Get Off the Line!

Stock photo - not our shooting venue or one of our shooters.

Stock photo – not our shooting venue or one of our shooters.

How many of us “defensive shooters” go to the range a few times a month – hell, maybe even a few times a week – stand on the firing line, shoot through a box or two of ammo, maybe run through some defensive drills or holster work, then pack up, take our targets down, and leave? I’m willing to bet the vast, vast majority of us have fallen into that exact routine. Well, those of us that actually do any shooting beyond what’s required to get our permits or maintain our qualifications. The “bear minimum shooters” are another topic entirely. But back on task… Static shooting is, far and wide, the norm for us civilians.

Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to do some training with my good friends over at Aspis Protection Services and I have seen the error of my ways. We worked on “dynamic” shooting drills – dynamic in that the shooter is moving immediately before, during, and/or after he engages the target. Whole different ballgame. It occurred to me that I can’t think of a single time when I’ve done any dynamic pistol shooting. I just haven’t had the opportunity. The real crime here is that I carry my gun into the real world, with real people, every day and the plain fact of the matter is that the chances of being involved in a defensive shooting from a static, “traditional” (read: Weaver, isosceles, etc.) shooting position are slim to none. I – WE – don’t train as we fight. And we know better.

The first drill we did was simple: Starting from the 15 yard line, with five rounds loaded and a spare five-round magazine, begin walking towards the target while engaging. At or around the seven-yard line, you should run your first magazine dry, reload and continue engaging while moving forward. Your second magazine should be empty by the three-yard line. Sound simple?

It’s not.

One of the first fundamentals we learn as new shooters is to shoot from a good, solid platform consisting of a good, balanced position and nice, tight grip. Well, when you start drawing from the holster one of the first things you realize is that, often, the grip you shoot with is the grip you managed to draw with; you can’t readjust. In a defense situation, you simply won’t have the time. But at least you’ve got that good, balanced position, right? Not so when you’re moving. Taking steps while shooting is, in many ways, like shooting for the first time again. Remember how much your front sight post seemed to be moving when you fired those first shots? No matter how much you tried you couldn’t keep it still, right? It’s 10x worse when you’re walking.

Much as you mitigate the risk of a bad grip during a draw by practicing your draw (with an unloaded firearm) hundreds or thousands of times (wait, you ARE practicing your draw, right?) you can practice walking and shooting in your own home.  With an unloaded firearm, simply establish a site picture on something still – say, a lampshade – and walk towards it, focusing on keeping that front site steady and aligned with your target. Very quickly, you’ll realize what walking style works best for you – a “duck walk” or a “heel-to-toe”, etc. Practice it.  Forwards and backwards. Then try to find a range that will allow you to do it live. Some of you lucky bastards have access to wide open spaces. Use them! Us city dwellers will have to be a bit more creative. It will take a drive for most of us to head out to the country. Trust me: it’s worth every gallon of gas.

The second drill we did was a sort of “shoot/no-shoot” drill. Welcome to the real world, shooters! This drill consisted of a “crowded” area made of of mostly friendly targets grouped together at different ranges relative to the firing line. There were a few “bad guys” clearly marked tucked into the group. The drill was executed by a shooter just walking by along the firing line, minding his own business until an instructor indicated a threat/shots/fired, etc. The shooter had to turn into the direction of the threat, try to identify the threat (and, depending on where you were, you might not be able to see it) and make the decision to draw and fire or get off the “X” and retreat to safety. What a great drill! Not only are you critically thinking (rather than indiscriminately discharging your firearm in the general direction of the threat) and scanning, you’re also consciously addressing the “civilian” factor – do I have a shot without collateral? Can I hit my target without hitting a friendly? Then you’re going through your draw-present-fire-scan-(decock)-reholster-evacuate sequence. The multi-dimensionality combined with the stress of decision making makes this an absolutely invaluable drill for the concealed carry practitioner. There are lots of variations as well – forcing a reload, engaging multiple targets, etc.

Like the previous drill, some of us will have to be creative in finding a place to do this one and setting it up.  Find a safe place out in the country, set up targets then take a couple buddies and go out and put yourself through the paces. It will make you rethink everything.

One final thought – The safety rules still apply, even though you’re shooting more dynamically and situationally. Strike that, the safety rules are even more important. It’s easy to get distracted because of the task loading you’re giving yourself. Take your time. Get it right. There were a few times I almost forgot to decock before holstering. Don’t let yourself get tunnel vision. Be safe.

These simple drills will inject a much more realistic element into your shooting. It’s a lot more fun, too! If you’re anything like me, going and spending 90 minutes at the range, standing on a line, making brass and putting holes in paper is boring. I have to talk myself into doing it.

Once again, a HUGE “thank you” to the great instructors over at Aspis Protection Services. If you’re in the Northern Virginia Area, I highly recommend you link up with those guys and do some training!

Be safe! Train hard!

About Andy

Andy is a veteran of OEF and OIF and currently works in the surveillance industry, keeping an eye on the bad guys. He's been an NRA Certified instructor for over two years.
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