What is Defensive Shooting?
Defensive shooting and training is based on what your body does naturally when under stress. The body’s physiological responses cause us to react a certain way under stress. For example, picture the last time you got startled by someone surprising you. It is likely your knees bent slightly, you brought your hands out in front of you, leaned forward slightly while lower your head, and you turned toward the person that startled you. You did all of this without any thought, instead, it was a reaction to the surprise.
Defensive shooting is based on some of these responses, but to understand the responses we need to look at why they occur. If you notice that while standing straight up, with your legs and head straight. You must first bend your knees a little bit and lower your center of gravity before taking off running. Meaning that our body naturally gets us ready to move when we are startled.
Another response we have is to put our hands out in front while lowering our heads. This response is done to protect the most vital areas of the body. Which is our chest or cardiovascular system and our brain. Imagine seeing someone throwing something at you unexpectedly. Now, this could be something as simple as a ball or your car keys; however, our startled reaction will be to bring our hands up and head down.
Then of course the impact reaction, the impact reaction dictates that we will brace ourselves by leaning forward and pushing our arms out in front of us. Since the age of dashcams, video surveillance, and cell phones. We have been able to not only study these reactions but also witness them over and over. These reactions are not something that has been trained but rather inherited through generations of learning to survive. Even when there is no chance of stopping an impact or slowing it down our reactions are still the same.
An example of this would be seeing a car coming at us when there is no time to move or to think about a reaction. We naturally brace ourselves for something that is un-braceable, by leaning forward and pushing our arms straight out. Then of course we have other reactions that happen inside the body. Those reactions can increase strength, increased focal vision, increased blood flow to the muscles in the torso, with less blood flow to our extremities.
Then of course there is a higher pain tolerance which allows us to fight through injuries. All of these are our body’s natural way of helping us to survive. These are often referred to as our fight or flight responses. While there are some obvious positive results from these reactions there is also a negative aspect as well. Defensive shooting must account for both the positive and negative.
The negative reactions of the fight or flight responses can be used to guide our training. For example, due to the lowered blood flow to our extremities. We know that trying to do any complex actions with our fingers will likely not be an option under stress. Meaning that trying to use a slide release lever may not be an option under these effects. We also must consider the way we rack the slide. We will likely need to use our grip rather than our fingers.
There is also the diminished thought capacity that will make complex thinking unlikely. Instead, our mind will likely focus on the minimum steps needed to survive. Forcing us to rely only on the training that is ingrained into our neural pathways or what we call muscle memory. Muscle memory is built by doing something over and over until we no longer think about the steps and we do it naturally.
We will likely have to deal with things like tunnel vision, shaky and sometimes sweaty hands, diminished sound, heightened visual clarity, memory loss, false memories, freezing up, increase strength, and tightening up. The severity of each will depend on how your brain perceives the threat you are dealing with. Think about the last near miss you had in a vehicle; how long did it take you to stop dwelling on it? How long before you could no longer see the indent from your grip on the steering wheel? Depending on how your brain perceived this, will determine how long it took for you to return to a normal relaxed state. Some close calls can last minutes, hours, days, weeks, or even months in our minds (think PTSD).
How this all plays into defensive shooting.
So, what does any of this have to do with shooting or how you train? Instructor Rob Pincus put together a system known as Intuitive defensive shooting (IDS formally known as CFS). He developed this training program based on these responses and the video evidence gathered over the years. For example, he reviewed countless videos from police dashcam footage where officers were involved in shootings.
The police force has taught the weaver stance to its officers for decades. Yet, no matter how many years or hours an officer had spent shooting in this stance. They would always end up in some form of the isosceles stance, even when they had never used it before. The other thing that he noticed was that the officers did not take time to aim their firearm using their front sight, instead overwhelmingly they relied on what is known as a flash sight picture.
Meaning they pointed their firearm directly at the target and started firing. The same was noticed when looking at videos from civilians who were involved in violent encounters. Most of us have been taught to shoot using a round target while trying to hit it in the middle. This often takes time to align the sights and to account for our natural movement before pulling the trigger. Something that has not happened in countless videos of people in dynamic critical incidence.
There are many things that people often practice while training. More often than not we start with and end with accuracy. If you are like me when I first started shooting, I focused so much on getting the right shots that I often put drills on the back burner. Never stopping to think, I am not training for bullseye shooting but rather self-defense. I spent hours trying to figure out why my shot was a little off or why I was shooting low at times.
The funny thing about this is, it is something I noticed countless other shooters asking questions about on forums and in other gun groups. After researching more about Rob Pincus systems and one of his books on defensive shooting fundamentals. Rob had asked a question, if you had to give someone a firearm to help you survive a violent encounter, how would you instruct them?
It is likely you would quickly show them how to hold the firearm, the steps needed to fire it, reload it, and quickly tell them to point it at the target and shoot. Of course, I am not suggesting they would be an expert marksman at that point but what I am suggesting is that they would be able to help defend you. Think of a squirt gun, when is the last time you aligned the sights and focused on the front sight to hit your target?
If you consider that your eyes will hyper-focus on the threat you are facing. You will realize that seeing your front sight clearly would be an unlikely probability. That is not to say you are ignoring your sights, instead, you are bringing your sights up to your field of vision. By doing this, you will be able to see that they are aligned with the target, but your focus will be on the target.
Another thing to consider is if your firearm has a safety, when are you taking off the safety. For example, you reach for the firearm and you have automatically trained yourself to switch the safety off. This is perfectly fine; unless you have also trained yourself to prep the trigger while drawing and aligning on your target.
The reason this could be a problem is largely due to the adrenaline dump that occurs, which increases your strength and tightens your muscles. If your finger is already in the trigger guard, it is entirely likely that you will accidentally fire at that point. If your muzzle is not yet on the target, then you are taking the chance of hitting anything or anyone (including a little child) who may be in the immediate vicinity.
When do you use your sights?
The most basic answer to the question is when you need to. What do I mean by that? I simply mean that during your training, you will need to find your limitations. We know from the data instructor Tom Givens gathered over the years that almost all violent encounters happen within 21 feet. With the majority of those occurring between 9-15 feet. The majority of your training should be done within those distances. You will be able to see how much deviation your shots have based on the size of the target and the distances you are training at.
Then you can determine where and when you need to utilize your sights to remain with in a certain area. Of course, there are other times where your sights will need to come into play as well. For example, defending someone else, or only having one chance to stop an attack. This is the basis of Rob’s training, the need to balance speed and precision. High precision shots will require you to focus on your front sight, quick defensive shots will require you to focus on the target.
We know that during most violent encounters people are firing multiple shots, often not knowing exactly how many. They are doing this as fast as they can and only stopping once the attack as stopped. To incorporate this into your training it is recommended that you fire multiple shots on target 3-5 and one precision shot in a 3-inch circle. Never firing the same number at the start to avoid developing a consistent fire and pause situation. Along with never using the same 3-inch circle twice in a row.
Developing a training program
Defensive shooting takes the startled reaction, the natural stance being used, the rate of fire being used, the sighted fire, and the body’s natural reactions and puts them into one simple training program. If there is anything in your training that you may not be able to perform based on the body’s natural responses, then it is unlikely it will happen no matter how much you train it in.
The IDS system even incorporates the startled response prior to identifying the target. One of the key components of the training is making sure you have identified the threat prior to reaching for a self-defense tool. They also incorporate a simple lateral step during your draw to force an attacker to respond to your movement. Often this will force a pause or an over calculation on the attacker’s part. Buying you the added seconds you may need.
From the draw you will use one fluid motion to bring the firearm up to the high ready position, forming your two-handed grip and punch it out onto the target. Making sure your arms are fully extended, your wrist is locked into place, your sights are in your field of vision and your muzzle has stayed pointed at the target the entire time. Never placing your finger in the trigger guard until you are on target and have made the decision to shoot.
What does this look like in training?
In training, you can either develop your own target or use one of the speed and balance (SEB) targets available. Regardless of the target type, you utilize. There are multiple drills available to help you train. One drill is the speed and precision drill which is performed using the “UP” command followed by a number or some variation. All of these drills require you to use basic cognitive thoughts by forcing you to identify the target prior to drawing your weapon.
While there is always some cross over and benefits when training for competitions and self-defense. The key to defensive shooting is not developing skills that will be ignored by your body’s natural response. For example, the tactical reload vs the emergency reload. Unless there is a malfunction it is unlikely that you will even have a chance to do a reload during a dynamic critical incident. Instead, you will likely only reload when your magazine is empty.
If you are training for pure self-defense, reloads should be practice when empty rather than tactically. Keeping in mind this is unlikely to be a combat situation where you are going from one location to another. Instead, it is likely the whole thing will be over before you are faced with having to move from your current cover unless you are moving towards a safe escape.
Defensive Shooting Summary
Defensive shooting is training based on the actual data that has been gathered from self-defense situations. It incorporates the body’s natural reactions, with the most efficient training. It eliminates complex steps and incorporates the most basic training that needs to be developed into advanced skills. This system requires that you master one portion before you evaluate it, while adding in additional skills along the way. Keeping all of them simple and easy to perform naturally.
While the training may get intense over time, the steps are kept simple. Meaning even with a basic understanding you can perform the steps without complex thoughts or maneuvers. While defensive shooting is used to help you survive a violent encounter, nothing ensures survival like avoiding the situation to begin with.
Dynamic Critical Incidence all have 3 things in common, they are a surprise, they are chaotic, and they are threatening. To train for these types of attacks you need to consider what is possible, plausible, , and probable. Meaning, your training needs to be geared more towards what is likely to happen, rather than the zombie apocalypse that could happen. Nothing in your training should have more risk than reward. Staying safe should be the goal of training and while training.
While there are plenty of safety rules such as always keep your muzzle pointed in a safe direction, treat every firearm as it’s loaded, never put your finger in the trigger guard until you are ready to shoot, and know your target and what’s beyond. All of which must always be followed to avoid unintentional discharges. This article is based on defensive shooting and not on the safety aspects. RGDReviews.com takes no responsibility for anyone not following the rules when trying to perform any drill.
We do welcome any and all polite conversations based on this subject but will delete political and report threatening posts. This is a conversation about keeping yourself safe during a violent encounter and not trying to cause one. You should always follow the situational awareness codes and avoid every violent encounter when possible.
The legal ramifications alone can cost you prison time, financial ruin, loss of employment, unwanted media attention, public threats, and even problems with close family. For those reasons alone I recommend that everyone get training and join organizations like the USCCA or CCWSafe.