Gun Skills: Fight Your Way Up

posted on July 10, 2023
Fight Your Way Up
Photo: Peter Fountain

Although we typically train from an upright starting position, not every gunfight begins that way. Quite often, the decision to introduce a firearm is made after a physical altercation has already started. This can result from hoping that less-lethal options would prevail or from being caught by surprise. Regardless of the reason you’re down, you’ll want to be fighting the entire way back up. To that end, it’s important to test your equipment in all the stages along the way to understand how it works and to know the limits of your performance.

Dry practice (without ammunition in the gun or even in the area) is the recommended method for this drill, as dynamic motion can be a recipe for injury. If you plan to try this drill with live ammunition, practice every stage of this routine dry many times first.

If you ultimately proceed to live fire, take it slowly; diligently observe all applicable safety protocols. Having a knowledgeable buddy behind you, to keep a careful eye on safety, is also recommended.

Note that many ranges will not allow you to perform this drill because of backstop limitations or because moving in front of or behind the firing line is prohibited. As you practice, make sure that bullets passing through your targets will land safely land in the target area.

The overall goal is to shoot as straight as possible and to avoid any upward or downward angles. Also, understand that target height must be adjusted with each position. Essentially, the lower you are, the lower the target needs to be. Before each step, present your firearm to the center of the target, then build a sight picture on either side of center mass to ensure your bullets won’t leave the range. You will be working at close distances, so steel targets are out of the question for this drill.

From the Ground

From the Ground
This phase will illuminate any gear or presentation issues you might encounter while shooting from your back.

1. Hang a low, non-steel target three yards away from your practice line.

2. From flat on your back, assess how to safely access your pistol, depending on your concealed carry position, without muzzling any part of yourself. This usually involves rolling a few degrees away from the holster and drawing in your legs.

3. Draw and fire one shot with a one-handed grip.

4. Repeat five times.

5. Repeat the drill five times with a two-handed grip if possible.

6. Note any gear or technique issues and correct.

From Sitting

From Sitting
You must decide the best use for your offhand while sitting. Some shooters will have the abdominal strength to steady their upper body and assume a two-handed grip, while others will need to use their support hand to hold themselves up. This phase will help you determine which is best for your unique body style.

1. Hang a non-steel target five yards from your practice line at the height your eyes will be while sitting.

2. From lying on your back with your pistol already presented, sit up, using as little help as possible from your arms, and fire one shot one-handed, using the other arm to support yourself.

3. Repeat five times.

4. In the same position, establish a two-handed grip and fire one shot.

5. Repeat five times.

From KneelingFrom Kneeling
You should be trying to gain the kneeling position as quickly as possible, since it is steadier and leaves you substantially less vulnerable than lying or sitting. Most people will be able to shoot with both hands on the gun in this position. Your previously positioned five-yard target will suffice for this phase; just ensure your bullets will still hit the backstop.

1. From a sitting position with a presented handgun, rise to kneeling and fire one shot one-handed.

2. Repeat five times.

3. From a sitting position with a presented handgun, rise to kneeling and fire one shot with both hands on the firearm.

4. Repeat five times.

From Your FeetFrom Your Feet
The goal is to get on your feet. The question is, what do you do once you get there? This phase covers two scenarios: retreating or moving to forward cover.

1. As some space is typically made during this stage of a gunfight, prepare by hanging your target seven yards from your position.

2. From kneeling, rise to your feet and fire one shot.

3. Immediately retreat, firing two shots while your feet are moving.

4. Repeat five times.

5. Return to kneeling.

6. Rise to your feet and fire one shot.

7. Immediately advance toward cover, firing two shots while your feet are moving.

8. Repeat five times.

Putting It All Together
After you feel comfortable in these four positions, it’s important to practice transitioning all the way through in an uninterrupted manner. To do so safely, you’ll need your target as close to the backstop as possible; this ensures it catches your bullets regardless of your angle to it. Typically, the lower it is, the better, but confirm with your sights first. Your distance from the target isn’t important for this phase; just make sure you have enough room to move.

1. With your pistol in its holster and lying flat on your back, draw and fire one shot.

2. Sit up as quickly as possible and fire one shot.

3. Roll into kneeling and fire one shot.

4. Rise to your feet and fire one shot.

5. Retreat, firing two shots along the way.

6. Repeat the whole sequence five times, reloading only when necessary.

7. Repeat steps 1-5 except this time, advance to cover during your final two shots.

8. Repeat five times, reloading only when necessary.

Performed correctly, this drill will help you to identify and train away any challenges presented through your gear or bodily limitations. It also makes a great warm-up, as it stretches your muscles and refamiliarizes you with your holster position and your draw stroke. Variances can (and should) be worked in, particularly drawing from situations other than lying flat on your back. You never know what position you’ll be in when it comes time to take your gun out, so let your imagination be your guide.


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