Tag Archives: TTPs

TTPs: On the Flinch

A few weeks ago I had a good friend come by for a visit. She had never fired a gun before, and was keen to learn to do so. I grabbed a couple guns from my safe, some ammo, and headed to a nice indoor range. She quickly took a liking to my Glock 17 with RMR. As we were shooting, she noticed her shots were moving down the target. From where I was standing in the lane, it was clear she was flinching. Let’s talk about how to fight the flinch.

First, what I did not do:

  1. I did not simply tell her to “Stop Flinching”. It’s not a conscious thing.

  2. I did not break out the snap caps for a bunch of ball and dummy work. Ball and dummy drills are useful if you are trying to diagnose a flinch. Once the flinch is diagnosed (which I had already done), they are worse than useless, because the ball and dummy drill makes you very aware of an unconscious reaction, and your efforts to fight it usually make it worse. Maybe this works for you. It has never worked for me.

Now, on to what I did. First, I talked through what was going on. It’s natural to be a little flinchy. There’s an explosion going off in your hands. It’s ok. We just have to learn to get past that.

I also noticed that she had a backwards lean to her stance, and she had a tendency to pause her trigger press partway through to fix sight alignment. From personal experience, I know this leads to a suboptimal trigger press. Often, we end up jerking the shot when we do this. And this gave me an idea.

I directed her to lean forward a little to help absorb recoil. Then, the gun (even a 9 mm) wouldn’t feel like it was pushing her off balance. I find thinking of a fighting stance helpful for those with martial arts experience. Or, “nose over toes” if that resonates better with the student. This is often counterintuitive for students who don’t think of themselves as “big”. They think they’ll want to lean back to keep balance while lifting the weapon. But the weapon isn’t all that heavy, and they’re not going to be holding it up for hours. Leaning back maximizes the ability of the weapon to push them off balance, which will reinforce the flinch. We don’t want that.

Next, I talked trigger pull. I spent some time on this, and directed her to really focus on not stopping. If you find yourself stopping, take your finger off the trigger, take a couple deep breaths, and try again. Continuous press. Do not stop. I wanted to give her something else to focus on that wasn’t the flinch. I’ve found trying to tell myself over and over to not do something usually makes me do the thing. So it’s easier to work with “Do something else”.

In this case, it worked great. Got a lot of that flinch out, and her shooting improved. So the next time you’re struggling with the flinch, try focusing on something else.

TTPs: More Finger on the trigger?

Here’s a short little post on something that’s helped both myself and Fishbreath.

I’ve heard this from a bunch of pistol instructors, usually in regards to shooting Glocks. Often, shooters complain that their Glocks shoot left or low-left (for a right-handed shooter, lefties will often see right or low-right). and consider adjusting their sights and bitching and blaming the gun. The instructor will then borrow their gun and show them that it’s not the gun, it’s them, and then talk techniques to correct the problem.

One such technique involves trigger finger placement. New shooters are often told to put the “pad” of their finger on the trigger. Maybe this works really well for some people. But sometimes the geometry of the grip and trigger mean that this is suboptimal and leads to a lot of low-left shots. One fix is to simply put more finger on the trigger. Sink it to the first knuckle, or maybe further.

This requires a bit of experimentation, but I’ve found that more finger on the trigger generally helps me get shots on target better. This might not be true for everybody, but if shooting left is the problem you’re seeing, give more finger a try. You might be surprised.

And if it doesn’t work, you don’t have to stick with it.

I’ve always heard this technique referenced explicitly as a “Glock Technique.” That said, I’ve used this technique to improve results on an M9, and M&P9, and an FNX-45 in addition to my Glocks. So it may help you regardless of what pistol you shoot.

TTPs: Shooting on the Move

A few of my previous TTP columns have talked about how to use shooting on the move to your advantage in a defensive situation. From these, you might conclude that I’m a fan of shooting on the move. And I am, except when I am not. Which is probably frustratingly zen, so let’s dive in.

First, a brief disclaimer. These are talking about defensive-ish gun uses for the CCW holder or off-duty cop with a gun. We are NOT talking about the following areas:
1. Competition. Depending on the rules and stage layout, shooting on the move may or may not be a good idea in a match stage. I will leave the discussion of stage planning to another time.
2. The SWAT Team/Special Operations Entry Stack. Because there are men behind you in the stack, it is vitally important that you not stop moving, so as not to jam everyone up and cause problems. You had better shoot on the move here.

Okay, that out of the way, let me talk you through a brief experiment that you can do do think about shooting on the move, and help reason when it is and isn’t a good idea. You will need the following items:
1. Some gallon milk jugs full of water.
2. A buddy.
3. A pulley and stake.
4. Some rope.
5. Your pistol of choice, with ammo (duh) and a holster.
6. A steel pistol target.
7. A permissive range bay to yourselves. Private shooting land will also work well.

Item 6 might be the hardest for you to acquire. Fear not. After I detail the setup, I’ll walk you through the results that I got when I did this. Also note that a shot timer is optional but extremely helpful.

The setup is as follows. First, we’re going to look at, of course, shooting on the move. Set up your steel at the end of the range, and then mark out a line for you to move across the bay at a spall-safe distance from your steel (7-10 yards). Warm up by shooting that steel at your marked distance. Now, do a few runs across the bay, gun holstered. Get an idea of how quickly you can move across your bay. Try to put a couple in as if your life depended on it. You can probably do this pretty fast if you’re not all that fit.

Now, shooting on the move. Draw your gun and move along the line as best you can, shooting the steel. Move as quickly as you can and still get some hits, and shoot when you think you can guarantee a hit. Don’t hose. You have a buddy there to mock you to keep you honest. He should also do his best to keep you on that path. You’re probably going to move off of it.

Even with proper, bent-knee, ‘rolling-heel-toe’ gait, you’ll find you moved across the range a lot slower. And you’re probably shooting a lot slower than you did in the warm up. That’s expected. Or at least, that’s what I got. I had decent technique but not a lot of practice. If I had more practice, I could probably do better. But I’d need a lot more.

Okay, now for some more fun. Place a gallon milk jug at one side of the range, and the pulley at the other. Mark off a firing position in the middle of the range, at about the same distance you were from the steel. Tie the rope to the handle of the jug, run it through the pulley, and then down the side of the range to your buddy. For safety, your buddy will stand behind you, holding the rope. When he wants, he’ll run away from you, pulling the rope. When you see the jug move, draw and shoot it before it gets to the other end of the range. Have your buddy vary the speed of the jugs on different attempts.

Shooting a moving target is difficult. Some will find it more difficult than others. I didn’t find it too bad. What I did find, as did most other people who tried this with me, was that we could hit the jug when it was moving faster than we moved while shooting. So moving and shooting didn’t help us avoid incoming fire all that much. A dead run to cover was a lot harder to hit, but then we wouldn’t be shooting back either.

It’s something to think about. Does this mean you should never shoot on the move? Certainly not. Hopefully it has also convinced you that there are times when shooting on the move might not be the best plan ever. There are no easy answers. There are no simple answers. Shooting on the move is fun to practice, and can be useful, but there are a lot of other techniques out there that you should practice too.

TTPs: On Tueller and His Drill

Back in 1983, Sgt. Dennis Tueller of the Salt Lake Police Department posited a fun problem. Suppose you are a police officer with a gun in a duty rig1. Suppose that in front of you, there’s an evildoer with a knife. He will take his knife and charge you.2 As he does, you will draw and shoot him. Clearly, when he is far away, you will shoot him before he gets to you. And clearly if he is very close, he will stab you before you get your gun out. What’s the distance at which you will tie? I.e. you shoot him and he stabs you.

Sgt. Tueller worked this distance out to be about 21 feet.

Which isn’t a lot. Let’s look further. Clearly, Tueller couldn’t actually run the test as written. Officers aren’t likely to want to get stabbed or shot. So he had officers draw to a man-sized target at a given distance (say seven yards) away, and another officer that same distance behind the shooter. On a buzzer, the first officer would try to draw and shoot, and the second officer would try to tap the first one on the shoulder. Ties happened when that distance was seven yards, or 21 feet.

Sgt. Tueller also worked this out theoretically. He and his cop buddies worked on their gunfighting skills, including their draw. They averaged a time to draw and get a hit on a man sized target of 1.5 seconds. And in 1.5 seconds, a reasonably athletic adult (e.g. one of them) could run an average of 21 feet (also their distance to target).

Of course, it’s all a thought experiment. There are many other avenues of attack available to the foe with a melee weapon. But let’s tug at this further.

You might have noticed a bit of an assumption above. The man size target is fixed at the starting distance, when we are thinking or testing. But our hypothetical attacker will be charging. So the target will get larger. By the time we get our gun out and up, he might be only a couple yards from us, and that’s a significantly easier shooting problem.

Since he will be so close, we might also consider shooting without full extension. We might call this a retention position. Specifically, we have the gun in a full, two-handed grip, pointed at the target, only a few inches from our chest. The same position we’re in partway through a draw. Note that the gun should be close to your chest, but not so close that the slide will thwack you. Also, it bears repeating, two hands in a full, firm grip, pointed at the target. If you’re in position Sul, you’re doing it wrong.

Why are we using this position? Well, the target will be close enough that we can get away without using our sights all that much. Plus, it’ll give us time to get a few more shots on the target. We have a pistol. Pistols are not good at making people stop. We can make them a little better at this by shooting often. If he’s worth shooting once, he’s worth shooting a lot.

Okay. So we’ve attacked two assumptions already. There’s another big one here. Have you spotted it yet?

We’re not moving. In the above problem, our shooter is stationary. Probably not very realistic.

If someone is charging you with a knife, it’s not likely that you’ll stand still. You might turn and run. And you could shoot over your shoulder; the knife wielder will be close. But he’s charging. And frankly, I don’t like my odds. I suspect I’ll probably end up getting run down if I tried this.

We might try moving sideways. Now we’re getting somewhere. We’re forcing him to change direction. This will make him slow down a bit, and keep the attacker in front of us, making our shots easier. But we’re not forcing a radical change of direction, and we can’t move sideways all that fast while shooting. Better.

Our sideways move is good because it forces a direction change, which forces the attacker to slow down. Time is our friend. Let’s try to force more direction changes.

Suppose we moved at an oblique angle towards the attacker. So if he’s coming at us on a bearing of zero degrees, move on the 60-75ish degree line. We’ll have to move that way and turn to keep our sights on the target, but that’s fine. We’re going to force the attacker to turn aggressively, since we’re going out wide. And we can repeat the process every time he orients himself on us. Which will look goofy and spiral-like from above, but it will maximize our time to riddle our foe with bullets before he can get all stabby.

This isn’t exactly intuitive, but that’s ok. We train so that we develop correct thinking and proper technique. That is the point of training.


  1. I.e. a holster with retention. Interestingly, for those who practice, draw times from a retention rig are usually about equivalent to draw times from concealment. So the findings still hold for the concealed carrier. 
  2. I’m quite aware that this isn’t the only way this could go down. It’s probably not even a very likely way this might go down. I don’t have those statistics handy, and I don’t care. It’s a thought experiment.

Movie Fight TTP Breakdown: Jango Fett vs. Obi-Wan Kenobi

I’m a nerd. I love Star Wars. And I also love tactics and training in martial arts. What better way to combine them than by talking movie fights and what they do right/wrong? Let’s take a look at the fight between Jango and Obi-Wan on the Kamino platform. It’s a really exciting fight. Like most movie fights not directed by Michael Mann, it does this without being technically well executed. I’ll break it down into sections and comment on each.

I’ll be covering Jango’s (and a couple things from Boba) here, mostly because my expertise is there. I know a good bit about shooting and punching people. However, I’m not a Jedi, and I don’t know the limitations of the Force. Also, I’m a poor swordsman and a worse force user. So I won’t comment on Obi-Wan’s techniques here.

The fight opens with Boba seeing Obi-Wan. Obi-Wan draws and ignites his lightsaber, and Jango goes for his blaster pistols. Screw talking.

Jango opens fire, and uses his jetpack to get some standoff range.
1.) Jango has a reasonably quick rate of fire here. I might expect better with two guns, but then, I don’t know how well that scales. His times between shots are pretty good here. I’ll save any further snarking about the inferiority of the use of two pistols at once for another article.
2.) Using the jetpack to maintain separation (and get more) is a good idea.
3.) Jango does quite a bit of shooting on the move in the opening. Ordinarily, I’d be very strongly opposed to it. Generally, you give up more in accuracy than you gain in becoming a harder target to hit. Of course, that conventional wisdom assumes an enemy who also has a ranged weapon and that you’re moving on your feet. Given that the jetpack seems to move him in a relatively stable fashion, I’ll give this one to him. His accuracy isn’t affected in much of a negative way compared to his initial volley either.

Jango uses his jetpack to hide behind a column. Having given Obi-Wan a visual slip (and having holstered his blasters), he fires a missile from his jetpack.
4.) That’s a good move. Not sure why he didn’t do that earlier, since he doesn’t appear to need his hands free to do it. The missile is sort of effective–it gets Obi-Wan to drop his lightsaber. As usual, Hollywood has no idea what explosions do. That should have hurt a lot more judging by proximity of the blast and likely fragments. Hollywood explosions are big on pretty fireballs. Real explosions are big on fragments, pressure waves, perforated eardrums, and death. They don’t look as good as a big, gasoline-based fireball.
5.) He really should press the attack once the missile hits. Shock and awe only works if you keep with the up-tempo attacks. Jango is old enough and experienced enough to know better than to sit back and admire his handiwork.

Boba now gets in on the action by deploying Slave I’s blasters, which knocks Obi-Wan back again.
6.) Not sure why Boba stops shooting to watch. He seems to have done okay using shipboard sensors before. Don’t admire your handiwork! Press your advantage! Boba’s a kid though, so maybe Jango hasn’t gotten this lesson in his head yet. It usually takes a lot of coachly yelling in the boxing gym or wherever you learn hitting for this lesson to stick.

Jango leaves his perch to engage Obi-Wan, apparently closing the distance, blasters drawn. Obi-Wan catches Jango with a flying sidekick, sending his blasters flying.
7.) And you were doing so well. This part makes no sense. Why leave your perch? Why come down? Why close the distance? There’s the column you were hiding behind, another column, and your ship in terms of high places to be. Blasters are ranged weapons. You can shoot the lightsaber-less jedi from your perch. Or from midair. You should not be close enough for a flying sidekick, force-assist or no. Maintain distance on the melee fighter and shoot him. The jetpack should be helping you keep your distance here.
8.) If he wanted to change position, doing it while the ship attacks would have been better. Or in a direction not towards the Jedi.
9.) During his descent, Jango isn’t shooting, even though his blasters are clearly drawn. He was shooting during the ascent, so he can clearly shoot in flight reasonably well. If it made sense on the ascent (and it seemed to) it should here as well. Probably even more so since Obi’s not blocking without his lightsaber.

There’s a good bit of hand-to-hand fighting between Jango and Obi Wan, who are pretty evenly matched. Obi-Wan has some more good kicks, some blocked, some aren’t. Jango has a wild right haymaker that gets blocked and gets separation with a headbutt.
10.) Not sure why he doesn’t fire his jetpack to regain separation here. Unless he’s trying to keep Obi-Wan’s hands occupied. In which case, he’s not doing it well, and he should be going for the wrestling/grappling stuff.
11.) Jango has a very strange arsenal. He seems to carry a shitton of gear, but lacks a knife, which would help a lot in a close fight like this.
12.) Jango does have wrist blades, at least in his right gauntlet. But he does not use them here, and this is the perfect opportunity. Blades are great in a close fight. Admittedly, blades on the side of the forearm look cool but are really hard to actually use.
13.) He also doesn’t use the flamethrower in his left gauntlet. Again, this seems a good time for it. Unless his armor/clothing aren’t flame resistant.
14.) Nor does he use the mini rocket that appears to be on his left gauntlet (but he never uses this ever in the movie, so who knows what that actually is).
15.) It’s also odd to me that Jango doesn’t carry a small blaster as a back up gun, given how much other shit he’s got. If he gained separation with the jetpack (or after the headbutt) he could use a back up gun to good effect.
16.) That wild punch. That is the kind of punch you expect from an untrained dude. Probably a big dude. Jango isn’t big. He’s about medium height (Obi-Wan is a bit taller) and fit. He isn’t super heavy. As someone whose profession depends on his ability to kick ass, he should be a lot more technical with his striking. One telegraphed, wild haymaker is not what I’d expect from him. We should see a tighter combo.
17.) The headbutt was a good choice. Especially because he’s got a helmet and Obi-Wan doesn’t.

Obi-Wan tries to retrieve his lightsaber with the force. Jango activates his jetpack, uses a whipcord to tie Obi Wan’s hands, and starts dragging him.
18.) I don’t understand this either. Clearly lacking another blaster, Jango chooses to use his whipcord to wrap up Obi-Wan’s hands. And then drag him. A more effective choice here given the equipment would be to activate his jetpack and hit Obi-Wan linebacker style. You’ve got a helmet, he doesn’t. It’s gonna hurt him a lot more than it hurts you.
19.) Another good chance for flamethrower usage, depending on its range. In general, Hollywood flamethrowers are propane torches, which look cool, but don’t have the range of the real deal (which use heavier fuel).

Jango drags Obi-Wan along the platform. Obi-Wan wraps the cable around a pylon, forcing Jango to crash and his jetpack to malfunction.
20.) Yeah, still don’t see the point of this, and it lost you your damn jetpack. Fucking moron. Why he doesn’t drag Obi-Wan directly towards the water is beyond me. Or just jettison the cord.

Jango goes for his dropped blaster. Obi-Wan charges him and knocks him off the platform with another flying sidekick.
21.) Jango gets tunnel vision here for that gun. He’s not really aware of how quickly Obi-Wan is closing in.
22.) A backup blaster would be helpful here too. It’d be a lot quicker to get into action than running to retrieve your dropped pistol.
23.) Dealing with the charging opponent is more important than getting your blaster into play. This could easily be a tackle or a takedown. Avoid or stuff that first before getting your gun into action. This is running into Tueller territory, which is probably for another post. Suffice to stay, standing still is a bad idea.
24.) Full arm extension is a poor choice for that sort of shot, given how close Obi-Wan is. A chest index is a lot better for not leaving your gun out there to be grabbed, and getting more than one shot off. This is kind of hard to explain, but what Jango does here is a Bad Idea.

There’s not much tactics to the rest of the fight. Jango falls, dragging Obi-Wan with him, and manages to release the cable before Obi-Wan drags him into the sea. Cue dramatic escape, homing beacon, and another fight, now with starships.

TTPs: The Drawn Gun

They say it can’t be done. Suppose you’re being held at gunpoint. And I’ll be mean. The guy with the gun is six feet or so away. So he’s out of reach. Or maybe there’s a counter in the way. You have a concealed, holstered gun.

So how do get the gun in play? If you draw, you die.

Right?

Not exactly. Usually we make a number of assumptions, and turn it into a race. You have to clear your cover garment, get your gun out, and take the shot. He just has to take the shot. When I put it that way, you lose every time.

I hate losing. We’re looking at the wrong problem. What’s going on in his head? He’s got a gun out. He’s expecting something from me. Maybe I’ve got a gun, and I’ll draw. He shoots! Maybe I’m going to give him something, like a wallet. I give him that, maybe toss it to him, whatever, and then maybe he leaves. Maybe he shoots me first. Maybe any hand motion is going to look like I’m going for a weapon to this guy, and he’ll shoot me.

Did you notice a common theme in those? Read them again. What am I doing in all of those options?

Standing still.

You might be skeptical. “Of course you’re standing still, parvusimperator. If you run, he’ll shoot you in the back. And if you charge, you probably won’t be able to get to him before he shoots you with the gun drawn.”

All of these points are true. Backwards, I die. Forwards, I die. Sure. And none of those will help my draw, or more importantly, help me go on living.

But what about going sideways? Let’s take a good deliberate step sideways, and draw at the same time. What then?

Well, we’ve done something unexpected. Now he’s got to process this. I grant you, it won’t take very long, but we don’t have to buy ourselves much time here.

Since we’re not doing something that he’s expecting, he has to ask “What happened?” Answer: “That tricky parvusimperator moved! He’s no longer in front of my gun!” “Where did he go?” “He moved sideways.” “I’ve gotta reacquire that target.” And then he has to turn his gun to face me and shoot me.

While I’ve broken this down nicely, all that is going to be processed pretty fast. That’s why it’s critical that you draw as you move. If you move and then draw, it will take too long. Draw as you move. This will take some practice. Start slow and gradually build speed. Be safe.

Also, it’s best to train to shoot more than one shot when you do this. If he’s worth shooting, he’s probably worth shooting again.

There you have it. We’ve done the impossible. Provided we’re quick.

It certainly beats the alternative.

TTPs: Safety/Decocker Use

At my high-level gun school classes, we spent some time with drills that used each other’s pistols. This was a fun “battlefield pickup”1 exercise, and I learned a lot from it.

In general, most shooters had brought Glocks or other striker-fired pistols. But there was one SIG P226 (Legion) SAO with a thumb safety, and one FN FNX-45 that had a frame mounted safety/decocker (up for safe, middle for fire, press down to decock, it will rebound up). This let me get some time with these designs, and more importantly, get some type-specific instruction. And those are the topic for today’s TTP2 post.

The question that we’re going to answer is: When should I engage the manual safety or use the decocker? This is a pretty natural question to ask if your pistol has one, and you’re training for things more serious than standing on a firing line blasting away.

My instructors teach: Whenever you come off of your target, engage the safety or decocker.

This isn’t universal, and that’s okay. But I’m gonna go with it, because my instructors made a damn fine argument:

Recall that the decocker + DA pull or the manual safety exist on your pistol to provide an additional layer of safety between you and a nice, light, short, single-action pull. Protection against “trigger checking” in times of stress. Protection from errors in handling while you move. And so on. So, if it’s not on when you’re doing something other than shooting or getting your sights on target to prepare to shoot, what’s the point? Seriously, what’s the point of having a bunch of extra safety systems and then not doing your level best to engage them to keep you safe?

If you’re not using the extra safety systems, you’re quite a bit less safe than someone with a Glock (or similar) who is just keeping his finger off the trigger. He’s got a pull that’s longer, heavier, and generally worse than just about every single-action trigger pull I’ve found, double action pistol or not.

One other note: The FNX’s thumb safety/decocker is kind of hard to use both ways. There are similar units on USPs (HK split the safety and decocker apart in the P30), and it does allow for you to carry with the safety on and the hammer locked back. For the purposes of class, since we had another SAO gun for manual safety exercises), and since the guy who brought the FNX wanted to get time with that heavy double action trigger, we only used the decocker in class (i.e. come off target, decock, do not put on safe).


  1. Read: Excuse to play with everyone’s guns. 
  2. Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures. Hopefully the start of a new series.