Next Steps: Personal Practice with the Combat Pistol
Even before shooting your first shot, you should become familiar with your pistol. Real familiarity is a demonstrative thing; if you can produce it from various points in your clothing without dropping it; if you can field-strip it in a few seconds; if you can change mags in less than a few seconds; all these things can be shown. An ambidextrous safety is almost impossible to get along without if you are to be a competent combat shot, but you CAN get along without one if you have PRACTICED the necessary drills without one.
Keep your pistol on your desk as a paper weight when doing monthly accounts or paying your bills. You will have to pick it up and move it a hundred times. Keep it in your lap whilst watching TV. If you have decided on a holster, wear the gun around the house. In short, do not expect to master the most difficult of all the shooting disciplines without doing your homework. The above is homework. DO IT!
When it comes to holster selection, decide where and when you will be "carrying". Presumably you will be carrying concealed. My own first choice is a simple strong-hand rig made of two wide leather straps that simply anchor the piece to my waist-belt around a pants belt-loop. This rig only covers the trigger-guard, and is raked to the rear. It is NOT lightning fast, but it is SURPRISING and it is SURE. My second choice is a "proper" holster made by Safariland, again a strong-hand waist-belt rig. It is less concealable, but a little faster. I much doubt that the "perfect" holster exists. You have to decide for yourself, AFTER MUCH PRACTICE WITH A VARIED SELECTION OF QUALITY RIGS, which is the best COMPROMISE for YOU.
Now you have a holster: how do you draw the piece from it? You learn to draw by doing it backwards. You learn by putting the gun BACK IN THE HOLSTER. Students usually look at me like I'd just lost my mind, but the method is the fastest way I know to get a greenhorn to learn to draw his piece proficiently in the shortest possible time.
You start from the Weaver Stance, properly assumed. Then, drop the piece to waist level, apply the safety, break away the weak hand, and slowly, smoothly, holster the pistol, and return your empty hands to a start position. Then, take it out of the holster, re-assume the Weaver, and do it again. Do this over and over until your hand knows what the pistol feels like the moment you release it. Ergo, NOW your hand knows where it has to go to properly make its first grasp!
NOW you start to do the draws in forward sequence.
From the start position, drop your hand to the butt, grasp the handle and start the piece out of the holster. Try to do it as if you were a boxer throwing a hook into someone's gut - straight back only far enough to clear, then straight forward. Remember - your first life-saving desperation shot could be fired at the rear of this movement, but you'd have to be desperate!
As your hand brings the piece forward your weak hand comes to meet it forming the proper two-handed grip and the safety comes off. (Your second shot could be fired at this point.) With hands positioned together on the piece, raise it to the full Weaver Stance position and FIRE AS SOON AS THE SIGHTS COME ON TARGET. Practice until you can do this in under a second from signal to shot, with a center hit on the IPSC target at ten feet.
You are now better at this game than ANYONE who is not already a trained combat Master. You can literally bet your life on it. You do not need your piece in your hand when facing a threat to your life in order to defeat it. You KNOW (to the bad guy's utter dismay) that you can beat him to it. Just get as far away from him as he'll let you so as to increase HIS possibility of a miss, and go for the gusto! The average room won't let you get much farther than ten feet, by the way. I have interviewed at least six men who had the misfortune to be on the receiving end of a whole pistolful of slugs AT THE AVERAGE RANGE OF SEVEN FEET, ALL of which MISSED! TWO of these were WW2 soldiers in Italy, but the other four were policemen, one of whom was within arm's reach of his soon-dead attacker!
You should have at least four spare mags for your pistol for a total of five - more if you can afford them. These days even the expensive ones are not 100% reliable so keep buying and trading until you have five" that will ALWAYS feed ANY ammo and will ALWAYS drop free by themselves when released. Learn how to do fast reloads during this phase of combat handgunning.
And please, wear eye and ear protection during ALL live-firing practice!
All your practice should be on the IPSC silhouette target. Using the .45ACP the rings are cored 5-4-2 and lesser calibers are scored 5-3-1, but you can't see the rings unless you're REALLY close. Shoot for the center-of-mass. My pistol is sighted to shoot high so I can see a lot of target above my sight-line. It works for me, but suit yourself.
The most commonly-used "school" exercise for this type of shooting is a match stage known as the "El Presidente". It is run as follows:
- Three full silhouettes are set at seven yards, spaced one target apart.
- Student stands ready, loaded and holstered, with back to firing line, hands in surrender position.
- On signal, student turns, draws, and fires two shots on each sil, completes a compulsory reload, and repeats two shots on each silhouette. Alternatively, he goes weak hand unsupported after the reload and comes back one shot in the head of each target.
Time stops on the twelfth (or 9th) shot. Maximum score: 12 x 5 = 60. Divided by a good time of 12 seconds, gives a final score of 5 for the stage. When you can beat 5, you're pretty hot, man!
Or, you can shoot the same targets from the same distance as follows:
- Start loaded and holstered at the left end of the firing line facing the right end of it.
- On signal, simultaneously draw and commence moving forward to the other end of the firing line, firing two shots on each target WHILE MOVING.
- Upon reaching the far end, do a compulsory reload and return to the start position, firing two shots on each target WHILE MOVING.
Time stops when you are back in the start box. Score as above. Errors, such as stopping to shoot, will be penalized one center hit (5 points) for each error.
Which brings me to the next step. I have watched in dismay as well-qualified A-class competitors fired the second phase of that stage whilst WALKING BACKWARDS! They had never really mastered the weak hand. It was in one of the very earliest IPSC matches hosted on the West Coast and ALL my students beat ALL comers with the exception of the Canadian Champion and his runner-up, simply by changing hands and thereby being able to traverse the ground much faster!
So I want you to spend as much time on your weak hand as you do on your strong hand. You expose much less of your body shooting around the left side of a barricade. Advancing against multiple targets to left and right you can maintain your speed and, should your strong hand become disabled, you are still capable of delivering accurate fire.
From here on it's up to you. As I wrote years ago in the politically-correct "STAND BY", you can go on and devise many training stages to test yourself, firing from barricades, from cots or sleeping bags, from vehicles, from the tops of walls or platforms, using cover, etc., etc.: the possibilities are endless. Just design your stages to have an equal requirement of 'Diligentia, Vis, et Celeritas' [Accuracy, Power, and Speed], and make them so that the problem presented can ONLY be resolved by shooting defensively.
If offensive shooting is required, then your stage should be designed with the rifle in mind, and that’s ANOTHER story.