Do You Train Properly for Self-Defense?

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A vast number of firearms owners carry a gun for self-defense. Even so, all too many shooters continue to spend their range time firing their gun with both hands when it’s a necessity to work on your weak hand shooting as well. There are countless articles, blog posts, and flat-out rants on this very topic, and for good reason: if you’re attacked your strong hand could be injured, and your weak hand may be the only thing standing between you and imminent death. There are other scenarios where you’re down to one hand or the other, making it important to practice one-handed shooting in general, too. But with all the focus on weak-hand and single-handed shooting – and, yes, the need for such training is absolutely legitimate – it seems people forget there are other equally important skills to master.

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There’s no way to predict how an attack will progress, unless you want to predict the rampant unpredictability of it. One thing’s for sure: you’re highly unlikely to get through a fight for your life standing in an isosceles position holding your gun in a classic teacup grip. The odds are high you’ll end up firing from a concealed position (sometime we’ll discuss the difference between shooting from concealment and shooting from behind cover) or firing from a prone, sitting, or kneeling position. And when I say kneeling, I mean kneeling down on both knees or with one or the other knee raised; when I say prone, you should imagine the various positions you could be forced into on the ground. You could end up on your back, on your stomach, on either side, or on your back with your attacker on top of you. There are myriad possibilities, and that means more training time.

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Obviously it’s impossible to master everything at once, and it will take a serious investment of time and money – because ammunition isn’t free – to reach a point where you’re at least able to manage at a basic level. The point here is simply that it’s a mistake to focus only on one-handed shooting when you consider ways to train for self-defense. In fact, there are other issues to consider: if you’re unable to chamber a round using the standard two-handed method, can you get the job done fast without stopping to figure out how you’re going to do it? Don’t assume you can rack your slide one-handed; practice.

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It’s all too easy to focus on either what’s most commonly discussed or on what looks cool, but if you really want to survive an attack, you need to get down and dirty. Literally. Spend time on the ground, find a range with a ballistic furniture room and learn to effectively fire from cover that isn’t a free-standing wall, and be ready to do whatever it takes to become a proficient self-defense shooter. There’s more, of course, but these suggestions are certainly enough to keep you going for awhile. Practice as though your life depends on it, because someday it just might.

How do you train for self-defense purposes?



katie.ainsworth

Katie is an avid shooter, hunter, military journalist, and Southern girl. Firearms are her passion whether at the range or on a spot-and-stalk after a big buck. She’s a staff writer at The Firearm Blog and writes about guns, hunting, and the military for various publications both online and in print such as Outdoor Life, Handguns, and Shooting Illustrated. Shoot her a message at ainsworth.kat@usa.com


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  • echelon

    This is all well and good but I think a point that is missed here is that, aside from shooting one handed, a lot of ranges simply will not allow a shooter to do “unconventional” shooting techniques. Heck, many of them won’t let you fire “more than one round per second” and other such things.

    So unless you live in a rural area and/or have access to land that is suitable for this, then the only option available is to pay big bucks and go to some specialized training seminar which may or may not be feasible. And even if you do attend let’s say one of those per year, those tend to be “mountain top” experiences and you still can’t practice them in your normal training routines.

    • Jack Morris

      I live in a metro area and don’t have access to any affordable ranges that allow any kind of practical shooting. Its very frustrating. Its been over a year since I’ve even been able to rapidly fire any of my guns, let alone do so in an unconventional position.

      • KestrelBike

        Signed. There are plenty of ranges near me… But they’re all private and have 3-5 year long waiting lists, $1,000 membership fees, and huge country club mentalities. Public ranges are the standard 1-shot-1-second static lane affairs with a generous 25yd distance (and still high fees). Don’t worry though, I can still play golf for cheap at any of the dozen courses around me (where even the area given for 2 holes would make an awesome range, so long as backstop/back-area was safe)

      • echelon

        I feel for you. And I’m sure hearing: Just use airsoft! doesn’t do much to lift your spirits any…

        I know that many places don’t allow those things because of insurance liability reasons, etc. Which again is just another can of worms that I could criticize at large…

        If we have right to bear arms then we also have the right to train with those arms. If not then what is the logical outcome? We should expect to see people who are armed to the gills with no practical experience which in turn leads to more accidental and/or ignorant discharges, etc.

    • Grindstone50k

      One word: Airsoft. It’s a safe, nearly perfect analog.

      • echelon

        Yes and no. See my reply to billyoblivion.

        I see airsoft as no more than a complementary thing. It should not be the main thing. Hence the lack of places to practice “tactically”.

        I personally don’t have that problem. But many shooters do.

        Not everyone lives in Texas, Arizona or out in BFE so…

    • billyoblivion

      There’s all sorts of ways to get around that.

      One is dry fire. Dry fire ALOT, dry fire from the holster, dry fire at letters or numbers on the TV. Also do dry/snapcap manipulation drills.

      Take classes. Yeah, they’re not cheap, but you spend *most* of the day shooting, and you have someone watching you who will (may?) apply correction.

      Another (as Grindstone notes) is Airsoft. Not so much for accuracy, but drills involving transitioning between targets.

      When you do get to the range don’t just get the standard silhouette target, get one with two or more target zones (or carry your own stickers). Practice transitioning between targets. Also practice *off hand* at least as much as you practice dominant hand.

      Shoot IPSC or IPDA. No, they aren’t the best possible tactical training, but for those of us who aren’t SEALs (see, my argument is now valid because I used the shift key) or serious operators speed, aggression and getting rounds on board NOW and moving to cover will almost always suffice.

      Shooting under pressure, ANY pressure will help when the time comes.

      IDPA is usually pretty reasonable. I’ve not shot IPSC.

      • echelon

        I’m perfectly fine, philosophically, with using airsoft for firearm manipulation drills, especially in the home, but again, if one isn’t getting actual training then this could almost reinforce bad habits.

        Firing a real gun inside of a house is lightyears different than firing an airsoft gun.

        I won’t belabor or argue your other points, because on the whole I agree with them, although one might assume that most people aren’t going to get into competitions when their main goal might just be self defense/home defense, etc. regardless of the potential side benefits.

        My main point was in illuminating the fact that I believe shoot houses and other “tactical” style ranges should be much more common and encouraged rather than the nazi style ranges that many people have to put up with. Couple that with training from professionals who aren’t looking to become gun world rockstars and charge beaucoup bucks.

  • MountainKelly

    Hey there sexy! (talking about the cover photo I’m afraid, I love me some Sp01)

  • billyoblivion

    “in a classic teacup grip”

    Who uses the teacup grip these days?

    • JumpIf NotZero

      I see it every 1/3rd of students I get. Start people out on revilvers and it pops up quickly.

      Wierd because it’s just unnatural to me!

      • billyoblivion

        Revilers?

        Freudian slip?

        • JumpIf NotZero

          Ha! Must be

  • Thomas Gomez

    Great article Katie.

    • JumpIf NotZero

      Agreed. Odd about “the 45acp being a one shot stopper” comment in the previous article. Had to recheck the author.

      • Thomas Gomez

        Hey Jump. How goes it amigo?
        Who made that “one shot stop” comment?

        • JumpIf NotZero

          Katie, article a few days ago about, I forget what. M9 replacment I think. Maybe it was sarcasm that everyone missed.

  • Don Ward

    Honestly. The majority of these tactical training techniques seem every bit as impractical as a standard gun range in terms of presenting realistic self defense scenarios for the average Mark 1 civilian. Rather they seem more geared towards scenarios where you’re clearing a room of Taliban or conducting a hostage rescue. Now don’t get me wrong. If you want to become proficient at a one-handed reload with your weak-hand while in a reverse prone fighting position be my guest. But let’s be serious. If you’re ever in that scenario and you’re being asked to perform multiple reloads, you are either in a very bad neighborhood or you have made some poor personal choices in what’s left of your soon to be short life.

    • JumpIf NotZero

      So what groups have you trained with to give you the opinion that “these techniques” are impractical?

      Seriously. I want to know what groups you’ve trained with so I know to avoid them.

      Because every class I’ve ever taken for handgun, low light, force on force, shotgun, carbine, precision carbine, precision rifle, hand to hand, and edged weapons (to be fair I need more of the last two) – none of them were ever geared to Taliban or room clearing, all of them made practical points and gave instruction that directly applies to civilians.

      I can recommend some groups of you want to tell me your general location, I’ve been all over the country. There are great groups everywhere and terrible ones.

    • billyoblivion

      So basically you train for the easiest possible threat?

  • JumpIf NotZero

    The thing about paintball that sucks is the entirely different way you “win”. If they made paintballs similar in style and handling to firearms I might agree, but the whole gaming, double and electronic triggers, hoppers, etc. Makes paintball it’s own thing typically.

  • JumpIf NotZero

    Uh, the dipshits local to me would freak out at that because they couldn’t double tap everything under 10seconds.

    Good on you for that, but I’ve never seen anything like it in USPSA or IDPA local to me.

  • JumpIf NotZero

    Coincidentally, that cover photo is exactly why I dislike finger grooves on handguns. They always seem to fit me, but almost never fit girls.

  • David Johnson

    From personal experience, the vast majority of shooters would be better suited honing the fundamentals. If you can’t group well standing “in the box” with nothing but internal stress factors then that is your first priority.

    • Nicks87

      Pretty much. Learn to walk before you can run.

  • Grindstone50k

    What brand do they use? KWA?

  • Grindstone50k

    Just don’t be black and you’ll be fine. Also, don’t be black in a Walmart.

  • Not always a myth. I racked a Remington 870 behind a suspect and he became incontinent of feces immediately and started hollering a give up.

  • Archie Montgomery

    Another rather important aspect of personal defense handgun practice and training is to use the actual handgun carried. The initial picture in this article shows what appears as a variant of the CZ 75 handgun. Altogether a decent firearm, but designed as a open holster carry pistol. Does the author suggest this pistol is actually carried as a defensive arm?

    The great bulk of defensive weapons in the United States are carried concealed. This for legal, social and tactical reasons. Take a look at the third photograph. The reader may feast the eyes on a well-kitted ‘operator’ with a hydration back pack, sheath knife and tie-down holster. How is he – in current configuration – anything like the typical citizen armed for self-defense?

    Serious self-defense practice SHOULD involve one-handed shooting. Typically the ‘off’ hand is busy carrying a package, directing or controlling a child, opening a door or even fending off one’s attacker. Having the strong hand disabled is not nearly as common, but cannot be totally discounted.

    As noted in Austin, Texas recently (God Bless Sgt Adam Johnson!), a carefully armed and delivered shot is – occasionally – needed.

    In my life, needing a well delivered shot at the grocery store, the mall or downtown will probably lean more to accuracy and confidence than an impromptu ‘on the ground’ position.

  • RealitiCzech

    Because intimidation has always been a big part of fighting (ask yourself why soldiers wore absurdly tall hats in the Napoleonic Wars). It doesn’t always work, but sometimes it does. Thus why so many defensive gun uses don’t even require pulling the trigger.