LESSONS LEARNED FROM WATCHING ACTUAL GUNFIGHTS
I attended an excellent 60-minute workshop titled “Surviving a Gunfight: The Skills You Need from an Evidence-Based Perspective” presented by John Correia on September 8, 2019 during the National Rifle Association Personal Protection Expo in Fort Worth, Texas. John owns and operates Active Self Protection, a company he founded in 2011. John is certified as a Rangemaster Advanced Handgun Instructor and has instructor certifications from the Sig-Sauer Academy and NRA. He is also a Force Science-certified Force Science Analyst.
Much of John’s week is devoted to reviewing videos of deadly force encounters and looking for trends and key moments that might be useful to concealed carriers for the purposes of learning how to avoid and, if necessary, win gunfights. He has analyzed over 18,000 defensive encounters searching for patterns and principles. Each were reviewed in order to identify key moments and determine what went right and what went wrong. Much of the video came out of Brazil. An incredible amount of recorded video now exists as a result of the ability to record video and audio with cell phones and video sharing on YouTube, Live Leak, and even Facebook. This phenomenon started around 2007, which means there is over a decade of recorded data available for review. John updates and shares his findings on a weekly basis, and over the years has provided a great service to those willing to devote time and effort into become as “crime-proof” as they can.
Just because a concealed carrier has greater awareness of what happens during gunfights and what others have done to prevail they don’t necessarily develop the specific skills and tactics needed to win gunfights themselves. That is where studying videos of actual gunfights and reading post-event assessments of what went right and what went wrong by qualified firearm trainers such as John comes into play.
This is a good way to start developing relevant skills by shooting well-designed drills and learning simple tactics that concealed carriers can use to give them a decisive edge if confronted by an armed violent criminal offender.
John pointed out, and I fully agree, that all training should be done in context. Some drills and tactics applicable to warfighters who kick doors and law enforcement officers who are expected to proactively contact lawbreakers are not appropriate to concealed carriers whose objective is to do everything reasonable to avoid violence, including withdrawal and disengagement whenever reasonably possible. The fight almost always starts when the concealed carrier responds to the predatory violence threatened or used by another person displaying the ability, opportunity, and intent to seriously injure or kill others.
John set out certain key elements to winning gunfights, which I have listed below:
Concealed carriers should always carry their gun. It was disturbing to see how many victims relying on off-body carry were caught flat-footed with little opportunity to fight back effectively.
Guns should be carried with a round in the chamber. Multiple videos were found where the civilian defender was forced to rack the slide before being able to shoot back at an armed robber.
Concealed carriers should get their first shot on target as fast as they can and be ready and able to also put follow-up shots on target as fast as they can. There is fine line between getting the first hit on the violent criminal offender and following up as necessary and, as Tom Givens stresses, “outrunning the headlights” and shooting faster than they can make hits or read and respond to a change in the situation.
Concealed carriers should be able to perform a fast, reliable draw from the holster. Poor gunhandling mechanics simply waste time in a competitive event initiated by the criminal offender. John believes that an acceptable draw to first shot time should be two seconds or less. He said that professionals should be able to do the same in one and one-half seconds, and experts at one second or less. I am not sure I agree with the one-second draw to hit for experts, as I know multiple expert instructors that can’t make that time that have won gunfights. Regardless, the point that John is making is sound in my opinion. The ability to respond quickly and shoot before the armed criminal offender does is obviously advantageous. Concealed carriers do not share equal physical abilities, and if a two-second draw to first hit is not possible then the importance of alertness and tactics that can buy the concealed carrier more time becomes even more critical. This might include, but not be limited to, maximizing distance, employing cover and concealment, and quickly identifying and confronting approaching unknown contacts or known contacts with questionable intent.
Concealed carriers should follow the Rules of Firearm Safety even in the middle of a gunfight. It was disconcerting to see fathers both sweep and almost shoot their children during a gunfight. If possible, concealed carriers might be well served to stop, take a breath, and look around before acting.
Concealed carriers should think “Smart and Legal” when it comes to the use of deadly force, which includes knowing when to stop shooting. The concealed carrier’s mental state in a perceived kill-or be-killed event may be such that the temptation to kill an attacker that tried to kill him or her is nearly overwhelming. Following through on that temptation may mean that the same concealed carrier spends the rest of his or her days in prison. My personal take on this subject is that while it may be very difficult for concealed carriers to control their emotions under such circumstances, it is vitally important that they control their actions.
Using John’s evidence-based approach, we should look at videos, drills, articles, and books that address awareness, recognition of threat indicators, ability to manage distance and use cover/concealment, watching for moments that an opening presents itself, exploiting openings, developing a fast, reliable draw, making solid hits before the criminal can, being aware of what is actually going on in front, around, and behind the attacker, and knowing when it’s time to stop shooting. This does not mean malfunction clearances, reloads, head shots, etc. should be ignored, but instead most of the focus should be on gaining knowledge, tactics, and skills that have been seen over and over to be the most critical when it comes to surviving a gunfight. Concealed carriers who are willing to train under qualified instructors can expect to get a significant head start in these areas.
Concealed carriers should check out John and his excellent video reviews at www.activeselfprotection.com. The present day is probably the best time ever so far for the concealed carrier. It is possible to greatly benefit from the experiences of others as reviewed by such talented instructors like John as opposed to learning them directly in a darkened parking lot during an encounter with one or more criminals who are willing to use violence to get what they want.
Steve Moses has been a defensive firearms trainer for over 26 years and is a licensed Texas Personal Protection Officer with 7 years of experience performing as shift lead on a church security detail for a D/FW area metro-church. Steve is a co-owner and Director of Training for Palisade Training Group, LLC based in Dallas, Texas. Moses is a retired deputy constable and spent over 10 years on a multi-precinct Special Response Team. He owns multiple instructor certifications, including Rangemaster Advanced Handgun Instructor and Defensive Shotgun Instructor, Red Zone Knife Defense Instructor and Adaptive Striking Foundations Instructor, Modern Samurai Project Red Dot Sight Instructor, and State of Texas Personal Protection Officer Instructor. Steve holds a BJJ Brown Belt in Relson Gracie Jiu Jitsu. He is a content contributor for CCW Safe and writes weekly articles on various subjects of interest to concealed carriers. Moses shoots competitively and holds an IDPA Expert rating. Steve is an annual presenter at the Rangemaster Tactical Conference.