How to Think and Act Fast as a Defensive Shooter

posted on March 27, 2020
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In October of 1881, there was a street fight in Tombstone, Arizona Territory, that became known as the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. What that has to do with today’s defensive shooters is the fact that historians have determined some 30 shots were fired in 30 seconds. Now, obviously, there were no fancy shot timers back then and I’m sure that no one held a stop watch on the event. But the point that the defensive shooter needs to be aware of is how much can happen in such a short time.

Col. Jeff Cooper once said something like, “If you are reading this and can’t put your hand on your defensive firearm, all of your training has been wasted.” His point being that, when the balloon goes up, you will probably not have time to go somewhere else and arm yourself. When the problem is in your face, you will have to deal with it right now—with whatever you have at hand.

The quicker we are aware of a problem, the more time we will have to decide what needs to be done. The quicker we are able to draw our defensive handgun, the more time we will have to deliver that fight-stopping shot. Bad things can happen almighty quickly and we don’t have time to spend much time contemplating our response.

On the other hand, shooting too quickly can cause problems, too. We need to have determined what is actually going on and that shooting is the proper response. Is that person wandering around in our dark house really a threat, or a family member? Is that person walking towards us across that dark parking lot really an armed attacker, or just a panhandler about to ask for a handout?

In addition, we can realistically only shoot as fast as we have a reasonable expectation of hitting our intended target. Just throwing bullets all around doesn’t solve the problem and, in fact, it may cause additional, unintended problems. Just because the bad guy is filling the air with lead, doesn’t mean that your solution to the whole affair to to fill the air with more lead. The only solution is to deliver the first fight-stopping hit and hopefully you are the one who does that and not the criminal.

“If the fight starts, I’ll just use my handgun to fight my way to my rifle.”

Good luck with that—maybe you will, but probably you won’t. By the time you get to that long gun, the fight may very well be over.

Wyatt Earp once said something like, “Take your time, but do it in a hurry.” I take that to mean a fellow should divest himself of all unnecessary thought and movements. Learn to quickly spot trouble and have a defensive plan that can be put into practice quickly. Once the shooting starts, time is not your friend.


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