*"Fast-Draw" vs Proactive Defense*
Better Tactics for Defensive Handgunning
By: Goshin
20 April 2006

*Depending* on being "Faster on the draw" than the other guy probably isn't your best option for defensive handgunning. While it is certainly a *must* to practice drawing and firing your weapon quickly from whatever your "street-carry" mode is, good tactical decision-making beats a fast-draw almost every time.

More and more, I see that "pre-emptive" or "pro-active" tactics are the most effective at every level...but even better is not letting things reach that point in the first place.

For those of us who carry, a big question is "when do you draw your weapon?"

Some people would say "When someone pulls a weapon on me."
BONK! So sorry, you are probably dead now.
At Rubicon training campouts, we've repeatedly proven what most police departments have recognized and been teaching officers for some time now: a man with a knife can run a **minimum** of 21 feet and stab you in the time it takes to react, draw and shoot **from an exposed duty holster!** With concealed carry, it is more like 30 feet or more!

I've seen demonstrations by experts...most fast-draws from concealed-carry take 2-3 seconds if they're *fast*...fastest timed draw&shoot from concealment I ever saw was still about 0.7 sec, not counting "reaction" time...IIRC that was from a "speed scabbard" under an unbuttoned jacket, by an exceptional individual.

With concealed carry, a handgun under a shirt or coat with an IWB or paddle-holster, or in a fanny pack gun-carrier, it might take even a very practiced person 3-5 seconds to draw *after* beginning to react...and the "reaction gap" can be a very significant delay. Reaction times are .22 sec avg for "simple reaction time" (single clear stimuli with single preset response)...the uncertainties and multi-path decision making process of self-defense can quadruple, 10x or 20x this time easily, not really even counting the "oh chit!" factor;) Also, most law-abiding cits will be relucatant to draw until they are "sure it is justified."

Might go something like this:

1st second..."Why is that guy running this way?"

2nd second..."Is that a knife in his hand?"

3rd second..."Oh chit!"

4th second...begin draw

5th, 6th, 7th...continue draw

8th second: hasty aim and fire.

Most healthy young men can run 30-40 yards in 8 seconds, some more....sobering thought isn't it? Might want to think about being trained and ready to *Dodge* that knife attack, letting him miss and run past, *then* draw on him...right?

If the other guy has a gun, and it's already out when you begin to react, he will almost certainly fire first; perhaps more than once. He may miss; he may not. If he hits you, you might be able to return fire, or you might not; you may survive your wound, or you may die.

We can do better than that.

Informed awareness, avoidance, and proactive tactics are the keys.

Watch for pairs and groups acting "out of place" in a "transition zone": a place where people are going to or from somewhere else, where a criminal might have the 20-30 seconds of isolation he needs to rob, kill or kidnap. (ditto any other place that could be considered "Elevated threat": Convenience-store after dark, etc)

Watch for stiff or jerky movements, trembling, or other "abnormal" body language...pale faces, or a mixture of pallor and ruddiness on the face, is another indicator of high adrenaline flow, a common precursor to violence. Not all perps may exhibit these signs to a noticable degree however.

Keep an eye out for anyone trying to "blindside you" along a rear flank, or a pair/group trying to "bracket" you or "flank" you. Assume any stranger who approaches you in an isolated or transitional zone with a line of patter might have hostile intent, weapons and a partner.

If you see it coming this far ahead, move quickly to avoid the danger. If you can't escape/evade, move to where you have hard-cover to put between your one and only skin and any fast-moving-lead.

"What's the best defense against a falling boulder? Don't be there when it lands!";)

Someone who is broadcasting "bad guy" body language and persistently tries to position himself where he can confront or assault you, who puts his hand(s) in a pocket or behind his back or under his shirt/jacket may well be reaching for a weapon. A weapon may also be concealed in a bag or package held in the hands, or a shirt/coat slung over one arm or shoulder.

Depending on circumstances and how you carry your CCW, you can often draw your weapon without "displaying" it, keeping it out of sight behind your back or leg, or concealed by wall/door/package in your hands/etc. A gun in hand clear of its holster is way-faster to respond to a threat than one under your shirt in an IWB, SOB or paddle holster.

A law-abiding citizen walks a fine line in these circumstances: act too soon or with "excessive" force and you might spend the rest of your life in prison...too little or too late and your family may bury you instead. Any time there is a hostile confrontation you must be aware that it may go to an extreme, and that one of the final-fates above might be the result. Write this message 'on the inside of your eyelids' so that it is always in the front of your mind: "Trouble is like a poisonous snake: Avoid it!!"

A sub-lethal alternative is a good option: see my article on "Layering Personal Defenses" for details on why OC spray is a perfect "sidekick" for the pistol-packer.



If you act "pre-emptively" or "pro-actively", you may reduce the likelihood that there will be violence at all; recent studies suggest that in 98%-plus situations where citizens defend themselves with firearms, no shots are fired at all. Be aware, however, that "pre-emptive" action involving injury or death may be harder to justify in court, depending on the state's laws and the circumstances. You'll need a good lawyer to help you articulate why the person's actions constituted a reasonable threat that prompted your "pre-emption"; that's another reason to do all you can do to avoid the situation in the first place, your avoidance efforts will count in your favor in court later.

Be aware also, that most shooting incidents occur at 7 feet or less, and many at 3 feet or less. In some cases, if he is already drawing a weapon and you have not touched yours yet, you'd be better off to use HTH techniques to disarm or disable him rather than trying to "beat him to the draw" (which isn't likely with concealed carry).

With concealed carry, it is probably best, if you can't -or choose not to- draw first, to **take cover first** if your attacker may have a gun, THEN draw your weapon. One of the things they hammered into us at the police academy was that most officer deaths-by-armed-perp were caused by 1. failure to use available cover, or 2. too close when the action started (often with weapon still holstered). Don't let it happen to you; stay ahead of the curve.

It's not PC to say so, but a lot of times someone is victimized or gets in trouble because they lead a high-risk lifestyle. Drugs, "Bad" bars, buddies who are stupid or criminal-fringe, walking into trouble they could have easily avoided...these are common bad-choices that lead to trouble. Actually, eliminate stupid-stuff, get out of bad neighborhoods and high-risk lifestyles and you eliminate half your risk of crime...add informed awareness and avoidance and you're up to 90% or more. I sincerely hope to live a long life and never once need the weapons I carry daily. But if I do, I plan to keep in mind that "action" is much faster than "re-action"!

Remember, also, that the MOST you ever say to ANYONE after defending yourself is: "I was in fear of my life, and acted to stop the threat. I want my lawyer!" Actually, just the last four words will do;)

Credits to Rubiconner "dbrown" for the following section:

**Avoidance, Deterrence, De-escalation will keep you from having to bet your life on your firearm skills, AND avoid the legal nightmare that almost always follows any shooting, however justified.

Did you ever notice you never see the headline "gunsite grad blasts mugger" or "student of Thunder Ranch takes on street gang and wins"?

I think one of the most important benefits of good training is that it makes you more aware of the reality of violent conflict and your own limitations so you start looking for other options...like being somewhere else.

One of my first instructors had a great saying:

"Why did you get into a gunfight?...you got into a gunfight because you weren't fishing." **

I agree wholeheartedly...I'd rather fish than fight anyday;)

For informational purposes only, reader is responsible for his own actions and for compliance with local law. Carrying a weapon for self-defense is a Constitutional Right, but its exercise is also an awesome responsibility, not to be taken lightly. Lethal force should always be the last resort, and the consequences are often harsh, even if you were in the right.

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