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Front Site is right: the average number of attackers in a gunfight is two. And handgun rounds aren’t the super-deadly one-shot killing machines you see on TV; shooting someone with a pistol – any pistol – is no guarantee that they’re going to stop attacking you or other innocent life. The key takeaway here: don’t stop scanning for threats after you discharge your firearm in self-defense. But it’s not as easy to train yourself to do that as Front Site would have you believe. In the video . . .

we see Front Site students learning to look left and look right after they shoot a gun. In the example provided, the student turns her head but doesn’t actually LOOK for threats. Why should she? She’s at Front Site. There are no other threats. For safety’s sake, all the threats are downrange. Always.

An equally important but little discussed barrier to best practice post-shooting scanning: the natural tendency to focus entirely on the person you just shot. Why? Because they are a threat (as opposed to someone you ca’t see who might be a threat). You want to make sure the person you shot is no longer a threat. More than that, it’s fascinating.

I assume you’ve never shot anyone before. Neither have I. But I’ve seen people who were freshly shot and it’s quiet something to see – in a horrible, grisly sort of way. When your eyes see something incredible, your brain wants to know more. You stare. In a high-stress situation, when time is distorted, you may stare at the bizarre longer than normal. Certainly more than is safe, given the multiple attacker stat above.

To train yourself not to stare at the recipient of your ballistic assault: look away.

Note: LOOK away, not TURN away. Practice LOOKING away from the target and at your environment when you turn your head after shooting. Some trainers hold numbered cards away from the shooter, and ask the shooter to call out the number. That’s great but most people practice shooting without trainers. The trick here is to SLOW DOWN. A lot. Take at least five seconds to look in each direction.

In an actual defensive gun use, time will seem to move slowly. You will be moving quickly when you think you’re moving slowly. In other words, don’t worry that you’ll be training yourself to move your head too slowly when push comes to ballistic shove. You won’t. The more smoothly and deliberately you move your head the faster and more effective your defensive gun use scan will be. Smooth is fast, as they say.

Also keep in mind that it’s boarding house rules: everyone gets firsts before anyone gets seconds. You need to shoot as many bad guys as possible before you worry about whether or not you’ve shot any particular one effectively. So you need to scan after firing. Not only for bad guys but also for a new defensive position.

The cop in the video moves to concealment quickly. Good one. Only what if the bad guys started firing back/attacking in earnest? The checkout lane’s restricting him to moving either forwards or backwards. That’s not ideal but you play the cards your dealt. The question is, is he ready to move? The question is, after you’ve shot and moved (or shot while you moved) where do you go next?

Simulating that challenge on a square range is nigh on impossible. About the best you can do: turn your head – keeping the gun pointed down range (another training problem) – and look at the exit door. Remember: you’re not a cop. Your goal is to stay alive. If you’re alone, you want to leave the scene as soon as humanly possible. Above all, you want to escape. Look for more cover/concealment and a way out.

There is no perfect gunfight. Sometimes you do things you shouldn’t have done. But always remember that movement is your friend, and it ain’t over ’til it’s over.

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  1. I have trained at Frontsight and their training is good. But, as you said, not exactly real world due to safety considerations. Makes me wonder if the addition of a laser or paintball range would be something that FS and other training facilities should consider ? Closer to real world practice when the other team will be shooting back.

    • I think that’s a great idea. Force on Force Simunition rounds add a whole ‘nother dimension. Paintballs are great fun, but typically nowhere near the size, capacity, and feel of real guns. So they don’t fit in your normal concealment holster.

  2. Great post!
    That’s something you always have to be aware of, if you put one bad guy down, there very well may be others!
    If the guy you shot was the beloved brother of the one that’s still in the place, he will do everything he can, to kill you!

  3. L.A. city council has now restricted citizens ability to defend against multiple threats by OUTLAWING standard capacity magazines. They have decided you will never need more than 10 rounds to protect yourself ( even if police can’t / wont respond , LA riots anyone ? )

    • Fcuk the LA City Council by carrying a extra mags all the time and maybe a New York Reload. The ban on standard mags is unfair and stupid, but fans of the M1911 and other low-capacity firearms have been dealing with the capacity issue very well for over 100 years.

      • Yep, my favorite semi has a max limit of 9 rounds. I keep at least 2 spare mags loaded and staged for use when I go the semi route.

      • Thankfully it’s only a municipal code. The last time I took enforcement action on a “muny code” was never.

    • LE/Police have no more protected 2A rights than the average citizen.

      The citizenry should NOT submit to these UNLAWFUL/UNCONSTITUTIONAL “infringements” on their Constitutionally PROTECTED fundamental, individual, endowed upon creation, “INCORPORATED” RIGHTS!

    • I seriously doubt a single one of those backmarkers have even thought far enough as to how many round anyone may or may not need. Like most 4 legged animals count 1,2,3,many; progressives reach “many” once they run out of fingers. And many, in the context of a potentially lethal weapon, just sounds scary.

      Regardless, for civilian “self defense”, if you genuinely “need” more than 10+1 before a quick magazine reload, you’re probably doing something wrong. Not certainly, but definitely probably.

  4. Great video, RF and thank you for constantly stimulating good thinking about the real world of a gunfight.

    Couple thoughts- from my non-operator, non-leo, ofwg defending myself and family framework for thinking to train as I might have to fight, outside the home.

    I say this as basis for the below: Civilian rules, including lethal force are different than for LEOs. That means tactics are different.

    1. If I were alone, I would stand down, while being prepared to fight, and soon as able, gtfo.
    My responsibility is to my family- as an income earner and source of support. If I were single, it would be otherwise.

    Sorry to be so brutally honest, but unless its obvious that the robber is going to kill or harm someone who cannot defend themselves, like a child, or defenseless woman with a child, then he can have the grocery stores money.

    2. If I have my family with me, then step one is id the threat and move to cover, and a route out, and thats where the advice to scan as if there were multiple attackers is a VERY GOOD TRAINING mindset.

    3. I will defend myself, if my route out is blocked by a bad guy, and continue to gtfo to a secure place for my family. My next job is to provide good intel to responding PD, and I need to be alive for that, too.

    4. I would stop shooting after the threat is stopped, but be very wary. A civilian is at risk for a prosecution for shooting someone in the back, like the guy going out the door, that the cop stopped, and nailed again.

    5. I like the scanning technique, but agree unless done with clear attention to the purpose every time, it ends up being an empty gesture, that would create a blindspot, by habit of simply turning head and not focusing.

    A better habit pattern which is very hard to train at most ranges is to ID threat, get off the x towards cover while scanning for more threats, shoot while moving as needed, shoot from cover, and reload while under cover, still scanning, and looking for exit.

  5. Minimum two shots at criminal continue until its down.

    Train not to look at your work.

    Scan LOOK to acquire more bad people.

    Secure your position.

      • Because standing around pumping lead into Perp A, isn’t the most effective way of ensuring there is no Perp B.

        I know it’s out of fashion these days, but I practice: Determine it’s a legit target, aim, fire 1 shot, scan for other legit targets; if yes, aim, fire 1 shot, if not cycle back to previous target and aim, fire 1 shot, repeat from “scan” above as necessary, or until ammo or my own life runs out.

        I’m not retardedly slow at “double tapping”, or “controlled doubles” or whatnot, but I’ve noticed I tend to be a “rhythm shooter.” If I train multiple hits for even a short while, I tend to keep shooting at a certain pace. And I have a pretty good intuition that, in a bind, my accuracy will go up in smoke waaay before my rhythm changes. Hence, I’d rather not get used to semi-spinal follow up shots.

  6. Considering some of these fine folks ride four in a car; do not be too surprised if there are three of the honor students in the vicinity. One thing you do have in your advantage, is that these wonderful individuals usually are pretty ignorant about firearms and other topics; so you are not exactly dealing with SEAL Team 6 or the CIA Think Tank. Another advantage that you have, is that most of the time these outstanding citizens do not anticipate that you are armed and will put up a fight.
    Quite frankly, there is a fair chance that you may not have to discharge your firearm at all.
    I would advise not shooting people unless you really have to do so.

  7. This is why I carry 28 rounds in the magazine and one chambered . I keep another two magazines in the ride at 28 each and at 20 feet I am dead eye on .
    I have preached for years the importance of the timer training method . It creates stress and makes you bum- fuzzle everything until you have enough reps that draw and fire become second nature .
    This training always works better with two people and even better if you are competing for something ,
    I usually compete for a box of ammo , it creates the tension needed to stimulate the adrenaline surges .
    First , holster your weapon and draw carefully , acquire your target and double tap two in the chest then two in the head , you can also go two head and then two chest it doesn’t matter . Repeat until you have 10 shots and you feel comfortable that your shot groups are with in your kill zone .
    Second , have your timing partner record your best set , this is your starting point .
    Third , knock five seconds off your best timed set and have your partner say go when they start the clock . You have to do five seconds better than your previous best or you forfeit those five seconds to your partner when it’s their turn unless of coarse they fail also . It works best if you run these drills in six or more sets . you’ll be amazed at how hard this drill is when you’re competing against another person for something . These drills are fun and very helpful in giving you the skill and confidence you will need if actually confronted with a situation that requires you to use these skill sets .
    My partner is usually my wife and she has gotten very good and beats me up fairly often . I believe if she could carry her holster in a more assessable fashion she would probably be more like 50/50 . I prefer to cross draw appendix carry while she usually holsters on the side , I think this gives me just a slight edge .
    You can set up a second target just to the right or left and behind the first to simulate the second threat if you want . I don’t normally train this way even though I have and the article has made me consider doing more .
    Thanks for keeping us thinking .
    TRAIN , TRAIN , TRAIN . Most important .

  8. Training is very difficult obviously because it’s hard to simulate the high stress situation of an attack. Add multiple attackers, and the difficulty of the simulation is multiplied too. I think it’s a mistake to neglect the right kind of training, but many people have successfully defended themselves with little or no training. My thoughts are train as often as you can, and simulate the scenarios you’re most likely to encounter. Being aware that you need to train and what to train are the critical starting points.

  9. “And handgun rounds aren’t the super-deadly one-shot killing machines you see on TV; shooting someone with a pistol – any pistol – is no guarantee that they’re going to stop attacking you or other innocent life.”.

    I disagree, .454 Casull, .500 S&W, .44 Mag will ALL send ANY perp straight to their final resting place at the mere sight of them!

  10. Having been in two situations where a bad guy had a gun pointed at my head, I believe that any training you can add to the fight/flight instinct is a bonus.

  11. Its funny how many people say the answer to putting a threat down is almost always “Mozambique” (2 to chest, 1 to head). The fact is it depends on the shooters ability to perform under stress, which very few actually train and test on. Consider the following…

    I was conducting a class and at the end of the day a number of people stayed to shoot more. The topic of putting a threat down came up and of course there was ‘that guy’ who said Mozambique solves everything. I set up a drill to ‘test’ this claim. I had the guys do fast jumping jacks for a couple of minutes with me yelling at them – remember when the drill sgts when you got to basic training? Yea it was like that (to simulate the adrenaline rush) I then ran the Mozambique as I continued to yell words of encouragement – the results were interesting.

    3 out of 8 hit the vital area with 2 to the chest and the remaining 5 either got 1 shot in or missed both. When it came to the 1 head shot, we had 3 out of 8 that actually hit it. Needless to say the guy who claimed “Mozambique” didn’t deliver in either.

    So why was it so hard?

    The reason is that while some do practice this drill they don’t do it under stress. It reminds me of my time in the Army when officers would draw up perimeter defense plans. They were perfect on a paper but they did not take into consideration how the soldiers manning those positions actually performed on the range with their assigned weapons. You claim all day long that the effective range of an M16A2 is 550 meters (point target) and 800 meters (area target) but if Johnny barely qualified on his weapon then your perimeter defense plan is not as effective as it shows on paper.

    Just saying that there can big differences between what you do in un-stressful training versus stress training.


  12. “LOOK away, not TURN away.”
    I always have to chime in on the whole “scanning” thing to remind everyone that for safety reasons and for tactical reasons, keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.
    That usually means that if you are looking around and not moving your body, the gun should be close and pointed downward. Don’t just keep the gun pointed in the direction of the previous target while your eyes and head are turned a different direction.

  13. One of the places I have trained alot would have an instructor sneak up behind you during SIRT training with a rubber knife or a bat or plastic gun (or holding a cell phone) to check your response to secondary threat. Also did a lot of scenarios with Simunitions (hooded drills, gunfights with malfunctions and reloads, force on force; shoot don’t shoot ect…). Very hard to replicate, but when doing drills on a square range I always try to check out details when scanning. Who is watching me train? How many people on the range? Who just walked in? Hair color of person closest to me? Then back to original target (was original threat). Always best if you train while keeping in mind how would this look in the real world?


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