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Preview – Reaction Time

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Photography by Henry Z. De Kuyper

In a Split-Second Street Attack, Drawing Your Gun Might Not Be Your Best Bet — or Could Even Get You Killed. Practice All Your Options, Not Just the Ones with Triggers.

I have spent an enormous amount of time around armed individuals as part of my careers in the military, law enforcement, and firearms training. Almost every person I have met who carries a weapon for duty or self-defense believes that the gun is the ultimate defensive solution when assaulted by someone who is using, or is willing to use, deadly force. And in a large number of cases, the gun response is actually the wrong one.

Now, before you get riled up and start to chastise me for what I am saying, I want to be clear here — if in a potential lethal-force situation I had the option to get my gun into the fight every time it was justified, I would. But it simply might not be possible in every situation, and in others it might not be justified and could leave you wide open for criminal or civil penalties.

In this article, I will break down your defensive options in the critical area of time — where fractions of a second count — and I want to make you think. I will provide some information that I would like you to digest and consider applying to your self-defense planning. In addition, I will cover some keys to improving your draw and response time with a handgun. If you have time to get it into action, the faster you do that, the better off you will be.

Tick Tock
Time is the key factor when deciding which defensive response to employ — because you only have so much of it. Time equates to distance. The closer the attacker, the less time you will have to initiate a defensive response.

In terms of quantifying time, we have great tools available to us these days to measure it. A shot timer, which is designed to electronically measure the time from the start beep to the first and subsequent shots, will allow you to precisely determine your defensive response times with a concealed handgun, under the unstressed conditions of the range. A shot timer can also be used to measure time to access an edged weapon or throw a strike by utilizing the PAR function on the timer, which sounds a start beep followed by an end beep after a designated period of time.

While I have been training with a shot timer for years in my competitive training, I have to give credit where it is due in respect to really analyzing time in a defensive situation. I’ve spent time working with Guro Harley Elmore (of Sayoc Tactical Group), who does an excellent job of breaking down the time elements in a fight. Following are some common defensive solutions and their typical time elements:

Concealed or duty-rig handgun draw
1.5 seconds
This time is not the best I have seen or can do myself, but rarely do I see a student who can actually hit this time consistently except for very high-level shooters. A key point to this measurement is that it represents the time to first shot. But we all know that the first shot will not necessarily stop the threat. In terms of stopping the threat, for this illustration assume that three well-placed rounds will get the job done (just an assumption, it may take more or less), and that each of those shots takes an additional 0.25 seconds to fire. In that case we can add the 1.5 + 0.75 (0.25 x 3) and now a full 2.25 seconds have elapsed before the threat has been affected.

Edged weapon draw and impact
1 – 1.5 seconds
This time can be greatly reduced with diligent practice (I have heard of guys who can draw and hit a target in about half a second). Once again though, this time measures the draw to first impact of the blade. Depending on targeting, the blade may have immediate effect on limb disruption if the right tendons are cut. But it is unlikely that the knife will immediately incapacitate the threat, unless the best available target on the body is hit with the very best penetrating thrust or cut.

Empty-handed punch or kick
0.3 – 0.5 seconds
An explosive punch or kick is the fastest response possible if thrown by a trained striker. The question and variable is what effect the punch or kick will have. A well-trained striker should be able to cause some disruption to the threat with a good strike, but the response will be determined by many different factors.

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