THE REAL WORLD
SURVIVAL STEMS FROM REALISTIC, PRACTICAL TRAINING, WHICH CREATE A HIGHER SKILL SET
We turned to a decorated war vet to provide tips on realistic, practical training. By Chuck Taylor
Once the fundamentals of combat shooting are understood and the shooter has developed his skills appropriately, it’s natural that he seeks to elevate his knowledge and abilities to higher levels. Yet, surprisingly, a student occasionally comes to me who, due to a misimpression of their actual ability, seeks to bypass basic instruction.
This is a very difficult personal situation requiring tact and diplomacy, because, while making every attempt to avoid offending him, this kind of prospective student must be advised that for maximum tactical, criminal and civil liability protection, this isn’t a good idea. How does this happen?
ALL TRAINING IS NOT EQUAL
All training programs, even those teaching the so-called “Modern Technique” of handgunning, are not the same, and the building of skill to higher levels is generally a step-by-step process, based on the building-block principle. As such, best results can be obtained only if
the student has already received “the complete package” of fundamental (basic) skills and academic knowledge, something that is by no means universal within the training industry.
In many cases, I have found that students who have received their lower-level instruction from other sources are unable to keep up with those who have trained with me all along. This not only prevents the student himself from receiving maximum benefit from the course, but it also slows down the class and may even cause a safety hazard to the student and others.
For this reason, in this age of constant liability concerns, neither the student nor the instructor can afford to make assumptions about the student’s skills—all it takes is a single incident to open the floodgates of litigation. For the most knowledge and skill in return for your time and expense, it really is best to start at the basic level with a reputable, professional trainer/school and, at least until you have reached an advanced level, stay with them.
REAL WORLD DEFINED
To say the least, advanced combat pistolcraft is highly challenging and, for the most part, focused more toward the tactical aspects of shooting. Without a doubt, at this level, the prospective student has a wide variety of instructors and schools from which to choose. However, when deciding from whom your more advanced training should come, be certain that it is based upon a realworld perspective.
By “real world,” I mean that the basis for the instruction should be real-world experience rather than being theoretical or competitionoriented. Certainly, no one can successfully claim that top-level competition shooters are not excellent shots—this goes without saying. But, their repertoire of skills and instructional focus is toward winning pistol matches, rather than knockdown, drag-out gunfights. And there is a difference, is there not? A big difference. In fact, the two are like night and day.
This being the case, make certain that the instructional program you choose is based on a real-world perspective, created and taught by instructors who know what deadly action is really like, and who understand its many nuances and foibles. Taken individually, these might appear minor, but when they surface in a self-defense environment, they can quite literally make the difference between life and death— yours.
Yet, in too many instances, the importance of shooting fundamentals is not proportionately emphasized. Regardless of the tactical problem you are facing, if you do not pay careful attention to what I facetiously call, “The Three Secrets” of combat shooting—sight alignment, sight picture and trigger control—you will
be sorely (and possibly terminally) disappointed with the results.
From the very beginning of their training experience, students should utilize the weapon, ammunition and equipment they intend to carry in their daily activities, also something often ignored these days. Instead, too many utilize weapons, holsters and ancillary equipment geared toward good performance on a firing range instead of the real world. From an instructional standpoint, targets, too, should be realistic and varied, to expose the student to the widest possible array of visual impressions.
Next, the matter of multiple targets. Any advanced training program should include exposure to not only typical confrontations—single targets in the open, for example— but also to multiple targets in various configurations. In a lateral configuration, the best bet is to engage targets from the firing to supporting side, hitting each one with a single shot into the thoracic cavity.
This completed, bring the weapon down to “ready” and assess the situation. Anyone still functioning in what you consider to be a lethally aggressive fashion should, of course, be re-engaged, but as a “failure to stop,” meaning that you change your tactics and go for the head with subsequent shots.
Why shouldn’t you continue to shoot him in the chest? Because it does not usually work in failure-to-stop situations. What happens in a failure to stop? Put simply, in slightly under one second after the initial trauma is sustained, involuntary nervous system shutdown (an automatic phenomenon common to all mammals) occurs, eliminating the target’s susceptibility to shock.
As applied to a multiple-target situation, by the time you have shot your attackers once each, considerable time has elapsed, and the nervous system is closed down, so shooting for the chest again is largely a waste of time and ammunition.
A failure to stop can also occur with a single target, even though you have hit him with two quick shots in the chest instead of only one. If the nervous system is not overpowered by the trauma of the initial wound, the target can, and usually will, continue to function for an indeterminate period, often as though he were uninjured. Given his ability to continue projecting deadly force during this time, shooting him in the chest again and again usually has little or no immediate effect—he feels nothing because his nervous system has already begun its protective process.
If we do not go to an alternate plan of action, we can only wait for “hydraulic failure,” a term used to describe the point at which, due to his wound(s), the target’s blood
“BY ‘REAL WORLD,’ I MEAN THAT THE BASIS FOR THE INSTRUCTION SHOULD BE REAL-WORLD EXPERIENCE RATHER THAN BEING THEORETICAL OR COMPETITION-ORIENTED.”
pressure drops below that required to remain functional. The problem is that the length of time required for this to happen is unpredictable, so if you have a failure to stop, to continue shooting the target in the chest while awaiting hydraulic failure is not a viable alternative. Therefore, the concept of “keep shooting him until he goes down” is a dangerous fallacy.
To illustrate, here is an example. In the infamous 1985 Dade County, Florida incident in which two FBI agents were killed and three more seriously wounded, the felon who did all the damage had been shot through the brachial artery and heart with a 9mm 115-grain JHP during the first few seconds of the encounter.
Both were fatal wounds, yet he continued to function for quite a long time, during which he was able to traverse considerable distances and, in the process, successfully engage multiple FBI agents. Had he been hit in the cranio-ocular area (eyes/ brain cavities), this could not have happened.
Thus, common sense and tactical necessity require that you abandon the old tactic of shooting each target twice because, given the situation involving the nervous system, it simply takes too long to successfully perform. Meanwhile, while you can deal only with one target at a time, each of those multiple assailants has only one target to hit—you— and will most likely be doing so simultaneously. So, a compromise must be made between the maximum stopping power potential of a quick, controlled pair of shots and the need to hit each target quickly.
If the targets are spread out in a linear (longitudinal) formation, stepping in line with the nearest target as you present your own weapon places him directly in his companion’s line of fire, obstructing their view of you and, to them, confusing the issue. This has the effect of changing a multipletarget problem into a series of single target engagements, allowing you to maximize your weapon’s stopping power potential by hitting each target twice in the chest, instead of only once.
Once the nearest target is neutralized, step clear to the left or right and engage the remaining targets on the move as they become visible, which also makes you a more difficult target to hit. Then, as previously discussed, lower your weapon to ready, assess the situation and respond accordingly, based on what you see.
CLOSE RANGE NOTES
In addition to lateral and linear multiple targets and normal-size targets in the open out to 50 meters or so, the student must be able to
present his weapon and hit small targets at close ranges, from both the ready (gun in hand) and from an open or concealed holster. Typical situations in which the need for this ability might occur are: failures to stop, targets behind cover or concealment, targets at odd angles, and vehicular situations. In each instance, only a part of the target is visible and thus susceptible to effective incoming fire.
In addition, he must be capable of dealing with the nightmarish situation we all wish to avoid—the human shield or hostage scenario, where only small portion of the hostage-taker’s head is visible—yet the actions of the hostage-taker mandate immediate action. As unpleasant or “politically incorrect” as it may be, to avoid experiencing problems like this and emphasizing easier scenarios instead won’t provide the student with a sufficiently realistic perspective to expect him to handle the situation “out there,” where the bullets fly both ways and real people—perhaps you or your loved ones—get hurt when things go wrong.
SIZES AND SHAPES
Another issue generally overlooked is the need to be able to shoot through openings of different sizes and shapes. Here at CTASAA, we deal with this by placing such openings both in front of the student and in front of the target, as well, forcing them to change their angles of fire and maintain maximum tactical flexibility always. In other words, they must think on their feet.
We also deal, in considerable depth, with shooting from uncomfortable positions and the quick use of the kneeling position to change the angle of fire upward in a crowded situation, to minimize the danger to noninvolved personnel near the target. Provided the shooter can assume it quickly and utilizes it correctly, kneeling is very useful for support of the firing arm when engaging targets at longer distances or when you wish to make maximum use of available cover or concealment.
Yet another advanced training issue is the tendency to “crowd” cover, a grave error nearly always overlooked by most instructors and schools. Viewed historically, this practice came from using artificial or simulated barricades on the training or competition range and, though invalid, has over the years spilled over into the realm of tactical shooting.
The fact is that those who crowd cover increase their risk of being struck by ricochets, particularly when that cover has a resilient surface, as does, for example, the body of an automobile. Positioning yourself at least 7 feet back from such cover allows ricochets to pass overhead instead of striking you in the face.
Though at times it seems to be a best-kept secret known only by a few trainers, it really is not. It’s just one of the many things that instructors with a real-world background know about and those whose background and resultant training programs are based upon theory or competition cannot. Yet, its importance is irrefutable.
Another reason many instructors fail to deal with this issue is because they have misunderstood the FBI study in
“TAKE A REALISTIC, PRACTICAL APPROACH TO YOUR ADVANCED TRAINING, BECAUSE IF YOU DO NOT, YOU MIGHT WELL BE UNWITTINGLY SETTING YOURSELF UP FOR A LIABILITY DISASTER.”
which it was determined that bullets ricocheting from a solid (non-resilient) surface—concrete, brick, cinder blocks, etc.—would assume a relatively flat trajectory parallel with that surface and would continue to travel downrange at a height above the surface of between 6 and 15 inches.
The key here is the term, “solid surface,” which is a totally different situation from a resilient surface, where bullet behavior is completely different. Unfortunately, it has been arbitrarily assumed that projectile behavior on a resilient surface will be the same as on a solid surface, a dangerous error, considering its potentially catastrophic consequences.
Since most of us spend a great deal of time around automobiles, we emphasize shooting from both parked and moving cars and how to best exit them in a tactical environment. There are many theories on how this is best accomplished, but the plain truth is that there is only one way to do so— use a real car and proceed from there.
If the vehicle is moving, you will quickly find that vibration and up-anddown motion from the car prevents accurate shooting, unless the shooter uses his body to cushion motion by positioning his firing-side leg under him on the seat, pressing his firing shoulder against the top and rear area of the window frame. Only in this way can the shooter’s arms remain unaffected.
Students should know how to approach and deal with targets in and around cars and how to ricochet bullets underneath and across the hood, roof and trunk to hit targets on the other side. And, again, the only way to gain a useful perspective on this subject is to get down and dirty and see what happens.
Often, at the more advanced levels of instruction, attention to basic tactical principles are ignored in favor of the razzle-dazzle of high-speed shooting and movement. This, too, is a grave error and one which should, at all costs, be avoided. Basic tactical doctrine—use of the eyes and ears, remaining as far away as possible from danger areas as the terrain and/ or building structure allows, avoiding close-contact with corners, keeping
one’s balance, use of the sights when actually firing if at all possible, and paying special attention to channelized areas—cannot be emphasized enough. To be the “Fastest Gun in The West” means little, otherwise!
Since most handgun fights these days occur between sunset and sunrise, additional attention must also be paid to shooting in low light environments, both with and without a flashlight. In our on-site advanced program, we always include shooting house and “jungle lane” exercises in the evenings, in addition to normal low light drills on the range. There is simply no better way to acquaint the student to the problems inherent to lowlight shooting, than to expose him to as many of its variations as possible.
These are some of the advanced concepts you should address when endeavoring to reach your highest potential as a combat shooter. A clear perspective on what training is all about, in conjunction with an intelligent, real-world choice of the source from whom you receive it, will take you a long, long way.
Moreover, as much of this text discloses, at the more advanced level, the correct execution of seemingly exotic or small things makes a great deal of difference when the chips are down, and your life hangs by a thread.
In fact, they can make all the difference, because it is not just practice that makes perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect. So, do yourself a favor. Take a realistic, practical approach to your advanced training, because if you do not, you might well be unwittingly setting yourself up for a liability disaster.
Whether it appears as tactical, criminal or civil liability does not matter—the consequences of ignorance can take many forms but constitute a catastrophe nonetheless. As such, you owe it to yourself to get the best, most practical training you can find, from someone with a real-world tactical, rather than competitive background. I don’t think you’ll regret it, and it just might save your life! TW
“… THE FELON WHO ACTUALLY DID ALL THE DAMAGE HAD BEEN SHOT THROUGH THE BRACHIAL ARTERY AND HEART WITH A 9MM 115-GRAIN JHP DURING THE FIRST FEW SECONDS OF THE ENCOUNTER. “
Real- world skill means being able to shoot through openings of different sizes and shapes. At the author’s academy, CTASAA, they teach students to change their angles of fire and maintain tactical flexibility.