I am VERY fortunate to have had the opportunity to train with and listen to some of the brightest minds and greatest thinkers of the personal protection game. Over the last few years, I’ve listened to several of these well respected trainers and researchers present skills they believe really win gunfights based on their personal experiences and research projects. After hearing 4-5 of them, I started to pick up on the overlap. If 5 people from separate backgrounds are saying the same things, that’s a clue that those skills might be worth prioritizing in our training. The first two segments are summaries of regular people’s documented fights, whether reported to the NRA or on CCTV. The remainder of the summaries are lessons taken from actual gunfighters and the training of successful gunfighters. I think there are very powerful lessons when we observe the overlap between the real incidents with what high-level trainers are teaching their students. Here we go.
Realities of Real Gun Fights – Statistics and Lessons
I’ll start with my friend and mentor, Claude Werner – The Tactical Professor. Claude annually compiles the skills that private citizens needed to succeed in their confrontations from The Armed Citizen reports. Here’s his list of needed skills from the first half of 2014:
- Average number of shots needed 1.43 (most – 2)
- Retrieve from Storage (handgun) 32%
- Move safely from place to place at ready 22%
- Draw to shoot 20%
- Challenge from ready 15%
- Intervene in another’s situation 15%
- Draw to challenge 12%
- Engage from ready (handgun) 12%
- Hold at gunpoint until police arrive 12%
- Retrieve from Storage (unknown) 10%
- Shoot with non-threats downrange 10%
- Draw to ready (seated in auto) 7%
- Engage multiple adversaries 7%
- Challenge with non-threats downrange 7%
- Shoot menacing animal 7%
- Shoot in midst of others 7%
- Draw to ready 5%
- Struggle 5%
- Retrieve from Storage (shotgun) 5%
- Draw pistol from wife’s purse 2%
- ID with flashlight 2%
- Shoot animal from grounded position 2%
- Shoot with shotgun 2%
- Retrieve from Storage (rifle) 0%
- Reload 0%
Next in the list of great analysts, is John Correia of Active Self Protection. He has made a business out of analyzing and watching CCTV gunfights and robberies. He has watched over 10,000 incidents on video and recently made a presentation on it. Short Barrel Shepherd did a summary about it here. I’ll drop some bullet points to summarize below.
- Most gunfights aren’t entangled. Once the gun comes out people tend to separate. Pre-firearm access, empty-handed skills are critical
- Attacks happen in transitional spaces (parking lots, cash registers, ATMs, upon entering or exiting building or vehicle, etc)
- Lack of awareness (task-fixation in public) creates big problems
- 1/3 of the incidents have multiple attackers, with usually only 2 getting shot at before the rest scatter.
- Whoever lands the first shots, wins
- In a gunfight, the pistol has to be ready for action NOW due to time pressure (no empty chamber)
- Cops initiate contact-Criminals start fight vs. Criminals initiate contact – Citizen starts the fight. A plus for us citizens.
- Tom Given’s ‘car length’ gunfight distance seems to be the norm, though some have been as far as 22 yds.
- Multiple shot strings are needed to get bad guy to stop
- Lots of one handed gun usage (for better or worse)
- After the gun comes out, people move
- People tend to use concealment and cover interchangeably, and people don’t seem to shoot at what they can’t see, even if their bullets could easily penetrate
- The desire to close distance with an adversary is hard to resist
- Malfunctions happen
- Knife attacks are brutal and rapid, and don’t take skill to pull off.
- Weapon Mounted Lights haven’t played a significant role in the documented shootings
Training to Dominate Your Gunfight
John Daub of KR Training and his HSOI Blog made a great post about this as well. Here it is. He did an EXCELLENT and well reasoned summary on this very topic as it pertains to ‘average trainees’. I’ll repost his summary below. Take the time to read that full post.
- drawing from concealment
- And perhaps moving on that draw (like a side-step then stop; not shoot-and-move)
- getting multiple hits
- in a small area
- 5″ circle? 6″ circle? 8″ circle? consider human anatomy
- from close range
- Within a car length, so say 0-5 yards
- 3 seconds or less
- using both hands, or maybe one hand (or the other)
Next I’ll cover Darryl Bolke and Wayne Dobbs of HiTS out of Texas. I had the pleasure of listening to their presentation What Really Matters at the Range-Master Tactical Conference this year. I wrote about it here. I’ll recap below.
- “Train for maximum efficiency at an assessment speed on an acceptable target” -HiTS. The speed at which you can see, interpret, and choose where to hit a target. Asking yourself, “Is my target still there? No? Stop Shooting. Yes? Keep shooting”
- Acceptable target- Is a target about the size of a grapefruit (The black of a B-8 bullseye target) Heart and brain are both about this size.
- Always be thinking you’ll need a failure drill (ending with a headshot) and practice with that in mind.
- Draw but don’t touch the trigger until you have a good sight track. This isn’t good for shooting, but it’s good for people management.
- Don’t touch the trigger until you have satisfied these three. Target ID, Objective reason to shoot, and your firearm is aligned with that shoot target.
- Train what is hard (50 and 100 yd pistol shooting, for instance)
- Train to an accuracy standard, not a time.
- You WILL be able to see movement of your target peripherally while maintaining a hard focus on your sights. Use your sights.
- All you REALLY need in a carry gun is sights I can see, a usable trigger, and reliability
- LAPD trains to a .5 second split time, their shootings are shot WELL.
- If your splits are faster than .3 seconds, you’ll fire unintentionally until the signal to stop makes it to your hands. (force science)
Lastly, I’ll cover John Hearne’s excellent lecture Who Wins, Who Loses, and Why: Understanding Human Performance When Death Is On The Line. He presented this at Paul-E-Palooza in Ohio this year (and will again at next year’s Tactical Conference at DARC) John’s research has lead him to a summary list of necessary skills for dominating wins in gunfights. I’ll give the synopsis.
- Our goal should be to remove novelty, if we have seen it before, we will be able to act more quickly. Always seek exposure to novel stimuli, and war-game scenarios.
- Build valid mental maps, develop emotional bookmarks to positive outcomes, Force On Force, video simulators, thinking and shooting, address physiological effects of stress
- Develop robust motor programs. Break tasks down into steps, start slow, build speed, find failure points. Build new pathways in mind for motor programs (myelination)
- Primary Pistol Skills – Failure drill from holster, failure drill from ready, moving off-line, minimal reloading
- Secondary Pistol Skills – Type 1/2 clearing, one handed shooting, precision work
- Tertiary Pistol Skills- Type 3 malf. clearing, shoot and move, one handed malf.
- Allocate resources based on probability of need, focus on primary skills until overlearned
- Keep skills and mental maps refreshed. It’s about recency over volume. (dry-fire at least weekly, life-fire at least quarterly)
- Make People Think with a gun in hand.
- Train emotional control via books, visualization, combat sports, rock climbing, talking with gun-fight survivors, etc.
This post is plenty long, but it should be pretty clear which skills are needed often, work well, and are worthy of your precious practice time. I hope you found this summary of summaries worthwhile.
If you find value in my posts, please consider subscribing and sharing. And please do your Amazon shopping through our affiliate link.