There’s some debate rumbling ’round the Internet about moving and shooting. Some gun gurus say move then shoot; make sure you have a stable platform before you send rounds towards a person or persons posing a lethal threat. Other say move and shoot; get your rounds on target as you’re moving towards cover or concealment (or just running away). Then get to a stable platform, if you need it. Others say it depends. Right answer! Of course it depends. A defensive gun use has enough variables to make meteorology look like basic math. But the question is: how should you train for this whole movement misegos? Well . . .

If you think your default option should be to move then shoot, train yourself to do it. Move then shoot – making sure you’re moving somewhere sensible. Yes, there is that. Even when you leave a square range behind, most shooting takes place in a fairly sterile environment. Unless you’ve set up cover and/or concealment, it’s going to be a bit of a hike to get to it. Then do it. 

Equally, change it up. Moving sideways a step or two to get away from, say, a direct knife assault is all well and good, but what about forwards or backwards? You don’t have to watch The Wrath of Khan to know that 3D thinking gives you a strategic advantage. You only get access to that advantage through carefully considered training. Again, do it. Because . . .

Every time you don’t get to proper cover or concealment when you move then shoot, you’re training yourself not to get to cover or concealment. Call it “muscle memory” or “subconscious programming.” No matter what you call it, repetitious training creates reflexive action. One-step-left-and-shoot your go-to firing sequence? That’s what you’ll do under stress. Take a knee? Same deal.

If you think you should move and shoot at the same time – gun guru Rob Pincus’ preferred plan – that’s gonna take some serious practice. Shooting while moving is obviously and inherently less accurate than stand-still shooting. And even though the first person to get lead on target usually wins a gunfight, and there’s something to be said for suppressive fire, you don’t really want to shoot bullets that miss their mark. Training hard lowers the odds of collateral damage.

But here’s the hardest firearms feat of all: training yourself to be able to choose whether to move then shoot, or move and shoot, or not move and shoot (not to mention moving and not shooting and not moving and not shooting). To do that – to be able to select from a range of possible reactions to a lethal threat depending on the situation – you have to vary the exercises as much as possible and slow your training way, way down.

Every exercise should be non-reflexive. In other words, decide what you’re going to do before you do it – remembering that endless repetition is not your friend. It makes you faster but it also makes you stupider. As Rudyard Kipling wrote, “If you can keep your wits about you while all others are losing theirs and blaming you, the world will be yours and everything in it.” OK, maybe not everything . . .

The best way to avoid potentially lethal training habits: force-on-force training. FoF challenges you to react appropriately to an unpredictable scenario. One five-minute session is worth hundreds of hours of square range training. By the same token, practicing moving about with a laser training gun in your own home is more valuable than just about anything you can do at a range.  

All of this is just one more reminder – if a reminder be needed – that we are our own worst enemies.

37 Responses to Self-Defense Tip: Move Then Shoot?

    • This is great.
      Let me add my two cents:

      First off, your moving first at least gives you an opportunity to throw off the perp’s aim, should he have gained any opportunity to also put YOU in HIS sights.

      Second, you’re far too distant from your target to waste time aiming as you did trying to avoid having a knife thrown at you. The closer you are to your target, the greater the need for a quicker response and the next question to ask is where is he in his ability to attack you, whether through distance or weaponry?

  1. Incoming lead has the right of way. First agenda in a gunfight is to not get shot. Best is to move and shoot at the same time. If not, move, then shoot.

    • The Rabbi is right. What I saw in the video is that he was taking way too long to send rounds down range and his “movement” was not far enough. Assuming you have the room, the best thing to do is make a fairly bold move laterally and toward the threat with a few steps. He didn’t really move very far from his original position. It may be all you can do.

      Any movement is better than simply going “statue” and then taking your time shooting, but in my opinion, the demonstration showed a guy not moving quickly enough or far enough, nor shooting quickly enough and accurately enough.

      Also, I would recommend not training by shooting only a single round. That can become an ingrained habit and you may well end up not getting enough rounds on target that way because you have become so used to shooting only once, then pausing.

      My .02

      Good article/discussion.

    • You are absolutely right, Andy, but I watched only about a minute of that video before I couldn’t stand anymore.

      Several criticisms from a civilian (non-LEO) perspective and any one of them would get the shooter killed or in deep legal shit.

      1) Distance: I cannot think of very many scenarios where a non LEO would be justified in taking lethal defensive action at the range those targets were placed. If the BG(s) are that far away you need to be running away as fast as you can, unless you have family to protect and the BGs are advancing while you cover the family’s retreat. If you are training regularly for shots at greater than 7 yards/21 feet you are kidding yourself.
      2) What the hell is it with people who think they have to engage the Bad Guys in conversation? If the threat is imminent and you have drawn your weapon there is no justification for yelling “STOP!” and then pausing to see if they comply. Your only communication should be rounds going downrange. If they do not understand that and STOP, then you need to make very sure your rounds are finding vital organs.
      3) Possibly this is a problem with his training regimen or his mind-set, but aside from the delay in yelling commands, there is no sense in the excessive time he takes from clearing leather to getting off the first shot, especially when he has TWO adversaries who are at least theoretically both posing deadly threats.

      I would not engage at those distances. I would NEVER yell commands and hope for compliance, and I would for damn sure be putting rounds downrange as soon as I cleared the holster and had the front sight in the general vicinity of the target. Even a nick or a near miss may change the plans of one or both of these guys, unless they are intent on doing you harm above all other considerations.

      One round downrange for each target, quickly, and then follow up with more precision as necessary while moving to cover or escape.

      I really believe that average people going about their daily business who think they have to train like police or special forces or CIA are not doing themselves any favors. Our goals and our mission are entirely different than those of “Operators” or law enforcement.

      • +1

        While we can talk about a “defensive” gun use all we want and “stopping a threat” let’s be clear here.

        If, may God forbid, you actually ever have to use a firearm to defend yourself, it is a gun fight, combat, a real fight to the death, either you or him, and what you want more than anything else is to make sure you are putting enough holes in the bad guy to put him down and make sure he stays down: that means incapacitating bullets into his hydraulic or electrical system.

        “Paper punching” style training is great for teaching fundamental shooting skills, but finally you have to be in a situation where you are put under stress, as much as possible in training, and you still must get multiple rounds on target accurately and quickly, that’s why it is important to train to put two or three shots immediately into center mass, making as many wound channels as possible for the greatest possible chance of putting the BG down and making sure he is out of the fight.

        Part of this is MOVING, a moving target is much harder to hit, it puts the threat you face on the defensive and gives you a greater chance of survival.

      • That video was full of tactical foolery and derp which is becoming all too common among today’s training providers who focus on image of performance.

        • THAT was a great observation, Andy!

          The image of POTG who want to LOOK cool and “operator” rather than actually get the job done as quickly, efficiently and safely (for us, not for the BGs) as possible.

          Focus on what will work, not what will look cool on the iPhone upload of the actual event that will be shown in court.

  2. Suprisingly, it doesn’t take a lot of “training” to move and shoot. It takes familiarity with your weapon of choice. And you can hit what you are aiming at.

  3. If you are facing another person that has a firearm and is perceived as a direct threat, become the smallest target you can. Cover or kneeling. Either requires movement and as you are moving draw your firearm and bring it to bear. SHOOT if nothing has changed!

    Good video EXCEPT that the target will be much much closer and that TARGET will also be in motion!

    I get in arguments stating as a citizen we have a duty to retreat. You RETREAT TO STAY ALIVE!
    Stand your ground is meant for court cases where you have no opportunity to seek cover or MOVE AWAY from the threat! You only DUTY is to STAY ALIVE!

  4. To decide a best pattern of response requires a description of the threat confronting you and the immediate physical and social environment in which you are responding,

    What you do depends on what you do it to

    • Totally agree! Every situation is different. If you have your gun close to, or at the ready position, then it may be prudent to shoot quickly and disable your opponent.
      Other situations such as multiple attackers, would dictate that a quick dash to cover may be your best option.

  5. As Rudyard Kipling wrote, “If you can keep your wits about you while all others are losing theirs and blaming you, the world will be yours and everything in it.”

    No, that’s just a paraphrase of two excerpts, one from the beginning and one from near the end, without indicating the join and the vast amount cut. Here they are, with the cut indicated:-

    If you can keep your head when all about you
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
    .
    .
    .
    Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, …

  6. The trouble with running is that only Superman is faster than a speeding bullet, and he’s made of steel. All you can do if the shooter gets off the first rounds is hope that he misses, and that he can’t change his point of aim quicker than you can travel.

    Shoot first, shoot straight, move. In that order if you can’t do it all at the same time. Maybe. It’s mostly what I practice. Every situation is different. Hope to never be there to see if it works.

  7. I definately agree with “train, train, train.” In my world USPSA is for practicing under stress, and IDPA is for practicing using civilian-world scenarios.

    All else is situational. Two examples:

    In the mall parking lot I am moving to cover, not shooting unless point blank range forces me to……….too many innocents involved.

    In my working world of Desert Storm 91, and Panama, (does this sentence mean I am getting old and demonstrating my age?) the answer was “light’m up,” then move. There’s a reason in military combat the action is called FIRE and Maneuver, not the other way around.

    The key is, as the marines say: Adapt and improvise…..be prepared for the situation.

  8. I was 17 in the first gulf war and much older in the second. I burned ALOT of poop in the first one. :-)) I’ts funny to me, everyone I run into was a sniper in Iraq. Who burned the poop? I waa a 12B in part one and a 19D in part deux. 😉

  9. What he said at then end of the article, the importance of force on force training, simply cannot be overstated. I’m sure I’ll take some flak for this, but airsoft is an excellent FOF training tool (far better than paintball). The guns have come a long ways, and with GBB (gas blowback) pistols, you can get a bit of recoil as well (nothing close to a firearm, obviously, but enough that you notice). Unfortunately, there’s not a ton of options for different handguns. They’re mostly handguns in common use by armed forces. Plenty of USPs, M9s, 1911s, a handful of Desert Eagles, etc. We Tech made a limited run of XDMs, but that’s the exception rather than the rule. But even though the weapons are different, the principles are identical, and the guns certainly have the range and accuracy for it.

    For your training, save the money on ammo by not going to the range a few times and spend the money on a few good GBB handguns and spare magazines. They run anywhere from $120 (the lowest) to $200+. If interested, I’d recommend the KJW KP-05 (often listed as “KJW 1911 Tactical”). It’s one of the cheaper guns (about $120 or so), but it’s full metal (about 2.5 lbs loaded), build like a tank, has pretty impressive recoil (for an airsoft pistol), etc. It’s not quite a 1911 though. It’s a Hi-Capa (an airsoft variant of the 1911 with a fatter, double stack magazine).

    Now, it’s not a perfect simulation. The recoil is far less than on a firearm, they’re quieter, cover from 6mm BBs may only proved concealment against a 9 or a .45, etc. But outside of simulations (which comes with its own set of problems), airsoft is an excellent training tool.

  10. I’ve trained extensively with the SIRT laser pistol. I’ve worn the trigger module out once and had to send it back for warranty repair and once had to take a break for a few weeks because my trigger finger was developing RSI symptoms.
    Most of that has been on the move, generally at running speeds – when I go running (it’s on private property, don’t worry) I take it and shoot passing objects (trees, windows, doors, etc).
    Making hits, while running, on human sized target at 15 yards is very doable. Further or smaller than that and you may have to “bunny hop” (sounds silly, but a timed leap gives a slightly longer time to align the sites between foot-fall) or slow or stop.
    I say MOVEANDSHOOTANDMOVE all at once. It’s very doable for handgun-type problems.

  11. Play paintball.

    Your opponents are gung ho about shooting you, so you learn VERY quickly to differentiate between situations calling for “shoot then move” “move then shoot” and of course “move while shooting”

    Not everything translates over to DGU, but a good deal of it does.

  12. Has anyone here ever heard the saying, “don’t run to your death”? Think about applying that concept to shooting on the move/moving then shooting

  13. Yes to scenario training. Not every situation is going to be a “Tueller Drill”.

    The practical shooting test for SDSO CCW licence is 6 at 3 yds, 6 at 5yds, 12 at 10 yds, and 6 at 15yds in the man sized “bottle” target.

    I can’t see any reason to practice shooting much further, with a pistol at least.

    In my personal scenario training, shooting fast in close is only one of several, and in most my programmed response to “gunshots fired” is:

    1. move to cover, first, (which might be as simple as drop to knee, behind a car in parking lot, or behind a concrete trash holder in a mall, or around a corner of a wall at a school yard).
    and then
    2. observe (what made the gun noise, where, who – could it be a fight between bad guy and LEO or security guard?), orient (how to get to next cover or exit), decide ( GTFO or fight) and ACT (Most likely with gun hand on holster, to avoid blue on blue, and support hand on cellphone to 911).

    “Shoot” might not even be on the list of to-do’s.

  14. This entire exercise (“Move Off the X”) takes on a whole new shade if you’re in the Wal-Mart parking lot, with your 6-year-old in tow, when the balloon goes up. You move, they stay put. (You can train your child, but unless you train them and test them constantly, it is far more likely that they will freeze in the moment.)

    Why is it that all of these tacticool videos always envision a lone male (more rarely a lone female), who has the luxury of only thinking of themselves in the middle of a simulated fight?

    If you want to make it realistic, practice responding to an attack that happens while you’re strapping your toddler into his car seat; or responding to an attack when your attention is on your screaming kids and you’re hoisting grocery bags into the car trunk; or while you’re changing your baby’s poopy diaper in the back seat of your car/van. It’s not “tactical special forces delta operator”, but it’s a hell of a lot more realistic.

    • Or even if you don’t have kids/babies/wife to worry about, practice how to respond when you have four or more grocery bags hanging from your weak hand and a big ring of keys in your strong hand.

      There are far more scenarios requiring drop stuff, move, get cover, shoot than there are Dodge City middle of the street dueling one on one.

  15. Moving and shooting are the best ways to win a gunfight. Still, anytime TTAG goes “operator” I can’t help but think of very old men and women who’ve defended their homes against young dirtbag whippersnappers using an old Colt 1911, double barrel, or .357 revolver.

    Paintball and Simuntions training are fast and fun ways to engage a live opponent without dying. Some of the FATS (firearm action training simulator (?)) trucks are also fun. I’ll be trying a new interactive deal where the instructor running the simulator shoots back with plastic balls. I may write an article if I can do so without drawing undue attention to myself or my organization.

    I don’t know any gangbangers who would want to go against a 3 gun, IDPA, or IPSC shooter. It’s a shame that most places to shoot are “square” / static ranges. The most formidable opponents train constantly, but that training also takes a whole lot of time and money. We each have to strike a balance between preparation and living our lives in the pursuit of happiness.

  16. Competition shooting does have some skills that can carry over to defending yourself but not many, that’s just my opinion. As for using airsoft or simunitions, they are both solid tools. However simunitions in my opinion are better as the leave a visible mark. If you really wanted to train for a situation where your weak hand is full or whatever, then going out to the woods and using airsoft would be a fun way to spend the day. As for the real deal, practice shooting with both hands, weak support, whatever, I understand this is a lot of repeat for some, but some May never have heard this. There are people out there that don’t practice shooting weak hand. I carry typically right behind my hip, or in the small of my back, something people frequently forget is that most holsters only allow the weapon to be drawn a certain way, I made a kydex holster for my Sig that allows me draw with either hand and it still has damn good retention.

  17. Farago:

    I don’t teach to shoot and move at the same time in the scenario/context you are discussing. Maybe you should’ve actually shown up to the course I invited you too…

    -RJP

  18. Your priority is to not get shot. Moving means that you are less likely to get shot.

    Shooting _while_ moving is what you want to do. And it’s very possible to hit a person-sized object at 25 yards if you have practice.

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