Safety and Training

Throwback Thursday: Thinking (and Practicing) Outside Of The Box—Defensive Handgun Deployment

This should get your attention: Train wrong and you will do wrong. Period. If you are unlucky enough to find yourself in a gunfight, deploying your handgun quickly and effectively are both keys to your survival and winning the fight—while minimizing your chances of injury.

Guest post by Mike Seeklander, owner of Shooting-Performance LLC.

Sale ends July 21, 2019

Sale ends July 21, 2019

We write programs in our brains by doing something repetitively. The problem is that the program we write might not be the one we want to run in certain circumstances. Photo courtesy of Mike Seeklander.
We write programs in our brains by doing something repetitively. The problem is that the program we write might not be the one we want to run in certain circumstances. Photo courtesy of Mike Seeklander.

The problem is, most of us (yes, me too, at times in the past) are practicing techniques that might not meet the “stimulus/response” test.

The great benefit of practice is that it makes you better at what you practice. The downside of practice is that it makes you better at what you practice. Read those last two sentences again. The point is, you will perform like you practice because of a process called myelination (Google it and read up on what actually builds habits).

We write programs in our brains by doing something repetitively. But programs we write might not be the ones we want to run in certain circumstances.

One thing about building a skill program is that it is technically not possible to delete the program if it was incorrect. The key here is that we want to make sure to write the correct program, and stimulus/response is part of this equation.

So how does this relate to defensive handgun deployment? Well, consider this. The last time you went to the range, did you practice drawing the handgun and shooting? If so, how did you practice that skill?

If I had to guess, based on years of watching how people train, I bet you set up a target two to five yards away and simply practiced drawing and shooting.

Because you are training for self-defense, this makes sense. Most fights are at very close range, so that is the range you practiced at, right? So is there anything wrong with what you are doing? The answer is not a simple yes or no, but, rather, “It depends.” Hear me out on this.

There have literally been hundreds, if not thousands of gunfights, videoed and analyzed. How those fights occur teach us a thing or two.

First, we learn very quickly that most people do not stand still when involved in a fight for their lives. They run, duck, jump, turn, sprint, and make many other movements related to the situation. They also shoot from non-standard positions while leaning around an obstacle or something that might be used as cover.

Additionally, we find that many gunfights start as standing wrestling matches, with the adversaries grabbing at weapons that their opponent has or is going for. If you doubt this, look at how often police officers have had their own guns used against them. There is an entire holster industry devoted to retention holsters, simply because bad guys don’t stand still and let police officers draw their handguns and shoot them.

Here are some takeaways from what we know about fights:

  • Movement is a big part of a fight, and your ability to survive probably goes up if you use it to your advantage.
  • At close ranges, simply drawing the gun and expecting the bad guy to let us accomplish this might fail. Training to respond with a different solution, rather than just grabbing your gun, is a smart move.
  • If your practice does not ingrain the best responses, no matter how good the technique you perform is, then you might be missing a big part of the training equation.

Good news: You can address these situations by setting up simple drills with a few key stimuli so you can practice responding with the appropriate tool at the right time. The three tools to use to increase survivability are movement, combatives, and proper weapon deployment timing.

A few more keys:

  • All drills should be practiced as dry-fire (unloaded) first, and then with live fire.
  • Observe all safety and muzzle-direction rules during these drills, regardless of movement pattern.
  • Vary the number or rounds (1-4) you shoot in the drills, so you do not build the habit of shooting once or twice. Make yourself get good hits.
  • Practice each drill at 50% to 75% speed (movement and weapon deployment) to ingrain the correct skill. Speed up as your skill allows.
  • Practice one or two drills during each practice session. Master the skills you are working on rather than attempting to swallow too much at one time.

Next week, I am going to give you three drills to work on, each done from a different distance and designed to work a different set of stimulus/responses. You will shoot from standard two-handed shooting positions from each drill.

If you need more background on the draw process, I recommend you check out my book, Your Defensive Handgun Training Program.


Mike Seeklander is owner of Shooting-Performance LLC, a full-service training company, and the co-host of “The Best Defense,” the Outdoor Channel’s leading self-defense and firearms instruction show. Previously, Seeklander was Chief Operating Officer, Director of Training, and a Senior Instructor at the U.S. Shooting Academy in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he was directly responsible for the development of more than 50 firearm-training programs. Prior to that, as an employee of the federal government, Seeklander served as the Branch Chief and Lead Instructor for the Firearms division with the Federal Air Marshal Service as well as a Senior Instructor at the Federal Law Enforcement Training. He’s currently a nationally ranked competitor on the practical-handgun competition circuit, and the author and producer of several instructional books, DVDs, and lesson plans specifically related to both basic and advanced firearms training. Seeklander is the current I.D.P.A. BUG (Back up Gun) national champion and winner of the 2011 Steel Challenge World Speed Shooting Championships production division title. The United States Practical Shooting Association currently ranks Mike as a Grandmaster.

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Comments (21)

  1. You are a lucky guy to have 12 acres with gullies. Any number of walk and shoot or Hogan’s alleys can be made with the gully walls as backs tops.

    I have been lucky to have attended several expensive shooting programs at taxpayer expense, but now retired, I cannot shoot new ammo all day long. I worked in 4 different law enforcement agencies and 2 branches of the military and have been a CCW instructor since retirement in 1996. Here is the suggestion I keep making to folks. Take your carry weapon and go hunt coyotes, rabbits, squirrels, crows, prairie dogs, jack rabbits or whatever is legal where you are. It can be an humbling experience. Just a simple rabbit hopping though the brush 25-30 feet away, can be difficult to hit. This is training that will cause you to work on balance, shooting quickly and accurately. Pulling the trigger on a mammal was shown to be a true indicator of success in combat in Viet Nam, guys who had been hunters (anything from squirrels to deer) were much more effective in combat than any other group. Try it, and of course, eat what you shoot, well maybe not coyotes.

  2. I guess I’m lucky. I’ve got a 12 acre plot in southern Ohio, with some gully/wash areas perfect for cutting loose with all manner of weapon and training methods. I’ve preached “real world” scenario training forever. It is only part of the equation though. Situational awareness, knowing when not to engage a target, being able to make that decision under stress, with adrenaline pumping. There is no “class” to take to develop those skills. That comes with actual exposure to them. All of us want to think that we’d be able to respond appropriately to a defensive situation. But until it actually happens, and all the variables come into play, by-standers, location, lighting, size and number of attackers. Do they have weapons? Are they drawn?
    So much….so fast. You just can’t “practice” for that. Its that information overload that makes people freeze up in certain situations. Its not so much fear….as confusion.
    I just endeavor to be as prepared as I can.

    As always
    Carry on

  3. .
    Until my last friend didn’t pull through, we used to gun wrestle all the time.
    He helped me get really good at it.
    I’m gonna miss him.

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