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Movement is a topic that’s mostly misunderstood and rarely practiced. As a foundational skill, it should be part of every competent gunman’s skill set. Why is movement so important? Because a moving target is harder to hit than a static one.

Movement is life

If all you practice is static shooting — drawing and shooting your firearm while standing still — there’s a good chance that’s exactly what you’ll do in a gunfight. Admittedly, that may be all you need to stop an imminent, credible threat of grievous bodily harm or death. And there’s no denying that it’s easier to hit a target from a stable platform. Which, comparatively, a moving body is not.

But again, it’s easier to hit a fixed target than one that’s moving. In a defensive gun use, X marks the spot. You are the target.

Whether the bad guy or guys are trying to punch, kick, strangle, knife or shoot you, the more difficult it is for them to orient themselves to your position (the second “O” in the OODA loop), the harder it is for them to injure or kill you (the “Decide and Act” part of the OODA loop).

Movement creates distance. Distance creates time. Time creates opportunities. Opportunities to escape. To find cover or concealment. To get to your weapon. To find an improvised weapon. To counterattack.

Imagine a bad guy coming at you with a knife from ten feet. What do you want to do first: draw your gun or move out-of-the-way? Hint: even if you manage to get to your gun and shoot, your attacker will be right on top of you.

The basics

There are three categories of movement; movement, motion and running.

Movement might be a simple step right or left, front or back, immediately before or as you shoot. Or leaning one way or the other to shoot from behind cover or concealment. Motion might be walking or crouching immediately before or as you shoot (or seek cover, etc.).

With practice, you can reasonably expect to land effective rounds on target in the first two categories.

Running, on the other hand, is one of those situations where you need to make a choice. What is the tactical imperative? Is it more important to run or to shoot? Because you won’t be able to do both. At least not effectively.

If running is the answer, orient yourself to cover, concealment or evasion, then high port and haul ass. If shooting is the answer, then yes, stop, plant and get good hits.

Of course you can run to cover or concealment, then stop, plant and get good hits. But know this: shooting on the run is a mobile form of spray and pray.

Don’t linger on your front sight

The secret to shooting while moving: your first, best sight picture is your best sight picture.

Simply put, you have a finite time to get hits on target. The longer it takes to get those hits, the higher your risk of getting shot. So you need to be OK with the limited accuracy a less-than-ideal sight picture creates. (As you should; landing your shots across the available target zone creates more trauma and might suppresses the threat sooner.)

Once your sight picture is acceptable for the shot required, don’t dilly-dally trying to line-up your sights. It’s not going to happen, and it will cost you time [see: above]. The longer you wait for a perfect” sight picture, the more panicked you’ll become, the more likely you are to slap the crap out of the trigger. Which will really degrade your accuracy.

If you’re moving and shooting, accept the sight picture isn’t going to be perfect. Aim for a sight picture’s that good enough for government work, then focus on performing your best possible trigger press.

Don’t make it any harder than it has to be

A lot of firearms trainers spend a lot of time teaching students how to create a stable platform while moving, usually by changing the way they walk or run. Not me.  I figure if a shooter is adjusting their movement to improve they’re stability then they aren’t really moving.

Movement means your sights will move. D’uh! So don’t worry how you are moving; whether you use a duck walk, Groucho march or some other ninja technique. Instead, separate your lower body from your upper body.

Let your lower body do what it knows what to do. It knows how to move so let it move. Focus your mental resources on getting a good (not necessarily great) sight picture and getting a great (not just good) trigger press.

Movement is life. As in all things, try not to make your life more complicated than it needs to be.


Jeff Gonzales is a former US. Navy SEAL and preeminent weapons and tactics instructor. He brings his Naval Special Warfare mindset, operational success and lessons learned to the world at large. He is the president of Trident Concepts in Austin, Texas. 


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  1. Not sure how to post it but there is a video where the defender shoots back while strafing to their right.

    When the attacker began shooting back, he did without aiming and shot where he believed his victim was still standing. Before he went down, the defender was nearly behind him by that point.

    If the defender didn’t move he likely would have been struck.

  2. Shoot USPSA – you will learn to move and shoot without thinking about it.
    In fact, you’ll eventually start shooting WHILE moving which is real peak operator right there.

  3. From the article:

    Why is movement so important? Because a
    moving target is harder to hit than a static one.

    That is absolutely true.

    And there is another aspect to moving while shooting which may be more important than increasing your attacker’s difficulty to strike you as a moving target: rapidly closing the distance on your attacker to ensure rapidly incapacitating hits on target.

    Saying it another way: rushing your attacker could be just as important and potentially more important than moving sideways or away to make you a more difficult target to hit. There are two reasons that rushing your attacker could be your best strategy:

    1) Your attacker — facing your unexpected, sudden, and bold counter-attack — may very well lose his/her nerve and immediately break-off his/her attack.

    2) Closing nearly to contact distance almost guarantees that you can quickly deliver a head shot to your attacker and immediately incapacitate him/her.

    Whether it would be better in any given attack to move sideways/backwards or rush your attacker is anyone’s guess. You take your chances and hope for the best.

  4. Good one jimmy james.
    There is series of TV movies starring Tom Selleck as police chief Jesse Stone. In one episode, maybe #3, he is teaching his deputy how to shoot while moving. Now, if I only had access to a range where I could try this stuff.

    • TommyJay,

      You can legally shoot at targets (e.g. target practice) in federal National Forest lands in many/most states. Some states also have state forest lands where target practice is legal. Identify the nearest state and/or national forest lands and then determine if you can legally shoot targets at that location. If you can, plan ahead and make a day of it — you will have a great time!

      • Same with much of the BLM system, which includes huge swaths of land out west. But yes, check your state and local laws first. For instance, in Ohio, any public land that is managed for wildlife and hunting by the Ohio Div. of Wildlife, is not open to target shooting just anywhere. This includes the Wayne Nat’l Forest among other gov’t properties. Per Ohio law, target shooting on this land is permitted only on developed shooting ranges, of which there are several scattered around the state. They are currently being renovated with Pittman-Robertson funds. Other states may have restrictions too.

  5. Yes, 1 year has passed since I eventually quit my last job and that choice was a life changer for me… I started functioning over the internet, for this particular company I stumbled upon over the internet, For a few hours daily, and I make substantially more than that I did in my last occupation…My past month check was for 13 thousand dollars… The awesome thing relating to this gig is that now I’ve more time for my children. Here is what I do………

  6. The King of Standing Still While Shooting (and being shot at) must be the late Wyatt Earp. He was the only person of seven cowboys and lawmen the shot at each other at close range for 30 seconds (and 30 rounds) that stood still during the entire event in 1881. All others that moved got shot. Wyatt’s long leather coat wasn’t so lucky, it showed several little holes that weren’t there before the incident.


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