Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Defensive Pistol Tactical Training Styles

Over the years, I have had the good fortune to train with a wide variety of firearms and tactical instructors, and have learned efficient and effective gun-handling techniques from each and every one of them.  The instructors that I have worked with and trained under include law enforcement, SWAT Team Leaders, NRA civilian instructors, a former Navy SEAL, and even a former Army Delta Operator.  Each has their own style, and each has preferences for things such as stance, grip, front-sight focusing techniques, ready positions, malfunction clearing, and how to rack a slide. 

While one Sheriff’s Office SWAT Team who instructed in one of my classes was a proponent of the over-hand method for racking a slide, the Delta guy was a big fan of the “pinch” method.  The SEAL taught us the high compressed ready position for moving about and looking for threats, while many of the Army guys I trained with were taught the SUL position.  Most all NRA civilian instructors that I know teach the “tap, rack, bang” method for dealing with malfunctions, while the SEAL taught us the SPIR (Slap, Pull, Inspect, Release), then assess for threats method.  Rob Pincus, a law enforcement, and Personal Defense Network instructor teaches a point shooting method for aiming at a target that does not involve front sight focus at all, while many other law enforcement and NRA instructors I have worked with insist on front-site focus all the time.  And the Israeli instructors seem to teach completely different methods for everything all together.

The great value of receiving training from people who all do things differently is that you get to experience different techniques and hear different perspectives about what worked for them and their teams.  But at the end of the day, you need to find out what works best for YOU, and what will make you a better shooter and (should the worst happen) a winning gun-fighter.  So a few tips that I have learned over the years that have helped me: 

  1. Go into the training with an open mind and a willingness to perform to the techniques being taught.

  2. Practice what is being taught and HOW it is being taught by that particular instructor.  

  3. Try (at least for that moment) to forget what has been taught in previous classes, and be willing to learn a new way of doing things.
  4. Then, be able to pull everything back together and reflect afterward on what you have learned from a variety of people to put together your own menu of options that you will put into your personal training routine.

These are perishable skills.  Each technique requires constant practice for the buildup of muscle memory needed in order to master them.  The problem is that when you go into training that teaches a different technique than you’ve already learned, you will have a tendency to use what you are already practiced in and familiar with.  So don’t take it personally when the new instructor corrects you into doing it the way that is being taught in THEIR class.  The purpose of learning new things is to find out what works for you and what doesn’t.  You actually have to cheerfully accept the discipline that comes with these corrections to practice the movements in order see if the tools they are teaching to you are things that you want to (or even can) put into your own toolbox.

There is no law that says that when you pick your techniques that you only have to pick ALL of the techniques from only ONE particular class or instructor.  In other words, just because you learned something that works best for you from one instructor, it does not mean that you have to use ALL of the techniques from THAT instructor and not any of the others.  For example, I prefer the SPIR malfunction clearing methods that I learned from the SEAL over the tap/rack/bang method that the NRA people teach.  I alternate between the “pinch” and “overhand” slide rack techniques, depending on the necessity of the situation and arthritis in my hands.  I practice both.  The holster draw that I learned from the Delta guy seems more efficient and more natural.  I am now practicing a slide release after reloading technique that an Israeli instructor teaches because that one makes more sense to me for shaving those precious fractions of a second off of a critical movement that will make a difference in competition or, heaven forbid, a gunfight.  Some of the Israeli gun handling techniques, while unusual from what I have already learned, are worth it to me to look at and practice because they make sense also.  

So the bottom line here is that you have a lot to choose from.  If your instructors are reputable and have actual real-world experience, then it is safe to say that what all of them are teaching you is based on some pretty sound principles and tactics.  Pick which of the techniques from each area (and from each instructor) that work best for you (stance, grip, malfunction clearing, aiming, racking a slide, etc).  Practice your chosen techniques until you have complete mastery and fully developed muscle memory for them.

I honestly hope that none of us should actually get into a gunfight.  But if (when?) we do end up in one, we will not suddenly be able to rise to the ability of super-star combat warrior gun-fighting techniques.  We will always fall back to our level of training.  So we must make sure that our training includes many different perspectives, we should practice each of them over and over, and then pick the one that works best.  Then, practice some more until it is second nature and our level of training makes our natural actions as highly perfected as possible.  Learn and practice a wide variety of skills from each area, but master to perfection the skills from each area that will serve you the best.  Whether it is in competitive shooting or an actual emergency scenario, using consistent and thoroughly practiced gun handling skills will help you win.  

As the saying goes: professionals don’t practice until they get it right.  They practice until they can’t get it wrong.

 Armor Concepts