank you for not going to the “shot placement, shot placement, shot placement” mantra. As your description of a likely deadly encounter points out, the likelihood of a fight stopping CNS hit will usually be a matter of luck, even for well practiced individuals. I certainly agree volume of fire will certainly increase the odds.
            I find your observation that ER doctors can’t immediately discern the caliber of an entry wound, anecdotal and nonscientific, however, and insignificant in determining how long the bad guy continued to fight. I’ve heard stories of charging pit bulls dropping much faster, and with only one shot, with a 357sig rather than the 9mm, of course that too is anecdotal.
            The 9mm crowd makes some strong points favoring their choice, but I’m still on the fence. There are those that say a 1mm difference between the 9 and 40 is insignificant, but I believe that 1mm equates to roughly 28 percent more frontal surface area. I believe the 45 approaches 50 percent more surface area versus the 9.
            To me that is a significant difference, significant enough to make a difference, I really don’t know.

          • 1911a145acp

            357 SIG…..IS a 9mm.

          • n0truscotsman

            “Thank you for not going to the “shot placement, shot placement, shot placement” mantra”

            Then what is the “superior” mantra? caliber? (LOL)

          • 1911a145acp

            I agree that in current modern High-velocity Hollow point designs- CALIBER doesn’t matter AS MUCH anymore. I agree that more rounds available seems like a good idea. To quote your statement- “It’s very likely that those extra 6 rounds *will* help you solve the problem.” I don’t agree. History and facts do not prove this out. Can you find a single documented civilian or LE case where where an individual connected with the FIRST 2/3 of the magazine- didn’t solve the problem and somehow miraculously solved it with the last umpteeth shot(s)? It COULD happen, we all like to think that is why we have magazine capacity in the teens. The actual cases where it DOES happen are extraordinarily rare. More bullets are of little consequence if you were not getting it done with first ones you had available. In the FBI/ Miami shootout- Carefully aimed 12 ga 00 Buckshot from a FOUR round magazine and 38 Spl +P rounds from a SIX shot revolver that went where they needed to go is what stopped the fight.

          • n0truscotsman

            “I don’t agree. History and facts do not prove this out.”

            Yes, actually they do. Study law enforcement shooting incidents sometime.

            You can disagree all you want, that doesn’t change the fact that in a gunfight, the guy with 17 rounds has a edge over the one with 10.

          • 1911a145acp

            You have completely missed the point. You seem to think that having large numbers of bullets in your mag by itself make a difference -it does not. You called BS-fine. Your opinion – support it with facts. I asked to you provide real world documentation proving your theory- you didn’t. I HAVE been studying LE and civilian shootings for 27 years. The guy with 17 rounds has NO ADVANTAGE until more than 10 rounds have been fired by all parties involved. It takes MORE of little bullets to get the job done. In the FBI/Miami shootout, 2 agents emptied 15 + rounds from high cap handguns with little effect.What advantage did the 15th round give them?How do rounds that you didn’t get you use make a difference? My point is that the LAST six rounds RARELY make a difference if the first 10 didn’t. If you believe different, good for you.

          • n0truscotsman

            It is you that missed the point about shot placement being the ultimate determining factor and that larger magazine sizes can equal a a edge in a gunfight, disadvantages to size notwithstanding. Do larger magazines make the firearm more accurate? no, of course not. Does extra ammunition give the officer a edge in having a means to engage another potential adversary? absolutely. That is my point.

            Yes, the number of bullets in a magazine can make a difference, depending on the situation, although I would rather “finish” a particular fight with extra ammunition than none. Sorry.

            “It takes MORE of little bullets to get the job done”

            Not if they are properly placed to create an effective physical or psychological “stop” of the assailant, cause him/her to bleed out faster, or disrupt the central nervous system.

            What did I say before about this shooting? I said the discussion should be about LONG GUNS (particularly patrol rifles/carbines), not adopting some uber caliber handgun like what the FBI did.

          • n0truscotsman

            “the 11th through 17th rounds of 9mm are NOT any more powerful than the first 10 rounds of 9mm.”

            Bullshit, in a word.

            When facing multiple opponents, they definitely can give the shooter a edge in a situation similar to the FBI miami shootout.

            There are cases of criminals surviving more than 10 gun shot wounds (and far more than 17), although to me, being able to hit more than a certain number of targets than a 10 round gun is particularly advantageous.

            Who said anything about “missing”? Who ever complained about having ammunition left over?

      • Geodkyt

        Dannye — that is true with MODERN research, based on MODERN JHP designs. All of the American “service calibers” (everything from .38Spl to and through 10mm and .357Mag) perform about the same with modern defensive JHPs.

        In 1986, 9x19mm JHP ammo simply wasn’t very good – the reliably feeding stuff either under penetrated (through over-expansion) or didn’t expand so well (leaving you about the same as if you had used a 10mm/.40 ball round – that’s one reason I started carrying a .45ACP. . . at the time, my JHPs _started_out_ as big as decently penetrating 9x19mm JHPs _ended_up_ if they even achieved maximum expected expansion).

        And the research on terminal effects was even more flawed.
        If you were picking LEA guns in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, “bigger is better” was a _valid_ choice, and the .40S&W ended up being the best balance of “big” with “lots of ammo”.

        If I were picking LEA guns TODAY, I would almost certainly end up selecting a 9x19mm, with the option for officers to private purchase .40 or .45 pistols and ammo off an approved list and qualify with them. (It’s the Indian, not the arrow, as long as the arrow is minimally “good enough”. There’s nothing _bad_ about modern .40 and .45 JHPs in terms of performance – might even have some statistically insignificant advantages – so if a shooter has more confidence with a pistol whose caliber starts with a “4” AND can meet the same qual standards, fine.)

        • dannye

          Expansion seems to me like a red herring. You’re talking millimeters of extra damage at best. It gets you a tiny bit more wiggle room to compensate for bad shot placement. Big deal. Sure, the target will bleed out faster, but you’re not going to get any better results with immediate incapacitation, which is the goal with HD.

          For what it’s worth, Clint Smith @ Thunder Ranch carries ball ammo exclusively for total reliability.

      • Geodkyt

        Of course, all this is only applicable to modern defensive JHPs. If you’re talking Hague-compliant ball ammo, the numbers change.

    • Ken

      They didn’t exactly get rid of it for that. They came up with a lighter load, which became marketed as the 10mm FBI Lite. Then they decided they wanted smaller frame handguns, so S&W shortened the case into something that could fit into a 9mm sized frame while giving the same ballistics as the FBI Lite and came up with the .40 S&W.

      • Rusty Shackleford

        That’s also why the HK MP5/10 wasn’t built to handle regular power 10MM let alone hot loads. Pity

    • It had more to do with size Lance. Even some male agents found the full size S&W to be too large.

      • Jack Morris

        This seems more realistic. I’m an avid shooter and my hands aren’t big enough to properly grasp the frame it takes to hold a double-stack 10mm. Combine an awkward grip with very stout recoil, and I can see where a lot of people would have trouble proficiently shooting a 10mm sidearm.

        I wish my hands were bigger 🙁 The 10mm is one hell of a round!

        • Ken

          Try a Delta Elite, though it’s single stack. I got one as my first handgun and I love it. I don’t find it any harder to control than a .45 ACP 1911. The guy who sold it to me said his Glock 20 is easier to control though probably due to the lower bore axis. I have large hands, so I need to get a Glock 20 at some point.

      • 1911a145acp

        S&W 1006 and FBI spec 1076 were VERY large and heavy. Couldn’t wear it on a dress belt all day and can’t conceal it under a sport coat and it was not “high capacity”. Other issues were smaller statures agents- i.e. Women, Asians and Latinos- ( Don’t intend to sound racist/sexist, but those are the facts) and the fact that full power original NORMA 10mm loads were 170 grn HP at 1300 fps! Those loads tended to over-penetrate, accelerated wear, broke the S&W and put them in the FBI repair shop on a regular basis. FBI wanted a “10mm Lite” and Federal said we can do that AND put it in a 9mm size gun- and the rest, as they say … is history. Except the part where GLOCK beat S&W to market with a 40 S&W gun.

      • Geodkyt

        Before the FBI even adopted the 1076, when they were testing full-house 10mm in converted 1911s, they found they beat the guns to death and the recoil was a problem for MALE shooters (in fact, MOST FBI agents – and female agents were still a tiny minority – had problems with the recoil).
        So, they developed the downloaded 10mm (“10mm FBI Lite”). As Phil says, once they realized that they could get the same perfomance out of a shorter case (the .40S&W), there was NO reason to retain the full sized 1076 frame, when they could get a smaller gun that was easier for both male and female agents to hold, that held more rounds.
        The original commercial 10mm (which is more powerful than the original Jeff Cooper concept and wildcat) is a magnum-class HUNTING round, — the .40S&W is a purpose-designed LEO and self defence round.

        • 1911a145acp

          My recollection is that Col. Cooper envisioned “the Centimeter round” and the Dornus & Dixon BREN 10 to fire it. He reckoned that a one centimeter round (10 millimeters/ .400 inch) 200 grain projectile at 1000 + fps would be an excellent self defense round in terms of stopping power, penetration and manageable recoil. Considering that 40 S&W is likely the most successful new law enforcement sales cartridge in the last three decades, it appears he was spot on.

    • n0truscotsman

      And that was the wrong choice to begin with.

      The Miami firefight, alongside North Hollywood, should have (and did in a few instances) instigated a conversation about long guns, not handgun calibers.

      The 10mm is “good” except isn’t necessarily the most ideal law enforcement caliber for a wide variety of reasons, female agents to blame or not.

      Then to compensate for the obvious shortcomings of the 10mm, the 40 was created because the FBI couldnt and would not admit that they were wrong to begin with. Fortunately, many law enforcement agencies are finally seeing through this pile of manure and transitioning to the more reliable and longer lasting 9mm or 45 ACP cartridges away from the 40 and other “wunder waffe”.

  • Matt

    The FBI AAR is available online if you dig a little. It was released under an FOIA request, I think by Mas Ayoob several years ago. Makes for interesting reading as to what each agent did and was carrying.

    • El Duderino

      I like the write up in Boston T. Party’s “Boston’s Gun Bible.” He really gets into the details of the shootout.

  • iksnilol

    This was back when it was actually worthwhile to rob banks?

    Interesting video I will admit.

    • dan citizen

      Nowadays you can’t rob a bank without submitting your email address, and that’s how you get spam.

      • iksnilol

        Not only that, most of todays money is either traced, rigged with ink packs or non-existent (digital).

        Better to stick to hacking if you want to earn money ilegally.

        • dan citizen

          stealing change from fountains is profitable, you could make $2-$3 a day.

          • El Duderino

            I think hanging out at the overpass with a sign and a mangy dog would garner a bigger score. Unless it’s a really hot day…then the fountain might win 🙂

    • 1911a145acp

      Armored cars mostly.

  • dan citizen

    18 hits for only 104 rounds fired would be enviable today. Most AAR I have seen show much worse ratios.

  • tirod

    Important from the perpective that the decision to confront the perps was badly handled, and the focus on firearms after the fight, a coverup.

    I’d store this right next to the missing doors from the Waco compound in that huge government warehouse that also hides the Ark of the Covenant and debris left from Area 51.

    It was a timely and relevant excuse to start the militarization of law enforcement. Some people with an agenda needed that. Fat cops with submachine guns are the first line of defense against hijackers using airliners on the Twin Towers, right? How many metros are buying MRAPs for their SERT teams now? Mine has.

    Whatever the government owns and uses is what escalates the perps stealing and using. When cops carried .38 revolvers, perps carried .38 revolvers. Now both carry hicap 9mm’s with extra mags. When cops carried shotguns, perps carried shotguns. Now cops are issued fully automatic M16’s on loan from Uncle Sam. Expect perps to gun up, duh.

    Some with great police science skills at the Federal level are being muzzled about this, that’s why you see so many county Sheriffs resisting disarmament in CO, NY, and CT. If the spiraling escalation in guns isn’t stopped at the PD door, then why expect it on the street? Perps are looking to carry the same thing to get respect.

    Those upgunning the national level law enforcement are looking to do something else.

    • n0truscotsman

      “Expect perps to gun up, duh”

      Except they haven’t and there is no evidence to suggest that they are trending towards “gunning up”. Lorcin 25s and Smith 38 revolvers are still the preferred choice.

    • Joe

      The militarization of police is about the least of my concerns with people like you in the world. If you’re trying to argue whether the chicken or egg came first in the street arms race it is a moot point. Technology is advancing and those that have it and employ it properly will have a distinct advantage. Military training of gang members is still a huge concern from when recruitment standards were lowered for Afghanistan/Iraq.

      You reference MRAPs like they have cost local taxpayers millions. I can say that my department spent a couple grand getting ours shipped to us and only has to pay for upkeep. In other words it was basically free. The condition to that is that it is mothballed by the military and they can recall it if they need to. Hence why our only requirement is proper maintenance.

      Full auto M16s from Uncle Sam. Wow. Yeah, again this amazing concept where the government gives or sells at low prices old equipment to police departments to save them money. Our department has quite a few M16A1s, with auto sear removed mind you. Most officers opt for a personally-owned AR but the M16s are still available for issue.

      Back to 1986. The robbers had a Mini-14 and a pistol. The FBI had .38 and .357 revolvers. Yeah, the tactics sucked because they didn’t know any better. However, Charging in on what became two caged animals while being massively out gunned is the real story here. If you seriously think that law enforcement doesn’t need the firepower they currently have then please feel free to take your obviously politically (in what way I’m not sure) motivated keister and drive around handling the dark side of society and dealing with thugs who want to KILL you just because of what you are and see how much firepower you want after one shift.

      • Nicks87

        “our only requirement is proper maintenance”
        One new tire alone costs $500 and that’s without labor included. Also, they get like 3-MPG! How F-ing ridiculous!
        I dont want my tax dollars going to this crap. If you are a cop and you think you need this stuff, you are a coward and need to find new employment.

      • Rusty Shackleford

        Joe, it is people that you who make the worst officers. That type of mentality where you see all people as criminal looking to put a bullet in your back is extremely dangerous, have you heard the saying “When you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail”? Besides, who the hell do you think paid for the damn MRAP’s in the first place? Just because your local PD only paid X amount of dollars doesn’t mean General Dynamic and BAE built them for free.

  • RobGR

    What I find interesting is the back story on these robbers/murderers and how they obtained vehicles and weapons. They would go to shooting spots, find a lone shooter, kill him, take everything he owned, and use it in the robberies. As I recall, I believe they killed two different individuals on two different occasions. So besides the lessons learnt on the day of the shootout by law enforcement, guys who shoot solo in unpopulated areas need to have situational awareness (which should always be the case anyway) and, though it’s good to be trusting of fellow shooters in some respect, don’t be too trusting.

  • Rob Reed

    If you don’t mind me putting this here, I wrote an article on the FBI Miami Shootout a year or so ago. The only reason I mention it is I did include the link to the actual FBI report along with a “round up” of other relevant links. I tried to make it a “one stop reading list” for anyone interested in the fight.


    • Rob Reed

      Ha, I just noticed that’s my version of the video there. I just put the two separate videos together in one since not many people saw the second video with the interviews.

  • Biggiewood

    I clearly remember the events of the North Hollywood shootout, as I was mere blocks from the BofA branch (that I frequently utilized) where that was occurring, as a friend lived there. Somewhat surreal, watching it live on TV, while simultaneously hearing the gunshots through the window.

  • Sledgecrowbar

    With mustaches like those, I’m amazed that any rounds made it through on either side.

  • Nice video sharing.Thanks.