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Preview – Pistols: Emergency Use Only?

Photography by Henry Z. De Kuyper

Dogma:   \'dÔg-m, ‘däg-\    noun
Something held as an established opinion; a point of view or tenet put forth as authoritative without adequate grounds.

Long ago, people believed the dogmatic viewpoint that the world was flat — that if a voyager sailed too far into the sunset, he would fall off the edge of the Earth. Obviously, dogma can be a dangerous thing.

The doctrine of doing something because that’s the way it’s always been done sets the foundation for a lack of motivation and innovation — and the firearms training industry is one of the worst offenders. Want proof? How about the dogma of keeping the chamber of your Remington 870 pump shotgun empty so you can work the action, creating a unique “cha-chunk” sound that will so terrify a bad guy that he’ll crap his pants and run away? How ridiculous, yet I can almost guarantee that you have heard that advice before. How do these stupid ideas continue to survive? Simple. Dogma.

Although not quite as stupid, the dogmatic concept of relegating a pistol to emergency use only when used in conjunction with a rifle is a concept that needs to be re-examined. For as long as I can remember in my training, when an operator possessed a rifle, the pistol was considered a backup, a weapon used only in the event he experienced a stoppage with the rifle. After all, why use a pistol when you have a rifle? Conventional fighting doctrine espouses that you use a pistol to fight your way to your rifle. And that once you have it, never put the rifle down until the fight is over. Sound doctrine at face value, but let’s dig a little deeper down the rabbit hole.


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While the seemingly natural role of a pistol when carried in conjunction with a rifle is as a last-ditch backup, I would offer up another option to this dogmatic view. For well over a decade, I have encouraged my students to view the pistol as a complementary weapon to the rifle, and not one that is relegated purely to emergency use. Let’s start by taking a look at the roles of the pistol and rifle and see what each system brings to the fight.

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