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Preview – Training for the Fight

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Photography by Corey Lack and Henry Z. De Kuyper

A Top Trainer Gives the Lowdown on How to Build Skills for a Deadly Encounter

Safety Disclaimer: The concepts and techniques shown here are for illustrative purposes only. When handling firearms and training tools, always observe all firearm safety rules. Seek professional instruction before attempting any techniques discussed or shown in this story.

Gallons of ink and thousands of trees have been consumed to provide tips on concealed carry. This is not one of those articles. In the grand scheme of things, learning how to analyze a problem is a much more important skill to have than simply becoming proficient at producing a particular outcome. What to learn is less important than how to learn.

There are fundamental concepts and processes that must be followed in order to find success in any training program. If you are going to practice (we use the word practice and train interchangeably here, but realize that “practice” is often done alone whereas “training” might be done with a teacher/instructor), then you must address the end goal first. For example, if your goal is to be able to fly an airplane, then your training and practice should address the skills necessary to fly. Since this article addresses training for a fight, it might be important to dissect the fight we are preparing for. In this case, the “fight” is an unavoidable encounter where your life is threatened and deadly force is justified.


To understand this fight better, it’s helpful to refer to a document and information shared by Tom Givens, owner of Rangemaster in Memphis, Tennessee. Tom has done significant research in how civilian (and plainclothes law enforcement officer) gunfights occur — and has had at least 64 of his own students involved in “defensive gunplay.” His research points out what happened in real-world gunfights, and is key in figuring out how to train for them. Here is what his data shows:

  • Most fights do occur between 3 to 7 yards.
  • Most fights involve a small number of shots, and reloading is rare.
  • Most fights do not occur at contact distance as the starting point; instead they typically start at “conversational distances.”
  • Most fights are not under low-light conditions in which a flashlight is required, even if they occur at night — there is almost always enough ambient light to shoot. None of Tom’s students felt the need for a flashlight during their incidents.
  • In addition, while it occurred infrequently, Tom mentioned the value of having the skill to hit targets at distance farther than 7 yards — one of the shootings required hits at a range of 22 yards. These facts and the data from the FBI and DEA led Tom to prioritize training for private citizens as follows, and we are quoting him here:
  • Fast, efficient, reliable presentation of the handgun from concealment.
  • The ability to accurately place several quick shots into an anatomically important area of the target at a distance of 3 to 5 yards.
  •  The ability to place an anatomically important hit in a reasonable amount of time beyond 7 yards out to at least 25 yards.
  • Although reloading during a fight was found to be unusual, the ability to reload the handgun quickly and efficiently, especially if it holds fewer than 10 rounds, is a confidence-building skill.
  • The ability to rapidly move off the line of force (sidestep) without hindering the presentation of the pistol from concealment.
  • Other skills — malfunction remedies, alternate shooting positions (i.e. kneeling), the use of cover, and flashlight-assisted shooting techniques — could be useful skills once mastery of the basic skills listed above has been accomplished.

Tom advises, “Early in your training, I would suggest that the student direct his or her efforts toward mastery of the core skills listed. I consider that the best approach is to model our training to match what we see occurring over and over again in the field, rather than hope what happens in the real world mirrors what we like to do on the range.”


For the rest of this article, click here to purchase: CONCEALMENT

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