Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Essentials of Combative Pistolcraft: It’s your life…take it seriously!


For those who take their personal security seriously, handguns are not a GQ-like accessory. For the armed professional, the handgun is a tool to be used when faced with the actions of the most dangerous human predator. Every armed professional must be competent under extreme stress but the truth is the majority of gun carriers haven’t mastered the most basic skills that will make them effective combatants.  Many CCW holders do not have a training system, only a requirement that they recertify or qualify every so often. Such qualification/ recertification may be as simple as firing 30 rounds standing still, in full light, in front of an unmoving piece of paper, with no stress or time limitations. There may be no qualification at all…merely a criminal back ground check. I cannot help but ask myself “What are these people prepared for?  In truth, nothing…

I have studied armed conflict my entire adult life and I can tell you, without hesitation, this isn’t what a street-level pistol fight is like. While there is a huge fascination with all things Special Operations in the training community, these heroic men are not pistol fighters. Yes they have them, but they only deploy them if their carbine fails or goes dry. Cops use handguns everyday as it, like the carbine for the warfighter, is their primary weapon. Eric Haney, the author is INSIDE DELTA FORCE and an original member of “the Unit”, once told me he could count on one hand the number of times a Unit member used a handgun in an operation. Studying law enforcement pistol fights is where the best information is derived and I have done this for decades. That said, what most people are doing when they certify for their carry permit is confusing the most basic level of fundamental firearms use with the most advanced physical/emotional demands of an armed confrontation.  It’s the difference between plinking and gunfighting…both involve handguns but are nothing alike! These gun toters, if faced with a real armed threat, will get by on luck alone and my long experience tells me this is not enough. Luck is a fickle lady and like Murphy will always fail you in the clutch…  

Essential Training

The first thing one must ask when truly preparing for armed conflict…especially the close quarter reality of pistol fighting…is what really happens?! It is important to have a true understanding of the dynamics of conflict, not just train the things that are fun.  It starts with an explanation of what shooters will really face during violent incidents. Most (even people who teach combat pistol courses) have no experience with violence and haven’t been in a fight of any type, even a school yard brawl! It’s essential that we instill in every student both the will and the skill to overcome and PREVAIL in any fight.

FACT: The VAST majority of pistol fights are close and fast, usually inside ten feet…twenty at the most. One of my favorite drills is to draw and fire five rounds into a 3 x 5 card (roughly the size of the heart and aorta) at 15 feet and then move laterally for 15 feet and fire again. My thought is five rounds to the heart is about the best one can do with a handgun to create incapacitation and then MOVE to reorient your opponent if they are still in the fight. Additionally, there will be no time to “fight your way to a better gun”.  It is also unlikely there will be a “battlefield pick-up” …you will start and finish the fight with the gun you have on you or in your hand, so train to shoot YOUR gun, not every possible gun in the world. You will have less frustration as you try to improve. Like shooting 200 yard pistol shots? Good, enjoy! But spend most of your training time on close quarter conflict. No, it’s not as much “fun”, but are you training or plinking? In addition, how far away can you tell the difference between a Glock and a TV remote? You must ID the threat before you can engage it. 

FACT: Every time you enter conflict you run the risk of losing regardless of how skillful you are. You need to understand if you cannot win you must MOVE… fast, purposeful movement until you are ready to shoot back ACCURATELY, to a place of cover/concealment or out of the danger  zone entirely is an essential skill.  Do not consider “tactical advancement to the rear” as weakness or cowardice… it may save your life!

FACT: A gun FIGHT, knife FIGHT, fist FIGHT or any fight for that matter is a physical activity. Fast, aggressive movement is very likely so what type of physical condition are you in? Will your heart stand up to sudden physical activity? You do not need to be a physical specimen to be ready for conflict, but if you live on a diet of pizza, Twinkies and beer it will affect you. You need to be physically capable of engaging in a hand to hand fight for at least 30 seconds before transitioning to a gun fight as many close quarter pistol fights start out as physical confrontations, especially in the armed citizen arena.  Eat well and move your body regularly…you will be glad you did!

Essential Skills  

I do not consider pistolcraft skills as “fundamentals” as many do. We can discuss grip, trigger control, stance, breathing etc. if you wish, but these are shooting skills…I am talking about fighting. To me, all of these skills are ESSENTIALS…you must have them all and they are all of equal importance. The essential skills are anything that keeps the gun running in a fight. Trigger control is more important than clearing a stoppage, you say? Maybe, until you need to clear a stoppage while rounds are flying past your head! While it is easy to dismiss training certain skills by saying “as an armed citizen I will never face anything like that” in truth, you are just hiding your head in the sand. No one knows what they will face and I would never try to predict what your confrontation will look like and neither should you! This is gun forum talk from the ignorant that are too lazy or cheap to train and prepare. Talk (as is typing on line)is cheap and easy to do, which is the path that many take in the era of the internet…

The most “essential of essentials” is having a combative mind and this is not listed in the fundamentals of shooting which is another example of the difference between shooting and fighting. Having such a mindset comes from within and takes more commitment than learning to shoot. Once again, it’s much easier to dismiss fact and make excuses than to commit the mind to the ugly reality of conflict. Of course, you can make yourself feel better about your state of affairs by “typing a good fight” on some internet forum.  True preparation is like aging…it’s not for pussies…

I feel the proper combat draw stroke is critical and should be performed with the thought it will be the same if your opponent is 2.5 feet or 25 yards away. It’s not necessarily about a fast draw, but a draw to a close retention position and then straight to the target like a punch.  I like to equate the draw to driving; you steer, accelerate and apply the brakes to arrive when and where you want. The draw is the same…if it does not arrive where you are looking then what good is it? That said, the draw needs to be as fast as possible as fighting is also about time…the more time taken to address the threat, the less likely we are to prevail. When the decision is made to draw the handgun, the movement should be smooth and efficient…read this lack of unnecessary motion…to get the muzzle on the threat NOW! What is often seen is a draw that has the muzzle down mode swinging in an arc or muzzle up also in an arc. We call these arcing motions “bowling” or “casting a fishing rod”. With the muzzle down or up the pistol is open to deflection or disarm, no round can be delivered on the threat as would be the case if the muzzle were straight ahead in a weapon retention position. Again, this position must be achieved as soon as the gun clears the holster pouch or we’ve lost vital time to address the treat. This is another difference between shooting and fighting…

While the gun hand is drawing the pistol, the support hand should be placed in front of the sternum so it is in a position to fight, fend, apply a proper two hand shooting grip or any other function that may be required. If hanging at your side or flat to your belly, it is less likely to be able to perform these necessary tasks.  During a conversation with Jeff Chudwin, noted trainer, law enforcement officer and President of the Illinois Tactical Officer’s Association at the 2015 ILEETA Conference,  Jeff talked about the Zulu warriors of South Africa, some of history’s most feared close quarter battle warriors. In a discussion about close quarter shooting techniques, he showed me the Zulu shield and spear technique with the non-gun hand used to strike, parry and not flat against the body.  Jeff’s point was by making use of both arms and hands we can also gain position, time, control, fight and shoot…a true “multi-task of combat” as it were.  It also showed that using both hands in a fight is nothing new…little in the combative pistol world really is regardless of what some guru tells you…

I have long said that trigger control is weapon control meaning the pressure applied to the trigger via the index finger and hand will affect the alignment of the weapon with the target.  It is quite common to apply rearward pressure to the trigger only to have the whole hand tighten on the grip. When this happens, the muzzle will dip and the bullet will impact low. Everyone…even the world’s best shooters…do this as it is what the hands wants to do, tighten as a unit and not as an individual digit.  After all, you do this thousands of times a day…do you really think just because you hand a handgun in your hand you will instantly stop and just use the index finger? If so, you’re dreaming!  Trigger finger isolation requires a HUGE amount of mental focus and I maintain the best way to do this is dry fire in a quiet room where there is no interruptions. 

Essential Dryfire

A dry fire drill I have adopted was also shared with me by Jeff Chudwin. Jeff explained to place a piece of tape with a small circle drawn on it at face height on a safe backstop. The shooter then touches the muzzle to the tape in the center of the circle and then backs off an inch or so which places the front sight in the circle. Dry fire the gun and concentrate on the front sight and the center of the circle at the same time. If the shooter moves the muzzle via the trigger, they see the front sight drop out of the circle.  This will help to achieve a smooth trigger depression without muzzle movement.  Take this motion to the range by working on 3 x 5 cards at 15-18 feet. The card will be just big enough to see around the front sight so the dip of the sight will be noticeable. The important thing here is to go SLOW AND EASY so you can “feel” improper muzzle motion…it can be done…
Anytime live fire practice is underway, a proper platform or body position should be used. I have had “ex-spurts” (read this as has-been and something that occurs in your under shorts) tell me you will not get the perfect stance in a shootout but what these people do not understand is it is not about foot position…it’s about getting your upper body forward to help control recoil in rapid fire. The position of your feet is irrelevant as a solid position can be achieved with the feet in an infinite number of positions or seated for that matter. That said, when practicing place the feet where they are comfortable FOR YOU! I like my feet wider than shoulder width, but again, that is up to you. Shoulders forward should be built into every shooting position you achieve…

In conclusion, try hard not to fall into fads or cool-looking techniques. Training should be simple, efficient and effective.  If it is not helping you prevail in what we all know is true close quarter conflict, then why are you doing it?


2 comments:

  1. Thanks for the post. People who wants to make their people feel more safe may take help from the Firearms safety training classes as it can help you in getting proper training in firearms to use and move around fearlessly.

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