1, 2, 3 Over

One thousand one. One thousand two. One thousand three. That’s about all the tme you get when a gunfight develops, if you are reasonably lucky. Sometimes it is quicker, and occasionally you may have enough time to see what develops. But, usually not.

The remarks that follow are intended to apply when the bad guys are not professional or trained firearms users. Most situations involving civilians involve untrained assailants and usually minimally trained legal gun owners. Think of a visit to the market when some basic low-life criminals decide to rob it and everyone in it, or you are at the ATM when a gun-toting street hood decides to hold you up, take your money and maybe kill you in the bargain.

Two Arms length. That may be all that separates you from the assailant when the fight is up close and very personal. To put this more clearly, a great many altercations that involve someone having to draw and use his or her gun happen extremely quickly and closely, within three seconds and five or 6 feet. These conditions result in four consequences.

The first is that one must be able to access and draw their gun very quickly. This requires a good holster worn so to keep the firearm in the best position for quick and reliable access . Carrying at the 3:00 to 5:00 o’clock position works well in this regard if one is not sitting down. Some seats, especially car seats in which one is belted are very inhibiting to any kind of quick access to a firearm worn at 3:00 o'clock or, worse, further back.  One answer to this is to carry your firearm off body while seated at a desk or in your car. Or, to dedicate a separate, easily accessible firearm to those environments.  Another solution while seated is to carry a firearm in the appendix position or as a cross draw carry.

Successful appendix carry is very dependent upon one’s body type and the size of the firearm.  Although some people can comfortably carry large to midsize firearms in the appendix position, generally it requires a flat stomach and a smaller firearm footprint for any kind of long lasting comfort. It does not bear repeating although I’m going to repeat it anyway, if your personal carry isn’t acceptably comfortable you won’t carry it, which basically defeats the purpose.

 So, where ever you are most comfortable carrying your gun, it pays to make sure that it is quickly accessible in any situation whether walking standing or sitting.  If you can’t access and present your gun ready to shoot within three seconds then you may not be adequately prepared for a quick developing, close-in encounter. 

Distance is the second consequence that devolves from a rapidly developing situation. Most altercations involving deadly force happen within about 6 feet.  The bad guy or guys always want to get close to control you and the situation. Consequently, when someone is close you do not want to extend your gun out away from your body as many firearms instructors teach. This may put your gun in range of a grab or slap by the bad guy.

The Isosceles Stance. If the assailant if close, say an arm's length from this man's extended gun, then the changes radically increase that he can get a hand on the gun to grab it or slap it away. Keep your gun close when the threat is close.

The Isosceles Stance. If the assailant if close, say an arm's length from this man's extended gun, then the changes radically increase that he can get a hand on the gun to grab it or slap it away. Keep your gun close when the threat is close.


“The toes face the target and are aligned. The knees are flexed at an angle that varies somewhat and the shooter leans forward from the waist towards the target. The shooter's arms are extended and form an isosceles triangle, hence the name.” May 31, 2017, https://www.policeone.com/police-products/firearms/training/articles/7981637-The-3-shooting-stances-Which-ones-right-for-you/

The isosceles and the Weaver positions are secure and stable but not the only ones you should learn and practice. Going into these stances automatically can put you in danger if the bad guy is in arms reach of your gun  

High Ready

Photo courtesy of Policeone.com

Photo courtesy of Policeone.com

Draw and bring your gun up with two hands into the high ready position. From there you reduce the chances of the bad guy getting a hand on your weapon. Doing so will allow you to get a shot or two into your assailant extremely quickly while keeping him away from your gun. Remember, in this scenario there will be no need or opportunity to aim the weapon. It is truly a point-and-shoot situation.The one who gets the first shot on target is almost always the one who wins that fight.

In some situations you will not have the use of your non-gun hand. It may be injured. You may be fending off the bad guy, or he may have grabbed you by that arm or hand. You may be pushing an innocent person out of the way. In any event, it also pays to be able to draw, get the gun hand's wrist firmly planed against your ribs, gun pointing directly at the assailant and making sure your other hand and arm are out of the line of fire, shoot from there.

The third consequence is the need to shoot quickly and possibly with one hand only. If you carry a semiautomatic pistol for self defense then you should carry it with a round chambered. Modern semi autos in good working condition will not fire unless the trigger is pulled. Carrying your semi auto in a quality holster, and practicing safe trigger discipline will safeguard against negligent discharge. If your gun has a manual safety and you choose to use it then practice swiping the safety off during the draw until it becomes muscle memory and second nature. This is not always possible, however. I know from experience that you will occasionally forget to swipe off that safety. A number of gun makers these days are following in Glock's footsteps and offering their semi autos without a manual safety. I tend to use the manual safety on my guns that have them when they are not being worn in one of my holsters. When I holster one of these guns, I click the safety OFF. It is in the holster, safe from discharge until I draw it and put my finger on the trigger. I will only do this if I have to shoot. And, I don't have to rely on memory, muscle or otherwise, to move the safety to OFF.

An unloaded gun. Think about this. You have three seconds to shoot a criminal who is threatening to shoot you or someone else. You are carrying a semi automatic handgun that is not ready to shoot because there is no round in the chamber. You have basically an unloaded gun. You are in a convenience store. Two masked men walk in pointing guns at everyone and demanding that you all get on the ground. One accosts the cashier and the other turns away from you to threaten a customer. No one is looking at you. You have about three seconds to do something. During that three second period you must draw with one hand, rack the slide with your other hand, put the gun on target and fire. What happens if you short stroke the slide and the round jams in the chamber, or as you rack your gun, the bad guy ducks behind cover shooting at you as he does, or you have to push an innocent person out of danger and can’t rack the slide at the same time? Worse, what about if you are fending off the bad guy or maybe his partner with one hand and only have one to draw and fire? 

If you are carrying an unloaded gun, why carry in the first place? 

The fourth consequence of the quick and close fight is the necessity to train for it. 

Most of us understand and practice proper draw, presentation and stances when we go shooting. This is usually a fun and leisurely activity when our focus on the actual shooting is not happening in a sudden adrenaline rush while the clock ticks down in seconds. Training ourselves for the worse case scenarios is important. Why is it that hardly anyone does this? If you spend some time on YouTube you will find many firearms "instructors" with their own training programs and philosophies. Some are quite good. Many are not. They run different kinds of self defense firearms classes from their own school locations and some travel to different parts of the country to offer classes. They have videos of their students and training exercises. All this is well and good, but these kinds of classes are rare, compared to the number of gun owners in the States. If one is close enough to take one of these classes there is still the matter of having the time available and the funds to pay for them. They are not cheap.

Even if one can afford the time and expense necessary to take a single or multi day course, how often will one be able to continue training in the principles learned during the class? I'd say not very often. You can't go into tactical handgun training exercises at the local range. You can basically stay in your stall and shoot your pistol down range at a paper target. That's it. And, that is far from what happens in a gun fight. You could go out to the country with a like-minded friend and work on these tactical issues and drills, but how often does that happen? Around here, we have six or seven months in the year when we can count on decent weather for outside shooting and practice.

I know a number of people in my area who routinely carry concealed. I know only one who is conversant with these different, real-world tactical practices and he is a sworn police officer. I have a good friend who has many more guns than I, who loves to shoot and has a bunch of reloading equipment. He practices none of these tactical drills.

The best I can offer is to suggest that you set up a regular schedule, say once a week, for unloading your carry guns, donning your favorite carry holsters and do an half hour or more of dry fire practice in these techniques and from different positions: walking, standing, sitting. Develop the muscle  memory and automatic reflexes necessary to successfully execute these actions should that ever become necessary.

And stay alert. Avoid trouble if you can, fight effectively if you have to.