From The January/February 2009 Reality Check Column
By Clint Smith
Training and practice with backup guns is a mandatory skill
needing to be developed if these types of guns are carried.
We should all understand more often than not we do not know what type of fight we may someday encounter — if ever. This knowledge should embolden handgun carriers to work on diversified techniques. Diversity in training should also mandate to practice things we might often blow off just because they are not “our” technique or style.
It can be said without any reservation the best way to shoot a handgun effectively is to properly align the sights and press the trigger so the trigger manipulation does not “move” the sights off target while the handgun is fired. Please note, I said this was the best way to shoot — I didn’t say it was the only way to shoot. The conditions of “our” fight may not allow us to shoot the best way. In fact we may have to shoot with other techniques to survive.
Training should include moving targets.
Moving targets change the dynamics of shooting. Your eye is drawn to the movement, so the tendency will be to look at the threat. The bigger the threat, the bigger the threat weapon, the more movement the more your “eyes” will be drawn to the threat and away from properly aligned sights. The fight may present the threat visually to you in such a fashion your perception of the situation won’t allow you to focus on a clear sight picture.
Weapon retention practice may prove to be helpful for close range encounters.
Sighted fire is good but if your body is pinned over the hood of your car by a threat, the ability to even draw a holstered gun much less acquire proper sights, will be difficult at best. Fighting on the ground at arms length and closer will present problems needing to be addressed by retention firing practice. The retention technique should be a programmed, conditioned and practiced response while firing the handgun without the use of sights to moderate ranges.
My thought on this is to train with unsighted fire with the intent of creating distance from a threat so I can adjust to sighted fire without the loss of the handgun in a physical fight.
Probably beyond arms length if you could you would be best served by getting the handgun to eye level, and this sets up a discussion about point shooting. Most of the issue with point shooting is made by folks who often want to argue one technique over another. In reality, the logical person would practice retention fire to open the ground so the gun could be raised to eye level (point shooting) without being physically lost. Then, you’d continue to open the ground to get enough space to acquire sighted fire. At what distances these three types of shooting techniques could effectively be used at are based on skill and your willingness to practice.
Diversity in training might mean engaging two targets with your opposite hand.
In many cases gunfights involve more than one person. The “more than one person” can occur on either side of the fight. You need to contemplate multiple threats and keep in mind there may be people present you don’t want to shoot — as in bystanders, fellow officers, friends or family. On one hand I need to train to hit more than one threat, but on the other, while doing it make sure I don’t hit the wrong thing or person. I would suggest multiple targets at varying ranges, as this brings into play the ability to adjust a mental clock programming how much time it will take you to hit targets a varying ranges.
Timing is not an issue. I would always draw at the same speed, no matter what the range, and then simply use whatever time it takes for me to hit the target. This time to hit will vary from person to person and skill level to skill level. Robbie Leatham will draw and need a certain time to successfully hit the plate, and the difference between Robbie and most of us is he knows what that time is — which is why he wins lots of stuff.
I will need a certain amount of time, which I am sure will be a lot more than Mr. Robbie’s. Then again the guy who just bought his first gun last week will need a certain amount of time to draw so as to not shoot himself, and then a certain amount of time to hit the target, which will probably be longer than it took me. The key word or phrase here is hit the target — not simply make the gun go off. Acquiring the mental clock is a skill requiring an awareness the timing issue exists, and to practice setting the clock for the target size and distance. I believe it’s easier said than done, as after 30 years I still work on it every day.
Illumination tool both gun-mounted and hand-held should be applied to training formats.
The use of light sources to find and identify possible threats is probably a wise skill to have. Notice I didn’t say it would be fun — like who wants to turn a light on in a gunfight? What I said is it is a wise and responsible action requiring we practice to obtain these skills. Two forms of use are generally accepted, hand-held lights and gun-mounted light systems. To those who have not used lights very much, the key point is to be aware you are actually dealing with two light sources when the light goes on.
First and most often used is the spot of light generally choreographed or aligned with the muzzle in the gun-mounted format, and this same alignment is also sought after in a hand-held application. The light projected most often that is not used to full advantage, is the arc of light projected by the light system. This arc will generally illuminate most of the area we will be working in. This arc of light, especially on today’s high quality lights, is good enough to see and identify threats in the immediate area around us.
Check out both light areas — the spot and the arc — and practice with both hand-held and gun-mounted systems. The ability to acquire hand-held light skills is easy enough to get. Simply do all your daylight training with the hand-held light in place, to include loading, unloading and malfunction drills. If you learn these skills in the daylight they are often much easier to apply at night. Most hand-held light shooting winds up being one-handed shooting. This is a good reason to use gun-mounted lights and it’s also a good reason to practice hand-held shooting so you get the needed exposure to both techniques.
At short range in withdrawal, point shooting may come into good use.
Off-or One-Hand Shooting
I have never been fond of calling my opposite hand my weak hand but this may simply be a play on words. I prefer instead to simply call it my other hand, and I would work with both hands and both eyes in one hand, unsupported firing practice as much as possible. This should include drawing and loading and in an advanced format, even malfunction clearance.
Training should include firearms deployment from awkward positions.
Firing from other than normal positions might help improve overall defensive skills.
Awkward Shooting Positions
This might seem weird to some that I mention strange or awkward position shooting, but I base this on a lot of things. As one example, I just watched a video of a real gun fight where the cop is on one side of the car while the bad guy is on the other. They are both using the rear wheels of the same car for cover and sort of lying, kneeling, squatting and shooting at each other under the car. It’s probably not going to get much more awkward than that. The cop in this video uses the wheel cover better, while the bad guy — laying on his side — forgets to conceal his legs. Guess what the cop shot?
Anybody can train and shoot on a nice sunny day.
Sometimes the environment you fight in will be different.
Imagination + Diversity = Skill?
Imagination is the ability to form a mental image of something not present or to confront and deal with problems. Diversity is the act of being or doing things differently, maybe in this instance to train differently than is normal or to train outside one’s personal comfort zone. Skill then is the ability use your learned and practiced knowledge effectively and competently to save your life.
There’s a thought — competence with a firearm means you could maybe save your life?
I think I’ll go shoot some ground fighting drills with my left-hand on two targets that are moving.