Skills Check: Shooting at Close Range

Learn how to defend yourself at bad-breath distance.

posted on March 6, 2022
shooter with firearm

Back in the Dark Ages, we called it a speed rock, a name that came from the FBI, as I recall. At Gunsite, we call it shooting from retention; shooting one-handed at very close range with the pistol tucked back in along the rib cage.

The presumption for the drill is the need to shoot defensively to stop an attacker who is in your face or right on top of you. As a rather extreme example, one of our slightly built Border Patrol agents was on a plainclothes detail working with a police street-narcotics unit when she was attacked by a huge woman who threw her to the ground, jumped on top of her and was doing a good job of beating her brains out by pounding her head against the pavement. Our lady pulled her pistol, rotated the muzzle upward and fired until her assailant was unable to continue her murderous assault. That’s a close-range shooting.

You need to take some precautions before trying this. Shooting with one hand begs the question, what do I do with the other hand? Mostly, you need to keep it out of the way, and second, you might want to practice doing something useful with it. Reaching around the back of the head with the elbow pointed forward is one suggestion, as the arm in this position provides some protection from blows or knife slashes to the head and neck—not a bad idea. In any case, you must absolutely get the support hand and arm out of the line of fire.

Semi-automatic pistols have a reciprocating slide, and you don’t want it striking you or getting tangled up in your clothing, potentially causing a malfunction. You want the gun up high near the pectoral area with the wrist and base of the palm anchored against the rib cage and the pistol rotated slightly outward to clear the slide. Revolvers have barrel/cylinder gaps and hot gases escape from this area, so you might want to wear a shirt you don’t mind tearing up a bit when you practice.

Do some dry practice using this positioning before you shoot. I recommend you have a shooting partner watch and coach you and that you start without presenting or drawing the pistol until you’re comfortable with shooting from retention. You can then add drawing the pistol, as always, starting slowly.

Here’s the drill:
1 yard, present the pistol to the retention position and fire one round. 

Take a step backward
to about the 2-yard line as you advance the gun forward of your center chest area, get two hands on the gun and fire one round. 

Take another step backward
to about the 3-yard line bringing the gun up to eye level, accessing the front sight and fire two rounds. 

Total: Four rounds

After you’re finished practicing, reload your pistol with your carry ammunition, walk up to the target and at arm’s length, touch the muzzle to the target and fire one shot. If you’ve never done this, you might find what the gasses coming out of the barrel do to a cardboard or paper target impressive.


Sheriff Jim Wilson
Sheriff Jim Wilson

There Is No Sanctuary

Carrying a defensive pistol inside the home should be the same as carrying one outside of the home.

First Look: Federal Premium Force X2 Shorty 00 Buckshot

A new option in 1¾-inch defensive shotgun ammunition.

First Look: ZeroTech Thrive HD First Focal Plane Riflescopes

Two new ruggedized scopes from the land down under.

Review: We the People IWB Holster and Tactical Gun Belt

A kydex holster and gun belt designed for no-nonsense everyday use.

I Carry: Walther WMP 22 WMR Pistol in a PHLster Holster

Today on I Carry we have the new Walther WMP pistol chambered in 22 WMR, carried in a PHLster Floodlight holster along with an SOG Power Access Deluxe multi-tool.

First Look: Colt Combat Unit 1911 Pistols

New 1911-style pistols designed under the guidance of some of America’s toughest warriors.


Get the best of Shooting Illustrated delivered to your inbox.