Gun World - - Contents - By Chuck Tay­lor

A lot of myths sur­round tac­ti­cal shoot­ing. Some of them can get you hurt … or worse.

In these trou­bled times, the need for self-de­fense has be­come more crit­i­cal than ever. In­deed, now that most states have en­acted a CCW law and rec­i­proc­ity be­tween states is in­creas­ing, more and more civil­ians are “packing heat.”

Po­lit­i­cal un­rest, eco­nomic con­cerns, cultural dis­sat­is­fac­tion and so­cial up­heaval are just a few of the rea­sons, but suf­fice it to say that those con­cerns are very much on ev­ery­one’s minds these days.

Nev­er­the­less, tac­ti­cal shoot­ing myths abound, and many of them are down­right dan­ger­ous. Let’s take a no-holds-barred look at them. Af­ter all, the life you save might be your own!


Most shoot­ers who ob­tain their CCW per­mits don’t carry their train­ing past “get­ting their ticket,” which, from a tac­ti­cal, crim­i­nal and civil li­a­bil­ity stand­point, puts them in a dan­ger­ous po­si­tion. A CCW class merely teaches what’s needed to pro­tect the is­su­ing author­ity from li­a­bil­ity—not the ac­tual weapon­car­rier. Thus, equipped with only a rudi­men­tary un­der­stand­ing of the law and al­most no tac­ti­cal shoot­ing skills, the typ­i­cal CCW holder then goes about his daily life obliv­i­ous of the po­si­tion into which he has put him­self.


From a truly tac­ti­cal view­point, com­pet­i­tive shoot­ing, in par­tic­u­lar, is the most in­flu­en­tial source of er­ro­neous data and tech­niques

these days.

Some do pur­sue train­ing past the “get your ticket” level, but all too of­ten, they in­ad­ver­tently se­lect in­struc­tors who have lit­tle or no ex­pe­ri­ence in true tac­ti­cal shoot­ing. In­stead, while these in­struc­tors’ teach­ing mo­tives might be hon­or­able, they’re hob­by­ists or com­pet­i­tive shoot­ers who don’t ac­tu­ally re­al­ize that tac­ti­cal shoot­ing is an art and sci­ence all its own and bears vir­tu­ally no re­sem­blance to any other kind of shoot­ing. There is an old say­ing: “Life and death are se­ri­ous busi­ness … too se­ri­ous to be left to am­a­teurs.” I agree.


From a truly tac­ti­cal view­point, com­pet­i­tive shoot­ing, in par­tic­u­lar, is the most in­flu­en­tial source of er­ro­neous data and tech­niques these days, be­cause its par­tic­i­pants are un­aware of this crit­i­cal fact. But like it or not, the truth is that merely shoot­ing at sil­hou­ette tar­gets doesn’t make it com­bat shoot­ing. Ac­tual tac­tics and many state-of-the-art meth­ods are to­tally ig­nored, prompt­ing many who know the dif­fer­ence to com­ment that in or­der to win a match, one must do things guar­an­teed to get him killed in a real gun­fight. I con­cur. As a for­mer world-class IPSC com­peti­tor, I saw it so many times that I de­cided to forgo fur­ther com­pet­i­tive par­tic­i­pa­tion. Af­ter all, as a lead­ing tac­ti­cal shoot­ing in­struc­tor, it would have been hyp­o­crit­i­cal to teach true tac­ti­cal shoot­ing and con­tinue to shoot com­pet­i­tively. In ad­di­tion, inas­much as the two types of shoot­ing are nearly di­a­met­ri­cally op­posed to one another, I couldn’t do both to the best of my abil­ity. This be­ing the case, I chose to leave com­pe­ti­tion en­tirely and con­cen­trate ex­clu­sively on tac­ti­cal shoot­ing.


Tac­ti­cal shoot­ers and con­cealed car­ri­ers are also of­ten con­fused as to what kind of gun and an­cil­lary equip­ment they should ob­tain. Many times, they se­lect a gun solely for its diminu­tive size, for­get­ting the fact that the smaller the gun, the less ef­fi­cient it is. The fact is that ex­cept for ex­tra­or­di­nary sit­u­a­tions, you don’t buy a gun be­cause it’s con­ceal­able—you dress to con­ceal the gun.

This means that buy­ing a “pocket pis­tol” ac­tu­ally puts you in a highly dis­ad­van­ta­geous po­si­tion. Such weapons are typ­i­cally cham­bered for less-than-op­ti­mum car­tridges such as the .22 LR, .25 ACP, .32 ACP or .380 ACP, all of which have a poor rep­u­ta­tion as man-stop­pers. More­over, most guns of this type have sights too small to quickly ac­quire and align at speed … or they have no sights at all!

Com­pact and sub­com­pact pis­tols are of­ten cho­sen as al­ter­na­tives, but their grip frames are short, leav­ing you no place to put the lit­tle fin­ger of the fir­ing hand (an awk­ward and in­ef­fi­cient sit­u­a­tion, to say the least). Yet, this par­tic­u­lar trait is of­ten shouted from the rooftops as be­ing more con­ceal­able.

Then, so they can prop­erly grip the weapon, pro­po­nents of this con­cept add a grip ex­ten­sion to the gun’s magazine floor­plate, giv­ing it the same length and grip index of a full-sized gun. Un­for­tu­nately, they end up with a small gun with a long grip frame but a short sight ra­dius, which am­pli­fies sight align­ment er­ror ex­po­nen­tially, and a bar­rel too short to pro­duce the bul­let ve­loc­i­ties needed for any kind of reli­able JHP ex­pan­sion.

The truth is that while pop­u­lar these days, such guns aren’t nearly as ef­fi­cient as their full-sized coun­ter­parts. I car­ried a 1911 Colt .45 ACP con­cealed for more than 40 years, and dur­ing all that time, no one ever no­ticed it.

The mis­sion of the de­fen­sive hand­gun is to pro­tect against an un­ex­pected at­tack, which makes it a weapon of ex­pe­di­ency. It’s in­tended as a re­ac­tive, purely de­fen­sive, arm that is used quickly and at close range. This means that max­i­mum ef­fi­ciency is of para­mount im­por­tance—far more than just con­ceal­a­bil­ity. Re­mem­ber: You dress to con­ceal the gun; you shouldn’t buy a gun just be­cause it’s con­ceal­able.

Many feel that a Com­man­der-sized gun is op­ti­mum—and with good rea­son. It’s not too big or too heavy to con­ceal and carry, but it is large enough to grip prop­erly and shoot quickly with­out loss of ac­cu­racy. Along these lines, an al­loyframed gun such as Ruger’s .45 ACP SR-1911 Model 6711 is a good ex­am­ple. It has good sights, is ex­cep­tion­ally “user friendly,” ac­cu­rate and reli­able. Yet, it’s flat enough and short enough to con­ceal eas­ily.


Sin­gle-ac­tion or older guns should be viewed with cau­tion, be­cause their tech­nolo­gies and met­al­lur­gies are both of­ten sus­pect. With­out ques­tion, if one is a red-hot shot with his Colt Sin­gle Ac­tion Army re­volver, he can shoot as quickly and ac­cu­rately as anyone, but mal­func­tion clear­ing and reload­ing are clumsy and time con­sum­ing.

Older guns should be thor­oughly ex­am­ined by a com­pe­tent gun­smith to en­sure they’re ser­vice­able. Some­times, such weapons are in ex­cel­lent con­di­tion … but of­ten, they are not. Re­mem­ber that you’re quite lit­er­ally bet­ting your life on that gun, so it had bet­ter func­tion re­li­ably.


Be­cause the vast ma­jor­ity of hand­gun en­coun­ters oc­cur in low light, a good set of tri­tium sights is a good idea. So equipped, the tac­ti­cal hand­gun is ca­pa­ble of hit­ting any­thing its op­er­a­tor can see and iden­tify as a deadly threat. How­ever, un­less you have vi­sion is­sues that pre­clude ef­fec­tive use of nor­mal iron sights, you should view optical sights with cau­tion. They’re more frag­ile than iron sights, and any­thing that uti­lizes bat­ter­ies to func­tion is highly vul­ner­a­ble to “Mur­phy’s Law.” I’ve seen it dozens of times. Muz­zle brakes should be avoided. Although they do re­duce re­coil to a cer­tain de­gree, they do so by vent­ing burning pro­pel­lant gases up­ward into the shooter’s line of sight, which ob­scures the tar­get and, in low light, in­creases muz­zle flash. For all-too-ob­vi­ous rea­sons, nei­ther of these traits is de­sir­able on a tac­ti­cal hand­gun.


There are lit­er­ally hun­dreds of hol­sters avail­able these days, but re­gard­less of which weapon se­cu­rity de­vice it might uti­lize, the hol­ster, it­self, must pre­vent en­try into the gun’s trig­ger guard area by the trig­ger fin­ger or other for­eign ob­ject and al­low proper grip index of the weapon with the fir­ing hand. Rapid weapon pre­sen­ta­tion is crit­i­cal to suc­cess in many hand­gun fights, and if your hol­ster pre­vents you from get­ting a proper fir­ing grip with the weapon hol­stered, you’re in big trou­ble.


Am­mu­ni­tion se­lec­tion is too of­ten done in a cava­lier fash­ion. Don’t as­sume that sexy-look­ing JHP will ac­tu­ally ex­pand when shot into a hu­man tar­get. The fact is, most of them don’t. At the ve­loc­i­ties pro­duced by most ser­vice hand­guns, JHP ex­pan­sion is “iffy,” at best. More­over, it’s long been un­der­stood by those “in the know” that JHP ex­pan­sion is also de­pen­dent upon what the bul­let en­coun­ters dur­ing pas­sage through the tar­get. If the tar­get is hu­man, things such as bones, fat, mus­cle and or­gans—all of which vary a great deal in den­sity—ex­ert tremen­dous in­flu­ence upon bul­let ex­pan­sion.

Muz­zle flash, re­coil and ac­cu­racy are also im­por­tant items to con­sider, as is func­tional re­li­a­bil­ity. If that cool-look­ing JHP doesn’t feed prop­erly in your gun, every­thing else is aca­demic. And if the load gen­er­ates too much re­coil for you to con­trol the gun dur­ing the fast shoot­ing se­quences typ­i­cal of deadly en­coun­ters, it should be avoided. Stop­ping power is, with­out a doubt, crit­i­cal, but if the load can’t be con­trolled, it doesn’t mat­ter much.


More of­ten than not, con­cealed weapon car­ri­ers limit their prac­tice to open carry, in the be­lief that they’ll some­how be able to quickly and ef­fi­ciently present their gun from be­neath their con­ceal­ment gar­ment. How­ever, this be­lief is com­pletely—and dan­ger­ously—un­true.

Ac­quir­ing the gun from be­neath a gar­ment re­quires care­ful, con­stant prac­tice; as­sum­ing other­wise is a se­ri­ous and po­ten­tially deadly mis­take. The same can be said of ac­tual shoot­ing prac­tice. Be­cause low-light con­di­tions are preva­lent in tac­ti­cal en­coun­ters, you shouldn’t limit your prac­tice to day­light hours. Low-light shoot­ing, with and with­out a flash­light, is se­ri­ous busi­ness and also needs to be prac­ticed reg­u­larly.


Too many shoot­ers be­lieve that each and ev­ery tar­get must be shot twice, but this, too, is a myth. If a sin­gle tar­get is en­gaged, hit­ting the tho­racic area twice is a good re­sponse. But what if mul­ti­ple as­sailants are in­volved?

Shoot­ing each one twice sim­ply takes too long and thus in­creases tac­ti­cal li­a­bil­ity to un­nec­es­sar­ily dan­ger­ous lev­els. In­stead, shoot each tar­get once and quickly as­sess the sit­u­a­tion. Then, if any of the tar­gets is still func­tion­ing in a lethally ag­gres­sive man­ner, fol­low up with a cranio-oc­u­lar shot to the head. Don’t shoot him again in the tho­racic cav­ity area, be­cause at this point, his ner­vous sys­tem is al­most to­tally shut down and do­ing so will have min­i­mal ef­fect.

Al­ways have a “plan B.” The cranio-oc­u­lar shot is the least dif­fi­cult to ex­e­cute—and the most ef­fec­tive. Other ar­eas, such as the pelvis, fe­mur and knees, for in­stance, aren’t usu­ally vis­i­ble (which makes them harder to hit) and don’t of­fer the abil­ity to pro­duce im­me­di­ate in­ca­pac­i­ta­tion.


One thing no one ar­gues these days is that the vast ma­jor­ity of hand­gun con­fronta­tions oc­cur at close range. And while some be­lieve “close range” to be 7 to 10 yards, they’re dead wrong. The av­er­age is 7 to 10 feet! This means that the event will hap­pen fast, be­cause time and dis­tance al­ways cor­re­late. And there are many in­stances when the ac­tual fight be­gins within arm’s reach, mean­ing that prac­tice in how to deal with such sit­u­a­tions is nec­es­sary. As an in­struc­tor, I have em­pha­sized for decades high-speed sin­gle and mul­ti­ple tar­get en­gage­ments at arm’s length, 3, 5 and 7 me­ters. You should, too.


Use of cover is also im­por­tant, yet in­struc­tion in its use is sel­dom of­fered and is usu­ally in­cor­rect when it is. In par­tic­u­lar, you should stay at least 2 me­ters back from your cover if pos­si­ble to min­i­mize the po­ten­tial for be­ing hit by ric­o­chets or sec­ondary mis­siles re­sult­ing from in­com­ing hits on the cover, it­self. In ad­di­tion, cant­ing your weapon slightly greatly min­i­mizes your ex­po­sure area, mak­ing you a much more dif­fi­cult tar­get.


With home in­va­sions and bur­glar­ies on the rise, you’d also bet­ter train your­self how to re­spond to them. And don’t for­get that the po­ten­tial for a deadly en­counter when in a pub­lic place, such as a restau­rant, is also quite high these days, so train­ing in how to deal with such events should be a high pri­or­ity. While great fun, shoot­ing from a car isn’t as tac­ti­cally use­ful as many be­lieve. On the other hand, un­der­stand­ing how to prop­erly use a car for cover is quite im­por­tant. A great many myths abound on this par­tic­u­lar sub­ject. If not prop­erly un­der­stood, they can be po­ten­tially deadly.

Be­cause self-de­fense sit­u­a­tions are es­sen­tially ad hoc events, al­ways train for the un­ex­pected, such as learn­ing how to shoot from im­pro­vised po­si­tions. The very mis­sion of the hand­gun is re­ac­tive, and its use is al­ways in re­sponse to an un­ex­pected at­tack. There­fore, be­ing able to re­spond to the widest va­ri­ety of con­di­tions is a smart move.


These, are some of the most dan­ger­ous myths of tac­ti­cal shoot­ing. Any one of them can get you killed, but if you’re aware of them and make the right de­ci­sions, they’re all to­tally avoid­able.

Above all, re­mem­ber to K.I.S.S.: Keep it sim­ple, stupid. Hand­gun fights are fast, fu­ri­ous and ugly, and the stresses in­volved in them will de­bil­i­tate your skill level as much as 50 per­cent— yes, 50 per­cent!

This means there is no time for fancy or com­plex tech­niques, be­cause they take too long to ex­e­cute, and their er­ror po­ten­tial is too high. So, do your­self a fa­vor and avoid them like the plague. It doesn’t mat­ter a hoot what works on pis­tol ranges.

What mat­ters is what works when the chips are down and the bul­lets fly both ways. In this sort of en­vi­ron­ment, sim­plic­ity reigns supreme. GW


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