These are the fundamentals of shooting survival. We like getting back to basics here because without mastering the fudamentals, you can never progress in your skills. Buying a gun doesn’t make you Wyatt Earp anymore than buying a fast car makes you Dale Earnhardt. Unfortunately too many people don’t get this concept. The problem is that people buy guns, and then let them sit in the closet or drawer until that bump in the night comes. What’s worse is that the people that actually practice go to the range and do everything wrong causing them to form terrible habits. I can’t tell you how many times I have just cringed watching some people shoot next to me. Let’s talk about what you really need to do every time you shoot to develop muscle memory and skills that will save your life.
I. Situational Awareness
Know what is going on around you. If you are off in “La La Land” then you will never see danger coming. Scan your surroundings, watching the actions of those around you. It doesn’t take much to recognize suspicious behavior. What takes skill is remaining vigilant enough to continually scan your environment. This and this alone may save your life! You have to know when to draw your weapon before it is too late and you are unable to defend yourself. All the training in the world is useless if you never see the threat coming.
Your stance needs to be a stance that you would throw a punch from. This isn’t a speed shooting competition and over exaggerated shooting poses don’t work in the real world. The great debate is between the Isosceles or Weaver stance.
The Isosceles stance is standing with your feet shoulder width apart with a slight bend in the knees and leaning slightly forward with your arms extended straight in front of you. You are squarely facing the target in this stance with both arms equally supporting your position.
The Weaver stance has the body bladed partly sideways in relation to the target rather than squared towards it. Again you have a slight bend in the knees and lean slightly forward. The elbow of the weak arm is bent and tucked supporting the strong arm which is slightly straighter . The shooter pushes out with the gun hand, this produces a push-pull tension which is the chief defining characteristic of the Weaver stance.
We understand that many ranges don’t allow you to shoot from the draw, this is where dry fire training comes in at home (with an unloaded firearm and without the presence of any ammo). Your draw starts with a firm grasp and proper positioning of the hand on your weapon. Never draw your weapon without having the proper grip established, because if you do everything that follows will be incorrect. If you are drawing from the most common position,the 3 o’clock, then your draw needs to come directly up with your arm close to the body. Your elbow should be extended to the rear so that you can literally punch the weapon forward and into your line of sight.
IV. Shooting Grip
Your grip on the handgun needs to be as high on the back strap as possible to control recoil, particularly if you have a handgun with a high bore axis. Limp wristing is a common cause of malfunctions because of improper grip. You are in control of the gun, not the other way around. Sixty percent of your grip strength needs to come from your strong hand while forty percent needs to come from your support hand. There is another school of thought that preaches a “death grip” while training because that’s how you will grip the handgun in a stressful situation. We are fairly inclined to go along with that school of thought as well, if fact this is Steve’s chosen method (having been in a couple gunfights in the military I’m pretty inclined to go with him on this). Your thumbs need to be aligned forward and away from all controls and moving parts with your support hand fingers solidly placed on the lower rear of the trigger guard.
V. Sight Picture / Sight Alignment
Always bring the gun to your line of sight and never adjust your head positioning to the placement of the gun. Align the front sight in between the the rear sight posts with equal distance on either side of the front sight. A proper sight picture will have the actual target, and rear sight posts slightly blurry. Concentrate on the front sight. Your front sight dictates where your bullet will impact, while the rear sight dictates the vertical alignment of the front sight. Both your draw and grip effect your ability to gain proper sight alignment. I’ll say it again, concentrate on the front sight!
VI. Trigger pull, or more appropriately Trigger Squeeze
In my opinion trigger pull is the single most important part of the shooting process. Without the proper trigger pull, every shot will be a non life saving action. For such a simple step, many people don’t get it right. A proper trigger pull starts with proper finger positioning on the trigger. The pad of your finger or just above the first joint needs to be what actuates the trigger.The pull needs to be a smooth movement to the rear without a jerking action. You then release the trigger allowing it to remain in contact with your skin until it properly resets and can be pulled again for follow up shots. This is called trigger reset and it is probably the most important part of the follow up shot, you only let the trigger out until you hear the “click” of it resetting. The key here is smoothness, and not being overly slow nor overly quick in your movement.
VII. Follow Through
You may ask what you really need to do after the shot that really matters. Well in real life a threat usually doesn’t cease to exist simply because you pulled the trigger. In the lisp laden but immortal words of Mike Tyson, “Everyone has a plan until they get hit”. The one shot stop is a myth that you never want to stake your life on. Follow up shots will more than likely need to be made and all the above steps may need to be repeated. You never stop shooting until the threat ceases to exist. If you do fire your weapon to protect life, scan the area for further threats and remain aware of your situation.
I hope this helps in your training and gives you some food for thought. Until next time, be safe and put some lead down range!