I frequently get asked whether it’s appropriate to shoot more than 2 shots before assessing your threats and why I shoot such long strings in some of my videos.
Let me start with why I shoot such long strings in some of my videos…
Short strings of fire hide problems.
Long range shooters know this. Most shooters shoot a 3 round group and call it good. The serious standard is to shoot 5×5 round groups. You can get lucky shooting 3 rounds. It’s really hard to get lucky for 25 rounds in a row. Long strings of fire squeeze out luck as a factor.
With a pistol, you may be able to compensate for a bad grip for 2-3 rounds, but your performance will start imploding after 4-5 rounds at high speed without the right grip. You may be able to shift your focus back and forth between the sights and your target for a couple of shots, but your eyes won’t be able to keep up for long. And you may be able to consciously think through the fundamentals for a couple of rounds at high speed, but when you go beyond that, you max out your cognitive load and your conditioned responses kick in…and that’s all you should be concerned about for high stress shooting.
The question about how many rounds to shoot before assessing is also an important question. If you shoot 2 shots and your attacker closes the distance and hits you in the head with a rock while you’re assessing, training to shoot 2 shots and assessing wouldn’t have been the right answer.
If you legitimately shoot an attacker and they turn and run after the first shot but you still unload your magazine into their back, you survive the fight, but the legal and civil consequences may effectively end your life as you know it.
Neither extreme is necessarily correct. Sometimes 0 or 1 rounds is appropriate. Sometimes 17 is appropriate, as you’ll soon see…
What this comes down to is threat identification and how quick and accurate your vision is.
In a fight for your life, you want to use appropriate force to stop the threat the instant that you realize you’re under immediate threat.
You also want to STOP using force the instant that you realize that the threat has been stopped.
Top trainers and expert witnesses understand that there’s a lag…a delay…on both ends of a lethal force situation.
Depending on your training, how accurate and precise your threat profiles are in your brain, your visual acuity (I’m not talking about 20/20 vision), your state of mind, and more, you may be a tenth of a second behind the curve or you may freeze and be 5-10 seconds behind the curve.
That means that you may not realize that someone is an immediate threat until they’ve closed distance and you may not realize that they’re no longer a threat and don’t need to be shot anymore until you’ve fired 1-2 additional rounds.
This kind of thing is REALLY easy to Monday-morning-quarterback while sipping coffee and watching the replay in your living room or in a conference room…and it’s one of the reasons why I REALLY don’t like body cameras. Body cameras record reality, but not necessarily what the officer saw/perceived while in the middle of a lethal force situation.
You can’t completely eliminate these delays, but what can you do to minimize them…both so that you can respond to threats quicker and so that you stop shooting as soon as a threat has stopped being a threat?
Let’s start with the question that Grady & Dave asked…shouldn’t you assess after every 2 shots?
Yes, but my goal is to assess after every single shot.
This is a case where the speed that you can shoot accurately will be governed by the speed that you can see accurately AND what you do with your eyes while you’re shooting.
You want to strive to be able to call your shots. What this means is that you know where your sights were pointed when your gun fires and, as a result, know where each round hits.
This is why it’s fairly common to see high end shooters taking make-up shots on paper targets with less than a quarter second between shots.
If you shift your focus from the front sight to the target and back to the front sight, this is almost impossible.
(If you have developed your other-than-sighted aiming skills, you may be able to keep focused on the threat, sometimes even watching the bullet fly through the air, and adjust on the fly, but this is an advanced and highly perishable skill.)
But if you keep your focus on the front sight and call your shots, you can know whether or not you need to take a makeup shot for your first shot before you fire your next shot…even when shooting faster than quarter second splits.
Your front sight will be clear and your target will be blurry, but you’ll know where on the target you hit.
This is different, of course, when you change from shooting paper to shooting a reactive target or a threat.
You still want to know whether or not you make your hits based on calling your shots. But now you also want to know whether you got the desired result or not based on continually assessing the target with your peripheral vision.
Did the steel fall? Did the weapon drop? Did hands come up, empty, with palms facing you? Did the body turn around? Did the threat drop?
These are questions that you can oftentimes answer with your peripheral vision.
So, what can you do right now to help make this process smoother and faster?
First, practice calling your shots.
This is one of the huge benefits of dry fire in general and the 21 Day Alpha Shooter in particular…
When you can’t look downrange to see where you hit, you learn to trust your sights to know where you hit.
This is vitally important, because, in a gunfight, clothes, lighting, and other factors make it very likely that you won’t be able to easily see where you hit on your attacker. You’ve got to get your hits, but almost all top firearms instructors agree that you need to keep making hits until you have some visual indication that the threat has been stopped.
If you want an example of training designed to help with this problem, Colonel Cooper’s school, Gunsite, adopted “camoflauge” targets called “Option” targets in part, to help shooters resist the urge to look at their targets while they’re shooting to see where they hit.
One extreme example that I refer to as an example of why set courses of fire don’t always work is Officer Timothy Gramins from just north of Chicago. Officer Gramins hit an armed attacker center-mass with 14 rounds of .45 Hydroshock hollowpoints. 6 of the hits were considered fatal on a long enough timeframe, but the attacker was still shooting/attacking. (A dead-man-walking who hasn’t gotten the memo that they’ve got a lethal injury can still be a lethal threat) It took 3 more HITS to the head to finally stop the threat.
That’s an extreme case, but it tells an important story…
If he would have shot 2-to-the-body-and-1-to-the-head, it wouldn’t have gotten the job done.
“Lethal” hits to the body and hits to the head MAY shut down a threat in 10 seconds, a minute, or an hour, but if an attacker is actively able and trying to shoot/stab/hit you in the meantime, you may end up in the exact same condition as them…so knowing that you hit your target by calling your shots is important, but knowing that your hits have had the desired effect is even more important.
Second, only shoot as fast as you can see…then learn to see quicker.
One rule that is almost as stubborn as gravity is that you can only shoot accurately as quickly as you can see accurately.
It’s common to see shooters who have fast hands, but who’s eyes take so long to stabilize on the front sight that they get frustrated, get “close enough” and press the trigger.
Since they never got a clear, accurate sight picture, they can’t call their shots and have to guess at where they hit or take precious seconds to diverge their focus downrange and then converge their focus back to their sights for the next shot.
The first step in fixing this is to slow down to whatever speed you need to in order to call your shots and make your hits.
If you’re a competitive shooter, this may be painfully slow, but keep in mind that video analysis of multiple shootings proves out that .4 second splits in a gunfight are fast enough, as long as you’re getting solid hits. (Hat tip to Dusty Solomon for turning me on to this.) With IDPA switching from .5 second penalties to full second penalties, this behavior is being rewarded more than ever.
Quicker vision will let you converge your focus and get a clear sight picture in less time. That means less frustration and more hits…quicker hits.
If you can see quicker, you can observe and identify threats quicker, which can help you get away from threats before they materialize and be less behind the curve if you find yourself involved in a surprise attack.
And, if you can see quicker, you can shift your focus to your rear-view mirrors and back to the road in front of you quicker.
by Mike Ox
Mike Ox is an avid defensive and competitive shooter who has co-created several firearms training products, including Dry Fire Training Cards, https://se965.infusionsoft.com/go/dftcmedia/loadout
Dry Fire Fit, 21 Day Alpha Shooter, and See Faster, Shoot Faster. His brain based training focuses on accelerated learning techniques for shooting as well as controlling brain state and brain chemistry for optimal performance in extreme stress situations. Learn more about dynamic dry fire training for defense and competition at www.DryFireTrainingCards.com/blog
Photo courtesy of Travis Pike