OCTOBER 26, 2021

Skill Set: Follow Through for Defense

The fundamentals of firing an accurate shot are, Aim, Hold, Press and Follow-through. Obviously, stance, grip and all these things are fundamentals. After all that is established, it’s time to acquire a sight picture, hold steady and apply smooth pressure to the trigger. The shot fires. Now, it’s time to follow-through: Recover from the recoil, acquire another sight picture and reset the trigger.

Follow-through is an element of accuracy. For example, if you anticipate the weapon’s recoil in an attempt to control the force it won’t be an accurate hit. “Anticipation” causes you to apply counter force before the bullet exits the barrel. Concentrate on recovering from the recoil as efficiently as possible, which begins after the shot.

You “press” the trigger to fire. To fire again the trigger has to travel forward, resetting the internal components of the semi-auto in order to fire again. How this “release” is accomplished is a subject of debate among shooters. (If interested, I’m sure you’ll find plenty about this on the ‘net.) I teach a controlled reset. Trigger finger controls the movement forward, only allowing as much movement as necessary to reset the internals. This prevents having to take out additional “slack” on the trigger to fire the next round. Maintaining physical contact with the trigger also sets up another smooth press, as opposed to a slap or jerk.

Follow-through also prepares you to fire the “next” round. While recovering from the recoil, and resetting the trigger – eventually both at the same time - you’re concentrating on acquiring another sight picture on target. You should be watching, seeing or focused on the front sight before, during and after the shot. Get out of the habit of trying to see the hit. The threat is three-dimensional, wearing clothing and moving; you’re not going to be able to see the hit. Instead, you’re looking for results. Has it stopped the threat?

The goal when forced to fire is stopping the threat. This might mean they decide to withdraw or retreat. Which is your opportunity to withdraw and retreat, too. It may be necessary for you to physically disable them. The body of a dedicated threat, not to mention additional factors like mental instability, alcohol, drugs, etc. – can take a lot of punishment before complete failure. Who decides when you’re done shooting? -- The attacker. And you don’t know how many shots will be required to stop the threat, and/or create your opportunity for escape/evasion.

After every shot, you prepare to fire again. If you’ve put two or three hits into the same location of the body, shift, and engage another area. You’ve already done as much damage as you are likely to there, so pick another zone. Developing this habit takes practice. Any time you fire more than three rounds during a drill the next sight picture should be on another part of the threat. This is what I call a “failure to stop” drill. Where you’re hitting them isn’t working. Shoot them somewhere else, until achieving the desired results.

Tiger McKee is director of Shootrite Firearms Academy. He is the author of The Book of Two Guns, AR-15 Skills and Drills, has a regular column in American Handgunner and makes some cool knives and custom revolvers. Visit Shootrite’s Facebook page for other details.