During a defensive confrontation the purpose of shooting is to stop the threat. To stop the threat you need to hit “vital” areas, shifting zones on the target – center mass of the chest, pelvis or head – until the desired results are achieved. You shoot until the threat is down, leaves or you get the opportunity to leave. Once the situation gets to the point of shooting -- it’s all about accuracy.
How much accuracy do you need? It depends on the situation. Accuracy means when the trigger is pressed you hit your intended target. It may be a large target at close range – an “easy” shot. It could be a smaller target – part of the head – at extended distances, or the chest at fifty yards. Distance and size of the target dictate the accuracy necessary.
How fast can you fire? That’s mandated by the accuracy required. You fire on close, large targets fairly fast and still get the placement needed. As distance increases, and or size of the target decreases the speed you shoot at will slow down. The goal of shooting is to hit; it’s not about the speed you’re firing at.
Application of the fundamentals - Aim, Hold, Press and Follow-through – is required to get a hit. Michael Plaxco – a competitive shooter – states it clearly in his work Shooting from Within: Accuracy is the base for a practical pistol education. Without it, you will never progress to the higher levels. An inability to fire an accurate shot on demand will hold you back in mastering every other skill you need to acquire.
You should focus on marksmanship, developing the ability to shoot accurately before progressing into tactics. It won’t matter how efficient you can draw if you can’t make the hit once the pistol is in hand. Using cover is a fundamental defensive skill, but it may not stop the threat’s attack. When I was younger you learned how to shoot accurately, usually using a .22 rifle, before graduating into pistol shooting. Today, especially with a lot of people getting into firearms at a later age, shooters try to bypass the basics. As Plaxco said, the foundation for your education is accuracy.
One must learn how to apply the fundamentals with basic equipment prior to acquiring specialized weapons or gear. Technology will not make up for an unstable foundation. After learning the basics you can move into more “exotic” equipment. Without a solid understanding of the basics you’ll never rise to the level of skill desired.
If you don’t understand the fundamentals – again: Aim, Hold, Press and Follow-through – you should seek out training from a qualified instructor. There’s a lot more to it than just “aiming ‘n shooting.” The basics are not instinctual; these are skills you can’t learn on your own. After receiving the proper instruction it’s time for practice, and plenty of it. In fact, accuracy is something you work on for the rest of your life. Shooting accurately is something very few people master, but with instruction and practice you can improve, striving towards excellence. Just keep in mind in the beginning the learning curve is steep; everything is new and improves your ability. As you progress the curve begins to flatten out, but as long as there’s progress you should be happy. If progress halts, or you begin to notice a decline it might be time to get more instruction.
Shooting is fun, plus it is be a lifesaving skill. So enjoy the journey, but don’t ever become complacent. Shooting accurately, hitting the target every time is even more enjoyable, and creates the confidence required to make the hit when lives depend on your performance.
Tiger McKee is director of Shootrite Firearms Academy, located in northern Alabama. He is the author of The Book of Two Guns, AR-15 Skills and Drills, featured on GunTalk’s DVD, “Fighting With The 1911 and has regular columns in Gun Digest and American Handgunner.