In previous articles, I’ve talked about learning from mistakes, hard-wiring proper fundamentals, and developing a proper mindset for combat. Assuming the shooter has addressed all of those issues, it’s time to interject a simple tactic into the training regimen: dynamic movement.
This seems, at first glance, to be a no-brainer; it’s harder to hit a moving object than a stationary one. Most of us, however, were trained in the school of “plant your feet, pick your target…” We were taught that nothing was done on the firing line until the rangemaster told us to do it (will the rangemaster be there at 0300 when the gunfight occurs?). We were often told that it was unsafe to move on the range with a gun in hand.
I’m not talking here about shooting on the move, either forward or backward. I’m talking about a simple, single step, maybe laterally, maybe aggressing forward or slightly back from an opponent. Taking just one step may mean the difference between living and dying when the balloon goes up. The student has learned to present the pistol, shoot reasonably accurately, clear malfunctions, and perform speed and TAC loads, so should now begin to learn other facets of winning fights.
Ron Avery of the Practical Shooting Academy in Olathe, CO has been working on a hit probability study, and the initial data shows some interesting stuff. Among other things, the study shows that moving a few inches right or left dramatically increases your chance of not getting shot. However, the shooter must quickly and accurately shoot his opponent, for the time lag is minimal. The shooter has to rely on his accurate return fire to win.
Take Advantage Of The Mind
One of the reasons for this is the way the mind seems to work. Like a phonograph record (a vinyl disc that revolved on a turntable and produced sounds), the mind seems to have to go back to the beginning when the thought is interrupted — it can’t ignore the interruption and continue on. For you younger guys, the brain needs to re-boot. What this means to us is that when we move, our opponent tries to figure out what we’re doing. Instead of pressing the trigger, he’s thinking about what we’re doing and how to counteract it. If he’s thinking instead of shooting, it may give us the nanosecond we need to put holes in him. This is a good thing.
We should all be familiar with the OODA Loop. Developed by a Korean War fighter pilot, the OODA Loop tried to determine why our pilots won more air-to-air fights than our enemies. OODA (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act) showed that our pilots’ faster response when seeing an enemy airplane enabled us to shoot more of them down; while they were thinking, we were shooting.
I was once chastised by shooters at a major West Coast police department. I was teaching an NRA school that includes a drill where the students are supposed to move laterally to cover, without being told to do so. A red-faced student explained that no one was allowed to move without instruction to do so from the rangemaster: Back to my question, where will the rangemaster be when the shootin’ starts?
Keep It Simple
Let’s keep the introduction of movement simple. In the NRA schools, this is called a “step drill.” On command of “left” or “right,” the student takes one step in the direction called, presents his pistol, and shoots. If left is called, the left foot moves first; if right, the right foot. As the concept sinks in, the student begins to move, present, and shoot, all in one fluid motion. The step adds no time to the hits on target, and makes us harder to hit. The students are encouraged, and then required, to move laterally whenever presenting, reloading or clearing malfunctions.
Once we’re comfortable with basic lateral movement, we kick it up a notch. I learned this next drill from a San Diego D.A. investigator at an IALEFI conference several years ago. It’s called the Taisabaki Drill.
Those of you who’ve done any defensive tactics training know that it may be better to close with an opponent than to try to create distance. If we get close to a guy with a baseball bat, we steal his power by not letting him get the full benefit of the swing. Conversely, if we try to move away from him, we allow the bat to complete its arc of movement and develop its full energy — this is a bad thing. As our enemy reaches for his gun, a simple step forward to contact, control, and counter the weapon might serve us better. With this in mind, we now learn to “enter left” and “enter right.”
When we enter left, we take one rapid step forward and to the left, left foot, then right foot, moving. If our opponent is right handed, we can now control the gun hand and elbow, maybe stopping the draw stroke or deflecting it away from us. We can do the same when we enter right. We move aggressively forward, deflect, present our own weapon and shoot from our weapon-retention position. When we move in, our pistol remains in close to the body.
Exercise All Options
We may also decide it’s better to move away from our opponent. We may want to issue verbal challenges, deploy Tasers or other options, or just create distance to maintain our reactionary gap. Moving straight to the rear offers no advantage, so we “exit left” or “exit right.” We move laterally to require the opponent to track us to the side, not just continue to address us directly in front of him.
As with entering, this is a rapid, aggressive movement away. Begin with directional commands to exit left, exit right; then, add in the presentation of the pistol. Since we are creating distance, the pistol is presented with arms extended to shoot, or to the guard or ready if challenges are issued. When we move out, the gun punches out.
Since humans learn visually, picture the face of a clock when you call out the movements. Nine o’clock is “left,” three o’clock is “right,” ten o’clock is “enter left,” eight is “exit left,” two o’clock and four o’clock, respectively, are enter and exit right.
Any Miss Is As Good As A Mile
We do not have to move 10 feet each time we move — 10 inches might be enough. The crucial thing is to move off the line of attack! I don’t worry too much about students crossing their feet — I’ve never had one trip and fall on the range. However, moving the feet more than is needed takes more time: Economy of motion translates to faster action, which translates to us putting holes in him before he puts holes in us. This is a good thing. If you can get the shooter trainee to just move 10 to 12 inches, he will have a decided advantage once the fight begins.
The simple movements described can be combined with a variety of different strikes to compound their effectiveness. Striking with the fist, open hand, or elbow can stun or confuse the opponent while the pistol is being drawn; even a hard slap to the snot locker will move your opponent’s head back and make his eyes water. A raised elbow can also protect your face and throat from your opponent’s empty hand or impact-weapon attack. Don’t get too hung up on making the blow a fight-stopper, though; if a gun is required, it should be your primary response. It’s pretty difficult to do two things well at the same time.
Never Say Never: Stay Flexible
One student asked me for a formula of when to move in and when to move out. My Golden Rule of Gunfighting: It Depends! I’m not a big fan of formulas that say always transition, always speed-load, always…you get the picture. If you need such a formula, let’s say we move closer when we’re within arm’s length of the goblin (like when you get his I.D.). If you’re farther away than a couple of feet, a talented pistoleer can put a hole or two in you before you can touch him. Conversely, a world champion shooter is going to have trouble hitting you when you’ve just broken his nose. Please remember that the gun is just a part of your overall, integrated fighting package of hands, feet, sticks, knives, OC, and other tools. One crucial factor is your ability to ring someone’s bell with a punch — if you can’t hit harder than a nun, this might not work well for you.
Once the shooter has gotten these directional steps wired in, encourage him to keep moving while delivering accurate fire. With practice, a competent shooter can shoot a goblin full of holes, moving left, right, back and forth in one continuous motion.
As with all fighting techniques, movement has to be practiced regularly once it’s learned. I sometimes find myself focusing on one specific aspect of a drill and forget to move when drawing. I have to mentally spank myself and go back to incorporating sound tactics as much as possible in everything I do. As with all we do in fighting, movement has to become “mushin”— without thought — so that it will be there when needed. The only way to get there is to start moving early in training and to remember to do it.