This is the final part in this series of discussions on training issues and how we should organize our training based upon the realities of what happens in real world incidents. If you haven’t read Part I through Part V, it would be beneficial to read them prior to reading Part V. You can find Part I through VI in my website www.gunfightersltd.com or in my Face Book page – Gunfighters Ltd Combat Shooting Methods Inc.
To recap some of the key points of the previous articles in this series, I have laid out a foundation of information that can be used to understand how our mind and body can be affected in spontaneous, close-quarters combat shootings. Understanding this information can lead us to why certain methodologies will have a greater probability of working under the high stress levels common to close-quarters fighting as opposed to working against us. Our training goal is to help eliminate any void in our training. We want to be able to fight with a trained response appropriate for the scenario we are facing. This response must be able to combine speed and combat accuracy within the close-quarters distances common to combat shootings.
I will devote the remainder of this article to discussing a methodology I have been teaching in the law enforcement environment for approximately 32 years and have personally used for approximately 42 years. The methodology in this article specifically relates to close-quarters combat shooting (somewhere between contact distance to approximately 7 yards). This is where the vast majority of spontaneous gunfights take place. It has been my experience that once the methodology is learned, the distance can be increased. In my training classes, I usually use an umbrella of approximately 10 yards as a maximum when enough skill level has developed at the closer ranges. I have observed thousands of people successfully apply this method from contact range to approximately 10-yards. Each individual will have his or her own ability to apply this method at varying distances to the target.
I NEVER refer to this methodology as “point shooting”. The reason is pretty simple. Over the years, the term “point shooting” has meant many different things to many people. The various interpretations by so many people has made the term “point shooting” very difficult to discuss since it has been taught and represented in so many varied ways. The terminology I use to describe the method I teach is “Target-Focused Shooting”. In discussion with Col. Rex Applegate, I explained my reasoning behind why I use that terminology. His response was both positive and supportive.
Before we go further, a few quick words to make sure we are all on the same page. “Target-Focused Shooting” is designed for use in close-quarters, spontaneous attacks. However, a valid program will take into account the entire spectrum of distance that combat shootings may occur. This means that the use of the sight system is an essential part of the overall training program. An important consideration is that we need to train both “Target-Focused Shooting” specifically to handle close-quarters scenarios and the use of the sight system for longer distance shooting and, to a lesser extent, when precision up close might be required. But no matter what the distance, we must understand that if the SNS activation has degraded our vision, motor skills etc., then the distance to the threat won’t be the issue. Remember, there are no yard lines in combat so the real issue is how the SNS has affected our mind and body’s ability to apply our training. We can find ourselves at ranges beyond the 7-10 yard distance but still be affected as if we were 10 feet from the threat. Please consider this because it is an important point to understand and it can greatly affect our ability to use our sights at extended distances.
Let’s examine the term, “Target-Focused Shooting”. By definition, a target is a “mark to shoot at”, “something you shoot at”,” something to be affected by an action (shooting at it)”. So, the first part of the name of this method of shooting elevates a threat to something we actually shoot at. We don’t always shoot threats. The threat’s actions can cause them to become a target of our gunfire.
The second word, “focused”, refers to where our vision will be oriented when engaging the “target”. As we have discussed in previous parts of this series, our vision intently focuses on the target so that our brain can get the information necessary to guide our response. Therefore, when I refer to “Target-Focused Shooting” it means that we focus our vision DIRECTLY at the target while engaging with gunfire.
In order to make our bullets strike the desired target, we must have a way of “aiming” the weapon system to be successful. Here is where much debate has raged in the gun community for decades. Let’s try to put it all in perspective. First, we need to define “aiming”. Here are two definitions that I think are appropriate for this discussion:
- The pointing of a weapon at a mark
- To bring in alignment with
Since bullets travel in a linear manner, the firearm has to be pointed directly at the target or the bullet will not hit “the mark”. Now, the issue becomes how am I going to bring the firearm in alignment with the desired target? Also, how refined does that alignment need to be in order to effectively hit “the mark”?
In order to align the muzzle of the firearm into the desired target area, I will explain how we do it the same way as I have in the hundreds of classes I have taught about this issue. The first thing that happens is you establish an “eye-target” line. That is the invisible line between your eye and the place on the target where you want the bullet(s) to impact. The second thing that has to happen is the “muzzle-target line”
(the invisible line between the muzzle and the place on the target where you want the bullet(s) to impact) has to intersect the “eye-target line”.
So, let’s put it together to this point in the discussion, You see a threat, the threat does some action that make him/her a target, you look intently where you want the bullet(s) to strike (“eye-target line”) and you orient the muzzle of your firearm (“muzzle-target line”) to that point on the target. At this time, you can have a varying degree of SNS activation (it can vary with each person). Vision, motor skills and our ability to make decisions can be affected. The one gross motor skill we do posses is the ability to point our firearm at the place on the target where our vision is directed. Our heart rate can be abnormally high, our vision can be tunneled on the target, our two eyes can be WIDE open and it won’t matter. Your gross motor skills can actually be amplified and your ability to point your firearm into the target area is smoothly working with your mind and body. At this point, the “eye-target line” and “muzzle-target line have intersected.
I may add at this point that the “eye-target line” and “muzzle-target line” can be established directly at eye level, or slightly below eye level. At distances where it would be inappropriate to have your arm extended due to the distance to the target, we can use a “close-quarters position” that can bring the “eye-target line” and gun-target line” in alignment. This is usually done from distances around the 2-yard line. The handgun is centered on the body at approximately solar plexus height and a forearm length away from the body. Remember, the goal is to INTERSECT the “eye-target line” and “muzzle-target line. This can be done at close range when the handgun is indexed in the close-quarters position or at eye level or slightly below eye level.
The next issue that we will discuss is how much alignment is going to be necessary to accurately hit the target? Before addressing the answer to that question, I have to remind everyone that we are discussing close-quarters engagements that are not only usually within the 7- yard line but many are much closer to the target.
In the context of a close-quarters incident, we need enough alignment to produce what I call “combat accuracy”. In high-speed, close-quarters, spontaneous combat shootings, pin point accuracy within the target is replaced with an “area of impact’ for the bullet(s) within the target. As an example, instead of being concerned with placing a bullet directly on a button on someone’s shirt, a “combat accurate” placement of the bullet would be in an area surrounding that button. So long as that area is within the vital area of the target or area of the target that is presented to the shooter, it is an effective “combat accurate” hit. This isn’t precision shooting but it is effective combat shooting. We train to be able to hit multiple times in a very rapid manner to maximize the cumulative effects of those rounds when they strike within the target area. How far each round is from each other is called “dispersion pattern”. That dispersion pattern must be within the vital areas of the torso to maximize the cumulative effect of each bullet.
This is not a “how to” article so I will stay away from describing the physical part of “Target-Focused Shooting”. I will, however, discuss a course of action that will cover what I believe needs to be done in a program. The goal is to bring this powerful and time-tested combat shooting method to those individuals that use their firearm to defend themselves. Here is a plan of action:
In a training program designed to teach someone to use a firearm for defensive purposes, it is important for the curriculum to include the information about how the mind and body works via the SNS activation. Everyone needs to know how the SNS activation can affect their ability to apply their training (for trainers, that’s called being honest in what is taught). If we attempt to train people to do things that their mind and body won’t be able to do effectively in a real fight, we are setting them up for failure.
Next, the program must be centered on training that will correlate with the environment that exists where the training will be applied. As an example, if the distances involved in handgun combat shootings are generally within the 0-7 yard line, our handgun training program should reflect appropriate use of training time at those distances. Additionally, a methodology needs to be taught and practiced that works under the conditions present in the spontaneous nature of the attacks at those distances. The methodology well suited for this portion of training is “Target-Focused Shooting”.
Any valid training program will include the use of the sight system of the firearm. This is essential training and should be introduced at the appropriate time in the training process. I have seen training programs approach this issue from many different angles. In my humble opinion based upon experience, I teach what the person will most likely need first which is “Target Focused Shooting”. If that seems odd, I refer you back to review previous parts of this series to understand why I do this. I will simply say now that it is because the environment that has the highest probability where the combat shooting will take place is the exact environment where “Target-Focused Shooing” is best applied. Once this is accomplished, then the issue of target engagement at further distances can be introduced into the program. This is where the use of sights can be taught and appropriately applied.
I want to complete the final portion of this article to set a few things straight about “Target-Focused Shooting”. My comments are based upon EXTENSIVE RESEARCH and EXTENSIVE TEACHING of this methodology.
Over the years, I have read many articles and postings about what many refer to as “point shooting”. As I stated in previous articles in this series, I NEVER call what I teach “Point Shooting”. I call it “Target-Focused Shooting”. I have explained why in previous articles in this series. So here are a few comments to think about that may go completely against some of the things you have read or been exposed to over the years.
Many articles (and the people who have written them) state that “Target-Focused Shooting” (and any other names that were used) is difficult, complicated to learn and requires a long period of time to be proficient in its application. In my personal experience of teaching thousands of people this methodology, I found this to be absolutely incorrect. In fact, because “Target-Focused Shooting” works with the natural reactions of the body under high stress and relies on gross motor skills, it is not difficult for someone to learn. Remember, this is not a long-range method of engagement. When taught at the appropriate ranges where combat shootings take place, it does not take long for someone to learn and develop “combat accuracy”.
Contrary to some of the statements made in articles, once initial training is completed, “Target-Focused Shooting” does not require extensive follow-up training to retain proficiency. While I was still “on the job”, I trained officers who came back to work after being away for extended periods of time. Some were recovering from injuries and had not been to training for extended periods of time. Also, there were female officers who were away for extended maternity leave. They came to the range and integrated right back into training without issue. Proper training is the key. In fact, I observed that it was more difficult for those officers returning to the range to regain proficiency with longer range shooting that required them to use their sight system.
Here are some final thoughts on the issues we have discussed throughout this series of articles. Something that has always concerned me about what is done in training programs is that programs can only be as good as the people who are responsible for teaching them. Before I go further, I want to convey that nothing I am about to say is meant to be derogatory to anyone who is either a trainer or responsible for the developing programs.
In my experience of training people who ARE trainers, many programs of instruction they develop and teach do not take into account the issues that we have discussed in this series of articles. There are varied reasons for this. Here are a couple of these reasons:
Simply stated, I found that many instructors don’t understand the dynamics of the SNS and what it does to the methods they teach.
- They are bound by policy to teach the program that was handed to them by their agency and cannot deviate from the curriculum even if they believe it is not an appropriate program of instruction based upon reality.
- If it is a private institution (“shooting school”) providing instruction, the curriculum taught may not take into account the many issues we have covered in this series. Individual instructor beliefs influence the programs and individuals that they train in those programs.
- Many “techniques” taught are not fully vetted in training evolutions like force-on-force training where the targets can shoot back. If the “techniques” have failed in real combat shootings, there is no adjustment in the curriculum to provide better alternatives to account for why the “technique” failed.
- Personal prejudices of the instructor or training cadre prevent changes in the curriculum. These personal prejudices prevent changes in the curriculum that take into account the issues we have discussed in this series of articles.
- Data from real world combat shootings is not factored into the analysis of the program and how the training program is actually working.
- The “shooter” is blamed by the instructor(s) for not following their teaching and curriculum (blame the student for failure rather than look at what is being taught to the student).
Of course there are other issues that could be included but I think these are some to think about.
In summary, I would like to thank you for taking the time to read these articles. I hope the content has presented information that you can use to increase your understanding and desire to further study these issues in the future. There are never absolutes and it is extremely important to constantly evaluate what is done in our training programs. Additional information can be found in my book, “Winning A High-Speed, Close-Distance Gunfight”. I have also put together a self-paced on-line training program that covers the “Target-Focused Shooting” methodology. It is available on my colleague Ian Kinder’s website at www.livesafeacademy.com and other free resources are also available at that website.
I wish you all the best in the future. Be safe.