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Tactics & Training

Close Combat Techniques

by Bob Pilgrim   |  September 24th, 2010 0

When things go from bad to worse, these last-resort techniques from a former FBI instructor can save your life.

The Hip to Point Shoulder Transition begins with the handgun clearing the holster, then being thrust forward with bent elbow at the threat’s center mass.

A determined criminal assault is characterized by surprise, speed and violence, and your first line of security is being in a constant state of observation and having active knowledge of your immediate environment so that you can redirect your route to avoid contact.

Nevertheless, due to circumstances beyond our control, we may be forced to defend ourselves with the tools at hand. And if we are authorized concealed carry citizens or law enforcement officers, one of those tools is the handgun.

The defense tactics I’m going to cover here are tactics of last resort, of desperation. The concealed carry citizen, especially, has to make a critical decision during a confrontation with an armed criminal to comply or resist, and some people will argue for compliance instead of going on the offensive. Both are fraught with risk, but I would rather have control over my fate than to surrender it to a scumbag, and most armed criminals expect compliance and are often momentarily stunned when they are on the receiving end of a violent counterattack.

However, know thy limitations and rely on skill rather than luck. In close-combat situations, you’ll have to deal with an attacker’s weapon as you protect yourself; learn disarm techniques from a competent defensive tactics instructor, and keep them simple. Complicated martial arts techniques, while valid, are best reserved for dedicated practitioners.

All drills set forth in this article should be practiced numerous times “dry” with an unloaded and cleared firearm before “going hot” and conducting the exercises with live ammunition.

Conduct your live-fire practice with safety in mind at all times: Be mindful of the muzzle–it should always be pointed in a safe direction (and that includes not pointing it at any part of your body); keep your finger off the trigger until the gun is pointed at your target; and in drills that include one-handed shooting, be sure you keep your nonfiring arm behind the gun.

Speed Rock
If you are at contact distance and your opponent confronts you with a weapon, you must prevent being indexed or redirect that weapon from your body by using defensive tactics. Once that is accomplished, it is important to gain control over the weapon and either disarm or disable your attacker before accessing your firearm.

The Speed Rock is nothing more than popping the gun out of the holster and, while keeping it level, firing it into an attacker’s torso. It’s important to keep the nonfiring hand from straying in front of the muzzle.

Employ stunning techniques, strikes to the eyes and throat. While grappling, try to rely on your support hand so you can take advantage of the first opportunity to draw your firearm and empty its contents into your adversary’s torso.

Care must be exercised not to place your support hand and arm in front of your gun’s muzzle, and one of the best ways to do this is to shove the gun forward and into your opponent’s torso for a contact shot. Other areas that can be targeted are the pelvis and crotch.

Contact shots multiply the effects of the bullet by driving hot gases into the wound along with the projectile. However, contact shots have been known to cause stoppages with pistols.

When a firing grip is established on the handgun, it is lifted up and back from the holster by driving the elbow to the rear. The gun is literally “popped” from the holster and remains level over the scabbard’s opening. As the shooter delivers the first burst of shots, distance should be created with a transition to a better shooting position such as point shoulder.

In Hip to Point Shoulder Transition, once you’ve fired from the hip, backpedal while raising the handgun to point-shoulder position and continuing to fire. Here, the agent demonstrates changing to a two-handed grip while creating more distance.

Introduce yourself to “the Rock” by breaking it down into steps, and practice it with an unloaded gun. A full length mirror can be helpful.

Assume an “interrogation stance,” with your gun side bladed away from your adversary. Clasp your hands in front of your torso at sternum level.

Establish a full firing grip on the handgun and raise your support hand and arm up over the front portion of your head. The hand and arm are not only in a position to protect your head from a potential blow, but it keeps them out of the way of your gun’s muzzle.

Practice popping the gun from the holster and observe where the muzzle indexes your reflection in the mirror. Make adjustments accordingly so it points where you want it to. Gradually speed up the process and practice it from a hands clasped and hands down position. Eventually, execute this technique from a concealed carry garment.

Close Combat, Front and Rear
The so-called Close Combat position is a variation on the Speed Rock. Again, your opponent’s weapon may have to be initially controlled or deflected to create an opening for your firearm.

It is important to note that if your adversary’s handgun is pointing at you, do not drag it across your body when deflecting or parrying. For example, a right-handed opponent will probably index his handgun to the left of your torso’s centerline. The best way to move the gun off your body is to grasp it with your right hand while pivoting your torso to your left. The pivot alone will frequently move your torso off the gun target line. If your handgun is parked on your right side, you will have to gain control of your attacker’s weapon before accessing your own.

Again, the handgun is popped from the holster in the same manner as above, but the gun is brought up to armpit or pectoral area, muzzle leveled at the threat’s center mass. To prevent the slide from grabbing clothing when
cycling, slightly cant the gun outboard. The wrist should not move forward past the ribcage. Do not remain in this position but create distance and transition to an eye-level sighted stance and keep moving.

When attacked from the rear, determine where the gun is located by glancing over the shoulder. In all cases, try to engage your assailant in conversation. It’s difficult to shoot and talk at the same time.

Again, moving his gun off your body is paramount, and the aggressor’s handgun must be close enough to reach. When in the process of raising your hands, pivot violently 180 degrees to deflect the firearm. The sudden strike to the wrist or the gun may result in a kinetic disarming and or discharge of the weapon.

This must be followed up by absolute control over the weapon, and a struggle for it will likely ensue. Leverage techniques can be combined with elbow and hand strikes to vulnerable areas of your opponent’s body, throat, eyes and head.

At the first opportunity, access your sidearm and burn a contact shot into his torso or crotch. If control over his gun is still being contested, shift to the head for a finishing shot. Use the gun like a dagger. Good training and fitness are keys here. Disarming should be executed as quickly as possible, but the fight may require excellent stamina to resolve.

Practice as outlined above and remember that your hands may be in a “surrender position” at the start of hostilities, so practice initiating your draw with hands above shoulders as well as to either side and from a low grappling position.

In Strike, Draw and Step Back, after striking the attacker in the face, draw the pistol while taking a big step back. It may be necessary to move laterally or diagonally instead to clear the attacker’s line of fire.

Hip to Point Shoulder Transition
In the past, hip shooting has been referred to as the “bent arm or three-quarter position.” In the FBI, I was taught to engage B27 targets with this technique at seven yards. Today, range masters generally restrict it to three to five yards. There are other variations know as “half hip, quarter/close hip” positions. Nevertheless, the sidearm is presented somewhere between hip and shoulder, well below eye level.

When the handgun clears the holster, it is thrust forward with bent elbow at the threat’s center mass. It is important to keep the firearm under the dominant eye, and this involves bringing the elbow in front of the ribcage. Grip the gun tightly and lock the wrist. The gun hand’s thumb should be locked down on that hand’s middle finger.

Changes in elevation can be made with the arm, but it is better to accomplish this with body lean or arching. Do not lock yourself into this position; withdraw from close contact and move while transitioning to an eye-level stance such as point shoulder. Keep shooting until the threat ceases to be one.

While hip shooting can be executed from a static position, some people prefer to take a step to the support side and crouch. This motion and lowering of your center of gravity helps to swing a jacket out of the way. Another tip is to weight a gun-side jacket pocket with keys or a few spare rounds so it swings more easily.

Work backwards with hip shooting and, again, a mirror can help you check your form. Set yourself up in a good hip shooting position and dry-fire the gun. Dry-fire from the hip and, while backpedaling to the rear, extend the handgun with one hand and finish up in a point shoulder position. Do not cease firing while transitioning from the hip to the point shoulder. Change direction and move away from the target at left and right diagonals.

Practice drawing to the hip shooting position while static. Once this is mastered, dry fire a triple tap or three-round burst, and when the last round breaks, immediately commence your transition.

Strike, Draw and Step Back
In this situation, a weapon has been produced by your opponent and instead of attacking it, you counter by striking the facial area’s jaw, nose and eyes with an open support hand to deliver either a palm strike to the chin or and claw the eyes.

The usual instinctive defensive action is to bring the hands back to the face in an effort to protect it, and this may cause the involuntary redirection of the weapon off your person. Simultaneously, you present your firearm and take a large step to the rear with your strong-side leg, followed by a short step to the rear with your support-side foot. Done properly, you end up in a bladed, two-handed stance with your handgun at eye level.

Learning this technique requires multitasking because footwork has to be coordinated with handwork. Start with the footwork. Drive off the lead foot and take a large step to the rear with the rear or strong-side foot. As soon as the strong foot stabilizes, follow it with a short, choppy half-step with the lead leg.

Once you’ve got that down, do the rearward movement while performing an open-hand strike to your attacker’s face. Establish a firing grip on your pistol, but don’t present it at this juncture. When the hand strike and rearward steps flow smoothly, add the presentation. While a two-handed grip on the pistol is preferred, one-handed shooting from this technique is fine, but remember to keep the support hand behind the gun’s muzzle.

Creating distance–“getting off the dime”–can be the key to survival, and many shooters will have to hone their one-hand shooting skills to be effective when moving across and away from a threat.

Engagement with Evasive Movement
The latest trend in defensive shooting is gun fighting married to dynamic and evasive movement. “Get off the dime” is the mantra because a moving target is harder to hit than a static one. While linear movement is fine, lateral and or diagonal movement is preferred–as are abrupt reversals in direction.

Since you are shooting from an unstable platform, these techniques are generally restricted to relatively tight confrontational parameters. In addition, as with other close-combat techniques a considerable amount of shooting will be done with one hand.

Many of us are isosceles stance shooters, and if you can maintain a squared-up position while moving left or right by twisting the torso to face the threat while your legs carry you laterally or sidestep while squared to the target, do so.

However, quite a few of us will have to brush up on our one-handed shooting to b
e effective when moving across and away from a threat. It is also well-known that two-handed shooters often end up shooting with one hand in close, violent encounters.

As mentioned above, these are techniques/tactics of desperation. The decision to go on offense, as opposed to compliance, is up to you. Israeli counter-terrorism forces are trained to immediately and violently attack when attacked, and judging by their overall success rate it seems to work. But these last-resort techniques will work only if you train, train and train some more.

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