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Ancient Gaseous Emanation
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This article is from 2001. Little, if anything, has changed.



Gunfighting the American Martial Art
By: Andy Stanford

A fear of crime has spurred many people to buy a firearm. Even many martial artists have concluded that projectile weapons have a place in their arsenal. Unfortunately, many (perhaps most) of the people who buy a gun for personal protection do not obtain adequate education and training with their weapons. We Americans have been conditioned by television and the movies to view guns as a cure-all response to violent confrontations, a remote-control device that can effortlessly win our battles for us with a simple stroke of the index finger.

The truth is much more complicated: The responsible and competent ownership and use of a firearm for self-defense is a multifaceted subject that goes far beyond the simplistic notion of "point gun, pull trigger." In short, gunfighting requires serious study similar to that needed to obtain proficiency at empty-hand fighting or edged/impact weapon employment.

Attributes of the Defensive Firearm

A firearm is not a magic wand, but it can provide capabilities unique among common types of weapons. The most obvious of these is range. With empty hands, or with a contact weapon such as a stick or a knife, you have to be essentially within arm's reach to strike your target without moving your feet (not counting the throwing knife).

Not so with a firearm. Even though most situations requiring the use of deadly force in self-defense occur at very close ranges, a firearm will allow you to strike effectively from an almost unlimited variety of angles and body positions, even if you are injured, sick or tired. A gun is also a good weapon to use when there is something between you and your target, since there is no need to close the gap. Providing a vital area is hit, the striking power of a firearm is the same for every user. All of this contributes to the deterrent effect of a firearm. If you can see your assailant, you can do serious damage to him, and he knows it.

Concerning the specific effects of a gun, a firearm allows you to damage a wide range of body targets with less effort than even a knife and, if necessary, to do it when your assailant is hiding behind something. (Yes, I know empty hands and impact weapons can also achieve a satisfactory effect on the human body, but in different ways.) However, even though a gun provides these advantages, there are a number of reasons why you should also develop a usable degree of unarmed self-defense skills.

You may be in a situation where you cannot possess a firearm, or if you have been taken unawares, you may not have your gun in hand. Facing a knife at close range, a gun may not be your best option for immediate action. The firearm may malfunction, or your assailant may grab it. All of these contingencies will require you use other physical self-defense options, including specialized weapon retention techniques.

Firearms have several limitations. First, the legalities of owning and carrying a gun for self-defense can vary greatly, depending on where you live. For example, in New York and Washington, D.C., handgun ownership is greatly restricted or even prohibited; in New Hampshire, Florida and Washington state, any law-abiding citizen without a criminal record or history of mental instability can easily obtain a permit for a concealed weapon. In Arizona and New Mexico handguns may be carried openly in a holster with out any license at all. However, in many jurisdictions, legal possession of a loaded firearm is often limited to one's home, business or private property.

Second, in contrast to many other weapons, a firearm always constitutes deadly force. "Shooting to wound" is a fallacy born of Hollywood, since if you weren't in danger to justify your assailant's death, why are you using a gun in the first place? (Also hitting the target at all can be a challenge in a real gunfight, let alone placing your bullet in some "non-lethal" area of your choice.) Third, guns present serious potential safety hazards that must be dealt with. This last aspect of firearms ownership requires a commitment to conscientious attention to safe storage and use.

Chose Your Weapon

Although any gun can be pressed into service to save your life, it helps to have the right tool for the job if you have a choice. The primary categories of firearms available to private citizens are:

The Centerfire Rifle

(High-powered) rifle is perhaps the most versatile firearm available, which is why it is the weapon issued to soldiers. With proper training, a person can hit a target at ranges from arm's length to distances of more than a half mile. However, such long-range capability isn't usually required in civilian scenarios - with the possible exception of some rural contingencies or situations involving massive civil unrest - and the high penetration inherent in this class of firearm is often a liability. The bullet from a typical centerfire rifle will go through an exterior of house wall like a hot knife through butter. A .22-caliber rim-fire rifle bullet will not penetrate as much, but is less powerful than a shotgun or centerfire handgun, and is therefore not usually recommended as a first choice.

The Shotgun

Is often touted as the ultimate defense weapon, and it's not a bad choice since it is very powerful, easier than a handgun to hit a target with, and much less penetrating than a centerfire rifle bullet. However, a common myth is that the wide shot pattern eliminates, or reduces, the need to aim. Although the pattern size increases with distance, at common self-defense distances, the spread is less than 10 inches. For this reason, and to decrease shot-to-shot recovery time, a shotgun should be fired from the shoulder while using the sights whenever possible.

Handguns

Can be classified in two main types: the revolver and the semiautomatic pistol. The primary advantage with both these weapons is that they are portable and concealable; a holstered handgun can be kept readily accessible all day long without a conscious thought and without alarming your fellow citizens. On the other hand, they are harder to shoot well than a shoulder-fired weapon, and even centerfire handguns are far less powerful than either a shotgun or a centerfire rifle. (Approximately 30% of people shot with a handgun die; 30% of those shot with a shotgun or a centerfire rifle survive.)

As noted above, centerfire rifles probably pose an unacceptable risk of overpenetration for use in an urban or suburban environment, except in extreme cases involving widespread breakdowns of social order. That leaves the centerfire handgun and the shotgun as the candidates for day-to-day defensive firearms. The autopistol and revolver offer some weapon retention advantages that trade off against the greater power and hit success probability of the shotgun. Some experts recommend the autopistol or revolver as a primary weapon; some recommend the shotgun. In any case, the deciding factor in any confrontation will be your personal skill with the weapon.

Safe Storage and Operation

When you purchase a gun you assume a great responsibility. If an innocent person is shot because of negligent storage, handling or use practices, the presence of your defensive firearm will have contributed to the kind of tragedy you intended to prevent. A gun is just a machine, like an automobile, but both devices can unintentionally result in death or serious injury if used carelessly or improperly. Therefore, a thorough grounding in firearms safety is of paramount importance.

All guns must be kept secure from unauthorized or untrained individuals. That may involve locking up the firearms, the ammunition or both. To help solve this problem, there are some locking boxes on the market to keep weapons fairly secure, yet quickly accessible. (You should also teach young children that if they find an unattended firearm they should "STOP, Don't touch - leave the area - tell an adult" Older kids can be taught the safety rules below.) The specific approach you take will vary with factors such as presence of the children and the degree of weapons access you require. However, the ultimate responsibility is always yours alone. In fact several states have passed laws holding the gun owner responsible if a minor shoots someone and it is discovered that adequate care was not taken in storing the weapon.

Good safety habits must be cultivated to the point that they are part of your personality. In handling or firing any gun four rules must be followed at all times.

1. All firearms are always loaded. Many responsible for negligent shootings have said afterward, "I didn't know the gun was loaded." That is no excuse for killing or seriously injuring another human being. When you pick up a gun you must check it to determine its condition; if you don't know how to check it, leave the gun alone. In any case, empty or not, you should treat any weapon as if it is loaded, and follow the other safety rules below.

2. Never let your muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy. Always be conscious of the direction in which your weapon is pointing. Handle all firearms as if there is a powerful laser beam being emitted along the bore axis and that anything swept by the muzzle will be vaporized.

3. Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target. Contrary to what some people would have you believe, guns don't discharge by themselves, except in very rare instances. Inevitably, if the gun fired, it was because the trigger was pulled. Don't trust the mechanical safety of your weapon. It can fail. A straight trigger finger is the best safety there is.

4. Be sure of your target and beyond. Don't shoot at anything you have not identified as hostile. That means you never fire at a silhouette or a sound. Additionally, you are responsible for the ultimate target of every bullet you unleash. This will vary with the type of gun you have and with the ammunition. Think about where your bullet will stop before you pull the trigger.

In addition to following the four safety rules above, you should always wear eye and ear protection while practicing. Weapon or ammunition failure can generate debris that can damage an unprotected eye. Prolonged exposure to gunfire can cause permanent hearing loss. Finally, you should never handle a firearm if you are under the influence of a chemical substance (e.g., alcohol) for the same reason you should never drive a car in that condition. Since the human factor is the cause of virtually all firearm accidents, the importance of these simple and common sense rules can't be overemphasized.

Overview of Defensive Shooting Skills

The use of a firearm for self-defense requires an esoteric set of skills that are quite different from those used for target shooting. Remember, your goal is not just learning to shoot; you're also learning to fight! Fighting with a gun is similar in many ways to fighting with your hands or a stick or a knife, although the mechanical skills vary somewhat. The outline below can be used as a general guide to the education and training needed to become proficient. Keep in mind that the information presented here only scratches the surface of each topic. Safety, as discussed above, should be one of the first subjects studied. Other areas to be mastered include:

Basic Firearms Knowledge

Understanding the nomenclature and functions of guns and ammunition is a prerequisite to operating any firearm. In combat, an intimate familiarity with a particular weapon is necessary to get the gun into action and to keep firing it until the fight is over. Proper cleaning and maintenance reduces the likelihood of malfunctions and requires that you be facile with field stripping your piece and recognizing breakage or unacceptable wear.

Combat Marksmanship Fundamentals

The bottom line to using a firearm as a weapon is that you must obtain good hits usually on the target, usually under stress and time pressure. The ultimate goal is to achieve a personal balance of accuracy and speed with as powerful a weapon as you can control. Although there are people who advocate point shooting, aimed fire is taught for general use by most experts in the field. This requires having the sights adjusted so that the point of the projectile impact is the same as the point of aim, aligning the front and rear sights with each other and with the target, and firing the weapon without disturbing the alignment if the sights and the target. In shooting jargon, these three elements comprise zero (as in a "zeroed weapon"), sight, picture and trigger control, respectively.

Shooting Stances and Positions

With a handgun class, you will usually fire with two hands from the Weaver or Isosceles stance. Note however, that there are situations where one-hand shooting may be required - for example, if you are injured. With a shoulder-fired weapon you must understand the basic concept, including putting the butt of the weapon in the pocket of the shoulder, obtaining a cheek weld, and supporting the weapon with bone instead of muscle. In addition to firing while standing (also known as offhand shooting), it will often be advantageous to fire from other positions, including kneeling, squatting, sitting and prone.

Gun Handling

Unlike target shooting, the successful defensive use of a firearm often depends on proper manipulation of the weapon during non-shooting tasks. For example, you must develop a consistent method of loading and checking your so that you are sure it is in ready condition. Hearing a "click" when you expected a "bang" can have fatal consequences. Other aspects of gun handling include appropriate tactical ready positions, recognizing and clearing malfunctions, reloading and transitioning to backup weapons. All of these things need to be practiced to achieve efficiency.

Mindset and Tactics Awareness

The cultivation of a survival attitude is as important when fighting with a gun in your hand as it was before the invention of gunpowder. As a person focusing on armed self-defense, you should not ignore this factor, which is usually even more important than technical shooting skills. Similarly, appropriate employment tactics comprise another set of life-and-death skills that can stack the odds further in your favor. Specific areas of interest include cover and concealment, tactical movement, post-shooting procedures and team tactics.

Wound Ballistics

The effects of a bullet on the human body define what a gunshot will and will not accomplish. You should study this topic to assist you in choosing appropriate ammunition and to reduce unpleasant surprises on the street. A gun causes your assailant to stop fighting due to its psychological effect (i.e., he quits, whether injured seriously or not), pain (another psychological effect) dysfunction of a limb or other body part used in fighting, lowering of the blood pressure to the point of unconsciousness (in the case of a heart shot, for example), or damage to the central nervous system (a wound to the brain or spine). Shot placement, penetration, and temporary and permanent wound cavity all determine the physical effects of the rounds you fire. Contrary to what you see in many movies, people can keep fighting after absorbing multiple fatal hits. For instance, even if the heart is destroyed, a person can continue functioning for 10-15 seconds on the oxygen that is already in the brain - plenty of time to do damage with a gun or a knife. On the wall at Gunsite ranch there is a sign that reads, in a couple of dozen different languages: "I shot him, but he didn't fall." If you assume anyone you shoot is not going to stop, you won't be as likely to hesitate in taking remedial action.

Legal Aspects of Deadly Force

In today's society, the taking of a human life is generally considered a serious matter, the murder rate and light prison sentences served for that crime to the contrary. Lethal force may only be employed in the case of an immediate and otherwise unavoidable threat of death or great bodily harm. You will be judged by the standard of what a reasonable and prudent person would have perceived and done in a similar situation. Your assailant must possess the means of assaulting you ("ability"), have the opportunity to carry out the assault and indicate that they intend to harm you ("jeopardy"). The factors of ability, opportunity and jeopardy must all be present to justify the use of deadly force. Clearly, surviving a deadly encounter in one piece is your No. 1 priority. A basic understanding of the legal ramifications of shooting someone can help you minimize the effects of the aftermath.

Psychological / Physiological Effects of a Gunfight

Anyone who contemplates the use of a firearm for self-defense should learn about the possible body and mind reactions that could occur during and/or after a violent confrontation. The adrenaline response to a dangerous situation ("fight or flight syndrome") is a well-documented phenomenon that can result in time distortion, tunnel vision, auditory exclusion and loss of fine motor coordination. Training should take this into account. Similarly, post-shooting trauma - also called post-violent event trauma - affects many of those who kill another person in self-defense. Symptoms may include insomnia, depression, and loss of appetite, among others. Understanding that these reactions are not uncommon can assist an individual who experiences them in coping (seeking outside help such as counseling, if necessary).

Weapon Selection, Modification and Maintenance

This subject could take up an entire class by itself, but a good course will discuss the basics. For example, if a person is not going to shoot more than a few times a year, a revolver the better choice of a handgun. An autopistol may offer certain advantages, such as greater ammunition capacity and a lighter trigger pull, but is more complicated to operate. The minimum caliber that should be considered for general self-defense use is a .38 Special for revolvers and .380 ACP for autopistols; In other words, no .22s, .25s or .32s. For a defensive shotgun a good quality pump or autoloader with a short barrel - for ease of handling indoors - is generally preferred over other types, such as double barrels. Either a 12 or 20 gauge will suffice with proper ammunition (usually buckshot or slugs); a .410-bore weapon is probably too small for serious social use. If you really need a rifle, most quality centerfire repeaters will do, but understand that there are advantages and disadvantages to different calibers, action types and sighting systems.

Weapon-Specific Topics

The subjects above apply to all weapons. Additional topics may be relevant, depending on the type of firearm involved. Handgun users will need to learn to draw sagely from a holster. A shotgun user should understand ammunition characteristics and patterning. A combat rifle shooter may want to be familiar with the intricacies of bullet trajectory and wind drift. If you choose any type of shoulder weapon, you'll want to be able to quickly deploy the weapon from the shoulder. All serious combat marksmen (and women) must become proficient at shooting in darkness and low light, since many defensive confrontations occur at night.

As you can see, a person could spend a lifetime learning about combat marksmanship and related subjects. Many people have done just that. They are the ones you should seek out to further your own development. I have included a list of recommended reading and videos for anyone who wishes to delve deeper into the matter. Bear in mind, however, that studying by yourself should not be considered a complete substitute for formal training. Learning is largely a process of recognizing and eliminating mistakes. This is best accomplished by training under the watchful eye of an experienced combat marksmanship instructor.

Books

Principles of Personal Defense, by Jeff Cooper
To ride, Shoot Straight, and Speak the truth, by Jeff Cooper
The Modern Technique of the Pistol by Greg Morrison
In the Gravest Extreme, by Massad Ayoob
Stressfire, by Massad Ayoob
Handgun Primer/Gunproof Your Children by Massad Ayoob
Armed and Female, by Paxton Quigley
The Defensive Shotgun, by Louis Awerbuck
The Ultimate Sniper, by Major John Plaster
Advanced Weapons Training for Hostage Rescue Teams, by Mark Lonsdale

Videos

Judicious Use of Deadly Force, with Massad Ayoob
Mental Conditioning for Combat, with Jeff Cooper
Handgun Basics, with Jeff Cooper
Tactical shotgun, with Jeff Cooper
Combat Marksmanship: Rifle Technique and Training, with Andy Stanford
Deadly Weapons, with Alex Jason
Deadly Force, with Alex Jason


About the Author

Andy Stanford is the director of Options for Personal Security, training and consulting business that teaches self-defense with the firearm, edged/impact weapons and empty hands. Stanford is a member of ASLET, IALEFL and the PMA. His extensive small-arms background includes graduation from numerous courses through Gunsite Training Center (expert ratings with rifle, pistol and shotgun), Lethal Force Institute, Yavapai Firearms Academy and International Training Consultants. He is also a serious student of Jeet Kune Do, a certified police unarmed defensive tactics and rape prevention instructor, and an alumnus of Riddle of Steel and other knife training sessions.
 

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"You talkin to me?"
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a long read but very informative :thumbsup: Popeye
 

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Ancient Gaseous Emanation
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There's a lot to cover and he just skimmed the surface.
 

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Dang lot of good info though!
 
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Good Sticky for the beginner and pro's
 

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Jesus Saves
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Makes me think we need to have education classes for all, reading - math - science.

If we taught children the importance of self responsibility, self protection, and everything else, we would live in a safer America.

We fail to teach what it means to be a responsible free nation. Freedom comes at a cost. When was the last time anyone ever heard of a curriculum that actually teaches what it means to be free? What it means to be responsible? (both individually and collectively)

Most realize that it is the intent of the government (primarily the libs) to keep us hidden from the true understanding of what it means to be free and the responsibilities that go along with it. Instead, they try to instill the ideology that government is what makes us free, allows us to be free, has the power to give us freedom and it is of no work of the individual. This ideology creates great divide within the USA. This divide puts the individuals who believe in freedom and its individual responsibilities against those who believe it is a governmental responsibility.

This division, is what liberty is all about. Those who allow government to provide freedom, are losing their liberty; while those who believe in individual freedom and understands it is their responsibility - understands what liberty is all about. Our forefathers understood this. Sadly, the individuals who accept the ideology of government imposed so called freedoms, are growing in numbers; why?

Although I believe there are a few good reasons, one major reason is the failure of our immigration procedures. We have many many who come to this great country who do not understand what freedom is and the responsibilities that go along with it. In order to become a citizen, you need a history lesson and memorize a few articles, but do they actually learn what it means. Do they understand that freedom without liberty is nonexistent? No. The USA is unique and as long as we fail to require a full understanding and participation in the works of freedom, we will continue to grow further away from the truth, it is our liberties that give us freedom.

Another reason is as I stated earlier, we fail to teach, educate our young these important truths.
 

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I've been involved with the martial arts for a very long time... Since I was a kid practicing jujitsu out of an ancient book I got out of the library back in the 50s.
I've been maintaining for some time that "gunfighting" or "combat shooting" was a martial art... Often annoying fellow members on martial arts forums who think it's just about picking up a gun and shooting the other guy.

Of special interest is the legal aspects of self-defense in general... Something many martial arts give short shrift to.
 

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land of the free so far.
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Hey good stuff especially about ballistic wounds. most people think that wam hes dead, but not so in most cases.
 
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Kind of brings to mind John Wick. That's the best movie I've seen in forever as far as handgun handling. The movie was kind of dull in the story, but the action was stellar.
 
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Here's some basic rules that I firmly believe in that may save your life someday.

Hope I don't offend by butting in here, but here goes:

The first rule of gunfighting is to be a gunfighter, with everything that entails.
Body, Mind, Spirit.

Is a gun a part of the equation?
Sure. But the smallest,least significant part of it.

Be a GunFighter.

Otherwise you are just a shooter.

What is a shooter without his gun?
Nothing.

The first rule of Unarmed Combat?
Never Be Unarmed!

FLc
 

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Here's some basic rules that I firmly believe in that may save your life someday.

Hope I don't offend by butting in here, but here goes:

The first rule of gunfighting is to be a gunfighter, with everything that entails.
Body, Mind, Spirit.

Is a gun a part of the equation?
Sure. But the smallest,least significant part of it.

Be a GunFighter.

Otherwise you are just a shooter.

What is a shooter without his gun?
Nothing.

The first rule of Unarmed Combat?
Never Be Unarmed!

FLc
I get your point and agree with it. I look at it slightly different in my thought process.

I am an ender. By that I mean, I don't like fighting. I hate it in fact. I realize that I am not the best fighter. I am too old and fragile compared to lots that are there. I hate knives and the thought of being cut scares me more than being shot. ( I know that's backwards but it's true). So a fight makes no sense to me. I am not going to participate. I am walking away.

Now the Ender part. I train. I train to be prepared. My goal is to simply end it as fast as possible. That is what I will do. That will be my reaction. No matter what I will end it in the fastest manner possible..... I am better than most with a gun and I can defend myself in hand to hand. At least long enough to end it.

Call me crazy but it is the mind set.
 
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