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Posted on July 6, 2020 by in Training



After viewing thousands and thousands of videos of real-life gunfights, John Correia of Active Self Protection said that in almost every single instance the person who got the first solid hit on the upper chest/thoracic area of the other person won the fight.

John Correia founded a company called Active Self Protection ( in 2011. John and his crew at Active Self Protection review videos of deadly force encounters every week, and John then updates and shares his findings on a weekly basis with their viewers. This a great resource for concealed carriers. John does a great job of recognizing key moments in gunfights that help to identify important trends, patterns, and principles.  Correia then updates and shares his findings with their viewers.

I know John personally, and in addition to being an outstanding analyst he is a highly skilled martial artist, outstanding shooter, and excellent defensive firearms instructor. John holds Rangemaster Master Handgun and Shotgun Instructor certifications along with a significant number of other instructor certifications. He is also a Force Science-certified Force Science Analyst. John and I were both students in a recent Rangemaster Shotgun Instructor Development course, and I took the opportunity to corner him for the express purpose of discussing the topic of making the first hit count in an otherwise unavoidable defensive gunfight.  Most concealed carriers who have attended a defensive handgun course have likely been told by their instructors that the most important shot they can make in a defensive gunfight is the first one, and a good instructor will drive home the point that making a good hit with the first shot is also more difficult than with subsequent shots. However, the majority of the class is typically spent on firing multiple-shot drills, and after awhile many students will forget how important that first shot is.

I had remembered attending an excellent 60-minute workshop titled “Surviving a Gunfight: The Skills You Need from an Evidence-Based Perspective” that John had presented on September 8, 2019 during the National Rifle Association Personal Protection Expo in Fort Worth, Texas. John stated that one of the key elements to prevailing if threatened by an armed attacker was that concealed carriers should get their first shot on target as fast as possible and be immediately ready and able to put follow-up shots on target if needed. I am not sure why, but this suddenly made me question whether or not that I was doing that good of a job of driving this home as well as I should be to our students. I then took it upon myself to pay careful attention to this subject in subsequent action pistol matches and classes and came to the conclusion that  many concealed carriers would benefit by better understanding the importance of making the first solid hit in a defensive gunfight. The average shooter’s draw can best be described as being remarkedly average, with surprisingly few being able to get first round hit from concealment on target four yards away in less than two seconds.

My goal was to get John’s take on the importance of being the first one to get a solid hit in a defensive gunfight so that I could do a better job of explaining in this article why this is so from a historical perspective. When asked what it was that he saw while viewing the above-described videos that caused him to believe that the first person in a gunfight to score a hit on the other’s upper chest/thoracic cavity almost always resulted in a win (with a win being defined as surviving the incident without being seriously injured or killed), John said when a person is hit in an anatomically significant place their behavior changes.  This is not the same as saying that an attacker struck in this fashion is instantly rendered incapable of fighting, but that in most instances the attacker’s ability to press the attack was either temporarily or permanently compromised.  John described the effect of being shot in the upper chest or head as “a reset of the brain”.   He said that they saw over and over again evidence that once the defender achieved the first solid hit that they essentially purchased additional time needed to follow up and obtain subsequent fight-stopping hits. In John’s words, hits buy time and misses waste time.

Of course, nothing is 100%, and achieving the first hard hit is no guarantee of a favorable outcome. However, John estimated that well over 90% of the time in the gunfight videos that they studied that the first person to get shot in the upper chest/head area lost the gunfight.

I then pressed John a little further (while knowing the answer) and asked him if was common for the first good hit to not be the first round fired, but perhaps the second, fifth, or tenth?  He immediately agreed and said it was quite obvious during a gunfight when multiple bullets were rapidly flying in both directions when one of the participants sustained a solid hit to the upper thoracic area. He also said that they watched both defenders and attackers simply ignore wounds to extremities incurred during the heat of the battle that in some issues would have likely resulted in their deaths without medical treatment.

As a firearms trainer, I have decided to put more effort into ensuring that my students have an even better understanding of what it might take to survive an armed attack as well as the physical skills that may be required. This means making sure that the students understand the importance of staying in a gunfight as long as it takes to make the first solid thoracic cavity hit, to never give up and fight through the likely mental reset even if they themselves are hit, and adding more drills directed towards increasing their ability to make the first shot they fire count.

I have now been teaching for twenty-six years and am just as motivated to become a better instructor now as I was when I started. I achieve that by being on the lookout for other instructors who might (and often do) know more about some aspect of defensive firearms training than I do. John knows a lot about actual civilian gunfights because he has seen a lot of civilian gunfights, and he and Active Self Protection are definitely worth checking out.

Steve Moses

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.