Three Must-Have Gunfighting Skills

As we pointed out in Three Things Every Concealed Carrier Should Always 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 go.

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.

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 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’d 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 thins 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 who poses an imminent, credible threat of death or grievous bodily harm. That’s the message a pointed gun sends, and it can be quite effective. 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 your 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 accidentally fired a round?). If there isn’t one (i.e. 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 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. Don’t rush. Gradually increase your speed. The goal is perfect, smooth technique, not speed. That comes naturally.

Then you can practice drawing at a gun range (ask if they allow it first) 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, 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.

Move!

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. 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.

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 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. 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 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.

One other idea: participate in 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 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 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.

comments

  1. avatar Me says:

    Damn, I guessed Shoot, Move and Communicate and only got one right.

    1. avatar frank speak says:

      “moving” is a problem for some of us…or hasn’t that thought occurred to you?…..

      1. avatar Donttreadonme says:

        Do the best you can with your circumstances. And train accordingly

  2. avatar busybeef says:

    IDPA is a great place to safely practice all of these skills.

    Everyone thinks they’re a badass until the buzzer beeps and the brain hits delete.

    Imagine what happens in real life.

    We devolve to our lowest level of training.

    1. avatar LKB says:

      Yup, but short of actual combat experience force-on-force training (ideally with Siminutions that carry the threat of a pain penalty for getting shot) is the gold standard here. It is a real eye-opener — all the stuff that they tell you about tunnel vision, auditory exclusion, loss of fine motor control, and ESPECIALLY faulty memory/recall ability immediately after the event — you get to experience it first hand.

      1. avatar SoCalJack says:

        I had to search for this oldie but goodie for our new shooters:
        https://www.ar15.com/forums/general/Street-robberies-and-you-The-Basics/5-1285487/

        1. avatar NB says:

          Thank you for the article SoCalJack.

      2. avatar busybeef says:

        I did force on force at Sig Academy and it’s no joke.
        Even fake shooting people, there’s a huge psychological element to unpack after the scenarios.

        1. avatar LKB says:

          +1.

          As I mentioned in my earlier message, the thing that really stuck with me was when they grilled me immediately after a scenario about what had just happened, including little details (and some “coaching” by the questioner that led you to “remember” things a certain way).

          Then they would play the videotape and show you how wrong your “memory” was.

          As a trial attorney experienced in preparing, presenting, and cross-examining witnesses, it was a real eye opener. Even though I knew it was just a training exercise and wasn’t “real,” it still provoked enough of an adrenaline dump to trigger all the things the experts tell you about — including short term amnesia and the brain’s instinctive attempts to “fill in the blanks.” Even though I knew what was happening psychologically and physiologically, I truly believed certain things had happened a certain way 60 seconds before, but the videotape categorically proved me wrong.

          And then they tell you, “remember, this was just an exercise . . . if this had been real, all those symptoms you just experienced would be about 10x worse.” That proved to me in the most visceral way why no matter how smart you are or how good a shoot you think it was, you should NEVER talk to the cops after a shoot without an attorney — and hopefully a chance to calm down.

          Highly recommended.

  3. avatar Debbie W. says:

    Understanding the penalties associated with firearm misuse is skill one. Law Enforcement does not accept excuses or apologies.

    1. avatar Accur81 says:

      I absolutely agree. Showing your new piece off at parties, with maybe a little booze and unsafe gun handling involved, screws things up for all of us. Be safe, as many will never actually need to fire their gun(s) in self defense.

    2. avatar frank speak says:

      I always told my guys to pretend that gun is glued in its holster…if you really need to reach for it you’ll do so automatically…other than that, leave it be….

  4. avatar Rachel says:

    I never used any type of gun in my life. Any of type of gun only should be used when your life is in danger.

    1. avatar Ing says:

      If you might have to use it to save your life, shouldn’t you know HOW to use it?

      1. avatar adverse6 says:

        Exactly.

    2. avatar Accur81 says:

      I sure would miss training, hunting, and target shooting. Plenty of non-exigent ways to have fun with guns.

    3. avatar Montana Actual says:

      So… do you carry a gun for when your life is threatened?

      1. avatar Ing says:

        I think we all know the answer to that.

    4. avatar frank speak says:

      I know it’s kind of gone out of style these days…but not ALL guns are designed to be used against our fellow humans…..

  5. avatar strych9 says:

    Is IDPA even running matches right now?

    Around here the only ones that are scheduled and have been scheduled for awhile (granted I don’t look all the time) are Spring 2021 and are championship matches.

  6. avatar Bigdaddykane says:

    Gecko 45….. is that you?

    1. avatar rdsii64 says:

      Thats a blast from the past. Not many people will get that reference. I remember him post some ridiculous stuff on another forum I frequent.

  7. avatar Jacob says:

    Are you really advocating for not dry firing your gun? That is asinine. If you check and recheck your gun and all the ammo is out of the room, one can safely dry fire. It’s not like ammo is going to magically pop into your chamber if you use common sense and safely make sure the gun is unloaded. Trigger press is one of the things with handguns that can be practiced with dry firing and all the big names in the gun industry are advocating for dry firing during this ammo shortage.

    1. avatar napresto says:

      I think the suggestion was not to combine practice drawing with practice dry firing, not to skip dry firing in general. A draw followed immediately by dry firing might lead us to forget about a very important middle step – aiming – and create a “draw fast, shoot fast, don’t aim” training scar over time. I could also see how this might create muscle memory for “I always pull the trigger when I draw,” which could lead to some really unfortunate ND events…

      1. avatar frank speak says:

        keep playing around with it long enough…and sooner or later you’ll wind up with a hole in the wall…[if you’re lucky!]…it’s no substitute for masturbation….part of being human is our lack of infallibility….

    2. avatar Jay says:

      No, he saying that if you associate firing every time you draw that you’ll very likely fire when you don’t need to. Draw, access, fire goes to draw, fire. Practice drawing, practice dry fire, but don’t (or rarely) combine them.

  8. avatar Specialist38 says:

    Or…..

    be as familiar with your gun(s) as possible and hitting the target. Drawing practice may have to donemat home.

    Be aware of your surroundings as you go about your day….what would constitute cover, exit escape.

    Most people will not be able to practice running (screaming) and shooting with multiple scenarios. Either due to finances, time, or availability.

    The basics are drawing, shooting, and hitting. Do more if you can.

  9. avatar Darkman says:

    Mindset…Without the correct mindset none of the things you carry will mean a thing. Even training can fail you if you don’t have the mindset to do the deed for real. It is not uncommon for even well trained people to lock up when the times comes to actually shoot another person as it goes against everything most people have been raised to do. The very act of shooting/killing another person is as foreign to most people as little green men from outer space. Mindset is something that requires making Peace with Oneself and whatever Deity you believe in…If you believe. I’ve seen people actually lock up in force on force training because they couldn’t bring themselves to shoot someone. So don’t underestimate the importance of Mindset in a DGU. Your life may depend on it. Keep’n My Powder Dry…Yours is Up to You.

    1. avatar John Gillaspy says:

      This cannot be stressed enough!. When I first looked into concealed carry I found an article from a concealed carrier who survived being shot in the chest with an AK. When he was asked as to why he hesitated he replied, “I saw my son.” It wasn’t his son in reality, but he had never done the mindset work. You have to be mentally ready to pull the trigger.

  10. avatar tdiinva says:

    DGUs are won in 6″ between your ears. If you don’t have it there your technical skills won’t provide the margin of success.

  11. avatar Random female name says:

    I looked through all the posts today, and can’t find one stupid thing to say about guns that’s not already taken.

    1. avatar jwm says:

      Oh, look. We’ve found one of 3 biden voters in the US.

        1. avatar frank speak says:

          they’re computer-generated avatars…they create as many as they need to reach their goal

    2. avatar James Campbell says:

      Random Female Name…………AKA; Froma Harrop

      This is payback to TTAG for how her “Why Do We Let People Brandish Guns In Public?” got treated.

      Don’t go away mad Froma, just go away.

      1. avatar frank speak says:

        why upset people unnecessarily?….that little act of defiance may come back to bite you in the ass…legally speaking…

    3. avatar Ing says:

      After making sure it was true by posting as “Rachel” above…

  12. avatar Jimmy James says:

    Why is the by line STAFF WRITER? Too many folks “training” and writing about gun fighting that have never fired a shot in anger. I prefer this kind of information from informed sources with a CV to back it up. Used to shoot IPSC/USPSA matches every weekend for a long time. The was a gun writer that used to show up at one of the monthly matches that couldn’t hit the broad side of barn. I couldn’t believe he was the same guy writing articles for 2 major gun magazines. Also lots of trainers with impressive CV’s as far as having had jobs with TRAINING in the title. Most have no street cred. They have never been shot at.

    1. avatar Wally1 says:

      You think that’s bad. When I was on the job, the department paid for our gun range membership, Myself and about three other guys went to the range about once a week off duty to practice. The rest of the Department just showed up four times a year for the mandatory shoots. It was pathetic, Most were lucky to qualify by the bare minimum, There was a Female detective that had to be shown how to load and use a Rem 870 pump shotgun, the same shotgun that was in her car. . But the Chief and administrators didn’t seem like it was a priority.

      1. avatar Jimmy James says:

        One of the ranges I belong to has started hosting the local sheriff’s dept deputies for qualification and training. 2 out of 12 AR’s that had been issued and were in the trunks of their cars were not zero’d nor did those officers know how to zero them. Kinda scary.

  13. avatar B says:

    The 5 Keys of Survival

    1. Mental awareness and preparedness. 2. The will/intestinal fortitude to survive.
    3. Education/knowledge along with reality-based training.
    4. Skill and proficiency with both natural-born weapons and man-made equipment.
    5. The best equipment you can afford.

    Each category can be discussed in greater length, but you get the point. Everything else is supplemental.

  14. avatar RGP says:

    No mention of “learn how to operate a backhoe.”

    1. avatar Tired of the bs says:

      That’s damn funny right there! Next beers on me.

      1. avatar Darkman says:

        Don’t need a backhoe if you live close to a deep river, rock quarry or swamp. Just a little chicken wire and a log chain. Backhoes leave tracks and fresh dug earth.

  15. avatar RidgeRunner says:

    Maybe the best thing about having a home range set up on the farm is the ability to shoot/practice in different ways, without being stuck in a spot or lane. I’m most often alone when I shoot, and I move around a lot sometimes, left and right, forward, behind the Polaris and trees, on a knee, etc. Not backward so much. My thinking is a moving target is harder to hit, and I would want to get behind cover if possible. It makes a huge difference in accuracy, trying to ring steel from different positions, different angles, but it’s made me a better shot with a handgun, with better follow up shots. I don’t go for speed or Marshall Dillon quick-draw at all, I just try to get it out and to bear as smoothly and reasonably quickly as possible.
    Of course, sometimes I just stand still and mag dump.

    1. avatar frank speak says:

      some of the best shots I have ever made were unthinking and automatic…snake at my feet kind of thing..and there was no time to aim…not sure how you train for something like that

      1. avatar Darkman says:

        You don’t…It comes from years of instinctive shooting. Some people have or get it with time others never do. It’s sort of like point shooting. You just let it happen and don’t get in the way by over thinking it.

  16. avatar Datahut says:

    Thanks for this article. Good to be reminded to practice every now and then. Will look into IDPA too.

  17. avatar J.Smith says:

    Let me be clear, start with the basics, practice the basics and master the basics, before starting all this happy feet non-sense, real simple. For all you who have never been in gunfights, battles, DGU’s or exchanges, whatever you want to call it here is my first rule: Angles, inches and seconds, dont waste any of them, draw smoothly and efficiently, there is no fast, perfect a perfect draw. Muscle memory will be reached after a few thousand draws, same with reloads, etc….. When you are moving, or shuffling your feet upon drawing before putting lead and copper down range against a threat, you are in violation of this rule, you are wasting time (Milliseconds) and moving when you should be shooting. How many people upon drawing take a step forward or to the side to set their position? You should already be in an acceptable stance, draw and shoot. Yes, we move, shoot and communicate, but what wins a fight is first and foremost lead and copper down range hitting its intended target, period. Pipe hitters, tier one bubbas, SWAT, ERT and the rest dont and didnt learn ninja skills, They dont practice spetsnaz crazy drills, we do the basics and perfect them first and foremost. Yes tier one shooters learn many additional TTPs police and others do not, but those are due to the mission and if you want to learn them go to the Freedom Center USA in Missouri or Direct Action Resources Center (DARC), or Rifles Only, etc… and learn them, from actual no bs guys who know them not some ex-police NRA instructor who got his instructor creds online did 30 years as a LEO and never drew his gun. Take advance course once you mastered the basics, not by doing IDPA or whatever bs people recommend. Competition is great, timed events and training are great, but they are not where your focus needs to be as a new shooter, they have their place. Ill repeat, learn the basics, practice the basics, master the basics, then sustain that skill always. Also, if you are reholstering with IWB, remove the damn holster, reinsert firearm, and reset the IWB in your pants safely. I can anticipate the but, but, but right now. Save it. Im not putting my bonafides out there, Im trying help new shooters.

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