14 Ways to How to Combat Ready (Tactically Prepare) Yourself With a Pistol
Post on 16-Oct-2015
DESCRIPTIONWanna get into tactical shape? Go for broke.
How to How to Combat Ready
(Tactically Prepare) Yourself With a
PistolChoosing a Good Sidearm Select a Caliber Practice Reloading Your
Pistol Malfunctions Point Shooting and Flash Sighting Train Yourself Human
Targets Quick-draw Rapid Fire Firing Positions and Cover and Concealment Other
Drills Notice About Bullet Consideration Choose a Type of Bullet Pistol Accessories
A common desire with a pistol is to use it as a self-defense weapon or in a
combat scenario. Even though there are better weapons for certain situations,
the handgun's portability and accessibility make it the frequent choice in cases
of self-defense or combat. Thus, it is a good thing to prepare yourself for
combat or self-defense using your pistol.
The primary purpose of this article will be practicing with the pistol to be
used in a defensive manner, but many of the techniques can easily be
translated for offensive use.
While revolvers are a common handgun selection, this article will focus on
semi-automatic pistols, since they are more widely used in tactical
situations. It is true that revolver reliability is unsurpassed, but when all
factors are considered, semi-autos are the weapon of choice of police
forces and armies around the world.
Before you prepare for the possible situation where you may need to use
the information and techniques in this article, you need to understand that
a tactical mindset is important and is arguably more important for
preventing or prevailing in a tactical situation.
Finally: this article assumes you already have a fairly good knowledge of
firearms and handguns (specifically). If not, there are some articles here on
wikiHow which can get you more acquainted.
The choice of weapon can seriously limit your ability to protect yourself with
lack of accuracy or, more importantly, reliability. Here are some generalities to
look at when purchasing a weapon for this specific use. None of these are
absolute as there are exceptions to all of them, and a pistol that fits you
personally is always the best choice. Below are some important points to
consider when choosing a pistol.
Larger pistols may be more accurate than smaller ones, due to their fit to
the hand, weight (reduced felt recoil), and longer sight plane.
Smaller pistols are easier to conceal and are lighter to carry.
Smaller calibers mean less recoil, which in turn means faster and more
accurate follow-up shots, but generally, less energy and force.
Larger calibers inflict more damage per bullet.
Reliability is more important than accuracy and many other attributes of a
pistol. Purchase a high-quality pistol and make sure it is maintained
Revolvers are more reliable and simpler than semi-automatics.
Method 1 of 14: Choosing a Good Sidearm
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Point-shoot accuracy is more important than sighted accuracy when
considering self-defense tactics (this is a controversial point in modern
pistolcraft; there will be more on this later in the article).
Determine basic point-shoot capabilities of the gun. With an unloaded
gun, close your eyes and point the gun in a safe direction with your
finger next to the trigger, but not on it, at a makeshift target. Open your
eyes the sights should be lined up exactly where you wanted it. At
five yards, it should be no more than a couple inches off center-target.
If the handgun is pointing high or low, this can be compensated for
with practice. For example, almost everyone who has never used a
Glock before has a high point-shoot location by 6-10 inches at five
yards. But with practice, you will find that you can compensate for that
quickly. But, if you then pick up a better-fit gun, you will find that it will
point low. If the point is too far off, you might want to consider a
This is another quandary which will often pit some of the best and most
knowledgeable against each other.
Remember that no cartridge is perfect, so consider both the benefits and
drawbacks. Most people who study handgun bullet ballistics and tactics such as
Jeff Cooper ("the father" of what is known as "the modern technique of the handgun")
have concluded that, comparatively, handgun rounds are weak, and bullet-placement is
a much more reliable fight-stopper than the round itself. Not to say that there aren't
some advantages to one round over another, and in a fight, the advantage should
always be on your side.
There are a few major features which should always be considered in caliber
Penetration is extremely important. If a bullet does not penetrate deep enough,
vital organs and the nervous system are less likely to be damaged. In the late
'90s the FBI conducted extensive studies which suggest a bullet should
penetrate at least 14-16 inches to be reliable. This allows for bullets to enter a
body at less than optimal angles and still have enough energy to reach vital
organs or the spine.
Permanent cavity is the resulting "void" in a fleshy target where the majority of a
bullet's energy was transferred and tissue was destroyed. The larger the
permanent cavity, the greater the chance of vital organs or the central nervous
system being damaged.
Recoil is something that is often not talked about in bullet ballistics because it is
a very subjective and weapon-specific characteristic. Low recoil allows you to
place more shots quicker and more accurately. Each person will have a different
feel for the recoil of a bullet, and each handgun will transfer the recoil to the
user in different ways.
Bullet energy is an over-emphasized feature of a round. In handguns, the
energy of bullets is extremely low. "Knock down power" is a fable born of
Hollywood action movies; stories of people being "knocked down" after being
shot have been proven to happen because of a preconceived notion that when
shot, you are supposed to fall down. People shot with a .22 LR in non-vital
Method 2 of 14: Select a Caliber
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areas have fallen down because they assumed being shot is synonymous with
falling down and possibly dying.
"Bullet energy" is a rebuttal against people bragging about a bullet's energy
without other considerations, but the amount of energy will also contribute to the
first three points positively and negatively. The first three points on the other
hand are all competing against each other in the search for a perfect bullet. If a
low-recoil round with deep penetration and a massive permanent cavity were
available, no other handgun bullet would be needed.
A comparison of the most common semi-automatic handgun rounds:
9mm Parabellum is the most common pistol caliber. Its relatively low recoil
allows for quick, accurate follow up shots. The magazine capacity is usually
much greater than other larger rounds. Cost is low and availability is excellent,
making the 9mm an attractive choice for extended practice. Finally, there are
excellent higher pressure (+P rated) loads available, producing excellent
self-defense characteristics (make sure your handgun is rated to shoot +P loads
before you use them).
.45 ACP uses heavier, wider bullets than the 9mm at somewhat lower velocity.
The caliber lends itself to use with sound suppressors due to the fact that a
standard round (230 grain) is subsonic under almost all circumstances. The
permanent cavity (on ballistics gel) of a JHP .45 ACP is about 40% larger than a
JHP 9mm. Recoil is more severe than the 9mm, and the magazine capacity
tends to be much lower. Most law enforcement officers will say (referring to a
point-blank gun fight), if you don't hit them in the first three bullets, you aren't
going to hit them. So, large capacity magazines mean less than you may think.
.40 S&W is another common caliber with performance characteristics
somewhere between the 9mm Luger and the .45 ACP. It has gained a large
following in law enforcement agencies and elsewhere. Among other benefits of
the round, the flat nose of the round has shown to create larger temporary
cavities and also to allow the energy to transfer at a quicker rate to create a
sizable permanent cavity.
There are many other calibers which have not been mentioned here. .38
Special, .357 Magnum, and .44 Magnum are common revolver cartridges. The 357
SIG (a 9mm bullet in a necked-down .40 cal casing) and 10mm Auto are also somewhat
prevalent autoloader calibers. Another specialty round is the 5.7x28mm, made by FN,
(Fabrique Nationale) designed to defeat Class III body armor with this ammunition. Such
steel-core ammunition is not widely available to civilians, but the advantage of the round
as a very low-recoil, high-velocity round cannot be denied. Additionally, due to its
tumbling effect in soft targets it creates a considerable permanent cavity (for its size)
while still penetrating deeper than 14 inches. The 4.6x30mm, which has the same
characteristics as the 5.7x28mm, is made by Heckler and Koch.
There is more information on the actual bullet choice (not the caliber) later in
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Though it may be good to be familiar with a wide spectrum of firearms,
defensive practice should primarily be done with one or two pistols (allowing
for a primary and "back-up" pistol). This allows your body to store procedural
memory about the weapon's operation. So instead of thinking is the slide
locked back? press magazine release magazine is clear grab new
magazine insert new magazine with correct orientation release slide. If
you practice enough, the procedure will become second nature, and just
thinking is the slide locked back? reload pistol will get it all done while you
are able to think about your current situation.
You should be able to load your gun quickly 100% of the time without
looking at your pistol, your hands, or your magazines.
Emergency reload is the reload in which you have spent all the rounds from
your magazine and your slide is locked back. This should all be done while
keeping your gun pointed at your target. Psychologically, lowering your gun gives your
intended target an advantage over you and keeps you focused on your gun rather than
on your target.
The technique is as follows: when the slide locks back, you want to grab
another magazine (likely from a magazine pouch). As you move the fresh
magazine toward the gun, eject the empty magazine letting it hit the ground
(they should essentially pass each other during the drill). Place the rear of the
magazine against the rear of the magazine well of the gun, align the two, and
with some force (though there should be little resistance) seat the magazine
using the heel of your palm; then depress the slide release.
Tactical reload is the reload in which you encounter a lull in the gunfight
and are able to place yourself behind cover. You know you have spent some
rounds from the current magazine and want to prepare for whatever may come next.
This drill can be done at the ready, since it should be done from behind cover
and the other shooter (target) may be visible, but not an immediate threat.
Reach to your magazine pouch (or other magazine holder a pocket perhaps
and grab a magazine with your thumb, index finger, and middle finger. Move
back to the gun and eject the partially depleted magazine into your hand,
grabbing the ejected magazine with your ring finger, pinkie, and the palm of your
hand. Insert the fresh magazine into the gun and tug on it slightly to make sure
that it is seated in the magazine well correctly. (This is especially important
when loading a magazine that is topped off.) This reload doesn't require
manipulation of the slide release.
This reload should be executed before you re-holster your pistol so if you need
to draw again you are fully prepared.
You should be practiced enough that when you are shooting (no matter how
many rounds are in the magazine), you should be able to feel when the
handgun is empty.
The slide has two separate actions every time a round is fired; after the last
round is fired you will only feel the first action, ultimately there is less muzzle
Method 3 of 14: Practice Reloading Your Pistol
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flip. The quicker you are able to reload the magazine, the better. After this, you
execute an emergency reload.
Malfunctions (often erroneously, known as "jams") are a way of life in
semi-automatic handguns. Though most modern guns are relatively reliable, it
is always a good idea to be prepared because malfunctions seem to happen at
the most inopportune times. (Murphy's Law prevails.) Learn how to practice
clearing malfunctions by reading Reload a Pistol and Clear Malfunctions.
Type-1 malfunction: this is a failure-to-fire (FTF) malfunction. You pull the trigger
and you get a "click" instead of a "boom." This is the simplest type of malfunction,
the most common type, and the easiest to fix: just tap, rack/flip.
Type-2 malfunction: a failure-to-eject is a common problem on older 1911s and
other guns with shorter ejectors. This type of malfunction is affectionately known as
a "stove pipe."
The symptom of this malfunction is a "dead trigger" (no click, just a little bit of
movement), and most likely some brass sticking out of your ejection port (but
not necessarily), and the slide is not completely in battery (all the way forward).
Fix it using the same method at a Type-1 malfunction: tap, rack/flip.
Type-3 malfunction: this is known as "the Mother Of All Malfunctions" (MOAM) by
some. This is a feed-way stoppage, which means that too much brass is in the
chamber at the same time.
If you do get a type-3 malfunction under fire, many pistol masters will tell you
just to grab for your back-up. Of course, if that is not an option you should find
cover before executing the clearing.
To clear: grab your slide and lock it back (this is optional on many handguns).
Press the magazine eject, grab the magazine and throw it to the ground ("strip"
it). Grab the slide again and rack it hard three times. Reach for a fresh
magazine, put it in the gun (same as the tactical reload) and rack the slide one
more time to load a round into the chamber. You can also learn to keep the
magazine you have in your gun, read this.
Some pistols, notably the Glocks, may be cleared of a Type 3 malfunction
simply by dropping the magazine far enough to allow the slide to go forward and
then re-seating the magazine with authority. If the slide goes completely forward
into battery, the pistol is then mostly likely ready to fire. If not perform the Type 1
Type-4 malfunction: this is pretty uncommon, and if it ever happens to you when
you are practicing with your gun at the range, throw the gun away and get a
different model! This malfunction is when the slide does not go back into battery after
Method 4 of 14: Malfunctions
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This might happen because your guide rod or guide rails are really gummed up
(to the point where it looks as if there is a wad of Juicy Fruit in there), your guide
spring is too weak or your chamber design is bad. Either way, modern
semi-automatic pistols should never have this happen. A gunsmith (or you) may
be able to diagnose the problem and fix it, but a gun that gets a Type-4 is not a
reliable gun!(edit* The gun can be perfectly reliable and still have a Type 4
Malfunction. A good cleaning may fix the problem or your recoil spring is
weakened and needs to be replaced. Optionally, as stated, take the firearm to a
Point-shooting is a very controversial issue. What this is actually describing is
the ability for a shooter to be able to shoot a target without aiming with the
Method 5 of 14: Point Shooting and Flash Sighting
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While point-shooting sounds like a great idea (to be able to naturally point at
a target), it is (for 99% of people) a VERY bad idea. Past three or four yards, it
may be impossible to get reliable hits on the center-mass of a target. And remember, the
old adage, "Think of the worst day at the range; you will be twice as bad as that in the
middle of a gun fight!"
The other option is called "flash sighting". This is done by pulling the gun up to
the standard shooting position, focusing hard on the front of the gun and when the
front post (sight) is somewhere in between the rear sights, the weapon is fired! It doesn't
matter where; at three to seven yards even the worst flash sighting usually gets
Studies in police departments which train with flash sighting against
departments who teach point-shooting have shown staggering results. The
flash sighting police hit their targets four times as often as those who point-shoot.
Average first shot times were less than one-tenth of a second slower (for those who
Most people can use that one-tenth of a second to get that guaranteed hit
instead of just putting a bunch of holes in the walls behind the bad guy. Flash
sighting is something that needs to be rigorously trained for, otherwise, the shooter may
return to point-shooting.
Ultimately the "point of the gun" (mentioned in choosing a good sidearm) is
still important as it will decrease the amount of time required to flash sight,
but since the sights are still being used, it is less important.
Without training, knowledge is useless. You may read this, and even
understand the processes of the tactical training, but without actually executing
the procedures, it is nearly useless. In a gunfight you will not use anything you
have not ingrained into your long-term and muscle memory. For the sake of
keeping your options open if you are ever involved in a gun fight, you should
practice all the drills listed below, find other drills, or create your own. This will
give you more techniques to have in your bag of tricks.
Position yourself about 7-yards (the distance the FBI determined a man
could move in a second and a half about the time it takes to draw a pistol
and fire) away from a large (10+ inch) target. In a lowered gun stance (ready
position), pull your gun up, as quickly as possible, to firing position and focus hard on the
front sight of your gun, wait until you see a bit of the front sight between the rear sights
and pull the trigger (this is the flash sighting technique). You should be able to land a hit
in the 10-inch target every time. If you are missing, try going a little slower. The key is to
Method 6 of 14: Train Yourself
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practice procedure, and the speed will eventually improve naturally.
The next stage is to put bursts into the target. Take a few steps back (go for 10
yards). Do the same routine as before, but this time, put two or three shots quickly
into your target, between each shot, get the flash sight again. Once you are able to get
to firing position and put three quick shots into your 10+ inch target consistently in under
a second-and-a-half, you can move on.
Practice with multiple targets. You want to start by setting up three or more
targets a yard or two apart. Quickly, go to the firing position and go down the line.
One shot at each target. Change it up: maybe try in a different order; have a friend tell
you which one to shoot ("one!", "three!", etc.), but the key thing to be sure of is that you
hit your target; once you are sure you can hit your target every time, try to accelerate
your pace. At first when you fire, move the gun with the recoil. As soon as the recoil is
completed you should be on the next target already. As you get faster you can force the
gun into position and be ready before the recoil is complete.
Practice while moving. While moving, you should still be able to hit targets at 10
yards. Set up three or more targets a few yards apart from each other. Start about
15-18 yards back. Run up to about 10 yards from your first target while drawing your gun
into the firing position. Fire a two-round burst, side-step to engage the next target, and
so on. Each time you run the course, try to do it faster. Try to pause as little as possible
when shooting (even while moving you should be able to get a flash sight), the longer
you pause the more accurate you will be, but in a gun fight, the clock is always ticking
quicker than at the range.
Integrate the Mozambique Drill. If a friend is calling out target numbers, and they
call the number of a target you have already shot, this time you go for a head shot.
This is also known as "failure to stop" practice. The idea is you have shot the target, but
he isn't impressed (i.e., he is on drugs, is wearing body armor, or is just plain
determined) and keeps coming, so you have to take a head shot. Read Human Targets
below for more information.
Read the notice about bullet consideration below for more information.
Bullet placement is much more important than the bullet itself. There are two
critical areas of a human which contain major organs and vital systems which, if
shot, can stop a man in his tracks or kill him.
The thoracic cavity is the "center of mass" in a human. This area contains the
heart, major veins and arteries, the trachea, bronchi and lungs, the esophagus,
Method 7 of 14: Human Targets
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and structures of the nervous system including the paired vagus nerves. To imagine the
area that this encompasses, it starts above the diaphragm (just below the sternum) and
makes (from a frontal view) a dome shape up to the first lateral rib. This is a pretty large
target area. A shot in one area of the thoracic cavity is little different from any other,
unless you hit the heart.
The problem with shots in the thoracic cavity is that a determined fighter or a
man on drugs will be less than impressed with anything you throw at him in this
area. Even if you destroy a person's heart they still have 20 to 30 seconds of full
cognitive and physical ability with which they could severely hurt or even kill
you. Additionally, the heart is a very small target and completely destroying the
heart with one bullet is nearly impossible, which means that they will likely have
even more time before their eventual fate is achieved. For all these reasons,
many have adopted the self-defense rule: "shoot until the threat ends." (Or as
stated in The Rules of Combat: "When in doubt, empty the magazine.") But you
must determine for yourself what your protocol will be.
Body armor is also a factor. Just hitting a man in the chest (unless you hit him in
the exact same place every time) is just going to deplete your magazine. (Your
chest delivered bullet thump MAY induce a fibrillation, resulting in death, but it
has to be timed perfectly with your target's heart beat. Not an advisable
procedure. Nor is it reliable.)
Bullet penetration is very much a key factor in bullet selection. This penetration
does a few things for you. At less than optimal angles, the bullet will still reach
vitals, and it will give your bullet a chance to possibly hit the spine, which
(depending on where it lands) can either incapacitate completely, or at least
paralyze enough of the body, so you may be able to get away. An important
factor to note is that while bullet penetration can be to your advantage, rounds
with a high degree of penetration (e.g., the FN 5.7x28 round) can exit the target.
When firing with rounds like these, beware of accidentally hitting people or
objects behind your assailant. Position yourself to your advantage, and wait for
a clear shot. Once it leaves the barrel, the bullet will hit something, and you
can't call it back!
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The second major area is the cranial cavity. This area is much simpler; it
contains the brain and upper spine.
While the brain is an obvious target, there are still some considerations in shot
placement. The front of the cranium (above the eyebrows) is one of the hardest
bones in the body, it is also not a flat target (angled toward the top of the head,
and toward the sides). There have been instances where bullets have
ricocheted off a person's forehead.
Incidentally, just below this bone (below the eyebrows), down to the top of the
upper-jaw is a very soft area with nose cartilage, sinus cavities, and eye holes,
which leads directly to the lower brain, the medulla oblongata, and the upper
spine. The brain is the largest target, and a bullet in there will mean "lights out,"
but flinching and minor movements are also possible when the brain is shot.
The medulla oblongata and the upper spine initiate those flinching signals that
are sent to the body. A bullet through either one of those, should ensure that
there is no way the body might accidentally pull a trigger or move in some other
potentially detrimental way.
In a situation which requires the immediate and unquestioned incapacitation of
a person, a shot through an approximately 3-inch (above the upper-jaw to
eyebrows) by 5-inch (the outside edges of the eyes) window in the head is
essential. This 3x5-inch area is about the same no matter what angle the
person is facing you (from the rear and the sides it is about the same size and
about the same level on the head).
For practice, replacing the circular chest target with a dome-shaped
11x7-inch target and the head with a 3x5-inch target will get you a more
realistic targeting area. When scoring (to compare your improvements), or competing,
a shot breaking the line of either cavity is good. The size of the grouping should matter
less than getting the hits in quickly; and when shooting at the cranial cavity, only a
guaranteed shot should be taken (you should always take more time for a cranial shot
than a thoracic shot). But keep in mind, "Remember your worst day at the range; you will
be twice as bad when you are in a gun fight." So, a hand-sized grouping in the thoracic
region is optimal, as a general rule.
Learn how to quick-draw effectively. Most gun fights are very unexpected,
and thus the quick-draw is a skill which should be perfected. Here is the
technique to draw. There are five steps and each one has a very deliberate
purpose. More detailed instructions regarding the quick-draw are available in
the Do a Tactical Quickdraw With a Pistol article. Unless you are at the range,
and are able to shoot a target (while following all range rules) this practice
should be done with an unloaded weapon. If you are able to shoot a target
after you draw, this could be good practice. Try timing yourself from your draw
to the first good hit on target.
Position 1: Pull your support hand in close to your body (touching your stomach is
a great place). Your firing hand moves up above your pistol grip and back down on
it to get a good firing grip on the gun (while in the holster). Release any retention system
you may have.
Method 8 of 14: Quick-draw
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Position 2: Pull the pistol straight up (for passive-retention holsters, a straight, firm
jerk is required), a couple inches from the holster. Notice the finger is OFF the
trigger. DO NOT put your finger on the trigger until the barrel is parallel to the floor.
Position 3: Rotate your wrist and lower your elbow. This gets the pistol pointed
down range at your target. Disengage any safety you have. From this position you
are able to shoot a very close target (0-2 yards), or threatening to shoot, while keeping
your weapon away from your assailant's reach.
Position 4: Move your gun straight toward the target (sights level). When the gun
passes your stomach, move your support hand toward the gun and in front of your
firing hand in order to acquire a good firing grip.
Position 5: Complete the motion and extend your firing arm to a good firing
position. Keep your support elbow low (straight down is best).
Once in the firing position, you should be pulling back with your support
hand, while pushing forward with your firing hand. This creates "isometric
pressure" which controls the muzzle flip and felt recoil of the gun.
Re-holstering should be done in the exact opposite order. Pull back to close
contact position 3, place your hand on your stomach, safety on, rotate your wrist
and raise your elbow, push gun straight down into the holster, and secure it. As
mentioned before, a tactical reload before you re-holster is an excellent choice and habit
to get into (read above to find out how to do a tactical reload).
Once you have practiced drawing (to learn to do it right, start slowly!), about
500 to 1000 times (no joke that is about how long it takes for the process to
become a procedural muscle memory), you will find you can draw extremely fast. Start
practicing drawing and shooting a target (if you have access to a range).
Many indoor gun ranges won't let you practice any rapid fire drills, so you may
need to go somewhere else to practice this. There are two main groups of
weapons, and trigger manipulation is different for each.
Glock and other Constant Double Action (DAO) pistols (such as QA Walthers,
LEM, and DKA triggers) have a trigger which has a reset-point after the gun
has been fired. Fire a round at your target; now, slowly release the trigger until you hear
a click, and resistance on the trigger is lessened. At this point you can pull the trigger
Method 9 of 14: Rapid Fire
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again. This not only allows you to be more accurate while doing single-shots (due to the
shorter trigger pull), but when you get your finger used to the motion, it is the best way to
shoot the gun quickly.
Most other pistols (single-actionSA, double-actionDA, double/single-
actionDA/SA) are a bit more standard. You have to release the trigger
completely before it can be pulled again. SA and DA/SA will be easiest for this drill, as
they will have lighter trigger pulls than their DA (or DAO) counterparts.
After you develop a good trigger-pull skill, the next thing to practice (at close
range 4-8 yards), is shooting the gun as fast as possible. The faster you can
pull the trigger, the more options it leaves for you.
Gun works like this: bullet is fired, slide racks back, shell gets ejected. As the
slide moves forward, the rest of the gun (frame, barrel, etc.) rises (this is called
muzzle flip), as soon as the slide is back in battery (full-forward), the gun can fire again.
But, the gun is ready to fire before it has gone back to its resting position in your hands.
If you pull the trigger before the gun is at rest in your hands, you will shoot
higher than the first bullet. If you wait too long, the gun will actually bounce
below the original position, and firing during that stage will cause the bullet to land low.
You can either wait a bit longer (but that removes the word "rapid" from this drill), or, you
can time the firing to when the gun is falling past the rest position.
You can also increase the cycle speed of the gun in your hands by getting a
tighter/firmer grip on the gun (this will be too firm for accurate single-shot
shooting). If you do this, timing is more important, but it allows you to shoot
Note that each gun, and each caliber, will have totally different cycle times.
Therefore, practice with a few handguns, to round out your skills. If you get the
timing wrong, you will find that hitting a target consistently, even at 5 yards, can
If your bullets are hitting high after the first shot, try shooting a bit more slowly.
Or, try tightening your grip on the gun. If you are shooting low, either shoot
faster or loosen your grip on the gun.
With some practice, you will find you can do 10-12 inch groupings at 7 yards.
Once you are able to do that, or get close to that, you can add other drills: that is,
setup two or more targets. Fire four or five rounds at one target, then turn to the next
target and so on. This combines one of the earlier-mentioned shooting drills and the
rapid fire drill.
Practicing firing while prone, kneeling and while behind cover is common
Method 10 of 14: Firing Positions and Cover and Concealment
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sense. In a gun fight, you may not be standing the whole time. Crouching is
extremely important as the cover you may choose may not be your height.
Prone: You need to practice lying on the ground. You will find that lining up your
sights will be quite different and rapid fire becomes difficult to control. Your stance
on the ground should be such: lie on your stomach. Then roll slightly to the firing side.
Place your support knee and elbow down on the ground. You will be a bit sideways, but
your firing arm will be completely flush with the ground with your head resting on it
looking down the sights. This allows burden-free breathing and a very stable platform.
Crouching: This can give you a very stable platform for shooting accurately. Put
your firing leg behind you and essentially sit down on the heel of your foot. Your
firing-side knee and your toe will be on the ground. Rest your support elbow on your
support knee. You are in a tripod position (support foot, firing toe and firing knee), and
you are in an arrangement where you can move quickly (practice moving periodically to
and from the crouching position).
Cover and Concealment: Hiding behind cover in a gun fight seems like a smart
idea, but don't think you are invincible behind most materials. There is a big
difference between "cover" and "concealment." Objects like car doors and walls may
only serve to keep you hidden from your opponent's view (concealment), but in most
cases bullets can punch through these objects. It is better to look for something that can
stop bullets, as well as hide your whereabouts (cover). An engine block will completely
stop most types of bullets. Shooting from behind cover should be done while exposing
as little of your body as possible. If the cover allows it, do not expose your body from the
same side constantly. Variety is not only the spice of life, it can sometimes save it, by
making you unpredictable in a gun fight.
There are other drills you can use to hone your skills. It has been said that in
an intense situation you will not do anything you have not practiced. The
following drills are non-standard, and will give you more options during a gun
fight, or other stressful situation.
This drill can be added prior to any other drill. It is designed to get your heart
rate up, and maybe some adrenaline going, which will give you a mild tunnel-vision
effect. Before you do a drill, with your firearm securely holstered, do 20 or more push
ups. Go until you have a bit of a burn and you are getting out of breath. Jump up and do
your drill as soon after as possible. You will find that accurate aiming is much more
difficult, though general flash sight aiming shouldn't be too much different; this is why it is
so important to get familiar with this action.
Most semi-automatic pistols will not fire if the slide on the gun is not in
battery (full-forward) position. This becomes a problem if your pistol is resting
against something, or the front of the gun is pressed into something soft. A simple drill to
keep the bad guy off your gun in a close quarter situation, is to put your support arm
Method 11 of 14: Other Drills
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3straight in front of your chest, bent at a 90-degree angle. This keeps the bad guy off you,
while your firing arm is lowered near your hip. Practice with a tall target that you can lean
your arm up against and fire into. (Make sure the target is soft, so the bullets don't
ricochet, and it doesn't splinter make sure you shoot straight forward, so you don't hit
your arm.) A couple times is all you need with this drill, just to give you the feel.
Charging a bad guy seems like a stupid idea in most cases, but if the bad
guy is reloading, or otherwise distracted, it can be of great benefit (you may
be able to catch him by surprise or disarm him). Have a center-chest-sized target
(10+ inches) set up 15-20 yards away. Start your sprint at it, and when you feel you are
close enough to hit the target while moving, slow down to a crouched walk with your
knees slightly bent (to keep your upper body smooth) and shoot the target.
Add different things while running: have a friend tell you when to start shooting
(at random times). Or start running at the same time a friend starts reloading.
Have the friend yell when he is done to let you know to start shooting. It can
become a reloading vs. sprinting contest. (This will also give you an idea of how
long a reload takes if you need to rush someone.)
If your location allows, stand 15-20 yards away from your target. Have another
person stand well off to the side pointing at a different target. The person
standing to the side will have one round in the chamber and an empty
magazine, with a loaded magazine within easy access (e.g., a magazine
pouch). You should have your gun out and at the ready. The other person will
fire; you start running at your target. When you are close enough to get good
hits, you shoot; if the other person is able to reload and fire at his target before
you shoot, he wins. It is best (for safety reasons) for the other person to be
aimed and shooting at a target which is in a different direction than yours, so at
no time will one person be in front of someone else's muzzle.
Additionally, you can try reloading while running at the target, then shoot the
target when you are done (this is the most advanced version of this drill).
First of all, knock-down power in a pistol caliber is a complete myth if not a
farce. Information can be found on the Internet, indicating that "here are twenty
accounts of X caliber bullet getting a one-shot knock down." The question is, how many
shootings were waded through or disregarded to get these accounts? There are
documented instances where a man shot with a .22LR in a non-vital area fell down and
Newton's third law of motion says, "for every action there is an equal and
opposite reaction," meaning that if the bullet had enough force to
knockdown your target, firing the bullet would have enough force to knock you
down. If you don't believe this, do some research on the Internet, since there are many
people doing objective testing of knockdown power.
All of this is to say, one bullet is not guaranteed to knock a person down better
Method 12 of 14: Notice About Bullet Consideration
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3 than another; it is more a matter of whom you are shooting, where you areshooting them, and whether or not this person has it in their mind that theyshould fall down when shot. Shot placement is much more important than the bullet
size or energy. On the other side, the correct bullet choice may give you the edge, which
is needed for you to survive the fight.
Bullet choice should be a major consideration while carrying or for home
defense. As with calibers, there is no perfect bullet type. There are some that
are better than others, but everything has its trade offs.
Feeding Above all, the first consideration should be, "Does this bullet feed
reliably in my chosen firearm?" Some firearms "prefer" a certain shape or length.
That being said, quality sidearms will generally feed almost everything well. Just test
everything out before the worst-case scenario happens.
Jacketed hollow-point (JHP) bullets are almost universally considered the
best choice for defense ammunition. Other expanding designs such as Federal
EFMJ and Cor-Bon DPX are also considered effective. It has been proven that JHP and
other expanding rounds at handgun velocity are unreliable (at best); and more to the
point, that 50% of the time, subsonic rounds are less likely to expand properly in a
target. Another controversy with hollow-point rounds is that when the round expands, it
creates a larger permanent and temporary cavity, but because of the faster energy
transfer, it reduces the penetration depth.
Solid FMJ bullets do not have the problem of losing their energy as quick
and are known for penetrating through barriers and still piercing deep
enough into flesh to arrive at vital organs. The permanent cavity is reduced in size
(compared to JHPs), but this again proves that there are trade offs to every bullet.
Federal Hydra-shok is a bullet which looks like a standard JHP from many
angles, but inside the front cavity there is a "spear." This allows the bullet to
open up and still penetrate through some things. When it was first created, this
design led the industry, but now, most will say that improved standard JHP
designs have since caught up.
Reverse-tapered hollow point is a unique kind of bullet. The hole in the bullet
increases in diameter as it descends through the bullet. The design allows for
some penetration through hard objects without opening. When the bullet does
open, it expands into separate sections which are held together by the
Soft-tip JHP is a very vague description for any type of JHP which has a filling in
the hole (it may be polymer or other hard material). This allows the bullet to
pierce some objects or to travel through soft material (such as clothes or flesh)
for a short distance before opening up, which allows for deeper penetration.
There are alternate names for such bullets, like ballistic-tip or V-Max. This is
arguably the most versatile bullet. It will easily penetrate heavy clothing while
retaining its ability to expand in a soft target.
Method 13 of 14: Choose a Type of Bullet
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Bullet weight is another thing to consider. In general, lighter bullets have higher
velocities than heavier ones, so over shorter distances (less than 100 yards) lighter
bullets have flatter trajectories. The problem with light bullets is that against soft targets
they lose their energy with less resistance than heavier bullets. It has been proven that
extremely light bullets can even be stopped by very heavy clothing. A general rule is
during the summer, any bullet will work, but light is nice for ballistic reasons; during the
winter, when people are wearing heavy clothes, greater mass bullets are superior.
An example of a light 9mm bullet would be 100 grains. And a heavy bullet would
be 147 grains (though 124/125 gr. is more common).
A light .40 would be 135 grains, and a heavy .40 would be 180 grains.
A light .45 would be 165 grains, whereas a 230 grain would likely be better for
almost any purpose in a .45; even heavier bullets such as the 250 grain are also
Powder loads can change a bullet's ballistics and the gun's feel. Standard
loads are always recommended for most guns, but some guns, such as Glock and
Heckler & Koch (H&K), specify the ability to fire hot loads. Most H&K pistols come with a
dual-stage recoil spring which helps with felt recoil as well as recoil shock to internal
components. This allows H&K to shoot +P (a hot powder load) and +P+ (a very hot
powder load) without a problem. Other guns may need a spring replacement or other
changes. The hotter loads allow for more muzzle energy and velocity as well as better
reliability since the slide will be racked harder with the extra energy (less chance of
limp-wristing or stovepipes).
Practicing with the ammunition you intend to use for self defense can get
expensive. You should fire many of your "specialty" rounds to make sure the
firearm cycles reliably with them. Some pistols are picky about certain JHP bullet
shapes. For general practice you can use FMJ to keep it cheap, but consider using the
same weight (in grains) bullets and, if possible, the same load (Standard, +P, etc.)
because rapid-fire cycles can change drastically with different weights and loads.
Some pistol accessories can benefit you but hurt the performance of your
sidearm at the same time. The following are a few common modifications with
both pros and cons.
Night sights are a welcome addition to any conceal carry or duty weapon. It
allows the user to sight up targets in low- or no-light situations. The problem with
any night sight occurs when used around dusk, or in the pre-dawn, early morning time,
when there is not enough light to adequately illuminate the white rings, and it is too
bright to see the tritium. Under those conditions, the sights are very difficult to accurately
line up. But when it's darker (when most shootings take place) the night sights are very
visible and useful.
Tactical, attached lights not only allow one to light up whole rooms, but they can
Method 14 of 14: Pistol Accessories
16 of 19 4/22/2014 12:01 PM
also inflict temporary blindness on the bad guys if used on them. The
problem is that they add weight to the gun, and can possibly throw it off balance. It
makes the weapon bulkier and harder to conceal also.
A very serious problem with attached lights is that it requires the user to aim the
gun at the bad guy in order to see him, which from a legal standpoint "assaults"
him, and gives the bad guy the legal right to shoot YOU! This problem can be
completely avoided by using a separate, hand-held tactical light, which can do
most of what an attached light can do, although it will make two-handed
shooting much more difficult if not impossible.
Also, some argue that attached lights give the bad guy a nice easy target to aim
at (but honestly, just try looking at the light for a few seconds they may know
in what direction to shoot, but they won't see what they are shooting at).
Buying a cheap light will almost guarantee it breaking after a short while. For a
duty or concealed weapon, this can be omitted, but for home defense use, it
may be a very good thing to have so that the target is always identified before
taking irreversible action.
Trigger work is another tempting modification that many people do to their
pistols, often lightening the trigger pull, or shortening the length of the pull.
This is great for target shooting or match shooting, but a trigger pull that is less than
three pounds can quickly become unsafe if the gun is carried a great deal or often. It can
also help substantially with quick follow-up shots, making them more accurate. This is a
change that should only be made to the gun if the trigger pull is exceptionally heavy or
Rubber slip-on grips can make a sidearm more comfortable. This is often a
good thing, and for people with very large hands, it is a must to allow for a solid fit
on the grip. The grips have problems though. They can occasionally move, and this can
affect accuracy and require constant adjustment. Most tactical-style handguns have
groves and hatches in the grip to allow a firm grip even with sweaty palms; and
sometimes, the rubber makes the gun a bit slippery when wet. Additional maintenance is
also required, as sweat and dirt will build up under the grip, which then requires the
rubber to be taken off and the gun's grip and rubber cleaned thoroughly. With large
hands, or for a gun which has a very uncomfortable grip, try using rubber grips.
One philosophy of thought is that one should never expend one's entire
magazine and should perform a "tactical reload" before the magazine is
empty. But this is often impractical to be constantly counting the
number of rounds in the gun (especially during a gun fight), then reload
before your magazine is empty. Practicing both tactical and emergency
reloads will allow the shooter to prepare for any situation that presents
While training for tactical readiness or for self defense, most practice
should be quick draw and flash sighting rather than slower-paced sight-
shooting. Distances should be 15 yards or less (any farther, and flash
sight shooting becomes inconsistent or unreliable).
17 of 19 4/22/2014 12:01 PM
Rapid fire isn't everything. "Controlled speed-firing" is the correct term.
Unless you are within an arm's reach of your target, you must be able
to balance speed and accuracy.
Getting good with controlled speed-firing, and using trial and error with
timing and grip, are essential. This is one of those drills that is best
accomplished by repeated practice.
Obviously, the more you practice, the better you will get.
The correct pistol is the one that works perfectly for you. Even if other
people may not like it, the best pistol you can use is your pistol.
Safety first! Firearms can be very dangerous. Only use a pistol or other
firearm if you are an experienced shooter or have a very experienced
shooter directly supervising you.
Pistols are rarely the best weapon of choice for combat situations.
Rifles and shotguns do much more damage than pistols. Pistols are
best for targets at 1-10 yards, shotguns are best for targets at 2-50
yards, and rifles are best for targets at 4-1000 yards.
Be sure to know what is down range. Bullets can travel for miles or can
bounce and ricochet into unintended directions. Be aware of your
A pistol can inflict serious injury or even death. Be sure to always point
the pistol in a safe direction and never point it at anything or anybody
you do not intend to shoot.
All practicing should be done at the shooting range while obeying all
safety rules, or in a legal and private location with an unloaded gun.
(An alternative to the unloaded gun would be to use snap-caps instead
of live rounds.)
Any firearm should only be shot in a safe and legal location. Be aware
of state and local laws regarding the use and transportation of a firearm
and follow those regulations carefully. Laws differ drastically between
states and in some states, can even change between counties or cities.
A safe place to shoot, where you can have some freedom (shootingranges are Okay, but in a real fight, you and your target are not goingto be standing still directly in front of each other -- unless youtime-transport back to the Old West).
Plenty of time to practice. These skills will not always come easily, orat all.
Things You'll Need
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A few hundred rounds for every practice session. (Even if you do notuse all of your ammunition, your excuse for not being up-to-snuff withyour sidearm should not be because you got cheap when you boughtammunition).
Lots of targets (our practice area includes old washing machines andironing boards with shoot-n-see adhesive targets on them). Getcreative, but make sure you choose safe targets and good backstopsfor your targets. Different sized targets are good also. We useanywhere from 3-inch to 14-inch targets at varying distances.
A holster is also a good thing to practice with. The holster you practicewith should be the one you wear. So if you are planning to concealcarry, practice with a concealable holster.
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Categories: Handguns Pistols and Revolvers
Recent edits by: Sachin, PE_rjemarquez, Alljenknows
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Espaol: Cmo prepararse para el combate (preparacin tctica) con pistola
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