The Evolution of a Gunfighter Part 1
The Evolution of a Gunfighter Part II

Shooting at Arm’s Length

-Suarez International Staff Instructor Jon Payne

CRG 085

The best gunfight is the one you can avoid. If you can’t avoid it, you’re most likely to be reacting to someone else starting the fight. Especially if you have to use a pistol to defend your life and the lives of your loved ones, your actions are likely to be both reactive and done at very close range.   The words I hear most often when describing lethal encounters is how fast they start and with little warning.

Today’s handguns are not meant to be used at Camp Perry matches; they’re designed to get the bad guy off you now! You can practice using two hands and the modern isosceles, but when bullets have to be put on the bad guy chances are you won’t have the luxury of getting into a perfect stance, seeing a sharp sight picture, and experiencing the “surprise break”.


 Some fundamentals will be sacrificed when shooting at mouth wash distances. Your stance will be less than optimal since you should be on the move or because you’re actually in contact with your attacker. Your grip may only be with your shooting hand. You will not have time for a perfect sight picture or even a “flash” sight picture. How well do you think you’ll be able to practice breath control?   What’s going to make the difference between a good hit and a miss is your trigger press and reset. Even when everything else is perfect and the world is a wonderful place, if you goof your trigger control you won’t make that perfect shot.


In a close contact life or death encounter your hands may be busy trying to fend off an attack or prevent your opponent’s draw stroke.   You need to move first and then access your pistol. Accessing your pistol first will leave you in the kill zone and takes up precious fractions of a second that you can’t afford to waste. Jam the bad guy’s draw or knife slash/stab, or even punch them in the mouth. Just do it as you’re moving to get off the line of the attack and create an opening where you can counter-attack with fast, furious, and over-whelming violence.


Another aspect that needs to be examined is the positioning of the handgun in an arm’s reach encounter. The last thing you want to do is give the bad guy control of your weapon. Think about firing with retention. If you’re able to establish a two handed grip this would be done during your draw stroke. If count one is establishing your grip, count two is clearing your holster, then count three would be clasping your support hand around the support side of your handgun. This position is referred to as close contact ready and you can make fast fight stopping hits from this position. I’ve broken down parts of the draw for explanation only.


Driving your pistol into your opponent is not a good idea, especially if they’re trained in Disarms. Disarms are being taught and practiced in prisons. You need to take that into account in your training and practice. To achieve the retention positions, instead of thinking about extending your arm into the target, retract the pistol using your elbow to bring the back of the slide closer to you. You can practice this dry and with airsoft pistols. Much like the Close Contact Ready position, the pistol is held much closer to your body than when shooting paper targets. Be aware of where you’re support hand is. If you’re driving your support hand into the bad guy’s face angle your pistol to the bad guy’s midsection and or groin.


If you’re retreating to your support side on an angle your pistol and elbow will be almost horizontal with your elbow bent slightly less or right at 90 degrees. Your pistol will “float” in this fighting position and very fast hits are possible. You’re only using your firing hand in this position because a two handed hold will put your upper body in a bind.


When busting of the “X” to your firing hand side you’ll in effect; be shooting over your support shoulder. Be careful of your muzzle and be aware that if you get a semi-auto slide too close to your face it’s going to smack you. This is a two handed shooting position.


The whole idea of firing with retention at very close range is to allow you to get good hits on the bad guy without losing control of your weapon, and it is admittedly difficult to describe well with just words and pictures. If you want to see both demonstrations and more detailed explanations of some of your options, look for the DVD Close Range Gunfighting from Infidel Media Group. Other excellent DVD’s include Roger Phillips Point Shooting Progressions Series and My own Pocket Pistol Gunfighting DVD (due to be released soon)