[Street Combat – This Ain’t No Game is a SurvivalBlog exclusive.]
No book or single chapter of a book can adequately teach a person gunfighting skills. In this chapter, I’m going to give you the basic concepts of close quarters combat shooting, or CQB as it’s commonly called. It is my sincere belief that there is no better method of deploying a handgun in a close quarters, self-defense situation than with the method known as Point Shooting.
If you’ll recall, in many of the war stories I have related to you, the distances involved were extremely close. FBI statistics prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that most gunfights take place at 21 feet or less, and in many cases the distance is “reach out and touch someone” close.
To be an effective all-around combat pistol shot, you MUST be trained in point shooting as well as aimed shooting. To lack either skill will allow a serious void in your handgun training. In this chapter, I’m only covering Point Shooting and Hip Shooting skills. There have already been enough books written on aimed shooting skills.
Before we get started, let me burst your bubble. If you’re waiting to discover the secrets of point shooting, well, there are none! Don’t hold your breath in hopes of learning something secret from the masters of point shooting. Those who know and teach point shooting have pretty well explained what they know about the subject in plain everyday English. There are no secrets!
You’ll see that the Applegate-Fairbairn method is probably the easiest to learn and retain. Depending upon your physical make-up, you may find one technique will work better for you than another. Martial artist John McSweeney teaches a method of point shooting that I call “The Swing”. Jim Wilson employs a method I refer to as “The Punch”. This is not to say one technique is better than another but only that dependent upon your own skill, dedication (which is important), and manual dexterity, you will find one technique more suitable and easier to learn than another.
In discussing point shooting with Col. Rex Applegate and studying his classic text– Kill or Get Killed, I learned the most basic problem students of point shooting have is a limp wrist. This is proven in the classes I hold on the subject. Most errors are traced to limp-wristing the handgun. When practicing point shooting, if you start seeing your hits scattered all over the target, the odds are that you are limp-wristing the gun. Lock that wrist and watch the groups tighten-up!
Another common problem you may run into is seeing your hits centered too low on the target. Simply stated, you are not raising your weapon high enough before completing your trigger pull. Another possible cause is that the weapon doesn’t fit your hand properly. With a revolver, another set of stocks (grips) may resolve the problem. With an autoloader, there is little you can do except to learn where you are naturally pointing your handgun and then adjust your wrist accordingly. This will take a certain amount of practice, but it can be done.
In discussing this problem with noted close quarters combat authorities Chuck Karwan and the late Col. Rex Applegate, both draw the same conclusion– different guns point differently! Another noted gun writer, Dave W. Arnold, who is also associate editor of HANDGUNS magazine, told me, “A gun MUST fit the hand.” Different sizes or types of grips (stocks) can help, so be advised.
If you have found a gun that fits your hand and points somewhat naturally for you and you’ve learned to lock your wrist, then let’s move on to another learning point. There seems to be some contention about either fully extending your shooting arm or not! I have seen shooters firing both ways, with slightly bent (but locked) or straight elbows. Whichever methods works best for you is the one to use. Practice is the key word here!
I teach a fully-extended elbow, as did Col. Rex Applegate, and so does Dave W. Arnold. Others, like (now retired) Sheriff Jim Wilson of Crockett County Texas and John McSweeney, teach a slightly bent elbow. Both techniques work! Find the one that works best for you and use it.
In the Applegate-Fairbairn method of point firing, the gun arm is lowered to a 45 degree angle from the ground and then brought up from the ground to fire. Other instructors/authorities teach that you should punch the gun arm straight out as in boxing and certain martial arts. I have no problem with either technique. Having an involvement in the martial arts for over 25 years, I realize the importance and accuracy of a good straight punch.
On the other hand, simply raising your hand and pointing your finger at an object also has its worth. I’m sure everyone remembers sitting in a classroom in school and fooling around, and then seeing the teacher slowly raise his/her hand and point a finger at you. It made no difference if you were seated in the front or back of the classroom; the finger was pointed at YOU! Practice both methods of getting your handgun on-target. Whichever one works best for you is the one to use. Applegate believed that you’ll learn easier and quicker raising the gun rather than punching it out. I tend to agree!
You will find, as you progress in your point shooting skills, that there are very few hard and fast rules that apply. One rule that should apply to everyone though is to use what works for you! Don’t worry about what certain gurus teach. If their way is the only way, I would suggest looking for another instructor.
Now that you have a gun that fits your hand, your wrist and elbow ( or a slightly bent elbow) are locked, let’s work our way up to the shoulder region. This part of your anatomy is often neglected. Your shoulder joint should be locked but not so locked as to prevent horizontal or lateral movement when needed. While firing, the shoulder joint should be locked and the upper and lower arm as well as the wrist should function and move as one unit in a manner something akin to an old fashion handle on a water pump, only moving up and down!
With arm, wrist, and shoulder locked together, now is the time to either simply raise the pistol to just below eye level or use the punch technique and simply punch your gun arm toward the target. Don’t throw your gun toward the target. This only works in the ole “B” westerns. Dave W. Arnold feels that timing of your trigger pull is the most important aspect of point shooting. Once on-target, the trigger pull is now completed immediately! Without hesitation, do it NOW!
Dave W. Arnold’s thought is that you don’t start your trigger pull after your gun comes on-target. Rather the trigger pull starts before getting on-target. John McSweeney and myself believe that you should be on-target prior to starting your trigger pull! Practice, and use what works best for you.
Before continuing on, I want to repeat what Dave Arnold told me in a phone conversation. He said, “Aimed shooting is ALWAYS better.” I couldn’t agree more with Dave. Please don’t misunderstand Arnold’s comment to mean that he favors aimed shooting over point shooting.
Such is NOT the case! Arnold simply means that when time and circumstances permit, an aimed shot is a much better route to take than a point shot. As any experienced point shooter will admit, aimed shots are not always possible due to distance, time, light conditions, et cetera.
After an initial exchange of gunfire, one should be looking for cover and/or concealment. Then aimed shots can be taken at the assailant. Make no mistake, during a close encounter of the deadliest kind, point shooting is what works and is what you will use if you are trained in its proper techniques. Dave Arnold states that from the draw, he can get off two shots using the point shooting method (at five meters) approximately 1/2 second faster than he can using the aimed technique. This can make the difference between who wins and who looses. To borrow from the late master gunfighter Bill Jordan, “There is no second place winner in a gunfight.”
I hate for anyone to use the term “expert”, as you’ll find I prefer the word “authority” over “expert”), but some self-appointed “experts” will tell you that you must use a different stance when point shooting. For that matter, I recently read an article by one of these experts, who claimed you must use a different stance when shooting a snub-nosed revolver in order to control recoil. That’s not true!
A good, natural stance with the feet spaced evenly and comfortably apart will get the job done. Some shooters prefer that one foot be advanced slightly in front of the other; others demand that the right foot is placed slightly forward of the left or vice-a-versa. Hey, whatever works best for you is the technique to use. If you’re not comfortable with your stance, you won’t shoot worth a plug nickel!
If you already don’t have a copy of the video Tactical Point Shooting (Vigilante Publishing, P.O. Box 592, Ontario, OR 97914) please be sure to obtain a copy. This video has myself, John McSweeney, and Sheriff Jim Wilson demonstrating the three different types of point shooting techniques discussed in this chapter. Plus, there are some interesting comments by Col. Rex Applegate.
Crouching! Some folks teach it, while others don’t. I personally don’t teach a forward crouch for the simple fact that you’ll crouch instinctively when the lead starts flying! There is nothing wrong with practicing a forward crouch, however. Col. Rex Applegate stresses the crouch in his text KILL OR GET KILLED, and I have no problem with that. Most of what I teach is based on the Applegate-Fairbairn method of point shooting. It worked for Fairbairn & Sykes with the Shanghai Municipal Police, and it worked for Applegate during WWII and afterward. Thousands of troops were trained by Applegate using this method, and untold hundreds or thousands of lives have been saved using this method!
A quick review of the 10 steps involved in the Applegate-Fairbairn Method of Point Shooting are in order:
- Select a handgun that fits your hand
- Replace the grips for a better fit (if necessary).
- Lock your wrist.
- Lock your elbow.
- Lock your shoulder.
- Get into a comfortable stance (for your own physical make-up).
- Either raise or punch your handgun toward the target.
- Trigger control.
- Seek cover, and then place aimed shots (if necessary).
- Follow-up if necessary.
John McSweeney, Prof. Bradley J. Steiner, and other point shooting authorities advocate the use of a full-length mirror as one of your training tools when practicing point shooting. Now, don’t go off and try to out-draw yourself in the mirror. Perhaps the late Bill Jordan could do it, but the rest of us can’t! In this section we’ll cover some training methods you can use at home to improve your point shooting skills. In addition to dry-firing, mirror work is probably the most important aspect of practice at home.
You will need to purchase at least a 3/4 length mirror. Get one large enough that you can see your entire body. A full-length mirror is even better. Mount it in a spot that permits enough room to draw your weapon and allows for various body movements.
John McSweeney advocates that your initial dry-fire practice should last 15 minutes per day for the first month or so. Live-fire practice should take place at least two times per month with a minimum of 50 rounds fired. After your first month of dry-fire, you can taper off to two or three times a month for the rest of the year. After that, practice dry-fire once a month for 15 minutes.
So, given the above time frame and with a little practice, you’ll become a much better point shooter than the average police officer, who only aim fires his gun during the annual or semi-annual qualification course. To quote Sheriff Jim Wilson, “If you want to become good, you should practice; if you want to stay alive, you’d better practice.”
Now that you have set up a practice schedule, you’ll need to plan exactly what you’ll be practicing. As already mentioned, don’t try to outdraw yourself! The first thing you should do is practice either punching your gun forward or the Applegate method of simply raising (remember the KISS principle– Keep It Simple, Stupid) the gun from the low, “ready” position. Look at where the gun’s muzzle is pointed. Is it pointed at your mid-section or toward your kneecap? Is your wrist locked or limp? Remember, a limp wrist is the major cause of errors in point shooting (and aimed shooting as well). A limp wrist will bind up most autoloaders, causing a serious malfunction that may take several life-threatening seconds to correct.
Focus your attention on yourself in the mirror, not on your gun! Martial artists teach you to focus all your attention on your intended target, not on your own fist or foot. If you are focusing your attention on your target, you’ll find that your gun will be pointing at that target.
Learn where your particular handgun points. Does it point naturally for you, or is it a gun that points too low or too high? Remember Dave Arnold’s comments earlier about grip replacement. It can definitely aid when using a revolver or less so when using a semiautomatic handgun. By the way, I’m NOT a big fan of most rubber grips on guns. They don’t allow you to adjust your grip when indexing your gun. The rubber grips made my Michaels of Oregon (P.O. Box 1690, Oregon City, OR 97045 503-557-0536) are the exception. If you take a hold that is too low or too high with most rubber grips, you won’t be able to adjust your grip without reholstering or using your other hand to hold the gun.
Now that you have been focusing on bring your gun on-target, you should begin practicing trigger control. Remember, Dave Arnold states that trigger control is THE MOST IMPORTANT aspect of point shooting! Arnold is a world-class shooter and spent 18 years with the elite British South Africa Police force in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). While with the BSAP, he was with the counter-insurgency service commanding anti-terrorist units against guerrillas. By the way, Arnold’s book– Shoot A Handgun – should be in your library. It is available from PVA Books, P.O. Box 2216, Canyon Country, CA 91351. (You may write for details on cost and shipping).
Noted point shooting authority John McSweeney states that your trigger pull should start when the gun is brought on-target and NOT BEFORE OR AFTER it reaches the target! Again, I agree with McSweeney. McSweeney and I are personal friends as well as professional associates. McSweeney and I recently co-authored a book entitled SWAT Battle Tactics, available from Paladin Press. I know and respect McSweeney, both as a point shooting instructor and also as a martial artist, since he introduced karate to Ireland. While some of our techniques are different, both have the same end results!
Okay, now that your gun is coming on-target and you have mastered your trigger pull, what’s next? Glad you asked. You did ask, didn’t you? Good! Practice stepping off with both feet. No, not at the same time! First practice stepping toward your target with your right foot and then your left. Practice facing your target square on, with your feet evenly spaced apart and on the same plain. Keep both knees slightly bent (as in any style of martial arts) at all times. Practice stepping back with one foot and then the other. To a practiced shooter, distance is on your side. If possible (unless backed into a corner), you should try to put as much distance between yourself and any deadly threat.
It’s getting easier isn’t it? Your wrist, elbow, and shoulder are locked; you’re punching or raising your gun on-target. Your stance is looking good, and that trigger control seems to work. You can move in and out at will. That’s all there is to it, right? Nope, afraid not! Your upper torso should act as a turret, and you should be able to swing your upper body toward the right or left without moving your feet. Okay, this is where many folks run into a problem. They tend to swing the gun arm right or left instead of swinging their entire upper torso toward their target. Sure, some master exhibition shooters, like McGivern, Beegle, Cox, Topperwein, and others, would swing their gun arms toward their target and make consistent hits. The average (and aren’t most of us average, even if we don’t like to admit it) shooter simply can’t swing just their arm with a gun in it and have it stop where they want. You need to swing your entire upper body.
The question comes up from time to time regarding use of the two-handed hold when point shooting. I teach the use of a two-handed hold, but I stress the one-handed hold. A two-handed hold is usually used from the low, ready position and NOT from the draw (at least in my method). The two-handed hold is not very conducive to the punch out method of point shooting, although there is one instructor out there who teaches students to punch-out from the two-handed hold. Try it for yourself. Does it work? I didn’t think so! What you may want to do is practice punching out with the one-handed hold, placing your initial hits using this method of point shooting. Then, bring your other hand into play and go into an isoceles stance. This is advocated by Dave Arnold, and I have tried it; it works! Although, be advised; this technique is NOT for the beginner. It takes time, patience, and practice!
Make no mistake, with enough practice, just about anything is possible with point shooting. The two-handed hold, punch out method will work with enough practice! Practice is the key word here. How much practice are you willing to put into your point shooting skills? If the two-handed, punch-out method is what you want to use, go right ahead and do it, but remember to practice.