Practice vs. Defense

I don’t read many other gun blogs because I’m trying to get out and shoot, not sit in front of a computer nearly as much as I have. But there are a few I read. And every once in awhile I read an article that leaves me thinking “I would never have thought about that”. Recently there were two defense related articles that made me think about all the things I don’t know about defensive shooting. Maybe reading blogs can be more helpful than I realized.

The simple one that really made me go “duh” was from Kathy Jackson at the Cornered Cat: Squib. The point of the article is that your behavior should be very different on a practice range than it should be in a defensive situation, if you actually notice the issue during the adrenaline dump of a defensive situation.

From a recent match at The Range in Oxford: the entire stage was shot from the back seat of this car

From a recent match at The Range in Oxford: the entire stage was shot from the back seat of this car

The more complicated post that made me realize that I have put much too little thought into defensive scenarios was by Ron Larimer at When the Balloon Goes Up!. The post is “Developing mental notecards” and lays out a flowchart scenario of options if you were in a bad situation in your car. My background is programming and I like the flowchart approach – but more than that it made me consider situations that never crossed my mind: 

  • Not blocked in? If not, drive away. Always remember that your 1st choice is to leave.
  • Am I alone? My default situation is to be driving alone, but that isn’t always the case and I shouldn’t let that be a “how the heck to I deal with a passenger” situation. “Get down and cover your ears!” gives them a chance to limit damage if I shoot.
  • Think about the seat belt and how that may impede you.
  • How does the location of the threat affect use of the car for cover?

Here’s where shooting matches has helped:

  • Have you ever tried to draw in a car? I have at the local IDPA match. I’m so glad to have had that experience. That is very valuable practice. Below is the set of targets shot from the backseat of the car shown above:

Targets highlighted in red…




One eye, two eye

When I first learned to shoot, at the NRA First Steps Pistol class, they explained “eye dominance“. I closed one eye to aim and was most accurate that way, so I continued shooting that way.

When I took defensive shooting classes, I heard over and over: keep both eyes open. You lose peripheral vision and that might include a bad guy who’s trying to shoot you. I have periodically tried to practice with both eyes open and see double, get frustrated, and go back to closing one eye.

Dean coaching Sadie. Dean provides lots of personal coaching in his classes.

I took a class up at Caswell Ranch from Dean Brevit on April 6th, 2013. The most valuable thing I took away from Dean’s class was a new way to look at the target.

For defensive shooting, look at the target. Bring the gun up and when it gets in the way of the target, pull the trigger.

That is a huge over simplification, but it was the first explanation that really made sense to me.

The hitch: breaking the habit I’ve already established of closing one eye and lining up the sites.

Why does it matter? In a situation where another person is pointing a gun at you and is moving, it’s most likely that you will focus on the target. It is instinctive to focus on the threat. It’s also faster to shoot that way. The challenge is to maintain accuracy. And when the target is 6″ in diameter, for IDPA or to hit a bad guy’s chest, it is possible to be accurate enough. Dean made a believer out of me.

Making the change is a slow process. I keep getting cross-eyed when I try to change my focus to the target. All my practice time has been devoted to this one skill the last few weeks.

However I have much more work to do. At the IDPA match I shot last Saturday night, I immediately went back to closing one eye. I knew I was doing it, was very accurate for me, and didn’t want to shoot even slower… possibly a bad trade off, but one I made.

Finally, in a “deja vu” moment this past week, another blog I follow posted an article about focusing on the target, so I’ll share that as well: Can target focus be good? from Ron Larimer at When the Balloon Goes Up!