The Art of Expedient Gun Handling
Weapon handling skills that are suitable for achieving a satisfactory end when the circumstances are otherwise unfavorable.
In other words, expedient gun handling represents an ability to deliver hits on target when traditional marksmanship fails. But as we’ve discussed earlier, in the world of street violence, having to go to the gun most likely means that all hell has broken loose and the circumstances you have found yourself in are not favorable to you and are quickly spiraling out of (your) control. This is where traditional range based target shooting falls apart and expedient gun handling skills shine.
So, the question goes… Why do we need to settle for a “satisfactory end”? To answer this question we have to go back to the basics of violence and review the two types of weapon based fights, pro-active (fore-warned) and re-active (surprise).
These are the gunfights where you have the initiative. An example would be the law enforcement high risk vehicle traffic stop. When a police officer determines that a vehicle operator is wanted or dangerous and needs to be stopped, the training protocols for stopping and making contact are initiated. Every tactical advantage available will be acquired, supporting assets acquired, location, distance will be maintained, cover will be exploited to its fullest; when the stop is initiated, the calculated risk to law enforcement will be brought to the lowest level possible. Essentially, the officer will be setting up an ambush; in the stop, he will provide the suspect the opportunity to submit but if he comes out shooting, the trap will be sprung. In a conversation with a former SWAT Commander, he conceded “Most of our encounters are very one sided. This isn’t an accident; it’s a process of being on top of the game at all times”. It’s a process that law enforcement has refined over many years.
In the genre of the pro-active gun fight, law enforcement is exceptional in the set-up and execution; they’ve developed the anticipated dangerous contact to an art. Because a lot of the civilian firearms trainers out there have law enforcement backgrounds, these same pro-active tactics albeit watered down, have flowed into the civilian training sector. The big name organizations in America promote the same pro-active scenario training in their civilian concealed carry programs; it’s the same script, but with a different stage and actors.
The circumstance established in the pro-active fight and the controlling factors lends itself to traditional square range marksmanship based training and development; however, almost all of our law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty, are killed in re-active events where a trap has been set, but they were the ones who were victims of the set-up. The same could be said for those outside law enforcement.
Re-active gun fights are those encounters where someone else has established the initiative, set up the ambush and have chosen you. As ambushes go, the direction of attack will most certainly be unfavorable to you, distances can expand or contract, your assailant will be moving trying to flank or get behind you. He’ll choose a time when you are vulnerable, have a child or loved one with you, when you’re in an unfamiliar area. The assailant sets the stage, counting on over loading your sensory input, keeping you stuck in the observe and orient mode of the OODA loop.
In an FBI study of law enforcement officer involved shootings conducted some years ago it was noted that when placed into re-active scenarios, law enforcement officers nationwide had a successful hit ratio of less than 40% and that police gunshot casualties took place almost exclusively in these re-active situations.
In an informal workshop conducted by High Desert Training Group, entry level shooters were given a pistol and instructed to simply “unload” onto a standard IPSC target at a common gun fight distance. This random shooting resulted in a hit ratio of 60%.
An alternative that is intuitive to the threat response that works throughout the changes that happen when our survival mechanisms kick in is needed. Expedient methods are not perfect, but should be gross motor skill specific, should work with the human being’s natural response to achieve a satisfactory end. To achieve this, gun handling skills should seek to reduce risk of failure while achieving the desired results.
Every element of traditional marksmanship and weapon handling (sighting, grip, stance, trigger control etc.) has its “expedient” alternative that is more likely to achieve results when placed in a crisis.
An example of an expedient weapon handling skill is as simple as the slide release. In the action pistol shooting culture of the 1980s, dropping a pistol slide was achieved by depressing the slide release with the shooting hand thumb; a fine motor skill. This was seen as the quickest way to return the pistol into battery, it dazzled the entry level shooter and was very fast for time scoring. But the “real world” crowd knew that in a fight grasping the top of the slide with the support hand and retracting the slide to return it to battery may not be as fast, but is almost 100% assured of success in an adrenalized state.
Expedient weapon handling skills, once learned, tend to be easy to “own and maintain”. All skills need to be maintained, but if those skills are so perishable that they require constant re-establishment through warm ups between a training sessions, you should be re-evaluating their worth in your tactical skill set tool box.
When you’re confronted by a nineteen year old with a Lorcin pistol in a convenience store parking lot, will he afford you a warm up session?
Am I Wasting My Time Target Shooting?
The contrast between the two is striking. However, life is not necessarily one or the other. There are times when the situation demands scalpel precision and others where the situation is so dire that you have to crudely sledge hammer your way through via expedient means.
Violence is characterized by a constant change, that sliding scale of urgency, distance and environmental variations around you. To be able to move thoughtlessly from one end of the urgency factor like shifting gears in a car, while applying the fighting skills that are appropriate to your situation, either pro-active or re-active, is to evolve into the realm of the martial art.
Expedient gun handling is the development of skill set alternatives to those target shooting skill sets that fall apart when the sympathetic nervous system’s fight/flight threat response is triggered. Expedient gun handling skill sets won’t deliver winning scores at the gun club, but will deliver consistent center mass hits and will work with, not against natural changes that the body experiences in order to achieve a satisfactory end in unfavorable circumstance.
High Desert Training Group’s Close Quarters Handgun series courses introduce the student to the world of expedient gun handling as a fight based set of skills and how to integrate them into your fighting skill tool box.
Always and never is the language of the novice, sometimes and it depends is the language of the experienced.
“Empty your cup”