Street Combat – This Ain’t No Game! – Part 6b of 9, by Pat Cascio

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Hip Shooting

Whoa, partner! Before everyone starts firing letters off to me protesting that hip shooting isn’t point shooting, give me (and others) the benefit of the doubt! You have to admit that leveling a gun at someone from just above your holster isn’t exactly aimed shooting, is it? Neither is it exactly what we call point shooting. None the less, the technique is worth mentioning, as it does work in the tightest of combat situations. When your opponent is directly in front of you just about face-to-face or, worse yet, is face-to-face with you, you can’t draw and fully extend your arm, can you? I didn’t think so!

Now, there are some of those self-proclaimed “experts” out there who will claim that hip shooting doesn’t work, either. Well, God bless ’em, I guess they will never get into a situation where their assailant is right on top of them. In suppose that in the unlikely event this does happen, they’ll simply ask their assailant to step back so they can level their gun at them. Sure! If you’ve practiced point shooting for even a small amount of time as outlined above, you’ll have to agree the techniques described work!

You must purchase the video Shooting For Keeps. It’s available from Wells Creek Knife and Gun Works, 32956 State Hwy #38, Scottsburg, OR 97473 (541) 587-4202. This video was produced by Applegate and Paladin Press. It is must viewing for any serious point shooting fan. It puts to rest any misconceptions regarding the use of point shooting at close range.

Make no mistake, hip shooting is for contact distance, except for the rare professional, like the late Bill Jordan. If you can reach out and touch your opponent, then hip shooting is the only way to go. If your assailant is beyond contact distance, then point shooting is in order.

Depending on your skill level at point shooting and the distance involved, aimed shooting may be in order. Remember Dave Arnold’s comment that “aimed shooting is always better.” Of course, there will be those of you who will take Arnold’s comments out of context and claim that aimed shooting is the only worthwhile method of engaging a threat. If you missed Arnold’s comments about point shooting at the beginning of this chapter, go back now and read them!

In my discussion with Dave Arnold on point shooting, the topic of hip shooting did come up. Dave feels, as most professionals do, that hip shooting does have its place when your life is on the line, that being up close, contact distance. I know we have all seen the TV and movie westerns, where both good and bad guys simply leveled their guns at their intended target (living or inanimate) and fired, hitting them with regularity. That was only in “reel” life, NOT in real life!

There are two trains of thought regarding what constitutes hip shooting, and both are correct. No, I’m not getting wishy-washy on the subject. It’s just that both methods work, and both can be considered hip shooting. Many state police and local police departments still train (good for them) that you can draw your gun from the holster and place it directly on top of the holster, leveled at the threat. This cannot be anything but hip shooting, as the gun rests directly next to your hip.

Another technique that works is that the gun extends ever so slightly in front of the holster, just barely in front of your body. This technique also works.

Either of the above techniques work with a revolver; however, when using an autoloader, there is one slight change you MAY want to make. When firing an autoloader, the slide moves back and forth (as it is supposed to) if the gun is working properly. When this happens, the slide may contact your clothing and can result in a malfunction! You don’t need this in a gunfight. One technique I teach is to slightly cant or tilt your gun to the right, if you are a right-handed shooters, or slightly toward the left, if you’re a left-handed shooter. By doing this, the slides’ movement will clear your body and any loose clothing you may have on, like a coat, vest, or sweatshirt. Additionally, this allows empty shell casings to eject cleanly away from your body and will avoid any casings falling back into the gun’s action, thus tying it up with a major malfunction.

As mentioned earlier, distance is on the side of a trained gunman. If possible, back pedal from your threat, thus extending the gunplay distance and putting the advantage on your side. If you can safely do this, then hip shooting may not be necessary. Of course, there is always the “X” factor that you must expect in any situation. You may already be in a corner, against a wall, against a car or other unmovable object where you can’t backpedal.

Oh, you there. Yeah, the one who doesn’t believe hip shooting works. How do you propose to fire your gun now that you can’t extend your arm? Humm? That’s what I thought. You’ll simply ask your assailant to back up just a bit so you can fully extend your arm and take an aimed shot at them. Sure! If you believe this idiot’s line of thought, then I have some gorgeous oceanfront property for sale in Oklahoma; give me a call; I finance!

I know. It sounds like I’m getting silly from lack of sleep. Believe me, it’s no sillier than the man who doesn’t learn or practice point and hip shooting. If you honestly believe point shooting doesn’t work, then don’t bother reading any further, and please don’t waste your time carrying a handgun for protection of self or others.

Those of you who grew up in the 1950’s (like I did) will recall the TV series The Untouchables, starring Robert Stack as Prohibition Agent Eliot Ness. I don’t think a week went by when Ness didn’t get into one or two running gunfights, always coming out on top. The truth is that during his career in Chicago, Ness only recorded firing his handgun twice. That’s right, he fired just twice in the line of duty, missing both times! Don’t take my word for it. Get a copy of the book, The Untouchables by Eliot Ness himself and read it. While Ness did get into some hairy situations and could have used his gun more often, he didn’t.

You’re probably wondering where all this is leading. Ness’ training came from FBI ace Alexander Jamie, who was his brother-in-law. Ness became an expert shot at the Chicago Police pistol range. Now, folks in those days (at least in Chicago) weren’t trained in the point shooting method. Ness was trained in the use of aimed shooting, yet Ness missed both times he used deadly force! Would he have done any better using point shooting? I can’t say, and neither can anyone else. The point is that even expert shots tutored in aimed shooting miss their intended targets.

Statistics

Statistics prove that police officers involved in gunfights miss their intended targets at least 75% of the time! I know, some police departments have a higher hit ratio, but I’m taking a nationwide average, as reported to me by Col. Rex Applegate prior to his death. Applegate was known as the world’s leading authority on riot control, close combat handgun training, and probably without a doubt was the master of knife fighting. I, as well as many others, respect his findings, and much of what I read in the gun and law enforcement magazines back up these statistics.

Most gunfights take place within 21 feet (or less) and in dark or low-light conditions– when you can’t see your sights, anyway. Remember my story about shooting a burglar? It was very dark! This is when point or hip Shooting will pay off. I know, some of you are screaming that the use of tritium night sights aid in low-light or dark condition. I agree, to a slight degree! I would venture to say that most folks who have night sights installed on their handguns NEVER fire their guns in low-light or dark conditions. I can speak from the viewpoint of a firearms’ instructor.

Folks (police officers included) have attended some of my Tactical Handgun courses that require a night shoot. Those who have night sights installed on their guns can see their sights just fine. The only problem is, they can’t see their intended target! Their focus is fixed on the glowing front and rear sights; they are forever seen looking over their sights to locate their target, which is time consuming and deadly!

Don’t get me wrong; night sights have their use and are best used in low-light situations, when one has the time to take that all-important aimed shot. Most gunfights take place at up close, contact range in low-light conditions and with unexpected speed.

Will you have time to focus on your night sights and then locate your target? I doubt it! Given the above situation and circumstances, point or hip shooting is what works. Make no mistake about it.

Gunfighting History:

I find it almost impossible to believe that the gunmen of the past used aimed fire in anything except long distant shooting or carefully laid ambushes. Anyone remotely familiar with “antique” or old firearms’ design will readily agree that the sights on these firearms are akin to threading a needle or finding the proverbial needle in the haystack. To say that these sights are crude is putting it politely. Even some of the sights found on modern handguns are lacking in a usable sight picture.

Researching hundreds of Old West Gunfighters in Bill O’Neals’ classic text, Encyclopedia Of Western Gunfighters, one can conclude that very few gunfighters used their sights when lead starting flying. The one notable exception that stands out among all the rest is Wyatt Earp, who said, “The most important lesson I learned was the winner of gunplay usually was the one who took his time. The second was that, if I hoped to live on the frontier, I would shun flashy trick-shooting as I would poison.” At first look, it seems that Wyatt Earps’ words should be heeded. Still, further research into Earp’s career and a careful examination of his gunfights reveal some historical (little known) facts that many are not aware of. One of those facts are that there are zero killings directly attributed to Earp in his illustrious career as a lawman!

O’Neal records that controversial Old West figure, Wyatt Earp, was involved in four gunfights with no (read zero) killings recorded. Additionally, Earp “may” have been involved in five “possible” killings or assists! These possible killings were more than likely ambushes and the victims waylaid by Earp and/or unknown cohorts. Further reading into Earp’s largely fictitious life can be had by reading Dan L. Thrapps’ book(s) Encyclopedia of Frontier Biography. Both Thrapp and O’Neal are respected authors. Still, more importantly, they are historians who thoroughly research their material. Thrapp and O’Neal research old newspaper articles, county records and well-researched and authenticated books.

Looking back at Earp’s initial comments now, you may want to take what he said with a grain of salt. While Wyatt “may” have been fast on the draw and slow to shoot using aimed fire his real life records as opposed to the “reel” life exploits are quite another story. Take it for what it’s worth.

While it is true that many a man was gunned down in the Old West, many recorded gunfights simply didn’t take place the way Hollywood would lead you to believe. Many gunfights were nothing more than carefully laid ambushes or cold-blooded murders! Obviously, careful, aimed fire was employed during such goings-on. Recorded history reveals to us that most of the gunfights were not really gunfights. They were murders, or worse yet the victim was set up and the cards were stacked against them.

With court systems the way they were in frontier times, it is no wonder that so many men literally got away with murder! For the most part, most of the municipal and county judges had little or no training in the legal system. Many gunfights were a result of feuds between families or personal conflicts between individuals. When a corpse was found lying in the street or along the trail, everyone pretty much knew who did the killing. Sympathetic sheriffs and coroners usually ruled it a justifiable killing and no charges were brought against the murderer.

O’Neal describes close to 600 gunfights in his book. This is not to say these were the only shooting scrapes that occurred in the Old West, far from it! These reported gunfights are some of the more famous ones; they involved characters like the Earps, John Hardin, John Selman, Dallas Stoudenmire, Billy The Kid, Doc Holliday, Heck Thomas, and so forth. Many chance meetings in saloons, streets, on the trail, or other out of the way locations resulted in a goodly number of gunfights.

A chance meeting is pretty much what most police officers and civilians will run into today on our troubled streets, at the workplace, and at home. It would be nice if we could anticipate when a gunfight (and that’s what they are) will take place. We would all get inside an armored vehicle and shoot the largest firearm possible. Unfortunately, real life isn’t so simple. A chance meeting taking place, as Bill Jordan so aptly titled his book– No Second Place Winner is what happens in a real gunfight! You don’t come in second in a gunfight; you must prevail and come out first. As most chance meetings take place at extremely close range (21 feet or less), there simply isn’t time to draw your weapon, take a steady aim, and squeeze off that round. No! A chance meeting usually involves low-light, apprehension, surprise, close-in contact distances, and other “X” factors. Point shooting is what worked then, during change meetings, and it is what works today!

Col. Rex Applegate recalled several incidents during his tenure in Mexico and Central America (after WWII) when his life was on the line. Not wanting to reveal any details and respecting Applegate’s privacy, I will not go into any confidentiality here. Suffice to say, Applegate was involved in several gunfights, and he survived them! What worked? It was point shooting, of course!

Some of today’s self-appointed experts talk about tunnel vision, tachy-psyche effect, and other psychological things that take effect when you are involved in a gunfight. However, having been involved in such things as has many others (Applegate included), I can honestly say they didn’t experience any of the described effects. While I’m sure such things do occur, I largely believe much of this is a result of police administrators hype!

Remorse is another thing that you are supposed to feel when you shoot someone. Well, that’s fine and dandy, if you really do feel that way. It’s also fine and dandy if you feel invigorated because you bested the other man and you are alive because of it! Self-defense situations are just that; they are self defense. You didn’t bring it on, you tried to avoid it, but the other person caused their own death because of their actions. In effect, he killed himself, and you were simply the vehicle that brought this about.

The book Unrepentant Sinner, written by Col. Charles Askins, chronicles his career over half a century in law enforcement and in the military. In the good Colonel’s book, it seems like he is killing someone every other page or so. While Askins may have his detractors (especially in the Texas law enforcement community), he none-the-less is famous for the many gunfights in which he participated. While many of Askins’ battles took place in circumstances that allowed use of the sights, just the same, he had close encounters of the unfriendly kind that called for a fast draw and use of point shooting methods.

Real Pioneers:

Captains W.E. Fairbairn and E.A. Sykes wrote a dandy little book entitled Shooting To Live (Paladin Press, P.O. Box 1307, Boulder, CO 80306 303-443-7250) that details point shooting. For those of you new to the shooting fraternity, Fairbairn was the late Assistant Commissioner of the Shanghai Municipal Police force and Sykes was the late Officer in Charge of Sniper Units with the same police force. Shanghai was touted as the toughest city in the world in the 1930’s. Its streets were ruled by gangs, rapists, terrorists, kidnapers, and every kind of scum you can think of. It kind of sounds like any metropolitan city in America today, doesn’t it?

By their own actual records, both Fairbairn and Sykes were in over 200 incidents where violent close combat occurred. Their training techniques and methods were further proved in the Commando and Special Intelligence branches of both the British and United States services in WWII. These men had actually seen the elephant and lived to tell about it, and they hadn’t done it just once or twice but hundreds of times! Their methods were adopted, and improved upon, by Col. Rex Applegate and taught to the OSS during WWII. Applegate didn’t obtain his standing in the military and law enforcement communities by heaping poor training on the troops and law officers. No, these methods and techniques worked then, and they still work today.

One fairly obscure and long out-of-print text entitled Triggernomentry by Eugene Cunningham was brought to my attention by Applegate. Eugene Cunningham had the opportunity to personally interview some of the Old West gunfighters while writing his book. I was surprised to find that slapping leather (fast draw) did actually take place more than we are led to believe. Six-shooters were held at hip level, and shots were accurately delivered, time and time again by a method of point shooting. Cunningham’s 30 odd years of listening and study and nine years of writing and revising has afforded him a position of a western historian and outstanding authority on the subject of Old West gunfights. Cunningham’s research only mirrors that of Thrapp and O’Neal, with the exception of going into greater detail on certain gunfighters.

I could recount other numerous gunfights that took place where the winner was the one who used point shooting. However, I would be redundant. Obtain the books (and videos) I mentioned in this chapter, read for yourself about real gunfights. Rarely, very rarely, will you read about the “winner” taking a “bead” or using aimed shooting in a gunfight. If you want to survive a gunfight, you’d better learn point shooting. I have to agree with Dave Arnold that “aimed shooting is always better” (when you can use it).

I want to include some comments I received from Dave Arnold that were used in my book, Put ‘Em Down With Point Shooting, because I believe they are important to you, the reader.

Arnold’s Comments:

“Two additional points I must make, which I discussed on the phone (with you). First, the point shooting method I use, except where the gun is discharged from hip level at very close range, is little different from my aimed shooting style!

The gun is pushed out at shoulder level; the only difference being that I am looking at the target, not at the sights. To aim, all I do is drop my head and the sights come into view. The value of this method is that it supplements aimed shooting by having the gun and sights pretty much on target. So, if you do aim, the sights are pretty much lined up, because you have practiced point shooting.

The other point I must make is that I believe it is possible to aim at close quarters, especially if you are not surprised and know that you are about to be involved in a shooting. SWAT teams are a good example, because they know they are going into a possible shooting. I think you also can aim if you have the drop on an assailant.

Point shooting works best at close range when you are surprised and cannot use the sights because of poor light.

If you can aim, however, then do so, as this is the best way to go. Don’t become tied down and say I have to point shoot because I am only four yards from my attacker and I have to aim because I am 10 yards away. Use whatever is best under the circumstances.

Point shooting is only part of my flexible approach to combat shooting, namely being able to shoot effectively from a variety of positions, which means being able to use one hand and also point shoot, if needed. Hope this helps.” – Dave Arnold

Author’s Comments:

In regard to the legendary and oftentimes controversial, Wyatt Earp, I have some comments. While much has been written about Earp, one point that Dave Arnold brought up in one of our phone conversation is this. While some detractors feel much of Earp’s claim to fame is pure hype, it must be brought to the reader’s attention that Earp was good friends with the likes of legendary (and respectable) lawmen like Heck Thomas and Bill Tilghman. Surely these credible characters of the Old West wouldn’t have associated with the likes of Earp had there not been a great deal of truth to Earp’s escapades!

I believe that Wyatt Earp probably faced down many of his opponents in gunfights or would-be gunfights. Remember, earlier in this book that I mentioned the intimidation factor of a firearm as well as the willingness to use it. Earp probably fell into this category and intimidated many of his would-be killers, and they backed down!

Before closing this chapter, I want to mention holsters and ammunition for your self-defense handgun. No handgun is of any worth if it isn’t properly carried on your person and loaded with the proper ammunition. You can’t rely on the old Tex-Mex method of carrying a handgun in your waistband. Nor should you trust your handgun to a pant or coat pocket. A good holster is a must!

You are reading this because you wanted to hear my recommendations about street combat and how to survive deadly encounters. So, I reckon you are also interested in knowing about the gear I use. So, with that said, here it goes.

I can purchase and use just about any type of holster out there. Some are real cheap and others are overly priced (in my opinion). What I carry most of my handguns in are holsters by Michaels of Oregon “Uncle Mike’s.” I’ve already listed their address and phone number above. I want to mention that I am not paid to endorse their products. They do send me their products for testing and evaluation. I have found that they have a holster to suite just about all of my needs. The best part is that their holsters (and accessories) are very reasonably priced and last a very long time.

As to ammunition, there’s an unlimited variety to pick and choose from. You can get anything from low-priced surplus ammo for practice to high-priced custom ammo. All of my self-defense needs are met by a small ammunition manufacturer– Black Hills Ammunition, P.O. Box 3090, Rapid City, SD 57709 (605) 348-5150. Black Hills is owned and operated by Jeff Hoffman. Jeff is a former law enforcement officer, and he knows what is needed in a self-defense round.

All of my self-defense guns are stoked with Black Hills Ammunition. Compared to some of the other lines of ammo, Black Hills is priced right, too. You get personalized service, good prices, and reliable ammo. What more can you ask for?

Now, while there’s many other holster and ammunition companies out there, I have chosen to list only Michaels of Oregon and Black Hills Ammunition because these are the products I use on a regular basis. Other companies offer similar products, and their quality is top-notch as well, but for my money it’s tough to beat Michaels of Oregon for holsters and Black Hills Ammunition for price and quality.

Remember, this is Street Combat – This Ain’t No Game!

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