I was able to spend a few hours at Gunsite again last week. I worked on close range scenarios involving both open hands and knife. By close range, I mean within 15 feet or so. My main takeaway: if someone decides to do violence to you at close range, by surprise, if they are determined in their attack, your concealed carry firearm probably won’t do you a bit of good. I came away from the training feeling that I’m only beginning to know how much I don’t know about armed self-defense. Which is the first step toward avoiding or alleviating the problem of close-range contact . . .
The extremely close range fight is really the worst of situations for the defender. If a criminal has gotten that close to you without alerting your “alarm systems,” you are likely distracted or deceived in some fashion. You are in a deep pit and it ain’t going to be pretty trying to climb back out of it. As such, simulated close encounters of the criminal kind are a great “worst case” situation for training.
First we spent some time in a classroom with a blue gun and a knife trainer. Dave emphasized that self defense needs to be focused on the problem. The problem is the person, not the knife, or the gun, or the punch. Our response should concentrate less on the bad guy’s weapon as regaining the initiative in the fight.
After discussing various scenarios, Trainer Dave took a couple runs at me with the knife, directing me to draw on him (classic Tueller drill stuff). It was a revelation: watching myself backpedaling, getting stabbed repeatedly as I struggled to get my gun into the fight. I was just like the cops in this video. A determined, real-world attacker would have put me on the ground and sewing-machined my skin.
We discussed our natural instinct to back-up and draw. That strategy fails badly because a determined attacker can run forward faster than a defender can run backward. At close range, you have to do something to create space (and time) to access your weapon. Gunsite counsels movement (if possible) to the side/flank, assuming a solid stance, and protecting the head/neck while viciously counter attacking. In theory, your counter attack gains you the space/time necessary to get out of Dodge, or access your weapon.
I realized I need to supplement my startle response with an attack response. It’s essential to respond to close range violence counter-intuitively, with an immediate and sudden escalation in violence.
I need to move and or get set into a protective stance, take the initial hit/stab from the best position possible and strike back in a way that takes my opponent’s vision, thinking or breathing away. Then continue to attack until I’m able to disengage and access my gun. Or simply disengage completely. Going for the gun at these distances simply will not work with a committed attacker.
It was a lot of info to process in a short time, but it made me realize that I am nearly useless right now against any sort of unarmed combatives. That’s a hard pill to swallow, but it gives me something to work on.
After the classroom time we headed to the range to work on shooting from retention, moving laterally and forward and backward while shooting. I felt more comfortable out here as most of the shooting stuff is review other than shooting from a high retention position.
In retention, essentially, you’re leaning a bit forward with a bent waist, support arm up and protecting you head, pistol drawn, and locked into the ribs on a bit of an angle so the slide does not foul on clothing.
We were about three feet from the target. Amazingly (and educationally) my first round missed. You can not see the pistol at all and are relying completely on indexing. Body indexing sucks. This is why some sort of visual reference to the gun is so essential while shooting. My round would have hit if I was in contact with another person which is the point of this exercise anyway.
Shooting from this retention position is a little freaky because parts of my body, including my face are forward of the muzzle. The blast, ejecta and heat coming from the muzzle (never mind the bullet) are disconcerting—to say the least.
All in all, it was a good half day of training and I learned a lot about myself and the dynamics of a fight. My take-home lesson: be fight-focused, not tool focused. The person is the problem. Deal with the person.