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By John Perkins and Ari Kandel

In the main, firearms training is little more than target shooting. More “advanced” courses teach students to “get off the X” and “find cover and concealment.” They offer courses on “firearms retention” and “close quarters combat.” Some add stress to try and simulate a “real” attack. But most firearms training fails to take account of a simple, inescapable fact: once a violent attack begins, it’s bound to be a full-contact, hands-on fight, quite possibly to the death. Situational awareness, shooting stance, trigger control, muzzle discipline – when push comes to shove, none of those is going to cut it when the fighting gets up-close-and-personal. Which it will . . .

A 2012 an FBI review of nearly 200 agent-involved shootings during a 17-year period found that 75 percent of incidents involved suspects who were within three yards of agents when shots were exchanged. Note: the average distance for law enforcement shootings is likely to be greater than for non-law-enforcement incidents, due to the different circumstances and missions.

If you’re forced to physically stop an attack, the fight will be close, sudden, fast, spastic and chaotic. The movement dynamic of violent crime is not leisurely, predictable or smooth. Violent criminals are fighting to intimidate, overpower, control, injure and/or kill you. You have to fight to stop them and they do not want to be stopped. In short, it will be VIOLENT.

When was the last time you saw a fight? Boxing? MMA? A hockey brawl? A couple of drunks at a bar? Those fights had rules. More to the point, they lacked lethal intent. The higher the stakes and the greater the risks, the more visceral, instinctive, chaotic, spastic, fast and unpredictable the movement becomes. Nothing raises the stakes more abruptly than the introduction of a deadly weapon or two.

[This analysis assumes that you don’t “freeze” in panic, denial or indecision in the critical moment. That’s a topic for a different day.]

Most people with an interest in self-defense have at least passing familiarity with the “fight or flight” response: an adrenaline dump’s physiological effects within a couple heartbeats of the perception of a serious threat. Physiological changes associated with the fight or flight response include:

– Increased heart and respiratory rates, increasing supply of oxygen to body. Constriction of arteries, increased blood pressure

– Release of fatty acids, glucose reserves and clotting agents into blood stream, increasing available energy and reducing bleeding

– Increased blood flow to vital organs and major muscle groups, improving performance of gross motor movements such as (real) fighting and running, while potentially worsening performance of fine motor skills such as knitting, calling 9-1-1 and eloquent speaking (significant when attempting verbal de-escalation—well rehearsed single syllable words are best)

– Suspension of reproductive and digestive system activity (experienced as feeling of tightness in abdomen), reducing need to allocate body resources to functions not vital for immediate survival Decreased perception of pain

– Pupil dilation, increasing visual sensitivity Increased sweating, related to the cardiovascular changes Increased visual processing rate, causing “slow motion” perception Tunnel vision, extreme exclusive threat focus

– Increased muscle tonus (“pre-tensioning”), readying the large muscle groups for explosive action, often experienced as “shaking knees”

As deadly violence gets very close and immediately imminent, the subconscious tends to take over (indeed the conscious mind often does not have enough time to fully perceive what’s happening). You are likely to have some basic, evolutionarily adaptive responses that have kept humans alive for millennia. You’re going to

– Focus intently on threats and square your binocular vision to gather maximum information.

– Drop your center of gravity and crouch to offer a smaller target and gain balance and coiling to move explosively.

– Recoil, lean and move away from threatening things, protecting especially your eyes and throat area. (Enemy muzzles, often described by gunfight survivors as appearing impossibly large due to adrenaline-fueled threat focus, are obvious threats that the body naturally attempts to move away from in close quarters.)

– Try to swat away threatening objects to keep them away from our vital organs. (This is the mechanism behind the many “defensive wounds” usually found on knife attack victims. The large majority of cuts and stabs is usually sustained on the hands and arms, the result of this natural instinct to swat away danger.)

All of this happens at what we call “adrenaline speed.” No matter how fast or slow you normally are, within the limits of your muscles and nervous system, the fight or flight response makes you (and your attackers) move at maximum speed. You can approximate this as the speed and suddenness with which your hand would withdraw from a gas stove top that is unexpectedly turned on.

Untrained or improperly trained people can often appear awkward and clumsy in this state. The adrenaline-fueled body can move more quickly and explosively than the person’s balance can control, challenging the person’s ability to remain standing and effective. The limbs can move so quickly that body coordination and efficiency are compromised. The primed large muscles may strain inefficiently against superior force, reducing mobility.

That’s why even experienced shooters revert to crouching, spastic backpedaling and “dodging” – not to mention single-handed unsighted shooting – when faced with an enemy muzzle or blade at near contact distance. Just as the body instinctively tries to avoid a thrown object or strike, it focuses on and tries to avoid an enemy weapon being brought to bear. Two hands on the gun? Not so much. The non-weapon hand is outstretched or moving to help maintain balance during this fast ballistic avoidance motion, or is being used to shield against or disrupt the threat.

The instinctive urge to gather maximum information about the imminent threat keeps the eyes focused on the threat and actually discourages the body from doing anything that would block the view of the threat, such as raising the gun or any other object into the eyes’ central field of view. The result of this disparity between training and actual violent confrontation: combat ineffectiveness, leading to the injury or death of the armed self-defender.

So how can we best train to deal with these inherent response? We need to

– Forget trying to master unnatural movements that conflict with the instinctive movements accompanying the fight or flight response

– Dismiss pre-planned, by-rote martial arts “techniques” that are unlikely to be recalled or “matched” to a suitable enemy movement

– Work to increase our combat-applicable balance (on our feet and on the ground), muscular efficiency, whole body coordination and subconscious visual and tactile perception to yield freer, more effective motion under full adrenaline effects.

We’re looking for training that teaches fast, reasonably accurate intuitive shooting from zero to seven yards, without any fixed stance or position nor dependent on conscious/foveal sight alignment, combined with combative whole body movement. Training that’s expressly designed to develop subconscious abilities that are enhanced, rather than suppressed, by the context of lethal violence and the attendant natural responses of the human body.

To that end, I highly recommend John Perkins’ “Guided Chaos” ( It enhances students’ natural attributes to maximize their effectiveness under lethal combat conditions. Perkins teaches armed combat with a gun, knife, cane, pen, laptop, ANYTHING. Under any circumstances. Because . . .

We don’t know in advance whether our moment of truth will involve trying to survive a point-blank ambush or trying to stop home invaders before they can reach our children’s room. To defend our lives and the lives of our loved one, we need proper mindset and appropriate skills. It’s high time The People of the Gun rejected rote training and square range preparation for more realistic and thus effective armed self-defense techniques and strategies.

Help me out. What other training do you know of that works with our natural instincts, rather than against them?

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  1. I only really think the “point and shoot” phenomenon is quantifiable. Trained folks can react like machines under stress. I’ve seen it. But pointing and shooting when it’s all fast draw or die? Countless video tapes show just that. Point shooting is important to master but…any physical reflex can be recalled. It’s all in training and mindset. Krav Maga sells the mindset as well but you can easily find it in yourself if you try.

    • While it must be admitted that many of these are very good points, the problem arises that a great many people carry pistols exactly because there is NO WAY they can train up in any realistic way for a hands on physical encounter, either because they do not have the physical capability, or they do not have the combat mindset.

      The pistol is the equalizer when your ability to go mano a mano is just not realistic. It may not work every time. They may close on you and make it difficult, but if you’re in a wheelchair or an 80 year old grandmother watching TV in your Barkolounger or even just a person going about their everyday business who is not a fighter, the pistol is your BEST chance of evening out the odds against larger or more numerous or more aggressive assailants.

      It may not work every time. But neither does hand to hand with an opponent of unknown capabilities. Get cover and concealment. Do everything you can to get distance between you and your attacker. Firing a wild (not warning) shot may give them enough hesitation to allow this. NEVER close on the attacker! Even if they go down, keep your distance.

      How is it so difficult for some people to understand that martial arts and unarmed combat are just not possible for a large percentage of the gun-owning community?

      I think perhaps George Zimmerman proves my point.

  2. I don’t know of other training methods, but I REALLY like that one where the target is swinging side to side unpredictably! I’d love to set something like that up in my training.

    • Most important ingredient is a range run by folks who trust you. Beyond that, just a cardboard box, some rope, and a couple pulleys or poles (and lots of tape, and a person to control the ropes). Key parts of this drill: note that I’m moving before I draw, and that I’m always trying to move in the opposite direction of the target, as if to stay offline of where he’s moving or pointing his weapon (in reality this could be moving to cover or further away–remember this is just a drill).

      • Having a location at which you CAN set up non-conventional targets is the key. One of the quickest and easiest is balloons. Either staple them to a plank and lay it on the ground, or hang them from an overhead crossbar or line. They move very unpredictably and get shooters more accustomed to non-static target acquisition. You can use different colors and have to engage them as they are called out to you by a second person.

        If you are in a location where you can use them rolling tire targets are another good tool. Plywood inside tire, roll them across firing line. We have a range where we can have handlers behind a berm and we can roll them out and down an incline. They speed up as they go, run up the berm on otherside and often roll back unexpectedly. Or roll out several rapidly.

        Again, location is key. Safety in training can simply NOT be emphasized enough.

  3. The shakes.
    I’ve had those a couple of times. That was weird. Couldn’t have drank a cup of coffee if I tried.

    • Haha! I once had the shakes well after the danger passed. I mean like thirty minutes or more. I think it was from low blood glucose after a big adrenaline dump, an energy dump resulting from an adrenaline dump if you will. It took two enormous pizzas with all the toppings to get rid of the shakes. Weird.

      • Hypoglycemia and a blood pressure crash… It’s a scary thing to have happen, some people react better than others.

        I live on a pretty windy road and my house is situated on the inside of a REALLY nasty curve following a relatively “straight” stretch where people like to get into the pedal. I frequently see bad accidents where vehicles roll and or get wrapped around trees. Last year there was one where the driver (a young female) pretzeled herself in the steering wheel while the passenger played pinball between the dash and windshield.

        Both were intoxicated and neither were wearing seatbelts. The passenger didn’t have a steering wheel to try to fit his fat head through so he managed to not break most of the bones in his upper body. I watched the roll and was on scene before he crawled out of the vehicle. He couldn’t talk and was stumbling around like a damn fool (drugs, alcohol and shock can do that.) Once I managed to keep his dumbass out of traffic I tried to get him to sit on the ground well off the road, he knew I was talking but wasn’t processing what I was saying. I kept explaining to him what was happening with his body and what was going to happen next once his body realized the threat was passed. He didn’t listen.

        Long story short, when his adrenaline dump subsided he pissed himself and took a nose-dive onto the pavement because his lower body completely shut down. He earned himself a few more bruises and I spent the next five minutes trying to keep the driver still (she wanted badly to be disentangled from the steering wheel) until the EMTs got on station.

        I’ve been in the position to have a “fight or flight” response twice, and not armed either time. Once I was able to keep the other individual engaged in conversation long enough to knock him on his ass and run like hell. The other was pure luck and the guy decided he didn’t want to kill anybody that day. I don’t expect to be that lucky a third time. I’m armed, trained, and no longer live in such a shitty part of the world.

      • They always get me well after the fact, when the “could’ve beens” start hitting.

  4. The realistic approach to training is not new. Massad Ayoob tackled these realities with his Stressfire method and much has been revised and added since. I agree with the article that most training is not based on reality. I am always amazed when at a public range I am the only person shooting fast and at a realistic target. The vast majority of people do slow aimed fire at bull’seye targets and think they are ready for the street.

    • Or maybe they like it or are training for a competition and they’re not trying to get ready for the streets.

  5. I think that in most cases, when there is a defensive gun use, the attacker is not seeking a fight to the death. They are usually bullies and don’t expect their victim to fight back. Now on those rare occasions when you might be jumped by a naked guy high on bath salts the goal will be to get the gun out as fast as possible, maintain control over the gun and use the gun. In those situations I think the outcome will be determined by decisiveness of action and physical strength more than tactics and training. Training is fine if you enjoy it and have the time and money for it and it certainly won’t hurt, but training as insurance IMHO is a waste of time. For most of us there are much more likely events to prepare for.

    • “in most cases, when there is a defensive gun use, the attacker is not seeking a fight to the death.”

      Just make sure not to confuse this with a lack of lethal intent. The attacker just isn’t expecting a lethal response: otherwise he’d have picked a different target.

      • Well there’s intent and then there’s willingness. A mugger will most likely not intend to stab you, but he most likely will be willing to stab you if you don’t hand over your wallet. Situational awareness is the key, not training. Knowing that that guy on the street asking for a cigarette is not just a guy asking for a cigarette and that his buddy is coming up behind you, and acting on that knowledge early in the encounter will prevent the necessity of putting your combat training to use.

        Of course there are a million different circumstance. Perhaps your attacker will mistake you for the guy who narked him off to the cops last year and perhaps he wants to kill him. Your first indication that your under attack could be when you feel the knife plunge into your flesh. Even then though, had you had the situational awareness to stay the hell out of that part of town after dark you would be spared of your injury.

        • I had a guy come up asking for money who was waving his arms above his waist. Bums always come at you with an open hand, noting this difference I glanced behind me. It was a signal to two guys with tire irons behind me and my buddy. I yelled I had a gun and went to a defensive stance and all three ran like the wind.

  6. I don’t believe in over a year since I started self training with my pistol, I have ever used breathing technique to steady the gun. My wife took a class at the range and they had her doing the breathing thing on every shot…with a sub compact 9mm. She told me what she learned and I said great…now forget about that. The day she needs to pull her gun out and shoot an attacker, proper breathing control is the last thing she needs to be focusing on. From day one I had her trying to get 2 to 5 shots as fast as possible in a eight inch group from 3 to 7 yards. Anything else with a defensive hand gun is recreation. We do play games and do recreational shooting as well but usually the focus is on gun fighting. Today we are going to try out her modified purse. I Gorilla glued a holster to the end pannel on the inside so she could draw it quickly.

      • Agreed, before my shooting spot was plucked from us, we would run the length of the creek and back as fast as possible (150ish yards), and then shoot steel at 15 yards with a sub compact pistol. Lets just say the first few times I did it I was not prepared and thinking about how heavily I was suckin in air while focusing on that front sight.

    • Gaining control of your breathing does allot more than just steady your hand. It is a way of gaining control of your mind, limiting panic and effects of adrenal dump. It also prepares you to move and fight. It works quite well compared to operating with insufficient oxygen. It is not some optional trick but the core of all combat…and all life for that matter.

      • I tell people to read LTC Grossman’s On Combat anytime the subject of respiration control while firing comes up. Funny, lots of people with “formal” training have no idea how to control their breathing, other than holding their breath like the superduper operators do in all the movies.

  7. What this should tell shooters is you have to be more than a one trick pony. Be deadly with or without your firearm.

    Knife work or better yet close quarters unarmed combat in something like BJJ, Judo, Krav Maga, Sambo, or Hapkido comes to mind.

  8. “A 2012 an FBI review of nearly 200 agent-involved shootings during a 17-year period found that 75 percent of incidents involved suspects who were within three yards of agents when shots were exchanged.”

    It is more than likely that the agents were approaching the suspect gun in hand and prepared for a fight. This not a likely scenario for armed self defense so the second sentence is often true.

    “Note: the average distance for law enforcement shootings is likely to be greater than for non-law-enforcement incidents, due to the different circumstances and missions.”

    This is the correct conclusion if your self-defense training is focused on handling your gun. However, Mr. Perkins and Kandel have come to the precisely wrong solution to this training deficiency. [Here comes the hobby horse] The proper training solution is better surveillance/counter surveillance training that will help you spot and avoid trouble before in gets within the highly lethal 3 yard range. The two authors are correct in advising people to learn how to defend themselves in a close in fight because you won’t always spot trouble before it finds you. You can’t have your guard up 100% of the time but guiding principle should always be that you win 100% of the fights you avoid.

    • I agree that situational awareness is always your best defense and something the current generation does not practice enough of. Situational awareness has saved me from many a close call in traffic. It has applications beyond self defense.

      However, you may not get the luxury of picking your distance when the fecal matter hits the oscillating rotary device. Some basic hand-to-hand training could go a long way.

      Just to show I am not being contrary though, it does seem like there are plenty of DGU’s that end without shots fired simply because the defender was able to produce a firearm and convince the other party they were too much work to victimize. I don’t think everyone with a gun needs to train themselves up to be one part Bruce Lee and one part Delta Force Operator.

    • Concur tdiinva. I think this needs to be repeated often. There are no good comprehensive stats for DGU (other than American Rifleman’s monthly collation of the news articles around the country- often half dozen or more),

      and there is even less statistical or anecdotal information about how many fights are avoided simply by following the 3 S’s: Dont go to stupid places, with stupid people, or do stupid things. (of course, this would have eliminated 90% of the bars I visited as a young military man seeking wimmen…:)

      Next is when do you take the shot, or not? When do you continue the fight, or stand down. The earlier work by Ayoob on legal elements of self-defense and turning that into “what will I do” is something you need to play out in your head, and practice- or you will find yourself in front of a jury, for a mistake made in the heat of the moment that could cost you your life savings and your freedom.

      There is a lot of good information out there, and explanations of real world fights, on what to expect. I wrestled in high school, and boxed a bit in college, and have fooled around with japanese and korean karate enough to realize that all of the formal martial arts are wonderful disciplines in and of themselves, worthy of a life-long pursuit for many reasons, and I bow with the deepest respect to the Masters I have been blessed to train with-

      but I can see how without using what you learn in practical street fight practice, they can and will teach bad habit patterns that leave you totally unprepared for the dirty fighter, real world.

      And those guys and gals are schooled in the street, and go to graduate school in prison, and become very good at simple things that work. You wont even see it coming, unless you get realistic training, and practice, the above, and more, below.

      The bottomline is you HAVE to do whole bodytraining for real world, and it doesnt have to be a consuming effort- just like getting in shape, its a habit- and just like going to the range- going to the dojo has to be done to keep skills useful- I always try to KISS, and listen to the real world trainers who do same- one SEAL sniper and warrior martials arts sensei is the most humble and sincere guy you could meet- who says “training is perishable”.

      And the gun is just one tool in the toolbox, and since you may not have time to fully open that box when the fight starts, you need to create time and space until you can equalize or dominate a physically stronger or better armed attacker.

      Here is a good one that seems to be popular with LEOs, based on the body’s natural flinch reactions. Recommended to me by a guy I deeply respect in local law enforcement, humble, respectful, strong without being controlling, the model of restraint – also recently stopped a crazy guy with a screwdriver with a bean bag gun.
      I would be VERY interested to hear what street cops reading TTAG have found useful in real fights.

      Blauer has found coaches interested in combining CrossFit’s more “real world” functional strength training. This makes a lot of sense, and I’m working my own fitness in this direction.

      I also like Krav Maga for more advanced street “end-the-fight” right now techniques, and if you were to put that all together, you’d have a pretty strong base with a KISS muscle memory repetoire, that goes all the way to lethal self-defense.

      Now, let the martial arts equivalent of the caliber wars begin…
      (here is a recent example:

    • What is the footnote on a SEVENTEEN year study. Typical order would be to study the last 5yr, decade, 25yr. What happened 18years ago? Something that did not support the conclusions not PC?

      • Perhaps.

        Or, it might just be that that is when someone thought to start collecting the data needed to properly analyze it.

        We can speculate, but my guess is that is doesn’t mean much. 17 year study is no more arbitrary than a 10 year (or any other number) study. There’s nothing magical about 10 years, etc.

  9. Same points are detailed very well in Grant Cunningham’s “Defensive Revolver Fundamentals” (Gun Digest Books). Mr. Cunningham is a revolversmith and defensive shooting instructor. He refers to Combat Focus Shooting in this book, and I believe the focus (as it were) is as described in this post. Eye-opening and highly recommended!

  10. I’m wondering how many keyboard kommandoes have ever been in an actual fight? Not a gun fight necessarily, but any kind of physical altercation where hostile intent is present.

    It’s not like in the movies. You don’t get well placed punches and well-times kicks. There is likely grabbing involved. It is not pretty, it is not elegant, it is brutal and if done right very very short. Size matters in a fight.

    I haven’t done Krav Maga, but I like what it teaches. If I were to get back into Martial Arts, it would be at the top of my list. What has helped is muscle memory and reflex, and I assume this is true for firearms training as well. You cannot prepare for an unknown situation. There is NO training that will prepare you for what will actually happen if you are unfortunate enough to be in a situation where you have to defend yourself or others.

    Practice makes everything you need automatic. I had a gangbanger in an arm lock and on the ground before I even realized what I was doing. He tried to hit someone else in the back of the head when they were walking away. I wasn’t in a bad neighborhood when this happened, I was just out and about and was close by when two punks started acting like they were going to fight. In hindsight, I should have just let the one guy punch the other but since he had turned to walk away from the situation I guess I must have reflexively had my “fair play” reflex kick in or something. Point is, I had practice arm locks, holds, and escapes for a long time in martial arts. It was not a situation I had trained for specifically, but when I needed it, everything came automatically.

    I understand not everyone can afford to spend hundreds of dollars training. I still think even range time is important. Everything about your weapon should be automatic. You should not be thinking about how to load it, how to disengage the safety, how hard you have to rack the slide, etc. etc.

    That said, and in support of the original article, being in shape is the best defense. I was about 60 pounds overweight when I suddenly found myself subduing the idiot in the above example. Adrenaline kept me going until a local security guard and his partner finally intervened. When I was walking away and the adrenaline wore off, I was physically ill. I felt like I was going to throw up. It was not the first fight I’d been in, but it was the first I’d been in since being out of shape. Since then I’ve taken up working out and trying to watch what I eat. All the preparation in the world won’t don you any good if your body can’t handle a few seconds of intense physical activity.

    • Its a different game in a real fight than a tournament. Muscle memory is great but you also have to let yourself go ahead and hurt the guy for real. I know this because I have only been in one no holds barred fight. I was “nice” to my opponents and in retrospect that was probably best but I should have broken joints instead of torqueing them as well as a couple other things. Mindset to go where the other guy won’t has to be worked on as well as the moves themselves.

      • That’s a damn good point. I used to box competitively as a teenager, and of course got in some schoolyard brawls here and there, but in none of that was somebody actually trying to kill me, or me them, for that matter. I honestly have to say I’ve never been in a fight without some kind of rules or even just “civil” restraint being a part of it.
        Hmm…my badass keyboard commando rating just went down a couple ticks.

    • For three years I worked armed security (with arrest powers), mostly in late night fast food joints with bad reputations, high crime projects, and high crime retail stores. I had plenty of physical interactions with criminals that viewed me as “not a cop” (which I wasn’t) and thus these physical interactions were more based on peer to peer combat.

      Expect your opponent to intimidate and overpower you. Expect him to bring friends. Expect to get into a grapple or beatdown if you do not quickly solve the problem.

    • You’re contradicting yourself. you say that no training can make someone ready for a real fight, but then you talk about how you took down a person so quickly you barely realized it because you had practiced a lot.

      • Muscle memory is good, but specific scenario training is bad.

        I’ve never had a fight go down the way I thought it would in my head. It sure as hell never goes down like Hollywood shows.

  11. Some trainers do a good amount of teaching to use the weapon ***as a weapon*** and less about gaming/competition. I think gaming/competition is great to encourage thoughtless manipulations but primarily getting a good grip and solid presentation of the firearm, which leads to reasonable accuracy and controling recoil.

    As much as RF hates it, the Noir from 2 weeks ago where he did simunition training they did force on force and he comments he didn’t use his sights at all. Granted, that wasn’t life or death situations but it certainly approaches speaking to it.

    The fact that homeboy is carrying a G41 in his pocket in that video is comical to me.

    • Good point and good reason to carry a 1911 or a revolver because both can effectively be used as bludgeons. Plastic just won’t cut it. There is a reason the military is reluctant to switch to a modern polymer framed pistol.

        • It’s not the only reason but it is an important one. Hand-to-hand combat is still a requirement and a plastic pistol is next to useless when the magazine is empty. I alsdoubt a Glock will survive the rigor that your average GI would put it through. You know like use it as a hammer. A Glock is fine gun and an excellent choice for law enforcement but it is not a combat pistol.

        • Why are you using your handgun as a hammer? I think you are doing it wrong…

          Glocks aren’t combat pistols? I imagine the following people would disagree with you…

          Austrian Armed Forces
          Bangladesh Army
          Columbian Army
          Denmark Special Forces
          Czech Special Forces
          Finnish Defense Forces
          French Armed Forces, Special Forces, Marine Commandos
          Israeli Defense Forces
          Latvian Military
          Lithuanian Armed Forces
          Luxembourg Army (all three of them)
          Malaysian Armed Forces
          Netherlands Armed Forces
          Norwegian Armed Forces
          Pakistani Army
          Romanian Armed Forces
          Portugese Marine Corps
          Swedish Armed Forces
          Swiss Armed Forces
          British Armed Forces
          Uruguayan Army
          Venezuelan Armed Forces
          Military of Yemen

          But then, I guess your Call of Duty knowledge is superior, right?

          Pro tip…the three biggest factors that determine military small arms procurement…

          1. Cost
          2. Money
          3. Cost

          I didn’t learn that by playing video games.

        • Sheepdog, the biggest reason that the US military uses the M9 is the manual safety. Big Army does’t feel safe giving guys a gun that doesn’t have a manual safety. Its why short of a miracle, the military won’t adopt a Glock as standard issue any time soon. But the majority of Army SOF uses Glocks, with most of the rest of US SOF following suite, except NSW who pretty much just use SIGs.

        • The manual safety had nothing to do with it. The Sig P226 matched the Beretta 92 except in one variable…cost. The P226 has no manual safety. In fact the second most issued handgun in the US military is the Sig P228/229…with no manual safety as the M11.

        • And look who is issued the M11s, its not buck privates. I have worked with guys who were part of the M9 trials. The Sig beat the M9 in pretty much everything except cost. They weren’t equal. Big army won’t admit it, but the safety is a major feature. Go read anything that talks about the current replacement plan for the M9. All the offline talk is every gun needs a manual safety otherwise it won’t get adopted to replace the M9.

        • tdiinva NIce thought however Rose colored glasses and too much Hollywood hype. I spent almost 20yr as an Infantry officer 80sand90s grand total of one morning PT session in sawdust pit at Benning doing “hand to hand”. And one session at bayonet assault course (much better tool than your hand).

          The modern Army prefers long distance and high explosive. Perhaps some/much has changed since them olden days but I doubt it. “Modern” Army has those nifty Shinseki queer french caps (berets) to make them tougher.

        • I am relatively certain that a new Coastie trains with and qualifies on the P228/229/M11 platform at basic.

        • Sheepdog:

          What you are forgeting that with exception of the US Army, the pistol is more a symbol of an officers authority than a weapon to be used in combat. Since the late 19th Century The US Army and Marine Corps have always considered officers, especially company grade officers as combat leaders rather than observers. During most of the 20th Century US company grade officers and quite a few field grades carried infantry rifiles and carbines as their primary weapons. With the exception of special units like airborne and commandos officers in other Armies did not. Killing was the provence of the lower orders. An officer was only expected to kill in self defense or to encourage the others. Even today, US company grade officers are really the only ones who lead as opposed to merely direct the fight. So yes, officers in all those armies carry Glocks but they aren’t fighters. That is why we use a different kind of handgun. Having a safety is not the reason. You can get a Glock with a safety in Europe.

      • @tdi: Or a Browning High Power, or a Beretta 92, or my personal favorite, a CZ-75 variant (the more recent P07 and P09 are polymer of course, I am not talking about those). All would make decent short clubs once you’ve unloaded them with the bang switch (or decided for some reason not to do so at all).
        All are reasonably likely to manage to become unloaded in that fashion (you won’t be using it as a club
        just because it jammed on you) unlike many crappy models out there.

        I have a ton of respect for Glocks as a feat of engineering, but I am beginning to wonder if anyone will
        ever again design a metal framed pistol. Glock has enough imitators, already.

        • Personally, I don’t care for anything without an exposed hammer that can be cocked when you have time for an aimed shot. A three pound or less trigger pull beats a five and a half pond pull, but, to each his own.

      • So you are telling me that if I muzzle strike you in the face with a Glock you are not going to have any broken bones? And Glocks aren’t serious combat weapons? Well might want to tell that to the Army Ranger, Special Forces, and Cag, cause guess what they use? Here is a hint it start with G. As for you 1911s well Cag dropped those a long time ago once they realized how horrible a defensive weapon they were.

      • For any soldier on the battlefield, handgun is a weapon of absolute last resort – it’s what you use if you’re out of ammo for your primary weapon, or it has been taken away from you, or rendered inoperable.

        Using a handgun as a blunt weapon is therefore a weapon beyond absolute last resort. To suggest that this could be a justifying factor in lugging around all that extra weight is ridiculous.

        You’re not the first one to make that argument, however. When in 1895, the Russian Imperial Army was moving from S&W Model 3 to Nagant as the standard sidearm, similar objections were raised by some of the old guard; quote from 1892:

        “We should keep the Smith & Wesson revolver because, aside from its perfect combat qualities as a firearm proper, this revolver is also an excellent cold weapon in a melee fight, due to its massive weight and the crushing quality of strikes with it”

        • And may be what you carry until you can pick up a rifle that has been dropped. My 1st MTOE weapon was an M1911 (just before they were turned in). A smart old NCO told me “no problem sir, there will be plenty of M16s laying around very soon after shooting starts”. True wise words.

  12. I wonder about the basic premise, that most encounters with bad guys involve lethal intent. That may be true for LEO, but for us civvies? I imagine most as someone breaking into a house or a carjacker or street holdup or robbing a 7-11 or gas station, where 99 times out of a hundred, the bad guy’s intent is to intimidate, and half the time they don’t even have a real gun.

    Maybe I read too fast.

    • Self defense doesn’t require me to know the attacker’s mind set. So I don’t concern myself with that. Once I draw my gun on him, his reaction will tell all. He will likely catch at least one bullet from the front. Once he stops or retreats, I stop.

  13. One thing that is nice about carrying a revolver is I can practice unaimed point shooting at home using plastic bullets. Trying to mentally place myself in a threat situation, I know that I will instinctively crouch so I incorporate that into my practice. This is strictly done at the 3-5 yard range. I still get in plenty of trigger time at the range but for competition not for self defense situations.

  14. Ymmv, but I’ve been in plenty of adrenaline dump situations, and I have never had a problem hitting my target or aiming. And yes, I definitely crouched. But that’s probably because I train to shoot one handed and with a slight angle, which is how I seem to draw in life or death situations..

    • We are. Effective training and instructional materials. 🙂
      Good FOF is good but live fire needs to support it.

  15. Reacting quickly and not freezing up is rule #1. I HAVE been attacked and managed just fine. But now I’m over 60 & even though I’m still big & strong there is NO way I Iet some a##hole touch me. He gets a pepper blast, a knife, a bat , my ax or a bullet. Situational awareness is everything.

  16. Smoke em if you got em.

    On the other hand, firearms act to even or, preferably, overcome a disparity of force, and this seems like it could easily lead to “you must have earned a black belt in seven different self defense disciplines to be able to carry” type rhetoric.

  17. When bullets are coming your way ,only lots of training helps , you retain about 40/50 % if you have trained a lot , Marines are trained to use the sights and rifle sling and real combat has proven most shoot better ! Why? it becomes a natural reflex … for the handgun military training is wrong, a SWAT police tip (handgun),face target , both hands on pistol (right-handed shooters) with the right hand push the pistol and with the left hand pull the pistol back till it almost hurts, and just before pulling the trigger let up just a little this keeps you rock study and use sights .(both eyes open works best for some)and the more you shoot the more natural reflex. and find a place to get down in the dirt… put a bad round in the pistol mag. but mix it up so you never know when it will come up. MURPHY LAWS if it can go wrong it can and will …COUNT ON IT.. ALWAYS ATTACK and ATTACK even with a dud gun, ATTACK use it as a CLUB and never stop your attack …that alone most times will save you…and last lots of shooting …that is why most police shoot so bad ,,it’s a job , not a love of the ART of SHOOTING ,,, see also what JEFF COPPER says about it…

  18. Timely. Just came back from Shivworks ECQC instruction this weekend. I highly recommend anyone who carries to take this course. Your eyes will be opened for all of the above reasons and you will get some top notch instruction from Craig Douglas. I plan on doing an AAR sometime next week on the blog.

    • Thank you, and looking forward to your review.

      I’ve been looking for something like this-
      the EWO in LA or AZ looks like a calendar item, as a realistic enabler for this CA resident who is not expecting CCW for the regular folks anytime soon, based on the 9th and POTUS’ Prettiest State AG ongoing drama of the progtards.

    • I am so itching to take a Shivworks class. They had one within 3 hours of me back in March but I had a scheduling conflict.

  19. Not the first time I have seen this perspective put forth. I recall years ago on some gun board or other reading a post that referenced a study that reached the same conclusions: no matter what your training, in a sudden potentially lethal attack situation, instinct will take over and the target will crouch and point-shoot instinctively (the subjects of that particular study were police officers). Made sense to me at the time, still does. When I’m out walking the dog at night, I often think that if I were to be attacked, my first move would likely be with the 4-cell Maglite in my hand rather than with the pistol in my pocket, so I try to keep the appropriate grip on it and I occasionally practice making strikes and parries with it OTOH, what is the purpose of ANY training other than to help you to not do what you would likely ordinarily do in a particular situation, and to do something that works better. The catch is to be able to train enough to actually effect the desired behavior modification I guess. And failing that, to concentrate on the things you can control before instinct kicks in: SA, and in the case of firearms, handling your gun enough so that your finger “automatically” finds the trigger when you need it, your muzzle “automatically” moves toward your perceived target, etc.

  20. Worthwhile article! Thanks! I thought a lot about this after we saw those videos with the Russians training against live fire and concluded a significant number of gun owners have an unrealistic expectation of how successful they might be at home defense, but then you read about 70 years plus old ladies and 80 year old WWII Vets who successfully DGU against home intruders.
    I was impressed with the examples shown in the video from this company.

  21. Training like this runs the risk of jumping the shark, if it hasn’t already. In an effort to simulate real world scenarios, the training defines the experience to even more specific circumstances. It’s the stupid “Ninjas with Uzis” trope dictating unnecessarily complicated training. I’m going to assume that any trainees undergoing these courses are already crack shots from stationary positions.

    And the possibility of accident is increased dramatically. Trainees groping for loaded firearms in their pockets under even controlled range environments is begging for an AD, more so under even vague combat stress simulations. Sim-munition is maybe a better option for that.

    • CCW Breakaways pants. Modified Safariland ALS P-2 or 6378 holster on gun in pocket. Extremely safe, comfy, invisible, secure EDC/home carry of service weapon. Under 2 second draw to hit from relaxed position, well under 1 second if you can start with your hand in the pocket. Safest reholster on earth (remove holster from pocket, lock gun into it in safe direction, put holstered gun back in pocket).

      • You’re kinda proving my point here AK. In order for me to actually utilize this training in it’s most efficient application, I must now go buy a special pair of silly pants in order to do so. But why stop there? Why not a silly hat too? Just like this training – we’re pretending like it helps us when actually it is adding layers of complexity that will not benefit the majority of shooters. Unless you are already a veritable dead eye with the handgun, this training presents a very early point of diminishing returns.

        I mean, we make fun of Tacticool HSLD bros like Instructor Zero simulating ridiculous scenarios and in the same breath endorse the above training? Seems counter intuitive to me. And pricey – which seems like the overriding agenda of training like this.

        • Not sure I’m understanding your criticism. You can wear any dang holster you please. Better practice to be safe, smooth, efficient and natural with it. You can do this mostly at home, dry. Different solutions work for different people with different life circumstances. The “silly pants” (which look perfectly normal, as do the shorts) may work for some. Also you can use whatever weapon you want. Again, just be sure you can use it reasonably well. And you mention complexity and unlikely scenarios. What is complex about learning to shoot more intuitively than intellectually, taking into account the dynamics of criminal violence? Is it less complex to ask a trainee to remember sight alignment, sight picture, proper grip, proper stance, breath control, compressed surprise trigger break and follow through when a home invader or rapist is a tenth of a second away from stabbing her??? Is it UNLIKELY for both parties to move violently when close quarters violence is occurring??? My apologies if the article made it sound complicated, but this is fairly simple stuff, based on first hand experience and forensic analysis of many deadly non-sworn and law enforcement incidents. Zero-esque it is certainly not. No beards, no accents, no combat rolls, no warning shots, nothing faster than you can control. 😉 As Jim Higginbotham likes to say, “Each of us needs to find his own salvation.” Oh, and yes, John Perkins does ensure that each student is safe and has a firm grasp of the basics before beginning the more dynamic live fire training. As for pricey, this is actually the least pricey training I’ve found, certainly way less expensive than any of the “big name” schools and instructors. Ammo is the biggest expense (especially if you enjoy shooting .45).

      • Thank you. I use the Safari land retention holster (having ditched the SERPA) and will check this out. This looks like a really good way to CCW without looking like it.

        This solves the G23 in IWB printing/uncomfortable/hung up in loose shirt or even worse – under the typical OFWG training for IPDA “shoot me first” vest. Sorry, as comfortable and handy as they are, how many fly-fisherman or warzone photogs are there, really, roaming the streets? Ya just stick out, sorry.

        Here in CA, until the little guy can get common-sense CCW permit, the only way to LEGALLY carry is at home. However, its possible that at some point, if things get bad like a Katrina situation, which can happen easily due to wildfire/power outage/urban riot, then one *might* want to be prepared to discreetly carry, going to and from the grocery store, bank, where-ever, while bugging in at your quiet suburban house. I am not saying I WOULD illegally carry. Only that it makes sense to be prepared if the risk/reward situation demands it.

        Because at that stage I kind of doubt the cops are going to REALLY worry about a responsible citizen discreetly carrying – they will have their hands full with everything else. And as long as you dont use it unless its really needed, there is very little risk for this kind of deep concealment, IMHO.

        So having a tested system that works, “gray man” style, ready to go, would make a lot of sense. Would I wear these every day – no, only when I need them.
        But I would practice *carefully* at the range, after LOTS of careful dry fire at home first – that draw looks like a femoral artery ND could spoil your whole day…

        BTW, nor would I regularly wear the typical guayabera, hawaiian shirt, sports coat in hot weather, or other dead give-aways that the detectives or other plainclothes cops have to wear for CCW. Criminals and cops know full well what works and that makes you stand out to them.

        • Feel free to use the “Ask Attackproof” section of the website if you have any questions about the carry setup or anything else. Glad to help.

  22. IMHO, this is why people should take some kind of martial arts training.

    1) At a minimum, if you have the right instructors, there is a lot physical fitness training. People who “hate” the gym should try something like kick boxing.
    2) When you get to the point when you are “really” sparing, you are going to get hit and even with pads, sometimes it hurts. At higher levels of training — Advanced Black Belt — you are doing things with weapons. Getting slammed to the mat and having a moment of being dazed and needing to react to instinct is an important lesson

    3) It gets you mentally prepared when you have a real fight
    4) It gives a second option other than “gun only”

    And, many may find it to be fun.

    • I agree. I am not a commando, nor have I ever played one in the movies.

      I have been in a couple of real world street fights- stupid, shameful, and thankfully very brief, and what I learned saved me- along with being young and dumb- whats that saying about God looking after drunks and little children?

      Being in shape will save your life. Training for hands on contact teaches you can take a punch to the head, or a body slam and survive. You have to have felt it, got your bell rung, shook it off, got back up, so you wont give up in the real deal.

      Habit takes over. Punching to the skull breaks knuckles. Slip the jab. Hands up.
      An elbow to the temple, from hockey/martial arts works much better to deflect the bum rush. A windpipe grab stops a rational tough buy bar choker in his tracks.

      BJJ teaches that fights go to the ground. The early wins in MMA proved it worked. Wrestling escapes and arm bars work a lot better than spinning wheel kicks to the head, for the average person. But being on the ground with multiple attackers is a death sentence.

      So, knowing where the back door is, picking a chair close to it, and how to spot when things get ugly, and GITFO works even better. And watch out for mickeys.

  23. This is definitely challenging stuff. I enjoy punching tight groups, but I enjoy Simunitions and Force of Force training a whole lot more. The down and dirty training is much better preparation for the streets where distances are close and events are unpredictable.

    I saw a good amateur / semi-pro MMA fight card last weekend. I’m tempted to fight as a welterweight but I probably won’t.

    Still, when I see unusual training, and I wonder if I could do it, my interest is piqued. I recommend Force on Force training to anyone who can afford it.

    Of course there are a lot of olde war vets, random grandmothers and other folks out there who manage to take out their attackers quite well without fancy training. Your mileage will definitely vary.

    • To clarify, the article addresses most likely worst case scenarios. Most of the time, if you can see trouble coming you can escape or dissuade criminals without firing a shot. John Perkins’ own mother dissuaded some would be rapists/murderers with her little .25 pistol and a bad attitude. The thugs proceded to rape and kill a woman in a different building who was not prepared nor armed. However, if criminals elude your awareness or you let down your SA at the wrong time, be prepared.

  24. Rules? If a fight has rules then you aren’t fighting IMO.

    Up close go for the genitalia and a good headbutt, always worked for me. Point is: go for the “soft” areas. That is the neck, face (especially nose), kidneys, stomach, crotch and some more I can’t remember.

    • I disagree. He has some stupid drills. I’m waiting for the day he accidentally discharges a “warning shot” into his foot. Or blows himself up with tanerite.

    • THIS. Mindset is first, and sets survivors aside from the rest.

      SERE school, Warner Springs, 1979:
      Sleeping nut to butt in flight suits under a poncho.
      I found the biggest fat guy to be my buddy – warm!
      Only guy to make it to the can of fruit, but a sneaky foot sweep to topple my “bad guy” trying to throw me against the truck earned me a couple of reprisals.
      Tied up in the dog house all night, 40 degrees at night on concrete.
      Waterboarded to pass-out.
      I shoulda done what the SEALs did in the class after- blow off the rule to “pass a note to Senior Man to go over the Wall” and go take over the Duty Office down the road. Worked enough times at Canoe U…

      Never Ever Give Up.

  25. Rob Pincus teaches a class called Combat Focus Shooting. This class focuses heavily on many of the points made in this article. Great article!

  26. I don’t begin to believe I have the capabilities to deal with all the issues above but I do heavily practice crouching slightly and point shooting with one and two hands (5-7 yards max). It only makes sense to me this is what the normal person would do in a stress situation.

  27. Given the descriptors used, one should treat an assault the same as a bear attack.
    The self defense handgun then should have the power to break through a bear or human skeletal structure, (or even motorcycle helmets), with complete penetration from any angle. The raw violence this scenario envisions means the attacker, bear or human, must be stopped with massive blows from no more than the first two rounds to avoid claw or knife from a powerful foe.

  28. YouTube: ECQC

    Then go sign up for one of Craig’s classes. Best training I’ve ever got.

  29. I would recommend a 15min brief on hand to hand and let that be it. One of the things that happens in a real fight, you throw a punch and you are not used to it or you make contact wrong your hand will swell up and you won’t be able to make a fist. Think how well you can shoot with one hand swollen like that. That’s if you are lucky. It is just as easy to break your hand.

    now think about blocking or deflecting a blow. Its just as easy for your fingers to swell up or break if they take a hit.

    nothing new to the community as a whole, but a much needed discussion here.


  30. Correction: the sympathetic nervous system dilates blood vessels to skeletal muscles and constricts blood flow to gi organs. Blood pressure increase is from increased heart rate and stroke volume

  31. My suggestions for martial arts that compliment gun training are the Filipino Martial Arts and Jeet Kune Do. I also highly recommend Peyton Quinn’s RMCAT training for scenario training and KISS physical skills.

    Someone suggested boxing. I agree for some people.

    Others suggested Situational Awareness. Yes. Always. But there will come a time when you find yourself in the middle of the sh!t and all you can do is execute a strategic retreat. The last time I found myself in the middle of a drive-by shooting I did precisely that – into the shadows, late at night, in one of the best sections of DC. I was lucky that night. They never saw me and I wasn’t hit by a stray bullet.

    Mindset, as some mentioned, is a major priority, too. So is cheating and sucker punching (which is so much more than just hitting) and lying to your attackers and just plain shooting them are also major priorities, IMNSHO.

    In other words, just knowing how to shoot a gun isn’t enough by a long shot.

  32. so when your actually in the mix, and scared because your life is in danger and adren is going, your hands shake and accuracy is reduced? why do you think most cops have such a low hit rate when being fired upon? i know yall love talking trash, but when your day on the two way range comes, i hope you live through it, even if you miss a few times.

  33. No matter how much you spend for the latest, greatest, supercool total operator guns and training it always ends up on the floor, biting and gouging and kicking and clawing.

  34. A good friend of mind has one rule when it comes to self defense…”F*@K CHIVALRY!!!” Eye gouging, throat punching, & nut kicking not only allowed, but encouraged. I endorse this philosophy.

    • Funny, once they can’t breath they lose all desire to do criminal sh*t to you. And don’t just hit them in the windpipe once, keep hitting it, hell, get the chance stomp on it. They start it? No mercy.

    • Definitely! I saw a Bruce Lee interview where he encouraged that, biting, and more. He did make the point that going out of your way to do so is a good way to get your teeth knocked out though, not that that’s what you’re saying of course.

  35. Nothing new here. Just another “You’re stupid and I know everything ” self-appointed expert to criticize convention, because that’s so original in itself, then offer up some fairly obvious suggestions. Yawn…..

    • Just FYI, the title and much of the article was changed and edited by TTAG to be much more “in yer face” and controversial than the original longer version, which also discussed the advantages of more conventional training (you can see the original at in the Bare Hands to Handguns section). John Perkins has never called himself and expert, but has been called such by people he has worked with and trained (see endorsements section of Finally, if training balance, looseness, body unity, sensitivity and freedom of action into your unarmed and armed self-defense is obvious to you, you’ll love the training described at! 😉

  36. While the attack is going on you’re going to be second guessing every move since you’ll be facing a jury if you prevail. Plenty of people will second guess and armchair quarterback what you did to protect yourself. Unlike cops you have to be perfect in your actions. Just ask George Zimmerman how it really goes.

    Deterrence is your best bet. If that fails or isn’t perceived then evasion might work. Ultimately you might have to clear leather and that’s when it gets interesting.

  37. Actually, very few armed citizen incidents turn into physical fights. People that claim they do typically are from the law enforcement community – but LEO incidents are different from those involving armed citizens. There’s no shortage of actual data and evidence to study now, thanks to websites like Guns Save Lives that archive stories, youtube and liveleak videos, and trainers such as Tom Givens, Paul Howe, Scott Reitz, and others, who have data on student-involved shootings. The data doesn’t support the claim that “most incidents become physical”.

    Interestingly enough, those 3 trainers — who emphasize traditional aimed fire skills — seem to have the largest number of graduates who have done well in actual shootings — not the trainers you are promoting in this post.

    • Funny how those folks stop posting criticisms after they show up to a class. All times and locations of public classes are listed under “classes” on the website. All are welcome.

  38. Obviously every situation is different, and someone can always poke holes in a given doctrine, but looks like an excellent follow up to basic marksmanship. I’ve never done it with someone shoving you while shooting before; a good idea, although I’ve never been shoved around like that in the real thing. I haven’t looked into whether civilians can use Simunition, but that is a great way to run actual force on force scenarios, including those with a hand to hand element. Great comments; whether you call it lethal intent, audacity, or violence of action, you better have it.

  39. Rob Pincus teaches Counter Ambush Training which focuses on using the body’s natural responses to a lethal threat to accomplish the very type of response advocated in this article. Check out his book of the same title.

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