What Constitutes Combat Accuracy?

Someone defending their life with a gun has a lot to think about. In terms of shooting, accuracy and speed are The Big Two.  Simply stated, accuracy is the ability to hit your target. In terms of defensive gun use (DGU), accuracy is the ability to put a round into your target at a location that will diminish the attacker’s ability to continue his or her assault. Winging an attacker will not be as effective as a center mass hit to the chest. That said, accuracy is not the be all end all in defensive shooting . . .

In most fights, armed self-defenders don’t have the luxury of taking careful, precise aim and gently squeezing of the trigger. They need to make shots as accurately as possible as quickly as possible.

The “as possible” part of the program is devilishly difficult to define. There are dozens of variables that effect the speed and accuracy of a real world DGU, from the shooter’s situational awareness, to their skill at bringing their weapon to bear, to their marksmanship, to their personal biology and psychology.

Generally speaking, balancing speed and accuracy is the key to a successful armed self-defense. If you shoot too fast, you lose accuracy. If you concentrate too much on accuracy, you may shoot too slowly. Either way, you may lose your life or fail to protect a loved one.

This is where the term “combat accuracy” comes into play.

There is no exact standard for what constitutes combat accuracy. Most firearms instructors/practioners agree that an armed self-defender should be able to shoot a group size of about a hand: roughly eight inches between the shots that are farthest away from each other.

An armed self defender wants to hit an eight-inch circle—under pressure—at combat distance. Creating pressure for training is a problem for another post. Combat distance is generally considered anywhere from point-blank range to five yards out. (Theoretically, it can be MUCH greater.)

To train for combat accuracy, speed up or slow down your shooting until you can reliably make your eight-inch group. This is key: if your groups are tighter, you’re probably shooting too slowly. 

If you are shooting two-inch groups, speed up.  If you are shooting 12-inch groups, slow down. Once the group size has been achieved then work to improve your speed (if needed).

[Note: speeding-up your shooting doesn’t necessarily mean speeding-up your draw. Above anything else, your holster draw should always be smooth, precise and consistent.]

Why an eight-inch group? It’s sufficient accuracy to hit an attacker standing sideways as well as facing you directly. Also, group sizes tend to open up during stress. You don’t want to be practicing to a larger group size standard; you may not make your hits during an actual gunfight.

Why not a smaller group size? The more accurately we shoot, the more time we need, and time is not in abundance in a gun fight. Also, if your group tightens to the point that you’re hitting flesh that has already been destroyed, you’re not helping matters. Separating the wounds speeds-up the bleeding-out process; helping to incapacitate your attacker more quickly.

When practicing, make sure you shoot from various distances. When in close, you’ll be able to shoot much faster than from afar. The further you move from the target, the more slowly you’ll need to shoot.

If you’re shooting while moving backward, vary your pace accordingly. Shoot faster when you’re in close, slow down progressively as you retreat. The opposite is true as you move towards your target. Likewise, you may need to slow down when shooting from an odd position such as from behind cover, one-handed, shooting from your support hand, etc.

If you’re carrying a gun for self-defense, don’t practice like a marksman. Practice like a gunfighter.

[TTAG readers receive a 15% discount on David Kenik’s instructional DVDs by entering the letters TTAG in the coupon box during checkout.]