Rule #1 concerning gunfights is this- be somewhere else when they happen. OK, now that we’ve established that, what do you do if you are forced to violate Rule #1?
There are a lot of people with a lot of theories about gunfighting. I’m not one of them; I understand that as an armed civilian there is no set-piece rule-book. Circumstances are highly individual and things happen very, very fast. You can learn all kinds of things and discover the fight is over before you remember even one of them. You are better off learning very few things, but learning them bone-deep.
We know a few things about gunfighting these days. One if them is that you will fight as you train. If you train bad habits when the excrement hits the rotary impeller you will do bad things. People make much of the whole stress/adrenaline thing, and to a point they are correct to. But if you have trained actions to second nature when the stress and adrenaline hit you will do those things, and you will do them exactly as you have trained to do them.
A gunfight is chaotic and unpredictable, and it’s not going to happen on your terms. Seriously, if you think there will be a gunfight leave. Rule #1, remember? OK, it’s going to happen unexpectedly with tons of random variables. Lighting, number of attackers, presence of innocents… there are simply too many things to ever develop a set plan for how to survive and win a gunfight. So you need to control what you can- yourself.
Practice to hit what you aim at, with both hands and either hand. Do it until you can do it consistently, then do it some more. No, a target on a range is not the same as a moving, living person- but putting bullets where you want them is always the same. Odds are in a civilian self-defense shooting you will not need to reload. Practice it anyway, until you can do it blindfolded and one-handed. Then practice it some more.
If your weapon of choice is a semi-automatic practice clearing jams. Over and over; you’re training muscle-memory, burning in new neural paths. It takes hundreds or thousands of repetitions to get this hard-wired. If your weapon of choice is a revolver think about what to do if it jams. It’s pretty unlikely, but if it happens you now have a very sophisticated rock. It’s better to have a rock and a plan than to just have a rock.
Practice your draw- and practice it from the holster you carry in wearing the clothes you conceal it under. Practice drawing the gun and getting a sight picture. Do it over and over until you are sick of it, then do it some more. Then practice drawing with your weak-hand. Then practice while standing, sitting and lying flat on your back or on your face. Always be able to draw your weapon in any reasonable position you might find yourself in- and do it over and over and over until it is an automatic thing.
Here’s the thing about all this practice- it’s more important to do it right than it is to do it fast. In training don’t hurry. As Fiore said at the dawn of the 15th C., ”Train slow. In the fight anger will give you speed.’ It was true then and it’s true now- as long as you have trained to do it right adrenaline will take care of the speed in the actual event.
You also need to practice basic firearms safety- don’t point the gun at anything you aren’t willing to shoot. Don’t touch the trigger unless you want the gun to go bang. Know what your backstop is. You know theses things, and they apply just as much in a gunfight as they do on the range.
Once you have the basics down you are ready for the ‘advanced course.’ Here it is in a nutshell-
“If you aren’t shooting, moving or hiding you are probably doing it wrong.”
Pretty simple. ‘But Tinker!’ I hear you cry, ‘What about reloading? What about situational awareness? What about…’ etc. Fine, you need to reload? Hide. Nowhere to hide? Move. Need to look around? Do it while hiding or, if you must, while moving. Let’s make this clear- by ‘hide’ I mean behind something that will stop bullets. Don’t stand there like an idiot while people with guns are trying to kill you. Move behind cover and hide. What about shooting? Don’t worry about it- if you’ve trained properly the shooting bit will take care of itself.
Example- bad guy with gun. Do you stand there like it’s 12-noon and try to out-draw him? No- get something that will stop bullets between you while you draw your weapon. Move-hide-shoot. Yep, you might find yourself in a situation where you have no choice- but if you have no choice maybe all that training will give you a chance.
Train the basics. Keep it simple. Trust your training. Move/hide/shoot.
So that’s my advice, and you can take it for what it’s worth. Maybe it will help keep you alive, but I hope none of us ever need to find out.
Michael Tinker Pearce, 17 December 2017
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