When will the silly defensive shooting techniques stop?

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After my article on not falling for a technique simply because someone of authority promotes it, a reader sent me an alert about an article in the Shooting Times Personal Defense 2012 magazine. The article is titled “Fight With A .380” by one J. Guthrie. (Had I written this article, I’d probably be embarrassed to use my full name too. You’ll see why.)

Mr. Guthrie bases much of his article on conversations with Ed Head, the industry veteran who most recently was chief of Gunsite. The article was pretty lackluster until Guthrie got to the part where he described Ed’s practice and recommended use of the .380 pistol: he carries two of them, draws them simultaneously, and shoots them alternately at the target. Yes, you read that correctly: one in each hand, blazing away Hollywood style.

Guthrie calls this “unorthodox”. I call it something else which I’m ashamed to repeat in a family blog.

If you’ve not fired one of the uber-small .380 pistols, they’re a bit of a handful. Shooting them one-handed guarantees that your balance of speed and precision will suffer greatly compared to getting both hands on one of them. It does not matter how much you practice, you will always be less able to shoot one-handed than two-handed. Also no matter how much you practice, one of those hands will always be worse than the other. *

Shooting them alternately means that not only do you have much diminished control, it means you need to switch your attention between them constantly. You’re using precious time and energy re-aligning each gun on target for one shot, which is much more difficult than aligning one gun after successive shots. What’s more, even when you’ve spent that time and energy half of your shots will be slower and less precise than the other half, and all of them will be slower and/or less precise than shooting with two hands!

Wouldn’t it be better to draw one gun, get both hands on it and achieve a superior balance of speed and precision, then if needed drop it and draw the next (a ‘New York reload’)? Yes, I believe it would. The .380 is not the complete weakling some make it out to be, and I think you’ll find Greg Ellifritz’s data show that where it’s used six or seven rounds of .380 often end the fight. The faster you can get those rounds onto the target, the faster the fight is going to end. Alternating the shots from two guns simply makes that process longer.

While the article doesn’t specifically say so, the genesis of the technique centers around Head’s assertion that the small .380 pistols cannot be reloaded easily. He seems to believe that having two guns eliminates the need for a time-consuming reload. There might be some merit to that belief, IF the guns were used successively and the New York reload done when one ran dry.**

Doing this sequentially would at least mean that if you ended up running one dry and needed to access the second gun, you’d already have been able to put a full ammunition load into your attacker far faster and with greater precision than shooting one-handed alternately. You’re more immediately disrupting his activity and lessening the amount of time you’re exposed to danger.

Shooting the guns alternately simply gives the bad guy more time to hurt you – and, I submit, it’s a whole lot MORE time. I can deduce absolutely no upside to this method.

Well, according to Guthrie there IS one: it makes you look like Antonio Banderas. No, I’m not kidding – he really said that. He calls the effect “impressive”, without ever explaining exactly why or how shooting less precisely and more slowly is impressive.

That, then, is really the crux of his presentation – it makes you look cool!

I’ll say this as plainly as I can: if you choose your defensive shooting technique because it makes you look cool you are simply foolish. That’s also the best word to attach to this technique. I’m surprised that anyone would write a glowing article about such nonsense, and I’m surprised that Shooting Times would publish it.

But the bad judgement doesn’t stop there! I’ll talk about that on Wednesday.

-=[ Grant ]=-

( * – There are people who insist that they shoot “just as good” one handed as two, or that they shoot weak hand “just as good” as strong hand. Remember that shooting is always a balance of speed and precision; shooting as precisely but slower is not as good, and shooting at the same speed but with less precision isn’t as good, either. Only if you can shoot with the same balance of speed and precision one-handed as two-handed, or weak-handed as strong-handed, can you claim to be “as good”. I’ve yet to meet the person who can.)

( ** Personally, I’d need to test that assertion for myself before I accepted it, and that’s before factoring in the complication of realistically practicing the technique. I have done such a test with two revolvers, and found that the New York reload has very little advantage. I believe the results would be even less persuasive with two auto pistols, given their reloading efficiencies.)

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About the Author:

Grant Cunningham is a renowned author and teacher in the fields of self defense, defensive shooting education and personal safety. He’s written several popular books on handguns and defensive shooting, including "The Book of the Revolver", "Shooter’s Guide To Handguns", "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals", "Defensive Pistol Fundamentals", and "Practice Strategies for Defensive Shooting" (Fall 2015.) Grant has also written articles on shooting, self defense, training and teaching for many magazines and shooting websites, including Concealed Carry Magazine, Gun Digest Magazine, the Association of Defensive Shooting Instructors ADSI) and the popular Personal Defense Network training website. He’s produced a DVD in the National Rifle Association’s Personal Firearm Defense series titled "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals" and teaches defensive shooting and personal safety courses all over the United States.
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