I will be the first to admit ––– no, to proclaim ––– that those who qualify amongst their fellow competitors as “champion” and as “master” so-called combat shooters because of their record of contest wins and of excellent match shooting performances can readily shoot with greater accuracy and speed, at distances beyond which I don’t even bother with, than I would likely to be able to duplicate.  Some of these impressive shooters have a brilliant quick draw, and can place their rounds inside a group that boggles the mind –––– all on a sunny day, at the range, when the “enemy” is a cardboard cutout or a color picture of a bad guy, and they are fully prepared to be shooting at that time and on that day, using their pet firearm (often race-tuned), pet holster rig, and have looked forward to and prepared specifically for this recreational outing.

But let’s for a mement consider another situation. I’ll call it a real world deadly predicament. You are returning from work. It is evening. You have a headache and can’t wait to get home, change into something comfortable, have dinner, and relax. Or perhaps you are on your way to work, trying to remember which matter must be handled before noon today, and rushing to get to the subway (or to your car). Maybe you are out with your wife or child, perhaps shopping; you are having a pleasant discussion and both of you are relaxed and totally immersed in the feeling of a pleasant few hours together. You can substitute any of a couple of dozen possible normal, everyday, usual life scenarios. Let’s also assume that (if you are outside) you are carrying a licensed handgun. If you are at home there is a loaded handgun on a nightstand which you can get to within about ten to fifteen seconds.

Suddenly you are confronted by one or more felons. They seem to come out of nowhere. Perhaps from behind parked vehicles. Possibly from an alleyway or hallway. Maybe they’ve been  following you and you simply didn’t notice them. Or maybe they smash a window in your home, or break the door open and enter as forcibly and suddenly as that. Possibly a car oulls up beside you at the curb and one or two violent scumbags exist and jump you (qualifying, as they feel they must, for entry into some gang of sh-tbags.

Even with that medal which you wear to the range so proudly that declares you a “Combat Master” you are shocked, utterly astonished, and taken by surprise. (This applies whether you are an unarmed or armed individual, by the way. Even if you have experienced a similar attack in the past, the present one ––– guaranteed ––– will rattle you for at the very least, a moment!

A real world attack hits like an assassination attempt. You may be prepared in general for violence, because you do train in combative skills, and you do go armed with a handgun you know how to use. But every situation for real hits like a surprise sucker punch, and there is not merely a gap between the second it occurs and when you transition to a war-footing and deal with it, there is a huge difference between that which you experience and must cope with at the range (or in the gym) and that which now threatens your life directly.

The calm, cool precision with which you so excellently and efficiently dispatch cardboard targets will be compromised. You are now in real, serious, perhaps lethal danger. Your enemies now have not only the will and the weaponry (and likely the ability and prior experience necessary) to kill you very dead, They also have the advantage of being the initiators of violence. They are all ready, They have planned this. They know what they’re going to do (or try to do), and you are the reactor when split seconds matter!

Shooting for real, in violent combat when danger explodes from an unanticipated quarter is not the same as shooting for fun, for practice, or for competition.

If you think that an hour at the shooting range or an afternoon with buddies participating in a shooting match approximates the real thing, then you are dangerously mistaken. 

Yes, most definitely, firearms and training in their combat use  must be a part of your urban survival preparation . . . but if you fall for the commercial line that some very popular “shooting experts” and “shooting schools” strive to convince you of: i.e. that you will be ready and honed to a razor’s edge for the real thing by being a competitive shooter, you may one day die to regret it!

How well I remember an incident that occurred back in the early 90’s. One of my students, a most serious and excellent student, who had relocated a year earlier to another state and was unable to continue training with me, had come in for a visit during a trip to see his family here in Seattle. He had left as a purple belt, and had not taken any combat handgun training from me . . . only unarmed stuff. While away and in his new location he explained that he had taken two one-week long courses at a very popular “name” shooting school. He had fired thousands of rounds, he said. He qualified as a combat expert with the handgun when tested at the school, and he felt that the program had readied him quite sufficiently for handling a lethal encounter with an armed felon. The trainng he had received was in what is known as the “new technique of the pistol”. It emphasized always using the handgun’s sights, and always using a shooting position popularly known as the “Weaver stance”. (The Weaver stance was employed by a Sheriff Jack Weaver in competition shooting, where and when the system my student had trained in was formulated. In reality, the same shooting position was demonstrated decades earlier by a famous shooting authority and author of the book Shooting, named Fitzgerald. Correctly, Fitzgerald emphasized the stance only when distances permitted use-of-the-sights to be employed). What my student was not taught was anything about the dynamics of real deadly armed combat, what happens to one’s mind and body, and the correct technique for shooting in such emergency situations. The method is called “point shooting” and has been fully described and explained in detail in the Classic text Kill Or Get Killed, by the late Col. Rex Applegate. If you want to be able to handle a pistol in close combat get a copy of that book and study the sections on combat shooting intensively and assiduously. They are as correct, current, and valuable as they were when first penned as a classified document under the heading of “Handgun Offense” during WWII.

If you want more references that will expound upon the subject, purchase the following books:

a) QUICK OR DEAD, by William Cassidy

b) SHOOTING TO LIVE, by William Fairbairn


ENCOUNTERS, by Calibre Press

Although many who don’t know any better swear that point shooting is not as effective as deliberate use-of-the-sights competition shooting for serious combat, these people are wrong. Avail yourself of what works and what has been proven to work ––– not in match events, but in real combat!

What is ignored by many today is that about 97% of actual encounters in which a handgun will be employed in personal defense occur at distances not exceeding five to about 20 feet. More than 50%, according to FBI studies, occur at a distance of five feet or less!

And while use of the sights is dealt with by point shooting teachers and courses . . . that kind of sighted firing occurs rarely, and how it’s done is easy to learn.

Back to my visiting student:

I had to show him what works and why, because I have a responsibility to teach the correct methods to anyone who is my student and whose attitude is respectful, and who is teachable.

I had my student take his unloaded weapon in hand. This already gave him a great advantage which reality would likely never afford him, since he wore it in a holster––– concealed.

I took a combat knife from the rack on the wall. I walked to the other side of the training room (about 18 feet). “When I attack you, you go to your Weaver stance and snap off a couple of shots,” I told him. He nodded.

I stood for a quiet few moments at the other end of the room. He stood facing me, weapon in hand and at his side . . . aware that an attack was imminent (something else that was an advantage not likely to be had in the street).

Suddenly I grimaced, shouted hatefully “You damn motherf—-er, I’m gonna kill your ass!” and charged at him as an attacker would, knife preeminent in my hand. The result was dranatic.

My student froze for a moment as if to remember what to do, then he jerked the pistol up to eye level and as he brought his support hand in place to aim, I was beside him. I stabbed in the direction of the wall. “Gotcha!” I smiled.

The point was made (no pun intended). I gave my student a couple of free hours of training to insure that he understood and could develop the point shooting method, before he left. Prior to his departure I pulled couple of surprise mock attacks on him and he reacted perfectly. He would have shot me each time ––– before I was able to “kill” him. Point shooting is combat shooting.

In a crisis certain things happen that are involuntary and inevitable. Let me tell you what they are before closing this week’s presentation:

  1. You completely lose your capacity for fine motor articulations (i.e. precise, intricate movements like assuming a fixed, specific and unnatural stance and hand position)

  2. Your adrenaline surges, giving you enormous power with which to generate gross body movements of the large muscles (i.e. exactly what you employ when you point shoot)

  3. Your eyes lock onto an attacking enemy. This is referred to as the peripheral optic dysfcunction phenomenon, or the tachey-psche effect (in fact making focusing on the front sight, as competitive shooters do, an impossibility. You will look at the attacker; it is not a matter of choice!)

  4. Your grip on your handgun convulses, and you pull (you do not “squeeze”) the trigger (and calmly generating a “surprise break” as is taught in the competition-oriented courses, is just not going to happen)

  5. Your blood pressure goes through the roof (and you are far from being cool-headed and minutely precise as you react to deadly danger that is immediate)

  6. You crouch. You crouch protectively and automatically because doing so when a sudden, explosive threat to your life materializes and barrels toward you or fires at you is instinctive (and you won’t stand bolt upright, feet positioned just so, and hands and arms holding your weapon in the approved manner while you “press” your trigger. Okay at the range . . . won’t work in real close combat)

  7. You may very well fire your weapon empty (unless you become highly practiced, conditioned, and experienced you will not be paying attention to how many times you’ve fired. Note: There is a technique taught in combat shooting that covers this matter.)

Something else that should be taken into consideration is that the majority of actual armed encounters take place during evening and nightime hours when seeing the handgun’s sights and being able to aim precisely is a virtal impossibility.

Factor this material in. It may one day save your life.

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