Last time we looked at the difference between target/competition shooting and some potentially serious differences in a self defense situation. The fundamental of aiming, and how various alternative methods might come in very handy, is an important part of that difference because training for one might not give you all you need for the other.
Next on the list of fundamentals is “breath control.” There are several different methods used by most target and competition shooters, and any of them will help you obtain excellent scores if you practice them enough, but the same problem applies to breathing as to using the sights in an emergency. You are simply not apt to be able to control it very much, and one of the greatest dangers is forgetting to breath at all! A common response to shock, serious anger or fear is shallow breathing or hyperventilation. You don’t generally get to choose which, or any alternatives.
After my “emergency,” and after I got back into the house, I realized I was hyperventilating. If I had been forced to shoot again right then, holding my breath according to hoyle would not have been an option.
Just remember that you are not going to be worried about a “bulls eye,” just a solid shot to the center of body mass if you really must shoot. You don’t want to miss, of course, and a second or third shot is probably a good idea unless the attacker is down and no longer moving. Survival is the only “score” you care about in this instance.
Yes, if you work long and hard enough at it, breath control may become part of your “muscle memory” when shooting in any circumstance, but most people will never work that hard at it. This shouldn’t discourage you from any training you think good, but don’t fool yourself into thinking that you will have the same “breath control” in an emergency as you do at the range. Not realistic.
Then there is “hold control.” This means to keep the gun as steady and unmoving as possible during the shot. It involves a proper grip, well balanced and stable shooting position, and extensive practice. All of these are essential to hit a small space on a target, at most any distance.
Your grip needs to be natural and comfortable, first because it will be easier and more pleasant to practice, but also because you will be more likely to grasp it properly each time you handle the gun. Whatever gun you buy, make sure that it really fits your hand and that you can comfortably reach the trigger. Comfort and a good grip will encourage you to practice often and well.
But what if you were in a situation where your gun was not available? What if you had to use someone else’s gun, or even got lucky and took the attacker’s gun? Could you shoot it? No matter how much you love your own gun, it is a very good idea to be able to shoot as many other guns as possible, and practice doing so as a regular thing. You don’t even have to buy them all, of course. Exchange guns with friends at the range sometimes or rent other guns if that’s not feasible. Learn and practice how to operate all kinds of guns, rifles and shotguns. You just never know…
You will probably start out using both hands, and this is good, but you then must think about the possibility of needing to use only one hand – either hand – at some point. This takes a LOT of practice, even if you are usually comfortable using either hand for other things. Some people are so one hand dominant that it is a major challenge to learn how to shoot with the other one. But it can be done.
Before you say you just couldn’t do that…. imagine a situation where your dominant hand has been injured, out of the fight. Will you meekly surrender to the criminal then? Of course not. A sloppy shot with the non-dominant hand is better than none. Practice will reduce the amount of slop.
The “well balanced shooting position.” Oh yeah. Bench rest and any one of the various “stance” positions will be fine at the range, but you can’t even begin to plan for a “stable platform” if you find yourself attacked in the grocery store, or a dark parking lot. The first order of business in any attack is to find and get behind the best “cover” you can locate. Before you start shooting if at all possible. Cover means something that would stop a bullet from reaching you. This is a complex subject, and actually requires a tactical class with a competent instructor, so a detailed explanation is beyond the scope of this article. But you can bet your boots that an attack will see you needing that cover, and if the shooting starts you’ll have to compromise a “stable” position for whatever the heck you actually wind up with, probably on your knees and wondering where the attacker IS… unless he’s shooting, of course.
So, practice rolling out of bed and grasping your gun in the dark. You do have your gun nearby and readily available, I trust. Safes and locks are great things, but you need to think about whether or not you honestly expect to have the luxury of spending that time getting hold of your weapon. Nobody can answer that for anyone else, of course.
The same problems and more would accompany an attack in a dark parking lot, the front lobby of a movie theater, a 7-11 store, or anywhere else you are doing other things when some criminal decides to make his problems part of your life. You will not be able to choose the time, place, or setting. You will have to improvise your grip, stance and position according to the reality that you find yourself embroiled in at the moment.
Practice… no argument. But practice far more than putting neat groups into the center of a stationary target in a comfortable stance at the range. Your life may depend on it. Seriously.
Next time, trigger control and follow through. Pop quiz at the end.