Skip to main content

Posted on December 9, 2019 by in Training

Slow is smooth, smooth is fast?

Slow is smooth, smooth is fast?

A common saying among some professional firearm trainers is “slow is smooth, smooth is fast.” However, if slow is smooth, and smooth is fast, then wouldn’t slow be fast?

Many of us in the training community believe that since we have heard this for so long there that there is some hidden meaning in this saying that will eventually be revealed to us. There are others (especially the ones that are fully engaged in action pistol and three-gun sports) that say this saying is nothing but ancient mumble-jumble, and only fast is fast.

There is another saying that my Brazilian Jiu Jitsu instructor uses that I really like, and I find myself often telling it to our white belts and some blue belts: if you can’t do it correctly slow, you can’t do it correctly fast. It is not uncommon to see an inexperienced shooter attend his first action pistol match and watch a good shooter blaze through a stage at high-speed while getting good hits. The same shooter then attempts to do the same at the same rate of speed, except his hits are not only not good but some of his shots are clear misses.

Students attending their first defensive pistol classes should hear their instructor stress the importance of speed in a gunfight. This is correct. For all practical purposes, an armed robbery or attempted murder is a timed competitive event in which the criminal is free to start at any time without notice to his or her intended victim. This presents a dilemma for the student. Moving too slow can get him or her killed. Moving too fast and missing endangers others, wastes time, and also can get them killed.

Smooth might be defined as a continuous action that is not impeded by obstruction or difficulty. Most actions involving the use of a handgun can be broken into multiple steps. For instance, a presentation from the holster can be broken into two, three, or four steps based upon the instructor’s preference. I teach four:

  1. Clear the garment and achieve a robust grip (I teach use of the flagged thumb) on the buttstock of the handgun. The support hand assumes a flattened position on the chest.
  2. Draw the handgun out of the holster by raising the elbow straight up and back. Keep a straight wrist and index the flagged thumb off the pectoral muscle.
  3. The shooter slides the support hand to the right where it meets the dominant hand and achieves a robust grip with both hands, making sure that significant pressure is applied by the support hand. Ideally the hands meet so that the top of the slide is under the shooter’s dominant eye and the handgun is held high on the chest.
  4. The shooter then presses the handgun in the direction of the target while aligning the sights and taking the slack out of the trigger. The finger should be in a position that allows the trigger to be pressed straight to the rear and the inside of the middle joint of the finger should not make contact with the frame. The shooter decreases speed just short of full extension so that he or she does not come to a sudden, jerky stop that causes misalignment of the sights with the target. I teach out students to not lock out their elbows and to also use their triceps and back muscles in order to mitigate the effect of recoil while firing multiple rounds.

There are two points that I wish to make immediately.  I purposefully left off the subject of trigger control in this article, and there are multiple excellent instructors who teach either a two-part draw or three-part draw that are fantastic shooters. I find no fault with this.  The presentation I teach falls within the Craig Douglas doctrine of being able to deal with attackers at extremely short range and even while entangled. Having said that, whether the student is taught a two, three, or four-part draw stroke, there is always one constant.  Each step must be performed correctly. When each step is performed correctly then the emphasis should be on transitioning from step to step with no apparent time lag. Once the student can perform each step correctly and move to the next step with no apparent break in action, then the student should start working on the speed. Students who are willing to learn the proper way to draw the handgun from an instructor and then spend some time in the garage or living room practicing will soon find out that they too can get their handgun out and on target with good speed. Concealed carriers should always remember that knowledge, mindset, and tactics play a huge part when it comes to defense against one or more motivated violent criminal actors.

Slow is smooth, smooth is fast could therefore mean that the best way for a concealed carrier to learn a new skill is to break it into steps. Practice each step slowly until it can be done properly, then move to the next step. When all steps can be performed properly, work on correctly transitioning from step to step.  When all transitions can be done correctly, work on speeding up each step and transition so that there is no observable break in the action from start to end. And finally, work on performing the entire skill so that it can be done as quickly as possible without being fumbled. Shooters at this point should push themselves in practice and not be dismayed if they make an error or blow a shot because they went too fast.

Slow is smooth, smooth is fast means to me that I should practice a new skill, technique, and tactic until I can make it smooth, then practice some more until I can make it fast.

Steve Moses

Steve is a long-time defensive weapons instructor based out of Texas who has trained hundreds of men and women of all ages for more than two decades on how to better prepare to defend themselves and their loved ones. Steve has completed over 80 private-sector and law enforcement-only defensive weapons and tactics classes, and has trained civilian and law-enforcement officers in six states. Moses is a reserve deputy, former member of a multi-precinct Special Response Team, competitive shooter, and martial artist. Steve has written numerous articles for SWAT Magazine and other publications. Steve is a licensed Texas Level 4 Personal Security Officer and Instructor who was Shift Lead on a mega-church security detail for seven years, and has provided close protection for several former foreign Heads of State. He is currently an instructor at Relson Gracie Jiu Jitsu/Krav Maga in Tyler, Texas and Director of Training for Palisade Training Group (