“Your shooting position should be balanced, comfortable and relaxed.” If that sounds like your first pistol instructor, you had a good one. I teach this myself, except I add a few words to the end of that statement: “whenever possible.” Life-or-death engagements are seldom any of those three things, so you must learn how to effectively use a pistol when positioning isn’t perfect and also realize your limitations. Here are some drills that will help you get more comfortable with being uncomfortable. Take them slowly and be extra vigilant of safety rules in these drills.
There is a notion that both hands will be free when you need to draw your pistol. This is seldom the case, as your best hand is often occupied. Next time you’re at the range, practice accessing your firearm with your weak side. Small of the back or 4 o’clock is the easiest place to start, followed by appendix carry. Drawing from the hip is a little more challenging, as body movement needs to get involved, and certain body styles won’t allow you to reach.
1. Using your non-dominant (weak-side) hand, slowly draw and deliver two shots from the holster position of choice.
2. Progress until you are within at least 20% of your average strong-side draw.
From the Ground
Most scenarios don’t call for the immediate introduction of a firearm; however, when push comes to shove, in the literal sense, you might find yourself on the ground with your attacker quickly advancing. If that happens, quickly get to your butt with your legs splayed in front of you. This will allow you to fire from a position that mimics the natural one you learned on your feet. To practice this, all you need is a range that permits it and a backstop that will catch bullets fired from this angle. A thick mat to fall back on is also recommended. Note this drill requires you to be physically able to fall; do not attempt it if you have any physical limitation that it might affect.
1. Let a shot timer start the drill. Allow yourself to fall to the rear, draw your pistol and fire two shots.
2. Strive for no more than a 3-second engagement time, but feel free to work toward executing this maneuver as quickly as possible.
From the Car
Countless encounters start as a common carjacking, and deadly force may be necessary to save yourself or others in the vehicle. Drawing from the car presents its own set of unique challenges and obstructions, notably the seatbelt. Clearing the seatbelt may not be an issue depending on how you carry, but it’s best to know that before an emergency presents itself, so you need to learn the shortest and easiest way to your gun while strapped into your vehicle.
1. Practice in your vehicle without any ammunition involved (if you can do so without alarming your neighbors). Your goal with this practice is to figure out if your preferred holster position is an issue. If it is, consider whether you can practice enough to enable you to access the gun more quickly, including possibly removing the seatbelt (bearing in mind that adds a whole new level of complexity). You could also consider relocating the firearm before driving or, perhaps, placing a secondary firearm somewhere within reach.
2. Once you have a good plan for your carry situation, practice it at the range (check with your range officials first). To recreate the vehicle setup, sit in a chair, draw and fire two shots. Once adept at the basic level, rotate the chair to reproduce different angles an attacker might use to try to remove you from the car. As dexterity and holster position will significantly affect reaction times, there isn’t a standard to beat with this drill—just keep track with a shot timer and try to achieve an average time that is 10% less than the range trip prior.
As you progress through these three drills, consider compounding them to reproduce common self-defense scenarios. For instance, combining scenarios 2 and 3 will help prepare you should an attacker rip you from the driver’s seat of your vehicle and throw you to the ground. Combining scenarios 1 and 2 will simulate a scenario where an assailant has knocked you down and is now in control of your strong arm. Through the three drills listed above, a creative shooter can build situations that represent daily dangers they may face, so don’t be afraid to use your imagination.