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Defensive Shooting to Stay Alive!

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Editor’s Note: This article was generously contributed by Orlando Wilson. If you have information for Preppers that you would like to share and possibly win a $300 Amazon Gift Card to purchase your own prepping supplies, enter the Prepper Writing Contest today!


Once you have selected and purchased a handgun you then need to learn how to shoot it accurately. If you have never used a handgun before, go and get some training in defensive shooting techniques. Some people, usually men, who have limited firearms experience but believe they, know everything about firearms will not undergo training. This is an ego problem and a sign of insecurity, which can end with innocent people getting hurt. Many people do not realize that the handgun techniques you see on the TV and at the movies do not work in the real world. You cannot learn how to use firearms by reading a manual or sitting down watching DVD’s or videos on YouTube, you have to go and practice. Many former and serving law enforcement and military personnel continuously seek and undergo further firearms training, because they are professional enough to know they can always learn something new and improve their skills. Firearms skills must be learned properly and then regularly practiced.

There are just as many people in the firearms training business that claim that their system is the best, just as there are self-proclaimed experts in the world of the martial arts or other fields. You can argue tactics all day and you will still get nowhere. You must find a system that works for you and learn it from an instructor who has both a good reputation and verifiable real world experience. The best systems are simple and not overly technical. If you are ever unfortunate enough to have to use your handgun in self-defense you want to be concerned about getting rounds into the bad guy, not having to thinking if you grip is correct and if your feet are in the right place.

There are many people confusing competition shooting techniques that are developed for sports and hobbies as realistic tactical training. Big difference number one, on the streets the bad guys don’t care about the rules and will be shooting back. I have had students come through my courses that have been taught and trust techniques that look cool and work in an air-conditioned shooting range with no stress but have completely no relevance in the real world. On the street, fancy techniques that overly stress safety will get you killed and hopefully only you and not those you’re possibly protecting.

You need to realistically think about how you would handle being in a hostile situation, not on a comfortable shooting range, but being attacked by criminals in some dark parking lot or your home in the early hours of the morning when there will be no one to help you. The police, if you’re lucky, maybe, there in 15 minutes if you are able to contact them; think about what the criminals can do to you and your family in those 15 minutes. Visualize this situation and determine how you would genuinely feel and determine how you would react in the seconds you may be lucky to have to reverse the situation on the criminals. There was a saying I picked up in South Africa in 94 and agree with to this day “The police are just there to pick up the bodies”. Most police like to tell you they are your protectors but the reality is, if you’re involved in a hostile situation they will not be rushing into save you, they will be thinking about their own skin. They are happy to do the after incident paperwork and to arrest you, if you live, if it means brownie points for them or, in a lot of places, an opportunity to extort money from you.

Firearms skills must be learned properly and then regularly practiced.

The Fundamentals of Defensive Shooting

The subjects that should be included in your tactical training are defensive shooting both left and right-handed, drawing from concealed carry, using different fire positions and use of cover. If you are going to work with or carry a firearm, you should undertake stress scenario training. This should include dry and live fire contact drills, in different environments, i.e. in a vehicle, in a street, in a restaurant and so forth. Proper training, handgun maintenance, carry technique/firearm access, aiming, grip/trigger pull and shot placement are the basic factors in defensive shooting.

  • Training/firearms competence: You must be able to use your weapons safely and competently before you consider using it for defensive purposes. If you do not know how to use your weapon properly you are more of a danger to yourself and your love ones than the bad guys. Take the time to learn your weapon and how to use it!
  • Handgun maintenance: Your handgun needs to be functional and in a good clean condition. You should have good ammunition that is in a good condition. Modern ammunition can function reliably for several years being regularly carried as long as it does not get excessively damp. But I tell my students to change their carry ammo for new rounds every six months or so, just to minimize the risks of a misfire. You need to keep your handgun clean, oiled and check it regularly. If your handgun or ammunition does not work, then everything else is a waste of time.
  • Carry technique/firearm access: You need to be able to get to your handgun when you need it. You may have the cleanest $1500.00 .45 caliber handgun and be an excellent shot but this is no good if you cannot get to your handgun when you need it. I have dealt with several clients who have had handguns close to them during incidents but were unable to get to them. You must be able to get to and deploy your weapons weak and strong handed, if you can’t, again everything else is a waste of time!
  • Grip: You must have a good grip on the weapon, as I have said before, having a good grip is one of the fundamentals of pistol shooting. This is where you must practice drawing your weapon and instinctively getting the right grip, the only way to you can achieve this is by repeatedly drawing and holstering your weapon; dry training. Please ensure your weapon is unloaded before you practice any dry drills.
  • Aim: Once the weapon is deployed you need to stabilize and get it on target as quickly as possible. The chances are in a hostile situation you won’t be able to get into a formal shooting stance but you still need to deliver accurate fire on your target whatever position you are in. These three aiming techniques all have a place in tactical shooting.
  • Slow, aimed fire. This is the most accurate and is where you apply the marksmanship principles. It involves getting a steady, properly aligned sight picture and slowly squeezing accurate shots. It is normally used for shots over 20 yards/meter or when you need precise accuracy. In tactical situations you should be behind cover or in a prone position when taking slow aimed shots, support the handgun where possible. With this technique you should be able to deliver accurate shots out to 100 + yards/meters with practice.

If you do not know how to use your weapon properly you are more of a danger to yourself and your love ones than the bad guys.

  • Rapid aimed fire. For this technique you look down the top of the handgun and get a quick sight picture and shoot. This can be used against targets out to 20 yards/meters or further with practice, it’s accurate and fast. As I have previously stated whenever I use the sights I close the opposite eye to the hand the pistol is in, the same applies with this technique. Again in a tactical situation it would be best to use this technique from behind cover.
  • Instinctive fire. This technique is can be used out to 10 yards/meter or more where there is no time to use the weapons sights. Forget about the sights, focuses on the target and point the handgun directly where you want the bullets to go and squeeze the trigger. This technique is simple and fast but needs practice, will talk about it more in the next chapter. At distances up to 10 yards/meters you want to be able to fire five quick shots accurately into a person, forget double tapping. At distances up to 5 yards/meters with say a 9mm handgun, most people should be able to rapid fire multiple rounds accurately into a target with a little practice using proper techniques. It all depends on them having a good grip on the weapon and a good trigger pull.
  • Trigger Pull: You should practice pulling the trigger on your handgun until you can do so smoothly. One trick (make sure your handgun is unloaded) is to balance an empty bullet case on the top of your handgun, near the front sight and practice dry firing, the aim is you to keep the case there for as many trigger pulls as possible. If that is too easy try a coin balanced on your front sight.  You want to fire a minimum of five quick shots into a person when in hostile situations at close quarters. You should keep putting rounds into the criminal or terrorist until they no longer pose a threat.
  • Shot Placement:  In a hostile shooting incident, the criminal or terrorist must be incapacitated immediately, a wounded the criminal or terrorist can still be very dangerous. Shot placement is everything and takes priority over caliber. A shot to the brain with a .22 will drop someone where as a .45 hollow point to the stomach may kill someone in the long run but short-term the bad guy you just shot can still fight and shoot you. You need to train as you intend to fight, that’s old knowledge but it makes me laugh on most gun ranges to see people, civilians and law enforcement shooting center of mass on silhouette targets. What vital organs or bones are at your center of mass? None! The only reason I see for people being told to shoot center of mass is so they can pass qualifications with minimum effort and training. You need to be training to hit vital organs or bones, if not then you are going to be surprised when the bad guy you have just shot keeps shooting back at you.

You need to be training to hit vital organs or bones, if not then you are going to be surprised when the bad guy you have just shot keeps shooting back at you.

 

  • The best shot placement that guarantees nearly 100% immediate incapacitation of the target is to the brain. Shots should be below the middle of the forehead, and above the upper lip or to the side of the head above the center of ear from the cheekbones back. I have heard many people say the head is too small of a target area; well it is if you’re trying to get poorly trained personnel to pass security or law enforcement shooting qualifications. But for people who want to take the time and train properly head shots can be achieved instinctively at close quarters in a short period of time. One thing that annoys me with society in general is that these days all standards are being set to the lowest level, just because one person is incompetent it does not mean everyone is, but we can’t hurt the feelings of the incompetent ones can we… I live in a different world and understand that as far as violent situations are concerned you need to be at the highest standard and end the situation as quickly as possible. Five rapid rounds from a trained shooter towards the head of a bad guy at conversational range will end the conversation very quickly. Also, these days with body armor being freely available and the fact the criminals or terrorists may be on narcotics head-shots should be your first target area of choice.
  • The center of the upper chest, just below the neck is also a good target area. Shots that hit the lungs can be fatal but may take time to drop a target, shots the heart will kill a target instantly. I tell my students that aiming just below the neck ensures that if their shots are low or high they are still hitting vital areas on the target. Another reason for mixing my ammunition between HP’s and FMJ rounds is because I want penetration; if a bullet hits a target’s spine they are instantly paralyzed. As I’ve said shots to the lungs can be fatal but can take time to drop a target. During this time, the criminal or terrorist can still return effective fire, this is again why I tell people fire a minimum of five rounds and you need to be aggressive. If a criminal is returning fire the chances are their arms and weapon will be in front of their chest, so we need the multiple shots and ammunition that will penetrate to ensure hits on the vital areas. This area of the body may also be covered by heavy clothing, objects such as cell phones that may deflect or prevent a bullets penetration. Also, if the criminal is wearing a bullet-proof vest this can prevent rounds hitting the vital areas, be aggressive and keep shooting until the target is down. If shooting at moving targets or targets at distances over 10 yards/meters or if you know you cannot get the head shot, you should shoot for upper chest.
  • Shots to the stomach or lower can kill someone but are rarely effective in dropping a target immediately, this is again where I would say FMJ ammo could be effective for penetrating to the spine or breaking the pelvis.

Remember!

  • Speed and accuracy are your main concern. Get your weapon out and get multiple and accurate rounds into the target as quickly as possible
  • Always fully load your weapon; magazine to be fully loaded and put a round in the chamber where legal to do so. I am currently writing this in Nigeria and in one incident here recently, three police officers were killed in what we believe to be an attempted hit on someone they were escorting. They approached a car that was blocking the road and their client’s vehicle, as they got close a criminal opened up on them with an AK-47, all 3 died at the scene. They were carrying AK’s also but with the safety catches on and no rounds in the chambers, they did not stand a chance.
  • Always know what is beyond your target. A dead bystander means manslaughter if not murder charge.  Go for headshots at close quarters; otherwise go for the upper chest area/base of the neck.
  • In the US, the majority of police officers killed in shooting incidents are shot at conversational range, at distances of up to 10 feet. Over 50% are shot at distances under 5 feet. At these distances there is no need to use the weapons sights, be aggressive point and shoot!
  • Two out of every three police officers killed in the US are shot at night or in low-light areas. If you can point shoot these is no need to worry about night sights and lasers etc. as you are not using the sights anyway. We will talk later about the use of flashlights/torches.
  • The most common handgun calibers used against American police officers are 9-millimeter and .38. These two calibers accounted for 50 percent of the handgun deaths. In most places in the world you will find 9mm and .38 caliber weapons, they have been around for nearly 100 years and I expect will be around for a long time to come.
  • Shooting incidents are over in seconds, you will not have time to chamber a round, get into a range stance, check breathing and use the sights on your weapon.  You should keep a round in the chamber, have access to the handgun, be aggressive and get rounds into the targets vital areas of the target as quickly as possible.
  • Criminals or terrorists usually operate in gangs so, in time train for engaging multiple targets.
  • Terrorists and criminals like guns, they train in police and military techniques using manuals and videos that are freely available on the commercial market. It’s up to you to train harder and be at a more professional level than they are.
  • Always be aware of your environment, you want spot any potential problems and avoid them or at least be ready. If it gets to the point where the criminal has set you up and has a weapon on you, you’re going to have problems. Best to always try to avoid the problems and confrontations!

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  • EgbertThrockmorton1

    I would like to see first hand the references used by the author. To cite that the “two calibers used against American law enforcement are 9mm and .38 caliber”.
    At one point in time, that may have been true, however, I believe the author’s references are a tad dated. Yes, it does matter a great deal.

    • 3rdMan

      I guess the question begs than what do you think the two calibers most likely used against Law Enforcement. The reason those two are list is because that was the most common calibers carried by LE. Yep, cops were shot in a high percentage according to the FBI by their own weapon. That is why you see LE using holster today that focus on retention and not speed. We always remind officers every call the go on involves a gun, because they brought it with them!!!

      • 3rdMan

        Had to fix typos!!!
        I guess the question begs than what do you think the two calibers most likely used against Law Enforcement. The reason those two are list is because that was the most common calibers carried by LE. Yep, cops were shot in a high percentage according to the FBI by their own weapons. That is why you see LE using holsters today that focus on retention and not speed. We always remind officers that every call they go on involves a gun, because they brought it with them!!!

  • Bolofia

    The question about the caliber of handguns used against LEOs is both valid and irrelevant. The primary handguns currently in use by police departments are .40 caliber, 9mm and .45 caliber (a distant 3rd place). If there are any police departments still using .38 caliber, I’m not aware of them and relevant searches on the Internet yield no clues.
    Whether you are a police officer or a civilian, if you are shot at a distance of less than five feet, it is unlikely that the specific caliber of the bullet will be an important factor in your death.
    Orlando has written an excellent, instructive article. Well done, sir.

    • Joshua Bredwell

      It didn’t say that the police dept uses them, it says that they get shot with them, meaning the criminals shoot them with 9mm’s and / or .38 ammo 🙂

    • 3rdMan

      According to the FBI the .40 was the most common handgun caliber used against LEO in 2013. It was just shy of 50 percent. I posted a link to the stat but it awaiting approval by the site moderator.

  • Curt

    The author says that police are only worried about their own skin and will gladly arrest you. What about the brave officers in Dallas and Louisianna? The we’re murdered protecting black lives matter protesters and normal citizens. I hope this wannabe never calls 911, he doesn’t deserve any help. I
    Retired from the PD after 28 years so I’m qualified to call bs on this guy.

    • 3rdMan

      I think the fact he’s comparing American Law Enforcement to South African Law Enforcement is offensive in itself. Only in the U.S. are LEOs considered public servants, everywhere else they are considered civil servants. There is truly a difference between the two. American LEOs and other first responders regularly run towards the danger not away from it. He is correct in the fact that LEOs in 3rd world countries tend to be worried about their own skin first, but that is not the U.S. With that said citizen are the first line of defense for themselves and families. This coming from a current 29 year LEO!!

      • Bolofia

        Considering that his perspective may be more internationally based than yours (or mine), I don’t find his reference to 3rd world LEO behavior offensive. The indisputable fact is that so-called law enforcement agencies in many countries are an existential threat to their own citizens. Thank God that we live in a society that does not countenance that behavior.
        AND: Thanks for your service! I will always have your back.

  • Paul C

    The most important survival tactic I’ve learned in the military and as an LEO is the old tried and true “Cover and Concealment”. Unfortunately, there are too many instructors that just give this important survival tactic lip service. However, in a defensive shooting situation it should be the first thing you do. Yes, I know the old argument that we need to give the novice shooter maximum trigger time. Unfortunately, they will fight like they were trained. Well, pilgrim, nobody can outdraw a bad guy who already has his gun pointed at you.

    After watching the Houston PD’s Active Shooter video “Run, Hide, Fight” which is intended to instruct civilians in unarmed response – Enlightening to be sure. I realized what a great tactic it is for survival and I have incorporated it into my personal defense training for my wife and myself.

    Our training has evolved to best utilize what tools would actually be available to us. Think about it: you won’t have body armor; or helmet; and likely only a small EDC pistol with one reload, if that. That is the real world. So when training using Run, Hide, Fight combined with defensive shooting tactics what really happens? Well once the threat materializes it goes like this:
    1) “Run”, you put as much distance (reducing the BadGuy’s [BG] accuracy) while putting as many objects between you and the shooter as possible. If no cover is available then change direction while opening the distance if possible. My goal is to clear the kill zone entirely. I can dial 911 from the parking lot with a lot less risk. When
    running do not draw your weapon because if you fall you are likely to lose it in the ensuing chaos. Also witnesses will later point you out as the guy they
    saw running with a gun. Hum, are you the good guy or the bad guy?
    2) “Hide”, you’ve found cover (hard bullet resistant surfaces), or at least concealment (out of visual sight), buying yourself a few more seconds to set up a defense. Now’s the time to draw your weapon and establish your best field of fire while waiting for the BG to come to you in your make shift castle. Also, it is time to consider what your backstop is (a thin wall with a Day Care Center or restaurant on the other side is not
    good).
    3) “Fight”, here is where it gets tricky since you now have the advantage of your firearm. Think, is that person approaching you really the bad guy? My preference is to ignore what they are saying while closely watching their hands as they approach and all the while trying not to give my position away. Lots of luck with that! Obviously, when shooting from concealment you are a much smaller target, especially if you remember to cut the pie to minimize your body’s exposure. Needless to say, do not stand up to engage the BG as you will likely draw fire from other friendlies if you pop
    up like a Jack-in-a-box. If at all possible position yourself low so your line
    of sight is pointing upwards. It greatly reduces the possibility of you shooting a friendly. Finally, remember your combat breathing, which is necessary
    to maintain your visual acuity and minimizes the adrenaline dump that impedes
    your motor skills.

    Survival Tips to live by:

    – Turn off your mobile phone so as not
    to give your position away.

    – When the Police arrive on the scene
    you do not want to be the first armed person they encounter. Remain in your
    covered position until they tell you to come out. Then do so immediately with
    your hands open and above your head.

    – If you never fired your weapon then
    holster it before an LEO sees it. If it was fired then make it safe and leave it
    on the ground. It is now evidence.

    – Ladies leave your purse and put your
    phone, ID, and car keys in your pocket or waistband as you likely will not get
    the purse back for a week or more. Never insist on keeping your purse. In this
    situation it will likely prove fatal for you. Remember the empty hands rule.

    – When my wife is at work she leaves
    her phone and purse out of sight in her locked car and carries only her keys
    and a work ID inside the building. Smart lady!

    – During evacuation expect the Police
    to handcuff and/or confine you until they determine your status. Cooperate and answer any non-incriminating questions and you’ll get home that much sooner. If you do not understand the questions then don’t answer them. You could be going into
    delayed shock. If you think you are going into shock then tell the Police so
    they can get the EMTs involved.

    – If for some reason the police Mirandize you then take the hint, shut up, and ask for a lawyer.

    Oh, yah the FBI calls Run, Hide, Fight
    tactic: Avoid, Deny, Defend. I guess it sounds more Politically Correct. Go
    figure!

    • EgbertThrockmorton1

      FBI= FanBeltInsallers.
      They DO, conduct an excellent press conference however, and yes; Avoid, Deny, Defend, seems to be their current mantra and tactical philosophy.
      I have been retired for ten years now from law enforcement, and still have yet to see anything from “the Bureau” remotely resembling sound tactics for their street agents. It is a good thing, so many of the younger agents get to spend time with actual street officers and deputies on “task forces” to learn HOW to actually conduct appropriate Officer Safety and Survival for their own use.
      While, in the area in which I worked, IF, one solely used the “statistic” of LEOs being shot with their own service firearm, then the .40 caliber and 9mm would be the main two calibers used to murder/wound LEOs.
      However, the thug demographic can and does use anything they can steal to use in their predatory actions on society and LEOs, without regard for where their rounds go, who they hit, cover and concealment, and anything else a “normal person” would concern themselves with.
      I am reminded that today, still, the FBI considers the “Miami Shootout” as being outgunned by expert gangsters, instead of an utter failure of tactics. The calibers the agents used, did in fact terminate the “fight” eventually in the suspects, Platt and Mattix, the “tactics” the agents used (however individually heroically) were a failure as witnessed by the “changes” now taught at Quantico. See, the Avoid, Deny, Defend post by 3rd Man above. It is correct from my professional experience.

  • LWJ

    I am surprised the author did not discuss the T-Box or more about the pelvic girdle when it comes to shot placement. Very good things to know when it comes to defensive shooting techniques.

  • Ray Bauer

    The author is giving bad and dangerous advice regarding head shots.
    Simply foolishness