Thinking (and Practicing) Outside Of The Box – Defensive Handgun Deployment

  • SumoMe

Here’s your attention gainer: Train wrong and you will do wrong. Period.   And in terms of defensive handgun deployment, getting the handgun into the fight if you are unlucky enoughIMG_2544 to find yourself in one is a key to your survival. The problem is, most of us (yes me too at times in the past) are practicing techniques that might not meet the “stimulus/response” test.   The great benefit of practice is that it makes you better at what you practice. The downside to practice is that it makes you better at what you practice.   Read those last two sentences again.   The point is you will perform like you practice because of a process called mylenation (google it and read up on what actually builds habits). We write programs in our brains by doing something repetitively.   The problem is that the program we write might not be the one we want to run in certain circumstances.   One thing about building a skill program is that it is technically not possible to delete the program if it was incorrect.  The key here is that we want to make sure to write the correct program, and stimulus/response is part of this equation.

So how does this relate to defensive handgun deployment? Well consider this. The last time you went to the range, did you practice drawing the handgun and shooting. If so, how did you practice that skill?   If I had to guess based on years of watching how people train, I am guessing you set up a target 2-5 yards away and simply practiced drawing and shooting. Since you are training for self-defense you know the distances you will likely be involved in a fight are very close range, so that is the range you practiced at, right? So is there anything wrong with what you are doing? The answer is not a simple yes or no, but rather an “it depends.” Here me out on this. There have literally been hundreds if not thousands of gunfights videoed and analyzed at this point our history, and how those fights occur teach us a thing or two.

First, we learn very quickly that most people do not stand still when involved in a fight for their life. They run, duck, jump, turn, sprint, and do a myriad of other movements that are related to the situation. They also shoot from non-standard positions while leaning around an obstacle or something that might be used as cover. Additionally, we find that there are distances where when human beings are in close proximity they are often drawn into standing wrestling matches, often times grabbing at the weapons that their opponent has or is going for.   If you doubt this, look at how often police officers have had their own gun used against them. There is an entire holster industry devoted to retention holsters simply because of the fact that bad guys don’t stand still and let police officers draw their handguns and shoot them.

So what’s the point? Given what we know about fights, we know:

  • Movement is a big part of a fight, and survivability probably goes up if you use it to your advantage.
  • At close ranges simply drawing the gun and expecting the bad guy to let us accomplish this might fail. Training to respond with a different solution than just grabbing the gun is a smart move.

If your practice does not ingrain the best responses, no matter how good the technique you perform is, then you might be missing a big part of the training equation.   We can fix that.   The key is to set up simple drills with a few key stimuluses’ so you can practice responding with the appropriate tool at the right time.   For the purpose of this article, the three tools we are going to use to increase survivability are movement, combatives, and proper weapon deployment timing. I am going to give you three drills to work on, each done from a different distance and designed to work a different set of stimulus/responses. You will shoot from standard two-handed shooting positions from each drill. One-handed close quarters positions are not the goal in this article and these drills, and we will cover that material in a future article.

A few more keys:

  • All drills should be practiced dryfire (unloaded) first and then with live fire.
  • Observe all safety and muzzle direction rules during these drills, regardless of movement pattern.
  • Vary the number or rounds (1-4) you shoot in this drill so you do not always build the habit of shooting once or twice.  Make yourself get good hits.
  • Practice each drill at 50-75% speed (movement and weapon deployment) to ingrain correct skill. Speed up as your skill allows.
  • Practice one or two drills during each practice session. Master the skills you are working on rather than attempting to swallow too much at one time.

Keep in mind, this article does not cover the specific steps of the draw process, if you are not well versed in that skill I recommend you check out my book Your Defensive Handgun Training Program or Defensive Handgun Level 1 online.

Drill One: Very Close Range Threat/No Cover or Obstacles available

  1. Stimulus: Threat at close rangeDrill one A
  2. Response: Use combatives and create distance, then draw.
  3. Target: IDPA or similar cardboard target (suggest mounting two targets as securely as possible for striking) set one yard away from your starting position.
  4. Goal: To ingrain the stimulus of responding with strikes and movements before creating distance and drawing the handgun.   At this range, the habit of just reaching for the gun first is a bad one, as the threat will often reach for it as well.   Learn that always drawing right away is NOT always the best option.
  5. Actions: Load and make ready. Start one large step (one yard) away from the target, but make sure it is within striking distance or “one-step” striking distance.   Practice throwing several palm strikes to the target head, then stepping largely (two or more steps) to the rear, left, or right and then draw and engage with several rounds. Make sure you get just outside of arms length! Scan your area and re-holster. Reset and repeat.

Drill Two: Medium Range Threat/No CoverDrill Two B

  1. Stimulus: Threat at medium range, no cover to move to.
  2. Response: Move offline while drawing
  3. Target: IDPA or similar cardboard target set five yards away from your starting position.
  4. Goal: To ingrain the stimulus of movement offline during drawing the handgun.   At this range, the threat is too close to strike, and there is no cover available. Movement offline (left or right) aggressively might buy you a second or two and increase your survivability. The key is to move aggressively and get the gun out as fast as possible.
  5. Actions: Load and make ready. Start five yards away from the target Practice moving aggressively offline to the left or right while drawing. Engage the target as fast as possible while making yourself get hits. If you imagine yourself in the center of a clock, practice movement offline toward 2, 3, 4 and 8, 9, 10 o’clock angles.

Drill Three: Medium Range Threat/ Sprint To Cover

  1. Stimulus: Threat at medium range, cover to move to.IMG_2534-1
  2. Response: Sprint offline, then draw (from cover).
  3. Target: IDPA or similar cardboard target set five yards away from your starting position.
  4. Cover: Set up two barricades or something that can simulate a piece of cover. Set each barricade four yards to left and right of your starting position.
  5. Goal: To ingrain the stimulus of sprinting offline to get to cover, and then drawing theUse of Cover handgun.   At this range, with cover several steps away and available, you increase your survivability by moving aggressively first, then Aggressive offline sprinting gets you ahead of the action cycle the threat is going through. If you try to draw and move at the same time, you slow your movement down and compromise this technique. This movement is an aggressive sprint left or right to the piece of cover.
  6. Actions: Load and make ready. Start five yards away from the target Practice sprinting aggressively offline to the left or right to the cover you have set up. Draw and engage the target from a good cover position with as little exposure as possible.

There you have it, three separate drills that work a stimulus/response pattern that are different than you might be used to. Add these drills to your practice sessions to ingrain proper responses that will increase your survival chances in a dynamic fight for your life!   Don’t forget, these drills can all be done dry fire or with some sort of training handgun like a S.I.R.T. or airsoft gun to ingrain the skills you want to work on.

 

Until Then – Train Hard!

Mike S.

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6 Responses to Thinking (and Practicing) Outside Of The Box – Defensive Handgun Deployment

  1. Ron says:

    GREAT piece Mike! There is sooo much more to a defensive lifestyle than a handgun going bang.

    The “average person” who can only shoot at a local public range really has no idea of any of this. This is exactly why it is so important that folks seek out qualified instructors who can offer training in a location where such techniques can be taught & learned.

  2. TomD says:

    Thank you for more excellent drills!!

  3. Excellent article Mike. Thank you for providing these great drills for everyone to practice.

  4. Lynne F says:

    Excellent advice.

  5. elimn8u says:

    Thanks again Mike! The Online Courses are fantastic and this is a great addition too!

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