As we pointed out in Three Things Every Concealed Carrier Should Always Carry, a gun, a comfortable holster and a phone are the basic tools you need for daily concealed carry. Sort those out and you’re off to a very good start.
As for “gun fighting skills,” once again, this article is aimed at newbies. People who need some help and guidance breaking into the world of armed self-defense. If you’ve already mastered these skills, please share the following advice with beginners.
The first rule is that using your firearm should always be the very last resort. But if you can’t avoid it, here are three must-have techniques to work on and master if you find yourself in a situation in which you have to use your gun defensively.
Draw your gun quickly and efficiently
Estimates of defensive gun uses (DGUs) vary. The CDC helpfully narrows it down to between 60,000 and 2.5 million, depending on who’s doing the counting.
NOTE: that is not the number of shootings per year. In the vast majority of cases, an armed good guy brings his or her firearm to bear on the bad guy(s). The perp(s) thinks better of their plans for assault, rape, or robbery, and they leave.
No matter what happens in a DGU, you have to be prepared to shoot someone — if it comes to that — who poses an imminent, credible threat of death or grievous bodily harm. That’s the message a pointed gun sends, and it can be very effective. To appear prepared — to be prepared — you have to get your gun from wherever you carry it to a firing position quickly and efficiently.
This is a simple matter of practice. Start at home. Wearing your normal concealment clothes and your everyday carry system (gun and holster), unload your gun, put the ammo in another room, then return and safety-check your gun again. Find a safe direction to aim your gun (think: what would happen if you accidentally fired a round?). If there isn’t one (if, say, you live in an apartment), find someplace else.
Then draw from concealment. Do not “dry fire” your gun. Keep your finger off the trigger. Just draw your gun and aim at a specific target — a spot on the wall — about three yards away.
Make sure your grip’s good from start to finish and the target’s in your sights. As you change your clothes for the weather, practice your draw with whatever you wear in the real world including jackets and gloves.
Start slowly. Don’t rush. Gradually increase your speed. The goal is perfect, smooth technique, not speed. Speed will comes naturally.
Then you can practice drawing at a gun range (ask if they allow it first…some don’t) wearing your concealment clothes. Begin with an unloaded gun, keeping your finger off the trigger. Draw, aim, and re-holster (slowly). Eventually graduate to draw and dry fire practice.
Then — slowly — practice with a loaded gun (not at home). Vary between firing and not firing. This is critical: you do not want to train yourself to fire your gun every time you draw your gun from concealment.
In post-defensive gun use interviews, many armed self-defenders say they have no idea how their gun got into their hands. If you practice drawing from concealment, not only will you be fast and efficient, you’ll also have a good firing grip and your sights will be on target, naturally and automatically. That’s a big, possibly even life-saving advantage.
Imagine someone’s rushing towards you from about ten yards away, holding a knife. Could you draw your gun from concealment before they stab you? Do you want to wait and find out?
You need to move out of the way as quickly as possible and then draw your gun, if you can. If you need to. If you and/or your loved ones can move quickly away from a threat you may not need your gun.
Whether you end up shooting to stop a lethal threat or not, moving is more important than shooting. Gun or no gun, if you’re standing still, you’re a sitting duck. This can’t be emphasized enough. Moving equals life. Standing still equals death. It can be that simple. And the sooner you start moving, the better your chances of survival.
Of course, this whole moving thing raises some important questions. Moving to . . . where? (See below.) If I’m moving before or as I’m shooting, don’t I have to practice moving and shooting? And don’t I have to practice drawing from concealment while I’m moving? Yes, yes and yes. Which raises some very difficult, not-to-say controversial training issues.
Controversial as in training for armed self-defense at a traditional or “square” gun range. Any time you practice shooting without moving you’re training yourself to shoot without moving. If that becomes instinctive that’s what you’ll probably do in a DGU. Either that or you’ll try to move and draw and shoot and not be very good at it.
Find a range or take a concealed carry class where you can move and draw and shoot. It’s better to practice your draw at home and move and shoot twice a year than it is to shoot at a piece of paper at a square range once a week (should that be your choice).
If you’re practicing alone, again, start slowly. There’s no rush, no need to think of a gunfight as a wild west shootout. If push comes to shove, adrenaline will naturally speed-up your technique.
Alternatively and at the same time, apply this movement to your at-home drawing-from-concealment practice. Draw and move. Every. Single. Time. Even if it’s just a single step in either direction, associate drawing your gun with moving away from where you started. “Get off the X” as the gun gurus say. That will save your life.
Another idea: participate in competitions like IDPA matches. You don’t have to be in it to win it. Not only is it fun, it’s excellent practice for learning to draw, move and shoot, all at the same time.
Move to cover and/or concealment
When the S hits the F in a DGU, you don’t want to be someplace where the bad guy can reach out and touch you; with a bullet, an edged weapon, a blunt instrument, his head, fist, feet or elbows. To avoid death or grievous bodily harm, you want to move away from the threat and get behind cover or concealment as soon as humanly possible.
Cover means a place behind an object that can stop bullets: cement or brick walls, a car’s engine block, trees, the sides of ditches, etc. Concealment means a place where the bad guy or guys can’t see you: cars, trees, clothing racks, doors, desks, closets, etc. Cover is best, but don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Proximity is all. The quicker you get out of the way and/or hidden, perhaps bringing/keeping your gun into the fight at the same time, the better.
That said, you may be with unarmed innocents when the you-know-what gets real. Not only do you have to move away from the threat, they do too. That may not be possible.
In that case, you have to physically grab or push your compadres towards safety. In some cases, that could be away from you (your gun is a bad guy and bullet magnet). Either that or leave the friendlies, forget about cover or concealment and move towards the threat.
Gun ranges are not the real world. They lack the variety of real-life objects and obstacles that can afford an armed self-defender cover or concealment. Equally, we often journey into places with minimal or no concealment or cover, such as a rock concert or your home (the refrigerator is probably the only object in your house that might stop a bullet). Other than force-on-force training facilities, you’re left with mental practice.
In other words, you have to think about cover and concealment, preferably before you need it. Whenever you enter a new space, whether cruising through it or hanging out, look around. Where’s cover (the kind that stops bullets)? Where’s concealment (the kind that hides you from the bad guys)? And, yes, where are the exits? That’s all. Just ID them. And continue on with your life.
There are lots of other important gunfighting techniques that can save your life, from clearing a stoppage (the gun doesn’t work) to clearing a room. All of them are fun and useful to learn. All of them could save your life. But the three gunfighting skills above — draw, move and find cover/concealment — are a firm foundation for armed self-defense and, hopefully, a stepping stone to further education.