A large percentage of firearms owners think that just owning a firearm is enough. Take it out, wave it in the face of an aggressor and they’ll flee. If they don’t turn tail and run, then anyone can shoot a gun — after all, Hollywood actors do it all the time, right? Unfortunately, that isn’t the case.
My wife recently got her concealed carry license. In the state where we live, this requires taking a class, passing both a proficiency test and a written test and getting a background check. Since we live in a “will issue” state, if you manage to get over those rather simple hurdles, the state will issue you the license. Even though my wife hadn’t touched a gun a month before she took the course, she was still able to pass.
Now, I’ll have to say that before she took the class, I insisted that she learn how to shoot properly. So, I took my wife to the range twice a week and taught her. That was much better than the other women in her class, neither of whom had ever fired a gun before. They expected to learn how to shoot the gun in the concealed carry class.
While I realize that the case of those two women was a bit extreme, I also realize that it’s not really all that uncommon. Many people buy guns and sign up for concealed carry classes, without really having any idea of how to shoot, or at least not knowing how to shoot well.
If you are going to use a gun, then you need to know how to use it well. While an assailant might have a gun to just scare you, it makes no sense at all for you to try the same thing with them. Doing so could get you killed. Pulling out a gun raises the stakes in the game, even though they already have one. It means that you are ready to shoot them to defend yourself. You don’t want to send that signal if you can’t do it.
There are two parts to being able to pull that trigger. The first one is having made the decision in your mind that you are ready and able to use deadly force to defend yourself and your family. Don’t wait until someone is staring at you over their gun sights to decide that. You had better have that decision made long beforehand.
The second requirement is having the training so that you can use the gun accurately. Here’s where those two ladies I mentioned before can get in a lot of trouble.
When you are faced with an armed assailant, two things are going to happen. Your body is immediately going to dump a large amount of adrenalin into your bloodstream. This is necessary so that you have the energy for the “fight or flight” response. The second thing that is going to happen is that you are going to be scared and nervous. Both of these things are going to degrade your ability to shoot. In fact, your ability to shoot will only be about one-fourth of what it normally is.
In other words, your speed and accuracy will be one-fourth of what it normally is. So, if you can get all your shots into a normal life sized silhouette target, you will find that you can only get about one-fourth of them into that life-sized man. If you can shoot a six-inch group, you’ll probably get about half of them to hit your target.
I recently read about a police officer who had a shootout with an armed criminal. The criminal was on drugs, so just hitting him wasn’t enough; he probably didn’t even feel the bullets. When all was said and done, the police officer had used up three 17 round magazines and only had two rounds left. He had hit the criminal a total of 15 times before he went down. The rest of the shots missed their mark. That’s fairly typical for a trained officer in such a situation.
Even though that police officer was trained and had practiced, his ability was still degraded by the stress of the situation. He actually did fairly well, although it might not seem that way to you. Fortunately, none of his misses hit any innocent bystanders.
On top of the problems caused by nerves and adrenalin, you’re going to find that shooting in a real situation has about as much to do with shooting on the target range as driving in a NASCAR race has to do with going out for a Sunday drive and picnic. Just as driving in that race is much harder, shooting in a real life-or-death situation is much harder, too.
When you shoot at the range, you can count on your target holding still at a fixed distance, having good lighting and not having to worry about the target shooting back at you. You can’t count on any of those things when you are faced with an armed assailant. You’re probably going to find yourself in the dark, facing an angry opponent who keeps moving around and is trying to send as much lead your way as they can. They might even find a brick wall or a car to try and hide behind.
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That’s why you need tactical shooting practice. What’s that? It’s a style of shooting where you are pitted against multiple silhouette targets, with the idea of imitating a real-life shooting scenario. This is the type of practice that police and military use for training their people, because nobody expects to get attacked by a black dot on a white background.
Some of the things that you will find in a tactical shoot include:
- Moving targets – To simulate moving adversaries, who are trying to keep you from hitting them.
- Low light – Most confrontations with firearms happen at night, when you can’t see your adversaries or your gun sights well.
- Multiple targets – Criminals, like coyotes, travel in packs. If your home is broken into, you will probably be facing multiple adversaries.
- Moving while shooting – If you don’t want to get hit by their bullets, it’s a good idea to move as well. It is much harder for them to hit you when you don’t stand still for them.
- Use of cover – Those brick walls and cars are nice to get behind, offering some protection from the bad guy’s bullets.
- Timed – To add pressure and simulate the stress of an actual tactical situation, you will be timed against the clock. You’d be amazed how much more stress that adds.
- Good guys – Many tactical scenarios combine bad guys and good guys (otherwise known as innocent bystanders). You obviously don’t want to shoot the wrong ones.
- Multiple shots per target – You can’t count on knocking them down with one shot. Whatever is worth shooting is worth shooting again.
- Magazine changes – Like the police officer I mentioned, you may have to use more than one magazine worth of rounds to put your adversary down.
Many firing ranges offer tactical shooting events — typically one evening per week. These are run as a competition, with some competition rules. Nevertheless, they are still a fairly good representation of what it will be like when it gets real; at least, they are much closer to that than just shooting at a black dot in the center of a target.
Let me warn you, you will do horrible the first time you go. When I went to my first tactical shoot, I was the worst shot there. That surprised me, as I can hold a 1.5 inch group with the gun I was using. Tactical shooting is different enough from target shooting that it is like starting all over again. The good thing is that this time, you’ll be starting to do it like it’s for real.