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I was talking to a newbie about armed self-defense the other day. He looked me straight in the eye and said “I’m not going to practice shooting my gun.” Just like that. His refusal to gain and maintain proficiency with his self-defense firearm opened him to attack from gun guys and gun grabbers, who both believe armed citizens should know how to use their gun. (The difference being that the gun grabbers want to prevent people from carrying until they demonstrate their prowess, after they take a government-approved course, and maybe even then.) Let’s get real. How many Concealed Carry Weapons (CCW) permit holders practice? Practice or not, how many of them can shoot a five-inch group at five yards? Add a life-threatening situation and you can cut that estimate by, say, 80 percent. Unless . . .

You instruct the self-defense shooter to run up to the bad guy and pull the trigger. Makes sense right? The closer you get, the less important technique becomes. One hand, two hands, Weaver stance, point shooting, one shot, empty the gun, whatever. When your life is in imminent danger, and imminence is imminent, there are no points for style.

As my wife says, hesitation kills. If you’re going to run away, run away. If you’re going to use your gun to stop a threat, commit. As Adam Deciccio says, the key to successful self-defense is speed, surprise and violence of action. Running up to the BG and shooting him or her meets all three criteria.

Although the po-po are keeping this on the down-low, “active shooter” training is now moving towards “contact shots.” As in muzzle against the head. The technique (if that’s what you want to call it) increases lethality and limits collateral damage. If it’s good enough for our paramilitary police, it’s good enough for you.

Unless the perp has a knife. Then you got trouble. It’s not for nothing that Jimmy Hoffa lived by the rule “charge a gun, run from a knife.” Still, a man’s gotta do—even if that man has no training or marksmanship skills.

Question: would an untrained shooter told to run up to a bad guy be less likely to survive an armed encounter than a range warrior/paper tiger? Or more?

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  1. My self defense instructor taught us that if the attacker was within 5 feet, to just step forward and punch the BG in the chest with the handgun while firing. He also said outside your house it’s almost ALWAYS going to be within 5 feet. Almost always going to be within fingertip range in fact. He also said weaver stance was a good way to have your gun taken from you.

    It always seemed to make sense to me. Outside, criminals get close so others can’t tell what’s going on and they crowd you. If they are 5 yards away that’s only because they are closing on you and you identified them as a threat before they got to you.

    • “My self defense instructor taught us that if the attacker was within 5 feet, to just step forward and punch the BG in the chest with the handgun while firing. ”

      If it’s a semi-auto, that may be enough to push the pistol out of battery preventing it from firing. 🙁

      To answer a couple of the questions in the OP… I practice with my EDC. And, yes I can create a five-inch group at five yards.

      • TBH, I practice from about 2 yards to 25 yards. Everyone practices at 5 yards and I’m not saying this guy was the guru to end all gurus, but I think he’s right about 1 thing: any altercation a civilian will likely have will be within baseball bat range except defending your home.

        I also don’t think the BG is going to offer me the choice of ranges to start a fight at unless I see them first. I’d never close from 7 yards to 1 yard though- at 7 yards I’d try to disengage.

        I’m thinking defending myself, not bringing someone to justice.

  2. Before I post my first I would like to say that I have been lurking about this site for several months now and absolutely love what you’re doing here.

    On to the comment. In my lifetime I have had friends and acquaintances on both sides of the law and have had self defense discussions with them all. It’s very interesting the difference in perspectives. The “lawmen” I’ve known have always erred toward running away or seeking defensive shelter from a fire-armed threat, where the more criminal minds have supported the charging of a hostile. Frankly the charging always seemed like the better idea to me, because if I’ve learned anything in my short time in this life it’s that the projection of an “I’m crazier than you” attitude goes a long way. I’m a small framed guy and have had to use this little gem, successfully, thankfully, on several occasions. Maybe I just like to tap dance on that thin line between brave and stupid, maybe I’m just lucky, and maybe my number just hasn’t been drawn yet. But this works for me. Fortunately I’ve never been staring down the business end of a boomstick. Hopefully I never will.

    • I can confirm the “I am crazier than you” effectiveness.

      I was always small, but fast. Larger people in football and soccer would just move when they saw I didn’t intend to change course at top speed.

      Another large portion of that is to make them react, which is seldom as effective as planned action.

  3. Moving in to contact range? Not a good idea. I’ve taken knives from people who’ve closed in on me, a handgun doesn’t cut and only the muzzle end has any bite to it. If I’m holding someone at bay with any firearm, I want to be at least two arms lengths away from him. A trained fighter could eat you for lunch if he can get up close and personal, and at the very least he’s going to take that weapon, at most you’re going to get shot as he takes it from you. People fight dirty up close, I even had a meth tweaker try and bite my nose once. I believe in Murphy’s Law, and Murphy is a mother fu##er. The gun I choose to carry and not test or train with is going to be the one that doesn’t work when I need it. I’ve had friends bring me stuff like a makarov he was trying to use .32 ACP in, and an old timer trying to put .32 ACP into an old .32 S&W Long revolver. You should know your weapon like you know your “special friend.” If you have to look at anything on your piece but the sights to use it, you need more practice. You don’t stare at your gas tank to drive your motorcycle, or clutch, brake or shift gears by looking-you are looking at the road. Or else you’re laying on the road, staring at it and wondering what went wrong.

    • I’d second that.

      I’ve had black belts tell me that the the best case scenario for you to be able to disarm a gun wielding attacker is for them to put the gun to your head or within your arm length. Even I (not an expert to say the least) could probably take the gun away from 90% of attackers with what they taught me.

      Best to be at least 10ft away when holding someone at gun point.

  4. Not going to argue, just leaving 1 last thought and I’m out of here.

    3 most likely places a civilian will be attacked beside the home:

    ATM Machine. Getting into or out of your car. Parking garages. Of course awareness is always self defense tip #1, but only the last 1 offers any hope of any real firearm stand off range. It’s not necessarily that you are closing on them, the gap is already basically closed.

    I think a lot of people on this site are thinking like cops and how they will subdue someone. Of course you should practice and know your weapon, but the reality is non-cops will practice maybe a couple of times a year if they’re lucky. I practice more than most civilians at 6-10 x a year, but that’s because I enjoy shooting.

    • I think you’re on to something here. I shoot USPSA not because I want to become another robot mutant cyborg, I shoot practical pistol because I want to handle the “Oh S***!” reaction correctly on what will be the worst day of my life.
      But at the USPSA match last week, there wasn’t a single target closer than 3 yards. In reality, unless it’s a home invasion, if someone is attacking me, they’re going to do it up-close and personal with the intention to either assault me, mug me or attack my family.

      Lotta good been able to clear a plate rack at 10 yards will do me then.

      I need to re-evaluate how I train and what I am training for…

    • This sounds like a useful technique to keep in mind, but not one to use in every (or, for that matter, any) situation. If you’re too far from your assailant to hit him reliably, odds are you’re also out of his range. Don’t get in range — of his gun, his knife, his fists, his teeth, the rock at his feet, anything.

      • Amen! I got clocked with a baseball bat when I was 19. Adrenalin was the only reason I didn’t go down.

        • “I got clocked with a baseball bat when I was 19.”

          CUJO my man, that explains a lot. 🙂

          FYI, the same happened to me when I was about 14 (we started early in The Bronx). I had an egg on my forehead for months.

          • Ha! Yeah, it hurt. My temple bone got cracked. I’m glad I broke his jaw afterward.

  5. I was given to understand that most gunfights take place within ten feet to start with. It really doesn’t take much practice to hit center mass at 10′ under stress. To refuse to do even that is just lazy and irresponsible.

    • Up close, hitting the x ring is not going to be the difficult task. Getting your gun OUT and keeping it in battery will be your challenge.

  6. CUJO THE DOG OF WAR said:
    If I’m holding someone at bay with any firearm, I want to be at least two arms lengths away from him.

    Scott said:
    I think a lot of people on this site are thinking like cops and how they will subdue someone.

    Ummmm….I’m pretty sure RF is NOT talking about holding people at bay or subduing them, but rather shooting them until the threat stops. That’s all I think about in terms of self defense. If I’m not in a position to need to shoot the person(s), I’d really rather they just leave than try to keep them under my control until LEOs arrive.

    That said, I’m not sure if I’m going to run away or get closer for a better shot. If I’m stopping an attack on a loved one, it might make a hell of a lot of sense to get up close and personal to the attacker to avoid hurting the victim. But thinking I know what I’ll do and discovering in the moment what I’ll do are often very different.

  7. I try to hit the range once a month and run 50 rounds through my 1911. I don’t practice nearly as often with my other firearms.

    I’m very comfortable with my 1911 and am certain it’s enough gun for almost any encounter.

    I’m not worried about my ability to hit a target. I wish there were targets available that actually moved laterally, ducked, etc.

    • You should check out cheaper than They have 3 types of reactive targets that bounce about as you shoot them-a ball, a top hat and a cube. They’re made out of that self sealing polymer stuff, and designed for sniper training outdoors, but are good small handgun targets that will move about for you. I have all three.

  8. My favorite drill at the indoor range can be done with two people or on your own. After putting some rounds in at 15-20 yards, I take my left hand, or have a shooting buddy do it, and start slowly bringing the target towards me as I engage it. I stop at a few feet. I do it as a stress drill with shooting friends too, teaching them firing under stress as the enemy comes towards you. It doesn’t have lateral movement, but it is a better than static drill, and it teaches you to not think so much-just perform as you were taught. I like to shoot with both hands, taking turns, and shooting with both eyes open. It’s a good “real world” drill to simulate shooting one handed, like the law enforcement wounded arm drills.

    • As a stress drill I sometimes drop and do pushups till I can’t do another one, then immediately get up and start shooting.

    • I’ll ask at my local range to see if they mind my shooting with one hand while moving the target with the other. Thanks for the suggestion, btw. Good idea.

      My local indoor range absolutely frowns on two people in the lane at the same time.

      I’ve done the cell phone in the ear with one hand while shooting with the other drill. I’m also a fair shot with my weak hand.

      I do a lot of hand/forearm strength conditioning at home in addition to range work. I’ve noticed improvement in my shooting since I started.

      • Yeah, I say any practice, as long as you are doing it right and safely, is good practice and fun.

        • One of the more interesting target sessions I’ve had is using null targets. It’s a very different mindset to aim at a hole in the center of cardboard and a miss is hitting the cardboard.

        • That is the one advantage to having swamp land in the boonies. I get to shoot however I want. The indoor range is closer and air conditioned though, which is easier on my headaches, and I can rent submachine guns to relieve my glory days. At the swamp, though, I have a tree I keep shooting with my RPK, I’m waiting for it to fall down one day.

  9. Some of my favorites are (with rubber training equipment) to have a training partner who has both a knife and escrima stick available to him, but behind his back so I don’t know which one. He pulls his weapon and I have to draw a training gun and either gain or close distance while drawing and simulating firing and using my off hand to shield or deflect.

    Also I like to practice call outs and using the off hand aggressively on practice dummies like going to the dummies face while drawing from my concealment holster.

    • Oh yes! I have all that gear and the wavemaster torso dummy. I have a custom stick made of aircraft aluminum from Szabo, too. We need a boy’s club!

          • Nah, I’m a shovel guy. Except mine it is not spetsnaz, just infantry. 🙂
            About moving targets – several times we rented whole range (i.e. lanes) and place several RC car models, which carried small paper targets (two crossed circles) on “antennas” of some sort. Of course, shotguns easily shreds those targets, but RC models weren’t able to carry bigger or heavier targets, like silhouette – too much drag and mass.

          • The Cold Steel shovel takes a real good edge. Zero Tolerance makes a very sharp bayonet, but expensive. The good old government issue machetes are handy, I was trained on them for escape and evasion.

          • Zero Tolerance? Geez, how company with such lovely name can exist in modern politically absur… err… correct world? 🙂
            Haven’t tried their thingies though, unlike Cold steel ones. Or Benchmade (pretty good bench they have :)).
            We weren’t trained with machetes – lack any jungles you see, but issued bayonets were real PoS (not that term from SW1911 article nearby :)), we even couldn’t open tin can from our field rations. Or cut anything with them (only unintentionally and only when you less expect it). They were pretty useless, even for cutting sod for improvised shelter. Or cover.
            So for knives I’d stay with Finnish style knife. Although I used them for years, only lately I’ve been informed that they are Finnish knives. How embarrassing. 🙂

          • The Cold Steel shovels come as-is sharp as heck. Seriously, you need a scabbard to carry one.

  10. Isn’t answer on this is equation with multiple variables? “Home team”, “away team”, their roster, skills, surroundings, etc. Maybe in some situations charging may pay for itself. Like in that old IDF anecdote.

    Regarding melee – while I was in army, we’ve met with some “special unit”, who was well versed in hand-to-hand, but even they agree, that best melee one you avoided. Their commander said once: “if you’ve found yourself in melee fight, than you seriously fokked up”.

    So IMHO best defense is air layer. And the thicker this layer – the better.

  11. It’s been a fun conversation. I read this site alot but rarely comment. This subject matter caught my interest.

    Rudy’s got an excellent point that spells out the difference between military and Regular Joe combat situations. Soldiers and police go out expecting and responding to trouble. They have options to approach situations with guns drawn and giving commands with cover and teammates, etc.

    A Regular Joe is often alone or with a small number of people (such as family). Likely the only one armed, and is attempting to avoid conflict areas. They try to be aware but aren’t in a zone where hostilities are expected so they have no mental ramp up time. Almost every attack on a Regular Joe will be an attempted ambush because criminals are typically pretty lazy/cowardly.

    A Regular Joe has about a 1 in 250,000 chance of ever actually using any training, so they don’t train seriously and they usually train wrongly. If a Regular Joe really wants to train for using a firearm they’d be better off learning to pull their weapon from concealment than actually firing it because tons of people flub the draw.

  12. One constant theme I have read summarizing a confrontation with a BG is; when being fired upon they tend to run. Becoming more of threat to them than they are to you carries weight in this type of confrontation. Sticking your gun directly into their chest may create a whole new set of problems to deal with. When confronted, draw your weapon and issue a “Double Tap.” Move and fire again. Take the fight to them and your confidence will either end the fight in your assailants death or he/she running away.

    Becoming the aggressor will create the advantage.

  13. Running toward the BG will get you jail time anywhere that there’s a duty to retreat. Check your state’s laws. In the fine Kommonwealth of Massivetwoshits, one has no duty to retreat if attacked in one’s home. I guess even the anti-gun crowd in Boston realized that retreating out a 27th floor window could be problematic. On the street, it’s a different story. Retreat is required. To paraphrase Johnny Cochran, if it’s on the street, you must retreat.

    Yeah, I know you’d rather be tried by twelve than carried by six yadda yadda yadda. You won’t feel that way if your bestest prison buddy thinks you got a purdy little tush. And sure, it’ll be hard for a DA to prove that you ran toward your attacker. Unless somebody saw or maybe even viddied it on their cell phone. Which as we all know never, ever happens. Right?

    Besides, if you can’t manage hits on your target at 15 feet, do everyone a favor and do not carry. You’ll just hurt yourself.

  14. Well legally, if you’re not within conversation distance, you’re going to have a difficult time explaining why you needed to use lethal force against someone unless they were shooting at you.

    That said, the whole point of a gun is that it allows me to keep distance between my attacker and myself. Distance favors the trained marksman.

    Cover if available is good as well. At conversation/contact distances, two armed opponents are likely going to both end up dead. At least based on my experience with airsoft drills for CQB with LE & military personnel.

  15. I practice shooting at least 100-200 rounds twice a month. I shoot the Sig Mosquito .22 LR to practice trigger control and the P220 .45 ACP to practice both trigger and recoil control. Since I got my CA CCW I want to make sure I am able to keep my shots in Minute Of Man at 7 yards (preferably in the 9 ring). If the target is further away than that, I should probably be looking for cover instead of firing. As to the close in attacker, I read that I should draw and get my two-hand hold close to the body as the pistol comes up and, if the target is too close, shoot him in the groin as soon as the pistol is up that far. I am not sure how to train for that on the range I use so I practice with snap caps at home.

    • Go for a thigh or calf shot as well. that will drop your opponent to the ground. You ex-military guys, your M4s are pointed to the ground in case of being grabbed. You then get leg and foot shots in to back off the BG.

      In conversation range you can draw, keep your weapon close and with one hand fire twice. At that range hitting bone, ribs will , and soft tissuedo serious damage and back the BG off of you.

  16. At grappling range you are at a disadvantage with a semiauto especially the small compact blowbacks. They cannot always function at point blank barrel in the gut distances. If you have made the decision it is needed to escalate to firing your firearm likely the tunnel vision has started and you might not see accomplices to the Perp.

    Even with training last week stopping a shoplifter at work I lost sight of my front end manager( Backup )and was so focused on being sure the perp did not have a weapon I let a lady with a shopping cart get behind me. She was oblivious to the situation as most people are and could in an armed situation become collateral damage closing the gap or not. Most importantly in this situation, close quarters, lots of innocent around, action in the instant range, could you draw your weapon from concealment? Would the BG be able to get a hand on your wrist or firearm as you draw and redirect the barrel? How strong is said crackhead, meth makes supermen of walking skeletons. Can you even “punch and shoot” with your carry gun?

    As much as I would hope it never comes down to it for any of us, If they are threat enough to draw, you better be able to hit your target from any range of 3 inches to 3 yards. Closing the gap is almost never an option.

    A range game me and the Wife practice, in our once or twice weekly range time is to put a large poster sized target with 4 or 5 different 1 to 3 inch colored stickers on it at 15 feet. one shoots, the other randomly calls the color, shape or word on the sticker placed on the target. Tactical game that teaches acquire target and shoot in seconds. coupled with my loading snapcaps randomly in her mags, making her work out jams and fte/ ftf practice.

  17. Nope. I’ve been trained and I’m fully aware of extreme close quarters pistol techniques but the answer for me is still no. If I think my life or the lives of my loved ones are in imminent danger I’m going to draw, shoot, assess and run like hell. If I was 25 years younger perhaps I’d charge a perp but certainly not now. And if seven or eight rounds from of 45 ACP don’t drop the perp I’m gonna run even faster (while reloading of course). The last thing I want to do at my age and in my condition is get within an arms reach from some drug crazed perp with biceps the size of my waist. Bubba would break my neck like a matchstick.

  18. Two points. First. According to FBI stats, most Defensive Gun Uses (DGUs) are at 3 feet, with 3 rounds, and over in 3 seconds. It’s really hard to get mugged at 10 feet. I practice at multiple distances and with off-hand. (And, yeah, I should practice more also.) I practice and teach ‘wing-of-the-dragon’ also.
    Second. I would not teach my students to ‘run-up’ ever. Back-peddle, maybe, but never move forward.

  19. It seems like a lot of people missed the point. The “run up and shoot him” scenario is for one specific situation, a mass shooting. A “he’s going to shoot everyone in the room” case. Not “I wasn’t looking while at the ATM” or “Give me the money” at the gas station.
    The common reaction in every mass shooting has been for basically everybody to run away. Even though the shooter or shooters were grossly outnumbered. When Giffords was shot, a grandmother attacked the lunatic and interrupted him long enough for others to react and subdue him. At VT a professor stood still in a door, said “no” and got killed without even slowing the lunatic down. When the passengers on Flight 93 realized what they were caught up in and they were probably going to die anyway they fought back and stopped the plane from hitting it’s planned target. Your’e more likely to get hit by lightning twice in one week than to be trapped up close in a real “mass shooting” or “terrorist attack” but if you are there is nothing to lose by taking the fight to the aggressor.

  20. If someone is close enough to touch your hand, they are close enough to direct where your hand is.

    Put your hand in your waistband and have a person of equal weight put their hand on the back of your hand. You won’t be able to draw.

    Put your hand in your armpit simulating a shoulder holster and have someone of equal weight push on your elbow. Your gun will again become useless.

    Distance is life.

  21. How about we all confront the fact that your average joe isn’t aggressive? He make think he is, but he isn’t. That’s why BCT/Boot spend so much time conditioning you to be aggressive. (I don’t know about the Air Force or Navy.)

    We should probably also confront the fact that your average joe is out of shape. (“Healthy” and “physically fit” are not the same thing, mind you.) There’s a reason there’s such an emphasis on physical fitness in the military as well. Adrenalin only does so much, and the bad guy has adrenalin, too. Plus, if your resting heart rate and resting respiratory rate are lower to start with, you’re not going to get screwed by your cardiorespiratory system as hard when things kick off.

    Maybe there’s an article on here somewhere on why physical fitness is important for self-defense, but I haven’t seen it, and I find that strange.

    So, why don’t we all consider what it takes to be aggressive without falling out of your OODA loop, and perhaps what kind of shape you should really keep yourself in, before making plan based on the advice of “black belts” (knowledge of the fundamentals is not necessarily expertise in application) or “LE & Military personnel” (stop lumping me in with the police, they’re still civilians with a very different mission).

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