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Over at, former cop Jack Billington reckons he knows the number one mistake shooters make when training for armed self-defense. “It’s not training the way they regularly carry concealed on the street. In other words, when I’m carrying concealed I’m usually wearing jeans and a T-shirt. Unless I’m going to church or doing consulting, I try and avoid a suit at all costs. Therefore, when I go to a gun school I am dressed in jeans and a T-shirt.” Good point, but I disagree . . .

Mr. Billington stresses clothing choice during training in strict accordance to ye olde “train as you mean to fight” adage. Again, spot on. But people wear a variety of clothing when carrying, depending on weather, job and social environment. And a lot of pistoleros change their carry gun and holster to suit. (Not that I wear suits anymore, thank God).

Drawing quickly and efficiently from concealment is Job One for an armed self-defender. Especially as most defensive gun uses end without a shot fired. But an awkward draw may or may not be the difference between life and death. Once you’ve cleared leather, your ability to not get kicked/punched/stabbed/shot — and your ability to shoot your target — is highly likely to be the difference between life and death.

So I think the number one mistake most shooters make when training is . . . they don’t train enough. True! Real answer? New shooters don’t train to move and shoot.

What are the odds the bad guy or guys will be standing still? Low. What’s the advantage of you standing still while trying to shoot a moving target? You’ll be more accurate! Maybe so. But you may also be more dead, as most defensive gun uses begin with a close-quarters attack.

After perfecting your draw(s) — which you can practice in the comfort of your own home (hint: close the curtains) — moving while shooting is the mission critical skill. Most shooters don’t practice it. Ever. That’s a huge mistake.

That said it’s understandable. Square ranges don’t enable/allow moving and shooting, and square ranges are where most people train. The solution? Train to move and shoot at home dry firing your gun (hint: close the curtains) or find a suitable outdoor range. And yes, wear “normal” clothes.

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  1. I try to train as often as possible on the “El Presidente” drill, because I think it includes all aspects of gunfighting, i.e. drawing from a covered holster, firing multiple rounds at multiple targets, a mod-fight reload, and NOT missing shots. But one thing that is missing is movement. So I’ll be trying to find a way to alter that drill with a little movement.

    • It would have been fairer for me to say that every indoor range I have been to sucked. I pay a steep membership fee (to steep IMO) and drive 25 miles to be able to practice in a more realistic way. I freeze my ass of in the winter though.

      • Which is realistic, the bad guy pick what where when and how. If you’re comfortable and relaxed, you’re probably not training for realz.

  2. I like to see and hear experiences of people who have mastered combat skills, but I ask myself, “How many people use those tactics in a defensive gun use?” Many people talk about training to meet extreme conditions so that less-than-extreme situations are…”more survivable?” I have not seen an analysis of DGUs that indicate any particular style of facing a gunfight is more effective than any other. In fact, it seems the vast majority of DGUs are managed by people who likely do not train at all.

    Were there victims who would have survived if they trained to SEAL/DELTA proficiency? I do not know, but there is very little information indicating the SEAL/DELTA trained person survived when the 85 year old senior citizen armed with a .22 and no idea what “cover” means, (or which stance should have been used) didn’t because of lack of combat training.

    My observation is that combat training is predicated on the notion that one can pick fighting ground, one can expect to be attacked from all directions, simultaneously, one is 22-34 years of age, and in peak condition.

    Where is data/information about the number of civilian (not military, not police) gunfights at 30-75yrds? My impression (limited experience, I admit) is most DGUs are one-on-one, movement is restricted by surroundings, there is concealment available, but no “cover” capable of stopping a bullet.

    Do I think training to use a firearm is wasted? Absolutely not! Do I think training to operate in a combat zone is particularly useful? No, but if one wants to train for combat, fine; good onya. Emphasizing combat style/level training might just be discouraging many to train at all.

    • I’m pretty much in agreement with you on this. Personally I think some basic training is a good idea in terms of keeping basic skills sharp. Past that I don’t see much use in the “high speed, low drag” type of training. Shooting while moving is a great skill to have… and one that nearly no one practices because the number of places you actually can practice it are so limited and generally expensive.

      For me the anecdote is my father. Years back he drew his pistol on an aggressive dog that entered his property. I know for a fact that he never really practiced his draw, I know he never really practiced his presentation and, well I know that other than the “square range” where anything other than presentation from the bench and slow fire were verboden… well, he simply didn’t practice “combatives”. Know what happened when he had to draw? His thumb hit the retention strap, the gun came out and was dead nuts on that dog’s head faster than I actually thought a human over 70 could even unsnap the retention strap. I barely had time to drop the two bags of trash I was carrying before the old guy dropped his bags and had this dog dead to rights. Too bad my old man ended up explaining himself to a Sheriff’s deputy and having the whole incident presented to a grand jury, but that’s another kettle of fish.

      So yeah, if a (at the time) 74 year old guy with basically no training can unsnap, draw, present and be ready to fire in the blink of an eye I’m not seeing a need real for that much training. However, as you correctly stated, if folks want to go with training, then they should take it as far as their interest and bank account will let them.

    • Valid point, to be sure. But… isn’t it wise to practice a tactic you may never use, so as to know it ‘just in case’ the need arises, than to not train and never have it available?

      Kind of like the reason to carry: It’s better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it.

      • Generally I’d say yes but then there’s opportunity costs.

        Dry fire drills are fine but you *need* live fire too and for some people the cost to get somewhere where they actually can shoot and move in money and especially in time is prohibitive.

      • People who want to train-up are free to do so. Wouldn’t want to discourage anyone. However….most published articles about combat training for civilians emphasize that without combat training, an armed citizen is not likely to successfully defend against attack. While there may come a day when Taliban are running rampant here, is it really a “mistake” to not train to combat proficiency? A “mistake”? Something needing correction?

        As I mentioned, given the number of presumed DGUs each year, how did that many survive? There is no evidence that all, or most, or many had trained to combat proficiency…or that such training made a difference in outcomes.

        Before POTG begin marking lack of combat training as a “mistake”, we should be focusing on the first decision a person must make, and that it is a gross and deadly mistake to not have that decision become immutable. The decision? Shooting another human. I venture that most situations where a gun owner failed, where a gun owner had their gun used against them, they were hesitant, they were hoping the attack wasn’t happening, they were hoping pulling a gun would scare away the aggressor. It is true that self-defense does not automatically mean an attacker must be killed in order for defense to be successful, it may come to that. A person not already decided, not already determined to kill if necessary is making the biggest mistake when training (or even purchasing a firearm).

        Obtaining an advanced skill is never useless, or a waste. Proclaiming that not being in the same category as John Wick, or Jason Bourne to be a “mistake” is a disservice, flat out.

        NOTE: handgun training/self-defense training existed well before the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It seems quite coincidental that it was only the rise of the “special operator” no longer in service that drove the “gun world” toward combat style armed training. Is it a situation of a solution in search of a question?

        • “… It seems quite coincidental that it was only the rise of the “special operator” no longer in service that drove the “gun world” toward combat style armed training…”

          Welllll, one could use that as the beginning point, but they’d be wrong, or at least misinformed.

          It wasn’t ‘coincidental’ that I, among the many, were doing what was then called ‘PPC’ in the late 60s and into the 70s, until someone decided to organize a ‘competition game’ that included many of the same tactics and techniques we practiced with revolvers (until semi-autos became reliable and common). No, many of us were not ‘special operators’, just common everyday shooters looking for fun and relaxation and cops doing their best to become better at one aspect of our jobs. It certainly wasn’t the Rambo types who spurred our endeavors.

          Also, there’s no regulation prohibiting (yet– the fed isn’t done with us yet) the practice of drills in the comfort of one’s home, regardless the skill. Dry fire is an oft recommended practice, as should be ‘draw-acquire-fire’ and malf drills. One live round should be backed by five dry-fired (my opinion, at least) so home work should be encouraged for every gun owner.

          But thanks for the thoughts.

        • I can certainly imagine the average gun owner twenty or thirty years ago deciding to ramp up training to approximate or simulate the then current tactics of police and military, but looking at gun magazine archives, I do not find the pervasive “warrior mindset” to be much present, much less prevalent, in the articles. It is just curious that with the rise in the hero worship of SEALs and DELTA, that so much “ink” is devoted to combat training for civilians. And the thrust of that training is enshrined in the article’s premise that not moving around is a “mistake”. Given the near total lack of organized shooting ranges that allow “movement” routinely, is it not odd that so many DGUs are completed by people who made the “mistake” of not training to “warrior” level?

          I do not have any problem, disagreement or difficulty with presenting, conducting, attending, completing “warrior” training. I have concern over the idea that not pursuing “warrior” training is a “mistake”. That only those trained, and training, to move, are avoiding a “mistake”. Too much evidence that “movement” is not a crucial factor in a successful DGU.

        • I personally think that live fire at the range to maintain marksmanship fundamentals and drawing/presenting drills at home will be adequate for virtually all people. Can you get your gun out quickly without fumbling, dropping it or shooting yourself? Can you hit what you’re aiming at? Ok good.

          I think Sam is spot on with hesitation being one of the leading causes of a failed DGU (or you were just flat dead to rights to begin with). I have convinced myself that I am 100% willing to fire if I’m ever in that situation. Am I really? I don’t know, I’ve never been in that situation.

          I think mental preparedness is FAR more important than what any training may provide. Being able to run drills like a SEAL doesn’t mean shit if you can’t pull the trigger on a live target, and at that point the gun may be a liability.

        • Did you see the last John Wick movie? It was basically a 3 gun course with the targets shooting back. I just about died laughing. When I was asked what was so funny, I said, it was like watching people playing football with swords. The shotgun speed loads were just to much.
          And please with all the seal team stuff. The #1 thing that they train in is team tactics with long guns in really bad conditions, not at all relevant to 99% of defensive situations, now if you were a member of a swat team….

  3. Every time the seasons change – and my clothing changes accordingly – I spend at least a couple of weeks re-practicing my draw stroke with dry fire. It’s a lot different drawing from under a coat & sweatshirt than from under a t-shirt. Par time apps can reveal the difference very quickly. Still working on getting to less than 2 seconds, but getting there.

    • A valid point for sure.
      I was taking an intermediate pistol class from a fairly well known instructor one time. I was wearing some shooting gloves at the time, and I’d pulled one shot off a bit on one of the iterations. One of the adjunct instructors asked me, rather snottily I might add, “So, you going to be wearing gloves when your carrying on the street?”

      A fair question I guess, since it was summer – but upon further reflection, I noted that I DO wear gloves all the time in the fall and winter. If you wear gloves in the winter, practice with them on!

      • “Depends on the season but then I don’t fire hundreds of rounds in a parking lot DGU the way I do here. Also, when I’m walking the street I’m not paying for some asshole like you to talk down to me. Now, which foot would you like to limp on for the rest of your life due to the ND I’m about to have?”

  4. According to the picture at the top, “The number one mistake shooters make is buying a Springfield XD.”

    Because Grip Zone?


  5. Well… I agree…. on the shoot-how-you-carry thing for training.

    I also try to move/draw/shoot and then draw/shoot/move.

    I also practice shooting while moving. Running even. I started doing that many years ago after reading Ed McGivern’s Book on fast and fancy revolver shooting. It’s hard – easier for me shooting one-handed.

    But…..If I’m being shot-at. I PLAN to move to cover (best I can) and then draw/shoot.

    What I mainly see when people shoot while they are moving ….. is that they miss.

    So their rounds may be suppressing fire, but a fight-stopping hit would be random.

    It is difficult to hit while your walking… It seems like it’s easier to hit while running if the distance is not more than 30 feet.

    I think moving is over-rated for most newbs. If they can’t hit standing still then moving is not going to help that much.

    Just my opinion……pay your money and make your choice.

  6. I think basic weapon handling is key to training. When the gun hits your hand, and your first instinct is to look at the gun, you are IMHO not familiar enough with your weapon to even start to train at anything more than just RDR (Rounds Down Range). When the weapon hits your hand, and you don’t have to move it into a more comfortable / secure position in your hand (indexing on / near the ‘controls’) then it’s part of you, and you begin to train on moving YOU to do – whatever – engage a target, engage an enemy, break contact, use your body to move things and move you. When you begin to move things and move you, without much of a conscious thought that you have even already drawn your weapon / indexed controls / ‘acknowledged’ (for lack of a more universal term) your: physical state (do you have any “decision modifying” injuries or situational handicaps) where on your person is your: extra ammo / backup weapon / your contact with the ground / your position in relation to other people or things. Then you keep at it, because it’s all a very perishable skill. But it all starts out with how the weapon hits your hand, how familiar that is.

  7. I think most athletes or former athletes would move or draw depending on the situation. Plus if you’re being shot at by a gang banger it might be safer to stand still and return fire. I wouldn’t want to jump in front of a bullet!

      • They really typically do not. Gang bangers generally do not really train at all. This is not some kind of OFWG myth. It’s true. My job puts me in a lot of contact with these types. The negative stereotypes about their shooting skills are for the most part, 100% on. Now, the important thing to take away is however, they spray and pray. They can still hit you with that method.

        • What’s the secret to knowing which do train and which don’t? Isn’t there an ‘don’t ask-don’t tell’ policy encouraged by the fed?

          As to holding the weapon sideways, doesn’t mean you can’t be hit at an ‘average’, or even farther, street combat distance.

          Also, there’s the probability that those gang-bangers we so ridicule for their hold have probably got more notches on their grips than most of us ever dream about.

          But, the article is about practicing how you carry, and that is a very good way to practice.

  8. “What are the odds the bad guy or guys will be standing still?”

    What are the odds of finding a range that will actually let you train like that? Most ranges don’t even allow drawing and shooting and no rapid fire. None the less moving and shooting.

  9. One skill you can practice at a square range is, starting from a low ready, bring the gun to eye level, focus on the front sight, get a decent (but not perfect) sight picture and squeeze off a round without disturbing the alignment. You can practice this at home dry firing but there is no substitute for a hole in the target to show whether you are doing it correctly. Clint Smith tells his students that he doesn’t worry that they will shoot fast enough in a fight. He worries that they will shoot accurately enough. Strych9’s story about his father drawing on a vicious dog shows that, if you master the fundamentals, the speed will be there when you need it.

  10. I’m going with Wyatt’s advice:

    “In a gun fight… You need to take your time in a hurry”

    “Fast is fine but accuracy is final. You must learn to be slow in a hurry.”
    …Wyatt Earp

    I suspect, barring the Zombie Apocalypse, or similar, that most training beyond good marksmanship and accurate point & shoot training, will be a waste of time and money for the average civilian.

    Most likely civilian gunfights are going to be at very intimate distances.
    Any shooting beyond that is going to get you in trouble with the authorities and may also risk injuring bystanders.

    I seriously doubt most shooters will have time to “get off the X,” or do much of anything else besides deciding to shoot and shooting.

    How much combat training will you need for that?

    Better to train yourself to avoid stupid places and people.

    Unlike Wyatt, don’t drink, or drink minimally when out and about.

    Avoid places where drug use, excessive drinking, and large crowds are present.

    Harden your home so it will be difficult to be surprised by home invaders.
    (Security storm doors which cannot be kicked in, are a good start.)

    If you live in a sketchy area, make plans to move.

    If driving to an unfamiliar city, do not rely on your GPS to keep you out of
    ‘bad’ neighborhoods – Check the online crime maps for yourself.

    “In a gun fight… You need to take your time in a hurry”

    “Fast is fine but accuracy is final. You must learn to be slow in a hurry”
    . …Wyatt Earp

  11. Too many comments here that are full of hot air. Find a Tacit-tard (looking) expert and hang on to every instruction. Full sleeve tats, 5.11 pants, para cord bracelet, of course the scruffy beard (male or female) is a true indicator of the “expert”. Congrats you’ve struck gold. Pew pew….. Don’t forget your wallet!!!!!

  12. I was at a local range recently, practicing drawing and raising a Colt Mustang Pocketlite from low ready to shooting position while flipping the safety off and double tapping a target.

    Over and over again, until I was getting cocky, because I could not miss that day. Then as I was raising the gun and had just flicked the safety off, I accidentally banged it HARD against the shelf that was above waist height, and the gun flipped out of my hands and landed downrange a few feet. It didn’t go off when it hit the concrete, and when I sheepishly looked left and right, there was no one else on the range, so I grabbed a broom, brought it back under the shelf, and resumed training.

    but that’s the problem with realistic (or in my case, somewhat realistic) training: it’s potentially dangerous.


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