Continued evolution in lethal handgun employment for combat situations. First, let’s discuss the Modern Technique of the Pistol as presented by Jeff Cooper and the changes to the curriculum since his death in 2002. Then, my additions to the curriculum.
The five major concepts are:
- A large caliber, the semi-automatic pistol should be used
- The Weaver stance
- The importance of the draw stroke
- Flash sight picture
- Compressed, surprised trigger break
Only numbers 1 and 2 really need an update from this list. The others need only modern language clarification.
Updates to 1:
The weapon selected should be a weapon you feel comfortable fighting with. Not shooting with. Fighting with. It should be of the largest caliber that you can rapidly score hits in a vital zone with. Rapid hits are at least 2 per second. Jeff Cooper favored the 1911 in .45ACP as I tend to as well. A quality 1911 is reliable and the .45ACP was designed as the result of testing “what cartridge actually kills cows” at the Chicago stockyards. The 9mm Luger round favored by many today was tested alongside, and .45ACP was selected as the army’s new pistol round. Jeff Cooper was also a man, and not a small one. This isn’t meant to be ugly but women aren’t as strong as men. Men aren’t even as strong as men. A 50 yr old rancher is probably stronger than a 25 yr old computer programmer. Our lives got easier, we got softer. It’s just how it is. .45ACP is too big for many modern people.
That was then. Advances in bullet design have given the 9mm a second life here in North America. A 124gr +P 9mm hollowpoint projectile of reputable manufacture basically matches the kinetic energy transference profile of a 185gr +P .45, the 9mm is not necessarily underpowered anymore. Furthermore, even considering the one shot, one kill combat performance of Medal of Honor recipients Alvin York and Thomas Baker, a couple decades of data on handgun shootings by police and civilians have shown that one shot stopping cannot be counted on. So, rapid follow up shots are required. Whatever the biggest holes you can rapidly punch in the target are, use those or as similar as you can. For me, that boils down to 9mm and .45ACP.
Aside from and in conjunction with, caliber selection is weapon selection based on magazine size. 15 rounds of 115gr 9mm are less total bullet mass in the mag than 8 230gr .45ACP rounds. Consider certain scenarios. If 4 large men confronted me and a loved one in a parking garage, can I incapacitate and kill them with what I’m carrying without reloading the gun? I think 8 rounds of .45 can do that, I’m not so sure about 7 rounds of .380ACP unless I’m John Wick… Which I am not.
So consider a weapon you’d be comfortable fighting with when we’re “asshole deep in used grenade pins” as Clint Smith likes to say. A Glock 19 is a great place to start, and a good place to end up.
Updates to 2:
The weaver stance is effective. That was proven by Weaver when he started dominating the matches in Bear County. We’ve grown since then, also. We got body armor and hard plates, so we started squaring off with the target more. This isosceles stance and weaver stance fought for years until something new emerged. Much like the grappling of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu or wrestling needs to be incorporated with a solid striking discipline to create an MMA champion, the two stances needed hybridization. Arron Baruga from Guerrilla Approach calls it an athletic stance, I call it a fighting stance. The point is that the way a batter at the plate stands isn’t much different from a boxer stance. You need to be able to seamlessly go from a fist fight to shooting and back with just a draw or reholster in between.
The other major portion of the weaver stance was the grip. I’m not here to be a grip Nazi. Hits on time are hits on time. But the thumbs forward grip is superior. It is. Fight me for it.
Now, the modern language for the other 3 concepts:
Drawing is reholstering in reverse. Pretty much every time you’ve drawn your pistol, you were a little worried about it. But I’ll bet you weren’t so worried about the reholster, you just smoothly put your gun away. Do that in reverse. A fast draw is a smooth draw. Smooth comes first, speed comes second.
Flash sight picture
Equal height, equal light… that’s really important at 50 yards but not at 5. You just want an acceptable sight picture. This means seeing that the front sight is generally level and generally even with the rears. A little low and to the left or a little high or right is acceptable for putting bullets in the chest. If the front sight is on it at close range, you’re probably gonna hit it.
Compressed, surprised trigger break
If you’re coming into my house to save my family, I don’t want anything looking surprised about your shooting. I want you deliberately hitting what you mean to. The concept is so easy to say and so hard to do. Just pull the trigger without moving the gun. Learn to do that rapidly. You’re going to jerk the trigger at speed, learn to do it without moving the gun. The entire system should be still with relation to the target the moment firing pin impacts primer.
6. Muzzle control
Keep your weapon aimed on target throughout the string of fire is essential for controlled rapid fire. The goal is to have the weapon slide reciprocate in your hand as if it was locked in a vice. This allows the weapon to function at it’s best and the shortest possible time for your weapon to be not ready to put a round on target.
7. Boarding house rules
Everyone gets meat and veggies, then dessert until they pass out. The best example of this is the 22422 drill. It’s basically an el prez without the reload. All three targets wind up with 4 holes, but everyone gets two bullets(meat and veggies) before the other two holes are formed(dessert). The root of the concept is shoot everyone twice, then kill anyone still standing.
8. Target transitions
Multiple assailants need to be expected. Learn to transition from target to target during trigger reset. This is how professional shooters like Jerry Miculek are able to put hits on multiple targets in the same time it takes to put an equivalent number of hits on one target.
9. Weapons manipulation
Being able to fix your gun when something is wrong quickly is an important skill. The longer you sit there with an empty gun, stovepipe, double feed, etc. the more likely you aren’t gonna win that fight. Learn how semi-auto handguns work, in general. Learn the 8 cycles of function on a firearm. This will aid in the fast identification of problems with your firearm and therefore faster resolutions.
Pistol shooting has evolved rapidly since WWII. There are tons of people out there teaching less than ideal, outdated techniques. Vett your trainers, and vett your training periodically to make sure you don’t fall behind the power curve.
*Photo courtesy of DVIDS
Author – Seth Lewis served as a reconnaissance infantryman in the 82nd Airborne with two deployments to Iraq as well as 18 months in Afghanistan doing High Threat Protection for the Department of State. He has a bachelor’s degree in economics and is currently working as a security contractor for DHS and a firearms instructor.