I was doing some research recently, while looking for a topic to write about, and stumbled onto some YouTube videos about getting off the deadly ‘X.’ Although being able to exercise proper firearms skills while moving is important, what I witnessed was a bunch of instructors and students running around the ranges like so many proverbial chickens without their heads.
It was movement for movement’s sake, without any thought given to the angles, how the movement should be exercised (to take advantage of how the human body moves most effectively), and critically, when and if one should move at all. I will cover the how. Then, I will cover the when. First, let’s consider the following.
Shooting firearms and training with them for defensive or offensive purposes must be considered a martial art. As such, much more consideration should be given as to how the human body works best when under stress. Oh yes, we give it lip service but don’t really break it down the same way other disciplines do.
Even the most rudimentary fighting technique, Western Boxing is way ahead of gun fighting when it comes to using physicality and angles to the best advantage, let alone Karate, Aikido, Taekwondo, Judo, and Japanese Jujutsu. To prove my point, watch a highly trained and skilled practitioner of any of the fighting skills walk down the street.
It’s like watching a Prima Ballerina. Every step is preparation for a counter or a strike… Beautiful! However, the same cannot be found with millions of CCW holders, even the ones who train. That is, if they are not texting.
But let’s get back to the ones who train, because the others have already lost their fights. If you have taken classes from a competent instructor, and go to a range twice a month where they allow you to make presentations from the holster and practice movement, that will put you well ahead of the pack. What I am going to tell you, however, might just rock your world. Before I start, let me say I am a proponent of movement. But only correct movement and only when necessary. Heresy! I know…
According to FBI statistics, most shootings take place at or within 21 feet. That means, your assailant will likely present himself at that distance. In that moment of violence, muscle memory, built by training, will be your only ally.
Taking desperate seconds to assess the terrain, to run off in unfamiliar territory is asking your brain, in a moment of fight or flight, to do complex processing setting you up for failure. Drawing your weapon, taking aim at the most dangerous threat first, and eliminating him, is something your mind can do reliably when under stress, precisely because you have practiced that repeatedly in training (or have you?).
That alone — despite all the other solid reasons — makes accurate shooting of the utmost importance when you are surprised with violence. That said, let’s consider movement and what type of movement is most effective.
So that there are no misunderstandings, this assumes the type of attack we are talking about is by 1–4 assailants armed with striking weapons or handguns. The environment would be a public space of some kind like a sidewalk, restaurant, store, mall, parking lot, or like area. The first thing I want to cover is your response, after you realize you are being attacked.
Accepted doctrine states that your first response should include some form of dynamic movement that will also help counter the attack. Most instructors advocate moving off the ‘X’ as you make your presentation. Keep in mind that most of this instruction is geared to law enforcement or the military.
Although movement is important, the type and angle of movement are what really count. Movement for movement’s sake can be counter productive. The following is why most common tactical wisdom is shortsighted…
When civilians are out in public, they are not usually alone. Think, is it appropriate for the armed member of the family or group to race off for a better tactical position while leaving the members of the group exposed, to be robbed, beaten, or worse? We are most likely accompanied by a male or female, excuse me, non-gender specific friend, our current birthing person, parents, etc. As their armed companion, we are their shield, if you will.
Is it appropriate for their shield to start running around for a better tactical position while leaving them exposed? I think not! The best move and your responsibility is to safely evacuate them from the area or to cover, when possible — if not shield and protect them. To do that, you must present your firearm and deliver accurate precise fire on the degenerates waving weapons and demanding your valuables.
You cannot shoot accurately if you are bouncing around hither and yawn getting off imaginary X’s. It’s accurate shooting and ONLY accurate shooting that will bring hostilities to a rapid conclusion in your favor. Remember, you are to be shooting, and only when not shooting, reloading or moving. Now that you understand that shooting accurately should be your first priority, let’s look at the other options and when they are appropriate to employ.
Please take note of illustration #1. In that you see the defender, guiding his people behind him. He then engages the most dangerous threat first and that would be the knife wielding attacker at 9 feet. Do I have to explain why he is the highest priority target? I hope not.
In Illustration #2 the defender has eliminated threat number 1 and has assumed a Modified Weaver stance to engage the gun wielding assailant with more accurate fire as that would be the next most serious threat. It’s the stabile stance that allows you to put accurate precise and effective rounds on the target and quickly neutralize the threat. Speaking of stance, take a quick look at illustration number 3. Notice both the Isosceles and Weaver stances are shown. You tell me which one makes a smaller target.
If one chooses to move first because you are alone, obviously you should simultaneously be presenting your handgun if the response requires lethal force. If there is enough distance between you and the assailant, and the weapon is a striking object, retreating to a defensible position might be in order — if terrain allows.
I have seen instructors advocate turning your back on the threat and running to cover. I personally do not think it’s ever a good idea to turn your back on a threat. That said, moving to a defensible position is always a good idea — when possible. Just don’t ever do it in a straight line, with your back turned, and don’t leave your loved ones behind.
Rotation and Angles
The next option we see presented most often is that of moving laterally while presenting your firearm to return fire. On first view, this seems acceptable as you are hopefully increasing distance. Let’s assume (for ease of description) that everyone involved is right handed. For those of you that say, “see it doesn’t work” it does I just don’t have the space to cover every possible hand combination and direction in this article.
Let’s first start with moving to our right as you present your defensive firearm. You rotate to the right and start moving as quickly as your age and health will allow. This presents the first problem, the more you move off your line, the more awkward it becomes for you to point your weapon in the general direction of the assailant, let alone hit him or anything for that matter.
That’s because it is all about the angles and you are working against your body’s natural rotation by compressing as opposed to extending or opening. Maybe if I shoot over my shoulder with a mirror… That’s sarcasm, so keep up. Additionally, if I am eyes on target, I can’t see where I am going because my head is turned to the left looking behind me. The farther I travel, the more that spells catastrophe. See the problem?
Next, let’s try going to our left or weak side next… OK! This works much better. I can extend my arm out and point shoot pretty good going to my weak side because my body position is opening. I hope you all learned something? If not, let me tell you.
Always move to your weak side to shoot a handgun easily and more accurately. The reason for that is the way we are built. We are more flexible and have a greater range of motion when we are opening our stance than when we are closing our stance — especially when it comes to arm extension, rotation, and angles.
As I see it, the biggest problem about moving laterally is that you can’t see where you are going and will surely crash into something. That, and you present an easy target to track. Not as easy as going straight away, but easy. Even the fleetest of foot amongst us are slow compared to the other creatures that inhabit the earth, ergo we are easier to hit.
So, how do we overcome all these deficits? Offer more stimulus packages and raise inflation? No, that’s not the answer but here is an option. Move laterally to your weak side but toward the threat. By doing that you are making the assailant easier for you to hit while simultaneously making yourself a more difficult target. And why do you suppose that might be? It is a byproduct of the way we are assembled.
If you move to your weak side, you are more fluid and becoming more open as you track your target. Equally important, your vision is more aware of things in your path because of unimpeded peripheral vision in your direction of travel. Of course, some know-it-all internet experts will say, “You are going to your opponent’s strong side making it easier for him to track you!”
Although it is true that we would be going to his strong side. In reality, it makes us harder for him to track because we are moving against his natural ability to lead. The fact that we are also closing on him makes it very difficult for him to track and lead us. I will refer you to all the wonderful diagrams I provided to illustrate my points and the angles.
Another advantage of advancing toward your opponent is a psychological one. Criminals don’t expect their victims to attack them. It throws them off their game and affords you a tactical advantage. That is one reason why military units are taught to attack the enemy when ambushed and to overwhelm them with superior firepower.
I pray you never find yourself in a life or death confrontation but if you do, remember the angles. Stay safe, train often, and practice, practice, practice!