Shooting Multiple Pistols for Improvement in All

There is a popular belief across many segments of society that you should specialize in one thing, and do that thing well.  That is why pediatricians don’t do spinal surgery, and plumbers don’t build sun rooms.  At the same time, within any specialization, having a variety of skills can lead one to revelations that lead to improvements in the other skills in that set.  Hence, a home builder learns to build swimming pools, which leads to improvements in how he designs slab foundations. You can be over-specialized.

Shooting pistols works the same way.  If a person’s experience is limited to one gun, they have not experienced the wide variety of trigger pulls, grips, and recoil that exist across the spectrum.  Learning those differences can be crucial to your development as a shooter.  Triggers are especially problematic, as there are so many variations extant, involving take-up, hard break (crisp), soft break (ramp), stacking, and over-travel.  When you have experienced several of these, you will become more sensitive to the actual role of the trigger in the process, as well as what you have to do to manage it efficiently.  That leads to greater adaptability and flexibility in shooting.  In terms of defensive shooting, it also leads to greater speed, as you will be better able to coordinate acquiring a sight-picture, hold control, and trigger control.  Each new pistol I learn to shoot makes me better with all of them.

However, while owning several pistols is nice (some would say inevitable), it is not necessary.  Most commercial gun ranges have pistols for rent (for use at the range), sometimes dozens of them.  Pick out a few different models, from different manufacturers, and rent one every two weeks.  See what effect this has on your original gun.  You may find something else that suits your style better.

Marksmanship for Self-Defense

Here is the scenario: you are at a gas station late at night, or maybe in a parking garage or downtown parking lot.  You see someone running straight for you at full speed.  He may be on the run from police, but he wants your car keys, and will club you or kill you to get them, whatever it takes.  You draw your carry gun, but have just seconds to stop the threat.

Flash back to your training.  You are standing at a range, aiming at a paper target that never moves.  You want to hit that X in the middle, about the size of a dime.  You know how the sights work: the front post needs to be in the middle of the notch, the tops level.  If you are off by a hair’s width, and/or don’t work the trigger smoothly, you will miss the X by 2-4 inches, more if it is a shorter gun.  You struggle to relax, clarify your vision, pause your breathing, keep the alignment, squeeze the trigger.  Something get out of sync, so you start over.  Now you’ve been aiming for 30 seconds, and your arm muscles start to shake.  You stop, shake it off, start over.  Finally, the stars align, you make the shot, and miss the X by one inch.  That is still very good.  Success!

Success?  Not really.  Flash forward to your crisis situation.  You don’t have to hit the 3rd button on his shirt (if you can even see it) to ruin his day, and you don’t have 60 seconds to do it.  This is the real world, and you may have only 2 seconds to save your life.  If you have not learned flash-sighting or point-shooting, do that now, before you need it.

The aiming described above is more suited to competitive target shooting than to self defense.  The fact is that most self defense shooting happens at 3-4 yards, the attacker doesn’t have an X on his chest, and half of your skills will evaporate, anyway.  While accuracy is important, the perfect shot you don’t have time to make is useless, compared to the shots you do make, that hit him anywhere.

Flash-sighting is based on simple geometry.  At a short distance (3-4 yards), if you can see the front post anywhere in the notch, you will hit a human-sized target.  Even 4 inches off is still a hit.  Start with the pistol at eye level, and push straight out.  That gives you at least 1/2 second advantage in lining up the sights just to the point that you can see the front post anywhere in the rear notch.  As soon as you can see that level of alignment, fire.  Immediately re-acquire the target and fire again.  Most ranges won’t allow you to draw from a holster, so lay the gun on the bench, in the same condition it would be carried (decocked, safety on, etc.).  Using the stopwatch on your phone, or with a friend timing you, see how fast you can grab the gun, get a flash picture, and put two shots on a B-27 target at 3 yards.  Your goal is 3 seconds.

Point-shooting is even more meat-ball.  That is for even closer contact, 2 yards or less, where you don’t have time to even bring the gun to eye level.  If you have a proper grip, the thumb on your shooting hand should be parallel to the ground.  Point the gun at the target using your thumb as a guide.

Both of these techniques need to be practiced extensively.  If you have them in your “toolbox”, you can feel more confidant in a crisis situation.