Before we make a purchase, we research what we are buying. By the same token, an investment in time should not be taken lightly. We look to those with good information in order to learn. After all, we are all ignorant, simply about different things. When it comes to training, speed and accuracy are always among the top considerations.
Many of my students are willing to learn, and the best students are anxious to learn. A few, however, seem to have emotional triggers when it comes to learning. It is like, let’s not upset my preconceived notions, or I will become upset or angry.
Some of these personal convictions are not based upon anything concrete. The subject of personal defense is a weighty one that bears research. I love learning, but I do not always like being taught. One thing I have learned is the balance between speed and accuracy. There is another element to the equation: power. But speed and accuracy are primary components of a goal.
Avoiding Wrong Tactics
Predicting the actions of the adversary isn’t as easy as predicting what a football team will do on the next game day—or is it? Tactics, techniques, and tendencies of action may be predicted by studying past actions. Formations, play-calling running backs, and receivers operate in much the same fashion season to season.
Coaches who win spend days or weeks picking apart the other team’s actions. They look at return-blocking kick coverage and plays. This gives the coach much insight into the counters that are needed.
By the same token, a boxer will study the other boxer. Does he use the Dempsey drop step as a finisher? Is he a jabber? When we consider what we should prepare for in personal defense, we must study the adversary’s likely actions.
The attack may come unexpectedly. But most of the time, there is some warning. “I need your money,” they may say, or the shooting is a result of an escalating problem. The real need is for a rapid presentation from concealed carry—providing that the level of force the adversary is threatening and capable of is lethal.
There are a number of erroneous ideas that are conceptualized and find their way to the training range. I think one of the problems that occur in training is folks trying to be too fast too soon.
The presentation from concealed carry is important. A smooth presentation that contains as little wasted motion as possible is important. The next step is bringing the handgun to bear on the target and getting a hit—not necessarily a flurry of hits but a single, solid hit in the X-ring.
It is almost laughable to see a trainer in an internet video with his hand on the pistol, adjusting his grip several times, and then when the whistle blows he draws from an open-top competition holster worn on the point of the hip and delivers a magazine full of 9mm bullets at a few-feet range. I cannot think of many more useless drills.
I think a trend began some years ago when the 9mm high-capacity handgun was adopted by police agencies. The spray-and-pray mentality developed, and because we had the 9mm, we trained around its deficiencies.
Most agencies eliminated 50-yard qualifications because the handguns were not accurate enough for 50-yard qualification. This resulted in officers being helpless when confronted with rifle-armed adversaries past 25 yards. While we are armed citizens, not peace officers, the problem may exist for us as well.
Drawing, firing, and getting a fast hit are what mean the most. Training faster and closer isn’t always best and goes against the better judgement of those of us with several incidents in their experience. The primary goal in training is to learn your personal limits.
Gunfights are scary and you cannot predict what will occur. Your senses are out of whack. The one thing we may state beyond any question is that the handgun must be brought into action and fired accurately. This means a lot of practice in presenting the handgun from concealed carry.
This may be accomplished at home with a triple-checked unloaded handgun. This isn’t nearly as exciting as firing a complete gun load into a target and then making an Instagram of the results, but it is the basic groundwork that must be done and continually repeated as we grow.
It is great fun to empty the gun into the target and fire several hundred rounds as quickly as possible on the range. We do learn manipulation, but the grueling work of getting a hit after a presentation and staying on target is most important. Remember, learn our physical limits, and then improve. All concentration must be on getting an accurate first shot.
The target isn’t stationary, and it isn’t flat paper when the shooting is for real. The shooter may fire a number of rounds with fast trigger action while the adversary is moving. The adversary may be struck, then turn around, and the continuing shots may strike him in the back. Back shots are difficult to explain. Panicked shooters make mistakes. Panic does not set well with jurors and equates with untrained mistakes.
The following shots may miss the target and strike innocent individuals if you fire too quickly. Civilian shootings—and the great majority of LEO shooting as well—demand a fast but carefully-aimed shot.
There are two reasons for firing a follow-up shot on the same target. First, you may have missed. If the first shot missed, why continue to fire in the same direction in the same manner faster than the human eye and mind may register that you have missed?
I think a more profitable drill may be to draw, fire, get a hit, then move to another target and get a hit. If you go too fast and miss, you will know your limits and may be able to improve your speed and hit ratio.
Speed is important, but I don’t think machine-gunning a target is a very good drill. You will have to justify not only the incident and firing but every shot you fire in a critical incident. This drill is best suited to easy-shooting service-grade 9mm pistols. With a 17-round magazine capacity and modest recoil, they are very easy to handle well for a trained shooter.
The personal defense handguns many of us deploy are not well suited to such drills. A five-shot .38 Special, slimline 9mm, or Commander .45 pistol doesn’t translate well at all to emptying the gun into the target. I think we should take training seriously and practice hard for the type of incident we are likely to face. In all instances, speed is good and accuracy is final.