Friday, June 19, 2009
If You're Gonna Be Dumb, You Gotta Be Tough or: How To Win A Gunfight, Part 1
Lets assume for a moment that you're familiar with recreational shooting. You shoot holes in paper using monk-like concentration and a perfectly smooth trigger pull. You regularly thrash the bull's eye. Right?
Well, most of the experts (Bill Jordan, Jeff Cooper, Mas Ayoob, Clint Smith, etc) agree that treating combat like a range session will result in you assuming room temperature rather quickly. So what's the difference between recreational and self-defense (combat) shooting? The biggest differences are speed and movement.
Recreational shooting provides the basis for SD shooting. You need to learn what a good sight picture looks like, and what a good trigger pull feels like. You need to learn how to do that every time under any conditions. But when shooting for your life, a few things change. The best way to illustrate the following principles is through real life experience. Let's see what we can learn from the untimely demise of George "Baby Face" Nelson, and maybe I'll sprinkle in a bit of my own experience.
(wikipedia "Baby Face Nelson") Nelson's wife, fleeing into an open field under instructions from Nelson, turned briefly in time to see Nelson hit with the shot that would prove fatal. He grasped his side and sat down on the running board as Chase continued to fire from behind the bandits' car. Nelson, possibly aware of the severity of his injury, then walked in the open towards the agents, reportedly shouting, "I'm gonna kill you sons of bitches!" as he fired at them with a .351 rifle so rapidly that bystanders mistook it for a machine gun. Cowley fled first, seeking a new position in a ditch across the road. Turning to aim his machine gun at Nelson, his weapon failed to fire as his ammunition was exhausted and he fell in a hail of fire from Nelson. Hollis then fired a shotgun blast that struck Nelson in the legs and momentarily downed him. When Nelson quickly regained his feet and kept coming, Hollis, possibly already wounded, fled across the street, turned, and tried unsuccessfully to fire his weapon. He then drew an automatic pistol but quickly collapsed under fire from Nelson, who stood over his body for a moment. After the fight was over, Nelson limped to the agents' riddled Hudson and fled the scene with his wife and Chase. He had been shot nine times (usually misreported as seventeen), telling his wife "I'm done for". Nelson gave directions as Chase drove them to a safe house where Nelson died in bed, with his wife at his side, several hours later.
Here's my list of important points:
1. Return fire and get to cover FAST!
If you don't return fire, the bad guy can and will establish fire superiority and you will be killed. Nelson's fearsome initial barrage was enough to unnerve Agent Cowley, forcing him into a second (poorly chosen) position. Upon reaching his position, Agent Cowley found his weapon was empty, and he was killed. Agent Hollis did much the same thing. Agents Cowley and Hollis violated every "rule" I just laid down here. I don't blame the men, I blame whoever trained them for doing a fine job of training him to perform on a qualification range--but leaving him woefully ill-equipped for a life and death struggle.
2. Learn to reload quickly and efficiently.
Both Agents were killed because of empty or malfunctioning weapons. If they had practiced reloading under stress, George Nelson's last stand may have been decidedly less spectacular. Instead, Nelson killed two more G-Men. Learn to reload and clear malfunctions quickly and efficiently. Keep your fresh mags in the same place every time so reloading becomes more instinctive. Practice shooting in exactly the kind of outfit you'll be fighting in. Cops and military should practice in their heavy armor, with their Batman belts and entry vests on. Civilians who carry concealed should practice using EXACTLY the holster and mag pouches you'll be wearing when some nice young man asks to see your wallet and watch. Oh, and keep your eyes UP (watching the target area) while you reload or clear malfunctions.
3. Two guns are better than one.
Carrying a backup gun doesn't make you paranoid. It makes you a student of history. Perhaps, had either Agent been carrying a handgun (or two), they could have successfully defended themselves once their primary weapons went down. Hollis went for his pistol after it was FAR too late to turn the tide. If your primary has some kind of catastrophic failure (a case stuck in the chamber, broken extractor, etc), simply perform the "Detroit Reload"--toss your malfunctioning weapon and draw the next one. Sounds hokey or perhaps a bit "Hollywood", but it just might save your skin!
4. Overwhelming firepower is hard to argue with.
Nelson knew the fight was on, and so he turned on the pursuing agents with a devastating barrage that scared them. By establishing fire superiority, Nelson was able to fight his fight. He took the initiative and won decisively. This is not advocating "spray and pray". Certainly not for concealed-carriers who will have to defend themselves among many innocents. What I am saying is that if you can keep the bad guy's head down most of the time, you control the fight, and you win.
5. Mindset is everything.
George Nelson was fatally wounded before the fight began. He may have known the extent of his wound and decided to go out with flair. Or maybe he just wanted t give his wife some time to escape. Either way, he was determined to win or go down fighting. He ended up being shot no less than nine times, and he kept fighting. He did not give up, and neither should you. Fight to win. Never quit.