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Man Skills: Gun combat tips if the bullets start flying

Hey, it’s Jimbo here.

This week’s manly chat will be about gun combat.

There are a million scenarios I can think of where the bullets could start flying. A mugging… a home invasion… a meltdown leaving folks fighting for food and water… or an epic battle over the remote.

No matter how it happens, when the shootout begins, your brain will automatically fall-back to its level of training.

Problem is, the only “training” most gun owners have is blasting bottles off a fence or standing at the range plugging holes in paper targets.

It’s a good way to get to know your weapon, but that’s not really combat training, (unless your attacker happens to be a 1-liter Coke bottle filled with water. Then you’re set).

Although I have never been in a gun-fight myself, (except for being shot in the face by my nephew armed with a “Super-Soaker”), I am honored enough to be friends with men who’ve been in pitched battles and lived to tell the tale.

Hollywood makes defending yourself with a gun look easy, (just blast away from behind that bush where return fire can’t possibly hurt you), but it’s a different story when a determined shooter is actually trying to kill you.

I wanted to get this right. Gunplay is serious business, (like when I held high-score on the “Wild West” arcade game at the local pizza joint. Talk about an adrenaline rush).

So I drew on the expertise of FightFast instructor Jim West, (a 20-year U.S. Special Forces combat vet), to help create this newsletter.

Jim “Smokey” West earned a half a dozen medals in the “first” Iraq war… spent 13 years in the Green Berets… trained U.S. Special Forces and Justice Department agents in hand-to-hand combat, and more.

Legally, he can’t even talk about most of the truly nasty and deadly fighting he’s done while in the U.S. Special Forces. (And believe me, I didn’t pry. But word has it he was very effective at “taking out the trash”).

Just know that I dug deep for you on this one.

Jim West is one of FightFast‘s most experienced gun combat experts. He HAS served in combat and experienced live fire-fights, (that’s where the targets shoot back), so the advice you’re getting here is the real deal.

  • Reality of a gunfight: Those are blanks, aren’t they?
  • Trigger Control: Finally… hit the broad side of a barn.
  • Firing Stance: What West recommends.
  • Realistic Training: This ain’t just paper targets.
  • Learn without killing: Four “real effect” simple drills.

The Reality Of Gun Fighting:

Oh my God, he’s shooting at me!

So it happens. Somehow you’ve landed in it, [poop emoji here], and someone is actually gunning for you. Thankfully you’re also armed, (with a gun that is. Because bringing a knife to a gunfight is… well, you know).

If someone already has the drop on you, the FIRST thing to do is take cover. If you have a TRS Bullet-Stopper backpack, you’ve at least got the vitals covered until you can get behind a large tree, or the engine block of a car, or a concrete wall.

A bush, a wall in your home, a car door, or hiding your head under a blanket are NOT forms of cover. They’re concealment, something bullets will go straight through.

So before you do anything, duck behind some cover. As West points out, he’s seen “too many cops and agents killed or wounded attempting to draw their weapon after their attacker has already started shooting”.

COMBAT TIP: If you are within 10 feet of a shooter, your best option may be to move forward and aggressively remove the threat. You can close that distance in 1 second or less, (and besides, it’s hard to outrun bullets).

Use minor distractions — like throwing keys, loose change (dollar bills probably won’t help), spitting in his face — along with zig-zag type footwork to make yourself a difficult target while moving in. (Those annoying dance lessons may just pay-off after all).

Practice drawing your weapon from a holstered or concealed position while moving… from a squatting position… and while crouching and laying behind cover.

Also, see if you can spot what hand the shooter is holding his gun, (thus letting you know if he’s right or left-handed. I’ll explain why this is vital info in a minute).

Trigger Control:

Accuracy Will Make The Bad-Man Pay.

Trigger control is weapon control, allowing you to maintain greater accuracy with all your shots, (unless you’re liquored-up in a “West-World” saloon and could give a damn which android you hit).

To achieve greater accuracy, keep the muzzle aligned to your target and depress the trigger straight back as smoothly as possible.

This applies to a semi-automatic pistol, revolver, shotgun or rifle. (Even works when ambushing a certain deserving nephew with a “Super-Soaker”).

Trigger control sounds simple. It’s not. Which is why so many people miss under pressure. It’s common for a stressed shooter to jerk the trigger and pull the muzzle offline.

A muzzle alignment that’s off by as little as 1/8″ means missing the target by 4 inches at 5 yards… 8 inches at 10 yards… and completely missing at 20 yards, (about my accuracy playing hoops).

Again, the main cause of poor muzzle alignment is convulsive or uncontrolled trigger pulls, (especially under pressure).

COMBAT TIP: If a right-handed opponent is shooting at you, automatically dive to your left. Because under stress, a convulsive trigger pull means he will consistently miss to his left, (which is your right if you’re facing the shooter).

So if shots are fired in your direction, move quickly to your left to increase the odds that he’ll miss you completely.

Just the opposite is true for a left-handed shooter.

Which is why it’s important to know which hand your opponent is firing from. When in doubt, quickly jump left, since the vast majority of people are right-handed. (Or you could just politely ask from which hand he’s shooting).

To avoid the pitfalls of convulsive grip and poor trigger control yourself, practice live and dry firing from a number of different stances and positions.

Firing Stance.

Take a stand, man.

I’ve seen some heated arguments over which “firing stance” is best, (which is scary when everyone is holding a gun), but Jim West basically boils it down to this:

Isosceles Firing Stance: This is much like a boxer’s stance, with your strong-side foot posted a little to the rear thus giving you a solid base and the ability to drive forward. But in general, you’re facing square to your target.

Your hands will come up to your front centerline as quickly as possible starting at about the belt buckle and progressing to eye level until you are on-sights.

You can practice the Isosceles Firing Stance without a gun by simply clapping your hands together in front of yourself and bringing them up to eye-level with your fingers pointing directly at the target. (I occasionally do this to my brother-in-law while mouthing “pow-pow”, just to keep him rattled and wondering if I’m completely nuts).

One problem with the Isosceles Stance is that being “squared-up” to the target makes you wider and more exposed, (a bad thing if your target happens to be returning fire).

TRAINING TIP: Another “visualization” trick that can help keep your barrel flat and level is to pretend that the barrel is filled with water and you can’t let any of it spill from either end of the barrel. (Remember, I said “pretend”. Don’t really do that).

The Weaver Stance: Slightly different and arguably more accurate than the Isosceles Stance, the Weaver Stance is a bladed stance with the shooting arm fully extended and the support arm slightly bent with the elbow facing downward.

This is a combat shooting position, originally designed to lower your profile and make you a smaller target — although research suggests that standing in a bladed position may actually expose more of your vital organs, (but who needs those anyway?).

Also, if you are wearing a ballistic vest, this stance tends to expose the opening at the arm, not protecting you as well as being square to the target.

For these, (and a number of other reasons), Jim West prefers the Isosceles Firing Stance.

COMBAT TIP: Whether you’re on the move, or dropping behind cover, always keep the muzzle pointed at your target. This way even if you accidentally squeeze off a round, or need to fire a quick shot before getting a proper sight alignment, you will still be sending hot lead toward your target.

Realistic Training

Okay… pretend this is real.

To get your mind acclimated to functioning in “combat-mode”, you must train under stress. There are 3 simple kinds of stress you can inflict on yourself.

Mental stress: Loud music, (I’ve found “Twisted Sister” sets the mood nicely), distractive noises, unexpected “pop-up” targets, and even someone standing next to you shouting insults, (make sure it’s someone you like).

Physical stress: Very effective. Do some push-ups, squats, jumping jacks, swim in cold water, or whatever it takes to increase your heart rate and mess with your coordination just before shooting.

Environmental stress: Change the lighting. Change your clothing to get chilled or overheated. Practice shooting from standing, kneeling or squatting, laying down, rolling, and from your back. Practice shooting with your off-hand.

Throughout this training you’ll want to concentrate on your breath control, maintaining tight mental and visual focus, keeping relaxed, and simply staying on point.

TRAINING TIP: Closely evaluate shot groupings on the target. If the shot pattern tends to be vertical (up and down), then most likely your breathing is affecting your aim. Smooth your breathing and don’t hold your breath.

If your shot patterns run horizontal (left and right), then this may indicate erratic and convulsive trigger pulls. Focus on the proper squeeze.

Four Basic Drills:

Nothing Fancy-Schmancy Here Folks.

There are no flashy moves here, just basic instruction straight from the old army shooting manual. Your goal is to break down the mechanics and eventually perfect each step while minimizing errors.

Drill One: Position.

Learn how to stand and hold your weapon (see Weaver vs Isosceles Stance), and run through firing positions from start to finish… with your weapon and without, (although in real combat it’s best to do this with your weapon).

Use a mirror to ensure your form is correct, because what “feels” right may not actually be right.

Hitting your base position correctly is vital. Practice proper breathing and remember not to hold your breath, (unless you’re in a James Bond movie firing at bad guys while underwater. What… it could happen).

Drill Two: Position And Aim.

Get your grip correct and level-up the weapon with your eyes on target just above the front sight post. Your focus should be on the front sight with your trigger finger alongside the barrel pointed directly at the target.

Never place your finger on the trigger unless you’re 100% committed to firing. Your trigger-finger is the ultimate “safety”, (although I do know of a certain finger that isn’t always safe to use).

Keep your breathing steady and smooth. Bring the sights up to your eyes, (never move your eyes down to the sites), and always maintain eyes-on-target.

TRAINING TIP: Learn which eye is your dominant eye. Once you figure this out, just for fun, hold your pistol/handgun upside down, align your sites to the target (upside down), and squeeze the trigger with your little finger.

If your firing position is correct with relaxed breath control, you should be dead on point. (Note: Keep fingers away from the slide and along the side of the weapon to avoid a slide or hammer bite!)

This is not only a useful drill, but it’s also a fun way to freak-out your buddies.

Drill Three: Position, Aim and Trigger Squeeze.

Proper grip, level up sites, eyes on target just above the front sight post, front-site post in focus…

…and then squeeze the trigger just to the point where any more trigger squeeze will fire the weapon.

This is how you’ll figure out the amount of “slack” or play there is in the trigger of that particular weapon. (Cue song: “Getting To Know All About You”).

Finish the firing sequence by completing the trigger squeeze and discharging the weapon.

Drill Four: Perfecting The Pull.

Again, trigger control is weapon control. Nail down the proper squeeze, (pretending that you’re squeezing a lemon using your forefinger can help) and do not close your eyes, (a mistake more common than most shooters admit).

Avoid flinching or trigger-surprise. A “ball and dummy drill” will help. Basically dummy rounds are randomly mixed into the magazine allowing you to spot trigger-pull errors and unwanted recoil anticipation.

In conclusion of this week’s most awesome manly newsletter: Learn to stay calm under fire by practicing both offense and defense tactics.

This is huge, because in a real fire-fight when the adrenaline starts pumping through your system, you’ll automatically resort to whatever level of training you’ve accomplished.

The more you know, the more you will have to draw from while under fire — allowing you to relax and avoid panic.

As Jim “Smokey” West points out: “In the heat of the moment it will seem like everything is suddenly going in slow motion. That is why you learn and practice both sides.”

If you’re interested in knowing the “Full Monty” of self-defense handgun training for the real-world, (as opposed to the fake world most folks live in), then check out our “American Handgunner” instructional package.

Jim “Smokey” West helped us put this product together. You can learn more about it HERE.

More testosterone-driven news to come.

Stay Manly,


Jimbo, Editor
Man Skills

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