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Getting Off The X

Getting Off The X


When an assailant armed with a contact weapon like a bat, a crowbar or a knife charges you, you might think that drawing your concealed handgun is the first step in your defense. However, immediately going for your gun contains two potentially fatal flaws. First, depending on the distance between you and the assailant, there may not be time to draw your gun. Studies have shown that the average man can close a distance of 21 feet in approximately 1.5 seconds.

Second, assuming you had time to draw your gun and shoot the assailant twice in the chest, his forward momentum will likely enable him to reach you with his weapon. That's because, barring a shot that results in a central nervous system stoppage, it's unlikely the assailant will be immediately halted—even if he received what may ultimately be a fatal wound.

Therefore, it's smart to add movement to your draw stroke to get off line of the attack. The most common method for achieving this goal is by moving rearward. After all, that's instinctive when someone is running toward your with a weapon. However, this tactic is comparable to backing up from an oncoming train. You can't move backward as fast as the train moves forward. The same is true for a charging assailant.

Also, when you frantically backpedal under stress, there's a good chance you'll fall, which leaves you extremely vulnerable. Moving rearward should be reserved for situations where lateral or dynamic movement is not possible, such as in an alleyway. When rearward movement is your only option, keep your upper body weight leaning forward and lead with your toe rather than your heel to avoid tripping.

Realizing the shortcomings of backpedaling, many shooters combine one or two lateral steps with their draw stroke. While this is good in theory, it leaves something to be desired in practicality. As Dave Spaulding of Handgun Combatives is quick to point out, a charging attacker need to alter his course only slightly to reach you when all you do is take a step or two to one side.

If you're going to rely on lateral movement, it needs to be explosive enough to get you off the "train track," and you need to be prepared to fire the moment your feet are planted. Not only that, you need to be ready to continue to move to keep the attacker at bay. If there's a physical barrier like a vehicle or even a table, placing it between you and an assailant armed with a contact weapon is an excellent strategy. If the assailant can't reach you with the weapon, you're safe.

Lateral movement is a decent option to employ against a charging adversary but "getting off the X," as it's called in tactical circles, refers to diagonal movement. The easiest direction to move is forward, to your dominant side. Drawing and moving in this manner enables you to move rather quickly and still fire with a surprising accuracy. Of course, the faster you move, the harder it is to shoot accurately.

Moving to your non-gun side is also effective, but turning to engage the threat from this position can be cumbersome, as your body is "bound up." Exaggerating the bend in your knees makes it easier to rotate your torso like a tank turret to keep your muzzle trained on the attacker. You could also resort to shooting with just your dominant hand.

You can move rearward at a diagonal, but doing so is difficult to maintain for more than a few steps for the reasons previously mentioned. Instead, you could actually turn and run along a diagonal path while drawing your gun—preferably to something that would afford you cover or at least impede the assailant's access to you. Of course, you will need to plant and turn in order to engage the threat.

The obvious downside is that while running way, you will lose sight of the assailant, at least momentarily. The clear advantage to this as opposed to backpedaling is that you can move much faster, albeit without being able to shoot while moving.

When an armed assailant charges you, getting off line of the attack is paramount. Drawing your concealed handgun is important but not at the expense of remaining stationary. You must draw and move, not draw then move. And while those two lateral steps may make you feel better, they will do little to enhance your safety.


Moving dynamically either along a lateral or diagonal path makes it more difficult to clear your cover garment and access your concealed handgun. Furthermore, shooting on the move is considerably more difficult than shooting while standing still. This skill set should be practiced with an inert training gun initially. Once you're comfortable with moving and drawing, take to the range and slowly incorporate live fire.

When dealing with an assailant armed with an edged weapon or bludgeon, a tie is not sufficient. You need to be able to get to your gun and get rounds on target, all while moving to keep the assailant at bay. "X" marks the spot where you don't want to be.

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