How to Defend Yourself – Close Quarters Fighting with Your Handgun

According to the FBI’s 2012 Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted report 24 of the 44 officers killed with firearms in 2012 were between zero and five feet from the offender when shot. I am using these numbers as a reference because very little reliable data exists for the civilian sector. What we need to take from this is pretty straightforward. If bad things are going to happen, they usually happen in close quarters.

Anything less than total commitment to stopping an adversary can have lethal consequences. You must turn the tables and quickly become the aggressor.
Anything less than total commitment to stopping an adversary can have lethal consequences. You must turn the tables and quickly become the aggressor.

U.S.A.-(Ammoland.com)- With a growing trend of people carrying concealed weapons for personal protection, a point should be made about the necessity of close quarter skills. Handgun training is an ongoing evolution of skills and tactics. If you carry for personal protection, however, it is important to evaluate your “training path” to make sure it coincides with your requirements. While slow fire on steel at 50 yards can be enjoyable, it has little to do with defending yourself at three feet.

Get Your Mind Right

The scenarios that will drive you to present your weapon will be fast-paced and hyper-violent. The fundamentals of working in this space are two-fold; mindset and technique. Your mindset in any life or death encounter should be one of aggression. Anything less than total commitment to stopping an adversary can have lethal consequences. You must turn the tables and quickly become the aggressor. While volumes have been written about the psychology of personal defense, the one thing to remember is that extreme violence brought against an enemy is the best way to stop that enemy.

Building Blocks

Handgun shooting is a complicated and perishable skill. Intensify the intent of your training with close quarter defensive applications and the need for a plan arises quickly. There are fundamental skills that every serious shooter should train on regularly. You need a fast draw from concealed. Skip the cliché of slow is smooth etc. Get your gun into the fight as quickly as possible. Make it a habit to always present your weapon crisply and with intent. The more you do it, the more of a habit it will become. Also, you need to be able to shoot from your strong hand only. If you are forced to engage in close quarters, there is a high probability that there will not be enough time to get your standard two-hand grip. Add to this the need to be able to fire accurately without having your weapon completely extended from your body. Being able to shoot accurately without seeing your front sights is not a magical skill. It takes instruction, time and practice.

You need a fast draw from concealed. Skip the cliché of slow is smooth etc. Get your gun into the fight as quickly as possible. Make it a habit to always present your weapon crisply and with intent.
You need a fast draw from concealed. Skip the cliché of slow is smooth etc. Get your gun into the fight as quickly as possible. Make it a habit to always present your weapon crisply and with intent.

Trigger control is vital. The idea that at close quarters you won’t miss is a fantasy. Methodical and proper trigger control is essential in all shooting. Additionally, you must be keenly aware of where your trigger finger is in the event the conflict becomes physical after your gun is drawn. Shooting yourself during a struggle for your handgun is less than desirable.

Combative skills will increase your chance of success. If an assailant is in physical contact with you, there may be a need to fight them off before you get to your weapon. One of the most dangerous things a gun owner can believe is that they are safe just because they carry a gun. You must be able to not only retain your weapon but be able to effectively strike an adversary with your support side hand.

War Games

Wargaming is an age-old process used by the military to train for possible scenarios. While they can never cover every possibility, they are a good training tool. As a shooter training for close quarters defense, there are certain drills you can do as well. All these drills will assume that the adversary has become a dangerous enough threat to warrant the use of a firearm.

War games, while they can never cover every possibility, are a good training tool.
War games, while they can never cover every possibility, are a good training tool.

Too Close for Comfort

As the adversary closes distance to you, strike out to the face with your support side hand. The eyes or nose are good targets. Simultaneously draw your weapon and fire center mass from the close quarter position. This technique resembles a well-known technique called “Speed-rock.” The difference is that we will not be rocking back. It is essential that you maintain your balance and rocking back can be a challenge in that area.

As the adversary closes distance to you, strike out to the face with your support side hand.
As the adversary closes distance to you, strike out to the face with your support side hand.
Simultaneously draw your weapon and fire center mass from the close quarter position.
Simultaneously draw your weapon and fire center mass from the close quarter position.

Once you have fired your weapon, do your best to break contact and move away from the attacker. The following actions will be the same in all our close quarter drills. First is to fire again if the assailant continues to advance. This is called follow through. Secondly, we scan for additional threats after the bad guy is down. It is important to physically turn your head because of tunnel vision. This skill we label scan. The third constant is to verify your weapon is ready to fight again if necessary. Make certain the weapon is in battery with a full magazine. This may require the execution of a tactical or even emergency reload. This final skill we label evaluate.

Get a Grip

In this scenario, the assailant is in physical contact with you and impeding your ability to draw. With your support side hand, strike down onto the forearm of the assailant and clear your weapon. As you strike the arm, sweep in slightly across your midline thus turning the person slightly away from you. Draw your weapon and fire center mass into their side and or back depending on how far they turn.

Break contact and follow through, scan and evaluate.

Too Many Hands

This drill is based on the scenario that your weapon has been presented but the adversary has their hands on it trying to drive it away. Our goal will be to minimize their movement and allow us to fire effectively. With your support side hand, hook the head of the assailant and draw it close to you. This will begin to break their balance. Slightly bend your knees and use your entire body as a tool to bring the weapon to bear. Once aligned, fire a shot. If the aggressor’s hands are on the gun's slide, there is a high probability that the weapon will not cycle. However, the depositing of at least one round center mass will assist you in gaining the upper hand. Once you fire, strike down on the side of the assailant’s neck as you snatch your weapon back. Break contact and move back. Execute a tap – rack to reload the weapon and bring it back into action. After that, we follow through, scan and evaluate.

Execute a tap - rack to reload the weapon and bring it back into action. After that we follow through, scan and evaluate.
Execute a tap – rack to reload the weapon and bring it back into action. After that, we follow through, scan and evaluate.

These are but three of hundreds of drills available for practicing close quarters fighting. Shooting in this realm must be done under professional guidance and in safe locations. The fruits of your labor, however, will be an ability to deal with the reality of personal defense.

Above all things, it comes down to preparing both your body and your mind.


About Fred MastisonFred Mastison

Fred Mastison is a professional instructor in the fields of defensive tactics, firearms, and executive protection. He is a reserve police officer and has been training in close quarter combatives for over three decades. Recognized internationally as one of the top combatives and firearms instructors in the world. He also operates an executive protection division and provides services around the world.

Mr. Mastison is a published author on the subject of Defensive Tactics training and firearms. As a freelance writer and has written over 100 articles for national magazines.

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    Wild BillClark KentLesWoljamesMatt in Oklahoma Recent comment authors
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    LesWol
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    LesWol

    Thanks to all of you who replied to HB. I am a female of small stature and disabled to boot. You’ve given me a lot of ideas but the best one is to fight dirty: you didn’t start this.

    Wild Bill
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    Wild Bill

    @LW, Just remember the article was about adding defensive tactics to drawing the firearm. All these suggestions are not a substitute for your firearm.

    james
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    james

    This short video on liver hit, it will bring an attacker to the ground fast.

    Dr. Strangelove
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    Dr. Strangelove

    When practicing close quarters with a revolver, be sure to wear safety glasses and a heavy piece of clothing, as the flames and particles coming from the cylinder gap can cause injury.

    Clark Kent
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    Clark Kent

    And being shot can cause even greater injury. Safety glasses should be worn whenever shooting (or handloading).

    Core
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    Core

    Good write up. I will say smooth mantra is still good for beginners when they first begin draw/presentation practice. Or any time you start training a new skill it’s important to begin with a slow while keeping your movements smooth and safe. But the article is really full of gems, some really great concepts. Once you take off your training wheels you meed to prepare for speed, and violence. Good stuff, I love your term “hyper-violent.”

    Henrietta Blair
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    Henrietta Blair

    Just wondering… what would you do if you’re a small woman in my case, to the “too many hands” tact? I likely wouldn’t be able to even reach the back of an assailant’s neck, must less pull them downward. Thanks for any info.

    Paul
    Guest
    Paul

    Being small in stature shouldn’t limit your options. “Too many hands” means assailant may be open for groin strike with knee or a stiff kick to a knee. Any distraction of discomfort may allow you the millisecond needed to gain control of your weapon and make a well placed wound channel…or control of the situation.

    Matt in Oklahoma
    Guest
    Matt in Oklahoma

    Exactly ^^^^
    Learn to scrape their shin, gouge the soft spot below the neck above the rib cage and learn where the solar plexus and liver are to make your strikes the most effective. Don’t look for the magic solution but rather attack with multiple violent rapid strikes. Get mad be violent and win!

    Wild Bill
    Guest
    Wild Bill

    @HB, You have many choices. Make space by stepping back, drawing, and followup. Or (if right handed), bend knees, step in deep (very deep) with the left foot and leg, while punching to the throat or blocking with the left hand and arm, strongly. As your body pivots, pull your pistol, wield it to you right hip, and follow through, quickly. See the pictures? The demonstrator has the pistol too far forward. Wield the pistol to your hip. The demonstrator is leading with his face and not doing anything with his left hand and arm. You can see he is… Read more »

    Wayne Clark
    Guest
    Wayne Clark

    As mentioned by Paul & WB, being in that close opens up many opportunities for hurt. The examples in the article are just that…examples. You can’t reach the back of his neck? Grab his Adam’s apple…scratch his face (you have nails, don’t you?)…jamb your thumb into his eye like your trying to push it out the back of his head…bite his nose, his face, his neck or arm. A knee to the inside of his knee will cause excruciating pain. Let your imagination soar, visualize it (often) & have the tenacity to follow through…because they will. It’s YOUR life on… Read more »

    oldvet
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    oldvet

    @HB…Use your head, literally, Following what Wild Bill said. If your attacker is looming over you, a blow to the groin will bring his head down . Starting with knees bent use your legs to drive the crown of your head up under his chin or into his nose if he has bent over far enough. A forehead (yours) into his nose is probably the most intense pain you can administer . Then anything to his eyes ,fingernails ect. if he is clutching his nose you should have room to employ your weapon .

    Mike the Limey
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    Mike the Limey

    Absolutely.
    A head-butt to the nose is an excellent move on an assailant that close, especially if your hands are otherwise occupied.