MARCH 18, 2014

Guest Editorial: Combative Movement

Before I proceed let me be clear . . .movement in conflict is beneficial and will help you prevail! I say this as I do not want to be misunderstood by people wanting to raise their own profile on line by picking apart sections of this article and not looking at its totality. This article is intended to create critical thought on a topic that is important to self- preservation if done correctly. Movement in combat is considered an "advanced" technique by many trainers and institutions, but if you watch videos of people involved in armed conflict...both participants and innocent bystanders's something that happens automatically. People seem to comprehend if bullets are flying you don't want to be there! That said the concept of participant movement in a gunfight is not a new concept. Wyatt Earp discussed it during a newspaper interview late in his life..." I was a Deputy U.S. Marshal at the O.K. Corral fight, so I was coming forward and they was usually going back. You shoot straighter coming forward!" Earp is right and those who have been trained in the technique realize shooting on the move works best when moving straight ahead. You can shoot both fast and accurate, something that is not the case when moving back or laterally. In order to hit with a level of incapacitative accuracy in any direction other than straight ahead, the movement becomes so slow that using it to avoid being shot is just wishful thinking. Don't think so? Just watch the nation's best shooters use the technique during a match and ask yourself "would I be moving at a speed that would allow me to save my own life?" Such wishful thinking can also be applied to other forms of "tactical" movement. A recent example would be a female police officer I had in one of my classes. She had been taught that anytime she was not shooting she was to be moving. Since she had been trained to do this on a crowded firing line her movement while she drew her gun, reloaded or cleared a malfunction looked more like a tree swaying in the wind. This minimal motion also slowed her manipulations way down...something like 3 seconds to do a simple magazine exchange or 10 seconds to clear a stoppage. When I called this to her attention her response was "movement will keep you from getting shot, thus I continue to move!" I guess it comes down to what is considered useful movement. The more I have considered shooting while moving, the more I have come down on the side of shooting then moving/moving then shooting. I have been studying armed conflict my entire adult life, interviewing many people who have been in armed conflict. I also have a few of my own experiences to draw on and I have come to the conclusion with the exception of a forward attack, we should probably be shooting accurately or moving quickly if we want to prevail. Such movement needs to be dynamic, aggressive, rapid or speedy...which ever word helps anchor the concept in your just moving back and forth or in a circle will not work and teaching such movement while leading shooters to believe they will avoid incoming fire is a deadly training scar. While movement in combat is situationally dependent I believe there are three primary reasons for doing so: 1. Moving dynamically until you are prepared to deliver accurate outgoing fire of the quality that will incapacitate the person trying to kill you. 2. Move to a location where you cannot the seen. While true cover would be the best option, being hidden from your attacker's field of view is certainly useful. 3. Remove ourselves from the kill zone completely. This said reality sucks as you might be standing in a location that will not allow movement...a cop standing in a crowded living room, an armed citizen between two cars in a parking lot (FYI...I had a mugger once tell me this was his favorite position for his victims) or a member of an entry team moving down a hallway. These situations would require stand and fight, run away or attack in the classic shooting on the move forward technique. There is no way to know what the correct choice is until it is taken. Dynamic, aggressive movement is both a technique and a tactic and must be used without hesitation to work. What we have known since the days of the Spartans is the person who can adapt to the unfolding situation fastest is the one who will likely prevail! Aggressive movement is part of this adaptation as it gives additional time and time is life! Is there a place for the minimal movement I described earlier? Yes, it is a training tool to begin the process of learning how to move while running your gun. Lateral side steps while drawing, moving back and forth on the line while reloading and other related skills are the initial stages of teaching movement in conflict but they are not the end technique. For this technique to become a tactic, movement must accomplish an end goal, not just be something that makes you feel "tactical". -- Dave Spaulding Dave Spaulding is a retired law enforcement officer with 36 years of law enforcement and private security experience. A graduate of many of the nation's premier firearms training courses, he is also the author of over 1,000 articles that have appeared in newsstand gun magazines and law enforcement trade journals. He is the owner and chief instructor for Handgun Combatives LLC , a training concern that focuses on "the combative application of the handgun." Handgun Combatives