Jeff Gonzales: How to Move and Shoot

Don't forget to move and shoot! (courtesy

Movement is a topic 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.


  1. avatar Ralph says:

    Ninjas can move and shoot accurately with a handgun at the same time. The rest of us can move and then shoot, or shoot and then move, but we can’t do both at the same time. Not well, anyway.

    1. avatar Shotgun Sam says:

      Important flag pic huh? Just can’t help your misogynistic self can you.

      Should cover the slow Tai Chi movements of the hunter. Not everything is a square range full of urban garbage to conceal behind.

      1. avatar BLoving says:

        Jeff had some pix taken of himself at the same perspective… probably best he didn’t use them so stop complaining.

        1. avatar Shotgun Sam says:

          Point taken.

      2. avatar Ing says:

        What the hell are you talking about, Sam? This makes no sense.

  2. avatar uncommon_sense says:

    This was rock solid advice from Mr. Gonzalez.

    I am proud to report that I have an incredible hit rate while moving and shooting at ranges up to roughly 30 feet. That is where the term “combat accuracy” comes into play and is extremely important.

  3. avatar OmnivorousBeorn says:

    Good tip to move rather than shoot or shoot rather than move. I learned the fundamentals of doing both in June. I’ll have to rethink the tactics of it.

    1. avatar uncommon_sense says:


      Your statement contradicts the author’s advice.

      To be absolutely clear, the author is advising that you ALMOST ALWAYS move and that you try as soon as possible to shoot at an attacker who presents an imminent, credible threat of death or grievous bodily harm.

      The only situation where the author did not encourage shooting at an attacker was if you were flat out running. (It is next to impossible to put shots on target while you are running.)

      1. avatar OmnivorousBeorn says:

        Thanks a lot for the distinction. I’ll go reread the article.

      2. avatar OmnivorousBeorn says:

        I’m thinking about it, and remembered something I saw from Mike Lamb a while ago. (Yes, I know that Lamb is stolen valor. No, I do not automatically say everything he said is wrong or attribute it to others.) He was pointing out that it’s far easier to hit a moving target than it is to be moving and still get rounds on target. So maybe you’re supposed to trust to your marksmanship and the perp’s lack of it — and if you can’t bet on the latter, you move until you can? Thoughts appreciated.

        1. avatar uncommon_sense says:


          I want to be sure I understand what you are saying. Someone claimed that:
          a person who is standing still is more likely to put shots on a moving target than a moving person is to put shots on a still target.

          I imagine that claim assumes “average” people with minimal practice shooting at moving targets or shooting while moving. Hmm. That is an interesting perspective. I’ll have to think about that.

        2. avatar OmnivorousBeorn says:

          @uncommon_sense Yup, that’s a much clearer way of putting it.

          Yeah, it’s something to think about. There’s probably no good answer, but it never hurts to think something out.

        3. avatar uncommon_sense says:


          I don’t have a confident answer. I can see where either perspective could be correct.

          Now I have some serious homework ahead of me!

    2. avatar ropingdown says:

      The drilled-in protocol of US Special Forces recon, at least in the 70’s and 80’s, was “shoot, move, communicate.” Studies have shown that civilians in shoot-outs never move while shooting. They do one, then, if possible, do the other.

      It occurs to me that provided both parties to a shoot-out are competent and motivated, moving isn’t likely to be an option for long. If you’re flying sideways as you shoot, while my feet are on the ground and my gun up, I fancy my shots are more likely to connect that yours. If not, well, you’re damned good and I’ll be a bloody mess.

      1. avatar jwtaylor says:

        What is “US Special Forces recon”? There are the Special Forces, and there is Marine Force Recon. They are not the same thing. Only the army has Special Forces.

  4. avatar Astigmatism says:

    Shoot n’ Scoot, then repeat, at a minimum.
    Improves your chances of survival.

  5. avatar ATFAgentBob says:

    Move as you shoot. It isn’t too awful hard to do so long as you move smoothly rather than doing the Godzilla stomp. Oh also remember your combat accuracy will not be anywhere near your static accuracy. You could put 30 rounds in one ragged hole while stationary but throw a few steps in there and your target could look like you just emptied an AA12 on full auto into the target.

    1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      For those who have not thought it through, combat accuracy is good enough during combat: any hit on an attacker helps your cause. It is better to move, open up your pattern, and still get hits anywhere on target rather than sitting still, squaring up for highly accurate shots, and then taking several hits to yourself because you were such an easy target.

  6. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

    And this is why you need at least 17+1 capacity and carry at least 3 extra magazines.

    1. avatar BLoving says:

      I reckon your six and my five shots of .357 means we had better get better and faster at seeking cover to shoot from.
      That article about revolver reloading the other day reminded me to ask Santa to bring me some full-sized snap caps i can practice with.

      1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

        The best cover on earth is standing over bad g uy telling the 911 operator that there’s no need for the ambulance to hurry.

    2. avatar HoldSTILLdamnYOU says:

      Think big Guv. We need multiple armed guards. The feds and the rich are, as usual, way ahead of us.

      1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

        As long as they c an shoot while doing back flips off a balcony. I don’t have any use for security guards that just stand there and shoot straight.

        1. avatar OmnivorousBeorn says:

          Don’t let those triple-A battery MagLite guys even apply to be a part of your honored security detail. You govs are precious.

          Also, you might want to see how well the serious applicants can dual wield while doing the back-flip, and how good they are at never running out of ammo. You’ll know the legit ones by the operator beard, the Tactical Squint, and the smudge of mud on their cheekbone.

      2. avatar ropingdown says:

        The dead-enders don’t shoot at elites surrounded by armed bodyguards. They use bombs, IEDs. It’s been that way for a hundred years or more. (Granted 757’s are a new sort of IED.) Haven’t we seen enough of this to get that straight? Guns are just for the desperate escape situations, apparently, or when the bodyguards and elites get caught drunk in a mob-run whore house. This reality has obviously put a premium on high-end call girls.

        1. avatar ropingdown says:

          I hope these SPOUTABLE guys are paying top dollar for clicks…..

        2. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

          Naturally, I expect all my bodyguards to throw themselves on top of a hand grenade.

          People forget that before Gavrilo Princip shot the archduke, Nedeljko Cabrinovic threw a hand grenade at his car but the grenade had too long of a delay and ended up exploding under another car and wounding it’s occupants. In fact it was after Ferdinand visited the wounded in the hospital that Princip found his mark.

        3. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

          Correction, it was on the way to the hospital to visit the wounded that the driver took a wrong turn right toward Gavrilo Princip.

  7. avatar The Rookie says:

    Serpentine, Shel! Serpentine!

    1. avatar GS650G says:

      Great movie!

  8. avatar Specialist38 says:

    I would suggest that a lot would depend on what weapon is being deployed for defense and how fast you are going to move.

    I will not likely be armed with a rifle since i don’t carry one on a daily basis. I can shoot a rifle while moving as long as i am taking slow,metered steps. Not the best thing for getting to cover but it might be needed to engage a target.

    Shooting while moving with a handgun is equally slow if using two hands to hold the weapon. There is more flexibility in speed of movement when shooting one- handed. Don’t know much about military tactics but I imagine I will be alone in a defensive situation and not part of any sort of unit.

    So if I’m alone and defending myself, I may need to move or shoot or move and shoot. I would not be totally freaked out by shooting while moving. It is a much different technique than is normally used in most training.

    I refer to Ed McGivern’s book on fast and fancy revolver shooting, section 20. Here he discussed practical training for law ennforcement officers. He opined they were often alone and outgunned and needed to be able to shoot on the run against hostiles. This was discouraged in many police circles as it required training, practice, and mindset outside the norm.

    I did a fair amount of running and shooting 30 years ago (mostly revolver). It’s easier to master than aerial shooting by a fair amount. It is tough to do at a hard run but is easier at a clip of 5-7mph. You will do it one-handed though. Just too much conflicting mass with two hands.

    Give it a try. You will probably be surprised how soon you get good hits.

    Ed McGivern’s book is a worthwhile read even for Glocktilians. Ed was an interesting man and a superb student of guncraft.

  9. avatar Michael says:

    I was taught to shoot on the move by starting with a shuffle, then a slow walk, then a faster walk then a run. One handed only. Still practice it to this day.

    1. avatar ropingdown says:

      That sounds like what I was taught, together with “start on a diagonal.”

      It’s in this “shooting while moving”bit that full-auto comes into its own….which I suppose is why we don’t, most of us, have a full-auto, except in war zones. It scares the boffins and dynasts.

  10. avatar J says:

    I think it’s worth it for OP to google Gabe White to observe him engaging a target with a handgun while running laterally.

  11. avatar drunkEODguy says:

    I think the real value here isn’t in ninja operator stuff. Sure, shooting while moving definitely had more military and LEO applications (clearing buildings, advancing on or flanking objectives, et cetra), but I think the point here is that more than likely as a civ carrying a pistol you’re likely to be reacting rather than acting. Hopefully you’ve spotted the potential danger ahead of time so you’re not flat footed, but either way you’re going to be reacting. Meaning you’ll probably need to create distance from someone trying to close in and hit/cut you or move out of line of fire if the attacker has a gun. Either way, you’re going to be moving laterally or backwards or some combination thereof. Advancing on bad guys is .mil and .gov; I certainly wouldn’t want to explain it in court, save maybe clearing out my house. Not that I’d want to do that, but I’m not throwing up my hands and hoping for the best for my kids.

  12. A few days ago, the 17 year old son of a guy I know was walking to his truck in a Walmart parking lot. He walked up on a break in. The guy stood up out of the truck and pointed a gun at the 17 year old who ducked immediately.
    Good thing because at that moment, the bad guy fired. Instincts, if you have them, and reaction time, go a long way here.

    1. avatar Matt in SC says:

      Duck, You Sucker!…….great movie

  13. avatar ironicatbest says:

    Move and shoot. I was enlightened by a true life gunfighter. We drew on each other with unloaded firearms, I had a 4 inch barreled Colt DA and he had a ten inch barreled S A Ruger . superblackhawk. As we went for our guns, he moved to the side,I shot air and he shot me. He told me think of a bullet as a fist, your in a boxing match. Would you go toe to toe with someone whom can knock you out with one punch and there’s no way to block that punch. You’ve gotta move or get hit. One of the reasons I switched from revolvers to autos, more punches quicker and on the move .

  14. avatar ironicatbest says:

    It might of been a Mark3 I can’t member, said trooper on it. Also I couldn’t get my edit to work. Hence double post

  15. avatar Lhstr says:

    leaving your feet while shooting, better watch out for innocent civilians. I do not recommend that. 45-50 years of training I wouldn’t do it on a bet period….

  16. avatar Mark H says:

    The current thinking is that the best way to get inside your opponent’s OODA loop is to move. Preferably towards the bad guy (see TX Draw Muhammad shooting).

    So while the author mentions moving away or toward cover, actually moving to engage closer may actually be the most survivable option.

  17. avatar adverse5 says:

    Back to threat, take a firm stance, put strong hand with firearm over weak shoulder, run like hell while shooting. You could get lucky.

  18. avatar Art says:

    O my the days when I was the worst shooter on the range! Give me my Glock 17 and my life is complete. If your shot is off this is what helped me!

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