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Huh? Perplexed by the instruction in this video, I asked David Kenik to give it the once-over. “One has 30% of the question right and the other has 20% of the answer right, and the answer doesn’t match the question.” That’s about how I saw it too. But I have just enough knowledge about armed self-defense to know I can be completely wrong about any of its precepts. Which is why I check my advice with various gun gurus before I go to print (or whatever they call this newfangled blogging thing). Afterwards, I depend on TTAG’s Armed Intelligentsia to set me straight when I screw the ballistic pooch. But I don’t take anything I hear at face value. And that’s the way the best teachers want it . . .


“I can only tell you what I think and why I think it,” my go-to instructors say. “You’ve got to make up your own mind what’s best for you.” To that end, a good firearms teacher welcomes questions; the answers help “sell” their instruction to their students. Challenging questions also provide good instructors with a valuable reality check; they can make sure they’re not full of shit.

In that sense, it helps to think of armed self-defense training as an intellectual journey. You learn new methods, think them through, practice them, think them through again and then decide whether or not you should incorporate the instructor’s recommendations into your self-defense strategy. Another instructor? Go for it! Wash, rinse, repeat. Yes but—how do you know if you’re getting good training?

First, as stated, a good firearms trainer is open to any and all questions about the reasoning behind their instruction. They make time for it. Second, the training works for you. It makes sense and you can actually do it. Third, you should check one instructor’s advise with another. Why not? And fourth, watch them do it. Like a sailboat or an airplane, if the technique looks right, it probably is.

But whatever you do don’t get lost in a teacher’s cult-like following or credential-land. There are plenty of champion shooters who teach some f’ed up stuff (I believe that’s the technical name for it). There are hundreds of combat vets who prepare you for war, not self-defense. And so on. Like ballistic propellant, training is best measured in grains. The first with powder, the second with salt.

12 Responses to Self-Defense Tip: Make Sure You’re Trained Properly

  1. It would be interesting to see what was left on the editor’s floor. Perhaps the remake will be better than the original.

  2. Was this “instruction” or “sales”?

    There are a lot of videos and website like this, they are a tease for something else where something else usually costs money.

  3. He states that you can’t miss when they’re right up on you, but as we have all seen in dozens of videos anyone can miss at any distance. My buddy teaches Akido and when I practice drawing on him from five to eight feet, he disarms me everytime. It may look pretty easy to draw down on someone, but get yourself any airsoft gun and try with someone else and you’ll be amazed at how quickly things can go wrong with your draw.

  4. Joe,

    There was a gun fight in the late 1800’s that featured two gamblers circling a table shooting at each other. The range was no more than eight feet. If memory serves, the two gamblers emptied their guns at each other and missed with every single shot.

  5. I’ve taken three separate one-week-long classes at Gunsite and have the utmost respect for their instructors.

    I don’t like the hand behind the head though. It leaves too much vulnerable torso area exposed and slows down the joining of hands around the gun (step 4) if that becomes necessary or desirable, to resist a gun grab, block a knife thrust, etc. Keeping the forearm and hand across one’s chest is plenty good enough to keep the hand away from the muzzle, and may also take the first bullet, knife stab, karate chop or fist punch which is preferable to taking any of those hits directly into one’s chest or diaphragm.

    The hand behind the head also seems to change one’s balance in an undesirable way. I have a suspicion there is a lawyer behind that advice, to prevent poorly trained students from shooting themselves in the hand. I could be wrong on that score because as anyone who has been to Gunsite knows, before you get to the range you will have signed every sort of liability waiver known to exist. Still, they don’t want to be accused of giving advice that might lead to someone having a mishap.

    • TeeJaw, when you’re at Gunsite does anyone rush you from 7 yards? I find it difficult to belive a person in their 40’s or 50’s can cover that distance that quickly. Bad people come in all sizes and shapes. At first I thought the arm behind the head a good idea, but after reading your post I agree with you, thanks for your input.

    • The hand behind the head is a very common – and very instinctive – block used by a lot of different martial arts, especially MMA. Some people question it because it leaves your ribs and armpit wide open, but it’s not sort of thing you’d use standing toe-to-toe with someone. As you block with your left, you’re likely to be twisting down and to the right in an attempt to get out of reach. That sort of evasion isn’t itself the best idea, but it’s very instinctive, so much so that all but the very best tend to resort to it when hard pressed.

      That said, I’m a little unsure of this application myself.

  6. I saw this viddy a couple of days ago and the hand-on-head thing seemed senseless. Thinking about it further, I now believe that it’s not merely senseless, it’s absolutely senseless.

    Not allowing your body to interfere the slide is important, and yet another reason why revolvers, especially snubbies, are great close-up weapons. No slide, no jams, no limp-wristing and not much for a bad guy to grab.

  7. At the 1:13 mark in this video I stood up, grabbed my pistol and approached my front door. After imagining my reaction per this video I nearly fell backwards as supporting my head behind my neck naturally makes me want to lean back into my hand away from my attacker and destroying my sense of equilibrium.Now, if that is more because of me laughing hard enough to fall to the floor if I did not cease and desist that stupid action or because of some seriously flawed ergonomics…your guess is as good as mine.

    Stick your weak hand out stiff arm style to dress your target (to keep him at at least arms reach to keep him away from your gun) try and turn your strong side away from him (to further your weapon side from him), draw and shoot from the hip (similar to display in the video, oh my gosh he got something right) groin shots (or whatever is opportune you can hit). This is taught by the state of Ohio. Whether you strike him with your hand or not you can squeeze a few rounds while he’s dealing with your hand and if he’s grabbed it you may be pulled closer but that’s when contact shots are important. Muzzle to thorax or abdomen does not miss. That is the most basic and universal training for strong side hip holster draw under duress. There is plenty of other flashier stuff but the basic natural stuff is what you’re going to remember under fire.

  8. This article is great. They guy training me (a different Gunsite employee BTW) is completely cool with any questions and challenges to the status quo. He encourages me to check out other instructors and ways of doing things, and is completely non-defensive when I talk over other ways of doing things.

    He told me yesterday that he is all about letting people progress at their own pace along this journey of self defense because there is no one way for everyone.

    In other words, he is a great instructor.

    I also feel too many students are simply not students at all. They want to mimic whatever the authority tells them to do without questioning it, practicing it, learning alternatives, etc. You are responsible for you. Listen respectfully, but question everything and always be willing to learn more.

  9. The only time I’ve ever seen the suggestion to bring the arm up like that is when drawing from a shoulder holster to avoid lasering your support arm…not sure why he brings it up w/ regards to retention…seems to me you would want your hand at midline so you could more quickly transition to a full grip and or fight off the gun grab while firing

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