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Defensive Shooting Fundamentals

January 30, 2012 by  

Defensive Shooting Fundamentals

In my practice as a defensive firearms instructor, I work with many students of all ages on a private basis.

Over the years, numerous students have come to work with me to learn advanced defensive shooting techniques. In many cases, initial evaluation of their shooting skills revealed that they were terribly incompetent with a handgun and often unsafe as well. In almost every case, these people had never gotten the basics down. This is remarkable given the fact that many of these students reported that they had attended multiple tactical shooting schools before coming to me. This phenomenon left me wondering how they had missed the boat. I was also left wondering how it was that some “big name” firearms instructors with whom they said they trained, in some cases privately, never straightened them out.

In each of these cases, it was necessary for me to take them back through the basics. A shooter must understand and be able to perform the basics before he or she can expect to move on to develop competence in advanced shooting skills and tactics. In addition, if you are going to carry a concealed handgun, you must develop advanced competence. The purpose of this article is to provide a blueprint for learning the basics well so that you can then move on to develop advanced competence with the defensive handgun. However, recognize that you cannot learn this material from an article. You must practice and, ideally, you should work with a qualified shooting instructor.

Noted police and civilian firearms instructor and writer Massad Ayoob has been a pioneer in teaching people the fundamentals of defensive shooting in ways consistent with what happens physically and psychologically when you are fighting for your life. In the 1970s, he developed the Stressfire system, and it has evolved and been refined over the years. Ayoob’s Stressfire books are highly recommended reads.

Ayoob studied what happens to the human mind and body in the “stress flood” of a fight-or-flight scenario. Based on what he learned, he created techniques that not only wouldn’t fall apart under stress but, instead, would feed off the effects of the body alarm reaction and become more effective under stress.

The Stressfire shooting program emphasizes techniques that depend on simple gross motor skills as opposed to complex fine motor skills, since fine motor skills deteriorate under life and death stress. Also, gross motor techniques can withstand the tremors and increased physical strength attendant to the body-alarm-triggered adrenaline dump into the bloodstream.

You Must Learn The Basics Well

Think about it. In order to produce accurate hits with a handgun, you need to do all of the following: grip and hold the handgun securely and firmly; maintain a stable and balanced stance; keep the muzzle on the target — that is, aim the handgun properly and maintain good aim for follow-up shots (this is called follow-through); control and flow with the handgun’s recoil; and operate the trigger in a controlled manner.

Massad Ayoob’s Stressfire System emphasizes a five-point checklist that comprises the fundamentals for accomplishing the above: power stance, high hand, hard grasp, front sight and smooth roll of the trigger. This checklist provides a blueprint for practicing the fundamentals of marksmanship.

1. The Power Stance

Defensive handgunning is about fighting with a handgun. To gain the advantage in a fight, you need to adopt a stable, balanced and mobile stance. Your stance needs to be stable and balanced so that you are not thrown over by the gun’s recoil or anything else. Your shooting/fighting stance needs to be mobile so that you are not cemented or planted to the ground. You must be able to move to achieve dominance and to avoid being the recipient of blows or shots from your opponent.

More times than not, when I work with shooting students, I have to correct their stance. Many initially stand with a backward lean. Many stand too rigidly or too floppily. Some stand like a pole, and many stand square to their target with both feet parallel. None of these stances are aggressive fighting stances. Sure, you may have to shoot in a rapidly unfolding dynamic gunfight from an unorthodox and non-choreographed position; however, you must start from an aggressive and powerful stance that gives you a solid foundation.

A power stance gives you a wide base for stability and balance. It keeps you from being pushed backward by the firearm’s recoil or by your opponent. It entails leaning aggressively forward from the hips (head in front of shoulders and shoulders in front of hips). Knees should be slightly bent to absorb shock and facilitate mobility. The non-dominant foot (the one opposite your strong shooting hand) should be forward; and your dominant foot should be rearward, digging into the ground.

This power stance can be applied while static or while moving. It will be familiar to anyone with experience in wrestling, boxing or the martial arts. As stated by Massad Ayoob, “… it allows the fighter to deliver and receive impact without losing balance or the ability to continue strenuous physical activity.”

2. The High Hand

The lower a handgun’s bore axis, the easier it is to control the gun during recoil in order to deliver accurate follow-up shots. One can make the bore axis sit lower in the hands by gripping the handgun with one’s master hand as high up on the back strap as is possible. This increases your control over the gun whether you are shooting with one hand or two.

3. The Hard Grasp Or “Crush Grip”

You cannot grip a handgun too hard or too strongly. In real combat, defensive shooting means you are fighting for your life. Are you going to be relaxed at such a time? The answer is, of course not. You are going to be holding onto your life support system, your weapon, as if your life depends on it — and it does. Get used to it now. A crush grip or convulsive grip will make your handgun more difficult for your opponents to take away from you. A crush grip will help you control a powerful handgun’s recoil or the snappy recoil of a not-so-powerful mouse gun. Additionally, a crush grip will help you better isolate the movement of your trigger finger so that you have more trigger control. Conversely, a light grasp on the handgun encourages milking, which is likely to make a right-handed shooter’s shots go to low left.

As Ayoob points out, the crush grip or hard grasp may be applied with the thumbs in virtually any position, but it will benefit most when the thumbs are curled tightly down. When you curl your thumb down over your other fingers — as when you make a fist — you can squeeze harder. Try it and see for yourself.

4. The Front Sight

The bullet will go where the muzzle is pointed. To assure that the muzzle is pointed where you want the bullet to hit, you must have a reliable way of indexing the muzzle on target. That is the purpose of the front sight. The front sight helps you align your handgun’s muzzle with your point of aim on the target. This is usually accomplished in coordination with the rear sight. Verifying that the front sight is centered in the rear sight notch is called sight alignment, and superimposing your aligned front and rear sights onto your point of aim on the target is called getting a sight picture.

The more precise your shot or shots need to be, the smaller your target; or the greater your distance from your target, the more precise your sight alignment and sight picture need to be and the more time you will need to take those precise shots.

Sight alignment and trigger control are the two most important features of marksmanship. Trigger control helps the shooter maintain sight alignment and, therefore, muzzle alignment as the gun is fired and immediately afterward. Afterward is called follow-through. It means giving the bullet enough time to exit the barrel by keeping the gun directed at the point of aim while breaking the shot and, subsequently, recovering your point of aim after the gun travels through its arc of recoil so that you can prepare for a follow-up shot.

“… a firearm is a remote-control drill, and must be indexed or the hole it produces will be drilled in the wrong place…”

The goal of defensive marksmanship is to achieve combat accurate hits as fast as possible. Combat accurate hits are defined as shots that inflict disabling damage on the opponent. In any fight, the fighter who lands the first good hits on his opponent has the edge. In a gunfight, this translates into shooting well-placed bullets into your opponent before he hits you. It is foolish to sacrifice accuracy for speed. You can’t miss fast enough to win a gunfight.

Factoring out the variable of a shooter’s confidence in his shooting ability, the closer the distance, the faster the shooter can afford to shoot, and the less reliance is needed on a perfect sight picture. At close (bad breath) distances, point shooting is the way to go. To learn to shoot for combat accuracy in a gunfight (defensive shooting), the shooter must learn to shoot both with and without sights — the latter being point shooting.

As Ayoob points out:

… a firearm is a remote-control drill, and must be indexed or the hole it produces will be drilled in the wrong place. The index may be precise or coarse, depending on the nature of the shot that must be taken. Distance, target size and speed are all factors in that determination. The shooter may have the precise sight picture of the conventional marksmanship manual. They may have a similar image in line of sight, seen quickly and less than perfectly (Col. Jeff Cooper’s concept of ‘flash sight picture‘). Out to roughly seven yards with a handgun, the front sight sitting above the rear sight is adequate for a heart-area hit and can be indexed even in secondary or tertiary focus when the shooter is focused primarily on the threat (StressFire’s “StressPoint Index,” champion Todd Jarrett’s concept of “shooting out of the notch”). In poor light at extreme speed, it may suffice to simply see the silhouette of the handgun superimposed over the area of the threat that the officer wants to hit (Jim Cirillo’s “gun silhouette” concept).

5. The Smooth Roll

Good trigger control is the most important aspect of getting good hits. It becomes even more important under stress. Poor trigger control is one of the biggest reasons for dropped and errant shots. It is logical that to keep the muzzle on target, the shooter needs to smoothly operate the trigger. Erratic trigger control will drive the muzzle away from the shooter’s point of aim.

The goal is to smoothly press the trigger all the way rearward without hesitation until the shot breaks and then to ride the trigger forward as the trigger resets for the next shot. As Ayoob points out, “… each activation of the trigger is done with a single-stage movement. We use the term ‘roll the trigger’ to convey the smooth, even, uninterrupted, straight-back rearward pressure on the trigger which we seek.”

If the handgun fits the shooter’s hands, poor trigger control is typically caused by a combination of factors. These can include: poor isolation of the trigger finger (also known as “milking” the gun), inadequate placement of the trigger finger on the face of the trigger, an inadequate or unstable grip on the handgun (poor form, gripping too loosely, having to re-adjust the grip after each shot), flinching, anticipating the shot, jerking the trigger, trying to stage the trigger, and not keeping the finger on the trigger throughout a string of shots.

Trigger control can be practiced through dry fire in addition to live fire; so can the other fundamentals of marksmanship. An excellent dry fire drill for practicing all of the fundamentals is the Wall Drill.

The Wall Drill

Grasp the handgun high on the back strap so that the tang of the handgun pinches into the V-notch of your dominant strong hand.

This dry fire drill requires sustained focus and concentration. This drill builds a muscle memory or motor memory of the key marksmanship fundamentals.

Make sure that the handgun is unloaded, that there is no ammunition in the room, and that the backstop is safe and in a safe direction.

Pick an aim point on the wall or surface in front of you and point your triple-checked, unloaded handgun about an inch away from the aim point such that your front sight is right over the aim point.

Go through your pre-flight checklist of marksmanship fundamentals as discussed earlier: power stance, high hand, crush grip, front sight, sight alignment, sight picture and smooth roll of the trigger.

Think to yourself front sight, keep your sight alignment and sight picture steady and say to yourself smooth roll” as you smoothly press the trigger all the way rearward and then let it reset for the next shot. Your aim is to keep your gun steady as you press the trigger.

When you maintain a maximum strength, crush grip or “gorilla grip” on the handgun, you may see the whites of your knuckles. That’s how you know you are gripping hard enough, thumbs curled down, thumbprint over thumbnail for greater strength.

Live Fire Focus Drill

Live fire practice of the marksmanship fundamentals is essential. The following live fire drill is called the One Hole Drill. This drill makes use of the principle that if you aim small, you will miss small.

Start out at a reasonable distance from your target. Don’t be ashamed for this to be three yards; that’s nine feet. Pick a small spot on your paper target as your point of aim. You can draw a 1-inch circle in black magic marker to mark the spot.

Go through your checklist of marksmanship fundamentals as you focus on your aim point. Punch your handgun out toward your aim point as you focus intently on your front sight and acquire a sight picture. Your front sight should be in sharp focus as contrasted with a relatively slightly blurred target and rear sight. Recognize that you can only focus sharply with your eyes on one object at a time.

Keeping your gun steady (you should be in a power stance, with a high-handed, two-handed hard grasp on your handgun), smoothly roll your trigger rearward as you stay focused on your front sight. Watch your front sight as the shot breaks and through the gun’s arc of recoil. Don’t peek over your gun to see the shot.

Hold your trigger to the rear as the gun recoils and then ride your trigger forward until it resets as the gun settles back on target. Now, prepare for your next shot by taking up any slack in the trigger.

The front sight should be in focus; the rear sight and target slightly blurred.

You can run this drill in either one of two ways: One way is to take a string of shots without checking where those shots went; after shooting the string, lower the gun to a ready position and check the results of your work. The other way is to drop the gun to the ready after each single shot or pair of shots.

Your goal is a perfect 1-inch group. You want to exercise your fundamentals at the target distance at which you are working until you attain a perfect one inch group, and when you do, you can then move backward to a greater distance (e.g., 5 to 7 to 10 to 12 to 15 to 20 to 25 yards, and so on). You keep moving backward (increasing the distance) until you can no longer shoot a perfect group at a given distance, and then you stay and work at that distance.

This drill will increase your accuracy and marksmanship skill in live fire.


Without a solid foundation in the fundamentals, advanced shooting techniques fall short. Defensive and combat-oriented shooters need to create the discipline to practice their fundamentals regularly in order to keep their edge and maintain their advanced skills.

–Bruce N. Eimer, Ph.D.

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  • 45caliber

    I learned to shoot from an old Western gunfighter. While this counterdicts what is basically said above, I will list his comments here.

    1. Never “aim” a pistol. Point it as if you would point your finger. Everyone, when they point, is always dead on the target. Learn to point the pistol the same way. One way to start is to place your index finger beside the barrel to point and use your middle finger to pull the trigger. At best, raise the pistol to shoulder height and sight along the barrel.

    2. You never use the sights in a shootout so don’t bother to learn to use them. Pointing is more accurate anyway.

    3. Always use a pistol in one hand. It is a one handed gun. Anyone who uses both hands will ALWAYS present the widest target to your enemy. And if you use both hands you can’t hide behind something and shoot too.

    4. Stand with your side toward your enemy to minimize your silouette. Hold your pistol with your hand outstretched so you can look down the barrel. Your arm should be straigth out from your side, not in front of you.

    5. When you fire your pistol, lock your wrist and shoulder. Let it recoil by letting your elbow bend. When your elbow straightens again, you are almost always back on target. If you are standing correctly, you will NOT hit yourself in the head with the gun so don’t let the recoil bother you. Don’t fight the recoil. Let it bounce.

    6. Never argue with a with hysterical woman with a gun. She points instinctively and is one of the most accurate shots you’ll find. (We never could get him to tell us if this was person experience or not.)

    7. No matter what the gun is, HAVE IT COCKED before you shoot! If you try to pull the hammer back by pulling the trigger you will almost always throw off your shot.

    8. A shotgun should never be “aimed” either. Point it by looking along the barrel.

    9. A rifle should be pointed if the target is less than a hundred yards. Use the sight only if the target it further away.

    10. Ignore the person shooting at you. If he misses, you are fine. If he doesn’t miss, you can figure out what to do about it later if you are still alive.

    11. Don’t worry about speed. Make the first shot go where you want it to go. If you hurry, you will throw off your shot – and so will he. Let him do the hurrying.

    This guy used a .45 single action pistol with no trigger or sight. He went quail hunting and came in with 8 – all shot through the head on the wing. He was 87 at the time. He would fall out of his chair laughing every time he saw someone on TV using both hands in a gun fight.

    • 45caliber

      I knew I forgot one.


      • Phil

        Well said 45caliber but I would like to add a couple of things. For defensive shooting it will be close range, probably 15 feet at the most and probably not more than 10 feet. Will be usually be under low light conditions so you can’t see the sights anyway. Learn the basics useing the sights, then learn point shooting. You may not have time to use the sights. For most shooters a simple double action revolver is best. Yes a semi-auto is a higher preforming gun but they are also more complicated to use, maintain and more expensive. Get some training and keep it simple. Practice, practice and practice!!!!

    • FreedomFighter

      glad we agree on things, hate to be on your bad side…


      Laus Deo
      Semper Fi

    • James

      Well said. I would just add, there is no such thing as a ‘single action pistol.’ Most everyone refers to all handguns as pistols, only semi-automatic magazine-fed handguns are pistols. Revolvers come in either single-action or double-action. Single action revolvers require the hammer to be cocked at each shot, while double-action revolvers may be fired by pulling the trigger alone. It’s a longer unsteadying pull, so if the shot is important, cock the hammer first, like he said.

      • 45caliber

        The old man had to cock and release the hammer to fire since his gun had no trigger. He could shoot it one handed fast enough that you had trouble counting the shots – and he seldom missed. Fanning, he insisted, was for novices. He would say only an idiot would slam down on his gun with his other hand, knocking off his shots.

        • James

          Amazing! But I’ve seen Clint Eastwood hold the trigger back and fan the hammer, and shoot apples from a tree.

      • Buster the Anatolian

        James if I remember correctly pistol originaly refered to a one hand gun. When revolvers were developed Pistol meant either a single shot gun or a revolver. Sometime after practical semi-auto were developed people started differentiating between them and revolvers by calling the semi’s pistols and the revovlers revolvers. So, historicaly calling a revolver a pistol is accurate it is only relatively recently that the term has been used differently.

        • James

          I had never heard that. Webster’s dictionary does define “pistol”: “A short firearm intended to be aimed and fired with one hand.”

    • CanCan

      Thank you, 45caliber, for your most helpful comments, and addition to this article. It is too bad you cannot write your own article about handgun safety and self-defense, as you had much to offer. I pray to God I never need to utilize what you mentioned, but would rather be prepared ahead of time.

    • Blue Devil

      .45 Caliber — I would add one thing to the excellent advice given by your gunfighter friend. Learn to shoot with EITHER hand. The reasons should be obvious.

    • Old Henry


      You were very fortunate to have had the opportunity to have known such an individual.

      I remember you telling us about this quite some time ago and it’s good to herar it again!

      I too, want to remain on your good side…

  • nick beck

    45 failed to introduce his mentor—god

  • http://personallibertydigest Gottaplenty

    Sounds pretty wild to me,

  • firefight

    As a gun dealer and long time shooter, I can honestly state that both this article and 45caliber’s comments are spot on. The article defines the finer points of personal defense that every concealed carry gun owner should know, understand and practice regularly. 45caliber’s gunfighter gives us the honest truth about a man who learned from experience rather than a school with instructors. The gunfighters of days past typically carried the single action Colts in a .45 caliber and they did practice daily, if they intended to grow old. They knew that most shooters concentrated on getting off the first shot and thus they knew that they needed to present the smallest target to their opponent and they knew that someone intent on getting off the first shot would most likely miss. This gave the smart gunslinger the benefit of taking a little more time to get off the best shot. The tried and proven “learn to point” method is no different from what a baseball player uses to know exactly when to release the ball to get a strike on the batter or the quarterback uses to know exactly when to release the football to hit his moving target 40 yds. downfield. It’s all instinctive. As for whether or not you use both hands or one hand when shooting, use your own common sense. If you are a man who stands 6’3″, weighs 220 lbs. and has a wrist the size of a baseball bat, by all means shoot with one hand. If you are a woman who stands 5’1″ tall and weighs 110 lbs., learn to use both hands. You’re not likely to be in a gunfight with a skilled gunfighter. You most likely are in a situation requiring you to defend yourself against someone who is just as scared as you are. You just need to be more in control and know what you are dealing with. When you deploy your handgun, that individual’s fear level will hit the ceiling. Their reaction to you is something you must recognize and know how to deal with. They will either become more aggressive or they will try to retreat. That will determine your next move. Get with a knowledgeable firearms instructor and learn their skills.

  • JeffHTX

    Mr. Elmar, thank you for presenting the article. It was written well and will help the novice think about shooting more thoroughly. You might have added an additional aspect in the article and that would be ATTITUDE or Mind Set. I believe that if someone is going to carry a handgun, they must have the attitude that all means (verbal/physical) must be exhausted to difuse the likelihood of drawing your handgun, including retreat. Certainly, all of the means can be used up in a few micro seconds, but they must be tried. One must continually imagine scenarios and how to react. One such idea I have reminded myself is that if I witness an armed robbery in a grocery store that the canned items on the shelves can be used as diversionary items to thwart the perp. No person is going to stand still with thrown cans of beans from a hidden location. Of course, there is no way to determine how the perp will react; they may begin shooting. If that happens, the choice to draw is clear. Also, part of that attitude aspect should be that you are not only carrying for your protection, but for your loved ones and other people too. 45…I agree with most of what you stated, however, neither the author nor you included one of the most important aspect of combat shooting and that is COVER. Yes, do present as little area for the opponent to see if there is nothing to shoot from behind, but look for something to obscure your body whenever possible. Thanks to both of you.

  • Dens

    I have used both the Cowboy style (45caliber’s) and the Professor’s style throughout the years and knowing both in a given situation can be extremely helpful in an emergency. Either way, you can become very effective using the fundamentals listed in this article and in 45 caliber’s comments with enough practice. I do find however that since I have gotten older it has become more of a chore to hold my pistols out at arms length. Seems the older I get the heavier my pistols get. The two handed grip and stance gives me a little more accuracy in my old age.

    • James

      Handguns are for close range defense, where accuracy isn’t all that important, just point and shoot at intruders. For longer range defense I would suggest the old M1 .30 cal. carbine. They’re semi-automatic and 30-round magazines are avaailable.

      • 45caliber

        I prefer the .30 caliber rifle bullets to the newer 5.54 millimeter – which is .22 caliber. Yes, the bullets have more power but they are also meant to wound and not kill. Besides, they travel so fast and the bullets are so light that anything can deflect them. Even a blade of grass can send the bullet astray. The .308 (.30 caliber bullet) used by the military in some of their M-4 rifles (the rest use the .22) is my preferred round. The .22 is a great target rifle but I’d never hunt with one unless I had no other choice.

      • Isaac Davis

        M1 carbines: The last of these available from the CMP ( were sold in August 2010. You might find a M1 carbine, but it will probably be expensive. There are some good modern carbines available, a lot of AK-styles available. Ruger has a “mini” line of semi-auto carbines in several calibers. the high-tech gizmos are nice…until the batteries drain. Learn to shoot with iron sights, find yourself a good instructor–find an Apple Seed Event Become a Rifleman–it is not about the shooting skills, but the skills to be the American that the Founding Fathers expected of Posterity…it is US, it is NOW, and our chains are forged.

        • Joe H.

          With the last of the M-1 carbines being sold, I would prefer an m-14 over the 16 ANY day. The 7.62 round has good stopping power, the weapon, while a little heavier, is just as easy to maintain on target. I enlisted in 68, right before the change over, so I originally qualified with the 14 and fell in love!! Later we had to requalify with the 16s but I didn’t like the caliber nor the plastic on it.

  • Buster the Anatolian

    Just wondering why the anti’s haven’t shown up with their rediculous comments.

    • MNIce

      They have no interest in firearms and consider this article irrelevant. When a hungry, riotous mob comes to their door, they’ll be sorry.


    Remember, the basic premise of “GUN CONTROL” is being able to hit what you are shooting at.

  • DavidL

    I am a competitive shooter, Steel, USPSA, and 3 gun, and there is a lot of value to what Mr. Elmer and 45 caliber have offered today.

  • USCS Ret

    Knowing the fundamentals is good, especially if you hunt rabbits or intend to only shoot paper targets. However, in a gunfight, most everything you know about the fundamentals goes out the window. Most gunfights happen fast, real fast, and close, real close.
    Teaching determination and survival instincts is at least as important as proper stance and sight allignment.
    Accuracy and sight allignment: If you can get your weapon out quickly and hit a refrigerator at 3yds, that’s likely sufficent accuracy for a gunfight and you don’t even need sights for that. Shoot looking at the target not your sights.
    Grip & stance: A good firm two handed grip is good…if you have time, likely you won’t. Learn and practice shooting with one hand, both hands and the off hand, hold your weapon in close, extended and in between. Stand on one foot, laying down or in other odd positions. This will help you to focus on putting multiple rounds on the target from any position and, of course, practice as safely as you can.
    When you carry a gun for self defence, carry the same gun (preferability a revolver) all day everyday. With an auto, you must consider things like, is a round chambered? Safety (is it on or off?), mag (is it locked in?), slide travel (anything that touches the slide when fireing an auto will likely cause a malfunction). If you fire your auto from inside your jacket pocket, you have a single shot…it will not reload. A revolver shoots every time you pull the trigger.
    You don’t need a cannon to shoot a snake. An assialant will not likely continue to advance after taking multiple hits from a 22 mag. Shooting a large caliber handgun will make practice more expensive and less comfortable, especially for female shooters, so you will likely practice less. Also, always practice wearing eye & ear protection.
    Your weapon should be easilly accessable from your carry method and your carry method and position should remain constant.
    Any training should include post shooting. When the cops arrive to interview the survivor (that would be you), never tell them that you shot to kill the attacker. You shot only to survive the attack because you were in fear of your life and you had no other choice. Shooting someone for any other reason may cause you to be successively sued or even prosecuted.
    I’ve been married to number 2 for 16 years. Not long after we were married, my bride asked me to teach her to shoot. My first question was “why?”. “I may need it to protect myself when you are working or out of town”, was her answer. My next question was “Would you shoot or kill someone even to save your own life”?. After a short silence she said that she would have real issues with taking someones life. The conversation ended with me saying that until her mindset changed, she had no business with a gun.
    There are lots of responsibilities involved in weapon ownership and carry. If you choose to own and/or carry, learn the law, develop the skills and mindset and if possible, avoid being in a high crime area especially during the time when crimes are most likely to occur.
    Stay safe,

    • 45caliber

      A couple of things:

      First, my wife used to be out alone very late at night. I got her a .22 pistol and had her carry it. I showed her how to load it but little more. My only advice was: “Shoot at the widest part of your attacker until you run out of bullets, regardless of what he does. Don’t stop shooting even if he falls down.”

      Second, NRA ran an article some years ago about the research a policeman in NYC did on “one shot kills”. The idea was that when shot the man would IMMEDIATELY go down. His research was on all people shot in the city in a fatal way.

      The interesting thing to me was that he had calculated the percent chance of someone going down. The .22 had a 33% chance of taking down someone with a single shot to the heart or head. (Which tells me if you use one to shot at least three times.) A .25 had a 34% chance.

      On the other end, a .45 had a 96.5% chance of dropping someone with one bullet; a .44 mag had a 96.4% chance of doing the same thing. The next lowest was a .357 mag at 87% chance. The 9 mm, the .38, the .32 and the 380 were way down the list.

    • Joe H.

      USCS Ret.
      While there is wisdom in your words, a good ploice friend of mine is very quick to remind me that a dead intruder tells no lies in a court room. he also doesn’t pull a knife or other weapon after you shoot him. i personally saw a drugged up intruder take seven rounds from a 22 and almost managed to stab his victim!

  • TJS

    Good article and replies… I am in the search process for my first handgun… I have owned rifles and became a reasonably good shot… I’m a male at 165# and 5′ 8″ and my research so far has me considering a revolver and in particular the S&W 686 w/4″ barrel… as it can use .38SP as well as the designed .357… I plan to take a course in defensive or combat shooting.. any recommendations or suggestions are appreciated…

    • 45caliber


      What you select should depend upon what is best for you. (See the % chances of dropping someone above) The revolver is good if you plan to shoot through clothing or a bag. It is accurate and reliable. It is also slower to reload and you must cock it each time unless you plan to just pull the trigger. With practice, cocking it is fast but the police training says you should not cock a pistol at all.

      An auto must have room to kick the top back to insert another cartridge. It must (in most cases) already have a cartridge in the chamber. If it does, it is always cocked. The safety is not 100% reliable so it is advised to carry it in a secure holster. It is faster to shoot and faster to reload. Some types are easy to jam – I would NOT buy a Berreta at all. Hi Point makes a dependable gun at a cheaper price in several different calibers.

      Both types take a lot of practice to get really good at it. Some gun shops have a shooting area and will rent guns to you to try for a few bucks. If you have such a place near you, try several guns to see what works for you. Texas, at least, requires that you can only carry a revolver if you test with one for a CCL. If you use an auto, you can carry either. If you test with a small caliber pistol, you cannot carry a large caliber (9mm and above are considered large here.)

      • Buster the Anatolian

        ” …..if you test with one for a CCL. If you use an auto, you can carry either.’

        Arkansas as well as some other states are the same. In Arkansas the caliber doesn’t matter just revolver or semi.

    • Vicki

      Whichever caliber you choose do not forget the importance of the grip. If you have a wide spacing between your thumb and first finger you need a pistol with a wide grip such as a glock or sig. Or you need modified grips on things like a 1911.

      try different types of grips to see what is more accurate for you.

      Revolver vs semi. For me the revolver is FAR more accurate so in competition shooting I would choose a revolver.

      For survival shooting I would choose a semi for its larger magazine capacity. Being able to put 2 bullets thru the same hole is not all that necessary (nor desirable) in a gunfight.

  • jcrawdad

    I carry a concealed handgun,have sense 1972. As you would guess I’m an older dude. I agree with your training program, except your going to have a time when you need to sling your gun out in the dark, and you need to know where it is pointing with that first shot. I, myself like to use a flash light in a dark room, by swinging my hand up, flipping the light on a picture or something else in the room. That gives you the training if you point your hand at anything you know the gun should be pointing the same way.

    • 45caliber

      There are video games out here for shooters. I used to have one. If you get one, don’t try to aim or use it as meant – try to point aim and from all directions. It costs nothing for ammo and can be used at any time of day or night without upsetting the neighbors or going to a gun range. It will definately help your point shooting.

      But don’t completely depend upon it. You still need to shoot a real gun since it will kick. You need to know how to handle that too.

  • Robert N. Bigler

    Great reading. Made me remember things I had forgoten.

  • Charlie Tall

    Dr. Eimer’s article sounds more like a sales pitch than practical advice for the average bear. If you’re fixing to get into a gun fight or compete with a firearm, the article makes sense. Otherwise, it is over the top for the average citizen, and probably does more to discourage concealed carry than it does to promote it.
    The fact is that the great majority of people carrying concealed will never have to draw their weapons. Of the ones that do draw, the great majority of them will not have to fire. Of the few that are forced to fire, most of them will be right on top of their target: nine feet or less.
    In the real world, every shooter needs to know three things:
    First, how to handle his weapon safely.
    Second, when he can fire it.
    Third, how to operate it: load, aim, fire, clear.
    How much practice is really needed?
    1. To begin with, practice enough to be able to draw, fire, and hit a man-sized target with the first shot at 20 feet nine times out of ten. That’s enough. Repeat once a year to make sure you can still do it.
    Over 90% of all shootings take place at 20′ or less, usually a lot less, so the 20-foot recommendation is really overkill.
    2. Practice firing, clearing, and reholstering.
    3. About once a year, fire all the ammo in the gun and replace it after the session is over.
    4. Then there’s dry-firing. You can do that most anywhere, but get some snap caps (to protect the gun) and be safe. Go through the whole draw-point-shoot drill every time, and be safe.
    There are a lot of techniques, but the basic shoot-a-man-at-three-yards drill is really all you’ll probably ever need, and you probably won’t need that.
    In the real world, most people don’t have convenient access to a place to shoot. So practicing every week or month just isn’t an option except for dry firing. It’s enough to shoot once or twice a year and to keep the gun clean and ready the rest of the time.
    What kind of gun is best? The rule which I have found to be the most realistic is: the best gun to have is the one you have.
    In other words, the .44 magnum home in the bedside table ain’t worth a crap if you’re in a parking lot when you need to shoot. So pick something that you’ll carry: light, small, and convenient. I like lightweight, 5-shot, 38 Special revolvers of the hammerless variety equipped with a laser grip. However, a .25 Baby is better than nothing if it comes to that.
    So the bottom line is that if you’re going to become an advanced shooter, you’ll want to develop what Eimer calls “advanced competence.” Otherwise, you’ll just need competent.

  • John

    The first gun I had was a air rifle a BB gun. My Mom got it for me when I was 11 years old. I did a lot of shooting with it. My Grand father got me over my fear of regular fire arms, and had me shoot his JC Higgens semi Automatic 22 rifle. He love to shoot praire dogs that were ruining his pasture. He tought me alot about shooting and gun saftey. He did me a real favor. He was a cowboy and had cattle on his ranch farm. My younger brother liked guns, and I got to shoot his Colt single action 45 and his 30 30 Winchester. plus a 22 pump Winchester rifle.

  • FreedomFighter

    One good reason every American needs a Gun, and know how to use it:

    “Factions within the US Government’s Military Industrial Complex have been, and indeed are testing Directed Energy Weapons, along with chemical, nuclear and biological agents on the civilian populace.

    In fact, US law, approved by Congress, allows chemical and biological testing on the populace. (see PUBLIC LAW 105–85—NOV. 18, 1997 111 STAT. 1915)”

    Tyrants dont want you to have a weapon.

    Laus Deo
    Semper Fi

    • 45caliber

      They don’t consider it fair if you can shoot back.

  • Isaac Davis

    Your pistol is your tool to get to your Rifle.

    The only means to get better, understand and perfect the use of anything is PRACTICE.

    The Teeth of Liberty

    This is my rifle. There are many like it, but this one is mine.
    My rifle is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life.
    My rifle, without me, is useless. Without my rifle, I am useless. I must fire my rifle true. I must shoot straighter than my enemy who is trying to kill me. I must shoot him before he shoots me. I will…
    My rifle and myself know that what counts in this war is not the rounds we fire, the noise of our burst, or the smoke we make. We know that it is the hits that count. We will hit…
    My rifle is human, even as I, because it is my life. Thus, I will learn it as a brother. I will learn its weaknesses, its strength, its parts, its accessories, its sights and its barrel. I will keep my rifle clean and ready, even as I am clean and ready. We will become part of each other. We will…
    Before God, I swear this creed. My rifle and myself are the defenders of my country. We are the masters of our enemy. We are the saviors of my life.
    So be it, until victory is America’s and there is no enemy, but peace!

  • PendragonRise

    Nothing beats hands-on training from Front Sight Firearms Training in Nevada.

  • Entertainme

    My son-in-law recently purchased a pistol that shoots 410 shotgun shells. I was impressed because of the spread of the damage. For personal protection that impressed me. For defense, I am more interested in deterrent than kill. Any thoughts or advice on this?

    • James

      If you are thinking about a single intruder most any firearm wuld suffice. But what if there’s a mob ouside your house, checking it out for a possible assault?

  • USCS Ret

    Both Taurus and Smith & Wesson make revolvers that shoot the 410 shell. Either shold be good for home defense but not practical for personal carry. I’m not a Taurus fan, had some issues several years ago with a revolver. If this type of weapon is your choice, the S & W would probably be the best pick.


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