Many defensive firearms instructors adamantly preach shooting stance during classes and private lessons as if it is a critical skill to surviving a gunfight. Your fight will not be like a scene in a Western film. Stance academics is perpetuated by recreational handgun enthusiasts who debate the Weaver and Isosceles stances and their “modern” variants online ad infinitum. When it comes to defensive shooting to protect innocent life from imminent death or serious bodily injury by a violent criminal actor, the stance you were taught is completely wrong.
Tragically, law abiding citizens attempt to defend themselves by shooting in the stance they use at the gun range. Combine the wrong stance with ineffective marksmanship, and the well-intentioned
armed citizen ends up in the morgue. Look no further than the November 2019 EZ Pawn Shop robbery in Houston, Texas for a prime example of what works at the range does not work in a gunfight.
The most favorable odds for the outcome of a Wild West portrayal of a gunfight is 50%. In a road rage incident not long ago between two law abiding armed citizens each with a permit to carry a concealed handgun, the survivability outcome in a parking lot was 0%.
If escape is not available and de-escalation is not an option, then armed citizens need more than just an academically correct stance to survive the deadly force encounter and return home safely. If you are not shooting from cover, you need to be moving to cover.
Marksmanship is a two way street. Those that are capable have the tactical advantage in a gunfight over those who do not have the ability to get effective hits on target.
Two conditions that create an unfair advantage when ability to make effective hits is equal is being a small target or a moving target.
For the armed citizen defending innocent life in an unavoidable use of deadly force incident, becoming a small target is a force multiplier when all else is equal.
One way to present a small target to an adversary is to use cover or concealment.
Cover is any object or structure that provides ballistic protection from weapons capable of lethal impact.
Brick walls and vehicle engine compartments are examples of effective cover against bullets, knives, hatchets, baseball bats, cast iron skillets, and other deadly weapons.
Concealment is any object or structure that hides the defender from view but does not offer ballistic protection.
For the purposes of this article, I will use the term ‘cover’ to include concealment for the sake of simplicity.
At first glance at Figure 1 below, it appears that the shooter at the right – the Aggressor – has a textbook Isosceles stance taught in most defensive handgun classes and certainly practiced by nearly all shooters at the range on any given day.
The shooter on the left – the Defender – appears to be unbalanced, leading the casual observer to conclude he is falling down from being shot by the Aggressor who is in typical shooting form.
Upon closer inspection, the defender is behind a brick wall and the Aggressor is exposed. Note the muzzle of the Defender’s handgun is not protruding beyond cover.
The point of view of the Defender staring down the barrel of the Aggressor is shown in Figure 2.
The Aggressor is in the stereotypical range stance that unavoidably and completely exposes his cranial vault, thoracic cavity, and pelvic girdle to the Defender.
The distance between shooters is 4 yards, close enough for the average armed citizen to get shots on target.
Positioned in a stance you won’t see very often at the local shooting range is the Defender in Figure 3.
The Defender’s feet are positioned for the maximum blend of stability and mobility under the circumstances. He can kneel, pivot, move rearward, or side step to the right with this footwork.
His upper body is leaned over to minimize exposure to the threat.
The available target presented to the Aggressor is shown in Figure 4.
The Defender’s pelvic girdle and thoracic cavity are completely protected behind cover.
Less than half the cranial vault is available to the Aggressor. Unless the Defender is late on the trigger, has a malfunction, or misses, the Aggressor has to be perfect with speed and precision.
A close-up view of the target available to the Aggressor is shown in Figure 5. This is a difficult shot to make, even under ideal conditions.
The Aggressor must have perfect sight alignment, perfect sight picture, perfect trigger press, and perfect timing to make an effective hit.
With all three fight stopping zones available, the Defender just needs the front sight somewhere on those zones, a flash sight picture, an acceptably less than perfect trigger press to make an effective hit.
TWO WAY STREET
The armed citizen needs to be shooting from cover or moving to cover. They also need to stay visually focused on the imminent threat and consider changing conditions until the threat is stopped.
What if our Defender is disrupted by a miss or malfunction and the Aggressor moves to cover?
What if the roles were reversed and the Aggressor is actually the homeowner and the Defender was attempting to enter the garage when he heard someone coming to investigate?
Either way, use of cover is a two way street.
Referring back to Figure 1, the exposed shooter has cover available 2 yards away.
Once the shooter on the right side of the image moves to the front tire of the truck one second and two steps away, the shooter on the left is now completely exposed.
The shooter on the left can either retreat rearward to gain space, or sidestep to his left and be mostly out of view.
But, if the other shooter is quick thinking, he will stay low and retreat to the rear of the vehicle, come around to the driver’s side tail light area.
The original Aggressor is now still behind cover with a 10 yard shot on a completely exposed and cornered adversary.
The force multiplier of cover shifted in less time than it takes to clear a malfunction.
The goal of this article is to help armed citizens consider the use of cover and concealment as a force multiplier in a deadly force encounter with a violent criminal actor.
The use of cover and concealment necessarily means academically recommended stances will be compromised.
Instead of using stances that are not practical for effective gunfighting, improvise cover at the local gun range. Try shooting standing and kneeling from the right and left of your makeshift cover.
When barrels or other cover devices are not available, I use cardboard boxes and strips wide enough to obstruct the target at 3 yards and beyond when viewed directly behind the cover.
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This blog post is for educational purposes and does not constitute legal or medical advice. Seek professional instruction or competent supervision before attempting any live fire methods or tactics described herein. References to any company or product does not constitute an endorsement or review. Trademarks are the intellectual property of its owner.
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