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Authors Posts by John Mosby

John Mosby

John Mosby
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John Mosby is the pseudonym of a former US Army special operations soldier, who blogs intermittently about preparedness security issues, and surviving the decline of empire through traditional human methods and sociology, at mountainguerrilla.wordpress.com. He lives with his family outside of a small village, somewhere in the mountains. He is the author of three books, The Reluctant Partisan, Vol 1: The Guerrilla, The Reluctant Partisan, Vol 2: The Underground, and Forging the Hero: A Tribal Strategy for Building Resilient Communities for Surviving the Decline of Empire. He is currently at work on his fourth book, A Home in Hyperborea: The Post-Modern Barbarian's Guide to Proven Methods for Survival Preparedness.

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During a recent Clandestine Carry Pistol course, at Cowtown Range, in Phoenix, Arizona, one of the students asked me a question that, in one form or another, I am asked at pretty much every class I teach, and in numerous emails weekly. That question is, “What are your favorite training drills?

It’s a good question,  but a tough one to answer, because it requires clarification. How are we defining “favorite?” Are we defining it as the drills I think are fun to shoot, regardless of practice value, or are we looking for the drills I think are most important to successful improvement of my abilities behind the gun? Assuming most interrogators are seeking an answer to the latter, then we have to clarify, what specific aspects are you trying to improve?

Assuming that most are seeking the drills I believe offer the most benefit, across the range of skills needed to employ a firearm in the combative, anti-personnel role, below, I’ve listed my five favorite drills, including why I believe they are important, and a couple ways that some of them can be modified for additional training benefit.

Fundamental Aspects of Combative Shooting

In my classes, books, and articles, I’ve repeatedly made the point that there are three fundamental aspects of employing a firearm in a combative encounter. In the modern world, regardless of context—armed citizen, sworn peace officer, or combat soldier in a war zone—they ALWAYS apply, in this day and age.

1. You need to be able to hit what you need to hit, as many times as necessary, to elicit the desired response. In some cases, it may simply require pointing the gun at the bad guy, or a single shot, delivered anywhere on his body may be adequate. In more extreme cases, three or thirteen rounds to the upper thoracic cavity may be what it takes. In some cases, you may have to take the head shot, or you may have just their knee, hand, or part of their face exposed for the shot. You need to be able to hit, what you need to hit.

2. You need to be able to introduce the gun to the fight, in time for it to play a decisive role in the outcome of the encounter. In a three-second gunfight, having a four-second draw from concealment means, you aren’t in a gunfight…you’re a shooting victim. If an enemy combatant is maneuvering towards you in 3-5 second rushes, and it takes you 6-7 seconds to get into a suitable firing position and fire your carbine, you’re probably going to get beat to death with the butt of his rifle when he finally gets to you.

3. Under physiological stress, you need to be able to achieve 1 and 2, utilizing contextual decision-making regarding who and what you should be shooting, when. If you’ve never tried to shoot more accurately than an entire IDPA silhouette, at 21 feet, but now, you’re presented with a head shot requirement, at 30 feet, guess what? You cannot—responsibly—take that shot. You MIGHT be able to take it, and you MIGHT get lucky enough to get the hit, but making THAT decision is part of number 3. “What is the potential result if I miss, since I am probably going to, never having tried such a difficult shot in practice?” As I point out, ad nauseum, shooting bystanders does not generally solve the problem of stopping an armed, aggressive assailant.

Most of us—all of us really, in the days of cell phone cameras with Internet access built in—do not live in free-fire zones, where we can use a “Mad Minute” of rapid-fire mag dumps in the hope of hitting, or at least “pinning down,” an attacker or hostile belligerent. Even a uniformed serviceman, fighting in a war torn Third World city, if he starts smoke-checking unarmed women and kids, is going to face grievous penalties. We exist in a world where there ARE innocent bystanders, including pregnant mothers and young children. We exist in a world were, even if he was shooting at you moments ago, once a dude drops his gun and “reaches for the sky,” you’d better not shoot; all macho posturing aside, if you shoot him anyway, and there WILL be witness, pre- or post-mortem—and probably video as well—that will be used to ruin your life.

The Fab Five

1. Group Shooting: Whether we call it “group shooting” with the carbine, or “the Dot Drill” with the pistol, I find that wringing out the maximum level of precision and accuracy that we are capable of with the gun, should be the cornerstone of the foundation of good combative shooting. While it is popular in some circles to blather on about “combat accuracy,” and shooting the entire silhouette being “good enough,” it is an old truism in combat marksmanship training, that your accuracy degrades significantly under the physiological stress of a gunfight. Starting with a high level of accuracy and precision gives you more leeway for achieving the three fundamental aspects of combative shooting, if this does happen to you.

2. Snap Drills: I’ve written extensively about the importance of “Snap Drills,” with both carbine and pistol, including a recent article on PreparedGunOwners.com, HERE.

3. The Rhythm Drill/”Bill Drill”: The Rhythm Drill (one variant is called the “Bill Drill,” after Bill Wilson, founder of Wilson Combat, and one of the founders of the International Defensive Pistol Association—IDPA) is an important drill for learning to shoot multiple shot strings quickly and accurately. It is useful for teaching the shooter to find the pace at which they are able to fire, then reacquire a hit picture, make the decision to fire again, and then break the shot, without missing. If we are shooting a very staccato, rhythmless string of fire, in many cases, it may be that we are not managing the gun efficiently. This can range from needing to fix our grip on the gun, to the very real occurrence of we’re not actually seeing our sights on the very quick shots, while we’re taking too long to dial in our sight picture on others. Forcing ourselves to stay on a solid, fast rhythm, in training, teaches us to take the available time to find our sight picture and prep the trigger for the next shot, and then break the shot.

4. VTAC 1-5: This drill gets double billing. Not only do I believe it to be an extremely useful drill for developing a number of significantly important skills, it is also a whole lot of fun to shoot, once you start getting good at it. It is the closest thing to a “mag dump” drill you’ll ever see me run or teach, in a class.

In addition to basically shooting a “rhythm drill” on each individual target, it allows you to practice shooting the same rhythm BETWEEN targets. This forces you to drive the gun from target to target more aggressively, leading to better, faster transitions.

Invariably, in the classes when I remember to have students do it this way, students who run this drill before I teach them to use the rhythm drill on transitions, and then run it again after, we see a noticeable improvement. On the initial runs, students will fire noticeably faster strings on some targets (typically the fourth and fifth target), but—invariably—the overall elapsed time for completing the drill is significantly faster once they begin applying the rhythm drill. Using the Rhythm Drill between targets, as well as on targets leads to faster times on this drill, which allows us to use this to teach and practice a large number of very important skills, in one drill.

In fact, incorporating a mandatory speed reload after the third target, does a really good job of making this drill a spectacular replacement in the training tool  box, for the classic “El Prez.” It achieves everything that “El Prez” does—multiple shots on multiple target transitions, at a high rate of speed, and a speed reload to really disrupt the rhythm and timing—while avoiding the major detriment of “El Prez,” namely, hardwiring the “double tap,” “controlled pairs,” or “hammers,” as a default into the shooting program.

I’ve had students who had shot “El Prez” consistently enough to know both their average time and PR time, who ran “El Prez,” and then ran what I jokingly refer to as the “El Prez 1-5,” against each other. Despite firing MORE rounds in “El Prez 1-5,” (15 rounds, versus 12 rounds to run “El Prez,”) and despite using a significantly smaller “A-Zone” (I use 4×6 index cards in classes), they have managed to drop significant time on the “El Prez 1-5” versus the standard “El Prez”…once they had learned to use the Rhythm Drill to their advantage.

5. Third Grade Math: I stole this drill from Frank Proctor, at Way of the Gun, the very first time I saw a video of it being run. In fact, I’ve been using it so long now, I’m not entirely sure I even run it the exact way that Frank prescribes. It is a solid decision-making drill that does a good job of building your ability to perform Fundamental Aspect #3, while executing a shooting problem. It incorporates multiple potentially “correct” solutions, requiring some pretty high-order thinking. If the “sum” numbers are kept low, it is also a relatively inexpensive drill to run, in regard to ammunition, while still being efficient at achieving its purpose.

When I teach it, I use up to 8-9 targets, numbered from 2 and up. I never use a number 1 target anymore, because I found that everyone defaulted to shooting the 1 target, in the quest to make it easier.

One of the two major modifications I use for it is, whether running it with pistol or carbine, I require the shooter to move to a position of cover after the first target has been engaged, before they can engage the second target. For example, the shooter draws, say “8.” She shoots the “2” target twice. Before she can engage the “6,” she has to move to a position of cover. Since I intersperse the targets, randomly, but in pretty tight confines, occasionally, upon moving to a position of cover, she may discover she physically cannot shoot the “6” from there, so she has to maneuver to a new position from which she can.

Another variation I like to incorporate is to have some numbers missing, and multiple targets with the same numbers on them. So, I have ten targets arrayed, numbered 2-9, there are two targets that don’t have numbers on them, right? So, I’ll put numbers on them as well, and from the first eight, I might change 3, and 5. Now, I might have one 2, two 4, two 6, one 7, one 8, and three 9. Now, the shooter draws “8.” They might shoot 2 and 6 (or 6 and 2), or they might shoot two different 4. Both are “correct.” They just have to up their mind about which one they’re going to do, and then do it.

Maybe, they draw 7. How can they shoot two different targets that equal 7, in the array described above? They can’t. So, while almost invariably, a shooter will start out by blasting away at 2, or 4, or even 6, they suddenly realize, there’s no way to complete the drill. Sometimes, they just start blasting away—inexplicably—at some other target. Sometimes, they just go, “Uh, wait, what!?” At least once, I’ve seen a student, in a class, throw down their rifle in disgust and frustration. What is the “correct” solution? Don’t shoot! There is no way, within the context of the drill, to solve the problem with gunfire.

This last example illustrates one method that this drill uses to force students to take in ALL of the available incoming data from the battlespace, BEFORE they start blasting…pretty critical in a world of off-duty LEO and CCW permittees, if you decide to whip out your CCW piece, in response to a shooting event in the real-world, don’t you think? It’s not particularly popular, but I believe it is absolutely morally crucial, for combative shooting trainers to—at least occasionally—incorporate “no shoot” solutions into training classes, especially in an industry where in the typical class, we see every iteration require high-volume, high-speed shooting as the solution to EVERY drill.

So, there you have it…my Fab Five Favorite Drills for training, and practicing the three fundamental aspects of combative shooting.

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The “tactical shooting” training industry has grown exponentially over the last decade plus …

From a few schools, generally run by competitive IPSC/IDPA or Three-Gun shooters or by former LEO with some military background in there years before, we’ve seen an industry grow, with thousands of schools, ranging from mom-and-pop operations run by some local fellow, to a major growth in schools run by military SOF veterans with known, bona fide mankilling credentials. While the merits of one versus the other are certainly open to debate, one thing has really leapt out at me, as I watched this growth occur.

We spend a lot of time, as teachers—if we’re any good at it, at least—telling people to “focus on the fundamentals,” and “there are no advanced gunfights.” Despite that, there seems to have been an interesting trend to move away from the basic, fundamental drills that most of us practiced as we were learning the skills, to more “advanced,” “dynamic” drills. The most obvious of these is the trend to get away from simple “snap drills,” often derided as “UP! Drills,” after the shooter command of, “Shooter, ready?…and…up!” I’ve watched as guys coming out of a variety of units, with legit backgrounds as shooters, both SOF and Big Green, do anything they can to move away from this very basic, almost mind-numbingly monotonous drill. I understand that the basic snap drill can be overused, but almost too often, it has become underutilized, leaving many of its greatest benefits laying in the dust with the bathwater.

How is that possible? Trainers had a tendency to rely on the drill—especially in the military, but no less in the civilian training industry—because it’s simple, easy to run on a square range with a large number of moderately—or even barely—trained shooters. That’s good, because it’s actually a very useful drill. In many ways, in fact, it is the single most useful drill we have for teaching effective combat shooting, whether with carbine or pistol.

The problem arises due to a lack of understanding of how to leverage the maximum amount of benefit out of that drill. When it simply becomes a rote thing, with no metric for performance and improvement, then it loses the vast majority of its potential for benefit.

The Benefits

So, how can the most basic, beginner level close-quarters marksmanship drill actually be the most important drill available? Well, as any good shooter—and all the great shooters—will tell you, advanced shooting skill is simply a mastery of the fundamentals. That’s obvious though, right?

The fact is, the single most important shot you will take in a fight, regardless of all other contextual considerations, is the first shot you fire. It doesn’t matter what gun you’re running. That shot needs to be accurate enough, and arrive soon enough, to rob the opposition of the initiative. So, developing speed and accuracy for that first shot is critical. The best way to do that? Master the snap drill, and make it a religious part of your practice regimen.

What about all the cool-guy, go-fast drills that have you performing mag-dump after mag-dump on the range, focused on split-times, transitions between targets, and all the other “chicks-dig-it,” Jedi gunfighter tricks? I’m not saying those are unimportant. What I am saying is this;

1.) If you smoke your first round into the dude’s grape…or, well, pretty much anywhere on his body, there is a significant chance that it is going to interfere with his actions long enough to buy you a margin of time. If your split-times between follow-up shots are slow, but you’ve “interrupted his OODA loop” (I’ve really grown to hate that term!!!) by putting a hole in him, guess what? You’re probably going to get a chance to shoot him again, even with a slow split-time.

Yes, you should be able to engage with multiple, aimed rounds, at a high rate of fire, in order to “shoot him to the ground.” Nevertheless, getting that first hit on meat will go a long way towards allowing you to get the others, even if you’re not a Master or Grandmaster competitive shooter.

2.) One of the most important things we learn when we do the snap drill correctly, is exactly how much precision we need, in order to get as fast as we can get, at different ranges. I need a lot less precision with my carbine, to get a head shot, in less than one second, at 10 meters, than I do to get a torso shot in less than one second, at 100 meters. This carries over to target-to-target transitions, because our neural pathways, between eyes, brain, and trigger finger, are being exercised and trained to recognize how much is “enough.” Accuracy and precision are critical, but there is a lot of truth to the old adage that, “perfect is the enemy of good enough.”

3.) Building the neural pathways to build a solid, stable, durable, firing position that allows you to get a fast, first-round hit at various ranges, will facilitate all the other shooting skills you need with that particular weapon.

How Do I Do It Right?

The first step in utilizing snap drills to their full benefit is establishing metrics. How are you going to define success. Just by hitting a silhouette? That’s a standard that caused a whole load of heartache within most of the military, when after-action reviews started coming back, that recognized the importance of precision in close-quarters marksmanship in places crowded with no-shoots, like a house in downtown Baghdad, full of women and children.

Seriously, being able to hit a silhouette at 10-25 M is a really, really bad joke. It’s so far beyond simple that it’s below inadequate, if you consider yourself a trained shooter. Step one then, should be defining a more stringent metric for accuracy. I firmly believe, if you’re aspiring to “trained shooter” status, at distances out to 10-25M, or closer, a target the size of an index card should be the metric. For casual shooters, or the average student, “simply” concerned about home defense, I MIGHT be willing to concede that A-Zone hits on an IPSC silhouette are adequate. I tend to be lazy, and don’t like to walk downrange after every shot to record, so I tend to resort to using a 6” steel plate at anything over 10 meters, which is still roughly half of an A-Zone.

At 50-100 meters, I believe that a C-Zone silhouette is adequate for most purposes and most people. If you look at the size of it, it is roughly the same size as the center portion of the upper thoracic cavity of an adult male. That’s “enough” precision, even at 200 meters. If you end up being a little outside in the real world? A rifle round will still ruin his week, and still slow him down enough to allow you a follow-up shot. Further, there’s nothing stopping you from using a smaller target, once you’ve gotten consistent on the C-Zone. When I got to the point that I could hit the C-Zone in less than 1.00 seconds, 99% of the time, I graduated to shooting an 8” plate.

One issue that I’ve seen a lot in training classes that I’ve taught, is that we tend to have a traditional, American view of marksmanship as being, “I kin shoot a gnat off a fly’s butt at 300 yards, by Gawd!” People are looking for far more precision than is necessary. Don’t get me wrong, I love shooting for precision. I start and finish every range session running dot drills to master marksmanship precision. Unfortunately, that level of precision needed to punch a one-hole group with ten rounds may take more time than we’re going to have available in a fight, when the other dude is trying to interject his opinions into the conversation. He isn’t likely to be nearly as concerned about precision, or bystanders, and even if he “just” shoots you in the leg or arm, it is likely to have a seriously detrimental effect on your precision anyway, so you have to learn to recognize what is “good enough,” and how to accept that.

Unremarkably, this issue most commonly arises, in my experience, when a fellow is running a magnified optic on a carbine. I love optics. I will never willingly move to the sound of the guns with a rifle that is not equipped with a decent, low-powered, variable optic. Unfortunately though, too often people don’t understand that just because you can be more precise with an optic doesn’t mean that doing so is always the right choice. This isn’t an attack on precision. As I noted above, once we’ve balanced “precise enough,” with “fast enough,” we can—and should—begin looking at tightening up how we define “precise enough.”

So, step one in correctly utilizing the snap drill is establishing an effective level of “precise enough.”

Once you have established your precision metric, stick to it, but start focusing on achieving it faster. How fast is “fast enough?” I can’t tell you. If you’re stuck fighting a guy who is not really committed, and is a lousy shot, five or six seconds might be “fast enough.” On the other hand, if you’ve got a trained, aggressive shooter, with a lot of gunfights under his belt, sub-1:00 might barely be fast enough…or it might not be fast enough at all.

For the carbine, generally speaking, I tell people that, realistically, from the standing, low ready, they need to be able to move into any given firing position, and engage a target of the above dimensions, with at least one aimed shot, in less than three seconds. Why?

Because, doctrinally, we teach the use of a 3-5 second rush, and under fire, that really does tend to shorten towards the three second end of the spectrum, for obvious reasons. If I can get a hit in less than three seconds, on a reduced-size target, when responding to an external cue (such as the start signal of the shot timer), and the dude takes three seconds to get to a position of cover, then I’ve got a pretty solid chance of getting at least one round into him. Whether that one round drops him where he is, or he gets to cover and then tries to move again, it’s still probably, generally, going to slow his roll a little bit, increasing the odds that I’m going to get to him again.

Anyone of reasonable health and fitness can achieve a sub-3:00 second first round hit snap drill, even if they’re dropping into the prone. Seriously, I’ve seen 60 year old, overweight grandmas, with heart conditions achieve it, in less than an hour of training. If you can’t? Take up cooking. You’ll be more useful to society, and you’ll live longer.

With a sidearm, especially your concealed carry piece—which, let’s be honest, we are far, far more likely to need to use, if we look at historical statistical precedence—there’s no reason that someone with a modicum of training and practice can’t hit a sub-1:50 draw to first shot—to an index card—at 10 yards/30 feet. Again, I’ve watched more than one grandmother do it, with very little training and practice.

Ultimately, you should be pushing those speed barriers, and exceeding them, as long as you’re still shooting “precise enough.” When you find a barrier that you can’t cross, without missing, it’s time to focus on solidifying your skill at that speed. Focus on performing the skill properly, at speed, and pretty soon, you’ll be able to break your new barrier. This is not about “how fast can I shoot?” It’s about “how fast can I shoot properly and effectively?”  As the adage goes, “you can’t miss fast enough to win.”

The problem with the time metrics on the snap drill that has often arisen in the military, is the lack of emphasis on that metric. For entirely too long, the mantra has always been, “slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.” While appealing, it’s only partially true. Yes, in order to go fast, you’re going to have to have smooth, well-developed biomechanics. Unless you’re willing to push your speed until your biomechanics start becoming “not smooth,” though, and then focus on making them smooth again, at the faster speed, you’re just engaged in martial masturbation. It’s like doing strip mall dojo karate, with a gun.

The potential drawback to the time metric though, is when it becomes The Goal. That’s not the way it is supposed to work. It’s just a metric. It’s a way to measure performance. That’s the problem with standards. If you establish them low enough for people to achieve easily, they achieve that, and say, “Meh, I’m good enough. I met the standards.” If you set them high enough that they might actually be, “good enough,” then people get discouraged and give up. So, your “standard” should be “precise enough,” as fast as you can, and then, a little faster.

Of Carbines and Pistols

Most people are at least passingly familiar with the basic snap drill, in the variation of the “UP! Drill,” fired at close-quarters distances, with the carbine. Limiting ourselves to this however, does a great disservice to what is an excellent all-around shooting drill. While the basic standing snap drill should play an important role in your practice, there are other variations that are just as important. Some variations I like to incorporate include firing from different positions at different ranges.

For example, instead of limiting myself to 100 meters, from the standing, I might decide today, we’re going to start in the standing ready position, but we’re going to drop into the prone or squatting position, and shoot at 200 meters. Again, with even just a little bit of practice, I’ve seen people hit this in 2:00-2:50 seconds, consistently.

Another variation is with the concealed carry pistol. This is a regular portion of every single range session I do with my CCW pistol. At 30 feet, I’m trying to hit an index card, with one shot, as fast as I can, from the holster. I can consistently hit this in the 0.9-1.25 second range. I’ve seen other people hit 1:25-1:50 seconds, in a half-hour of trying, after insisting that it was impossible to draw from concealment in less than 2:00 seconds.

The point is not “look how cool I am.” The point is, these are metrics that are achievable, by real people, in real life, with varying levels of training and experience. Utilizing the basic snap drill, in different variations, allowed them to achieve a skill level—assuming they continue to practice it—that they previously though they were incapable of. It’s that important a drill.

It’s Not About Shooting Faster!

The purpose of the snap drill is not about shooting faster though. In the real world, shooting faster tends to have deleterious effects, like shooting the wrong person, because you shot before your brain could catch up and tell you that it is a twelve year Catholic school girl, not an MS13 gangster.

Our goal should be to shoot “sooner.” What’s the difference?

Shooting sooner is about working the problem correctly, and only making legitimate shots, as soon as possible. That requires more than a fast target acquisition and a quick trigger finger though. It involves knowing and understanding what the parameters are that allow for a legitimate shot, in your circumstances, and only then, breaking a fast, accurate shot. Being able to recognize what is “precise enough,” and then being able to deliver it “fast enough,” will allow you to shoot sooner, after the decision-making process has allowed you positively identify your target as a legitimate target. The time metric simply forces you to accept “precise enough,” instead of pushing for “absolute precision.”

Snap drills will help develop your ability to make the decision that “this is accurate enough,” at the speed you’re capable of making the hit. Whether it’s the first shot of the fight, or it’s the first shot on the last bad guy standing; even if it’s the second or third shot in a string of shots, to put some dude on the pavement, that recognition of “this is accurate enough,: is invaluably developed with snap drills, conducted to a time standard.

Conclusion

I am not suggesting that you shouldn’t perform other drills. The basic snap drill though, should be a bread-and-butter staple of your practice diet. It will increase your ability to deliver a solid, first shot hit that may allow you more of a window to get follow-on hits. It will increase your ability to recognize “this is accurate enough,” when “perfect is the enemy of good enough.”

I’ve repeatedly explained to students—and I believe it to the depths of my shooting soul—that, other than a firearm (and a holster, if we’re talking about handgun work), the single most important training tool you have available to you is a shot timer. While ammunition is obviously necessary for live-fire training, I’d take a guy who has a pile of good dry-fire training, on a shot timer, over the dude who has plinked at targets with live-fire, but has no metric of performance, any day of the week, and twice on Sundays.

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One of the long-running themes of my blog, Mountain Guerrilla, is the importance of focusing on underlying concepts and philosophies, rather than technical dogma. That applies to shooting as much as it does to preparedness generalities. I am a geek, down to my soul, and I wholeheartedly believe in the importance of the “philosophy of ideas.”

My overriding goal, from the beginning of the blog—and really, the reason the blog was started in the first place—was to act as an objective, outside voice, to help readers begin to recognize, and hopefully overcome, some of the cognitive biases and group-think errors so prevalent within the culture of preparedness. That emphasis on metacognitive considerations has not changed, even as the focus of the blog has moved away from sheer technical datum to a greater emphasis on my philosophy of emigrating outside of the failing imperial civilization.

I have always, and probably always will, write training- and gear-specific articles, but the blog was never about “training” or gear, specifically. As I pointed out from the very beginning of my efforts, any infantryman with even one enlistment under his belt, could teach basic tactics and riflecraft. Any graduate of any of the myriad combative pistol courses could—theoretically—come up with a syllabus and begin teaching basic combative pistol skills. Anyone who has lived in a few sketchy neighborhoods, and survived to adulthood, could—again, theoretically—sit down, write up a course on urban survival, and begin teaching it. All it would take is the ability to look at their experiences objectively, and determine causation versus correlation in what they determined were the key skills, and then focus on solutions for the causal factors that concerned them.

My goal has been to move readers past the elementary grammar phase (to borrow a concept from the classical education Trivium) on to some of the processes necessary to not just learn and teach those methods around you, but to discover the underlying principles behind those skills, allowing the individual to modify them to fit their specific need, in a way that is “relevant to reality,” rather than fitting the hyperbolic fantasies of dystopian fiction and political pandering.

The Socratic Method

One of the key elements in achieving this, in my experience, has been the development of a method for forcing myself, students, and colleagues, to think “outside of the box, in order to provide answers to questions that we maybe should have been asking, had we even known the questions existed. One of the most useful is The Socratic Method.

The Socratic Method, or “Socratic Debate,” is a method of inquiry and discussion that serves as a method of hypothesis elimination, through the deliberate asking and answering of questions. It is a tool utilized to stimulate critical thinking, in order to provide clearer illumination, in our effort to reach “better,” if not “best” hypotheses, in the search for solutions to problems. This is achieved, within The Socratic Method, by identifying and eliminating competing hypotheses, among those available, that lead to contradictions.

In its simplest form, The Socratic Method is just a series of questions, with the simplest but most useful, often simply being, “why?” in order to formulate tests of logic and fact. It can help us determine where the line of division exists between the actual facts about a subject, versus what are simply our beliefs—our preconceived biases—about that subject.

A History Lesson

In the 5th Century BCE, there was a class of professional teachers in Athens called “Sophists.” These teachers specialized in using the tools of philosophy and rhetoric to entertain, impress, and hopefully persuade those sons of gentility that could afford their lessons, to accept their arguments. In counter to the Sophists, Aristotle credited Socrates with developing an alternative method of using definition, induction, and deduction, to learn and teach. Plato famously formalized The Socratic Method in his earlier Dialogues (for a more in-depth discussion of induction vs. deduction in logical thought, within the context of intelligence analysis for preparedness, see my book, The Reluctant Partisan, Vol 2: The Underground), by portraying Socrates engaging in this method to interrogate his fellow citizens about moral and epistemological issues before becoming more Dialectic in his methods, while Diogenes Laertus credited Protagorus with the development of the method.

The Method In Action

Regardless of the actual development of the method, the central technique of Socratic Debate is called “Elenchus,: and simply refers to cross-examination for the purpose of refutation. In Plato’s early Dialogues, this cross-examination is the method Socrates used—as one example—to determine the definition of justice. It was comprised of four steps:

  1. The interlocutor asserts a hypothesis: “We need to have a minimum of one year of food storage,” which Socrates considers false, or incorrect—the two are NOT synonymous, from a philosophical perspective—and so, he decides to refute the assertion.
  2. Socrates secures the interlocutor’s agreement to further premises that are based on the original thesis, such as, “We need food, or we’ll starve, correct?” and “We can’t hunt for our food, because all the hillbillies will be out there hunting the same deer, right?” and “The deer will be extinct in a month or two, right?” as well as the ever popular, “90% of the US population will die in the first 30 days of a grid-down event, correct?
  3. Socrates then argues, and the interlocutor is forced, logically, to agree, that these further premises—to which he has agreed—actually imply that the contrary of the original thesis is more accurate: “We do NOT need food storage for one year, because most people will be dead before all the food is gone, and then we’ll be able to gather what we need, for free.
  4. Socrates then claims that he has shown his interlocutor’s thesis to be false or incorrect, and that its negation is true.

Shortcomings

The problem that has been brought to light, of course, is that Step Four above, is nonsense. Having demonstrated that a given thesis is flawed on some grounds, is not sufficient to a) prove that the basic thesis (“We should have a year’s supply of food stored!”) is false, or b) that the alternative theory MUST be true. Rather, the discussion has reached a state of aporia; an improved state of still not knowing the “best,” but having a better understanding of what is “not best.”

Ultimately, the exact nature of this cross-examination—elenchus—is open to discussion and debate, itself. Is it a positive method, leading to knowledge, or is it a negative method, useful solely for the purpose of refuting false claims to knowledge.

Unlike his opposition among the Sophists, Socrates did believe that knowledge was possible, as long as one was able to take the first step of recognizing their own ignorance. The Dunning-Kruger Effect being what it is, this is a concept that the vast, vast majority of modern Americans, including within the preparedness culture, could profit from spending some introspective navel-gazing time considering.

Socrates himself claimed that he didn’t know anything. By this, of course, he was emphasizing that he didn’t know anything. The only way he was wiser than those around him, he claimed, was that he was conscious of his own ignorance, while they were not. The essence of the Socratic Method then, is to convince the interlocutor that, whereas he thought he knew something, in point of fact, he did not, because he could not.

This is the value that the Socratic Method offers those who would be prepared. It gives us the opportunity to determine what we know, versus what we believe.

Modern Applications

Socrates generally applied his techniques to those concepts that lacked concrete definitions. These included things like moral concepts, such as courage, justice, etc. This challenged the cherished moral beliefs of the interlocutor, pointing out inadequacies and inconsistencies in their beliefs, ultimately resulting in aporia.

The contemporary use of The Socratic Method, compared to Socrates’ use of this method, are not equivalent. Socrates did not—or at least, rarely—use the method to develop consistent theories. Instead of arriving at answers, he used the method to break down theories that were held, to go beyond the platitudes that we take as “truths.”

Examples of this can be seen in almost every single “truth” we take for granted in modern shooting, preparedness, and political culture.

Jim: Smart preppers will move to small, rural communities, because they are safer retreat locations than large cities, because large cities are festering with crime and poverty!

Socrates: Fair enough. Small towns have crime and poverty as well though, right?

Jim: Well, yes. Of course.

Socrates: Small town people tend to be closer knit, with shared values, and people know each other’s business, as well, right? Keeps them safe, when there are no secrets, correct?

Jim: Often enough, yeah.

Socrates: Large cities often have safe neighborhoods of shared cultural values, within their boundaries, correct? Say, a Little Mexico, or a Little Dublin?

Jim: I suppose so, sure…

Socrates: A densely packed, urban neighborhood, assuming it is one of the safe neighborhoods, has more people available to mount an adequate defense against aggressors, right?

Jim: Well, yeah, I guess that might be true.

Socrates: And, in a world of modern, industrialized, monoculture agriculture, there’s probably a better chance of finding a warehouse full of a variety of good, and more manufacturing capabilities to rebuild necessary technology, in a large urban area than in a small community, correct?

Jim: Probably? I suppose, yeah.

Socrates: So, perhaps, small, rural towns are neither safer, nor more dangerous, than a well-selected neighborhood in a large urban area…

Jim: Well….but….uhm…..

Of course, that’s neither going to end the argument, nor change Jim’s mind about the benefits of living in the sticks. That’s okay. What Socrates actually wants for Jim, is for Jim to develop a framework to question his assumptions and conclusions, and perhaps discover that his preparations are not perfect, or even “better,” and thus have the capacity to overcome his cognitive biases, in order to improve.

In another example, common to the preparedness cycle, we have a discussion about caliber selection:

Mel: I need a .308 Main Battle Rifle, because “it turns cover into concealment!” It’s more accurate at long range too! You can keep your silly mousegun!

Socrates: The .308 has better penetration than the 5.56? This makes it a better caliber?

Mel: Yes! Of course!

Socrates: Just to make sure we agree….308 is better than 5.56 because it penetrates better, right?

Mel: Yeah, like I said!

Socrates: You’ve seen the body armor testing I sent you, that clearly shows 5.56 M855 and M193 both, punching through body armor that stopped all the varieties of .308 and 7.62x51NATO that they tested. Right?

Mel: Uhm, yeah…but…well…in general, I mean, .308 will punch through stuff that 5.56 won’t!

Socrates: Do you accept that the difference between cover and concealment is that cover stops incoming projectiles, while concealment simply hides you from observation?

Mel: Of course! I’ve read the field manuals!

Socrates: And, as a “long-range shooter,” I’m sure you are well-versed in the fact that 5.56 has been the consistent winner in long-range National Match at Wimbledon for some time now, right? It is demonstrably true that .308 is NOT more accurate at long-range than 5.56 is, right?

Mel: Well, yeah, but that is just punching paper. It’s not real.

Socrates: If “cover” stops incoming projectiles, but .308 will penetrate it, then your “cover” was always merely “concealment,” and since 5.56 will penetrate body armor that stops your .308, and since National Match high-power is regularly won with 5.56, then your conclusion is flawed.

Mel: Well…..crap!

As in the previous example, this is not going to change the interlocutor’s mind. It has two purposes. First, to provide the interlocutor with a more robust means of questioning his own hypotheses, and second, to illustrate the fallacies of the interlocutor’s arguments to witnesses, and perhaps keep them from being led down the same silly trails.

Conclusions

Stop. Seriously, just stop. Stop assuming that, because you read a couple of books by “survivalism experts,” that you know everything you need to know about preparedness. Question every conclusion that you’ve drawn from your reading and study. Question the credentials of the experts.

It was pointed out to me once, that “experts” have a lot of knowledge. Inarguable, right? Otherwise, they wouldn’t be experts. The important question however, is two-fold:

  1. Is it knowledge, or is it supposition and belief? Is it predicated on factual, provable history, or is it theory, developed through uneducated imagination?
  2. If it is, in fact, knowledge, is it relevant to your reality?

There has been a tidal wave of change in the preparedness culture in recent years. The teachers available, in all areas of preparedness, have grown exponentially. We’ve gone from reading books written by people who had read some books, and maybe taken a couple weeks of training here and there, to combat veterans who have not only trained at those schools, but then actually put their training to the crucible of actual combat testing, day-in and day-out, for multiple tours in actual combat, for a decade and a half.

Instead of being limited to reading the pet theories of people who lived on small homestead-type hobby farms, who extrapolated from there, what would be needed for survival in Dystopia, we have the lessons being taught by people who survived collapsed societies firsthand, as well as the teachings and observations of people who are serious enough about living outside of the system that they’ve “collapsed now, to avoid the rush,” living completely off-grid, within the minimum legal requirements of paying property taxes.

There is no reason to maintain the status quo in the preparedness culture, and manifold benefits to upsetting that apple cart, and questioning the basic assumptions the subculture has cherished for decades. The only “authority” we should owe allegiance to, when it comes to being prepared to protect and provide for our families and communities, is the closest approximation to Truth that experience, logic, and reasoning can provide. Any other “authority” should be—must be—questioned, objectively, but incessantly, until we determine that their premises are flawed, and where those flaws are, in order to determine “better,” or “best” alternatives, or until we determine that the premises are—regardless of origin—the “better” or “best” alternatives available.

The Socratic Method offers one means of fulfilling that crucial task by playing “Devil’s Advocate.”

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To new shooters, regardless of the sub-discipline of shooting they participate in, there can be a lot of novel concepts and techniques to learn, from proper trigger break and different methods of sight alignment and sight picture, to the vagaries of intermediate and terminal ballistics.

For the combative shooter, whether a dyed-in-wool .mil gunslinger, a cop, or an armed citizen, focused on defensive handgun and home defense carbine skills, the skills involved can be overwhelming. From the basic drawstroke of the sidearm and the proper presentation of the carbine or shotgun for close-quarters shooting, to recoil management, reloads, and malfunction clearances; then we can add ancillary task skills on as well… unarmed combatives to allow you to “fight to the gun,” etc…

One of the apparently more obscure skills in the contemporary shooting skills, outside of long-distance marksmanship, is one I try hard to emphasize in all of my shooting coursework, because of how critical I have found it to be, in the real world of shooting bad people, before they shoot me, or my friends.

That skill is the ability to “call your shots.” In any given class I teach, on average, somewhere south of half the students will have even heard of the concept. In turn, about half of those will actually have a clue what the skill actually entails. My experience has been that, outside of combat arms veterans of the Army and Marine Corps—and actually only a small percentage of those—very few shooters have any understanding of the practical applications of the ability to call your shots, besides the pure marksmanship theory approaches.

WHAT IT IS

Calling your shot is simply the practice of accurately determining the expected point-of-impact of the shot you just fired, predicated on the relationship between your sight alignment and the target—your sight picture—at the moment you broke the shot. In other words, if you had a legitimate sight picture, at the moment your broke the shot (you know, like you SHOULD have…), and you know the zero of your weapon, and you understand the basic external/intermediate ballistics of the weapon-cartridge combination, then as soon as your break the shot, you should KNOW where the round is striking the target.

The reciprocal of course is that, if you call your shots accurately, then, when you do miss, you are also calling your misses, and this will help you fix whatever induced the miss. That is the skill of shot calling, in a nutshell, and a pretty solid reason, all by itself, from a purely marksmanship skills perspective. Beyond that, however, there is a really solid combative application to shot calling that is too often completely unknown and overlooked within the shooting community at large, and within the tactical shooting community specifically.

COMBATIVE APPLICATIONS

There are a couple of old proverbs of shooting that are particularly valid, within the context of this conversation. One of those is that we need to shoot the bad people as many times as necessary, to convince them to stop doing whatever bad thing convinced us to shoot them. As I explain it, “you need to continue shooting until you elicit the desired response.” In plain language, we need to forget the old school, “double tap and assess,” and just keep shooting the dude until he is no longer a threat—or, at a minimum, until he is no longer the most dangerous, immediate threat.

Another relevant proverb is that, “you can’t miss fast enough to win a fight.” That one, while true on the face of it, is really not an absolute Truth. If I get my shots close enough to keep your head down, even if I don’t hit you, while my buddy maneuvers around and closer, and he shoots you, then I missed, but I still won the fight, right? However, for all intents and purposes, it’s probably safer to assume that we’re going to be all by our lonesome, and thus, we probably need to focus more on perforating the bad guys than we do on “pinning them down.”

So, what does all of that have to do with “calling your shots?”

Presume, just for a moment, that you are somewhere, doing something, and someone has just placed you in a situation that you felt required you to respond with lethal force, using a firearm. So, you draw your Glock 17, SIG 226, or 1911A1, and you fire your first round. Or, dude is coming through your front door, with a tire iron in his hand, and bad face tattoos, and you snap your M4 carbine to your shoulder, and punch a round at him. Immediately after you fire, they drop.

Did you shoot them, and they dropped, because your shot was effective, and instantly disabling? Or, did you shoot at them and missed, but they dropped out of sight, because you almost shot them? Speaking from personal experience, when a round smokes past me, in a near miss, I somehow manage to move really fast for a middle-aged, crippled up has-been, and get really low, really fast!

In the first case, you could, generally speaking, start looking for other work. In the second case however, if you commence to looking for new work, you’re probably getting ready to get shot by a very upset bad person. That would be a reasonably negative outcome, in my mind.

Or, presume, just for a moment, that you’ve just shot at someone who was posing a legitimate lethal threat to yourself or someone you care about (wait, who am I fooling? I don’t care WHY you are shooting at them, honestly…just assume you took a shot at someone, for whatever reason tickles your fancy…). Immediately after you shoot at them, they don’t drop. Instead, they turn towards you and start advancing.

Did you miss? Or, did you hit them, but they were wearing body armor that protected them? (Contrary to popular mythology in the gun community, taking a round while wearing body armor doesn’t generally result in the victim being knocked down, let alone thrown backwards. Often, the recipient doesn’t even miss a step. Physics sucks.) In that case, it might be prudent to know, sooner, rather than later, that you need to adjust your point-of-aim, to shooting him in the hips or the head, instead of wasting your limited, precious time (the rest of your life, so to speak) putting more, ineffective rounds into his chest, where they aren’t doing any good.

Did you miss? Or, did you hit him, and he’s just tough enough that, even catching a round in the center of the chest, he’s now very, very, very angry, and he is now coming to take your gun from you and beat you to death with it? In that case, while two or three or five more rounds to the same spot would probably put him on the ground and anchor him, shooting him in the hips/groin or head might accelerate the termination of hostilities even faster.

Did you miss? Or, did you hit him, but somewhere less vital than where you were trying to shoot him? Did the round you were trying to put in his upper chest actually go into his arm or his side?

Or, did you just miss, and need to modify what you are doing? How can you, in the heat of the moment, know with certainty, which of the above is the appropriate response to these situations?

Simple answer, folks: have confidence in your ability to call your shot, accurately, effectively, and correctly, every single time you break a shot.

I spend a lot of time, in my personal training, in my writing, and in my teaching, focusing on receiving and analyzing the available data in the battlespace, to make solid, contextually correct decisions, under stress. If I call my shots correctly, every single time that I break a shot, with every single firearm that I shoot, then, even under the stress of a gunfight, I’ve hardwired that part of my brain to function outside of that terror or excitement, and tell me, “Hey, knucklehead! You pushed that shot low and left! Of course he’s not stopping; you missed! Quit ‘glocking’ the trigger!

At the same time, it may be screaming at me, “Dude! You just smoked that guy right through the breadbox, but he isn’t stopping! You need to change your plan! Shoot him in the hips! Everybody stops when you shoot them in the pecker!

This ability to call your shots is what will give you the absolute, legitimate confidence in the point-of-impact of your shots that allows you to accurately assess the available data from the environment, and come to correct conclusions about what you should be doing next. If you lack that ability—and the legitimate confidence that results from it—what almost invariably ends up happening is one of two things:

  1. some schmuck shoots the bad guy, but doesn’t successfully elicit the desired result. He completely freaks out and proceeds to mag dump at the bad guy, continuing to miss his intended target, but shoots up a crowd of bystanders instead, or
  2. said schmuck shoots at the bad guy, with his patented, trademarked “SuperDeathRay666Caliber” carry gun, and doesn’t elicit the desired result. He completely freaks out, and then freezes in shock, because the world is suddenly not what he thought it was, and he doesn’t know how to deal with the fact that the sky is green, and grass is orange.

In either case, you end up with a negative outcome, that could have been avoided with more focus on proper shooting skills and marksmanship fundamentals. There are no advanced gunfights. There are just gunfighters with an advanced mastery of the basic skills.

Shot calling is one of those undervalued, often unknown, or—at best—misunderstood, skills that make up the meta-skill of shooting that we really need to condition ourselves to emphasize more often in our training and practice. Start today. It will make you more dangerous.

If you don’t know what calling your shot is, or how to do it? Go take a shooting course. If that training course doesn’t cover it, go find a course with an instructor that actually knows what he is talking about.

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The importance of precise, well-aimed fire in a gunfight cannot, and should not, be underestimated. For anyone who picks up a firearm with the intent of “going in harm’s way,” that statement should really be pretty close to the forefront of their mind, throughout any training that they do, regardless of where they do that training, when they do that training, and with whom they do that training. If, after all, I’m in a gunfight with some dude 200 meters away, or 20 feet away, and I just point my weapon in the air, shout, “Allahu Akbar! Inshallah!” like some Mohammedan jihadist, and start blasting, counting on some divine will to guide my rounds where they need to go, I’m not likely to do much good in the pursuit of self-protection. The further away the opponent is, of course, the more critical the ability to aim and fire accurately becomes, because he becomes a relatively more difficult target to hit.

There is a line, famous in shooting circles, attributed to Wyatt Earp, and all too often parroted by others, with varying degrees of accuracy in the retelling, that says, “Speed is fine, but accuracy is final!” There is, in the opening sentence of this article, a great deal of recognition of the inherent truth of this statement. Performing a mag dump of 9mm or 5.56, is really of limited, questionable value (I can actually argue for the value, but it is still limited…); it’s of no value whatsoever though, if none of the rounds I fired even impact close enough to impact the target’s decision-making ability. Accuracy really is critical. Too often however, that statement becomes nothing more than a cliché, and an excuse for codgy old duffers to take their sweet time sighting in to take a shot.

The problem with a cliché, it has been said, is not that they’re untrue. The problem with a cliché is the nugget of truth inherent to the statement, that allows it to become a cliché, repeated ad nauseum, by sycophants who generally don’t realize that they don’t even understand the meaning behind the original statement. I get called to task, rather often, by readers and others, who have completed various training courses, for my ongoing training admonition that we should be practicing the ability to “shoot as fast as you are able to apply well-aimed fire.” Perhaps it is the “shoot fast” part that gets their knickers in a twist, but I just genuinely haven’t been able to figure it out.

Accuracy is Awesome!

At the basic level, any shot accurate enough to punch through the brainstem of a bad guy is definitely a final statement, and probably adequate to “elicit the desired response,” to a situation that warranted shooting him. The problem is, the real world likes to toss monkey wrenches in our plans.

If it takes you five seconds to manage that shot; to acquire a solid firing position, line up your sights, control your breathing, and then gently squeeze the trigger to a surprise break, with no disruption of the sight picture, it’s probably not going to be the “final answer” that you think it is.

Why not? Because, whether rifle or pistol, five seconds is long enough to dump nearly an entire magazine, accurately, at common combative ranges. You’re not going to get that five seconds of calm that you apparently need, in order to get the level of accuracy that you need to make that precision shot. That is the crux of the problem with the cliché. It’s not complete.

Fast is Fine, but Accuracy is Final… As Long as it Arrives On Time!

My statement for students, and myself, mirrors a related aphorism that comes to us courtesy of Marshal Earp; “Take your time…In a hurry.

Fast is fine, but accuracy is final…as long as it arrives on time.

What is all too often overlooked is that the speed versus accuracy equation is a very, very relative issue. Is a shot that impacts you in the shoulder as lethal as a shot to the upper thoracic cavity or the cerebral cortex? No, of course not, unless you’re a simpering coward who believes that any gunshot is automatically lethal, as it blows you backwards through four concrete walls. What if we change the question slightly?

“Is a shot that impacts the shoulder as effective at keeping you from shooting me as a shot to the upper thoracic cavity or cerebral cortex?” Probably, at least in the immediate short-term. Gunshot wounds have a tendency to hurt, and pain tends to be distracting.

I may need to shoot you again, but if you’re not shooting at me effectively—by which we mean, making hits—because you got distracted by that Louisville Slugger shot to the shoulder, then I’ve got the time necessary to slow down and take that second shot.

On the other hand, it can obviously be said that, if you take the time to get a shot to the upper thoracic cavity or the cerebral cortex with the first shot, you won’t need to take that second shot, right? Let’s go back for a moment, and look at the previous example, to parse that concept. If you are taking the time to set up that head shot to the cerebral cortex, and I bust a round into your shoulder, or chest, or leg—or, well, pretty much any other portion of your body—is that, or is that not, going to affect your ability to aim and fire your precision head shot? Of course it is. So, what we really need to determine is, how accurate do we need to be? How fast do we need to be that accurate? How much of that accuracy can we maintain, at that speed?

Accuracy Standards

In order to effectively discuss accuracy standards, we need to determine what type of weapon we’re discussing, carbine or pistol, and we need to determine what ranges we’re discussing.

With rifles, some trainers—a lot of trainers, actually—and the US Army, consider 4MOA to be adequate accuracy. That’s a pretty decent all-around metric, and it is one that has a lot of history in the US military. That allows you to hit a 19-inch wide e-type silhouette out to 500 meters, most of the time. That’s pretty solid, and beyond the ability of most “riflemen” in the US today. At 100 yards, that is roughly four inches. That definitely facilitates getting accurate hits, on a stationary target.

My personal standard—firing commercial, Lake City M855 “green tip” out of a mil-spec 1:7 twist, chrome-lined, 14.5” M4, so you know I’m not running some cool guy, super custom gun—is 2MOA or better. That theoretically allows me to get hits on the aforementioned e-type at 1000 yards (theoretically…while I’ve actually gotten consistent 1.5MOA groups out of my main carbine, that doesn’t take into account windage, knowing my holdovers for elevation, or accounting for the transonic effect of the round dropping back below supersonic speeds, which leads to all kinds of hinky behavior from the projectile). At realistic, common combative ranges, that’s way more than adequate.

It’s crucial though, to remember that we’re talking about pure marksmanship standards at this point. This is laying on a nice, groomed range, in a solid firing position, controlling my breathing, and taking my sweet time squeezing the trigger, because the target’s not moving, and it’s not shooting back at me. Accuracy after all, really is relative.

Here’s the thing though….so is speed, and the two are relative to necessity and ability, as well as to each other. I can shoot 2MOA or better with my carbine, taking 1-2 seconds per shot, whether I’m prone, squatting, kneeling, or standing. If I am willing to “broaden my horizons,” and accept a 4MOA group, I can put rounds downrange, from prone, squatting, or kneeling, at a rate-of-fire approaching 3-5 rounds per second. From the standing, I can easily do 8MOA at the 4-5 rounds per second rate-of-fire, and regularly manage to fire a sub-6MOA at five rounds per second, at 100 meters, from the prone, and standing, I can manage it 8-9 times out of ten. That is fast, and accurate, and it’s impressive, but it is nowhere near world-class. It is not a result of being genetically gifted, or spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on IPSC/IDPA race gun training. There are guys out there, in the public eye, and in the shadows, who can shoot that accurately, at an even faster rate of fire. My ability is simply a result of dedicated, steady yeoman-like practice.

When I teach, I successfully get students making solid hits on a C-zone steel target, at various ranges, in ridiculously fast times:

  1. Standing, from the ready, at 100 yards: <1:00 second
  2. Standing to prone, from the ready, at 200 yards: <3:00 second
  3. Standing to kneeling or squatting, from the ready, at 100-200: <2.50 seconds

(These are not all hyperfit, twenty-something Crossfit junkies. These are solid, middle-aged, professionals, willing to put in a little bit of effort.)

With a sidearm—in my case a 9mm Glock, either a G19 or a G17—we’re still looking at a mathematical range of possibilities for accuracy standards at speed. From a pure accuracy standpoint, the standards I set for myself, and that I drive students to achieve in coursework is to be able to shoot the proverbial “one-hole group” at any distance out to 30 feet, with no time limit. This is simple, pure marksmanship. Out to 25 yards, we are looking to keep everything inside of a 3×5 index card. It doesn’t always happen, but that’s the goal. Inside of the A-zone of an IPSC silhouette is certainly a 100% achievable goal at that distance. At 50 yards, we should be able to consistently hit a C-zone sized target.

When it comes to balancing that accuracy with speed, there are a lot of variables at play. Personally, I strive for, and typically maintain, a sub-1:00 second draw from concealment to first shot, to a 3×5 index card, out to 30 feet. For students in coursework, I expect them to be able to hit that 3×5 index card, out to 30 feet, every time, from a concealed drawstroke, in less than 1.25 seconds, by the end of a three day class. Typically, by the morning of Training Day Three, 80-90% of students are achieving it, with relative ease.

How Do We Achieve This?

The method I use to build this skill, at the basic level, is identical, whether we’re discussing clandestine carry pistol, or fighting carbine.

  1. We build the basic neural motor pathways, by lots of dry-fire and live-fire repetitions of the basic skill, without any time pressure.
  2. Once the skill seems to be getting drilled in, I will test each student individually, having them perform the basic drill as fast as they can, while still feeling absolutely confident that they can do it right. If they get it wrong, we do it again, slower. Once we have a time for students, we have a baseline time to improve from. If you don’t know where you’re at, you can’t navigate to where you want to go, right?
  3. In a class environment, we will start with the slowest time, and we will perform ten to twenty repetitions, dry-fire, at that time, minus one-tenth of a second. Once we’ve done the repetitions, and even the slowest student sees that he can go 1/10th of a second faster, we test it live-fire. Then, we go 1/10th of a second faster still, and repeat. By “forcing” the students to go faster, they get faster. If we find someone starts missing, from pushing too fast, we’ll stay at that time standard for some extra repetitions, until they are getting it.

Using this exact methodology, I’ve had complete novices manage to make C-zone hits in sub-1:00 second at 100, with a carbine, in less than four training hours. I’ve had students in my Clandestine Carry Pistol course, who had never drawn their weapon from concealment, getting hits on a 3×5 index card, at 30 feet, in less than 1.25 seconds, in less than a complete eight-hour training day.

The secret, as I understand it—and I’m no neuroscientist, so keep that in mind—is that by “forcing” ourselves to go faster, while maintaining our accuracy standard, we are actually “allowing” our brain to do what it is wired to do, which is train our nervous system to perform more efficiently.

Conclusions

Speed and accuracy are relative. Ultimately, for your combat-effective marksmanship training, you have to decide what is adequate accuracy for you, both for pure marksmanship, and marksmanship at speed, under stress. Then, you have to decide how fast you can achieve that level of accuracy. What I can tell you, with absolute certainty, is that, if your “pure marksmanship” standard of accuracy is 4MOA, you are not going to be able to pull off 2MOA, for a speed standard, under stress.

There are caveats to these considerations, of course. In the real-world, as opposed to the range, there are probably going to be non-combatants downrange. Suddenly, you’re going to have to slow down anyway, to ensure that a) the dude you’re shooting is actually a bad guy, and b) if you do miss the bad guy, your round isn’t going to go past him and center-punch somebody’s seven year old. If we’ve set ourselves up for success by shooting with extreme precision, at extreme speeds, in training, we make the ability to make those decisions and shots more realistic. The underlying rule needs to be, “Don’t shoot any faster than you’re able…but be able to shoot as fast as you need.

At the end of the day, for me, snapping one-second shots at 100M, or drawing and firing at 10 meters, in sub-1:00 isn’t about the time recorded on the timer. It’s not about “how fast I am!” It is about building those neural pathways to be so efficient that I no longer have to think about them in order to execute the task correctly, and efficiently. It works, and it works well.

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In the beginning of this article series, we discussed the reality that there are three basic, fundamental conceptual skills to utilizing the handgun—or any firearm, for that matter—in a self-protection context. The first of these that we discussed was the one that most instructors and trainers are really pretty good at teaching: being able to hit what you are trying to shoot. While different courses will focus on different standards of accuracy and precision, most of them are reasonably capable of developing students’ abilities to meet whatever standard the course professes is “combat accurate.”

The second skill set, getting the gun into the fight, is less proficiently covered by many instructors, for a host of reasons. Some instructors are uncomfortable teaching novices to draw and fire, under time constraints, or other stressors, from concealment, because of the increased risk of accident. Others may have never actually spent much—if any—time drawing from concealment themselves. Finally, most have little or no context for considering, let alone teaching, realistic, effective methods for accessing and presenting the gun, in the “Oops, I messed up,” context of the shooter already being behind the action, and in the process of getting his head stomped in. Regardless however, most courses will spend at least some time teaching or discussing the draw stroke mechanics and application.

Both of those skill sets are important, and critically so. I would argue however that, while those are adequately—if not perfectly—covered, in most courses of instruction, what is considerably less well-taught is what is inarguably the single most critical conceptual skill in the real world application of the firearm in the self-protection role: making good, sound decisions, under the stress of a life-or-death situation. This is given short shift, for a variety of reasons, ranging from a lack of understanding of how people’s brains work, to a lack of understanding or thought, about how to train an accelerated decision-making process under stress.

Most often, when we do see “decision-making” covered in shooting class course work, it is over simplified, or “dumbed down,” to the point of requiring students to make a simple binary decision: “shoot or don’t shoot.” This is often achieved by simply painting the silhouette of a weapon on the “shoot” target silhouettes, and a pair of spread hands, in a surrender gesture, on the “don’t shoot” target silhouettes. For a variety of reasons that we will discuss in this article, that is horribly inadequate, and more than negligent, in my experience.

Dude’s Pointing a Gun at Me, I’m Gonna Smoke Him!

I actually had this discussion with a student recently. I pointed out that in the real world, the person downrange with a weapon, may not be the bad guy. He may be another armed citizen trying to help, he may be a police officer, or he may be the bad guy, among a host of other possibilities. Coincident to that, the dude without a gun may or may not warrant shooting. The small, elderly gentleman who is simply fleeing the sound of gunfire may not require shooting, but the Super-Sized, Drunk Redneck, unarmed, but intent on caving your skull in with his fists and work boots? That dude probably does warrant shooting, for most armed citizens, regardless of the fact he appears to be unarmed.

The student’s response was, “Well, I suppose it depends on where he is pointing the gun then. Dude’s pointing a gun at me, and I’m going to smoke him!” Fair enough, but again, once we move past the tough talk, we see a number of erroneous conclusions in this premeditated decision: if we are drawing our concealed carry piece, presumably, it is because there is a violent situation unfolding, and we are trying to solve it. There is a fair to middling chance then, that any other responsible, armed citizens in the nearby vicinity, including uniformed or plain clothed police officers, may very well be doing the exact same thing. You see a dude with a gun, in a violent environment, even before you make the shoot/no-shoot decision, you are probably pointing a gun at him. So, he is pointing his gun back at you…because some dude is pointing a gun at him! Now, instead of being able to process the available data in the battle space, recognize that perhaps this dude is actually on the same side, and teaming up to deal with the actual bad guy, the two of you—or more, for that matter—are stuck in a Polish Firing Squad scenario. So, being able to process the incoming data, and determine that, “nothing about this dude, other than the fact that he is—like me—armed, indicates that he is a/the bad guy. Perhaps I should hold off on shooting him for a moment,” becomes a pretty critical skill.

The second issue we have is one that seems, at least to me, to be occurring with increasing frequency. This is an armed citizen engaging what he “thinks” is a bad guy, such as a burglar, or home invader, only to discover, too late, that it was a child or spouse. Whether out of stupidity (my bet), hyper-aggressiveness and a longing to “get a bad guy,” or just poor judgment, this is a very, very bad outcome, and can be blamed, in the totality, on a lack of sound decision-making prior to and in the midst of, the gunfight. We need to develop the ability to make good decisions—appropriately correct decisions—not only before the first shot rings out, but also in the midst of the firing solution.

That last bit is equally important. Whether it is a matter of cracking the first round at the bad guy, and being confident in your ability to make the shot, then determining that, “Hey, I need to shoot him again, he’s not done yet,” or it is a matter of cracking the first round at the bad guy, and realizing you missed, and he was standing between you and a playground full of children, so “maybe I should NOT be shooting, in the first place,” being able to recognize when to continue shooting, and when to stop shooting, is pretty important. The one thing I can tell you, with absolute certainty? If you shoot some grade school kid on a playground, because of negligence, and trying to shoot outside your skill zone, you absolutely, positively CANNOT fix that by continuing to shoot up all of his playmates.

Pre-Fight Decisions

I firmly believe that, the moment you strap on a gun, you need to make some very real, very specific decisions about a couple of things. A) What am I willing to draw my gun over? B) What am I willing to shoot someone over? C) Which of those am I willing to spend the rest of my natural life in prison over? Adding that last question, a lot of the times, plays a pretty significant role in drastically changing the answers to A and B, but in the real world, where most of us live, it is a pretty important consideration to make. It’s cool to say, “I’ll smoke anybody that points a gun at me,” until you realize, some kid pointing a gun at you, from far enough away that he probably doesn’t actually pose a threat, and you shooting him, is just as likely to land you with a new roommate/lover as it is to land you with the accolades of a public hero.

“We should shoot looters! If I saw someone looting, I’d shoot them!” Great, so you are willing to kill someone, and potentially spend the rest of your life as someone’s prison sex toy, over the physical, material property of someone you probably don’t even know? Your call, dude.

Obviously, I cannot tell you what the answers are to A, B, and C, for you. We probably have different values, at least to some degree, and we certainly have different circumstances. However, I can offer my personal answers to those, and those answers may offer some modicum of guidance for developing your own answers.

To preface this, I carry a gun every day, every where. I take it off when I go into the Post Office, and that’s it. It goes on when I get out of bed in the morning and put my jeans on. It comes off when I pull my jeans off at the end of the day, to crawl into bed.

In answer to question A, I am willing to draw my gun when I genuinely feel that my life, or the life of innocent bystanders around me, may be in some danger. This could—and has—ranged from being in a grocery store and hearing a gunshot from near the front of the store (it was, in fact. Some idiot was pocket carrying a Glock 27. He reached into his pocket for his keys, and managed to smoke a round into the floor of the supermarket), to a group of apparently criminal actors entering the place I am, aggressively, with improvised weapons already in hand (six young adults, dressed like morons, carrying a variety of sports implements, ranging from baseball bats to a hockey stick. They were, in fact, members of a gang, and they were in fact, known violent actors. They were not there, that day, with the intent of being violent). In the first example, I drew my gun and hunkered down, next to the shelves, and started moving forward, until I could see what was going on. When I did see what was happening, I reholstered and went forward to offer help. In the second example, I didn’t completely draw the gun. I placed my hand on it, under my cover garment, and monitored the situation, until they left.

My response to question B is, “I am willing to shoot someone who presents what I believe is posing a legitimate threat of death or grave bodily harm to myself, my wife, my children, or any of the people I consider family.” This answer is significant for two reasons. One, it doesn’t require that they be an immediate threat. If I genuinely believe that someone is going to kill or harm my family, I am willing to face option C, in the interest of protecting my folks, even if it means I am using preemptive violence to do so. More immediately however, my willingness to resort to violence, in the protection of family does not automatically mean, going to guns. I have the size, athleticism, and training background to solve many of those problems otherwise. Someone with less size, athleticism, or an inadequate training background may need to resort to guns sooner. That is a contextual decision, but it is one that needs to be determined long before the time comes that you need to draw your gun.

Finally, we address question C. As mentioned above, I am willing to go to prison to protect the people I love. I am not willing to go to prison to protect my truck. I am not willing to go to prison to protect material property. So, if I feel I need to use violence to protect those things? I had better be able to determine that the chances of getting caught are next to non-existent. I am most certainly not willing to go to prison to protect someone else’s property, and I’m not even willing to go to prison to protect someone outside of my innermost circle. Again, none of that precludes my willingness to use violence in those pursuits, but it does mean I am going to consider the risks before I wade in to the mess. Generally though, it means, I am going to mind my own business.

Again, to belabor the point…my decisions are largely, in a practical context, irrelevant to you. They do illustrate however, some of the potential issues involved in the first phase of “making good, correct decisions” about a life-or-death situation. What they decidedly are not are as simple as, “I’ll shoot anybody that points a gun at me!” They certainly need to be made, long before the fight occurs.

In-Fight Decisions

When the decision has been made, whether by you, or for you, to engage an armed adversary, the crux of what most people consider, when discussing tactical decision-making, begins to occur. This is the arena wherein we consider split-second decisions regarding shoot/no-shoot, etc. It is the arena of tactical decision-making where it is possible to develop training drills that accelerate our decision-making, and actually make us more competent at making correct decisions, faster, under various types of physical, mental, and emotional stress. Frustratingly, because of institutional inertia, lack of understanding, and often, I fear, mere laziness, it is the arena of tactical decision-making that is most often taught inadequately and inappropriately in shooting schools and courses.

Simple binary decision-making is not adequate during the fight. Whether we are an armed citizen, defending the home, a police officer involved in a traffic stop or warrant operation, or a military service member, executing combat patrols in an inhabited area, there are too many potential variables, as well as multiple streams of decision-making that have to occur, sometimes simultaneously, to reduce this down to the binary.

At all levels, tactical decision-making requires taking in all of the available data in the battlespace, sorting its relevance, and then making decisions, based on the available, RELEVANT data, and your previous experience and training. At the simplest possible level, making the initial “shoot/no shoot” decision means sorting through a lot of information as quickly as possible: who is in the battlespace? Who among those could be a/the threat? Are they a threat? How do I determine if they are a/the threat? Are they an immediate threat? Which immediate threat is the most immediate threat? Do I have the ability to counter that threat with violence? If not, can I alter the battlespace, in order to give myself the ability to do so? Do I have the ability to flee the battlespace? If I do not have the ability to engage, or to flee, is there somewhere safe I can move to, until the situation changes, either way?

Suddenly, the overly simplistic explanations of Colonel Boyd’s OODA cycle, and the binary “decision-making” drills used in too many classes start to look really, really dumb, don’t they?

If I do make the decision that I have identified the threats, including the most lethal threat, and that I have the ability to counter that threat with violence, I have to move on to MORE tactical decision-making. What is the safest, most efficient means at my disposal to engage? Should I shoot them? Should I close with them and engage with unarmed combatives or an impact weapon? Since this is PreparedGunOwners.com, we will assume, for a moment, that I have determined that shooting them is going to be the most efficient. Now, I get to decide, do I have the ability to actually make the shots I need to make? What is beyond the target, and to either side of the target? What/who is between me and the target? Is the target wearing an explosive device, mandating a head shot? Can I make THAT shot? Is the target stationary or moving? Can I wait for him to stop moving, or do I HAVE to take a shot on a moving target?

If I decide I can make the shot, and I take it, now, I move into ANOTHER decision-making cycle: at what point do I have an adequate sight picture to engage the target accurately? When I break the shot, I have to reacquire a sight picture and follow-up, determining if my first shot did the job, or if I need to continue shooting the subject, in order to elicit the desired response, whatever that is. Of course, that brings us to, “what, exactly, is the desired response we are trying to elicit?” Am I trying to kill him? Am I trying to simply ‘stop’ the threat? What defines ‘stopping?’ That is contextual, and can legitimately, only be made in the moment. It’s cool and macho to talk about “shooting them to the ground,” but what if, in the midst of shooting him to the ground, after putting one or two or three rounds into the “most immediate threat,” a round cracks past my head from elsewhere? Now, I have to switch gears, and return to assessing the battlespace, and determine where this newly “most immediate threat is,” and forget shooting the first dude to the ground. Now, I’ve got a new most immediate threat that needs to be dealt with first.

Worse, what if, instead of cracking past my head, that round slams into my body somewhere? Now, I’m going to be forced to not only re-assess the battlespace, but to first assess my personal situation, all over again. “I’ve been shot! Can I continue to fight? Do I still have the ability to continue effectively fighting?” (Short answer? If you are assessing, the answer is “Yes! Move out and keep in the fight.”)

How The Hell Can We Train That?

The obvious question is, “how can we train for that?” The obvious answer, in return is, “we cannot.” Every situation is going to be too contextually specific to formulate one drill that will answer the specific cognitive loading demands of every potential self-protection scenario we might potentially find ourselves in.

What we can do however, is actually even more useful. That is, we can utilize drills that focus not on specific cognitive tasks, but that force us to accelerate our cognitive task loading, in an abstract manner, so that the acceleration may be useful in multiple, vastly different specific situations. That is why, ultimately, this methodology may be “even more useful.” The ability to process all of the available data in our immediate environment, sort its relevance, and then process the relevant, available data into useful information is functionally useful across the spectrum of our lives. My personal experience—verified by multiple former students corresponding with me about it after taking my classes—has been that this particular training methodology applies to driving, work, playing sports, and a host of other activities that require rapid, contextually correct decision-making.

The Drills

I use two basic drills in training classes to demonstrate this training methodology, in a progressive manner, that students can—and have—taken back and performed on their own, home ranges, with reportedly great success. The first is one I have borrowed from Frank Proctor, former SF soldier, and owner of Way of The Gun, in Eastaboga, AL. It is a drill that Frank calls “Third Grade Math.”

Third Grade Math

This is, at its simplest, a number of targets, all marked with a number. On the Start signal, the shooter is shown a card with a number written on it. The shooter then looks for TWO targets, the sum of their numbers which equals the target number. Then, the shooter engages those two targets with the number of rounds indicated by the number on the target. For example, if the target number is “seven,” the shooter could shoot any number of two target combinations: one and six, two and five, three and four, or the same number combinations in reverse. As Frank points out in the video linked, this drill is all about receiving and processing the available, relevant data, and then applying it, as quickly as possible, to the shooting solution.

One variable that I like to toss in occasionally is to assign a target number that cannot be addressed with the available target combinations. So, I might show a card with the number three on it, but there is no target with the numeral “one” on it. Now, there’s no way for the shooter to complete the drill, right? Most times, the shooter, at least the first few times, will be so amped up, they’ll see “three,” then they’ll see the number “two” target, and dump a controlled pair into it, then start looking for the number “one” target, only to realize there isn’t one, so they cannot complete the drill. Problem is, they’ve already failed the drill. The only “correct” solution would have been to not start shooting, in the first place. They failed to accurately assess all of the available data, and they shot “someone” they shouldn’t have shot.

This is a solid, intermediate level shooting drill that should be incorporated into any serious defensive shooter’s training program, to integrate the most important conceptual skill involved in self-protection shooting: making good, correct decisions, under a life-or-death situation. It forces you to assess the battlespace faster, while still being accurate, and brings in the shooting, or the no-shooting.

(There are other modifications that can be made to this drill, that will be covered in a later article.)

The PRA 1-5 Drill

The PRA 1-5 Drill is a product of my own development, based on a number of sources, most notably Kyle Lamb’s “1-5 Drill,” and a drill I found in Pat McNamara’s book TAPS: Tactical Applications of Practical Shooting, the name of which I can never remember.

At the basic level, the PRA 1-5 (PRA= Perception, Recognition, Acquisition), requires six targets, set up in a random sequence, at varying depths and intervals. The targets are numbered 1-6. The shot timer is set for a delay start. Shooter begins facing uprange, pistol holstered and concealed. When the coach/trainer/partner starts the delay, he shows the shooter a card with three numbers on it, all between 1 and 6. (i.e. 1/3/5 or 6/2/4). When the timer beeps, the shooter turns to face downrange, draws, and engages the targets in the correct sequence, firing one round to the first target, two the second, three to the third, then comes back to the second target for four rounds, and the first target for five rounds, as in Kyle Lamb’s 1-5 Drill, only now, the targets are spread out and in random order, with “no shoot” targets (any targets not in the sequence are, by default, “no shoots”).

This drill, like Third Grade Math, requires rapid assessment, and good decision-making, but approaches the problem from a different angle, requiring the shooter to think about concrete considerations, in an abstract manner. In other words, the shooter has to determine what the first target is, then he has to engage it with an appropriate number of rounds, then he has to move on to the second target that meets his “shoot” criteria (in this case, having the correct number marked on it), and engage it with the appropriate number of rounds, etc. In the real world, this equates to making a conscious decision about “I should shoot this person,” or “I should not shoot this person,” and then assessing each shot, “was that enough?” “Did that do the job, or do I need to shoot him again?” before moving on to the next available target.

I’ve found that most students find this drill more challenging than Third-Grade Math, because of the increased cognitive load. For this reason, I use Frank’s Drill to set up and introduce cognitive loading, before bringing this drill onto the range.

Conclusion

Too often, we tend to oversimplify things. From politics and religion to relationships and more, all the way down to shooting, we want simple, easily digestible soundbites that require little or no effort to utilize. “The most important part of defensive shooting is being able to hit what you are shooting at!”

The reality however, is that it’s not that simple. The most important part of defensive shooting is being able to determine whether or not you have the ability to make the shot that needs to be made, or if you should avoid taking the shot. The simple soundbite is easier. The real-world requires more effort.

If your shooting focuses on simple, pure marksmanship, or if it focuses on run-and-gun, using “spray-and-pray” shoot-em-all drills, that is fine for recreational purposes, but you are doing yourself, your family, and your community, a disservice, if you actually carry your gun. The Prepared Gun Owner, interested in being able to fulfill his civic obligations to his or her community, has a moral obligation to incorporate realistic, effective decision-making training into his practice. These are two drills that can help with that.

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john-mosby-avatar-author-imgIn the first installment of this article, we discussed the fundamental skill of actually being able to hit what you are shooting at, relevant to a gunfight or self-defense shooting scenario.

In this one, we will discuss some of the issues surrounding the necessary prelude to that act; to whit, getting the concealed carry sidearm from the holster, into your hand, and ready to shoot, in time to actually be useful.

The simple fact is, outside of some very limited situations where it is both legal, and—more important to me—socially, acceptable, most normal citizens do not open carry their personal defense sidearm. There are a number of reasons why open carry is quantifiably dumber than a box of rocks that were rejected from the stupid mill, but that is irrelevant to the current discussion. We are, after all, specifically discussing Clandestine Carry.

When it comes to drawing the gun, from concealment, in a self-defense scenario, there are a number of factors that we have to recognize will play a part in how fast or slow we are able to present the weapon to the threat. The first—and least influential, actually—is the raw, physical motor speed with which we are able to clear the cover garment, acquire a firing grip, rip the gun out of the holster, and present the muzzle to the threat, while acquiring a sight picture, and taking up slack in the trigger, as required. This, of course, is the one most often focused on in shooting classes, because in a lot of ways, it is the only one we have the ability, as teachers and trainers, to improve in an objective, measurable manner. I can—and do, regularly—bring shooters from a >3.0 second draw to first shot, from concealment, to 1.2 seconds or faster for the same, in less than a three-day class…and I use ridiculously stringent marksmanship metrics in my classes. That is really not even particularly difficult. I’ve had students break the 1.0 second mark—again, from concealment—in as little as a couple of hours of personal instruction.

What is more difficult is confronting the other factors that can limit drawstroke and presentation speed: fear, and disbelief. The first is relatively easy to understand, but is often more complicated than inexperienced people realize. The fear factor may arise because of the readily understandable, “Oh my gosh! That fellow is about to cause me grave bodily harm!” The freeze aspect of fight, flight, or freeze kicks in, even if just for a moment or two, and your sub-1.0 drawstroke has suddenly, in the light of reality, become “he never even had a chance to reach for his gun!”

Alternatively, the fear factor may arise out of hesitance. “Well, what if I am mistaken? Am I really justified in shooting? Will I get arrested? What will my friends/neighbors/family think if I shoot or kill someone?” While we beat our chests and bray about our macho willingness to “face shoot bad guys without hesitation,” interviews with actual self-defense shooting veterans, combat veterans, and violent crime victims who didn’t use a weapon to protect themselves, all indicate that this is a very real, very common issue in shooting situations. This self-doubt—for that is what it really is, at the end of the day—is just as lethal a form of “freeze” in the fight, flight, or freeze instinct.

Related to fear, mostly in the first form, is the occurrence of disbelief. “Oh, he has a gun! Well, he’s not really going to shoot me!” “Oh, look, they must be shooting an action movie in this crowded shopping mall! Look at all the people screaming and running around, covered in blood!” “Well, he’s got the gun, but as long as I do what I’m told, he probably won’t do anything bad, right?”

These are issues that are far more relevant to getting your gun into action, in a timely manner, than whether you can break a shot on target, in sub-however many fractions of a second, but they are also very difficult factors to teach and train in a one, two, or three day class. They are, ultimately, the responsibility of the prepared gun owner to develop a personal training and mental conditioning program for. This article installment is intended to HELP you consider some ways to overcome them in your own mental conditioning and war-gaming. Failing to acknowledge and address them will result in, ultimately, a real-world drawstroke that is completely unrelated to your square-range, fast-draw, timer-measured drawstroke.

Overcoming Fear and Disbelief

The best trainer in the industry today for actually TEACHING dealing with these aspects in a hands-on, drill- and scenario-based environment, that I am aware of, is Craig Douglas, of Shivworks. A former Army Ranger, long-time undercover narcotics officer, and experienced instructor, Craig brings several decades of training, experience, and deep thinking to solving these problems.

At a more philosophical level however, there are two aspects to overcoming these doubt and fear factors, in my experience. The first is accepting, “This IS going to happen to me, sooner or later.” Statistically, of course, it probably won’t. The vast, vast majority of us will never be on the receiving end of a violent criminal assault. However, statistics be-damned, it DOES happen, and it happens in all types of neighborhoods, to all types of people. Accepting that it WILL happen to you doesn’t condemn you to living a life of paranoid fear, waiting for that hammer to fall—unless you’re craven, in which case, you shouldn’t be carrying a gun anyway. What it does is prepares you so that when it does happen, a) there won’t be any disbelief. It will simply be a matter of, “Well, I knew this was gonna happen. Time to clock in.” and b) there shouldn’t be any hesitation, because this preemptive acceptance gives you the opportunity to war game various potential scenarios and to set your own metaphorical tripwires that tell you, in your own mind, what bad guy behavior warrants shooting.

I have had several incidents, in the last year alone, where it was abundantly obvious, to even a casually observant individual, that things were well on their way to turning into a soup sandwich. In fact, in every one of those situations, it was my ability to recognize what was happening, and start moving to forestall the “inevitable,” that ended up stopping them from happening. In all of these situations, recognizing what was happening, accepting that it was happening, and knowing ahead of time what I was willing to shoot and kill someone over, allowed me to access a firearm before the bad guy(s) had even fully recognized that their plans were being interfered with—with the exception of one of the situations, when I failed to follow my own advice and didn’t have my gun on. In that instance, fortunately, being aware enough of what was happening, and confident enough to intercede, actually forestalled an armed robbery, with no weapons being presented to the intended victims. In fact, outside of a few police officer friends that I contacted to validate my actions afterwards, the only four people that even recognized what happened were me and the three bad guys.

None of this occurred because I am some sort of super-Jedi, with The Force running through me. My success in these situations was simply a result of my ability to accept that what appeared to be happening was, in fact, happening, and—as a result of that acceptance—my willingness to access my weapon early. The fastest drawstroke you will ever achieve is the one that starts with the gun already in your hand.

The second factor involved in this is war gaming potential scenarios, so that when they do occur, you can recognize them early enough to take advantage of that recognition. Once upon a time, when I was a younger man, the only way to really get access to realistic visualizations of what violent criminal assaults looked like, was to hang out in really bad bars, in really bad neighborhoods, or to simply wait until some skell decided to give you a baseball bat lobotomy. Today, fortunately, you have other resources at hand that, if used properly, can shortcut that process and make the learning curve much tighter and safer. The best of these resources is simply YouTube. There are hundreds of thousands of videos downloaded to YouTube, of security camera and cell phone camera footage of actual violent criminal assaults occurring. Too often, these get hacked together into some “Best of Super Streetfights!” compilation, and viewers focus on the physical actions of the fight itself. The better application though, is to study the body language, tactical positioning, and behavior of the assailants, in the moments leading up to the first blow being thrown. This data isn’t available on every video, of course, but your efforts should focus on the videos where it is available. How do the bad guys position themselves, in relation to the target(s)? What are they doing to camouflage their intentions until the decisive moment? What are the victims doing, up until the decisive moment, that made them targets? If the victims were successful in resisting the attack, what did they do right? If they failed, why did they fail?

Conflict—including personal, in the mud and blood, combat—is an intellectual pursuit for the most successful. We put a great deal of thought and introspection into our preparation, as much as we do physical training. Just standing on the range, in front of a line of IPSC silhouettes, and blasting A-zones at three yards is not preparing for a gunfight or self-defense shooting. It is PART of that preparation.

The Concealed Carry Drawstroke

For many years, THE combative draw of the pistol involved sweeping an open-faced cover garment, like a denim jacket or sport coat, aside with your shooting hand, then grasping the grip of your custom 1911, lifting it just high enough for the muzzle to clear the top of your well-worn leather holster, and then bringing your hands together, and the end of your extended arms, before swinging both hands up into a modified Weaver stance. There is nothing inherently wrong with that. It worked reasonably well, for a long time.

Like sports performance however, and military training, and medical training, things have advanced since then. We’ve discovered more economical motor pathways, and we’ve determined methods to measure what is actually occurring, and how long it is taking to occur. We know—categorically—that there are faster, more effective concealed carry drawstrokes than that.

The method I use was first introduced to me by a mentor in the SOF world, sometime in the late 1990s. I first saw it in the civilian context in the early 2000s, courtesy of some Internet postings by the aforementioned Craig Douglas. Craig called it a “Four-Count Drawstroke.” Since I’ve never heard it described as anything else, I use the term as well. It works for open- and concealed carry, and it works regardless of WHERE you carry your concealed weapon (within reason).

Count One is simply clearing the cover garment, and acquiring a firing grip on the weapon. Whether you use a strong-hand sweep, while wearing a sport coat (seriously, does anyone still wear sport coats?) or other open-front garment, or you are using your support-hand to clear a closed-front garment, the cover garment has to be cleared far enough to allow your firing hand to acquire a solid firing grip on the handgun. You should not have to fumble with the gun, and you certainly should not have to adjust your grip on the gun once it has cleared the holster. If this is happening, you need to back up, slow down, and work Count One, until it allows for a smooth grab of the weapon.

Count Two is clearing the sidearm from the holster. Craig, and a host of similarly respectable instructors—as well as some unrespectable ones like yours truly—teach to draw the gun straight up, wrist locked straight, as high as you can drive your elbow. Done properly, this locks your firing side thumb against the outside corner of your pectoral muscle.

This Two Position achieves several things. One, it is fast. Two, it places the gun in a good position for bringing the hands together on the gun, in front of the face, so you can begin shooting with your sights, sooner. Third—and arguably the most important benefit—in a close-quarters situation, such as tangled up with a assailant in a hands-on situation, you can effectively shoot from this position, using your body as an aiming device, since you KNOW where the gun is pointed, relative to your body position.

Count Three involves bringing the hands together in front of the chest/throat/face region, and acquiring a full firing grip on the weapon. By bringing the hands together this high, you can again, use your body as an aiming index, and get solid upper torso hits out to a considerable distance (I can generally get IPSC A-Zone hits out to 15-20 feet from a compressed Three).

Further, as you push out to an extended Count Four position, you can actually pick up your sights, visually, and acquire a legitimate sight picture, much sooner, allowing for more precision.

Real-World Advantages of the Four-Count Drawstroke

There are a number of advantages to this technique of drawing the gun, in a real-world, personal protection sidearm, context. Notably, it is demonstrably faster to get first hits on target, by a reasonably well-trained shooter. If your standards—or situation—mandate A-zone type accuracy, that is readily achievable, out to 7 yards or more (I’ve watched guys get consistent hits out to 10 yards—30 feet—from the compressed ready position), as soon as you hit Count Three. That means you are able to begin shooting, BEFORE you’ve even finished your presentation, and know that you’re getting good hits.

It is also more protected. The older drawstroke method tended to rely on the “Speed Rock.” This involved simply rocking the gun out of the holster and blasting shots from the hip, leaning back as you did, to get the shots higher up on the target. Despite a recent trend among Internet experts to attempt to resurrect this method, it sucks, and should remain with the deceased. It IS fast. Unfortunately, it is even faster at getting you knocked on your fourth point-of-contact, if an assailant is close enough to warrant using it, and is actually trying to hurt you. (Trivia question: “What does someone do when they’ve been shot with a pistol?” Answer: “Whatever they were doing before they got shot with the pistol.”)

Shooting from the Count Two retention position allows you to lean into the work, giving you a more stable position to fire from, reducing the chances of being knocked down or backwards. It also places you in a more athletic position from which to fend against blows and attacks, with your support hand, while accessing your weapon and shooting.

And….a Brief Comment on Appendix Carry

I carry my concealed carry gun at my appendix, inside the waistband (since I get asked, a lot, I’ll give a shout out to the guys at Raven Concealment Systems, for their Eidolon holster that I use. I don’t get any kickbacks or benefits from them. I paid full retail for my Eidolon. For my money though, it is the best PRODUCTION A-IWB holster available on the market. Outside of a couple of custom holster makers—Spencers Keepers and Tom Kelley at Dark Star Gear—I won’t even look at other concealed carry Appendix holsters anymore.) This is a highly contentious issue in the training industry, and even more so in the general shooting world/CCW world.

Here’s why I carry A-IWB:

1. It’s faster. I shave, literally, a quarter second off my draw, versus carrying behind my hip. This occurred within ten or fifteen reps of drawing from Appendix, after carrying 4 o’clock for over a decade.

2. It’s more concealed. I don’t have to move in awkward, unnatural motions, out of fear that my gun butt will stick out, or lift the hem of my shirt, and reveal the presence of my gun.

3. It’s far—far—easier to protect the gun, in the holster. I don’t have to worry about random friends or family members touching the gun on accident, during hugs. I don’t have to worry about bumping into someone in the grocery store and them feeling the gun. In a fight, I have far better leverage to prevent a gun-grab attempt, if they do suddenly realize I have a gun.

There are, in a word, a number of reasons why I choose to carry Appendix. I have carried in this manner for well over a decade now (almost two decades in fact, if you count when I tried it initially, back in the 1990s, when an old team leader recommended it, and loaned me a custom holster). I have never even come close to “shooting myself in the penis” or the femoral artery. I LOOK the gun back into the holster. (Another trivia question: “When someone says, ‘don’t look at your holster when reholstering! There might be more bad guys around!’ what is the only appropriate response?” Answer: “If the situation is still so potentially dangerous that I cannot look at my holster for one second, to make sure I am reholstering safely…why the $%* am I putting my gun away?”)

All of that having been said, a lot of people still question the wisdom of A-IWB. Here is my response: If you are not comfortable carrying Appendix, because you think it is unsafe, then you should not carry Appendix, because you are right. For you, it will be unsafe. Don’t carry Appendix.

How Fast Is Fast, and Getting Faster

As we’ve discussed above, there are factors at play, in the real world, that are far more influential to presentation speed than your speed draw. So, why bother? And, if we do bother, how do we define “fast?” How do we get faster?

We bother for a number of reasons. Obviously, while it may not be THE most important factor in speed of presentation, it is A factor. For me personally however, as I explain to students in classes, a super fast, rock-solid drawstroke provides two immeasurable benefits. First of all is confidence, “I KNOW I can draw my gun from concealment and center punch a 3×5 target, at 21 feet, in less than one second.” That confidence, in a measured, quantifiable skill, allows me a great deal of leeway in how I respond to situations. Even if your concealed drawstroke is a respectable 1.5-2.0 seconds, KNOWING it allows you options and leeway, even if the other dude already has a gun out, but isn’t shooting…yet.

Knowing how long it will take me, from the decision to draw, to punching a target at a given range, with a first shot, every single time, on demand, means I know how much time I need to create to turn the tide in my favor. If I need two seconds to draw and fire, and the dude is in my face, punching me, I probably need to quit worrying about my gun, and stop him from hitting me. I am not going to be able to draw the gun under those circumstances, without it getting taken from me…and probably getting my face caved in, in the process. If a bad guy has a gun in my face, or at my kid’s head, and I need 1.5 seconds to draw mine and get a head shot, how much of a distraction do I need to create to hammer him before he can destroy my world?

Knowing—quantifiably—how fast you can get a hit, at a given distance, gives you options. From there, you can utilize what I term “verbal sleight of hand,” to achieve functionally more speed. Our goal is not to shoot faster than the other guy. Our goal is to shoot, as fast as we’re capable of, SOONER than the other guy.

Example: It takes Joe 1.25 seconds to draw and fire his first round to a 3×5 target zone, at 7 yards. Joe is in a convenience store that is being robbed, and the robber has a gun to the clerk’s head, and is indicating that he IS going to shoot the clerk. How long will it take for the robber to recognize Joe’s drawstroke, and pull the trigger, killing the clerk? 1.0 seconds? 0.5 seconds? What if, when Joe begins his movement, the robber is looking at someone, or something else? What if the robber is distracted in some other way?

There are a couple of methods of “virtual acceleration” of the drawstroke that I have heard of, and utilized in training, that seem to work particularly well. One, obviously, is simply waiting for the bad guy to look in a different direction. If you have a fast, solid drawstroke, and can hit adequately precise targets, it doesn’t take much of a distraction. A second, far more subtle method is simply asking the bad guy a question that requires an answer that requires thought. “Are you gonna kill someone?” doesn’t work, for various reasons. “Why are you doing this?” “What do you want me to do?” and other questions that require at least some thought, and a multiple word—preferably multiple sentence—answer.

One of the cool things a mentor pointed out to me in my youth was, when we are talking, we are talking. If a dude is flapping his gums, and you start moving, he has to recognize that something is happening, then he has to remember to stop talking, then he has to figure out what you are doing, then he has to figure out what he is going to do about it. Even for someone expecting trouble, and with preternaturally fast reflexes, that process requires time. If you have an actual metric of your own performance, and know how long it takes you to draw, that may be enough time. Alternatively, it may only provide you enough time to go running from the room, or to a position of cover, from where you can draw your gun at a more leisurely pace, and begin engaging.

This method works particularly well, in my experience, if it is combined with a request for action (this example requires the authorial note that, while I have used this technique in multiple, real-world altercations, only one of those involved me pulling a gun, and I didn’t actually shoot the dude, because by the time he realized what had happened, he was putting his hands up).

The best example of this I’ve ever witnessed was actually in a border town bar in Mexico. A certain, unnamed gringo found himself the object of attention of a significantly larger, rather dangerous looking individual of mestizo extraction. When it became abundantly obvious that said gringo was only leaving the establishment in an ambulance, or through the hombre, he accepted “what is, is,” and decided a stay in a Mexican hospital clashed with his plans for the weekend. So, he very politely asked the gentleman to “hold this, please,” and tossed a jacket to the fellow. Reflexively, the larger gentleman reached for the garment, and our intrepid hero utilized the available opening to lay a solid glass beer pitcher, readily at hand on the table next to him, rather forcefully alongside the head of the villain. Once, twice, thrice, the hero smote his foe in the head; the villain fell helpless to the ground. Hero stomps on villain’s ankle a couple of times, to forestall pursuit, grabs his jacket, and runs out the front door, all the way back to the border crossing.

Had the situation been elsewhere, the hero armed with a concealed carry firearm, and the situation legally—or just morally—warranted lethal force, it would have just as simply ended with gunshots to the chest or face, instead of a beer pitcher to the head.

These are all situation/scenario specific examples. They are not training recipes, but rather, are suggestions to allow you ideas to develop your own methods, based on possible and probable scenarios within your own environmental context, on ways in which you can “virtually accelerate” your draw stroke.

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One john-mosby-avatar-author-imgof the great headaches of my life is when someone decides to inform me how qualified they are to carry and use their personal protection handgun, because they took their state’s eight- or sixteen-hour licensing class, that covered the legal requirements to carry, and they actually had to shoot a qualification table at the end of the class. As a guy who has carried a weapon for all of his adult life, and used them in the anti-personnel role on multiple occasions, my experience has been that using a weapon requires several fundamental skills at a quantifiable standard, if you hope to survive, let alone “win” the fight.

In the three-day Clandestine Carry Pistol course that I teach, we focus on three of these, that will be the focus of my first article series here on PreparedGunOwners. Those three are:

  1. Be Able to Hit What You NEED to Hit, As Many Times As Necessary.
  2. Be Capable of Getting the Gun Into the Fight, in Time to Be Useful.
  3. Make Appropriately Good Decisions, Under the Stress of a Life-or-Death Fight.

Be Able to Hit What You NEED to Hit, As Many Times As Necessary.

When I was a young private at Fort Benning, going through Infantry OSUT, we were taught that there were eight fundamentals of marksmanship. As my buddy, SFC Ash Hess, one of the lead authors of the newest edition of the US Army Rifle Marksmanship Field Manual has pointed out though, there are really only TWO fundamentals to hitting what you are trying to hit, when firing a gun: you need a valid sight picture (including sight alignment), and you need to be able to break the trigger, without disturbing that sight picture.

When we are discussing our personal protection handgun, there are a couple of things that facilitate not only achieving this, but achieving it for more than one shot in a row. Those are proper grip, sight alignment, sight picture, and trigger squeeze. Of these, in my experience, proper grip is the foundation that facilitates the second and third.

Grip on a pistol should be high, tight, and consuming. By this, we are referring to getting both hands as high on the frame, as close as possible to the bore axis of the gun. We are also referring to gripping the gun tightly, and “consuming” the gun’s frame with your hands; creating a maximal amount of contact between your hands and the gun. Together, these three grip traits provide a couple of important services.

First of all, a good, solid grip should create a repeatable presentation of the sights of the gun, allowing for a proper “equal height, equal light” sight picture. By this, we are referring to the alignment of the sights, superimposed over the desired aiming point on the bad guy’s body. The tops of the front and rear sights should appear to be of “equal height,” with “equal light” exposed on either side of the front sight, in the notch of the rear sight. If our grip is adequate, every time we punch the gun out, during our presentation, as the sights enter our field-of-vision, we should see this proper sight alignment, naturally.

Second, a good, solid grip allows us, not to “stop” the recoil cycle, but—more importantly—to recover the gun, at the end of the recoil cycle, to the EXACT SAME PLACE IT WAS WHEN THE SHOT BROKE. By doing so, obviously, if our sights were aligned, and on target, when we broke the shot, then at the end of the recoil cycle, the gun has returned to that spot…meaning? We can break the next shot as soon as the gun comes out of the recoil cycle, allowing us to run the gun—and get hits—as fast as mechanically possible, out of that gun.

Third, a good, solid grip allows us the greatest opportunity to move the trigger through the trigger stroke and break, without disrupting the sight picture very much. This is important. One of the old mantras of pistol shooting accurately has long been, “squeeze the trigger straight to the rear.” That is possible with something like a 1911. With many of the modern striker fired pistols however—especially the Glock—that is actually impossible. In the 1911, for example, the trigger moves straight to the rear; there’s no pivot, except in your trigger finger. In the Glock however, the trigger actually pivots inside the frame. Added to the natural pivot of the joints of your trigger finger, this means you have to overcome TWO fulcrums in order to “squeeze the trigger straight to the rear.” Good luck with that…

Instead, the effective way to run the gun—including a 1911, for that matter—is to WATCH YOUR SIGHTS, and adjust your trigger squeeze as you fire, if your sights start to move. This is nowhere near as impossible as it sounds. The human eye can see the equivalent of somewhere around 1000 images a second, and your brain can certainly process at that speed. That is far—FAR–faster than your finger can move that trigger. As you’re squeezing the trigger, if the “equal height, equal light” wavers, you “simply” adjust your trigger squeeze to overcome that discrepancy.

If you develop the ability to work the trigger, while allowing your brain to process what your eyes are seeing, you will have the ability to hit what you NEED to be able to hit. By gripping the gun in a good, solid grip, allowing the gun to move back to its starting point at the end of the recoil cycle, you have the ability to follow your initial shot up with multiple follow-on shots, as necessary.

You Are Accountable

The truism is that “you are accountable for every round that leaves your muzzle.” Truer words were never spoken. We’re not at Belleau Wood, spraying rounds at the Krauts. We’re not at Bastogne, encircled by Nazis. We’re not in the Vietnamese jungle, blowing through a “Mad Minute.” EVERY. SINGLE. ROUND that leaves your muzzle needs to be a conscious, rational decision. You can only shoot your next shot when you make the decision that it is necessary to do so. Fortunately, you can process the available data and make a decision based on that data a whole lot faster than you probably realize…despite the naysaying of some academics in the training industry.

There are two aspects to being able to make rapid, well-informed, precise, follow-on shots. The first, which we will cover in a follow-on installment of this article series, is speeding up the data analysis/decision-making processes. The second is the mechanical, and involves learning to take advantage of the brain’s natural attraction to patterns and rhythms. Instead of blowing out of the gate, trying to blast as many rounds downrange as possible, as fast as you can yank the trigger, we slow down and find a rhythm. Then, we gradually increase the speed of the rhythm.

In classes, I have had students who’ve never fired more than staccato double-taps, build to firing a five-round string, to a 3×5 index card, at 30 feet (10 meters), in less than one second. That’s a 0.2 split-time between shots (which, again, we will go into more detail in the later installments), to a 3×5 target zone, at 10 yards, which is respectable by anyone’s standards. For a relatively novice shooter to achieve it, within a couple hours of instruction and practice, says a lot about the methodology’s value.

In classes, we start with me clapping and counting a rhythm, as students “dry-fire” a string, taking their time between “shots” to reacquire an “equal height, equal light” sight picture. The rhythm starts out deliberate: “One Thousand and ONE, One Thousand and TWO, One Thousand and THREE, One Thousand and FOUR, One Thousand and FIVE,” with the “shot” coming on the accented number count. Once students are comfortable with that speed, we do the same rhythm live-fire.

Then, we repeat the process, using a slightly faster rhythm: “One Thousand ONE, One Thousand TWO, One Thousand THREE, etc.” Then, we move on to, “And ONE, and TWO, and THREE, and FOUR, and FIVE,” before finally moving on to, “ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR, FIVE,” gradually increasing the speed of the final count call, to each shooter’s breaking point.

The goal of this exercise is two-fold. First, it conditions us to reacquire the sight picture, and prep for the follow-on shot, faster, so we can break the next shot sooner. Second, it begins teaching the student how much time there actually is during the recoil cycle, where they can be assessing the battle space, through their sights, and make rapid decisions in that time span.

By recognizing that time span that is available to us, we develop the ability to not only continue shooting the bad guy as many times as necessary, but also to see what we need to see, in order to make sound decisions in split-seconds, to avoid shooting anyone or anything we shouldn’t be shooting. Additionally, taking advantage of this allows us, when we DO screw up, to recognize it in time to avoid continuing to screw up. One thing I tell students in classes, that I can assure you: if you screw up and smoke a round into a six-year old, you CANNOT make the situation better by continuing to shoot the rest of his playmates.

What Do You Need to Hit?

—TRIGGER WARNING!!!! The next section contains opinions, based on personal experiences, that are widely considered heretical in the shooting industry. TRIGGER WARNING!!!—

What an “acceptable” target zone is defined as varies, even among “personal defense” shooting instructors. Some will tell you, a hit anywhere on the bad guy is okay, because it will slow him down, and may make him stop. Others will tell you, anywhere on the torso. Some advocate more precision, insisting on hitting the upper thoracic cavity, where the heart and lungs are housed.

I tend to be a bit contrarian, and more than a little elitist. I want students of the gun to be able to hit the bad guy wherever they feel, in the moment, is going to be effective. For this reason, I don’t focus my courses on hitting a specific part of a photo-realistic target or a silhouette. Instead, we shoot 3×5 index cards, at ranges out to 15 meters (45 feet) depending on the class and students’ abilities. If you can smoke multiple rounds into a 3×5 box—consistently—in an quantifiable time limit, you are going to be able to smoke rounds into the bad guy’s bread box, as needed.

I teach target matrix decision-making predicated on “what is likely?” and “what is possible?” For me, it is “likely” that—in the event you do need to shoot a bad guy in the personal protection context, they will be some scumbag breaking into your house, carjacking you, or holding you up, with the remote possibility that you might need to engage some dude holding someone else at gun point (more on THAT one in part three). What is “possible,” is—I believe—becoming more “likely” every day. That is, an active shooter scenario, with the shooter wearing an explosive vest, as we saw earlier in the year, in Brussels, Belgium, during the airport attack in that city.

While many people—especially in the gun/tactical community—have seen the security camera footage of the Belgian cop shooting one of the bad guys, then running away, moments before the wounded shooter blew his vest, what a lot didn’t hear is, apparently, the cop didn’t run fast enough, since he was killed in the blast. There was a possible solution to that, when the officer approached, and saw that the shooter had a vest one, he could’ve smoked him in the grape, but we—I—don’t know if there was some sort of “dead man” switch on the device that the officer saw. I find it unlikely though. It’s awful hard to run a gun with any degree of effectiveness while holding on to a dead man switch. More likely, to my mind, is that when the officer ran up, he saw the bad guy fumbling with the trigger, and ran off before it could be blown.

There’s an easier solution to that though, which also deals with bad guys wearing body armor, and that is, make the head shot your default. That doesn’t mean you can’t process the available data, as you’re drawing the gun, or before your draw the gun, and decide that you can settle for a lesser target, but if you are conditioning yourself to focus on the headshot, then it will not be as intimidating when you realize that is the only option (in the interest of intellectual integrity, I have never had to shoot a bad guy in the head with a pistol. I’ve done it a couple times with a carbine, for real, and I’ve done it a LOT in sims gun training scenarios with a pistol.) It’s not impossible, by a long shot, and it’s not even particularly hard, given the training to be able to process the data in the battle space more rapidly. The head shot is a solid default target zone—especially at common defensive pistol distances—and should not be dismissed instantly because “it’s too hard to hit, because it’s moving.” I will spend more time discussing the advantages of the head shot, as the “CPU Shutdown” method of stopping bad people from doing bad things, in a future article.

Conclusion

In part one of this series, we’ve discussed some of the basic foundational elements to the most fundamental skill in practical, personal protection shooting. It is not THE most important—that would be good decision-making—but it is one of the foundations that allows us to use the gun effectively.

If you cannot hit what you need to hit, as many times as necessary, there’s little point in carrying your gun. It’s not some sort of magical talisman that wards off evil-doers by its mere presence. It is only through the skilled application of the weapon that it becomes effective. That requires training, but more importantly, it requires continuing practice of the skills learned in training.

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