The Timing of the Gunfight

Because we live busy lives we often take shortcuts when developing our training plan. My suggestion is that we think long and hard about what, why and how we are to train and then training it in the most efficient way. Train for the gunfight you will probably have and incorporate that training to work for all the rest of the gunfights (long distance, grappling, the one that lasts for minutes instead of seconds.)

An interesting fact of good gunfight data is that they usually last for seconds and most people don’t die from bullet wounds. Taking these two facts together should make us think something is amiss when thinking about how gunfights end.

They usually end when the people involved run away. Many non-gun people advocate running away from gunmen. That sometimes works. However, a sexually motivated bad guy sometimes chase their victim. Robbers often get mad and shoot at the running victim. Running away doesn’t leave your survival to chance, it leaves it to the whims of the bad guy. I don’t like that. I want to leave it up to me while minimizing the effects of the bad guy’s action.

Most self-defense shootings become a middle ground of tactics no matter how we train. If I shoot the bad guy a few times in the chest they usually do something other than continue to shoot. They often fall (but they also often get back up a few seconds later) and they often run away, sometimes while continuing to shoot behind them. Either way shooting and hitting the bad guy will allow you to continue to move away from them without being shot at. Thus getting away without leaving it to chance. But what if they don’t just runaway?

Another way to end the fight is to shoot the bad guy in the head. Even if the bad guy does live they usually don’t shoot anymore and they usually don’t even run away. But shooting the bad guy in the head is harder because it is a smaller target. It is often suggested to shoot the bad guy in the torso and then go to the head. This almost acts like an insurance policy. Ensure the hit but then end the fight with a slower hit.

The reason I bring this topic up is that we must incorporate finishing the fight into our plans. Because bullets are not magic death rays we need a plan. That side step that so many instructors teach is fantastic because It works to get off-line of any attack. Because not every fight is a gunfight we need to get out of the way from a punch or kick just as well as a bullet.  In a less than lethal force situation that side step allows you to sprint out of there or gain enough distance to use other force such as punching, kicking or pepper spray. Sometimes it’s better to run away from the bad guy depending on the situation.

That side step is just the first step of many. If you are new to shooting and need a steady platform to make your hits you might take a side step, shoot to the body and side step again then shoot to the head (if it’s still necessary at that time). Again you should do this while training to move dynamically. It might take time to learn this but not that long if you practice. These are literally baby steps and you can and should change your tactics as you get better at shooting and moving.

I train for the side step with full presentation and shooting from retention. Outside, I train for moving behind cover (usually a parked car) then shooting. I also train for moving offline with a side step and rotate, then shooting while moving backwards (Usually between cars or in the driveway of my home.) Yes you might fall. You will need to train to shoot people from odd positions such as while being on your butt, back or side.

As an aside you might not have noticed but parking lots usually only have cars and curbs around the outside of them. No more(less) parking blocks. You can thank the lawyers for that. If you choose your first side step you can usually just keep going in that direction without encountering things that make you trip. In a parking lot that first step is parallel to traffic or between cars.

My idea of moving backwards was to find the middle ground between keeping or gaining distance on the bad guy while placing the most hits on the bad guy. While moving backwards in a controlled way I was not only able to shoot but also able to plant a foot and move sideways again (in case of a non-lethal fight or passing cover).

Others have asked me why not just plant my feet and shoot? My answer is this, I might not get hit by bullets if I just run away at full speed and while the fight will be over quickly if I just plant my feet and shoot them, that is if everything goes as planned. What if the bad guy just shoots me while I run? What if I miss that head shot? What if that head shot misses because through no fault of my own the person moved just before the shot breaks? This allows for the non-lethal fight and changing directions and if the fight lasts longer than I planned I still gain the distance.

In a gunfight the farther from the bad guy the better and the sooner it is over the better. They don’t shoot all that accurately to begin with and getting 7-15 yards on them increases my chances of not being shot at all while at the same time continuing to shoot them accurately. It’s an insurance policy for mistakes or being human or just weird things happening.

The reason I stopped dynamically running and shooting was because of that same balance between gaining distance but still needing to hit the body. I trained to hit the bad guy one-handed while running full-out. No matter how fast I run I needed to slow down the shooting when compared to controlled movement with two-handed shooting. Again, I’m not just trying to hit the body in training. For reasons stated in earlier posts accuracy in training is important due to the lessening of accuracy in a real shooting. I could not gain that accuracy without either slowing way down my feet or my shooting.

Gaining distance is good but so is putting bullets in the bad guy. At any time I can turn and sprint away from the bad guy. When I looked at and did the dynamics in force on force ending the fight quickly trumped running away at full speed. Remember force on force is a good laboratory but we have to look at the results with an eye to what force on force doesn’t do. Don’t mistake it for combat because it is nowhere near it. I control my shooting. The only way to control the bad guy’s bullets is to stop them from coming at me by ending him/her.

I’m not saying you have to do what I do. I’m just giving an example of what I do and why. But I would humbly suggest learning to move and finishing the gunfight is very important. Move in some way and have a plan for finishing the fight. You will have to find the balance between gaining distance, shooting accurately (one or two-handed becomes how many shots to the chest or head per second) and what will end the fight that you can control and minimizing what the bad guy can control. Choose wisely, get training if needed and then efficiently practice, practice, practice.


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