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!