Tactical Tip Of The Week
Grand Master Louis M. Chiodo
Welcome back to those who have been reading the “Tactical Tip Of The Week”. For those who are new to these postings, you can find the previous postings in my website, www.gunfightersltd.com or in my Face Book page, Gunfighters Ltd. Combat Shooting Methods Inc. I sincerely hope you can benefit from the information in these postings.
In a follow up to the last article that highlighted revolvers, I think it is worthwhile to discuss the issue of the small-frame revolver. Most notably this includes the Smith & Wesson “J” frame revolvers but also includes similar sized revolvers that are in use by many law enforcement officers and civilians. There are several points that I would like to make about their use. Throughout the years, I have read many articles about these small-framed revolvers and have often thought that the analysis wasn’t quite correct. It appeared that its mission/role wasn’t adequately defined and I thought I was reading an article that would be applicable to a larger duty sized handgun.
To expand on my comment above, one of the points covered in many articles dealt with the accuracy of these small frame revolvers. My first thought was, “ACCURACY”? OK, accuracy for doing what with this revolver? The segments I read on accuracy would begin with an analysis of 25-yard group size with these revolvers. My first thought was, “what does that have to do with what we use these small-frame revolvers for?” These firearms, like many others, have a role to play in the overall self-defense arena. So let’s examine this role and then link it to “accuracy” and more specifically – COMBAT ACCURACY.
Small-frame revolvers appeal to many who buy them because they fill the need for a small, relatively easy to conceal, lightweight and adequately powerful handgun for self-defense. The user’s purpose is not to engage in offensive ground combat operations, but have a means of defending themselves against a close-range threat. Some users will use it as a primary handgun (the one that will be first used if needed) or as a secondary handgun to back up a larger primary handgun. Here are a few reasons why the small-framed revolver is in use by so many in the law enforcement and civilian communities:
- The compact and relatively small nature of the small framed revolver lends itself to being concealed in a variety of easily accessible locations
- Many light weight models are available to meet the need for comfort while carrying it concealed
- Pocket carry can be easily accomplished and since it can be located in either right or left pocket
We have all read many articles that discuss the fact that the 5-shot “J” frames and similar revolvers don’t give us enough “gun” for many of the scenarios faced in today’s world. Many valid points are made about facing multiple threats or not enough capacity is available if faced with a suspect that is absorbing hits and not going down which would require more ammunition capacity to continue fighting. These points are all valid and worth the time to explore and analyze as it pertains to your personal choice of handguns. It makes it even MORE critical for you to fine-tune the role you intend your small framed revolver to have in your daily carry. It is very important to know the strong points and limitations of these small-frame revolvers so you can develop appropriate use of them for combative purposes. Along with understanding the capabilities of the small-frame revolver, it is critical to understand YOUR strong points and YOUR limitations with these handguns.
Understanding the weapon system and how it integrates with YOU will help you develop a realistic approach to the training and tactics you use when deploying your revolver in a combative scenario. So as I have pointed out, there are two issues to be analyzed – the capabilities and limitations of the small-framed revolver AND your personal capabilities to be effective with the small-framed revolver.
For the sake of the conversation, I would like to, as the lawyers say, “stipulate” that the “J” frame revolvers, Ruger LCR, SP101, Colt Detective Special and the other Colt small-framed revolvers (these are he ones I have personal experience with and there may be others that fill the role well) possess more than adequate accuracy potential for the roles that a small-framed revolver fill for those of us that use them. The “X” factor is OUR ability to tap into that accuracy and make the hits count.
Let’s focus some thought on the role of the small-framed revolver as it relates to its use as either a primary or secondary handgun. As I see it, the big difference between it being a primary or secondary handgun is determined by when and why it is actually deployed from its position of concealment, or to a much lesser extend, from open carry. As an example, I carry a “J” frame S&W in my left front pocket as a secondary handgun. That’s my initial reason for it being there in my left-front pocket. Why there? Having done extensive force-on-force training as a participant, instructor and role player, I have seen many of the “fights” that involved the primary hand being hit. This is a mirror of happens in a number of live combat shootings. Having a secondary handgun that can be easily accessed by my support hand can make a big difference in the fight if my primary hand gets injured. Also, I am able to have a hand around the grip of my “J” frame covertly if I don’t like something going on in my environment but hasn’t developed to the point where I would draw my primary handgun. There are other reasons but that gets the ball rolling.
A point I want to make using the example above is that the “role” of the handgun can change depending on how the scenario develops. Once I put my hand around the grip of the “J” frame in my left front pocket, I have selected it as my PRIMARY handgun” because it will be the first one in the fight. It’s much like a transition from the long gun to the handgun. Once I transition to the handgun, it becomes my primary weapon system.
At this time, I want to focus on training issues that I believe are important to consider. There are a couple of key points that I will focus on:
- Distance as it relates to combat shootings
- Methodology as it relates to the anticipated distances of combat shootings
- Positioning of the handgun as it relates to training
- How does time available for training influence our training program
When we analyze combat shootings, the one thing that becomes apparent is that the distance between the suspect and the defender is relatively close. This is especially evident in the combat shootings within the concealed carry community as well as the law enforcement community. One reason for the close distance between the suspect and potential victim is that the criminal element initiates its attacks when in close proximity to their potential victim. There are a number of reasons for this. One reason is that being close to the potential victim allows the suspect to be able to have a better chance of hitting the potential victim if using a handgun. Another reason is that it is more difficult for the potential victim to exit the danger area if the suspect is several feet from the potential victim. The element of surprise allows the suspect to maximize on the spontaneous affect that a sudden and unprovoked attack has on the potential victim. Of course there are more reasons but the point is made – being close can have many advantages for the suspect. So it would be a realistic analysis to conclude that the vast majority of combat shootings will happen between contact distance and approximately 7 yards from the suspect.
The importance of analyzing distance as it relates to combat shootings is that it will impact our training in several ways. As discussed above, distance to the suspect is close. The methodology we use to effectively engage the suspect in a spontaneous, high-stress, close-distance combat shooting must allow us to rapidly deploy our handgun and control the rounds fired at the suspect when the speed of engagement will be extremely fast. For these scenarios, I teach “Target-Focused Shooting” methods. In previous articles, I have covered this methodology in detail. If possible, please review the information found in the articles so that you can have more information to review. I must emphasize that in order to fully understand, appreciate and develop skill in “Target- Focused Shooting”, proper instruction from qualified instructors who fully understand this methodology will be extremely beneficial. There are many who attempt to teach this method but do not fully understand how to teach it and how to develop a student’s ability to use this method of combat shooting. It must be understood that a valid program will also have sighted shooting as part of the curriculum since it is a vital part of someone’s overall training. One without the other is only training part of what is needed to be ready for the many scenarios faced in combat shootings.
Where we position our small-framed revolver will influence the way we train with it. Here are a few ways that small-framed revolvers are often carried:
- Pocket carry
- Ankle carry
- Inside the waistband in appendix, cross-draw or strong side behind thehip carry
- Fanny pack
- Off body carry (purse, or concealed in another means of carry (briefcase etc.)
I am sure individuals have other ways of carrying them, but these are the common ways that I have seen over the years.
Each way the small-frame revolver is carried will require specific training in drawing from that particular location and carry method. Also, you have to pay attention to what hand will be used to initially draw the revolver. As an example, I carry my “J” frame revolver in my left-front pocket. This impact my training with the revolver because it will be my support hand that will initially be used to draw from my left-front pocket. In essence, my support hand will become my “primary” hand because in a rapidly developing scenario that requires instant shooting upon drawing the revolver, there will be no time to switch hands and use my actual primary hand to engage the threat. So you guessed it, I must spend significant amount of my training time with the “J” frame using my “support hand only”. If I carry my “J” frame revolver in an inside the waistband or on the belt holster, the support hand may be used to move clothing out of the way in order to access the revolver and immediately drawing may cause you to shoot primary hand only. So, it will be wise to devote significant time drawing and using a one-handed grip to engage the threat. This doesn’t mean that you don’t also practice two-handed shooting using your support hand in your grip, but for the scenarios we face in close-quarters, becoming proficient in primary only and support hand only shooting is a critical skill that must be developed through training.
Here are some final thoughts I would like you to consider in your training program. The small-framed revolver and, for that matter, even your larger revolvers or semi-automatic handguns are most often used in close-quarters shooting in the vast majority of combat shootings. So you must account for the following distances and use appropriate methodologies to maximize your ability to rapidly hit the threat with appropriate positioning of the handgun based upon distance to the threat. Here are the distance considerations:
- From 0-1 yard
- From 2-4 yards
- From 4-7 yards
Each of these distances requires specific positioning of the handgun to avoid potential disarming and allow for “combat accuracy” within the engagement distance.
Rapid deployment of the small-framed revolver (or any other handgun you use) and proper positioning of the handgun so it is not deflected or otherwise become susceptible to a disarming attempt must be emphasized in training. Appropriate (AND SAFELY ORAGNIZED) dry fire with your actual revolver or other handgun in the exact way you are carrying it is a must. Whenever possible, actual live fire would be another critical point of training. Also, force-on-force training is extremely helpful to really learn how to apply what you are training to do but I caution IT MUST BE DONE BY TRAINERS THAT FULLY UNDERSATND THE SAFETY CONSIDERATIONS AND HOW TO APPROPRIATELY CONDUCT THIS TYPE OF TRAINING.
As in all combative training, safety is a must and proper methods must be introduced and practiced to the point where you just can’t do it improperly. Close-quarter fights require the application of your training to be done rapidly and it has to be done correctly the first time. There are no “redoes”. So diligent practice of the right material is essential.
Train hard and be safe.
Louis M. Chiodo