…but it can get you to do it right, and right is fast.
Training is good. If you have the money and interest to take courses, well that’s great… if it’s good training. Because if or when you need to defend yourself, you will fight as you have trained. If you have trained well and had good training it will significantly increase your odds of surviving. If you’ve had bad training… well, you know the saying, ‘Garbage in, garbage out.’
Unfortunately training is expensive, and it should be; this is serious stuff. A good instructor has spent a lot of time and energy to learn their skills and how to impart them to you. The fact that something is worth it, however, doesn’t mean you can afford it. The good news is that there are many things you can do to train yourself that don’t cost a fortune.
A lot of people don’t have access to a facility where they can practice defensive shooting. Many ranges have prohibitions against working from a holster, rapid fire etc. This needn’t handicap you entirely; there are still useful training methods you can employ. These methods are far from comprehensive and will not turn you into any kind of ace pistolero… but they will help.
First Things First
All sorts of people will tell you that being able to hit the target at the shooting range is very different from shooting in an actual confrontation, and they are correct. Being able to hit the target doesn’t mean you will be able to hit an attacker… but being unable to hit a target pretty much guarantees you won’t. The most elementary skill you will want for self defense is the ability to hit what you aim at, and every round you fire at the bullseye will work in your favor if the worst happens.
Get it right, then get it fast.
In his 1403 treatise, ‘The Flower of Battle,’ Fiore advises us (paraphrasing) ‘Train slow; in the fight anger (stress and adrenaline) will give you speed.’ Essentially it’s more important to train to do it right, and let speed come to you when it’s needed. This actually works; I never practiced a ‘fast-draw’ in my competition days. Instead I focused on doing it right every single time, drawing slowly and raising the gun to eye-level to obtain a sight picture. I repeated this thousands of times, grinding it into my muscle-memory. Despite the fact that I didn’t train for the quick-draw when the buzzer went off to start a stage I got my gun out and into action plenty fast.
It’s a good drill, and you can do it anywhere you won’t scare someone. Unload the gun and put it in your carry holster. Have a small target set across the room. Verify that the gun is empty (or better yet loaded with a Snap Cap dummy round,) then grasp the handle and draw the gun, raise it to eye-level. Focus on moving the gun in the shortest path, without extra movement and have the muzzle slightly up so that the first part of the gun that enters your line of sight is the front sight. Center this in the rear sight notch as the gun come on target and squeeze the trigger while maintaining sight alignment.
Do this enough times- maybe several thousand repetitions- and you will be able to get a sight picture very quickly when drawing the gun, and at need you will draw quickly.
There are useful drills you can use even if your range is quite restrictive, and they should be used in conjunction with standard target shooting. Maybe you can’t work from the holster of rapid-fire, but these exercises will help. These names are what I call these drills; there might be other names for them but I don’t know them; I’m just some schmuck who does what he can, not as highly trained combat pistol expert. All of these drills are done slowly; after all, in training there’s no point in shooting faster than you can hit the target. The idea is to train to do it right every time. Note that these are all about basic shooting skill; you still need to consider tactics etc. in an actual fight. These drills are designed for a revolver, because that’s what I usually carry, but are easily adapted to a semi-auto.
7-3-2 (Seven yards, three positions, two shots each)
With a standard pistol target at seven yards, fire two shots holding the gun with both hands, then two shots from your strong hand, then two shots from your weak hand. Don’t shoot any faster than you can keep all six shots in the black. This will insure that you get enough practice in all three modes of firing.
Same as the drill above, but for each shot you start with the gun pointed downrange at waist level, then bring it to eye level, get a sight picture and fire a single shot, then lower the gun and do it again. This is simple training on acquiring a sight picture.
3-3-6 (three yards, three positions, six shots)
This is a point-shooting drill. I’m not a huge fan of point-shooting, but it is undeniably useful at very close range. With the target at three yards, keeping both eyes open, raise the gun to mid-chest level, point it at the target without using the sights and fire six shots. Watch where the bullets strike and walk them into the center of the target. Do this two-handed, with your strong hand and with your weak hand. Don’t try to rush it- be conscious of the feel of the gun and how it points naturally in your hand. look at the gun at first to be sure it’s pointed at the target. The goal is to consistently get all six shots in the black. If you haven’t tried this before, it’s harder than it sounds.
3-2-1 (Three Shots, Two positions, One shot at a time)
After you’ve gotten good at the drill above it’s time to step it up. With the target at three yards, start with the gun in your strong hand, pointed downrange at waist level, with both eyes open. Raise the gun to mid-chest and fire a single shot at the target. Switch to the left hand and repeat. Keep switching hands until you have fired all six shots. Once again the goal is to land all shots in the black.
Of course you also need to practice reloads, clearing jams etc. Like the draw, though, these actions can be practiced nearly anywhere. Well, anywhere you won’t freak out bystanders… Anyway, a lot has been written on those subjects and we don’t need to rehash them here.
These simple drills will not turn you into the ultimate gunfighter, but they can be practiced by anyone in almost any shooting venue… and they might just help save your life.
Michael Tinker Pearce, 17 January, 2020