Competitive Shooting

Is Your Handgun a Combat Gun or Target Gun?

Colt Gold Cup pistol on a bullseye target

Marksmanship can make up for power, but the reverse is seldom true. In a gunfight, shot placement is everything. Unfortunately, when choosing a handgun for combat, we risk becoming too interested in absolute accuracy and forget combat accuracy. A fascination with firing small groups on the target, even in combat courses, is counter-intuitive to true combat practice.

Hitting targets, including small targets at known and unknown ranges, is a test of marksmanship. Combat shooting should involve a mix of speed and precision. In combat situations, the marksmanship problem isn’t severe. The real problem is crisis control and keeping a level head. You cannot simply lay down fire and get the hell out; there is no carpet-bombing equivalent with a handgun—although spray and pray is common.

I want to hit the threat, hit it hard, and very fast where it will do the most good. I believe many of the handguns chosen for personal defense have target features that may work against us in trying to use the handgun with combat ability. I am not advocating a return to embryonic sights and an 8-pound trigger action, but I think a clearly defined notion of combat guns and target guns may be wise.

A combat gun must be aimed if you wish to hit the target, but it must be aimed with rapidity. A target gun will feature well-defined—even high profile—sights. The target gun may possess a light trigger action with a break of 2.5-4.0 pounds. There may be a grip shape that aids in perfect control of the trigger in slow fire. The combat gun features sights that are adequate but not likely to snag during the draw. The trigger will be smooth but not so light that it is prone to mismanagement during the fear of the moment. The grips will be useful for firing with either hand.

A couple of generations ago, several peace officers carried the Smith and Wesson Combat Masterpiece of Combat Magnum revolver with adjustable sights. These were accurate handguns but it wasn’t unusual to see the micrometer sights broken off by contact with car doors or doorjambs.

All you really need is a sight you can see. For example, an important step was taken about 1921 when Tom Threepersons, a noted American lawman, ordered a special tall square front sight for his Colt. When the powerful .357 Magnum revolver was introduced, due to its power and range, the pistol demanded fully adjustable sights. The Smith and Wesson .357 Magnum revolver set long-range accuracy records to 600 yards. At about the same time, Army gunsmiths tightened the Colt 1911 .45 ACP and fitted both high profile fixed sights and eventually fully adjustable sights.

All of this effort was in the stunt category without relation to combat shooting. These handguns exerted considerable influence among shooters who were interested in the latest developments and in accurate shooting. While accuracy is interesting, all of these handguns were not proper service pistols.

Smith and Wesson also introduced a new short action after World War II that improved lock time and made for a faster double-action press. The action improvements by Smith and Wesson were good; Colt took it a step further by introducing the .357 Magnum Colt Python. The Python is a great target revolver. However, on at least two occasions I am aware of, the Python locked up during a critical incident. The trigger was pulled and the Colt fired normally, but the shooter did not quite allow the trigger to reset, attempted to pull the trigger again, and bent the double hand. Knowing what I know about the Python I would prefer a tour of duty with the reliable Model 10 .38 Smith and Wesson.

When the Smith and Wesson Combat Masterpiece was a common issue revolver many agencies qualified to a long 50 yards. Few do so today. Quite a few unfortunate incidents that left the police helpless could have been quickly addressed with long-range gunfire from the Combat Masterpiece or better still the Combat Magnum. Just the same, the Combat Magnum—while a fine revolver—was issued with coke bottle type grips that were not ideal for fast double-action trigger work.

Many of these revolvers would place a cylinder of ammunition into four inches on a 50-yard silhouette. A counterpoint to the target gun argument was realized when an agency I served with transitioned from the Smith and Wesson Model 66 revolver to the Model 59 9mm pistol. We had to drop the 50-yard qualification as hopeless. The Model 59 Smith and Wesson did well to keep 10 shots in 8 inches at 25 yards, much less 50 yards.

The hit probability in actual incidents was terrible. About one hit for five shots was the average. We traded a fine revolver with target features for a poor self-loader. A counterpoint at the time was the standard issue revolver of the New York State Police. The Model 13 .357 Magnum was basically a heavy barrel .38 Military and Police revolver with a long cylinder. So, historical precedent is mixed up in regard to combat and target guns for personal defense.


High profile sights are good for combat shooting, but all you really need are sights you can see. The factory SIG, Beretta, and Colt sights are good. Adjustable sights are not as robust in action. I have seen too many such sights lose screws and get out of zero. High-visibility fixed sights, such as the Novak, are ideal for all around combat shooting.

As an example, a young man that is arguably worthy of our respect adopted a Springfield GI pistol as his personal pistol. The military intelligence Captain added Novak Lo Mount sights with a gold bead front sight insert. Otherwise, his Springfield with the short trigger and arched mainspring housing is stock. If it is good enough for him, it is good enough for the rest of us. A good set of high visibility sights are needed on a combat gun. They are found on the Springfield Mil-Spec and Colt Series 70. The CZ 75 pistol also exhibits among the best combat sights available. And these sights are adjustable—with a brass punch. This is as it should be.

The Trigger

Those who have not used it extensively often condemn the Colt 1911 trigger. The World War I and World War II 1911 handguns I have fired have exhibited a trigger action demanding from 6 to 7 pounds of pressure. They are smooth and the trigger reset is rapid. For fighting versus target shooting they are good actions. The control a person is a good shot is able to demonstrate in rapid-fire is surprising. A GLOCK with a 5.5-pound issue trigger offers good control and a rapid reset.

It is reckless to fit a 3.5 pound disconnect to a GLOCK that will be carried for personal defense. You are asking for a negligent discharge. It has happened, and an agency paid more than you probably have in discretionary funds. A manual trigger stop, such as the one built into the trigger and frame of the Smith and Wesson Military and Police self-loader, is fine. However, an adjustable trigger really isn’t service-grade. Besides most ‘target’ triggers on the 1911 are set by the factory, and Loctite holds them in place. The only acceptable trigger action for a defensive handgun is the action it left the factory with. A smooth and repeatable trigger action with 5 to 6 pounds of compression is important for combat ability.


When training with the handgun, the hands are referred to as the firing hand and the support hand. Train with both hands, and if one hand is wounded you will be able to fire accurately with the other hand. Any type of grip modification that prevents the shooter from using either hand with the handgun is a mistake. Extended magazine release buttons are likely to dump the magazine when you need the ammunition. The load in the gun is what is important, not the speed of the load, and if the magazine release has dumped your magazine you are in that stinky creek.

Modified slide locks are terrible. (They are most common with the 1911 and the GLOCK.) The slide lock is supposed to be unobtrusive, so it will not meet the firing hand in recoil. An extended slide lock will do just that. When the pistol recoils, and the firing hand or support hand contact the slide lock, the pistol will lock open during a firing string. This is bad news. A heavier slide lock is sometimes capable of locking the piece open in recoil under its own inertia. These things must be avoided like the plague.

Take a hard look at your handgun. If there are extraneous features or add ons that are not service grade, dump them. It is better to bite the bullet—figuratively—and lose money now than bite the bullet for real due to a defective handgun.

The author has chosen to feature mostly 1911s here, but what do you carry? Do you have any enhancements or target components on your carry gun? Share your answers in the comment section.

About the Author:

Wilburn Roberts

When Wilburn Roberts was a young peace officer, he adopted his present pen name at the suggestion of his chief, as some of the brass was leery of what he might write. This was also adopted out of respect for families of both victims and criminals. The pen name is the same and the man remains an outspoken proponent of using enough gun for the job.

He has been on the hit list of a well-known hate group, traveled in a dozen countries and written on many subjects, including investigating hate crimes and adopting the patrol carbine. He graduated second in his class with a degree in Police Science. It took him 20 years to work himself from Lieutenant to Sergeant and he calls it as he sees it.
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 (84)

  1. This has been great read. I think we can all agree no one gun is right for all, just know how to use what you carry. I don’t think I am an armchair commando, I am a retired Police Officer and still work part-time as a Deputy Sheriff (yes I know, it’s that in the blood thing). I have carried several issued weapons in my career the longest of which was a Beretta 92FS. Liked that gun very much but didn’t like the 9mm so much (my opinion) but the gun was great. At that department we were incouraged to make use of the range. The instructors would work with you one on one to correct any problems you encountered, you just had to show up. We quailified twice a year day, night and combat and still people failed because they would not take advantage of an open range and good instructors. I loved to shoot (and you can’t beat free) so I was there as much as I could manage. I learned my weapon front to back and inside out, how in reacts and what did and did not like. And yes the 92s had a slide mounted safety but I NEVER EVER carried it on safe, if you had to draw you gun it was for a reason. Training and knowing your carry gun will stop the, IT MIGHT GO OFF, bullshit. I trusted my gun through training, training and more training and it kept me alive. I was able to earn “EXPERT” status but that was due the great instructors and my time spent on the range.
    Because I carried a 92FS on duty I bought a Beretta Cougar in .45 for off duty. While smaller and in .45 it had all the same features and controls and was easy to master due to my training with the 92FS. I still carry it to this day it came with great sights and good grip and feel. It has very soft recoil for a .45 due to it’s twin captured recoil springs and rotating barrel lockup which keeps the barrel on axis with your line of sight and sight picture. Great for making follow-up shots and staying on target. All my carry guns have been stock because if you pick a good gun, most will have what you need like good sights. You will notice I said a “good” gun not high dollar “trick trap”. It is up to you to train with what you have and learn how to use it. Most stock guns will shoot better than the people shooting them because they will not train with them. However, they will buy a truck load of stuff to put on them they don’t need and still don’t shoot any better.
    We were one of the first departments in our area to use Simunitions in combat training. That was some of the most real training I have ever experienced. All you had to do is change your barrel and you were ready. You trained with your gun, your holster and your mags. When you fired your gun cycled and you could and did run your ammo dry when stressed. This training was very real because there is a pain factor, you did not want to get shot with these things. They hurt like hell and would draw blood (I still have the scars to prove it). You treated the bad guys like real bad guys because you did NOT want to get shot. There were no training Rambo’s in these classes.
    Sorry I went so long. I said all that to say this, It’s not the fancy gun, it’s the shooter. I am not a “John Wick” but I you make yourself put in the time you will get good and be ready when the time comes. And training does not mean drop a lot of cash on ammo there are all kinds of training systems that cost nothing. Dry firing for trigger control, draw practice from different clothes and holsters to acquiring your sights and sight picture when dry firing. All these things will make you a better no matter what you shoot. TRAINING, TRAINING and more TRAINING then go to training. Thanks Rick.

  2. I have had professional firearm training with the Model 10 S&W, many years ago at Quantico, still one of my favorite home defense weapons. While in the army and reserves, always had the 45 semi-automatic 1911A1. I learned to shoot that weapon quite well on the pop-up targets ranges that were being used in Army pistol training, although we had a few reservist officers that should have been issued a sling shot, due to their incompetence in pistol handling and shooting.. I am retired from everything now, but still carry a heavy pre-World War Two 1911A1 most the time for concealed carry and open carry. A fine combat weapon with sights used only for alignment, and not for squirrel shooting. Very dependable and made not to hang up on clothing.

    1. Sir,

      I appreciate your service.

      Thanks so much for your comments, and also thanks for reading.

      I have good memories of Smith and Wesson revolvers.

      My favorite go anywhere do anything handgun is the 1911 .45 and always will be.

      All the best.


    2. First revolver I owned was surplus Mdl. 10 4inch, fixed sights.
      Easy to shoot, if a bit worn around the edges! Pretty much as accurate as one needed when taking the time to use the sights carefully. My Polish Radom Vis 35 9mm, was more accurate and I did use it with the original military sights, very similar to the 1911A1, used it for squirrel hunting all the time. Actually used both for hunting out to about 35 yards, more can be done with those sights than many would have you believe!! 🙂

  3. As a police officer I have carried a S&W model 59 which was reliable but it would not be my choice.
    We later change to a Glock 22 which is an excellent pistol on all counts, but I was able to carry a Sig 229 which I could shoot better, and after getting into a fight with a burglary suspect with my pistol in my hand I had pulled the suspect off of some stairs and could feel my finger on the trigger while landing on top of the suspect. If it had been a Glock or any single action pistol a accidental discharge would have occurred.
    In 2009 I was involved in a shooting and fired one shot after being shot at five times and even with the double action trigger I hit the suspect exactly where I aimed. You will go back to the way you train all I can remember is thinking rear sight, front sight, then I saw the Crimson Trace dot and thought smooth trigger pull. Pistols equipped with Crimson Trace grips have a calming effect on a suspect when they see the light, and may have saved me from having to shoot other suspects.
    As I have aged I now carry a Glock 23 with a RMR, attached stream light, and yes Crimson Trace, and off duty without the light. This was a major learning curve, but worth the transition.
    The best shooting pistol I carry on occasions is a CZ75 Tactical 40 S&W, but the weight is about a pound more than the Glock. With about 20 pound of gear every pound counts.
    Off duty during the heat of summer I will always have a S&W titanium 340 357 Magnum it weighs 11 ounces empty with Crimson Trace grips. It kicks like no other pistol I have ever shot, but is surprisingly accurate.
    Other carry options are my Glock 43, and Glock 27, but the Glock 23 is carried more off duty. The 43 and the S&W 340 are carried as back up while in uniform.

  4. I have Glock19 and have all the bells and whistles on my gun you said not to have. I have had and carried this gun for over 15 years with no problems.I shoot this gun in competition and never have had an accidental discharge. Practice,practice,practice and with training so you know your firearm you shouldn’t have any problems.I disagree with your article.

    1. I agree with you Matt, think it is because the author largely has little practical experience, the same with some of the armchair commandos that like to tell people what is best!
      If the sights don’t break off, if the weapon operates 100% reliably and has enough horsepower to do the job, then it will work just fine!

    2. Competition isn’t a fight but you guys must not have seen handguns fail in competition. They certainly do and they still do. The only malfunction I have seen with a Glock has been with aftermarket parts. Many with the 1911.
      I guess I need forty more years experience to add to the forty I have, much of that as a trainer and peace officer.

  5. My primary carry is the 9mm Springfield 1911 Range Officer Compact. It’s the ideal size for my hand and has a solid construction. The front sight is fiber optic and rear sight is adjustable. I practice with both hands as the article suggested and loading and firing the weapon is easy. The trigger pull is perfect for me and I haven’t made any modifications to the weapon. Right out of the case, it’s the easiest 1911 style firearm for my personal preference.

  6. Hi Steven, Just getting a better set of sights for my Glock 19 and getting work done on the trigger to make it more comfortable.

  7. My carry is a Kimber Ultracarry in .45 ACP. Love the comfort for my not-so-large hand and firing. Do wish for more magazine capacity but this is a tradeoff of slim build for concealed carrying.

    1. The Springfield 1911 extended will fit your Kimber, I have the same, and mine does.

  8. Anyone know of a case where gun mods or accessories made the difference between winning or losing a fight? Most of us will never even USE our guns, never mind needing them “improved”. I personally know 11 civilian CCW’s, and the total criminal activity they’ve experienced comes to one house break-in (nobody home), one attempted break-in (scared off without any display of weapons), and one ‘suspicious following’ (scared off by angry rant and hand reaching to draw). I know two cops, and they’ve never had to go beyond pointing their factory-stock Glocks at people. Seems to me there’s just no point in putting money and effort into anything other than a reliable standard pistol, of which there are plenty for sale. Any extra toys smell of machismo and fantasies about being John Wick.

    1. I don’t think a lot of Black Belts think that they are Chuck Norris, it is about being all you can be and doing the dead level best you can. My circle of friends include LEOs and soldiers that have been in a LOT of fights over the years. We worked high crime areas and I think that we earned our right to an opinion. However– you are right, about 100 per cent of the fights were won with pretty ordinary gear. Revolvers with Hogue grips that actually fit the hand were important. Glocks need night sights and that is about it. Good post. I have a healed bullet pucker and three knife scars as well as scars on my knuckles, and certainly not all were from police work, and all did not occur this country. Just when you think it will not happen It will. Never forget how violent a place the world really is.

  9. Stick to bone stock handgun you feel comfortable with. If you walk your block with a gun modified in any way to make it race ready you do so at your own peril. If you end up on the wrong side of a courtroom as the target of a “good” lawyer, he or she will end up making you look like a blood thirsty maniac. Not that that lawyer isn’t going to try and do it anyway, but why give them more ammunition to work with?

  10. When I first acquired my CCW, I quickly discovered that my P226 and other large frame pistols were too large to conceal unless wearing a baggy jacket, etc. To remedy this, I purchased a Walther PPK .380 and an IWB holster. I did however find that being limited to 7 rounds is a little disturbing. Since then, I discovered and purchased the Bersa Thunder .380 Plus. This Argentine made double/single action pistol is a clone of the PPK, except that it employs a 15 round double-stack magazine and it is just as concealable under a hoodie or light baggy shirt in my IWB holster as the PPK was. I recommend the Bersa as a “combat arm” to anyone carrying concealed.

  11. If power couldn’t make up for accuracy then all any of us would ever need is a .22 and lot of practice. However, I think that most of us intuitively recognize that our ability to hit the 10 ring when our lives are on the line will be dramatically impaired. I carry a .45 because I expect to suck if the moment comes, and I know it will still deliver a lot of energy to the target. Additionally, most of us do not have the time or money to perform the necessary repetitions that would guarantee a 10 ring shot under duress. So, I say carry the biggest caliber you can shoot and carry comfortably, and keep it simple. Practice as much as you can–even dry fire. Repetition is tedious, but it saves lives through muscle memory.

  12. I alternate between a Ruger Redhawk and a Colt 1911 Model 80. I’m in a wheelchair, so I could easily conceal,a small Howitzer if I wanted. And because of the chair, weight is also no problem. But the gun has to be large enough for me to find without a lot of fumbling around, and the Ruger and Colt both satisfy that criteria. Printing? Nobody stares at the cripple in the wheelchair.

    1. I’ve read about crooks stealing wheelchairs. Wow! What a surprise if they pick on you! Way to go!

  13. My EDC is a springfield mod 2 in 9mm 13+1 striker fired no manual thumb safety . Those of you concerned of the lack of firepower my truck gun is my Ruger alaskan 6 rounds of .44magnum.

  14. I love the design and feel of the 1911. I don’t believe anyone will EVER design a better, pound for pound, combat handgun. It just FEELS perfect in your hands and the weight, not TOO heavy, makes the .45 round feel like a 9. However, my EDC pistol is a Sig p320 subcompact model. It is easily concealable, can hold 12 + 1 rounds of hornady ftx 9mm, but most importantly it is accurate as HELL. Only upgrade was a set of Snake Eyes night sights and Talon grips(which are awesome btw). You’ve gotta carry a handgun that you trust life with, and I do.

  15. I carry a Taurus P III Gen.2, soon to be replaced by a Walther PPS M2 as summer carry and a Sar B6P (CZ75 clone) in a vertical shoulder rig in winter. On a range I practice shooting AT the 10 ring. In combat drills I concentrate in putting shots on target – forget the 10 ring, put the “target” down, period.

  16. I normally carry a subcompact XD mod 2 .45, 10+1 in the flush mount mag or 13+1 with the extended mag. I like this piece because it has a grip safety as well as a trigger safety and it is striker fired. I practice shooting both dominant and non dominant hand, two handed and one handed.

  17. I carry a S&W SD 40 VE in the winter in a vest or coat and a Ruger 380 LCPII in my pocket in the summer. What I like about the S&W 40 are the white dot dovetailed (adjustable with a brass punch) sights and the double stacked 14+1 rounds. The fat grip fights my large hands. I installed a 5# vs. 8# trigger pull action. The LCPII is a little small for my hands but ideal for my pants pocket and the fixed sights are adequate. Neither pistol has ever miss fired or jammed during practice.

    1. I have one of the original SW40VE pistols. I’ve run over 1000 rounds through it, mostly reloads, not 1 jam or problem. It is totally reliable, but the accuracy sucks. Because the slide is sloppy, I sent it to S&W and they sent it back stating great accuracy. I then read about the lousy trigger being the problem. I decided to get a Walther PPQ in .40 cal but I can’t buy it in my over controlled dem state – CA. I can’t even get the M&P 2.0 in my state. We need a solid law suit against CA for infringing 2nd amendment rights!

    2. Utah is really the place to be if you want firearm “friendliness”. Utah’s CCW permit is the most reciprocated of any in the country and it is the only state to have an official “state gun” (the 1911).

  18. My most often carried piece is a Sig P220 SAS compact. It was well designed for carry. Completely de-horned, low profile tritium combat sights, bobbed hammer and spur. The only consession is the six round capacity. Small enough for comfortable appendix carry, but full .45 power.

  19. Preaching to the choir here. Retired 3 years now and still carrying an unmodified Glock 27. This was my duty carry for my last 9 years as a detective commander. Now that my eyes are aging, I’ve selected an XS Big Dot sight for rapid sight picture acquisition. Our retiree (and 2nd weapon) course of fire has always emphasized instinctive point shooting within 7 yards (only one stage at 15 yards). As when I was working, I carry 9-round mags with pinkie extension and have access to unmodified Glock 23 mags exchangeable with my partners if the SHTF.

    It is a little chunky inside the waistband (so am I !), but I have too many years of muscle memory invested above to transition now to the differing mechanics of my preferred slim “comfort” carry Sig P232.

    Stay safe, all.

  20. Easily settled…who trains the most, is more than likely to need a reliable combat firearm, and who have been in arguably the most self defense, tactical, ‘combat’ situations? Yes, the Navy Seals! I trust what they trust and what they have trusted in the past. Look no further.

  21. This article was a piece of garbage. “Negligent discharge” because of a 3.5 lb connector???? Get real and remember your firearms safety rules!!

    1. Well, gee, Jack all I know is what I learned earning my degree in Criminal Justice (Actually it was Police Science ) at the time and studying The Liability Reporter, a professional legal magazine, for firearms related court cases that ACTUALLY OCCURED, no bs. This case did occur and it cost the agency millions. That is about as real as it gets. I do not stand corrected by your half cocked comment.

  22. WR, Huggy musta liked ur article, wrote a book on it. 😉

    My only ‘slight’ push bak: “It is reckless to fit a 3.5 pound disconnect to a Glock that will be carried for personal defense. You are asking for a negligent discharge.” Vision comes to mind of that police woman pointing her weapon at two of her PD types, handcuffing an ‘under control’ perp. Her “negligent discharge,” by God’s own intervention, failed to kill anything except the concrete a foot or two in front and slightly to the side of her pals and the perp! I can almost guarantee that this officer’s(?) Glock was unmodified as issued, and that 5.5lb trigger managed to “negligently discharge” anyway, no 3.5lb disconnector required. I can accept the underlying point to your claim that ‘modifications,’ even ammunition choice can give you headaches, even prison time, when offered to some jury adjudicating why/how you killed someone with your smoke pole. That said, “negligent discharges” are just that, mindlessly ‘negligent!’ As with that PO, she’s standing there, not only with her weapon pointed at something she ‘definitely’ DOES NOT want to destroy, the video shows she has her ‘finger’ on that bullet launcher’s trigger, disconnected (pun intended) from ANY firearms handing instruction she received, or shudda! That is NO negligent discharge, that is negligently discharging someone into the population ARMED that should not be there! Do I hear unarmed desk jockey position for her? Additionally, those 3.5lb disconnectors, by themselves, will only reduce that factory 5.5lb pull to somewhere around 4-4.5lb – have installed too many and compared trigger pull weights to not be mistaken. You need to also mess with spring weights, and other things NOT recommended for personal defense, in order to achieve those 3-3.5lb (competition/target) pulls! “Negligent Discharges?” Can we rename that to “Brain Dead Discharges?” No need to go into the loss of minor motor skills over gross motor skills in “fight or flight” situations, although relative, that too can be somewhat mitigated with proper ‘training.’ Enjoyed your article, good stuff!

    1. Well, gee, Jack all I know is what I learned earning my degree in Criminal Justice (Actually it was Police Science ) at the time and studying The Liability Reporter, a professional legal magazine, for firearms related court cases that ACTUALLY OCCURED, no bs. This case did occur and it cost the agency millions. That is about as real as it gets. I do not stand corrected by your half cocked comment.

      Comment from above.

      Yes, that was a God Awful stupid thing. The Sgt should have taken her gun immediately. What in the hell were they doing pointing a gun at an unarmed man that was being handcuffed? Where in the hell do they get these people? I served for some time and have been hurt on the job and served as a Patrol Lt.

      Here is what they told me at the academy and I cannot give better advice
      That gun is a last resort to save your life or someone else life. It isn’t there to save a few bruises or keep you from getting your ass whipped.

      When you wave it around at every control situation it doesn’t mean anything anymore.

  23. I have always trained with each hand and both instinctive and aimed shots. At the fight distance of 20 feet I do not believe that anyone has time to aim beyond the bounds of an instinctive shot, maybe two, THEN possibly aim for placement. I presented this to my SWAT captain CCW trainer and he agreed. Why does instinctive shooting seem to be a forgotten art?

    1. Instinct shooting isn’t necessarily a lost art…the lawyers have beaten it right out of any official training schedule… “So officer are you saying you didn’t know exactly where your shot was going to go when you fired at that spithead?”…instant settlement

    2. I practiced instinct shooting by rapid firing at six soda cans sitting on a board and then firing at one I tossed into the air with a nine shot, double action .22 revolver. I got where I could knock all six off and put two holes in the tossed one without reloading.

    3. Ding you are right

      Never will I be the instructor that taught a student not to use his sights!

      Except at contact range it is ridiculous. Even at a few fee you can aim with the slide, it is called meat and paper. instinct shooting on a flat range firing at the same thing time and again is a trick.

    4. I think I read somewhere that FBI stats, or some other, give the distances from which ‘most’ gun fights occur, at least with the police. They aint across some canyon of 20 feet, or even ten. Many PO’s are shot with their own weapons. Remember that Brown character, reports indicated that he started his “bull rush” from around 35 feet – after five shots, he was still coming, until the sixth shot to the head – I have a vision of Brown laying right at the feet of that officer! Police encounters with the “public, bad or otherwise,” are way closer than any 20 feet. Anyone, other than someone encountering an ongoing situation, are going to discover the ‘bad guy/s’ at their elbow. Having some plan/skill/training to enable you just to get to your gun may be more important than simply being over confident about having one!

  24. Most of us will experience a “close quarters” incident, from about 10 to 35 feet, so being able to hit a target at 100 yards (300 feet) is nice, but not necessary. Learn to use the “front sight” for rapid target acquisition (aim) with both eyes open and you will stand a greater chance of survival.

    BTW, if you hit the target with two rounds “center dead” and the target doesn’t drop, the target is probably wearing a vest, so make the next two rounds to the head. Keep pumping additional rounds into a vest will ensure that you run out of ammo and are an easy kill for them. (Happened outside the court house in Tyler, Texas a few years ago).

    1. “….make the next two rounds to the head.” Pretty much the ‘normally’ suggested progression. One ‘outside the box’ thought, not mine, is, rather than attempt the ‘small’ head shot (greater acc required, in a hurry), think LOWER, as in the hip area, much larger zone, and incapacitating, as far as someone continuing to come at you. Not necessarily stop the fight, so that head shot may still be needed, but at least the target won’t be moving! As demonstrated, sadly, by our representative Scalise, just a hip shot will send you to the ICU with life threatening injuries.

  25. Interesting that the photos and article seems to focus the 1911-type pistol. I would think the polymer compact and subcompact pistol types would be more representative of the guns that will be in civilian ‘combat’. The 3″ barrel pistol is much more likely to be used than the 4″ or 5″ by the average civilian for self defense.

    1. How interesting that one complains that the original article was too CZ75-centric and now another voice claims that it is too 1911-centric.. Could it be that JM Browning defected to what then was Czechoslovakia and lived until at least 1975? No, I am not serious about that.
      My CZ and CZ clone pistols all have 3.6″ barrels and that is what I practice with and what I carry. If you prefer a 2″ snubbie, that’s cool, but don’t try to tell me to carry one because it’s just not for me. OK?

    2. The CZ is easily one of the most reliable handguns in the world. I had just as soon have a CZ as a SIG.

  26. Over the last 55 years I have carried a number of different pieces from .38 revolver, 9mm and .45s. I agree that target shooting is definitely different that self-defense. Although I carry different 9s and 45s from time to time, I seem to carry my 1911 w/TRU-GLO fixed sights 8 rnd. mags w/.38 6 rnd. backup most of the time. I have had a CCW since the mid-1970s. God Bless.

    1. Hopefully, all your ‘carry’ pieces operate the ‘same’ way? Just a humble thought, but when, God forbid, life and death arrive in split seconds, do you think you will be able to ‘unconsciously’ operate the piece you have on you? Differing safeties/location, double action first shot, single after, revolver @ DA only, carry “cocked and locked,” or rack and roll? For me, one gun carry, practice ‘primarily’ with carry, play with others – ONLY safety is on the trigger! To each his own, but knowing how the body, in some adrenaline dump, life or death incident, will default to ‘survival mode,’ I want a, pretty much no thinking required, ‘instant’ response.

    2. Dear Firewagon, I would be willing to bet that Hav Bauer has at least 30 years of shooting and carry experience on you. So I am sure he will appreciate your input. Please school us on your life and death situational experience?

    3. FW likes to talk. 🙂
      If one actually practices, your hand knows which piece it is touching! Seems he is much more of an armchair warrior than anything else. 🙂

  27. I have always believed that the right carry handgun is the one you want to be in your hand in a gunfight.

  28. I have two go to, EDC pistols my Glock 19 and my M&P 9C. Glock 19 needs no explanation, carry it in a gcode incog with an X300. Carry 15 rounder and a 21 round pmag. My M&P 9C, has all the enhancements APEX offers, trijicon HD sights, and a viridian CTL light/green laser combo, carried in a hidden hybrid holster. Carry a 12 rounder mag and 17 rounder mag with a neomag mag holder.

    1. You’re the guy I want backing me up! 😉 Just hoping you can keep up packing all that ammo – 36/29 rounds on tap! We gunna be taking on the Hell’s Angels outfit with no ammo worries. 😉 I’m almost as bad, 10mm G29, 10 rd mag w/one in the pipe, and a G20 15 rdr mag reload w/grip spacer.

  29. Everyone is talking about everything else but over penetration. As the most likely self defense situations are in public or at home. Some nuts even seek the +P or ++P ammo while not going to actual combat (war, battlefield) where the enemies’ location is clearly defined and there is little chance of collateral damage.

    1. I think having an enemy with a clearly defined location with little chance of collateral damage went out with the Napoleonic wars——

      As for civilians +P loads enhance expansion of the hollow point bullet which limits penetration. They are less likely to ricochet due to the velocity and expanding bullet. Over penetration is far less of a concern than missing. A miss carries the full power of the load far past the area of the ;problem.

    2. In case you have never noticed, the fact is that overpenetration is largely a boogey man. ANY round that has enough power to be a good defensive load will penetrate enough to be a problem. Take your pick: “too much” penetration or not enough power to stop the bad guy. You can’t have both.

    3. Sorry Cyberat, if I or mine are not the target of the assault, “IF” I determine that the life expectancy of the actual person/s in danger ‘might’ be extended by my intervention, I will consider the “background” and move, if necessary, before launch. On the other hand, however, IF it is me or mine under that assault, katy take the hindmost, and hit the dirt, ’cause the ‘background’ just became a blurry object, and I WILL have penetration!!

    4. People talk about perpetration, but does it ever really happen???
      The problem I have seen and read about were from blatant misses, not over penetration!
      As far as I am concerned, one cannot have too much penetration, but it is easy to have too little penetration!
      If I see blood spray out both sides from a hit, then I know it was a good hit! Otherwise it may not have done the job!

  30. I enjoy reading as many firearms related articles as possible. The firearms I carry are big bore only. My EDC is 1990 Glock 22 that is converted to 357 Sig. I keep sweet and simple

  31. Cheese and RICE!
    What the HELL is going in here?!?
    I have, for SO long, advocated PRECISELY what is written in this article on EVERY. SINGLE. COMPONENT addressed that it is as if someone reached into my brain, pulled out all the data and put it down on paper (electons, actually) for all to see and partake of.
    Now I know nothing of the author of this article but if I had to make an educated guess, he ain’t a Young ‘un, and more likely in his early/mid/late 50’s like myself. Maybe younger, maybe older.
    One who has been around a while to see trends, experience some of the seedy things humans are capable of, participate in the handling, shooting and (where appropriate) modification of several shooting platforms to learn what does work and what doesn’t.
    More importantly, the author knows WHY those modifications will/won’t work and has the background to back it up.
    This has gotten longer than I intended it to but I must give a standing ovation to the writer and (in a roundabout way) myself as we’ve walked the walk and didn’t get to where we are by buying into the latest fad and doodad in an effort to have the latest and greatest Super Bitchin’ thingamabob dangling off our shooting iron.
    No, our (mine in this instance) is decidedly bland, and devoid of much of anything that isn’t absolutely MANDATORY to allow me to rain Pain Pills upon some cretin intent on my demise.
    I do make just a couple concessions due to my own personal biases and physical conditions and they are night sites on ALL my pistols and a laser/light module hung under the dust cover of my home pistol for those Bump In The Night investigations should the need arise.
    That’s pretty much it.
    I’d carry my personal handgun with the laser/light attached as part of my CCW ensemble IF I could find a QUALITY holster that costs less than my monthly mortgage because I carry a full-sized pistol regardless of brand 24/7 with a compact version as a backup, REGARDLESS of the weather.
    Those, and at least two spare magazines, go with me wherever I can (legally) be and be armed. (PS, if I can’t go “there” armed I DON’T GO THERE! F’em! But that is a topic for another day.)
    I should mention that I live in the desert southwest and almost always can be found wearing jeans as part of my attire, and I’m out of shape (dammit) and on the precipice of 60 years of age, so I’m no sissy who cannot tolerate an uncomfortable, bulky, heavy pistol like so many cannot seem to adjust to these days.
    Read that to mean whatever you think I’m implying. I don’t GAF really, but it speaks volumes as to why folks feel the need to eschew training, a quality firearm and appropriate ammunition (some of which border on ludicrous and NOT the rock band) and clothing appropriate to allow for the carrying of same in an effort to return home at the end of the day to those I care about.
    The latest and greatest doohickey strapped on the shooting platform is what seems to be important these days. Keeping up with the Jones’s and being able to say you spent X number of dollars to have a pistol/rifle/shotgun/bazooka that is just like some world class shooting competitor.
    Buy a QUALITY gun. Spend plenty of money on training and break in ammo and self defense ammo and a quality holster. Get some decent sights installed if said Boolet Launcher didn’t come with them already. Seek out QUALITY and COMPETENT instruction and then practice until it all becomes second nature.
    And when you achieve that stature, practice some more, reoeatedly, and on a regular basis.
    STEP AWAY from all the BS being sold under the guise of “MUST HAVE” because I’m here to tell you that a good percentage of that stuff is marketed by genius sales people who are very good at their jobs and those jobs are to separate YOU from YOUR money!
    Sure, some of the stuff may be helpful but certainly not ALL of it.
    Get back to the basics. LEARN how to “SHOOT” and not rely on a host of add-on crutch pieces of dubious merit.
    Teach the guy behind the trigger how to SHOOT and the rest will fall into line, but if you rely on “stuff” installed on your pistol to save your ass when the chips are down and it has come time to sling lead, you could find out what it’s like to be on the short end of the pointy stick.
    And as the saying goes, and doubly so when discussing gun fights, there is NO Second Place Winner. Period.
    And just to be clear here, I am NOT trying to belittle those with Purty guns. If you feel you need that stuff, hey, knock yourself out. But, again, like the old saying goes: “Beware the man with only one gun as he surely knows how to use it.” Think about it.
    No need to Flame me for my post.
    If the shoe fits, strap that bitch on and wear it proudly! Don’t mean a thing to me.
    But take to heart what the article author writes about and, maybe, a few points I made as well.
    I (we?) didn’t get to be as old as I (we?) am/are by making too many stupid mistakes.
    Think BASICS.
    It is all about the BASICS.
    Good Luck and God Bless.

    1. You are correct on every count including my age and experience –

      Thanks so much for a lively, entertaining and intelligent post.

      We are in embassy on all.

      Best to you

  32. My carry gun, most of the time, is a Rock Island Armory 1911 A1 in .45 ACP, all factory, no frills. Just as John Browning meant it to be. The only concession to ‘modern’ is the 8 round mag. that it comes with, from the factory. Combat gun, YES. Target gun, not just no, but; HELL NO! Guess, I’m not just ‘old school’, but old, too. Like my self-protection hardware basic and dependable, with no frills and gee-gaws to complicate things.

  33. I started carry with a Beretta PX4 Compact, .40 cal. because it carried 12+1 and I added tritium night sights. It was a good combat gun that I tested and practiced with in IDPA competitions. It comes from the factory set for a combat sight picture which doesn’t cross over to target shooting that well. Now, I carry the CZ P-01 with tritium sights with 14+1 in 9mm. The trigger work I had done lightened the SA but kept the DA pull at 9.25 lbs. to avoid ND’s. Neither of these guns is a winner in competitions but I feel that they were meant for self defense and concealed carry.

    1. Like you I purchased a CZ after extensive research over a couple of months. I finally decided on a CZP-07 in 9mm. 16+1 capacity. I prefer a pistol with a hammer myself so I can always cock it for that wonderful, unbelievably smooth smooth single action at 4.5 lbs. It shoots anything I’ve put thru it so far, including light loads “3.5 gr Bulleye w/124 grain bullet. Has never refused to function perfectly. It weighs almost exactly the same as my Model 39 S&W empty, which doesn’t handle everything.
      I can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t like it unless they prefer a ‘Striker fired pistol”. The centerline of the barrel is 1/8″ lower than most others which decreases the barrel lift less during recoil. It can be field stripped very fast after some practice.
      I love this gun.

  34. I clicked on “send” too quickly. I intended to add that while the extended mag releases are good for match use where fast reloads are mandated by the course of fire, I agree with you after using them for a fair amount of time now that they offer little to no advantage on a combat pistol and can cause the mag to release without intention — that could be anything from embarrassing to fatal.

  35. I have never had my Glock lock open during firing except when empty. My first gun was a Stoeger 9mm (Beretta design, Turkish manufacture), when I was still hesitant to carry and insisted on a mechanical safety. After training at Front Sight, I became confident and switched to the Glock so a to avoid drawing or reaching at night for a gun whose safety was on. Neither do I particularly like an exposed hammer. I think your recommendation of a CZ is an extremely poor choice.

    1. Ira,

      Perhaps we need to let the Czech Army and police and the Turks and the Russian Special forces know their CZs are no good.

    2. I know not of the CZ; however, the arming of some military of PD is not very relevant to “personal protection.” As with our own military, even SNCO’s and officers are not “primarily” armed with any handgun – their “go to” weapon of choice/issue is much more efficient at the job of killing or keeping their handlers alive! The other issue, with both military and police, is logistics. Allowing the “more skilled,” as in less recoil sensitive, to choose their own ammo slinger is untenable! Check why the FBI moved from the .38/357 to the 10mm and back to the 9mm! Nor would those folk desire such, for when their 40/10mm/357 runs dry there isn’t any ammo to be “picked up” in the field. Safeties are mandated for the lower denominator of the handgun handling military, and even the rifle toters, – because they don’t want some 18 year old, joe schmuck, doing some “accidental discharge” through about three of his fellows in line. Even at that, “AD’s” (I call them MD’s – Mindless Discharges) have occurred in both military and PD’s – something to do with “forgetting the thing was loaded, and/or remembering to put the ‘thing’ on safety!” Hated phrase, bottom line reads, NO matter the brand, NO matter the caliber, carry the most gun YOU can handle and PRACTICE to be efficiently able to NOT just shoot effectively, but do so SAFELY! If you are not willing to put in the time to be safe and efficient, do yourself and others a favor, CARRY something NON-LETHAL!

    3. You speak with a fair amount of ignorance, but then that is your choice!
      An exposed hammer is never a poor choice, it is just a choice! If it is more than you are able to learn how to handle then that is your choice.
      The CZ is always and excellent choice, but it may take more training than you are able to achieve, kind of sad.
      As for ADs or MDs, they are always a result of poor training or lack of training, mostly stupidity!!
      As for the FBI going from .38 to 10 to 9, you really need to learn something before you start to just jabber! The reason for going from the .38 to 10 was more capacity and the general trend from wheel guns to autos! The reason going down to 9s was most of the FBI are pussies when it comes to shooting and kept whining about the recoil, so they went to soft recoil of a 9! The FBI seldom shot any .357!
      My favorite 9 is the Browning HiPower, which worked extremely well for me a few days ago when I had to quickly take a shot to save one of my family! Only an idiot thinks hammers or safeties are a problem. It is simply a matter of training, muscle memory and knowing the weapon one has will do the job! Most people just are too lazy to do the training, but that is another story!!

  36. This is a very good article. I have no complaints with it. You ask what guns I carry and what enhancements I have on them. OK.
    I have three main pistols that I carry and they are:

    1. A CZ-75 Compact in 9×19 mm that dates from shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall.The only enhancements to this pistol are aftermarket wood grip panels, fibre optic sights, and a DPM “Recoil Reducer” that serves to mitigate frame-to-slide hammering with heavy loads — yes, it still functions reliably with light loads. I might add an ambidextrous safety lever at some point in the future, but that’s not a priority as this pistol gets the least carry use of the three.

    2. An EAA Witness semi-compact chambered in 10×25 mm.

    3. An EAA Witness semi-compact chambered in .38 Super +P and used with both .38 Super +P and 9×23 Winchester ammunition.

    The enhancements to both of the Witness pistols consist of TruGlo TFX tritium/fibre optic sights primarily due to my eyes that keep reminding me that they, too, are 74 years old, ambidextrous safety levers, DPM “Recoil Reducers,” and extended magazine releases (which I am seriously considering returning to the original ones). The extended mag releases are fine for use in matches (I consider combat matches to be additional training/practice and so I use my carry pistols for them).

    That’s about it

    1. I don’t believe my pistols know where they were made.
      “Buying American” is a fine thing, but not if no American company makes what you were trying to buy.
      Yeah, back in the 1980s I tried to buy an American-made Bren Ten. and lost my $400 deposit when Dornaus & Dixon went under.
      I’ll buy what I wish, no matter where it is made.

    2. I feel your pain. When we were issued the wonderful SW .38 and .357 revolvers no one questioned the quality. Next we got the horrible SW Model 59 9mm pistols. Remember the Colt 2000? SIG and Beretta were adopted ( pre Glock) because they not only worked they were fantastic quality. American makers abrogated the field to the Europeans.

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