There is a story out there, somewhere, of a police officer found dead with empty shell casings in his pocket. According to legend, he’d trained himself at the range to pick up his spent cartridges after his strings and did so in combat. Even if it’s true, who knows if doing the brass in pocket thing was the deciding factor? Nonetheless, point taken. You WILL fight as you’ve trained yourself to fight. And here’s the problem: you have no idea what kind of conflict lies ahead. In that sense, habit can be both your friend and your enemy. For example . . .
If you’re used to emptying your gun every time you shoot, you stand a good chance of doing so when push comes to shove. If you train yourself NOT to empty your gun when you shoot, you may fail to do so when a hail of lead is the order of the day. You need to train yourself for both possibilities.
In the same sense, many self-defense shooters routinely practice their course of fire at “combat distance.” They operate according to the theory—and it is just a theory—that most gunfights occur at three yards. “Three seconds, three shots, three yards.”
This stat (for which my Google Fu fails) is an average. If we take it literally, for every gunfight at four yards there’s one at two yards. One at five, one at one. There’s a BIG difference between hitting center mass at seven yards and drilling it at one. The further out the target, the more time you need to hit it.
The common fallacy: if I can hit a target that’s far away I can hit it at close range. Yes, but—if it’s close-in you can shoot more rounds more quickly with an excellent chance of all your shots finding their mark. If it’s further out, you need to take [fractionally] more time and aim more carefully. And, perhaps, shoot fewer bullets.
In terms of self-defense training, it’s best to practice shooting at all distances. So how many times do you see people at a gun range shooting at a target positioned at point-blank range? Or twenty yards? Or one then the other.
Try this (maintaining gun safety at all times): close your eyes, have your training partner position the target, open your eyes and shoot. Two hands, strong hand, off-hand. Standing, kneeling, winter clothes, summer clothes. Carry gun, home defense gun, automatic, revolver.
All of which should be predicated on hitting center mass on ye olde pie plate rather than attempting to shoot half-inch groups on a bullseye target. A goal that gets a great deal of lip service but tends to disappear when shooters gather to practice.
While we’re at it, a like-minded partner is critical to effective armed self-defense training. If you think you can change it up yourself, varying targets and techniques sufficiently to maintain an element of surprise and personal challenge, you’re kidding yourself.
Your mind naturally seeks a comfort zone. Your innate tendency: perform drills that give you the pleasure of success. As Christian is wont to say, you want to train yourself to fail. A partner is better suited to helping you identify your weaknesses and work to correct them.
Current gun ranges are not ideal for real world training. Finding a good training partner/instructor is about as easy as scoring a supermodel. But practice is a whole lot better than not. As long as it’s the right kind of practice.