Guns for Beginners: Three Must-Have Gunfighting Techniques

As I pointed out in Three Things Every Concealed Carrier Should Carrya gun, a comfortable holster and a phone are the basic tools you need for daily concealed carry. Sort those out and you’re good to stow. As for “gun fighting skills,” once again, this article is aimed at newbies. People who need to be gently led into the world of armed self-defense. If you’ve already mastered these skills, please share the following advice with beginners. Here are three must-have gunfighting techniques . . .

Draw your gun quickly and efficiently

Estimates of defensive gun uses (DGUs) vary. One researcher reckons there are 760k DGUs per year. Note: there aren’t 760k shootings per year. In the vast majority of cases, an armed good guy brings his or her firearm to bear on the bad guy or guys, the perps think better of their plans for rape, robbery and/or violent assault, and leave.

No matter what happens in a DGU, you must be prepared to shoot someone who poses an imminent, credible threat of death or grievous bodily harm. That’s the message a pointed gun sends, and quite effective it can be, too. To appear prepared – to be prepared – you have to get your gun from wherever it is you carry it to a firing position. Quickly and efficiently.

This is a simple matter of practice. Start at home. Wearing normal concealment clothes and your 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 (what would happen if you fired a round?). If there isn’t one (i.e. you live in an urban apartment), find someplace else.

Draw from concealment. Do not “dry fire” your gun. Keep your finger off the trigger. Just aim your firearm at a target 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 with whatever you wear in the real world including jackets and gloves. Start slowly. No rush. Gradually increase your speed. The goal is perfect technique, not speed. That comes naturally.

Then practice drawing at a gun range (ask if they allow it) wearing your concealment clothes. Begin with an unloaded gun, keeping your finger off the trigger. Draw, aim, re-holster. Then draw and dry fire. Then SLOWLY practice with a loaded gun. 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-DGU interviews, 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, automatically. That’s a big, possibly even life-saving advantage.


Imagine someone’s rushing towards you from about ten yards away, wielding a knife. Could you draw your gun from concealment before they stabbed you? No way José. 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. Result.

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. I can’t emphasize this enough. Moving = life. Standing still = 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.

For one thing, I do NOT recommend 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 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. I believe 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 ballistic shove, adrenaline will naturally speed-up your technique.

Alternatively and at the same time, apply this movement directive 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.

Move to cover and/or concealment

When the S hits the F in a DGU, you do not want to be someplace where the bad guy can reach out and touch you; with a bullet, edged weapon, blunt instrument, head, fist, feet or elbows. To avoid death or grievous bodily harm you want to move away from the threat and 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 farrago 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 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 (stops bullets)? Where’s concealment (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 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 to learn. All of them cold 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.


  1. avatar Henry Bowman says:

    Which is better… shooting the bad guy, or not getting shot? MOVE YOUR A$$ FAST!!

  2. avatar Snoop Dawg says:

    I don’t know what all this safe talk is about. I recommend drinking a lot of beer and maybe smoke some weed before you practice.
    Then throw in a mag an cycle some rounds through the weapon.
    Go drink some more beer.
    Then come back and to remember whether you have a round in the chamber.
    Now comes the practice part.
    As a practical matter, I recommend keeping the weapon turned sideways with your finger on the trigger, gangsta style. This might be a good time for some Kung Fu moves to practice scaring your victim…I mean attacker. Be sure and keep you pants down to your knees in case you need to jump out of them real fast and run home to momma’s
    Keepin it real in Ferguson. 🙂
    Remember, Snoop says #unloaddemdang guns

    1. avatar Red in Texas says:

      A 40, or a Colt 45? 😉

  3. avatar Mediocrates says:

    This is the area where I find my laser training system most useful. worth every penny.

    1. avatar JohnF says:

      Which one do you use and what do you like about that particular model?

  4. avatar JR_in_NC says:

    I don’t know; I think perhaps the first thing that needs to be mastered in a beginner is what is often called “Mindset.”

    Newbies need to understand, deeply, deeply understand, the consequences and commitment they are making in Every Day Carry.

    “The Gun is not a magic talisman” is a good place to start.

    A nice follow up might be “Everything you THINK you know about real world gunfights is most likely WRONG; it ain’t TV/Movies or Internet fantasies in terms of competency and outcomes.”

    I know this stuff is not as “sexy” as mastering the Fastest Draw in the West, but in my opinion, starting here sets the stage for all subsequent skills training.

    1. avatar tdiinva says:


      And most important part of that mindset is situational awareness. Seeing a potential threat before it sees you or seeing it in time to evade and escape is by far the most important part of gunfighting.

      Every newbie should know that you win 100% of the gunfights you don’t get into.

      1. avatar Accur81 says:

        Word. Situational awareness can save you from getting your a$$ ran over by a car, or help you track that creepy dude trying to slink behind you when you are pumping gas.

    2. The first time I took my wife shooting, she put every round in the red oval in the center of a 1/4 size silhouette target from 7 yards. She turned to me and said “I could kill someone”. I said “Yeah that is some good shooting”. She said “No, I mean, If I had to kill someone to save a life, I could do it”. Mindset.

      1. avatar Doc Samson says:

        That is just awesome!

      2. avatar WhiskeyTangoFoxtrot says:

        Keeper. Seriously.

  5. avatar mike oregon says:

    I’ve found IDPA to be a useful tool in trying out different holsters and other gear, and for testing different theories and techniques, the first time I was on a 300 degree stage freezing up trying to figure out where is down range was a unsettling eye opener.

    1. avatar JR_in_NC says:

      Ditto IDPA.

      It’s also a ton of fun.

    2. avatar JasonM says:

      Definitely. It forces you to draw fast, move to cover, distinguish threats from non-threats, reload under pressure, etc. In 20 years when we have robot targets that shoot back at us (with marker rounds), it’ll be even better.

  6. avatar DJ says:

    Shooting at moving targets is also entirely different from shooting on a square range. Force on force is invaluable for training for the real world. There’s no “range” substitute.

    If you don’t have a lot of money, I recommend airsoft.

  7. avatar David B. says:

    The list is incomplete. Malfunction drills also need to be learned and practiced.

    1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      That may be “intermediate” level training.

    2. avatar JohnF says:

      Not if you carry a revolver! Especially not if you carry two! No tap-rack-bang. Just bang.

  8. avatar uncommon_sense says:

    This is solid advice for beginners.

  9. avatar Ralph says:

    Run your way out of Dodge if you can; shoot your way out if you can’t.

    1. avatar tdiinva says:

      or don’t get noticed but if you do run away and if and only if you can’t run away do you fight it out. (Actually the final line as taught is Hands Hoch!)

  10. avatar mike reed says:

    IDPA !!!!!! The training has taken my wife from dead, to a competent draw, shoot, move, daily carry. She is also much more situationally aware after the many training scenarios. I trust her to have my back now! I pitty da fool… who criminally assaults her or us.

  11. avatar GS650G says:

    In My CCW class many years ago the cop instructing asked me to stand and gave me a blue gun. he stood 20 feet away and simulated the knife attack scenario and how easy it is to cover the distance before he got to me.

    I asked him to do it again and he agreed. This time I pushed a chair in his way, backed up, and kicked another chair at him while I managed to withdraw the blue gun on him. He said “what are you doing?” as I tossed furniture in his path and when I got the drop on him I said in reply “What I need to do to slow you down.”
    If we were outside and he came at me with a knife I would have ran back or even turned and ran forward until I was able to get the tool out and then make a large circle to get turned around.
    Every situation calls for a different tactic. Standing there like a target isn’t one of them.
    At least I let him make his point before I made mine.

    1. avatar JohnF says:

      Totally agree. There are also some knife deflections that can be learned in any good martial arts class. Yes, I know, knife disarms are tough, as is dealing with someone who really knows how to use a knife. That would be “advanced training.” But someone charging you with a knife is generally not a pro. Deflecting a knife attack with someone coming at you with momentum is do-able. You might take a cut, but it will give you time to get your gun out and do a point blank head shot. Deal with the knife first, then the attacker.

  12. avatar Silentbrick says:

    IDPA has been very useful for this as well. Not only do I wear and carry my actual carry gun, I wear the same clothing I use in public to conceal it. They do PASS matches as well and sometimes there is a swinging target stand for us to shoot at during those times. But it has proven to be a very useful form of practice and while I may not be super super fast like certain OFWG’s that are the true old timer’s there, I don’t hit the non-targets.

    If you want to use IDPA for carry practice, it’s essential to use the same equipment. As for malfunction drills, my wife bought me some cheap turkish ammo that gave me about 1 in 10 failure to fire. (Soft primer’s I think, second or third retry with same bullet works usually.) Considering how quickly I managed to clear and return to shooting, I consider that to be good practice for clearing drills. What is funny though, is everyone asks me what ammo I use (Even the non-horrid stuff) since they say there’s a big muzzle flash. I suspect it’s not the ammo but the fact I’m using a Springfield XD(M) 9mm in 3.8″ Compact. It’s amusing since I’m NOT seeing the muzzle flashes though. Not sure if that’s gun design or what, but it’s an interesting aside. Only aftermarket change on the gun is I replaced the baseplates on my 13round mags with one that adds a bit for the pinky. Helps me and the wife when using it.

  13. avatar Larry in AZ says:

    He doesn’t RELOAD before reholstering.
    He doesn’t CHECK FOR OTHER BAD GUYS 360.

  14. avatar Aaron says:

    IMO, there are two rules of gunfighting even more important than the good advice of this article: 1 – don’t go to troublesome places and don’t hang out with troublemakers. 2 – when you think there is trouble outside, don’t open your door – make ’em bust in where you have the advantages of a prepared fighting position with cover and the element of surprise (caveat: unless you have to go outside to get your family to safety).

  15. avatar Jay-El says:

    “the refrigerator is the only object in your house that might stop a bullet.”

    Older refrigerators, maybe. Modern ones are cheap, 20-ish gauge metal over foam insulation and plastic, and unless you have a lot of frozen food in the freezer, I wouldn’t count on the contents stopping a round either.

    Things in a typical house that might stop a bullet include water heaters (maybe), heavy-gauge safes, cast iron bathtubs, masonry fireplaces/chimneys and bookcases filled with books.

  16. avatar DaveR says:

    “Find a range or take a concealed carry class where you can move and draw and shoot. I believe 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).”

    Great suggestion. Not so easy to implement.

    Most of us should work on out fitness first–hard to imagine most of the guys at the range moving with any sort of coordination (at any speed).

Write a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

button to share on facebook
button to tweet
button to share via email