In one of our blogs a few months ago we talked about shooting handguns at close quarters and introduced a bit of a reality-check on some of the elements involved. Here’s what we know:
- Personal attacks requiring a defensive response typically happen VERY quickly
- It’s easy to underestimate the fear and stress that a real-life defensive situation can cause
- Actions will almost always be faster than reactions
- Your decision-making and reaction time are likely slower than you think
- Most consider ‘close quarters’ to be within 6 feet from an aggressor – consider though that studies have shown that an average person (not an Olympic sprinter) can cover up to 22 feet of distance in about 3 seconds
No need to re-hash the details, but we know these facts to be true.
We also talked about the importance of practice for shooting at short distances. Ideally, if you can effectively and smoothly draw, raise, aim and fire time after time until you develop some decent muscle memory, then you’re well on your way. The problem with practice can arise though if you’re looking for something more dynamic as far as defense goes. While most gun ranges are great at teaching traditional (or hybrid) stances and shooting for accuracy, there are few that are accessible to the average gun owner that offer really specialized technique. This could include shooting from retention, rapid fire or defending against multiple attackers.
So where does that leave you?
Well, take advantage of whatever form of range work is available to you and keep in mind that most people won’t ever have to actually fire their weapon in self-defense. Be as prepared as you can, but don’t give yourself an ulcer by worrying about ‘what if’.
First and foremost, your safety and the safety of your family is THE most important factor when it comes to a personal defense situation. This applies to both novice shooters AND trained professionals. Even with a weapon in-hand there may be an alternative solution to exchanging gunfire with an assailant. One reader indicated that, even with a handgun available, he and his wife have a plan to retreat to a safe space in the event of a home break-in and to call 911 immediately. That’s a good course of action. No one is expecting you to sweep rooms or to proactively seek out a confrontation. You often have no idea what you’re dealing with and unless you’re REALLY well trained (ie. law enforcement or military), you may end up seriously injured or worse.
Let’s build on what we started in the first article with some more practical tips and methods. This isn’t a tutorial in any way so we won’t go into a lot of detail. These are just some things to consider. I’ll also preface this by stating that there are some more advanced elements listed that may never apply to the average gun owner, but they’re good reference points.
Whether you’re in your car, on the street or in your home, your awareness of what’s going on around you can play a big factor in being prepared to defend yourself. Since these scenarios can develop very quickly, perceiving real danger or potential threats early can buy you precious time at the outset. This can also apply to your quick assessment of available cover and exit routes.
Distance = Decisions
You don’t always have a choice in defensive situations, but ideally you’ll want to give yourself enough of a physical buffer to be able to react effectively or get yourself out of the danger zone. This is easier said than done in a lot of cases, but it should not be underestimated. Even if it’s only seconds, you’ll need to time to assess, make a decision and then potentially draw, raise, aim and fire (if you can).
Sometimes Using Your Firearm Isn’t an Option (at first)
In cases of extreme close combat, you may not even have the time to get your hand on your weapon, let alone fire it. Self-defense doesn’t always mean ‘gun’ defense. Many traditional handgun handling techniques are ineffective inside of 3 yards, so you’ll likely need to create some time/space for yourself or defend yourself in some other way.
It’s critical that you never lose your gun in a defensive exchange, so being able to shoot from a position of retention is really important. There are several methods, but typically you’ll be keeping your weapon much closer to your body so it can’t be knocked away or easily grabbed. You may also need your off-hand available to fend-off an attack, so one-handed techniques can work well too. Be aware though that any one-handed shooting requires discipline with keeping your off-hand and arm close to your body and out of the range of fire.
Again, this isn’t a ‘how-to’ explanation and there will always be some debate as to what methods are more effective. Just some basics for consideration.
The action of an aggressor will almost always be slightly faster that your reaction Keep that in mind when confronted. This isn’t the OK Corral.
It’s critical that you have complete familiarity with your weapon, its safety controls and your holster if you have any chance of quickly and effectively drawing and aiming if you have to. Don’t make any assumptions.
Address your attackers weapon first. You’ll have very little chance of successfully pulling and using your weapon if someone has already drawn on you or they have an edged weapon or bludgeon with impact imminent. Time for Plan B.
Learn to aim and shoot without looking at your sights (or your gun in general). You often won’t have the luxury of raising your gun to eye level, so get used to using your body as a guide. Hint – you also won’t want to take your eyes off your opponent at any time.
Know how to use your gun as an impact weapon. Whether you use the barrel or the bottom of the magazine, be sure to keep the weapon pointed away from you.
Be prepared to shoot from the ground. It can definitely happen so it shouldn’t come as a complete surprise.
To Speed Rock or not to Speed Rock. This is an older technique that has you leaning back away from your opponent in order to create enough space for you to draw and shoot. The problem is that it can put you back on your heels and off-balance, which is not ideal in a combat situation. Depending on the circumstances, it may be your only option though.
Is that cool John Wick style of shooting an actual thing? Turns out that it is. The Center Axis Relock (CAR) technique was developed by a law enforcement trainer as an alternative to the traditional Weaver or Isosceles stances. Not meant to replace these stances, it was intended as a way of more effectively operating in confined spaces. It allows for less time between drawing and getting the target in your sights, as well as helping with weapon retention. It helps with utilizing your dominant eye for aiming, controls recoil and provides a solid base of support. There is a High and an Extended version that can be used for different purposes. Much more tactical overall and definitely has merit.
The Reality of Close Combat Situations
Fights or physical attacks by their very nature are ugly affairs and can be fast, chaotic and vicious. There are no rules and you are very often faced with someone who may have little regard for your life. Having said that, unless you’ve experienced this type of thing personally, then you may still have a Hollywood notion of what may transpire. Can you coolly draw your weapon and deliver a perfectly aimed double tap that blows the aggressor off their feet? Not likely. When you’re that close, it’s likely that the aggressor will get their hands on you and then it’s a whole different ball game.
The perceived ‘stopping power’ of a gun and its ammunition can also be misleading as most bodies, once shot, will continue in the direction that they were traveling initially – and now you’re on the ground with someone that still wants to do you harm. The bottom-line is that you should never underestimate the potential for mayhem in these situations.
Your level of preparedness and understanding of the dynamics of deadly force encounters is critical if you have any chance of getting through these situations safely. If you’ve made the effort to acquire a handgun for personal protection, don’t take it for granted that you’ll know what to do if confronted in close quarters. Effective self-defense doesn’t just magically happen on its own. Have a plan. Be ready.
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