Self Defense Handgun Training

By CTD Suzanne published on in Safety and Training

A recent study commissioned by the National Shooting Sports Foundation found the majority of first time gun buyers practice shooting at least once a month and report the number one reason for their purchase was for home and self-defense.

If you are a new gun owner, are you training correctly for self and home defense?

Your number one priority of being a responsible gun owner is safety first. Learn, memorize and always practice the golden rules of firearm safety. For a refresher, read A Simple Firearm Safety Rule Refresher.

Bring your target in closer than the standard 15 to 20 feet.

Bring your target in closer than the standard 15 to 20 feet.

Second, to become a confident and accurate shooter, you need to know and master the fundamentals of shooting: grip, trigger control, stance, and sight alignment. Equally important—know your gun inside and out so you can keep it in tip-top shape and solve issues as they arise.

If you haven’t already, start practicing specific self-defense drills during trigger time at the range. How does self-defense training differ than your regular shooting sessions? When practicing for self-defense, your accuracy matters less, while your speed matters more.

We all love being accurate. When we shoot consistent bullseyes, put a hole inside a hole or have less than 1-inch groups we all feel we have accomplished a good shooting session at the range. However, when shooting for self-defense, 6-inch groups and even slightly larger are acceptable. The importance in being able to quickly access your gun, aim and shoot into the vital area of a perpetrator is more important than being able to hit the center of the bullseye with every shot.

Remember, when we must use our gun for deadly force, it is because we feel our life or another’s life is in imminent danger. You have seconds to react. Most self-defense shootings happen within 10 feet and most likely occur within 5 feet. Therefore, bring your target in closer than the standard 15 to 20 feet. At first, this might feel silly close, but once you start shooting quickly, the distance won’t feel as ridiculous.

Why aren’t we as concerned with accuracy in self-defense training? Because in self-defense training you will not have time to get into the perfect shooting stance, nor will you be able to perfectly align your sights. According to law enforcement reports peace officers only hit their target 20 percent of the time when forced to use their gun. Aiming toward the entire torso area gives you a better chance of hitting something. Typical law enforcement or B-27 silhouette targets are ideal for self-defense practice. The 23-inch sized targets give you a realistic area for training.

You get a huge adrenaline rush when faced with a life or death situation. Your hands will shake, you will get tunnel vision and you might lose the ability to hear properly. Shaky hands and poor vision make it difficult to shoot well. This is why experts teach students to shoot toward a larger area. Hitting center mass will be a lot easier than the head.

Patrick Kelley practicing with a pistol.

Patrick Kelley practicing with a pistol.

Most shooting ranges do not allow drawing from a holster, but you can substitute drawing with keeping your gun laid down on the bench. When you are ready to shoot, bring your gun up to the ready and shoot two successive shots into the center mass of the target. Can you hit the target without using your sights? Point shooting is the ability to aim our gun and hit the intended target without using sights. Point shooting has fallen out of favor with instructors recently. However, it is a viable skill to learn. Point shooting is most successful in close quarters, three feet or closer. In all reality, would you have time for anything else?

Experts generally prefer to use sights. Focus on the front sight while raising your gun and as soon as the front sight is in the middle of the rear sights, pull the trigger. Both point and sight shooting work, but equally take practice and diligent training.

When faced with a self-defense situation and forced to use your weapon, shoot until the threat stops. If you happen to get two shots in the heart and the perpetrator stops, then you are lucky, but you are no less lucky if it takes 10 rounds in an 8-inch group to make your life and your family’s lives safe.

Don’t just train for self-defense situations. Always practice your basics, muscle memory, reloads and from longer distances. Dividing your range time between self-defense and accuracy training will only make you a better shooter.

Unfortunately, there are no guarantees and nothing can prepare you 100 percent for an actual gunfight. Get some training from a trusted and certified instructor and continue to practice. Prepare yourself the best you can because, after all, it is the only thing you can do. Stay aware. Stay safe.

How do you train for self-defense? Tell us in the comment section.

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Comments (1)

  • Andy Bell

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    Point shooting is out of favor? Instinctual shooting has been around for well over a hundred years and has been proven to be effective, accurate and shaves time off when time is critical. Ive trained people for 30 years and have seen the results of learning to trust ones brain and body mechanics over trying to allign sights in close quarter time sensitive engagements. Instinct wins every time. Even neophite shooters learn instictual shooting quickly and effectively. In a life and death encounter at close quarter where adreneline and muscle movement cause finite muscle movement to evaporate, large muscle movement accommodates the instinct movement quite effectively. In short, it does shave time off the presentation and allows the shooter to engage quickly, effectively, and with lethality. Out of favor? It would take an overwhelming amount of evidence with experience to prove that point shooting is less effective than site shooting. While newer ways to shoot have been developed over the past years, saying something that works and has worked for a hundred plus years has fallen out of favor makes me chuckle.

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