We are visually oriented creatures. We rely on our eyesight to tell us what is going in the world around us. When I see something that I don’t like the looks of, a sudden movement in the shadows, I begin formulating my response in advance, with avoidance and escape at the top of my list of options. If I’m forced to fight then I’m looking for objects that can be used for cover, or what direction I need to be moving, where my family/friends/partners are, and if there are additional threats.
Since we rely on our vision so much, often times we tend to neglect our other senses. Sound, for example, is very critical, and often times a problem since one of the things almost everyone experiences under stress is auditory exclusion, which means our brain stops registering the sounds our ears pick up. Hearing is extremely important in a confrontation. I need to hear if someone is running up from behind; it may be someone trying to help, or it could be another threat. When working with armed partners it’s critical to be able to communicate with them, which means listening to what they say. So we need to work on our listening skills, not in a new age touchy feely way, but as an important fighting sense.
Our sense of feel is also important. For example if you shoot the same semi-auto pistol for long enough eventually you’ll get to the point where you can actually feel the slide lock back on an empty magazine. When I feel that slide lock to the rear that means I can already start my reloading sequence, as opposed to waiting to press the trigger and then noting that the slide is out of battery. I feel vibrations coming up from the floor, at a time when my house is supposed to be empty. Maybe Gretchen has come home earlier than expected, or it could be a potential problem. (Sometimes those two might be the same but you get what I’m talking about.)
Your sense of smell is also worth paying attention to. If you spend enough time in the woods you get to where you can smell snakes, and other critters romping around the forrest. The chemicals for cooking meth have a distinct smell, and since they can be explosive that might be a good reason not to fire off your 12 ga. “dragon’s breath” flame throwing shell you’ve got chambered. For those who don’t spend a lot of time in big cities, you’ll discover there are a lot of people that you smell before seeing them.
Defeating your opponent(s) is about assessing the situation, quickly, formulating a plan of response, in a short amount of time, and then implementing your actions, forcefully. Victory comes from paying attention to all of your senses, and that includes your “gut” feelings as well. To register what your senses are telling you in a fight can be difficult because of our body’s natural to trouble. Pay attention to everything, focus on nothing, and win.
With the quality of red-dot sights available now it’s rare you see one fail, except for battery problems. However, we know Murphy’s law is in effect at all times, and if your sight does go down during a confrontation you need to have plan “B” to fall back on.
The answer to a sight failure is to use your optic’s window as a rear sight aperture in conjunction with the rifle’s front sight. Using this technique you can get accurate hits, within the body of the target, out to fifty yards or so. But in order to pull this off there are a few of things you have to figure out in advance.
First, make sure you have a front sight to use. If your rifle is equipped with flip up sights I recommend running it with the front sight in the up position at all times. During a confrontation you won’t have time, and possibly not the mental capacity, to flip up the front sight. With it in the up position it’s ready to go, and when using the dot with both eyes open, the way they are designed to be used, the front sight doesn’t block any of your view visually.
The next step is to figure out where the front sight should be indexed or positioned in the window of your optic to give you proper alignment for gettin’ hits. To determine where the front post should be turn on your dot, aim in on target, and acquire a cheek-weld on the stock so the red-dot is positioned with its center even with the top of the front sight post. Now take note of where the front sight is positioned in the window of the optic. The height or spacing of your optic mount will determine where the front sight post is located. Normally the front sight will be located in the bottom third or quarter of the optic’s window. With some mounts the sight post will be right in the middle of the window.
Now turn the dot off, position the front sight post where it would be aligned if the dot were on, and fire a few shots using some type target where you have an exact aiming point to work with. I recommend starting at about three or four yards, and then working your way back five or so yards at a time to see what type accuracy you can get. (Remember at close distances the offset between the sight and barrel.) I’ve found that most shooters can obtain pretty good results out to fifty yards or so, which is way past the distance most of us would be engaging a threat.
The key to this technique, as with all other fighting skills, is to practice in advance. As Clint Smith says, “It’s hard to acquire new skills in the middle of a fight.” Work this out on the range, so if needed you’ve got this technique in your toolbox. When it comes to fighting, as with most things in life, prepare for the worst, hope for the best, and you’ll be ready for anything.
When I did my first Gunsite class the standard firing response was two shots to the chest and one to the head. As my training/learning progressed I started adding pelvis shots to the response, and eventually got to the point where the head-shot was an occasional added hit. Three to four hits to the body, two to four into the pelvis, and then maybe adding a round to the head.
Don’t get me wrong, head-shots, when applied correctly, are about the only guarantee for stopping a threat instantly. Apply the bullet in the correct location and you disconnect the computer that creates all the thoughts from the body that performs the physical actions. This is why snipers, in critical situations involving bystanders or hostages, go for the head. It’s literally like flipping the switch. One second the threat is standing, the next instant they are on the ground.
The problem in a defensive situation, using a pistol or carbine within fairly close distance, is that in most situations you’re in a reactive state, initially anyway, facing someone who is seriously trying to put the hurt on you. You’re moving to cover, creating distance or just to be a moving target to the threat. Most likely the threat will be moving, especially if you display a weapon and look like you know how to use it; they ain’t just gonna’ stand there and let you shoot them. So they are creating distance, going to cover, escaping or possibly even advancing rapidly towards you. Under these conditions placing the bullet in the proper location, just the right area to create the damage necessary to stop the threat, is extremely difficult to do. If you don’t agree try it on the range against a 3-D target that’s moving erratically. Work on it while lying on your back or side with the threat elevated, or with the target positioned at the bottom of the stairs. Then imagine it being ten times more difficult under actual combative conditions, which, unlike the range are usually less than perfect. Oh yeah, and lives depend on your performance.
Under these conditions how long will it take you to get one good head shot, on a three dimensional target that doesn’t want to be shot? How many body or pelvic shots can you get during the time it takes to make one good hit to the head? And, being realistic, at what distance, under these conditions, can you actually achieve this type accuracy?
These are some the questions you need to investigate and discover for yourself. What you read in a column, see on an internet forum, or hear about from your buddy doesn’t help you understand what you can do. It will be your fight, so find out what you can and can’t do in advance.