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CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE WORST KIND
Two Real World Solutions

Though lots of people argue about the veracity of much of the data reported annually in the FBI Uniform Crime Report (UCR), few disagree with the section that deals with average engagement ranges. In fact, with only minor fluctuations each year, the UCR has for its entire existence (since 1968) indicated that handgun encounters generally take place at short ranges.

And yet, just what does that statement mean? If you ask the average self-defense shooter or even the typical police officer to tell you the statistical average handgun engagement range, as often as not, the response will be "7 yards." Well, 7 yards (21 feet) is close, but that figure isn't correct and has no factual or historic basis. In fact, it is entirely arbitrary -- seven to ten feet is more like it.

And that is close -- very close, which means that reaction/response times and the execution of physical defense procedures are severely limited. Simply put, to train at range beginning at 7 yards is a mistake, because regardless of whose statistics you choose to believe, virtually all of them cite 7-10 feet as the norm.

This is why we here at the AMERICAN SMALL ARMS ACADEMY we have always begun our training emphasis at 3-meters (10 feet) and included detailed instruction on how to handle situations that might occur at even closer ranges, even at or inside arm's length.

Even if an attacker initiates actions from a full 7 yards away, such as might be expected with an edged or blunt weapon, a typical male, on a dry level surface, can move from a standing start to within effective striking distance in a mere 1.5 seconds! This means that you have only 1.5 seconds to identify the threat, classify it as being deadly (thus warranting a Deadly Force response on your part), initiate and execute physical defensive procedures. Not much time, to say the least.

In fact, even if you do everything perfectly, it may not be enough time or distance. You can present your weapon and center-punch your rushing assailant twice in the chest (or pelvis, if you prefer, or where ever), and still find yourself with him looming in your face due simply to his own forward momentum. Even if he is toppling or stumbling from your hits, he can still fire a gun, swing a club or slash with a knife, meaning that you must be prepared to step aside or give ground rearward until he collapses fully.

This problem is also another reason to return to a proper Ready Position (weapon held 40 degrees below line of sight to the target, finger off the trigger) after you engage and fire. You need to know the results of your shots and you cannot ascertain such with the gun held in front of your face, especially if the target is moving -- something they all tend to do within a few seconds even if they initially were standing still.

We call this "going dynamic," meaning that the situation begins to become more fluid and less defined and thus identifiable. This, in conjunction with the fact that handguns just aren't all that powerful, graphically underscores something that we here at ASAA pioneered and developed -- The Tactical Mind Set.

The act of firing your gun merely confirms that the fight has begun, not that it is over or that you have won. Before you can know that, a number of questions must be answered. First, did I hit him? Second, is he down? Third, is he incapacitated? (Most shooters and instructors don't realize that the act of a target falling down doesn't necessarily mean it is incapacitated or otherwise unable to continue the fight). Fourth, does he have friends?

The only way you can answer these questions is to bring the weapon back to Ready, examining your attacker as you do. If, after a few seconds of analysis, you find him to be out of action, then slowly change your line of sight left and right while maintaining a proper Ready position directly beneath as you do. This way, if additional targets appear, you and your weapon are in a position for instant engagement. To avoid safety (negligent discharge) concerns, simply remove your trigger finger from the trigger guard area as you initially bring the gun down to Ready -- if re-engagement is required, you can re-insert it as quickly as you can raise the gun.

In truth, by the time you've actually brought your weapon back down to the Ready, you'll already have a pretty good idea of how effective your shots have been. Still, even if your assailant has collapsed and is lying motionless on the ground, stay at the Ready and visually examine him for at least four seconds. It is a common tactic these days for a missed or merely wounded criminal to "lie doggo" in the hope of enticing you to approach, thus allowing him to physically contact you (and grapple over your gun!)

The next kind of "close encounter of the worst kind" is when the fight begins quite literally within arm's reach. Here, two techniques have proven superior. If you have room behind you, such as might be the case outdoors, for example, The Stepback is recommended. If not, such as might be the case in a hallway, between two parked cars or in a crowded area, The Speedrock is the best solution.

If possible, gain standoff distance from your attacker as you present your own weapon. This allows you to bring the gun to eye level, use the sights and shoot from a traditional Weaver or Isosceles stance. If there is no room behind to step away, then the danger of bringing your weapon to eye level should be apparent -- in so doing, you're quite literally presenting the weapon to your adversary, resulting in a wrestling match for the weapon. Bad business, to say the least.

If you choose The Stepback, take a long step rearward with your firing side foot as you obtain a firing grip on your weapon, but keep your upper torso forward to maintain balance. Then, as you begin the actual weapon presentation, take a half-step rearward with the firing side foot, taking you and your weapon outside arm's reach of your adversary. Engage, using a flash sight picture and firing two quick shots, then, as you begin to bring the gun back down to Ready, repeat the footwork procedure again.

This will double your standoff distance at no cost -- you're executing the process as you assess the effect of your initial shots. Thus, by the time you've completed the procedure, you're another step and about three-quarters of a second away from the target. this places you in an excellent position to follow up with a shot to the cranio-ocular vault areas if a Failure To Stop is experienced.

A word of caution here -- when performing a Stepback, keep your hands and arms away from your attacker. A number of schools teach punching the target under or on the point of the chin, presumably knocking him silly (any maybe even killing him) and down, then executing the Stepback procedure.

There are two things wrong with this concept. First, it offers your arm to the attacker, normally resulting in a wrestling match. Second, it forces you to attempt too many things in too short a time, resulting in "telescoping" the blow as you step away, hardly an effective strike. And, even if the blow is effective, there is this to consider -- if you just knocked him down and/or out, why are you using a deadly weapon against him?

He's no longer a deadly threat to you, meaning that you're criminally liable for serious charges, even to the point of manslaughter or even murder, if you use Deadly Force against him. Again...bad business and certainly not indicative of having thought out the technique before teaching or utilizing it. Here at ASAA, we call this, "The Firing Range Mentality," which is clearly dangerous and has no place in effective, realistic self-defense training, yet is often encountered.

The Speedrock is a worst-case reactive procedure used when there is no room to gain standoff distance. Here, the firer simply rocks rearward by slightly bending his knees as he presents his weapon and presses the base of the firing hand against his own midsection. Once this platform is established, the weapon is then fired. Normally, it is best to keep the non-firing hand in a downward and to the side attitude, but in the event of a strike with an edged or blunt weapon, it can be raised to block if necessary.

Neither of these response drills are theoretical -- they've been employed successfully by ASAA students in actual gunfights on a number of occasions and they've worked perfectly. Do they make a close encounter of the worst kind easy? No, of course not -- such a thing isn't possible. However, they have proven themselves to work and work well as a means to defend yourself when you're placed in an unusual or untenable tactical situation. And, as such, they've validated themselves as being the best responses currently known for such occasions -- if you execute them correctly.

To insure this, choose your trainer(s) carefully, making certain of their real-world experience and approach to the subject of defensive weaponcraft. The price of failure in close encounters of the worst kind is just too high to look at the subject any other way.

 

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Additional information about ASAA is available. Please email me directly at:
chuck@chucktayloramericansmallarmsacademy.com

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