The efficient engagement of a threat is a combination of any number of well executed components, along with a handful pieces of well-chosen hardware.
From the hardware point of view there’s a weapon you are intimately familiar with and can run without a second thought. There’s a good holster and belt combination that holds your defensive weapon securely, in the exact same spot each and every time you put it on.
Efficiency also comes through hours of training and consistently performing each individual component required to put combat effective hits on your threat. These include your ability to manage your startle response, to access your weapon, to get a firm grip, to draw and orient it, to DRIVE it to the threat and engage that threat with 3-5 rounds that are combat effective.
The more consistent you are in this process, the more consistent your gear and weapon respond. The better you execute each and every component of this process . . . the more efficient you will be. The more effective you will be. And the better your chances to survive a lethal encounter.
For this post I want to address one very small part of the entire process – the DRIVE. Its duration can be measured in very small fractions of a second – yet it is the defining component of the accuracy of the first round hit.
There is a generalization made in the defensive shooting community that “first hit wins”. While there are certainly exceptions of all generalizations, if we modify it to say “the first combat effective hit wins” and we mean that palm sized region center mass of a lethal threat . . . the accuracy of this generalization increases greatly.
I have seen all kinds of “drives” to a threat but they generally fall into two categories – both related to fishing. There’s “casting”. The muzzle travel is an arc as the shooter extends slightly upward and then drops the weapon onto the target like a fisherman casting bait. And, there’s “setting the hook”. The shooter is at the low ready and quickly raises their weapon to place it on the target. Both have “issues”.
Casting: There are three issues here – first is pointing your weapon into the sky. In a high stress environment it is all too easy for your trigger finger to slip onto the trigger and discharge that first round high over the threat and into God only knows who. Remember, the threat is before you – not the kid on the second floor of the mall.
Next is travel time. Simply put, it takes more time to travel in an arc than a straight line. As they say “time is money” but in this case the “money” is your ability to survive the fight.
Finally, “over travel”. Your gun has significant mass. Once you get it moving it takes time and energy to stop the travel.
Setting the hook: While the chances of an early discharge may be reduced when you are raising your weapon to the threat – it certainly still exists. As the “hook is set” – any trigger press will send that first round anywhere but where you want it to go.
There too – it takes more time to raise our weapon on target reducing efficiency and leaving you open to taking that first round rather than delivering it. And, finally, “over travel” occurs in this direction as well. Gun – mass – momentum . . . it’s simply physics. You will need time and energy to counteract the effect of the momentum of your gun.
I would offer an alternative – that you DRIVE to the threat. The word “drive” implies a couple things. It’s controlled. You have a firm grip on your weapon, you are focused on our threat and you simply use your arm muscles to drive the muzzle of your weapon directly at the center mass of your threat. A minimum amount of time is expended during this time and . . . should you find the need you can press the trigger at virtually any point during your drive, from the high compressed ready position to full extension – and you will have no need to worry about an errant round.
Second, you are on target at the beginning of the drive. No need to come down, go up or settle . . . you are THERE! This significantly increases your opportunity for an ACCURATE first round hit!
Finally, it’s most efficient. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. And while it may mean only a few fractions of a second difference – lives are decided every day on fractions of a second. Best the odds are on your side.
I know many folks are limited to ranges with shooting boxes, limited movement and limited number of rounds of engagement. For this very small segment of your presentation – that’s just fine. Next time you go to the range try this drill.
Come to the High Compressed Ready.
At the sound of the timer, DRIVE straight out and press off your round.
Watch yourself. If you start to “cast” or “set the hook” - KNOCK THAT CRAP OFF!!!
Start slow if you need to and work up to full speed. Once you’ve firmly integrated this into your presentation, try pressing the round off sooner. Work at defensive distances – 9-15 feet. Push yourself and find that balance of speed and precision.
Finally, with permission of your range – integrate accelerated pairs into your drill. Watch how well you control recoil for the second shot. Firm up your grip to tighten your grip.
Oh, and make sure you integrate a complete scan and assess after each and every string of fire NOT SOME CRAPPY QUICK OVER THE SHOULDER GLANCE!! A complete scan and assess.
Yep, I know it’s a miniscule part of the entire engagement process. But it is absolutely critical in gaining a quick first round hit.
Work on it!