You own a gun, for self-defense. Or you are going to buy a gun, for self-defense. The focus starts based on a need and then it seems to go awry, you don’t know how to shoot a gun safely or accurately BUT you have a friend or family member who is willing to teach PLUS there is the internet and none of them are professional firearms instructors.
.The shooting sports industry is equipment driven, gun sales represent the highest percent of each dollar spent yet training and instruction represents the lowest amount spent. Why is that? If you were to go buy your first race car, clearly a dangerous tool to operate would you not consider learning how to drive correctly from a professional? Yet every year Americans buy $4 Billion dollars worth of guns and only spend $12 per person for training and instruction. Being in the business those numbers do not make any sense.
Self-defense is the use of force to counter an imminent threat of violence. Such force can be either armed or unarmed. In either case, the chances of success depend on a large number of parameters, related to the severity of the threat on one hand, but also on the mental and physical preparedness of the defender. If you are not prepared what will be your chance of success? Simply owning a gun does not mean you are prepared to defend yourself any more than owning a violin makes you musician.
Being prepared means being trained in a professional manner AND practicing your training on a regular schedule until that which you have learned becomes second nature and you can perform it without thinking about it. It also means continuing to train to improve on your skills on an ongoing basis. No, you are not a Special Operator preparing to conduct a mission BUT if you carry or own a gun for self-defense the end result is just the same, your life or your loved ones life will be at risk and if you fail in your mission life can possibly be lost.
If you’ve spent thousands of dollars for equipment, ammunition and other shooting related costs is it unreasonable to spend a few hundred annually for training? Going to the range, standing motionless shooting at a circle on a piece of paper is not training; at best it is practicing bad habits that will be so engrained in your memory and very difficult to unlearn. Learn correctly now. There are many qualified instructors out there and I have personally found I can learn something from almost all of them AND if that one thing I learned saved my life or another life it would be worth every penny I spent on it.
OR you can lock your gun up in the safe because you’re really not ready to defend yourself or others.
FACTS from NSSF
$9.95 Billion spent on guns and ammo annually.
Only 2.39% of that, $237 million, is spent on training.
$493 per shooter spent on shooting, $12 on instruction and training.
I have my favorite gun as do most people; mine seems to change occasionally when something REALLY strikes my fancy. During the Beginning Pistol class we actually go through a modified presentation of the history of handguns including all frame sizes, action types and calibers giving a new shooter a broader understanding of where we have come and why.
Below is a list of guns that have lead or have changed significantly the design and function of handguns. My new favorite is included because I’m writing the article. Would love to hear your comments on these guns and if your favorite is not in there tell me why your favorite has significantly changed the design and function of handguns upon its release.
1836 Colt Paterson
Smith & Wesson Model 10
1915 Colt Woodsman
1935 Browning Hi-Power
1938 Walther P38
1953 Ruger Single Six Convertible
1955 Smith & Wesson Model 29
1965 Smith & Wesson Model 60
1975 Smith & Wesson Model 41
1975 Beretta 92
1982 Glock G17
1984 Sig Sauer P226
2014 Sig Sauer P320
There you have it, almost 200 years of handgun development.
Neural Pathway Programming; AKA Unconscious Competence is when you are on auto-pilot. Correct programming makes you safe, fast and accurate.
Where you aware that when you are cruising down the freeway in normal driving conditions you are often essentially in a hypnotic trance? Thanks to our subconscious perception and neural pathways for driving for us. In fact if we were to actually driving in a fully conscious state there would probably be more accidents as there is so much, perhaps too much, sensory data to process on the conscious level. Your subconscious mind is the key as it never takes a break, it never gets tired it just continues to process inputs and react based on what it has been programmed to perform.
When a professional athlete performs in a more or less surreal method they call it being in the zone. They are cognizant of what is going on around them but they are not focused on that, the mind is just performing what it has been programmed to do.
During our Beginning class we talk about this programming for handling and shooting guns can be done best when we program our minds to do everything correctly. The Rules of Safety must be committed to subconscious memory so without thinking we always point the gun in the safest possible direction, that we always keep our finger off the trigger until we are shooting, that we know what the target is and what is beyond it. The same can be accomplished with the Fundamentals of Marksmanship. We commit to memory the correct grip and once done we do not have to consciously think about it, the grip just happens. Once the correct trigger press and reset are committed to memory we can learn to shoot very accurately, same with sight alignment and sight picture.
Learning to shoot while using economy of motion allows us to quickly get on target and make the shot, over and over. In the beginning learning everything correctly and practicing it relentlessly perfect will greatly increase our ability. But just like programming a computer, garbage in – garbage out, practicing imperfectly will take way more perfect repetitions to correct. Reprogramming is way more difficult than correct programming, thus one of the critical keys in taking training from the right instructor.
I’m currently reprogramming my trigger reset after taking a private lesson from a friend who is a top level IDPA shooter. I asked for help in getting faster and more accurate. I’m pretty fast and accurate for one shot out of the holster, still pretty fast for two and then things begin to drag. I was taught to trap the trigger after each shot and retraining myself to quickly get to the hard spot right after each shot is exceedingly difficult. My split times have been fairly consistently at 0.25 seconds and all I want is consistent splits at 0.20 seconds and you just cannot possibly know how difficult it is to change something that was ingrained with literally 100,000 rounds down range.
Garbage in – garbage out . . . save yourself some grief, avoid the garbage in. Life will be much simpler.
Unfortunately today bad things happen, but they always have. Today we seem to have a lower tolerance for some things and are far too accepting of other things.
In an unfortunate event in Cincinnati a young man pulled an airsoft gun on an officer and was shot as a result of his actions. If you’ve not seen today’s new airsoft guns you will be amazed at how they look exactly like the real thing . . . with one exception, they come with an orange plastic tip so people will know they are not a firearm. For whatever reason this young man had removed the ORANGE tip from the gun.
Also unfortunately today some people remove these orange tips or paint them black so the gun can be used to intimidate others or even commit an armed robbery. From prisons gang members are taught to paint the barrel of their guns orange so they will cause some to not fire on them first.
So imagine while on the way home from work your wife frantically calls you screaming that there is a man in the yard pointing a gun at her and your children. You floor the accelerator and are only a block away. As you pull up you see a young man in your yard with a gun tucked into the front of his pants. You approach with your carry gun in your hand and he pulls his gun . . . do you shoot or don’t shoot?
By the time you have thought about this answer had the gun been real you would have been dead. What choice do you have? Can you make the Shoot – No Shoot call?
One of the instructions I give CCW students before they come to our range day is that they should bring a gun they are comfortable with shooting 500 rounds. My reasoning is simple, many people permit a tiny little sub-compact or revolver yet they never shoot it, in particular they never shoot it 500 times in one day. A second reality, most people never shoot any gun 500 rounds in a day in practice. Those realities don’t make a lot of sense and even I find myself leaving the house and quickly grabbing my Sig Sauer P938 because it’s light and thin although I do not shoot it regularly in practice.
What do you practice with? Working a trigger is working a trigger but . . Most of my students come to the range with their full size or compact guns, lots of ammo and spare mags but these are not the guns they carry every day. While certainly triggers are triggers and if you’re good at working one you should be reasonably proficient regardless of which gun is in your hand.
The problem comes from manipulations. The grip is considerably smaller than your full size. Often your grip is not as strong on these tiny guns. When was the last time you just sat and practiced pulling it from a holster and slapping a perfect grip on the gun? Over and over and over, so it is just like breathing, you do not even think about it.
How do you practice? Concealed? Moving? Point shooting? Long Range? If you ever need to draw your gun you will not have the time to get your grip just perfect and then begin firing and honestly your survivability in the violent encounter to some degree requires having an effective grip that allows you to get accurate rounds on target . . . FAST.
What about clearing your gun from concealment? When you go to the range do you work from concealment? What about at home? You walk around every day with your gun hidden. The skill and ability to get it out and into action FAST is critical to your ability to defend yourself and your loved ones. If you are struggling to get that garment out of the way, or if your gun snags something on the way out it could all be over right then as the Bad Guy bowls you over onto the ground.
I read this somewhere and it took a moment for the real meaning to sink in. NEVER DRAW YOUR GUN FAST . . . while standing still. Movement is a critical aspect of surviving a violent encounter. Moving away, moving to cover, ducking, running . . . something! Anything! Just MOVE! This should be so engrained that you have to consciously remind yourself to stand still when drawing your gun where you cannot move such as at an indoor range. Going for your gun and stepping off the line should be as normal as breathing . . . if you wish to continue to breath.
What about those close encounters? Hand to Hand with the BAD GUY? How often do you shoot without aiming? Merely rotating the gun to target without extending your arms and put effective rounds on target? If you are attacked most likely it will come at very close distances, your ability to simply point the gun is a critical skill. I cannot think of anyone I know who practices point shooting from the hip.
How many rounds can you place consecutively in an eight inch target from fifteen yards? Can you make that long shot from cover, or on your knees or from behind cover? Some of the most “frightening” shooting I see are from little revolvers and sub-compact semi-automatics from distance. It is not unusual to see students completely miss the Two foot by Three foot target at this distance. To deny that this shot is going to be required is like denying you need to wear a seat belt while driving.
For the sake of argument let’s just say you shoot that little pea-shooter pretty well but can you reload it fast? In interviews with citizens who have been in gunfights EVERY single one of them ran out of ammunition BEFORE the Bad Guy went away. In over 1,000 classes I’ve only had one student who could reload a revolver in a reasonable amount of time. In fact in all of those classes I can count on two hands the number of people who have even been able to qualify with a five shot revolver and reloading has consistently been a major weak link. For the sub-compact folks if you have to use two hands to remove your magazine you might want to consider a lot of practice and or modifications because every wasted second could be reducing your life expectancy. Your reloads should be fluid in motion, no wasted movements and FAST.
The key to success will be practicing your skills until they are running on pure sub-conscious memory. Practice them until there is no thinking required and then measure your effectiveness running drills. Keep track of your times and scores so you can monitor over time how well you are maintaining these critical skills. Run a scenario putting them all together. Include movement, shooting while moving, reloads, point shooting and long range shooting, make it fun and track your progress.
What’s in your little gun? What kind of ammunition are you betting your life on? What is the terminal ballistics for that ammunition using a little gun? There can be a substantial reduction in velocity using the same ammo in a two inch barrel versus a four inch plus barrel. Will it penetrate fifteen inches, deeply enough to reach internal organs? Will it open significantly on impact and will it retain its weight? With a reduction in velocity come a reduction of penetration and the bullet will often not open fully.
On an almost daily basis I come into contact with people who believe they need a tiny gun in order to conceal it and that belief is sorely off the mark. I have many students who carry a full size gun daily and there is no way you can see it. Those people realize what they shoot well, what they will practice with and are willing to do what it takes to carry a gun they KNOW will save their lives if needed. The concept of “I need a tiny gun” because I am going to carry really needs to stop AND should you be stuck in that track then you need to step up and shoot that little tiny gun only. To do otherwise is foolish and it will get people killed, either YOU or the Soccer-Mom down the street because you’ve not practiced with your pea shooter and cannot hit the side of a barn. Where there is the will there is a way.
I enjoy shooting but I enjoy training and practice more. I enjoy measuring my performance while constantly striving to improve. I like pushing it until the wheels come off for when they do I learn and that knowledge and expertise gives me the confidence to carry a gun . . . that should it ever be needed to save a life I know I will perform effectively.
Currently the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is hearing appeals from Sunnyvale CA gun owners who are suing to stop the implementation of a new law banning magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. Arguments for the appeal are centered on whether citizens are being denied the ability to defend their lives should a violent encounter occur.
“The district court concluded that these magazines are protected by the Second Amendment, yet nonetheless concluded that they may be prohibited entirely,” Fyock’s attorney Erin Murphy said. “Those two conclusions are fundamentally incompatible. Once something is within the scope of the Second Amendment, then flatly prohibiting it is not an option.”
Defending the ordinance, attorney Roderick Thompson said the law “does nothing to dispossess people from arms; it does nothing to categorically prevent anyone from using a firearm.” – 9th Circuit Hears Arguments on Ammo Law
As courts normally have a very narrow scope when addressing issues such as this the question, How Many Rounds Does it Take to stop a determined violent criminal is not being addressed. If we can come to a simple agreement of fact that Law Enforcement are not restricted in magazine capacity when dealing with violent felons then it should stand to reason that a citizen who might run into the same violent felon should not be restricted either.
Thompson’s argument that limited magazine capacity does not restrict a person’s right is ludicrous on its face for if a citizen faces that violent felon with an empty gun then his Second Amendment right of self-defense has effectively been taken.
So how many rounds does it take to effectively stop an attack? Two? Four? Ten? We haven’t a clue because each case is different and you will not know until the attack has ended. Thompson states you can have as many 10 round magazines you want but he never addresses the issue of what if you need more than 10 rounds and you have to do an emergency slide-lock reload. National level competitive shooters can reload while firing two shots in just less than three seconds, which is fast. Will that be fast enough as the 6’-4”, 300# doped out lunatic races towards your position? I doubt it.
I often hear the argument to my question that all you need is one well placed round. I have news for you, when that monster is shooting at you or trying to literally rip your head off a well placed shot is just not going to happen. If this were the case why not have LE carry .22 handguns. We are talking handguns people, there is no such thing as instant incapacitation unless you were to get extremely lucky.
“Shot placement is an important, and often cited, consideration regarding the suitability of weapons and ammunition. However, considerations of caliber are equally important and cannot be ignored. For example, a bullet through the central nervous system with any caliber of ammunition is likely to be immediately incapacitating. Even a .22 rimfire penetrating the brain will cause immediate incapacitation in most cases. Obviously, this does not mean the law enforcement agency should issue .22 rimfires and train for head shots as the primary target. The realities of shooting incidents prohibit such a solution.” – Handgun Wounding Factors and Effectiveness
Okay perhaps we can give up on the one well placed shot BUT what about using the most powerful cartridge known to man . . . the .45 ACP, or perhaps the .44 Magnum depending on which movie you wish to quote for your uninformed opinion. There is NO KNOCKDOWN power in handgun cartridges, it is just not reality.
“A bullet simply cannot knock a man down. If it had the energy to do so, then equal energy would be applied against the shooter and he too would be knocked down. This is simple physics, and has been known for hundreds of years. The amount of energy deposited in the body by a bullet is approximately equivalent to being hit with a baseball. Tissue damage is the only physical link to incapacitation within the desired time frame, i.e., instantaneously.” – Handgun Wounding Factors and Effectiveness
Ammunition selection is important for two simple facts, the bullet must be able to penetrate to major organs and create a permanent wound cavity of some size that will allow it to keep bleeding.
“The critical wounding components for handgun ammunition, in order of importance, are penetration and permanent cavity. The bullet must penetrate sufficiently to pass through vital organs and be able to do so from less than optimal angles. For example, a shot from the side through an arm must penetrate at least 10-12 inches to pass through the heart. A bullet fired from the front through the abdomen must penetrate about 7 inches in a slender adult just to reach the major blood vessels in the back of the abdominal cavity. Penetration must be sufficiently deep to reach and pass through vital organs, and the permanent cavity must be large enough to maximize tissue destruction and consequent hemorrhaging.” – Handgun Wounding Factors and Effectiveness
In the end the way the violent adversary is stopped truly is psychological, you have to defeat his mind and a very effective way to accomplish that is to put MANY holes in his vital organs until he has decided he has had enough and ceases the attack.
The Heller decision made it patently clear, we have a protected right under the Second Amendment and applying any regulation on the ammunition supply is a clear violation of that ruling.
In our instruction we often refer to the level of learning/training of people we train as Consciously Incompetent, they know they don’t know and come to us to learn. Most have been to ranges or have seen others shooting and observing the Unconsciously Incompetent in those venues often prompts them to take training. As a student of shooting and armed self-defense I seem to live in a constant state of Conscious Incompetence but striving for progress always keeps me moving forward to learn something I don’t know.
If your target resembles this . . . get some training.
Where are you on the scale with your shooting?
Unfortunately those we see at the range who are not taking classes suffer from the Dunning Kruger effect.
“The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias manifesting in two principal ways: unskilled individuals tend to suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than is accurate, while highly skilled individuals tend to rate their ability lower than is accurate. In unskilled individuals, this bias is attributed to their meta-cognitive inability to recognize their ineptitude. Skilled individuals tend to underestimate their relative competence, erroneously assuming that tasks that are easy for them are also easy for others.”
Dunning had read an article about a bank robber who scrubbed his face with lemon juice BELIEVING it would make him invisible to surveillance cameras.
“When psychologist David Dunning read about Wheeler’s story, he was intrigued by one facet: Wheeler was so confident in his abilities, despite his stupidity. Could other people have similar blind spots about their incompetence? Dunning and his colleague Justin Kruger conducted some experiments: they tested their students on humour, grammar and logic, then asked them to estimate how well they had done. The pair found that, like Wheeler, the poorest of performers were also the worst at judging their own abilities accurately.
This became known as the Dunning-Kruger effect: in short, incompetence shields our self-knowledge of incompetence. Or more bluntly, the stupidest person in the room doesn’t feel that stupid, because their ignorance also dampens their awareness.” – Stupidity for Dummies
Often in firearms training we observe unconscious incompetence and when you talk with these people you realize they seem to actively practice the Dunning-Kruger effect, and most likely live their lives oblivious in many areas yet believe they are on top of their game.
Do you know what you don’t know? Are you actively seeking training to learn what you don’t know? Or are you of the belief that you are a great shooter even though it is never tested? If you come into a situation such as crossing the path of the Methed-out Samoan will you perform at the level needed to survive this monster or will you perform at the level you falsely believe you have?
Consistency is the key to success in any endeavor and the grip is your only connection to your tool, the handgun. To be effective and consistent in engaging the target we not only need to score hits with the first shot but subsequent shots as well, and a weak or inconsistent grip will prevent those subsequent shots from connecting where you need them. The correct grip will help eliminate the many causes of error in marksmanship and give you a better platform from which to perform perfect trigger control and almost all inaccuracies stem from the shooting hand doing things it should not.
Although there are a few variations on a consistent two hand grip it is critical that; the grip aligns with our natural point of aim in essence functioning as our pointing finger so when the gun comes on target the sites are already in very close alignment, and the grip provides for good recoil control so the gun comes up and returns to the same point of aim with the trigger reset and ready to fire subsequent shots.
Your shooting hand must be high on the backstrap to allow perfect alignment of the bore with the hand and forearm. With handguns with a beavertail the web of the hand should be somewhat compressed against the beavertail more or less forcing the hand into the correct position on the gun. This additionally aids in controlling muzzle flip and recoil.
The middle finger of your shooting hand should be tight against the trigger guard where it connects to the grip of the gun ensuring minimal movement of the gun in the shooting hand.
The support hand will support the weight of the gun and aid in controlling recoil and muzzle flip. It should start with the butt of the support hand filling in the space on the grip panel that the firing hand does not cover. The forefinger should be held perpendicular to the upright axis of the handgun and tight to the underside of the of the trigger guard. In most instances the middle joints of the support hand fingers will lie on top of the middle joint of the shooting hand fingers. I recommend you start here and adjust as needed.
The amount of pressure applied by the hands should be enough but not too much, sounds simple right? I have found if I think of the gun grip as a small animal or bird that I want to control but not squish it seems to give me the correct amount of pressure. Additionally you need a decided fore and aft pressure on the grip, pushing the gun forward with the butt of the shooting hand and resisting that movement with the fingers of the support hand in essence creating an isometric vise on the grip decidedly limiting muzzle flip. If you see your support hand slipping off the shooting hand when firing you clearly do not have enough fore and aft pressure on the grip.
While certainly comfort plays a role in shooting, and a new grip style will in the beginning feel uncomfortable we really cannot afford to give up a solid performing grip for comfort at the expense of accuracy.
Lastly, those pesky thumbs. Obviously both thumbs should be pointing forward except when using a revolver, the support thumb will be clearly forward of the shooting thumb and should lay against the frame just above the trigger guard. The shooting thumb should be resting on top of the base of the support thumb. In revolvers due to the location of the trigger guard and the gap between the cylinder and the forcing cone the thumbs should be bend in a downward manner at the top knuckles. Assuming the correct position of both hands, there will be skin to grip contact all the way around and the thumbs almost become superfluous to the actual gripping of the gun.
So, the key points are:
Shooting hand high on the backstrap with some noticeable pressure between the beavertail and the web of the shooting hand.
Middle finger of the shooting hand should be high and tight to the base of the trigger guard.
The butt of the support hand filling the exposed grip panel left between the shooting fingers and the butt of the shooting hand.
The side of the support thumb in contact with the frame just above the trigger guard.
Shooting is a complex combination of multiple skills that some individuals pick up rapidly, while others require time and patience to achieve the goals they set for themselves. If shooting fast and accurately every time were easy, everyone would be a top-ranked competitive shooter and nobody would miss an enemy combatant or attacker during a self-protection related encounter. No matter the skill level, understanding, refining and possibly improving upon the combat grip will aid in becoming a better precision shooter and/or faster and more accurate combative shooter.
Below are a few pictures of HOW NOT TO DO IT . . . your comments on these would be appreciated.
Do yourself a huge favor, learn to shoot from a high quality firearms instructor. You will learn faster and do better . . . and you will look great while doing so.
While scrolling through the Facebook newsfeed this morning I saw a couple of posts about “which gun should I” get/recommend/suggest. This is nothing new, I see these all the time, and then there are a hundred or so responses about each persons favorite toy, the obligatory argument over glock versus 1911, “get a .22 because you can shoot it more easily”, and really just an enormous amount of silliness about equipment.
On the last one I commented with “I suggest you find quality instruction first”. Of course no likes on that comment because NO ONE seems to even consider training. Why is that? Why do people think you can just pick up a gun and then magically you know what to do with the tool, and what to do in the violent encounter.
The gun is really my last consideration when it comes to self-defense. My training and practice revolves around tactical solutions to a violent encounter. In those frightening moments at the start of a confrontation I do not want to fall back on square range marksmanship training because it WILL get you killed. In that instance when the decision is made to use extreme violence to save your life or another, certain things must occur to give you the tactical advantage such as instantly moving to cover/concealment, moving yet again to a more favorable position all the while sending effective rounds into the target, FAST.
I guess my point, I find it excruciatingly frustrating that people worry more about the latest and greatest toy gun, or dogmatically sticking to the “Old Guys Tales” rather than focusing on training the mind to function in extreme stress.
I’m a member of the Armed Citizens Legal Defense Network. They send out an eJournal each month which often has great interviews. This months offering “Lessons from Newhall Shooting Applied to Armed Citizens Today”. If you’re not a member I suggest looking into it as often the eJournal is worth the price of admission alone.
For those not familiar with the Newhall shooting, you should be if you carry a gun for self-defense.