Drills for Unexpected Moments – The Shooter’s Log


There are three classes of weapons — edged weapons, impact weapons and projectile weapons — based on how they inflict injury.

Some firearms are best suited for home defense and area defense.

The handgun is a reactive weapon carried at all times to counter unexpected threats.

If we had an inkling of what was coming, we are not very bright if we don’t have a long gun in hand.

While the handgun may be used to strike out at ranges to 100 yards in skilled hands, most of its use will be at very close range.

Many threats will be at arm’s length, conversational distance, even intimate distance. A trained marksman has an advantage at longer range.

The skilled martial artist of the handgun has every advantage as close range. We should have skills in each field.

You should never fail to be aware of your surroundings. It is one thing to be surprised in a crowd on a street, another in a rural area.

The threat may not have been recognized as early as we should have or he may have closed distance quickly.

As an example, even an individual who is out of shape may cover 21 feet in about two seconds, and others more able may cover 21 feet in about 1.5 seconds.

That means you must recognize the threat, draw, take aim and make the decision to fire very quickly. It is simple, but it isn’t easy.

There is no second-place winner in a gunfight. The best outcome is for the attacker to turn and run, and this happens as much as half of the time.

But the scars I wear proclaim that the assailant doesn’t cut and run nearly enough.    

man drawing pistol out of holster
Practicing the draw often will lead to real smoothness. 

Proper Training

Training must be flexible. No matter what the problem, the firearm must be presented from concealed carry.

If you concentrate on the draw and do not block a knife thrust, you may be holding your guts in one hand and attempting to draw with the other.

If you don’t block the swing of a ball bat, you may be knocked senseless.

An acquaintance of mine once took two strikes to his arm in a violent confrontation.

He jokes three strikes and he would have been out — his arm is somewhat crippled as a result of these blows.

But he was able to keep the arm up in front of his head and fire with effect to save his life.

The off-hand is used to steady the firearm and recoil during long-range fire.

At contact range, the non-dominant hand is used to stop a strike by a knife or blunt weapon, or even deflect a handgun as you draw your own. 

Point Shooting Drills

I do not advocate point shooting any more than I would drive with my eyes closed, but at very close range the handgun may be fired below eye level.

At this range you cannot miss, as the barrel is practically in the assailant’s body.

At slightly longer range, the sights are used, but sometimes only the front sight is quickly aligned.

This makes for very good accuracy at close range and plenty of speed, but some thought must go into your tactics.

These drills must be practiced thoroughly. You must get off the X or get out of the line of attack.

You may have to give the assailant one arm while you draw with the other.

If the weapon brought to bear isn’t a firearm, then you have a good chance of creating distance by stepping back — just don’t fall while doing so.

Don’t underrate a stick or knife! Body movement is important.

If you have been a boxer, then you know what you are doing when you twist your hips or strongly plant a foot for stability.

Move the body toward the threat, using the offside to counter the threat as you draw.

If you are in a fistfight you will be hit, if you are in a knife fight you will be cut and if you are in a gunfight you may well be shot.

It doesn’t have to be the end of the world or your life if you fight back. 

man drawing pistol
When the hand goes for the handgun, the non-dominant hand must be up and ready to parry an attempt to grab the shooter’s handgun.

Retention Shooting Drills

The hand may be brought into what is called the retention position, tucked into the body so that the assailant cannot take the gun away.

Extending the firearm to a firing position is a sure way to lose control of the firearm.

The weak side hand should be up and protecting your head or fending off an attack. At very close range, there is no other alternative.

Two-hand fire isn’t indicated and won’t be needed. The heel of the hand should be against the body, but not the slide or muzzle.

Do not cover your body with the muzzle prior to fighting! Being in a gunfight and shooting yourself is more than possible.

Sight picture and sight alignment are no longer important, but using a body index is.

The trigger press is important, jerking the trigger may result in a miss at ridiculously close range. The grip is vital! Keep control of the grip.

Be aware of the location of other body parts and do not shoot yourself during your defense. 

man retention shooting drills
Firing from close-quarters retention is an essential, but seldom practiced skill. 

Practice the Draw

These drills are more about martial arts than about marksmanship.

Quickly drawing and getting the gun into action must be fluid, smooth, without any excess motion, and with sure movements and a good grip on the firearm.

If the gun’s handle is really too large for your hand or the pistol is too large to draw quickly, or if your holster is flimsy and moves about on the belt as you attempt to draw, your fight may be over before it begins.

Most of these drills should be practiced in the home dry fire. A fake gun approximating your own firearm is best.

If you use your firearm, then the pistol should be triple-checked and a snap cap or block should be in the chamber.

You do not need to actually press the trigger, presenting the pistol from concealed carry and not allowing the muzzle to cover the arm is paramount.

This is a good place for training with a laser. If the laser sweeps your body you have a problem with alignment!

These drills are lifesavers if done properly.

man firing pistol drills with one hand
The Applegate drill is a fast and effective short-range technique. 

Situational Awareness

Situational awareness is vital. I have traveled in many countries and felt perfectly safe.

I have spotted several problems before they became insurmountable.

The incidents that led to injury all occurred when I was in uniform putting myself before the criminal and the public.

Take time to address these drills and practice hard. The life you save may be your own. 

Another choice — if the assailant is rapidly approaching but not yet at contact range with an edged weapon or armed with a pistol, the Applegate drill is a lifesaver.

This drill calls for more accurate fire and is very useful at five to seven yards.

The handgun is drawn and the shooter steps toward the threat, planting the foot solidly forward of the shooter.

The pistol is aimed using primarily the front sight. As the pistol sight breaks the plane between the shooter’s eyes and the threat, the pistol is fired.

This drill is both brilliantly fast and accurate at modest range — given sufficient practice.

What drills do you practice? Let us know in the comments section below!

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