The NRA Guide to The Basics of Pistol Shooting lists the “fundamentals” as:
- breath control
- hold control
- trigger control
- follow through
Any experienced shooter will tell you that learning and practicing these basics is very important. They form a foundation for everything else you will learn, even though SOME things you may learn later will contradict or negate them, at least at times.
A lot of that has to do with the reason you are shooting. Fine control of all those fundamentals is essential for target shooting and competition, even hunting, but perhaps not so much for a desperate last stand self defense. I can guarantee that you will not be thinking of these in that case. Actually, you won’t have much on your mind at all, your body will be too busy with something called the “fight or flight” response.
Let me tell you about the one time I had to shoot a man in self defense. If you have not read the story yet, you might want to look at it before you continue here.
To recap: I was home alone in a remote location. I had no telephone or electricity. A man was trying to steal my car and I went to the door to shout at him to get away from it. I foolishly went out the door and shut it behind me… but I also had a shotgun in my hands.
I had no self defense or other formal firearms training then, but had used the gun on the farm for a long time. I was not afraid to use the gun, even though I never really thought I would need to do so. I really thought that the command to go away, and the sight of the gun, would end the problem.
And then, in the blink of an eye… everything went to hell. He came toward me, cursing and telling me he would kill me. I have no idea what his problem was, or why he was so angry, and I didn’t have any time to think about it anyway.
Afterwards, people asked me what I thought, what I felt, how I knew what to do… and I have no idea. Even immediately after the event, I could not have told you what went on in my mind in those few terrifying moments. I have zero memory of it. All I really remember is from before, and then after I pulled the trigger. The rest is speculation based on what happened.
It is well known, from serious studies of all kinds of emergency situations and responses, that the more primitive areas of the brain take over and the person loses the ability to do much critical thinking or planning. Right then, the only thing that is happening is a survival response to the threat. The person facing death will see only the threat (tunnel vision). They will hear nothing outside the threat, and will tend to freeze helplessly – at least for a few moments – unless they have trained their mind and body to respond otherwise.
Which is exactly why someone who carries or otherwise uses a gun for self defense in such a situation will need to consider a few things beyond the NRA “fundamentals” as taught.
Start with the “aim.” Sighting the pistol by matching the two points on the barrel with the target is very important, especially in the beginning. This requires that you hold the gun in such a way that you can line up the rear sight with the front sight, keeping the desired target in fuzzy focus beyond. Works like a charm, especially on the range or out hunting.
But all that takes time and the ability to position yourself and your gun ideally. Does anyone really think they would always have that time and opportunity? If the strict “fundamental” of sight picture and gun position are ALL you know, and all you have ever practiced, you might find yourself in a pickle no matter how wonderful your gun handling skills may be otherwise.
Solution? Learn alternate ways to hold and take aim. The Tactical Shooting Academy has the most comprehensive classes I know of. There are several methods and advocates for point shooting. You might want to incorporate some of this into your training and practice sessions. I’ve been point shooting for a number of years and find that it is quite accurate enough for self defense. I’m well prepared with the basics, yet able and willing to go beyond that.
Next time we’ll take a look at “breath control.” You might be surprised…