I know there s a lot of talk out there regarding the proper distances we should be training at when it comes to preparing for a potential deadly force situation. For years there was a focus on the elusive 25-yard and, in some cases, 50-yard shot with a handgun. In many places, that focus remains today.
Think about it, though. I know the 25-yard shot is truly a thing to take pride in (not to mention the 50-yard shot), but have you thought about how far 25 yards really is? If you parked four police cruisers end to end, they might reach 25 yards. Do you really believe that under the pressure of a gunfight you could pull off that elusive, magical shot with a handgun? Could you even justify a 25-yard shot after the fact, or stray shot for that matter?
I ll be blunt: It s a shot you probably will never shoot, thank God. The statistics show the average shooting will occur from between the width of a police cruiser and the length of a police cruiser. At 25 yards, it s time for the patrol rifle.
For far too long, officers have believed if they could shoot the X ring at 25 yards, they could easily perform well at closer distances. If you read into the combat record and history of any war, however, you ll find that shooting at extremely close ranges causes the human body to act in an entirely different manner than it does at long range. It s commonly referred to as the fight-or-flight syndrome, but I won t bore you with the details; for more information, try reading a couple of great books on the subject, On Combat and On Killing, both by Lieutenant Colonel Dave Grossman. These books will definitely cause you to rethink everything you thought you knew about shooting in a life-and-death scenario.
We carry a handgun for personal protection. To me, personal means up in my 3-foot zone and in my face. That kind of close changes your heart rate, changes the way your vision works, changes the way your muscles work, changes everything. It produces a whole different kind of stress, and if you re still looking for your sight picture and/or proper sight alignment like you do at 25 yards, you might never get the chance to find it. In order to survive this kind of gun battle the kind you are most likely to find yourself in you must train hard and fast.
A close-quarter shoot is not easy. Don t believe me? Then how do you explain that nationally, police officers average a 93-percent hit rate at 5 feet at the range, but at 5 feet on the street that figure drops to 20 percent?
When I train a class of law enforcement officers, we shoot approximately 1,000 rounds per officer per day. I pound into them the fact that for the most part, a cop s world is the distance between the width and the length of their cruiser, and if they want to survive a gunfight, they must dominate within that distance.
And before I forget: If you re forced to participate in a gunfight, you have a moral and legal obligation to both begin it and terminate it. If, due to your slowness or reluctance to dominate and terminate this gun battle, the bad guy gets off the first shot and misses you but kills an innocent child, how do you live with that? Remember: It s not tit for tat or he shoots, I shoot. Officers must learn to dominate for both their own safety and the public s safety.
Do Yourself a Favor
Take a break from long-distance shooting for a while. Get back to reality. Don t feel embarrassed about shooting up close. Go ask someone who was involved in a shooting it was scary, fast and close.
The second best thing you can do for yourself? Well, when things go bad, they usually go bad very fast, so if you can t shoot and hit your static paper target at 5 feet with four rounds center mass in less than one second, you must seriously reevaluate the type of training you re getting. Remember: Statistics show that the one-shot-drops theory is full of holes there are bad guys out there who can suck up rounds like you do coffee. If your department won t spend the money for the type of training you need, do what s right for you and your family spend a few bucks and take a course that teaches you the basics on what it means to shoot up close and personal. For starters, at least check out the shooting drills I included with this article ( Close Quarter Shooting Drills ).
Personal defense is neither a 25-yard plate match nor the ability to shoot a static paper target with two rounds in less than three seconds. It s in your face.
Close-Quarter Shooting Drills (For photos please see above.)
I use and teach the below close-quarter shooting drills (among others). Some of these shot counts and times may seem unachievable, but let me assure you, they are all easily done. I’m a huge proponent and master instructor of the CAR (Center Axis Relock) system, and can assure you that by the time a three-day, 1,000 rounds/day course is complete, average officers leave with the ability to shoot with a speed and accuracy that will give them the confidence they need to dominate in a gunfight.
Clipboard Drill: Standing in front of your target at normal contact distance in a good field-interview stance, hold a piece of plywood cut to 8.5"x11" (clipboard size) in your non-preferred hand and pretend to write with a spent casing in your preferred hand. At the command “Gun!,” drop the plywood and casing, draw your weapon and fire four rounds into the target’s center mass. (Dropping the clipboard proves faster than the old prescribed way of attempting to toss the clipboard at the bad guy because when you toss the clipboard, you unintentionally take extra time trying to aim it at the bad guy, and you require recovery time to come back to your weapon.) Repeat this drill until you can complete it in less than two seconds from the word “Gun.”
Combat-Ready Hold & Fire: Standing in front of your target at normal contact distance in a good field-interview stance, hold your weapon below your chin line (this will enable you to view the suspect from head to toe). At the command “Gun,” simply raise your weapon from chin line to sight line and place four shots into center mass in less than one second.
Cruiser Drill: With two targets spaced approximately 10 feet apart, get into your cruiser and drive toward the targets, stopping the cruiser roughly 3-5 feet from the targets. After stopping the cruiser (and placing it in Park), open the driver-side door and fire two rounds at the target on the left while still seated. Then exit the vehicle keeping low, move to the rear of the cruiser and engage the target on the right with another two rounds. Total elapsed time: Less than seven seconds from the time you open the door.
Gary J. Belanger is a master instructor with Sabre Tactical, a master instructor with Immediate Personal Defense Systems and the chief instructor with Performance Tactical. Contact him at email@example.com.