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Ep. 22 Should I Shoot? Do You Draw While Engaged in a Physical Altercation?

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Editor’s Note: The following is post is from Sammy Reese, a former Marine Corps Artillery Officer and retired police officer from California. He is a part-time range master for the police department he retired from as well as a life-long martial artist and combatives coach.

Check out the last five episodes in this series:

While chatting with the boys the other day, the topic of defending yourself from various attacks while at a handshake distance got us to break a mental sweat and then a real one.

Could you — or better yet should you — be attempting to draw your concealed weapon to engage a deadly threat armed with a knife, impact weapon, long gun or handgun while at reach-out-and-be-touched distance? Or should you be using empty-hand skills to make sure you don’t get slashed or bashed — create space if you can and then engage with accurate fire to defend yourself? Let’s just say the conversation went in different directions and moved to some hands-on to see what worked or didn’t.

We started with the assumption we would be armed in our preferred method of carry. A few were carrying appendix, some IWB behind the hip, a couple pocket and another using an ankle rig. All of us carry a pocketknife, either in the pocket or clipped to it, and one carries a small fixed blade (he’s got better than average knife skills and is probably the best prepared for the up-close and personal attack).

What we found using blue guns, training knives and clubs was something we already knew: Action beats reaction every time. None of us was fast enough to get our gun into the fight before we were slashed, stabbed or bashed. When we added in some simple counter measures combined with distraction and debilitating strikes (or going to the fixed knife), we were able to eventually get to our concealed gun and engage as necessary. Pocket carry and ankle carry were at a huge disadvantage — jamming your hand into your pocket is slow and having to crouch or kneel to get to the gun from the ankle puts you in a really bad position (and, by nature, all the extra movement is also slow.)

After twisting each other up and getting to our gun, we took our test one step further and went live fire (though, of course, not on each other). We got up close and personal with the target, worked on blocks and strikes on the pads, and then drew from concealment and shot on paper. When the heart rate is up, the fine motor skills are diminished, and what was normally a distance at which we could put every round in one hole all of a sudden became a lot more challenging.

Our test wasn’t scientific by any means, but it did turn on a few light bulbs for guys who had it in their mind that the “rock-and-lock” technique was going to solve the up-close problem. Regardless of where the gun is carried, you have to defend against the initial attack and not sustain a fatal wound before you can get to the gun and neutralize the threat.

We’ve all heard the saying, “You will fight as you have trained.” It’s not just words — it’s true. Train like your life and the lives of your family members depend on it, because they do.

For more critical information on the use of deadly force and other firearms and self-defense topics, visitwww.uscca.com/GunsAmerica.

{ 8 comments… add one }
  • Ron Stidham October 1, 2016, 7:39 am

    Great article, I for one am at my best when it happens all of a sudden. Given time to get worked up, and mad puts me at a disadvantage. When its all of a sudden (hand shake close) I’m still thinking, using my head to attack, at my age, 58, I need to fight smart, first strike will be my best. Next is what comes from the distraction of the first, knees, nuts, throat. These things have always worked for me. Given the distraction, I can draw my CCW. Practice with your firearm will be useless with out the ability to get the distance you need to employ it. Think smart, stay alive.

  • Franklin Garza September 30, 2016, 8:24 am

    Great article sir…:) Some people who carry concealed do not realize how dangerous a person with a knife(sharp object) is. But those of us who have worked in Security, Mental Hospital, etc., know too well how a situation can escalate and have bad consequences. As a martial arts instructor (and former Marine…Hoorah!) I am always willing to work with any concealed handgun permit holder on understanding the things they may have to deal with on the street while carrying. “Action beats reaction” is a great motto. One of my favorites, “Distance buys you time. Time gives you choices.”. As we get older, or if we have suffered through a vehicle accident (like I did almost a year ago), we have to adapt our tactics and equipment. (Revolvers are easier to manipulate, when you don’t have the strength to rack the slide of a semi-auto., etc.). Again, thank you for a great article and please keep writing…:) Frank “pancho” Garza.

  • Tony September 30, 2016, 8:15 am

    I have a question. I have a messed up lower spine that inhibits my movement, flexibility and constantly in pain. It is so bad that at 44 I have a handicap placard. I am a big guy 230lbs however with my spine in such bad shape there is no way I could protect myself in a fist fight. Say that type of altercation were to happen would i be in my right to use my handgun to protect myself even against a smaller assailant? In mind I think I would be as I have years of pain therapy, treatments, and have been seeing a neurosurgeon for my spine.

  • Tom Benton September 30, 2016, 8:13 am

    I agree that it is difficult to grasp and draw ones weapon quickly from a pocket. However, if one walks with a hand in the pocket on the weapon, it is incredibly rapid to deploy and fire the weapon. This leaves the free arm to block or create space to safely fire the weapon. Pistols sequestered in holsters hidden beneath clothing require sweeping the clothing away with one hand or another to grasp and draw the weapon. During an attack this can become a complex task. If the clothing is not fully withdrawn or the gun not grasped properly it is difficult to respond quickly and accurately. If presenting the weapon requires two hands, there is no free
    arm to block or create space. Everyone needs to formulate their own method to defend themselves. In my opinion, unless you are a professional who practices every day, it is imperative that your method of defense is extremely simple. Any complex system of movement requires hundreds of hours of practice to ingrain muscle memory. During and attack, if your response is not automatic it will not succeed. Adrenalin has a way of eliminating hours of training. You may only have one chance to save your life. Make it automatic.

  • DRAINO September 27, 2016, 12:35 pm

    Great article series! Always good stuff to think about. Good thoughts from Will DRIDER, also. A little mental preparation can go a long way. But just think if we would actually put a concerted effort into this type of training. What’s more important than defending your family/yourself…???

  • Will DRIDER September 26, 2016, 8:11 pm

    Handshake distance. I’m going to omit situational awareness because were past that. When a BG presents a weapon at that distance there is only one option: go for the weapon to isolate it away from injuring you, if gun go for the gun, if blade go for wrist: leverage it away (inst and vid avail on the how to), bite chunks if you need too. Odds are a BG that goes for a weapon first does not have great physical fighting skills. People can often take several blows from the BGs weak hand while controlling/removing the weapon. If you trap the arm, use your body weight to drive everything into the ground. Any opening where you control the weapon or you can use a free hand go for your gun or knife: wich ever is quicker to grab/ employ. Shoot or stick until the BG releases his weapon and you extract yourself.

    You may hear the gun fire, feel the burn or the blade and wet from blood but never stop fighting! You can check for injuries “after” and you don’t want to induce shock looking at or panicking over your injuries.

    If you are unfamiliar with things, you should work to get up to speed.

    • Ian Jack September 28, 2016, 3:32 pm

      True story
      If you train like a pussy, you fight like a pussy.

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