The 4 Most Critical Elements of Gun Fighting

By Josh Stone – Instructor - Florida Firearms Training

Time is very much like money. Both are finite resources. We all have a limited amount of time to practice each day. That amount of time will vary from person to person, such is life. Regardless your investment, be it in your time or money needs to be thought out and well planned. That being said, what if I told you that in reality to survive (most) gun fights you need to invest your training time into just four, very specific skills. Skills that may someday save your life, would you do so?

These are skills that should take priority over everything else in your daily firearms practice. They should be placed above all other skills, because these are statistically speaking, the most important and the most utilized in both law enforcement and in civilian deadly force encounters. Let’s go through each one in some detail.

  1. Draw Stroke:

If you leave your firearm at home it is of no use. At the same time if you have your pistol with you but can’t get it out of your holster quickly and efficiently enough…it holds the same value. The importance of your draw stroke can’t be overstate! To illustrate this lets take some lessons from last year’s Texas church shooting.

Take for example the first individual who was shot. You see him struggle to get his gun out of his holster and he was unfortunately shot before he could do so…

The very first thing you have to do in a gun fight, chronologically, is get the gun into the fight. For that reason alone, your draw stroke should be the primary focus of at least half of your practice regiment and the foundation for the other half. If you have twenty minutes to practice a day, you should work your draw stroke from the different cover garments that you are going to be wearing for at least ten minutes. If you wear a split garment you need to practice from that, and if you wear a non-split garment like a polo then you also need to practice drawing from that. Your draw stroke needs to be done with one hand and needs to work 100% of the time despite wind, weather, position, or garment. One handed draw because who says you get to use two hands to draw your gun? Statistics show that in the majority of civilian, reactive gun fights, your support hand is either fighting off an attacker, pushing or pulling a bystander out of the way of fire, or otherwise preoccupied. Thus every draw stroke you practice should be a single handed draw stroke. Every repetition you do, whether its practicing single shot drills, mag changes, moving, or anything else, needs to start from the draw, because that’s where every scenario in the real world will start. The key elements to a good draw stroke are:

*Clearing the cover garment

*Establishing the correct fighting grip in the holster

*Lastly getting the gun out of the holster and oriented towards the threat with no wasted time or movement.

  1. Fast and Accurate 1st Round Hit on Target:

Great, so you can get your gun out of holster quickly and efficiently without snagging your garments, now what? A very close second in the line of importance is your first round speed and accuracy. 100% of gun fights have a first round shot fired, (otherwise it would just be two people standing in a parking lot waiving their guns at each other) until one person gets bored and leaves. So we agree that all gun fights have a first shot, but not every gun fight has a second!

Take again the Texas church shooting. If you want to look at this as one overall gun fight you can. Or for our purposes you can look at it as multiple 1 on 1 gun fights that happened back to back. The first gun fight of the scenario had only one shot fired in it. That’s because the bad guy achieved an accurate first round hit in that fight and won (unfortunately) before the good guy could get his gun out. The second “gun fight” was actually just a “shooting”. As you have to have a gun to be in a gun fight, otherwise you’re just a victim in a shooting. (As was the case here). Again, only one shot was fired. In the third gun fight (and thankfully the last) there was only one shot fired, this time by a concealed carry permit holder acting who as volunteer security for his church. In this gunfight the good guy was able to get his gun out of his holster and put one accurate round into a moving target (in this case the active shooters head) at a distance of 15-20 yards… inside a crowded building. No easy task.

It’s worth noting that from the time the active shooter drew his gun on that fateful day, to the time he was incapacitated; only six seconds passed and two innocent people were shot during that time The key take away is there is no guarantee that you will get more than one shot in a gun fight! Your first round needs to be fast and accurate because it could be you’re only shot.

Imagine if the first gentleman who was shot was able to draw his pistol in time and place an accurate round on target in less than two seconds, the gun fight may have ended very differently…

The speed by which you get your pistol into the fight and put accurate rounds down range may literally mean the difference between life and death, both for you and the people around you. These two things again, can’t be overstated!

  1. Moving:

Moving is something that we have been doing our whole life. Even as babies we never stopped moving. Think back to any sport you have played. If the ball was headed straight for your face, you could either move or catch it. Typically, our instinct is to move. So why then in deadly force encounters do we tend to not move?! There is a threat with a gun or knife trying to kill us and yet we freeze in place. The reason is simple. In general, we train / practice standing still. We do most of our practicing stationary, or at least we do that a lot more than we do shooting while moving.

In fact I don’t know of a single indoor gun range in South Florida (indoor ranges being where the majority of us are forced to practice) that allows its patrons to run up and down the line while shooting at a moving target. We generally stand in a box / booth / cubicle and shoot at a static target. Tell me I am wrong? Not only does the average shooter practice like this, but in reality they do that for thousands and thousands of rounds over a lifetime of shooting. We literally develop a training scar of doing EXACTLY what we should not do in a gunfight, we stand STILL.

In other words we practice to do what nearly everyone in this Texas shooting did, we stand still, draw, and aim, take our time and then shoot. Instead what we should be practicing is moving AND shooting, moving forwards, backwards, sideways! According to federal research papers in the subject, moving increases our survival rate upwards of 80% in gunfights. We MUST incorporate movement into our draw stroke and our shooting period.

  1. Point Shooting:

First of all, what is point shooting? Point shooting is NOT simply drawing your gun and shoving it in the general direction of something you hope and pray to hit. Point shooting is aligning the bore with your forearm bone and then using your natural body’s kinesthetic alignment to get the pistol bore to the intended target. First, the proper grip on the handgun is crucial. The beaver-tail or tang of the handgun needs to be centered in the middle of the strong hand wrist, so that the bore is aligned with the forearm bone of the dominant hand. The second key ingredient is that the eyes have a laser like focus on the specific point on the intended target. The trigger finger should be STRAIGHT down the frame of the pistol. As the shooter looks intently at the target the handgun is instinctively presented out to exactly where the eyes are focused by pointing the index finger, then locking the body in place, then squeezing the trigger.

Why is this shooting method so important? Because when we are faced with a violent threat mere feet from us intent on robbing us of our life, we do not focus on our gun sites. We instead focus on the thing trying to kill us…the threat. This has been proven and documented by countless veterans and psychologists. The FBI published a paper observing this phenomenon. As did homeland security in a FLETC research paper in 2004. Lt. Col. Dave Grossman published what is considered the Bible of Combative stress on the human body. It is a book called “On Combat” that extensively researches this and other phenomenon. Grossman also co-authored a pier reviewed research paper with Bruce k. Siddle entitled “Effects of Combat Stress on Performance” where again the effects of this phoneme were well documented. Bruce Siddle wrote his own pier reviewed research paper on not only this topic but the effectiveness of single handed point shooting as a way to counteract it. This paper is called “Scientific and Test Data Validating the Isosceles and Single-Hand Point Shoot Techniques.

So if it is well known that we will not focus on our sites in a stressful combative scenario instead focusing on the threat, then isn’t it a good idea to learn an aiming method that teaches just that? We should incorporate this as well into our daily practice regiment as it may mean the difference between getting hits on target and not. It would really suck to get your gun out of the holster, and shoot fast enough to matter, but not be able to hit the target. Point shooting is a necessary skill.

In summary:

All your practice regiment should start with your draw stroke from your common concealment garments until you are smooth and fluid. Deliberate, isolated practice on just this one element. Then practice drawing from concealed, moving, and pointing at a target and squeezing the trigger and getting accurate effective hits. Lastly (and I mean last, as speed will come with the mastery of the skill) working your speed up until you can do all of this in less than two seconds, all while maintaining the same level of accuracy.

These are the 4 Critical Elements that are guaranteed to be in every gun fight! These are the elements that need to be your bread and butter, your meat and potatoes of your skill set. Hmmm…Meat and potatoes, hmmm…now I’m hungry, someone get me a sandwich!


Question about point shooting.

To clear the air out of the gate I’m not trying to argue the validity of point shooting and since you clearly researched the topic I’m very curious of your opinion.

Do you think people are not using their sights or because of the way our brain works they are not remembering using them? If so would it not be more important to practice and train to have a constant draw and sight picture then to practice a different sight picture?

My personal belief and experience with training is if we practice and train to a point we’ve built up muscle memory then some things become automatic and the brain stream lines the process. So if we practice our draw stroke and sight picture, then if the need arises and fight or flight kicks in the body will automatically do some of these steps. Some of the sources you’ve mentioned also make mention of officers not remembering they drew their firearm among other things they’ve trained on that they did “without thinking”.

Again not questioning the validity of point shooting. I’ve just noticed it getting brought up alot more.

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Col. Rex Applegate, was a huge proponent of point shooting for combative use. One important reason for point shooting that he emphasized was the fact that, under the activation of the Sympathetic Nervous System (i.e. “fight or flight”), your pupils dilate to take in more light. Wider apertures mean shallow depth of field. In simple terms, you lose the ability to physically focus your eyes on near-distance objects–like sights.

The Colonel also emphasized that, when people are trying to kill you, you tend to focus pretty intently on them. Interestingly, if you did manage to shift your vision to your sights at the exact moment you decide to fire at a lethal threat, at that moment, you couldn’t 100% confirm he was still a threat.

I strongly suggest reading “on combat” by dave grossman for more facts on the subject. I am a big fan of facts over opinions.

Stay safe.

Will Farrugia
Director of Training
Florida Firearms Training LLC
Office: 561-450-9586
DD: 954-298-9103

Train How You Fight, Fight How You Train


What are your thoughts on the one eye open versus both eyes open shooting. I’ve trained for a while now where you always close the one eye, but in live threat situation, as you note above, some things go out the window. Would it be better to train shooting with both eyes open? You see more of the things around you, can react differently, etc. I know it’s more difficult to be accurate, but is that the better or more realistic situation in a threat situation?
Thank you.

The last thing your body will want to do in a life and death confrontation is wink at the guy trying to kill you. You need to train with both eyes open. Buy and read “on killing” by David Grossman.


I would think #1 would be don’t get shot


In my younger years I made all the mistakes that are possible to live through and not catch a boolet. The biggest mistake is in training yourself. You cannot see what you are doing when you are doing it unless you realize you did something wrong in which case you are looking at what you already did which of course is done. (Read that a couple times until it makes sense).

Training up to and to the point of being an effective point shooter requires 2 things; Time and Ammo both of which are always in short supply.

The first part is time. It involves what I call the “Crawl” Hours upon hours of repetitive slow motions to build muscle memory to accomplish a single task.

That single task is NOT “Draw the gun” it is “Grasp the gun”, you can back it up even further with “Sweep the garment”. In the old days before Kydex there was always a retention device such as a thumb brake (if you were smart) that had to be defeated at the same time you “Grasped the gun”. After about 2 hours of sweeping back your jacket at ever slowly advancing speeds you should be hitting the correct grip and thumb break at 95% or better before you go to “Lift” or mebby even “Lift and Rotate”. Then you begin again building on your first step to incorporate a second step. The crucial point of the first step is to ensure you have someone with at least your level of knowledge and preferably much more, looking at your grip because if you spend all that time developing muscle memory and you get to “Push” and your grip was wrong ALL your training was for naught and now you have to UNLEARN and RELEARN the (hopefully) correct “Grip the Gun”.

In my case it took me a WEEK of dedicated 8 hours a day training to break my bad habits and build new ones (and before this I was considered a better than good gun slinger by my beloved Corps) . It also helped that Uncle Sugar was giving me 1K rounds per week (or day) to accomplish this task. In truth it was pretty close to six moths of this type of training day, after day, after day to get to the Tier 1 level that my comrades and fellow instructors were to be evaluated at. This was point shooting at it’s finest degree and it was taught for a reason and the reason was life or death and successful completion of a mission. Point shooting is a very worth while endeavor but it takes Time and Ammo to accomplish.




Thank you very much. I’ll get back to working on basics. I was thinking more of the Texas church shooting example. When you have many people in the congregation and some moving around, and your gunman is 10+ yards away, should your instinct be to close the eye for precision at a distance or both eyes open and you should be skilled with both eyes open at that distance.
Thank you again.

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All of which begs the question:

Is it wise for an avg civilian defensive pistol shooter to base a tactical response to a lethal threat on an unobtainable and unsustainable perishable skill set?

I don’t even know many young LEOs who can afford to spend 3600 rounds a month and 12 hours per week for a year (or even a month) to develop point shooting competency. And I don’t know of a single LE agency with that sort of a training budget for their officers/agents. Very few even have an elite unit within their agency where that kind of training budget exists.

To me, a soccer mom with a minivan doesn’t need Formula One driving skills to run errands and pick up the kids after school. But there is a very practical set of skills and knowledge she can master which will make her Super Mom, and that is where she should focus her resources. I’ve had this discussion with many civilian self defense instructors over the years. Most don’t even get the point, because they long ago forgot what a beginner in their discipline needs and how wide the chasm is between their current skill sets and where they began.

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I agree with everything written and perhaps I’ll grab one or two of his books. Training is the major problem here. No ranges here in Vegas, that I know of at least, allow you to even draw from a holster let alone move and shoot. One place I know of will let you draw from an OWB holster at 3 to 5 o’clock but not appendix or concealed. Then there’s the whole getting a 1st shot off fast and moving. The 1st shot you can “kind of” practice with the USCCA’s “touch, press, shoot” drill but you can only dry fire draw and moving. There are classes to take which are a good idea, but if you don’t practice like you do in the classes then you lose that skill in time.


I get where your coming from with new and newish shooters. There is no way I would ever attempt to teach point shooting as a discipline for the “average SD shooter” or even a newer IPSC/IDPA type shooter. ALL of the guys I learned with were above average marksmen BEFORE they were introduced to point shooting by people that did REAL bad things to REAL bad people in the REAL world A LOT. Quite frankly pistol was the secondary platform so we only shot it about 2/3 - 1/2 of the primary platforms, that said we did a BUNCH of transition drills so it was always an itigral part of training. Our training ammo budget came on semi trucks delivered by the pallet so yes we were a bit different in that aspect but that’s what they were paying us to do.

Most folks have enough trouble (especially now with ammo being hard to get) to maintain front sight, breathing and trigger control let alone drawing and going fast. It will ALWAYS come down to Fun-DUH- Mental’s. Mine are probably a bit different than most but they all get to the point where the gun goes bang on target. In the end folks that are going to carry concealed are not going to make up time on the draw they are going to make up time by being situationaly aware of the world around them and being able to recognize threats and either create distance or inject cover/concealment into the situation. Most importantly they will be able to make the time and make a threat assessment to get the gun INTO their hand before they need it (which of course is where a gun needs to be if you need it, not on your hip)

I think one of the biggest things folk miss out on is situational awareness training or scenario driven training with a bent towards SELF(Family) DEFENSE as opposed to how to win a gun fight in XYZ scenario. When you go to a GUN class you EXPECT to use your gun. It would be a total flop and failure to have someone spend $$$$ to attend a class where you learned to NOT have to go to the trigger. That, however, is exactly what is needed. Once you pull the trigger life changes exponentially and gets VERY expensive. SEALS, Delta, HRT, SAP, SOCOM blah, blah, blah AND I will include LEO (Law Enforcement Officers) train to be OFFENSIVE, even police are trained to interdict the suspect. You get offensive in a SD scenario and you are going to jail unless you are stopping someone who has already started shooting.

Food for though and worth what you paid for it.




This; right here! Thank you.


[quote=“Craig6, post:11, topic:26583”]
In the end folks that are going to carry concealed are not going to make up time on the draw they are going to make up time by being situationaly aware of the world around them and being able to recognize threats and either create distance or inject cover/concealment into the situation. Most importantly they will be able to make the time and make a threat assessment to get the gun INTO their hand before they need it (which of course is where a gun needs to be if you need it, not on your hip)
[/quote] (emphasis added)


This is why I always say the quick draw scenario is over-emphasized in contemporary civilian self-defense pistol culture. In LE? Heck yeah, you need to be very good at it from bad breath to curb to front door distances. Does it hurt to be able to draw from concealment and put 2 in a target at 50 ft in about 2 seconds? NOPE! But there is sooooo much stuff FURTHER LEFT OF BANG to focus on with greater ROI from a civil self-defense perspective. Frankly, it is easier to master the quick draw than it is to become truly proficient at situational awareness and establishing a superior position and disposition before things turn violent. And the big secret? If you get good at that stuff, most bad guys realize their perceived advantage just disappeared – and so do they.

Thanks for the thoughtful, no BS reply.


THAT is when the coyote realizes the sheepdog is wearing a lamb skin coat and has found him. Coyotes are only strong in packs , otherwise they are just another vulnerable, underfed scavenger and opportunist.