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Departments : The Winning Edge

Up Close, Personal, and Violent

September 01, 2006  |  by Kevin R. Davis

Shooting Positions

Any firearms instructor will tell you that the most stable and therefore accurate shooting position is with two hands at eye level. But during a close-in fight with an attacker, you probably won’t be able to achieve this position and protect your weapon.

When your attacker is right on top of you, you may need to shoot from belt level or hip positions. You also may need to protect your pistol by assuming some version of a chest tuck. Remember, at this range, any shooting position that places your pistol away from your center may make it easy for your attacker to grab it.

Another concern when you are drawing your pistol to stop a close-in attack is that you must keep your muzzle off of your own body. This sounds easy. But it isn’t when you are struggling with a determined attacker.

Closing the Training Gap

If you have never shot from any position except two-handed at eye level and you’ve never drawn your weapon while struggling with someone who is trying to take it away from you, then there are gaps in your training. You need to train for the conditions and types of attacks that you might encounter on the street.

When attacked, make sure you look out for the suspect's buddies.

Most firearms instructors think that firearms training must be live fire. The problem with this approach is that it prevents you from training to respond to the most likely attack you will face in the real world, the close-in assault.

This means that when you are attacked by a committed assailant who is within arm’s reach, you have no firearms training to help you counter the attack. You have to make the untrained jump to incorporating empty hand and gun. As any good police trainer will tell you, the street is not the place to develop tactics. Training should have already provided you with a programmed response based on this threat stimulus.

Meaningful firearms training does not have to include live fire. By using non-functional training guns such as Blue Guns, you can train to realistically integrate empty hand and pistol techniques.

The following training drills can teach you how to respond—both with your empty hands and with your sidearm—to sudden close-in attacks:

• With your training partner to the front applying forward pressure, create space and shoot.
• With your partner to the front attempting to foul your draw, create space and shoot.
• With your partner to the front attempting to disarm you, stop the attempted takeaway and shoot.
• With your partner to the front attempting to stab you, stop the assault, control your partner’s arm, and shoot.
• With your partner to the front attempting to draw a pistol from concealment, foul the draw, control your partner’s arm, and shoot.
• With your partner to the rear attempting to bar arm choke you, protect your airway, and shoot.
• On the ground with your partner on top of you, create space and shoot.
• On the ground, with your partner on top of you with his or her hand on your holstered pistol, stop the takeaway, create space, and shoot.
• On the ground with you on top, create space and shoot.
• On the ground with you on top and your partner’s hand on your holstered pistol, stop the takeaway, create space, and shoot.

Spontaneous and Non-Spontaneous Assaults

You need to train for both spontaneous and non-spontaneous assault.

In a non-spontaneous assault, you have time because the nature of the call or other pre-assault cues have tipped you to draw your pistol in advance, increase the distance from the suspect, get to cover, verbally challenge the suspect, and take other measures that will prevent an attack. In a spontaneous attack, you don’t have these cues and you don’t know to draw your pistol in advance. Most spontaneous assaults are some version of an ambush.

Sadly, most firearms training is conducted on a square range with the focus on non-spontaneous situations, and it does not prepare you to react to spontaneous attack. Incorporating realistic empty hand skills with the use of your pistol will prepare you to win regardless of the close distance and conditions.
So, take the time and engage in close or extreme close quarters firearms training. This will prepare you to win the fight in the event things get extremely violent, up close, and personal.

The author wishes to thank Rob Pincus of Valhalla Training Center (www.valhallatrain for his assistance with this article.

Kevin R. Davis is a full-time law enforcement officer with 24 years of experience. Currently assigned to his agency’s training bureau, he is a former SWAT team leader and lead instructor. Davis’ Website is He welcomes your input at [email protected]

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