What Does it Take to get into Defensive Shooting?

I am often asked by beginning shooters what it takes to get into defensive shooting.  Many, it seems, are under the impression that the techniques needed in a defensive situation are somehow more advanced and more complex than those typically needed for basic marksmanship.

In truth, these defensive shooting skills are not more difficult to learn.  The same amount of time and energy is needed to set them into neural pathways.  In fact, some of these skills are less complicated than those used in marksmanship shooting.  Learning to use the sights on a gun is a relatively complicated skill.  Kinesthetically orienting the gun toward the target is much more natural (you point at things every day) and, therefore, easier to learn.

I decided to see what was needed to teach a novice shooter the most basic of skills used in defensive shooting; shooting after drawing from a holster.  This is a skill needed in practically every defensive encounter in which the defender is carrying the gun (rather than a home invasion in which the gun may have been staged in the home).

My eleven year old son has always been around guns but has little interest in shooting.  He also has slightly diminished motor skills due to being on the Autism Spectrum.  He presented an ideal test subject and, once I promised he would be allowed to shoot at Minecraft Creeper targets, he agreed to put in the work.

We began one evening by establishing a safe direction and clearing our guns.  I had him using my Glock 43 which is well suited for his hand size.  He has shot a few times in the past and is very well versed on gun safety rules so we did a quick review before moving on.

I first demonstrated what a holster presentation would look like in several different speeds.  I then broke down the process into steps and explained why each step was performed the way I was teaching him.  This took less than ten minutes at which point we were ready for him to try it out.

I first had him mirror my movements as we performed each step individually.  We practiced Grip a few times before moving on to Grip, Straight Up.  Several reps later we moved on to Grip, Straight Up, Orient.  Each step was added when I felt he had a handle on the previously learned steps.

Finally, the entire process had been learned and I moved from step by step commands to a single fire command.  Upon hearing the command he would Grip, Straight Up, Orient, Extend, Touch, Press, and then I would instruct him to safely and slowly reholster.

In total, the process of instruction and learning took about thirty minutes.  He and I were both pleased at how well he was doing.  The only thing remaining was to try out the new skill on the range the next day.

Once on the range the next day I did a very brief review of the steps and had him do a couple reps dry.  Once satisfied, I loaded the gun and had him go through the process several times.  He had absolutely no problems performing the skill as learned the previous day.

You can see a video I made of this experience here:


If he can do it, anyone can do it.  I have no doubt that he could easily learn most skills taught in most intermediate defensive pistol shooting course if he had the drive to do so.

So what’s your excuse?  Is it a financial or time constraint?  Or perhaps you just thought defensive shooting skills were simply beyond your reach?  Whatever the reason, it’s time to set it aside and get out to a class.  A little professional instruction and some hard work on your part can lead to a much better understanding of defensive shooting skills.

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