Safety and Training

Close Quarters Battle — Three Tips

Bob Campbell Shooting a .357 SIG from close range

All skills are an amalgamation of basic skills and things we have learned. The problem is that many folks do not study, and if they do, they study things that are of no utility in personal defense. Most shooters engage in superficial dabbling. They may try the inside the waistband holster and the appendix draw briefly, and sometimes try the crossdraw, but not thoroughly examine any of them. They do not repeat the draw 500 times. Some fire from one stance or the other for a box of cartridges or so, and declare one works best for them. That is dabbling. To master a technique you must immerse yourself in the drills. This means total concentration with body and mind. If you have not trained your body, you will be unable to execute effective techniques.

Revolver on top of a target with bullet holes
When you practice the Speed Rock there should be powder burns on the target.

Study of previous incidents indicates the usefulness of each drill or tactic. Let the logic ladder lead you to a good choice. If you do go to a school or conduct your own practice, you must have an open mind. Always be the student. If you have a formed opinion, then your experience may not be profitable.

Most personal defense situations occur at close range, and the tactics used are about close quarters battle. It isn’t about being a good shot—it’s about gunhandling. If the adversary uses open hands, edged weapons, or blunt force, you must be ready for a response at intimate range. If your set of skills is limited to the firearm, you are ill prepared for the reality of personal defense. Simply firing at stationary targets at 7 to 10 yards isn’t preparation for a CQB event.

Initial familiarization with the firearm must be done before we proceed to advanced drills, but recognize this experience for what it is. By the same token, the handgun cannot be the only weapon. The hands and edged weapons should be learned. You must have effective skills that are useful when you are not justified in using lethal force.

Bob Campbell  Shooting a .357 SIG from close range
The blast of the .357 SIG is considerable at close range, be certain to take this into account.

Even if you are justified in using deadly force—as would be the case against an edged weapons assault—you may not be able to access the weapon if the adversary is attacking you with an edged weapon or blunt force. If you draw too soon in such a clutch, the action may turn into a fight for the handgun, which you may not win. There is always one gun in any situation, and that is yours.

There are drills that serve well in close range combat, and those with a great deal of experience developed them. One is effective for unarmed use, and the others are effective short-range shooting drills that may be learned relatively quickly.

Dempsey Drop Step

Jack Dempsey was a master of the art of boxing. Boxing is perhaps the most underappreciated martial art and one that offers solutions to many problems. The Dempsey Drop Step offers a devastating blow when properly delivered. No matter your weight or strength, if you are able to deliver force equal to your body weight on the point of the fist, it may be a life saving blow.

Bob Campbell firing a pistol from the retention position
Fire as soon as possible after the pistol clears leather.

While executed in different forms by experienced individuals, the Dempsey Drop Step exhibits an explosive forward step rather than a shuffle. The Dempsey Drop Step directs most of the individual’s mass in the direction of the strike. It is important not to over reach. Don’t fall forward if you miss, be certain that you have many repetitions under your belt.

Some believe the jab is used to sting only or used in repetition in defensive blows. A jab with real power behind it can be effective if used in conjunction with the Dempsey Drop Step. Don’t ruin the execution with poor mechanics. The body will be loose as the drill is executed.

Ideally you will be standing with the strong-side foot to the rear. The strong-side foot and strong-side arm move in unison. The foot goes forward quickly, and as the striking arm is thrust forward, the foot lands hard. Landing hard increases your footing and the power of the blow.

The blow is delivered from the abdomen to the face, depending on the opportunity. An open palm is preferred to a fist. If you strike the skull with the fist, you may break a knuckle. An open hand is more likely to land on target.

When you strike, and the hand comes back, the hips will tighten. This is an involuntary movement that cannot be controlled. The muscles are loose on the move, then tighten when you stop movement. The accomplished martial artist will learn to cope with this and avoid allowing this tightening to stop his motion.

The Applegate Drill

The Applegate Point
The Applegate point is a good close range tactic.

Colonel Rex Applegate was tasked with training men quickly during World War II. He trained hundreds of OSS operatives. Applegate became a master of CQB tactics. His research centered on tactics useful for fast, close range work. He needed to provide some type of skill or tactic that would be useful to men armed with handguns and a minimum amount of prior experience.

They were often armed with the Colt 1903 Pocket Hammerless, a handgun with minimal sights. The pistols were carried concealed by those operating in Nazi occupied Europe—most often without a holster. There might be a need to quickly discard the handgun.

Applegate read accounts of how western gunfighters, particularly Wild Bill Hickok, had survived gunfights. Hickok wrote of using ‘snap shooting’ or quickly bringing the pistol to bear and taking a very fast sight picture—using only the front sight. Similar work was done by Fairbairn in Shanghai, China, while working with the international police force.


Sometimes called combat point shooting Applegate’s tactics called for aiming the handgun but using an unconventional sight picture such as the slide of the handgun or only the front sight. In dim light, body aiming was used to achieve hits.

In the most commonly accepted Applegate drill, the user draws the handgun and steps forward on the foot of the firing hand. The handgun comes forward at the same time, rising to eye level. The eyes are on the threat.

As soon as the sights break the plane between the eyes and the target, the pistol is fired. The hand is flexed stiffly to avoid shooting low. This drill is very fast, and accurate enough at ranges of 2 to 7 yards. Hickok called it snap shooting, some call it instinctive shooting, and others point shooting. It is a viable exercise for close range defense.

Speed Rock

Speed Rock tactic
At close range a part of the Speed Rock is to slap the target.

Many CQB skills are inherently dangerous. It is imperative that you practice these drills dry fire until you are certain you will not cross the body with the muzzle of the handgun. By the same token, there is a danger in CQB when dealing with an adversary, so be smooth and practiced in these drills.

The muzzle must not cross limbs and extremities. Both the body and the mind must be trained and muzzle discipline is maintained. A proven technique for CQB is the Speed Rock. The assailant’s body may be in contact with yours, as in an edged-weapon attack. The method usually taught is to face the target flat-footed, or in the interview position. The non-dominant hand will deliver a strike to the threat as fast, and as hard, as possible.

The gun side hip has pivoted away from the threat to prevent interference with the draw. As the striking hand immediately retracts, the gun hand draws the pistol. The pistol is thrust toward the threat and fired as soon as it clears the holster. This delivers a bullet to the adversary’s mid section.

The wrist must be locked to prevent a short cycle. This is a good time to execute a double tap, firing two rounds quickly. A variation I have seen is to tilt the muzzle upward to turn the bullet into the vital organs. I feel that this is an over complication of a simple drill that may lead to a short-cycled handgun.

The speed rock might be executed at such short range that a revolver may be thrust into the opponent’s body to increase wound potential. A semi-automatic handgun will jam after the first shot, if used in such a manner, save for the Honor Defense 9mm with FIST stand off device. Be certain to practice rapid controlled movement. There is a tendency of the body to recoil back to its original defensive position after a drill is executed. This reaction should be understood and mastered.

Carefully consider these drills and decide if they fit your skills and likely scenario. The life you save may be your own.


About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.

Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Rifle Magazine
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns

Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (11)

  1. Bill Hickok carried a brace of 1851 Colt Navy revolvers in special pockets inside his cape. The 1851 Navy has excellent pointability, so all he had to do was look at his target, raise the pistol to eye level, and press the trigger. That system still works today, and gives excellent CQB accuracy if it is practiced.

  2. the only thing i wish you had done was to do a short 5 second video of each tactic.i have been with a dept for 30 years full time, now 11 reserve i like the tactics but for regular people a video would have been good helpful instruction ..thanks again.

  3. Col. Rex Applegate was a living legend in close quarters combat. It was said that much of his idealism came from the days of the old west… he often studied Bill Hickok. Any info you can get on Rex is well worth your time.He was not the man you wanted shooting at you in a close quarter combat fight.Must READ!

  4. I practice point shooting nearly every night during commercials with my CZ P07 with a Crimson Trace green laser showing me my error. I turn my laser on after I’ve pointed at something “like a door knob” without using the fixed sights to see how close I am. I’m pretty close about 40% of the time but I’m slowly getting better. I’m sitting in my recliner when I practice.

  5. Good article. But I would add a couple thoughts, having worked in 4 law enforcement agencies before becoming an attorney and prosecutor, I share the need for training, and close training. But, the comment that most self defense events are at close range, is probably not a correct statement. It probably should be that “all” self defense shootings will be at close range. If there is distance between you and the attacker, then you are certainly not in a stand your ground defense situation. And you would be hard pressed to explain why you shot some guy 50 yards away when you could simply hide behind your car and call police. Of course some psycho walking through a parking lot shooting would be different scenario. Name one time where private citizen took out a mass shooter with a CCW at distance. Also, everybody needs to shoot out of a car and inside a house or enclosed area a few times, the noise can be significant. Also, folks need to remember that most defense shooting happen at night. In law enforcement we were trained to keep one eye closed, to prevent total blindness, everyone needs to try it, those low flash powders do not solve the problem. Lastly, if you can find some place to shoot where you just sit in a chair and engage targets all around you, it is helpful, shooting across your body as in a car jacking where your car is blocked in and you have a gun at your window, is also a new experience because you have blast and brass suddenly close to your face and eyes. Shooting from inside a car can be deafening, use your buddy’s car if you can, flying brass can damage your headliner and I am aware of one special agent in my group shooting out a window glass, not good. My range will not allow any fast draw or moving around targets, so many folks must find private land for any realistic training. And as a lawyer, I have to add a caution. If your shooting is justified by law enforcement, you still may be sued. Your training and your gear can be an issue. if you have a gold plated, 1911, with skull grips, and engraving with your initials, AKA Texas barbeque gun of the 1970’s, that gun may become exhibit #1. Then the fact that you went to 4 expensive shooting schools may become exhibit #2. Then the lawyer may ask why it took you 7 shots with Plus P (special over powered ammo) to kill the kid, when you could easily have shot the little guy with the little knife one time in the leg and stopped him. After all, you went to 4 specialized close combat shooting schools and certainly have more skill than some average guy just trying to defend himself.

    In law enforcement, officers simply say they keep shooting until the threat stopped, not a big deal. But in civilian status, you have to prove why you were where you were, that you were not intoxicated, that you were not the aggressor or involved in a combative situation or road rage, etc., so your guns and training can become an issue. So carry plain guns like cops carry and use ammo like cops carry and give the same testimony that cops give. And for gosh sakes, don’t shoot anybody with a knife 7 times, fire a couple then back away. You never know what a jury will do, ever, and if a few anti-gun moms or dads get on your jury, a good shoot may cost you every dime you have. Duh? Just my 2 cents.

    1. Good points. The only experience I have firing a weapon inside was a 22lr pistol inside a barn. It was deafening. I cannot imagine a 9mm inside a bedroom. That’s why I have to wonder about those people that have an AR15 for inside the home defence. That would have to be about like a flashbang device going off.

      Whether or not I fire 7 times would depend on many things, but if I shoot at someone it is because I fear for my life or the well-being of my family. As long as I am able, it will always be at least a double tap.

  6. I often practice drawing from the holster, holding the weapon along side tge body at the belt, and firing into the opponents groin/gut area.

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