The Reactive Gunfight

By Roger Phillips, Owner and Operator of Fight Focused Concepts

Let’s first start with the definition of a reactive gunfight that I am working under;

A gunfight where you are in immediate danger of death or grave bodily harm and you are responding to the attack while being behind it the reactionary curve.

Let’s look at the definition that I am working within the proactive gunfight;

I gunfight where you are in immediate danger of death or grave bodily harm and you are responding to the attack while being ahead in the reactionary curve.

This article is not discussing “shootings” where the danger is not immediate.

There are very few things worse than being attacked, thrown into a life threatening encounter, when you were not expecting it, and did not see it coming. We all know that we need to make every effort to mitigate the possibility of this happening as much as we can. But, being aware 100% of the time is simply not humanly possible. Simply stated, being involved in a proactive gunfight is a luxury that is not always available. In reality, the proactive gunfight is a much more manageable situation, while the reactive gunfight is far more difficult to manage and triumph in. The reactive gunfight is where you find yourself in the very deepest level of trouble.

Training in conditioned responses will often give you necessary tools to succeed in the proactive gunfight. These conditioned responses are absolutely essential skill sets and need to be trained to a very high level. The higher the level of your proactive gunfighting skills, the less you will need your reactive gunfighting skills. But, the reality is that very few people will ever train to the extremely high level necessary to essentially eliminate the need for reactive gunfighting skill sets.

This is not just about training and skill level, it is also about experience in life threatening encounters and stress inoculation. The fact is that if you have not had significant experience in life threatening encounters and the stress inoculation that eventually comes through those experience, the ability to stay calm and get to the conditioned responses of your proactive gunfighting skill is going to be very difficult, inside of a truly reactive attack. It may take time to get to this proactive gunfighting  training…..time that you may not have.

I have been a firearms training junkie since 1999, I have been teaching self-defense with a firearm since 2005, and I have trained countless student from all walks of life. So far, I have not met one person that admits to getting directly to their proactive gunfight training, in their very first proactive gunfight. To a man, they tell me of their panic, their fear, and their inability to instantly get to their training.  The time period necessary to calm down and get to their proactive gunfight training, in their first gunfight varies from seconds to minutes. This is a time period you may not have when you are in a truly reactionary position. The time period necessary to acquire the all important stress inoculation, to be calm enough to instantly access the optimal skill sets of the proactive gunfight skills, takes much longer and is not measure in seconds or minutes. They are measured in number of gunfights or numbers of life threatening encounters .

Proactive gunfighting skills should be highly trained optimal skill sets, designed for the optimal situation of being ahead in the reactionary curve. Reactive gunfighting skills are sub-optimal  skills designed for the sub-optimal situation of being behind in the reactionary curve. These two varying skill sets are similar, but differ due to the understanding of the varying  physiological effects of a life threatening encounter, dependent on the stress and urgency levels of the two varying situations. This is something that many people do not accept or refuse to look at. There are many reasons for this and those reasons have been discussed extensively throughout my body of work over the last 20 years.

While the proactive gunfight skills are taught through highly conditioned responses, the reactive gunfight skills work at much more of a reflexive, instinctive, and natural level. They are designed to take into consideration the physiological responses of the extremely stressful, high urgency nightmare of being behind in the reactionary curve.

The way that I look at this is, if I am going to train to protect myself and my loved ones, I am going to accept the information that I have received from numerous source, who have extensive gunfighting experience, and I am going to train off of that information. That means that I am going to train to be the very best that I can in the proactive gunfight for the optimal gunfights, and train to be the very best that I can be in the reactive gunfight for the sub-optimal gunfights. Then I am going to train to seamlessly integrate the two. That is what I have done and what I have taught my students to do since 2005.

Very few Instructors teach the reactive gunfight. If you would like to understand where I am coming from, I have a huge body of work on the subject on my blog. If you would like to train in the reactive gunfight, I am teaching a course that focuses on it on May 18th-19th, 2019

“I know you can shoot, but can you fight?”

The Takeoff (Revised)

By Roger Phillips, Owner and Operator of Fight Focused Concepts

When it comes to the very best way possible of exploding off of the X, there are a number of factors that simply must be taken into consideration. It is very clear that inside of almost anything “tactical,” “the situation is the dictating factor.” Without this being at the very forefront of our thinking, we inevitably end up needing to force fit sub-optimal skill sets into situations where they do not belong. What this means is that the very best takeoff comes down to being user dependent and heavily reliant on the individuals very personal situation. Once this reality is laid down it becomes very clear that the takeoff cannot be “technique focus.” It must remain “concept focused” and used inside of a continuum approach.

In the recent past we have looked toward specific techniques in an attempt to be the very best that we can be at getting off of the X, inside of a truly reactionary gunfight. As we progressed from one technique to the next, it becomes clear that the techniques that we have used in the past were nothing more than the framework needed to establish an extremely versatile and fluid takeoff concept. If we look at the continuum approach, it is basically a A-Z concept where no one point/letter is more important than the next. While some may call this approach complicated, in reality it is not. It is as simple as it needs to be….. but no simpler. A fluid concept is simply the only way to be the very best we can be inside of the fluid dynamics of a fight.

“The fight is going to be what the fight is going to be!”

Here are a list of circumstances that simply must be taken into consideration in order to be the very best that we can be inside of our takeoff.

Traction/footing; This is something that simple cannot be ignored. Traction needs to be rated on a scale of 1-10 and accepted for what it is. The skill sets that we use, to be the very best that we can be, on solid/dry/warm/textured surfaces are completely different from the skill sets that  we use, to be the very best that we can be, on a loose/slippery/wet/cold/smooth surfaces. To think that we can own only one technique that allows us to be the very best that we can be in varying traction levels is ridiculous.

Movement; A takeoff does not just come out of a stationary position. I do not stand around in dangerous environments……I walk through them. The takeoff concept must work while stationary and while moving.

Getting off of the X; A lot of people believe that this means getting off the spot you are presently occupying. In reality, it means getting your body off of your adversaries targeting area. If somebody is targeting my upper thoracic cavity, I need to get that part of my body off of the X that they are targeting.

Which direction am I going; Our takeoffs need to be efficient and effective to every position on the clock, no mater if you are stationary of moving. Some takeoffs are better than others, in this regard. That is why we need to know them all, so we can apply the most effective technique, inside of the fluid concept, no matter what the situation is.

Allowable Telegraphing; There are plenty of times where “telegraphing” is simply not a factor. But, there are times where you simple cannot telegraph your intent. Distance is a key factor on whether you can afford to telegraph or not. The amount of telegraphing all comes down to the quickness of your “drop.” The flinch/drop will telegraph more than a simple lean/push or fall/lean/push.

Genetics/Experience; Some people are born with natural abilities that allow them to do things so easily, that it is as natural as breathing. The ability to flinch/drop on command is one of these abilities. This ability opens up options that others may not have. The flinch/drop is also something that is very prevalent inside of Western sports such as football and basketball. Some people have trained extensively in relaxation based martial arts training. This allows them to do things that many people will not be able to do. We must be very careful and train in the manner that is appropriate to how we will really fight.

Physical limitations; As an instructor it is my job to teach people to be the very best that they can be. If there is any sort of physical limitation to one of the legs/feet there must be adjustments made to allow the individual to be the very best that they can be. Being technique focused will not get the job done.

When we look at the varying circumstances around the takeoff it is clear that “one size does not fit all”……and it never will!

The Framework of the Explosive Dynamic Takeoff

 The Pekiti Takeoff is long time established Fight Focused Concepts doctrine. It is based on the trailing leg being the 100% drive leg. It works great for solid footing and in conjunction with movement. It is both a stationary takeoff and a movement based takeoff. The stationary Pekiti is conceptually the exact same thing as a typical movement base football “cutback.” Due to the movement based characteristics of the Pekiti, it will always be a mainstay and the primary takeoff. Inside of the balance “to hit and to not be hit” the Pekiti takes both equally into consideration. You get off the X very quickly with an outstanding ability to get to the gun very quickly. Inside of the A-Z continuum, the Pekiti is the “A.”

The Enhanced Pekiti was discovered in the most difficult of circumstances. It is based on the lead leg being the 100% drive leg. The dropping over the center of gravity on the lead leg, the shoulder to the opposite toe, the tucking of the chin, and the allowing the head to lead the way are all about making the adversary miss and setting yourself up for an explosion off of the X. It is all about surviving the initial contact in order to be able to get into the fight. The center of gravity being over the top of the lead/drive leg is all about setting yourself up for full explosion, with next to zero chances on slipping. This is not a movement base skill set due to the fact that it breaks the general rules of “never cutback off of the inside leg.” Inside of the A-Z continuum, the Enhanced Pekiti is the “Z.”

The Optimal Two Footed Takeoff gives us the very best body mechanics (hips and toes aligned with the desired direction of movement) to be as explosive as we can possibly be. This is the takeoff used by the fastest humans in the world. This is a 50%-50% takeoff. The trailing leg is used to create momentum, to get the lead/drive leg past the apex and into the fully loaded drive position. This allows for the lead/drive leg to start at the center of gravity which drastically cuts down on the possibility of slipping. Even if the trailing leg slips, you will not go down or  lose much explosiveness due to the fact that the lead leg is on the center of gravity. This is a movement based skill set that is conceptually the same as a football cut back out of the “stutter step,” The stutter step is what we do to control the speed of the cutback on wet surfaces, while at the same time puts the inside leg under our center of gravity. If the outside leg slips, the inside leg is right there to take control of the slip. The stutter step is virtually, setting up for as close to a two footed takeoff as movement will allow. It is not a pure two footed take off but it is extremely close to it. Inside of the A-Z continuum the Two Footed Take Off is the “M.”

Non-telegraphing Take Off

I have been teaching the “Lean/Push” for a very long time. It is a trailing leg take off designed for those that do not have the athleticism of the “flinch/drop.” You simply begin the fall the direction that you want to go and push off with your trailing leg.

During the discussion on takeoffs, Sonny Puzikas introduced us to the Russian/Systema take off, which is another no-telegraphing takeoff. It is basically falling/leaning the direction that you want to go, to the point that you have defeated the apex, and then push off with you lead leg……from a position of full power potential.

Rounding out the rest of the continuum comes down to varying percentages of the drive leg (trailing or leading) varying levels of allowable telegraphing, and the amount of rolling of the shoulder……..dictated by the situation.  This is a truly fluid continuum, a continuum that you can turn your take off into whatever you need your take off to be.

Further Reduction of Recoil Anticipation

By Roger Phillips, Owner and Operator of Fight Focused Concepts.

There is no way for a live human body to stay perfectly still for any significant amount of time. Simply breathing brings muscles into play and any time muscles are put into action, there will be movement. This is why high level precision shots are taken from braced/supported positions and during the respiratory pause.

While shooting off-hand with a handgun, there will be movement in your sight picture across the targeting area. That is an absolute fact! I call this movement “the inevitable infinity pattern” to make sure people understand just how absolute this movement is. We should attempt to mitigate this movement, but mitigation is all that we can honestly hope for.

Poor marksmanship and the biggest cause of poor marksmanship, recoil anticipation, are all effected by this inevitable infinity pattern. This movement is not the problem. The problem is in the preconceived notion on what is the solution for this movement. Very often, shooters believe the solution is to break the shot as the sight picture passes over the targeted area. This is usually done with the mind screaming “NOW!” at the shooter. This will lead to a jerking of the trigger and very often a recoil anticipation due to the fact that the shooter is not getting a surprise break. The mind screaming “NOW!” at the shooter is a huge issue in regards to poor marksmanship.

The trick to solving the problem is to mitigate the inevitable infinite pattern, accept the inevitable infinity pattern, and press the trigger through the inevitable infinity pattern. At the entry-level to quality marksmanship, we need the surprise break. In my “Recoil Anticipation” article I taught people “a tape” that was taught to me. It is the running of this tape, while accepting the inevitable infinity pattern, and allow you to press off a shot without the brain screaming “NOW!”

As a reminder, the tape is described as this in the “Recoil Anticipation” article;

“Shooter is told to begin applying a small amount of “straight to the rear” pressure on the trigger…..put don’t let the gun fire! Hard focus on the front sight and slightly more pressure……but don’t let the gun fire! A little more pressure……but don’t let the gun fire! Hard focus…..perfect sight picture…..a little more pressure……but don’t let the gun fire. A little more pressure ……but don’t let the gun fire BANG!”

Since 2005, I have successfully cut down the size of “the one hole drill” by over 50%, in my students who have a marksmanship issue with this one simple lecture.



Thumbs Forward/Locked Wrist Grip

By Roger Phillips, Owner and Operator of Fight Focused Concepts

The grip that I am going to be discussing in this article is nothing new. It has been around for a while, has been taught by some of the best Instructors in the world, used by many of the very best Competitors in the world, who have in turn taught it to the very best Fighters in the world. While it is nothing new, I have found that a very large percentage of my student base does not know about this grip or if they do know about it, they are not using it to its full potential. It really is this “not using it to its full potential” that this article is all about.

The place where I made a name for myself has been about advancing the art in regards to the reactive gunfight. That was my focus for years, well after putting years of study into the proactive gunfight using Col. Copper’s Modern Technique. After bringing the reactive gunfighting pieces of the puzzle up to a decent level and witnessing the world around us changing, my focus switched to a seamless integration of high level reactive and proactive gunfighting. I started teaching handgun courses that were geared towards high level, fight focused, sight fire skill sets. While teaching one of these course in June of 2015, I overheard a couple of very advanced guys discuss the fact the they were getting flyers on their third or fourth shot. This surprised me because I had not noticed that problem and did not know there was an issue. Since this course was a small advanced course I thought it was a perfect time to try to work shop some stuff that I had heard and seen from some of the top Instructors and Competitors in the world. As soon as the three of us started using these grip enhancements, the groups tightened up significantly and the flyers went away. To a man……all three of us improved substantially within minutes.

Since then, I have been studying, using, and teaching this thumbs forward/lock wrist grip. Every time I work with the grip I learn something new. I identify something that I had not identified before and I make connections that I had not made before. This is a very important fact that people need to understand. There is a true learning progression to this grip and just because you were taught it once before, you simply may not be getting all of the benefits out of the grip because you may not be taking it as far as it can be taken, both physically, mentally, and intellectually.

As an Instructor, my job is to provide facts and knowledge so my students can make well-informed decisions. In other words “train the brain and the rear end will follow.” In all of the years that I have been teaching and with all of the controversial stuff that I teach, I have never asked for the student to “do it my way.” I usually accept the toolbox that the student has arrived with. I help add tools, I help organize the tool box, and I teach them how to be better fighters with their newly stocked/organized tool box. But this grip has changed all of that. I now ask the student base if they are willing to give me 2-4 days doing exactly what I am asking them to do. I ask because I feel that it is that important! For the students who come to me, because they know who I am, what I think, and how devoted I am to the advancement of their skill……the answer has always been “yes.” As a matter of fact every student so far has said “yes.”

The teaching of this grip is usually asking somebody to hold their gun like they have never held it before. It is a serious habit change! It is so serious that I usually repeat “new habits” at the start of almost every string of fire as a reminder……because “habits are habits.” Giving this new habit the consideration it deserves takes serious commitment. It is hard! It is uncomfortable! It can be straight out painful! But the significance in the improvement of skill level simply can not be denied. It is a game changer!  Out of all of the important things I have ever passed onto my students, this grip is as important, if not more important, than anything they have ever learned from me……….and I say that earnestly and without hesitation.

It is that important!

Verify an unloaded handgun.

Master Grip

I am going to steal some Bob Vogel quotes here to make sure that we understand that we are changing more than just our support hand. The master grip needs to be high! High under the tang and high under the trigger guard. As we grip the gun with our firing side hand, we are not gripping it like a “monkey holding a hammer.” We are using a “pinching” like motion…….like we are trying to squeeze toothpaste out of 3/4 empty tube. This pinching motion puts forward pressure on the upper portion of the back strap, at the web of the hand and rearward pressure on the lower portion of the front strap, at the little finger. It also puts our firing side wrist into a very flexed downward position. This pinching motion raises the web of the hand at the tang and gets us as high as possible. Guys with ham hock hands may even get cut by the slide at the top of the web of the hand. If you are getting cut… are taking the concept of the “pinching” master grip as far as you can take it.

When I first started working with this grip, I was surprised to see that I was better at shooting one-handed than I used to be.  I could not figured out why, because in my limited understanding, I had not made the connection between what my locked support wrist was doing to my master grip. The locked support wrist was forcing me to no longer use my master grip “like a monkey holding a hammer.” The physical change on the support hand was forcing physical change in my master grip…….the concept of the locked down support side wrist was forcing a conceptual change in my master grip. This conceptual change in the “pinching” grip of the master-hand was reducing recoil and allowing me to recover from recoil more consistently. BAM! There it is……I am now better at shooting one-handed just because I changed the way that I used my support hand while shooting two-handed. Oh, and that applies to sighted fire and point shooting, at full extension and in retention positions. This is something that has to be seen for what it is…….something that makes us much better across many portions of the fight continuum. You know how I always say “it is not about point shooting……it is about all of the things that point shooting allows us to do!” Well, guess what! “It is not about a thumbs forward/locked wrist grip……it is about all of the things that the thumbs forward/locked wrist grip allows us to do!” I will be getting even deeper into that fact later in the article.

Locked Down Support Side Wrist

It is my opinion that your new habits should be built around this one aspect of your new grip. This is the most important factor and this is where the vast majority of people do not take it as far as it can go. There are three main reasons that this one aspect of the grip is not taken as far as it can.

  • It is foreign, it goes against what you are already doing, it feels awkward, and it uses muscles and tendons that we are not used to using
  • It is uncomfortable because these seldom used muscles need to be worked into shape and you will get blisters in places you have never gotten blisters before
  • Lack of understanding of the obvious benefits and wondering why you would put in so much work when what you do already works

These are all training issues and every once in a while you need to simply “trust the process.” You need to trust that the guy that you are paying to show you the best information that he can find and that he is teaching you something that he knows will make you a significantly better fighter.

Hold your support side arm straight out in a blade hand, with the thumb on top. Pronate your wrist downward to its full extent and lock it there. Point the thumb straight forward. Your fingers should be pointed roughly at a 45 degree angle to the ground. Your support side shoulder should have risen when you pronated your wrist downward This is your starting point. This is the foundation of your grip and you build the grip from this foundation.

Verify an unloaded gun, pick it up into your “pinching” master grip and mate it to your pronated support side locked wrist. This will give you a thumbs forward grip with the support thumb extremely extended forward on the handgun. Do not worry about having a “full purchase” on the handgun. There may be gaps here and there. The concept you are looking for is “both hands has high as possible with support wrist fully locked downward and firing side wrist firmly flex in your pinching position.”

This locked support wrist will move your support side fingers significantly forward under the trigger guard. There are some things that need to be figured out due to your body/hand type and preference.

  • You will notice a competition for space around your trigger finger that you have never had before. You need to figure out the placement of your fingers so that you are “high and forward” and the trigger finger is not impeded. Please understand that the tips of your index finger is not essential to your grip.
  • You need to figure out your support side fingers “high and forward” under the trigger guard. Some people stay under the trigger guard, some wrap the index finger around the front of the trigger guard. Whatever you find, make sure it is significantly forward. If your support side fingers are not significantly forward, you do not have a locked down wrist.

One Unit

Hopefully at this point you have your hand positions correct, but it is not just about your hand positions…….it is much more about creating one unit. Two hands, plus one handgun, must equal one unit! During a string of fire, there can be zero separation in this one unit. All three components must be one robust unit. This is achieved with the addition of the inward torque put on the top of the grip by rotating the elbows outward. If the elbows are down the inward torque is at the bottom of the gun, where it is not needed. The locked down wrist is taking care of that recoil management. The torque needs to be inward at the top of the gun to hold everything together as one unit. If both hands are not staying securely on the handgun during recoil, you have not mastered making it one unit.

Staging for the Grip

Habits are tough to break and to do so takes  a lot of hard work. To work on ingraining new habits during an explosive sub-one second draw stroke is going to be even tougher. One of the tricks to implement these new habits at a high percentage rate is to stage the support side hand in a manner that best facilitates the correct mating of the hands in the correct new position. If we stick with our old habits of placing the support side hand flat against the diaphragm, on our count one of the draw stroke, you are going to end up in the very same support side grip you have always used. New habits begin with a new staging of the support side hand in the count one. The best way to find this staging position is to reverse engineer it. Start from full extension of your optimal thumbs forward/lock wrist grip, then bring it back to the point where the hands first come together, notice the position of the support side hand. That will be your new staging position for your count one. For me, it is a knife hand with the palm positioned upward, pressed against my diaphragm.  On the firing line, when I am working on ingraining my new habit, my mental focus is all about getting to my new staged position. The new habit is only possible if I nail my new staging position. My new habit is impossible if I do not stage correctly.

The Concept

To commit to the necessary work to go from what you have always done, to something better is hard work. But, I guarantee that it will be hard work well worth the commitment. Remember, this is what the very best Competitors in the world are teaching to the very best Fighters in the world. This is what the very best Fighters in the world are using. That is simply a fact that can not be ignored. If you think you know a better way, all I can say is, if I wanted to commit suicide I would climb your ego and jump to your IQ.

This is all about being faster and more accurate through recoil control and consistent recovery from recoil. I have consistently witnessed a 50% reduction in muzzle flip in my students after I taught them this grip. Better recoil management means we are ready to press off the next shot sooner. That is the speed portion of the equation. The consistent recovery from recoil  is the accuracy portion of the equation. We are able to press the trigger quicker and the front sight has landed in the rear notch in a much more consistent and reliable manner due to dropping back down into a locked wrist position.

I know that there are going to be some people who simply can not do this grip for various reasons. They either can not do it at an optimal level or they can not do it at all. But, what is really important is that we honestly evaluate why we can not do it. Is there a physical reason? Has there been an intellectual decision to not make the changes in habits because it is seen as not needed or not worth the time? These two reasons are totally acceptable. The problem comes when you decide to not try something because it is different, feels awkward, or does not make sense due to your lack of understanding. This is the point where your mind is the limiting factor, where you are holding yourself back from possibly learning something amazing. This is the point where the new information is not the problem……your closed mind and fear of trying something new is the problem.

The Diagnostics

An Instructor regurgitates what he was taught by somebody else. I teacher teaches you how to solve your own problems and how to teach yourself.

When I first stated learning this grip, I watched for a number of things inside of my follow through. Here is my list of things that I look at to diagnose myself whether I am doing this at my optimal level, after a string of fire.

  • Was I able to track my front sight barely leaving the rear notch and did it drop back into place consistently.
  • Is my support wrist locked down to its full potential?
  • Is there any desire to re-adjust my grip after the string of fire?
  • If I open my support side hand, do my fingers point to the ground at roughly a 45 degree angle?
  • Is my support side shoulder higher than my firing side shoulder?
  • Are my elbows out and am I putting inward torque at the top of the handgun?
  • Am I high under the tang with my master grip?
  • Did it feel as if it was all working as one robust unit?

The Amazing Unidentified Benefits

This is the newest and the most important of the intellectual connections that I have made while working with this grip. I firmly believe that 85% of all marksmanship problems come down to one major factor…..recoil anticipation! Recoil anticipation is the absolute bane of a huge majority of shooters that I  have seen or trained. It rears its ugly head at a level that no other marksmanship problem even comes close to. To solve that problem in a “recoil anticipation problem shooter” is the Holy Grail of training…..and I know this from direct experience due to having to fight my way through one of the very worst recoil anticipation problems I have ever seen.

As you read this article, I imagine that many of you have questioned the locking the support wrist down to its full limit. But it is this locking of the wrist that will allow a student with a recoil anticipation problem to help mitigate this nightmare of a problem to the fullest of potential. If the wrist is already locked down to its full limit, how are you going to counteract the inertia of the felt recoil? Where is the “counter acting of the inertia” going to take place? We all know it takes place in the wrist, but now, with this grip, the wrist is maxed out  and has nowhere else to go. The physical act of recoil anticipation becomes very difficult……if not impossible if the support wrist is lock down to its full extent.

I also believe (no actual proof here, but it makes sense to me as a guy who has fought recoil anticipation for my entire life) that it is not just about making it physically difficult (if not impossible) to anticipate the recoil. It is also about absolutely physically dominating the unnatural explosion in your hand and the felt recoil. The psychology of  visually seeing a 2″ muzzle flip drop down to a 1/4″ muzzle flip leads to confidence in recoil management that leads to an understanding that the recoil is something that does not have to be counter acted……something of no concern…..something that is a non-issue.

The True Point of this Article

Nobody taught me this stuff. I mostly heard of it in passing. Many of you have work shopped this with me as we tried to figure it all out, without any formal training in it. It’s a concept that makes sense and most of us see it as a puzzle that is worthy of taking the time with. As I studied this, along with many of you, It became clear to me that people (including myself) like the concept, but it is so foreign they do not embrace it fully at first. What they seem to do is slowly move in the optimal direction as they get more and more comfortable with it. It’s like we move to the optimal use of it, in small increments. This could be just the way that we are wired.

What I would truly like to convey to everyone reading this, is if I could just give you one piece of advice, it would be to forget about how we are wired and jump into the deep end with both feet. Take this concept and push it to its limits. Do not waste your time doing it in small incremental steps.  Lock that support side wrist down to its full limit and take the concept as far as you can take it.

I’ve learned a lot of good stuff, I know a lot of good stuff, I teach a lot of good stuff. This is as important as anything that I have ever learned, known, or taught.

Bottom line.


Visual Input of the Encounter

By Roger Phillips, Owner and Operator of Fight Focused Concepts

The “see what you need to see” phrase was made famous by Brian Enos and the competition guys. It was all about their ability to make the hits inside of competitive shooting.

But “see what you need to see” has an entirely different meaning for those that are fighting for their lives. For years, I have asked this question inside of my courses, on actually “what you would like to see while fighting for your life.” The list is usually long and is very different from the competition guys list.

1) Hands, because that is what kills you
2) Waist bands, because that is where the weapons are usually hidden
3) Other bad guys, because there is usually more than one bad guy
4) Innocence, because we need to make sure that we do not hurt any innocents
5) Loved ones, friends, partners, because they are on our side or under our protection
6) Available cover, because we just may need that
7) Obstacles, because our attention is going to be focused elsewhere, but we have to be able to see it
8) Footing, because we need to be aware of any trip or slip hazards
9) The exit of the fight, because we may need to simply get out of there
10) Position of tactical advantage, because our mind is the weapon and positioning is key

I have asked hundreds of students this question and until I publicly pointed it out, not one of them said “the front sight.” Even after publicly telling people of this phenomenon, my repeat students sit back and let the first time students struggle to round out the list, to see if anyone actually says it. I have actually seen the front sight mentioned, without being told about it before hand, just a few times.

This is what I have called “the visual input of the entirety of the encounter” for years. It does require being globally aware, over being locally focused. Having the gun in your face and being focused on the front sight makes you locally focused, it facilitates tunnel vision, and there is so much more to see inside of a fight than a few bumps on the top off your gun.

This is why people often shoot for blood below line of sight and this is why people should practice shooting below line of sight. It may not be the most optimal way to get hits, but a lethal encounter is not always an optimal situation, and the encounter may not allow for your most optimal techniques.

If you can “see what you need to see” and then get to your sights, strive for that!

But, if you can not get to the sights for one of the many legitimate reasons possible, have your highly trained, supplemental skill, of shooting below line of sight readily available.

The Ultimate Goal Inside of a Gun Fight

By Roger Phillips, Owner and Operator of Fight Focused Concepts

As an Instructor that made a name for himself by focusing on the advancement of the art, inside of the reality of the reactive gun fight, I find that I am often misunderstood or misquoted about what I believe to be the ultimate goal inside of a gun fight. Due to the fact that I teach people what to do in the very worse of situations, what I am truly teaching is often marginalized or straight out ignored.

In every reactive gun fighting course that I teach, I emphasis this one aspect of the fight with these statements.

“If I am fighting for my life with a firearm, there is nothing more that I would like to see than a perfect sight alignment on a perfect sight picture. Always get the maximum visual input on the gun that the situation will allow, but realize that you can not always get to your sights. Therefore, we must have other tools to fall back on. But, if you can get to your sights……GET TO YOUR SIGHTS!”

The ultimate goal inside of a gun fight is to stay calm, to get to your training, and to get to the most efficient and effective tool for the job. Hands down, the most efficient and effective way to aim your gun is with a high quality sighted fire skills.

There are no hard rules to gun fighting, but there are some very important general guidelines.

  • The more (or finer) visual input that I can get on the handgun, the more accurate I can be.
  • The higher I bring the handgun to line of sight, the more accurate I can be.
  • The further I extend the handgun out, the more accurate I can be.

Each of the statements above do have some cons, but that is not the focus of this article. The statements above are all about getting to your most optimal accuracy positions and if the situation allows you to get to these optimal positions, then EVERY effort needs to be made to get there.

“Staying calm” of course is not as easy as it sounds. The encounter not being truly reactive will help facilitate you remaining calm. Quality training and education will  help facilitate you remaining calm. Experience in violent encounters will help facilitate you remaining calm. It is the experience and the stress inoculation that comes from it that will have the most dramatic effect on your ability to remain calm. But, most people who carry a gun, as a way of life, do not have the experience and the stress inoculation to remain calm and that is a reality that we have to face, without ego and arrogance getting in the way.

The reality is that we may not be able to remain calm in a truly reactive situation. But, that does not mean the we should not strive to calm down. The ultimate goal of staying calm/calming down, in order to get to our training allows us to get to the most optimal tools for the job at hand. Even if you are attacked out of the blue, totally blind sided, and way behind in the reactionary curve the goal is to take back that lost initiative, as needed, then to calm down and get to the most efficient and effective way to stop the threat, which is to get to your high level sighted fire skills, if the situation will allow it.

I know there are going to be some people who read this and think that I have changed my mind about the skills that I have been teaching for the reactive gun fight and that would be incorrect. I have always preached this! We should always strive to use the most optimal skills that the situation will allow. But the reality is that extremely sub-optimal situations may not allow us to get to our most optimal skills, until we have made the situation more optimal.

Every fight should be both physical and mental. The mental aspect should always be about accessing that inner voice telling you exactly what to do……telling you one of two things.

Stay calm and get to those sights.

Calm down and get to those sights!


2x2x2x Drill The Way That I Run It

By Roger Phillips, Owner and Operator of Fight Focused Concepts

Man on man, two students in front of three targets each, at seven yards. Target area is 3×5 index card in the center of thoracic cavity on each target.

Set up is from the holster, three magazines with six rounds in each. Each targets (of three) gets two rounds each, reload, two rounds each, reload, two rounds each.

First shooter that runs it clean moves on. Only clean runs move on to the next round (nothing outside of the index cards.)

I’ve run this in a few courses and nobody ran it clean, throughout the competition, therefore nobody won the competition. This PA. group of guys were informed of this fact and they assured me that would end inside of this course.

Everyone ran it well, but only two could advance to the final. It was Big Sam and Sgt. Psycho. They were shot for shot all the way through, right up to the last shot. The last two shots sounded like one. It all came down to who ran it clean and Big Sam did and Sgt. Psycho had one shot out by a millimeter.

It was a very good competition.

In the course before this one, the guys could not believe that their would be no final, since nobody ran it clean. They all just stared at me in disbelief. I informed them that the standard had not been met and that this course was very much a “standards” type of course.

When it comes to top quality sighted fire skill level, the standard should be very high and very difficult to achieve.

Both of the guys in this final can really shoot accurately, going up against each other forced them out of their comfort zone, and the were forced to shoot faster than they were used to.

Lesson taught and learned! You can shoot accurately, at a faster pace, if you just know how it is done.

The Sequence of Shooting

By Roger Phillips, Owner and Operator of Fight Focused Concepts
 I have lectured and demonstrated this concept hundreds of times, knowing perfectly well that I may have missed something. I finally decided to get it written out so it can be put into a handout inside of my courses.


(Mental Prep, Brain Leads Body Follows)

  • Eye hand coordination draw stroke
  • Lock in on the focal point
  • Perfect body mechanics

(Perfect Count One)

  • Clear the cover garment
  • Acquire perfect master grip
  • Stage support side hand for the thumbs forward camming grip
  • Begin to bring focus off of the identified threat and back to where the front sight is going to land, focal transition

(Perfect Count Two)

  • Elbow up to high pectoral
  • Elbow down to parallel to the ground
  • Finger goes to the trigger and slack is removed
  • Focal transition still in progress
  • Begin to drive gun in a straight line to the point of aim

(Perfect Count Three)

  • Hands come together in the staged thumbs forward camming grip
  • Pressure is beginning to be added to the trigger
  • Focal transition is being completed

(Perfect Count Four)

  • Perfect balance of speed and control
  • Drive the gun out to a perfectly locked in thumbs forward camming grip
  • Trigger is stage to break off the shot
  • Press out to extension with zero disruption
  • Hard focus on a perfect sight alignment on a perfect sight picture achieved by the focal transition


  • Press off the shot
  • Follow the front sight during recoil
  • Verify recoil recovery with post landing back in the notch
  • Trigger reset
  • Asses the threat through the sights
  • Press off subsequent shots as needed, verifying recoil recovery, and the post landing back in the notch

Why the Change in Focus?

By Roger Phillips, Owner and Operator of Fight Focused Concepts

This question was asked of me by a student, who sought me out to learn from the “point shooting/dynamic movement specialist.”

 My answer to his question was that my focus had always been on creating well-rounded and completely versatile fighters, but it was the truly reactive gun fight that had not been brought to its full potential. This substantial lack of study in this important piece of the puzzle left me in a very good position to make a name for myself while advancing  the art in a portion of the fight continuum that very few people knew well.

 I have done very well with being the “reactive gunfight/point shooting/dynamic movement specialist”………but I have never preached anything but a seamless integration of the reactive and proactive gunfight. My focus may have once been on the advancement of the art of the reactive gunfight, but it is now time to bring that same laser sharp focus to the proactive gunfight and the seamless integration of the two, into just one high quality system. The integration has always been there, but now we are looking to seamlessly combine our very high level reactive skill sets with a very high level proactive skill sets.

 When we look at the priorities of a typical civilian gun fight, the reactive skill sets are the most likely skills needed, that is if the bad guy does his job well. Concentrating on bringing these skills as far as we could take them made really good sense.

 But, times change and our situation has change.

 With the rise in terrorist attacks taking place in America and the definite reality of it simply getting worse, the need for high level proactive gunfight skills has never been as necessary as they are right now. I know…….I know the chances of one of us being there when an active shooter starts shooting up innocence is very small, but so is the need for reactive gunfight skills. Preparing for the worse, while hoping for the best is what training for self-defense has always been about. If we seriously looked at the odds of a law-abiding civilian needing high level gun fighting skills and worked our training off of those odds, we would not even need to own a gun, let alone know how to use one at a very high level. But, when your number is called and your flag goes up, the odds simply do not matter because your odds at that particular time is 100%. You are going to need these high level skills as much as you have ever needed anything in your life.

It is better to have and not need, than to need and not have.

 When we talk about an active shooter situation, we are most likely not going to be the sole individual targeted and if we are not being directly targeted our proactive skills are going to need to be at the highest levels possible.

 Fight Focused Handgun IV-Fight Focused Marksmanship (FFHIV) and Fight Focused Handgun VI-Advanced Fight Focused Marksmanship (FFHVI) are not just about creating courses that I have always wanted to create, it was also about creating a course that fits in with the circumstances that we face today. Sure the need for the reactive gunfight is not going to go away any time soon. But, in my opinion the proactive gunfight has begun to take on a much more predominant role than it has in the past, in regards to active shooters and terrorist attacks. That is what the FFHIV and FFHVI is all about. Fast and accurate sighted fire, surgical precision, positional shooting, use of cover and concealment, extremely high level controlled movement at distance, comparisons in your precision during controlled movement between the varying forms of controlled movement, and the complete study of movement in order to make the best decisions, on the best form of movement

 Everything has its place and if you do not get deep into the study, you really do not know what makes you as safe and as deadly as you can possible be. The time that I have spent of this study has shown me some very surprising things. Who would have known that I would be better shooting the “turret of the tank”, at 25 yards, with a non-dominant side two-handed grip, over that of the primary side one-handed grip? Who would have known that I was better at fast an accurate shooting at 30 yards using side stepping over the “turret of the tank” concept? Who would have know that “move-stop-shoot” at 30 yards, using the rifleman rule of three, was far better inside of FOF, than both of the last two options?

 There are still so many pieces of the puzzle that have not been explored to their full potential……so many situations where we have not nailed down what we need to do to be as deadly and safe as we possibly can. That is why the focus has changed! But, it has always been about creating the most versatile fighters that we can possible be. Being well-rounded means that you have an answer for whatever fight that shows up at your door step and only focusing on one portion of the fight continuum leaves you flat sided.

Fixing the Problem Shooter and/or Teaching the New Shooter

By Roger Phillips, Owner and Operator of Fight Focused Concepts

As an instructor, eventually you will run up against a student that is just not getting it. In the private sector this is not that big of a problem, but if it is your job to get a problem shooter to qualify for a professional position, it can be quite a predicament. When someone’s job is on the line, the pressure of overcoming this problem can really wear on the problem shooter. Most of the time, the problem shooter can be brought around with patients and a continuing effort of working on the fundamentals of marksmanship. For a very small percentage of problem shooters this continuing effort may still not be enough. Some students just need a different approach.

As the problem shooter, trying to fight your way through your problems can be extremely frustrating. This frustration leads to an inability to do what really needs to be done…. which is to remain calm. Once the problem shooter becomes frustrated it is very difficult to turn that around. If the student has lost their confidence, the instructor is really fighting an up hill battle. So it becomes clear that we need to do two things right off of the bat. We need the shooter to remain calm and we need to establish their confidence. By taking on a completely different approach, this breaks them away from “that same old frustrating failure.” This is a good start to “remaining calm” and a brand new clean slate for their confidence.

The job of the instructor is to get the shooter inside of their comfort zone and establish the shooters confidence. Once the comfort zone and confidence is established the instructor needs to keep complete and absolute control of that comfort zone and confidence level. Over the years of dealing with problem shooters, it became perfectly clear that this method of teaching was not just good for fixing problem shooters, it was also very good for teaching new shooters.

I really like starting people off with a nice solid Modern Isosceles. In my opinion it is a much better stance for the newbie shooter. There is much less tension in this position over that of the Weaver stance, so the problem student does not tense up and tire as quickly. It lends itself to good recoil control and it gives an excellent center-line. The basic geometry of Modern Isosceles allows the shooter to make hits without even using the sights. The grip needs to be firm and with full purchase on the handgun. The two-handed thumbs forward grip gives us both of these qualities. The goal is to point in at the targeted area and press the trigger to the rear, without coming off of the targeted area. Then recover from the recoil in a consistent  manner. A good stance and grip facilitates this perfectly. A poor stance and grip does not facilitate it at all.

Many of the problem shooters of smaller stature have a problem with remaining extended at line of sight for long periods of time as they work on their fundamentals. This leads to tension that is completely opposite of the remaining calm that we are looking for. We need to understand the shooters comfort zone and keep them from tensing up. Some ways to do this is by teaching and allowing a relaxed/lazy ready position. The first ready position to work with should be a relaxed/lazy low ready. The gun is safely lowered to the 45 degrees and the upper arms are resting on the shooters body. This allows safety, relaxation, and the ability to rest in-between strings of fire. Keep inside of the students comfort zone and they will be more relaxed, less tense, and tire less quickly.

OK, we have the Modern Isosceles, the thumb forward grip, and we have a relaxed low ready. Next, put a focal point on the upper thoracic cavity of the target for the student to focus on. I nice bright red neon sticker the size of a quarter is perfect. Have the shooter start at two yards. All the shooter is going to do is focus/lock in on the focal point, bring the gun up from the low ready till it intersects the line of sight and immediately take the shot. No transition of focus, no hesitation. Just bring it up and take the shot. Then recover back down to the relaxed low ready and rest. As the instructor, watch the hits. Remind the shooter to focus on the spot that the shooter wants the bullet to go. If the shot is low or high make sure the shooter is pressing the trigger right when the top of the slide intersects the line of sight. If the shot is off to the side make sure they are bringing the gun up in front of their dominant eye. If the shooter is right-handed and everything is off to the left, watch the wrist articulation and make sure that it is appropriate for the Isosceles. Repeat until the shooter simply can not miss. Add in controlled pairs, then burst of 3-4. Repeat until the shooter can not miss.

Watch carefully for recoil anticipation (low and to the left on right-handed shooters) and the shooter attempting to aim with the sights.


This is the question that will always be asked! Why does it matter if the student is target focused, over being sight focused? This all comes down to gross motor skills over fine motor skills…..being globally focused over being locally focused…..using natural ability over conditioned skill sets. This takes pressure off of the student. It dumps the “conditioned response” of sighted fire and accepts the “instinctive response” of threat focused shooting. This allows the body, eyes, and mind to do what they do thousands of times a day. It is simply more natural! Natural leads to relaxation, which leads to remaining calm, which leads directly into confidence. Hard focus on the front sight while trying to get a perfect sight picture, during the inevitable infinity pattern, can be a major stumbling block for a problem shooter. They often mash the trigger at the point that the sight picture passes over the point of aim. The old mantra “front sight, front sight…….press” is often followed up by the inevitable “NOW!” which is one of the main causes of mashing the trigger and recoil anticipation. If you give the problem shooter the time to think about the recoil anticipation… are going to get recoil anticipation.

The next step is “driving the gun.” Teach the student a safe/relaxed/lazy compressed ready (count three of the four count draw stroke or as soon as the hands come together.)  I have a compressed ready that just rests the gun at my mid section, with the wrists and the inside of the forearms laying against the rib cage. No tension, no exertion, totally relaxed. We are now going to have the student drive the gun to the focal point. Remember that “driving the gun” is a controlled move. We have the ability to accelerate out and decelerate to extension. Drive the gun to the focal point, take the shot then recover back to compressed ready. Repeat until the student can not miss. Add in controlled pairs, burst of 3-4, and repeat until the shooter can not miss.

Remember to keep absolute control of the students comfort level and confidence level!

Time to “drive the gun” from the holster, make sure that the student is using a nice four count linear draw stroke. The focal point, the linear draw stroke, driving the gun, and taking the shot with no hesitation……these are the key factors.

At this point you should be seeing some decent success. The student should be relaxed and feeling pretty good. It is time to start moving back. The pace for moving back is up to the instructor. Remember you have now established the confidence…… you must remain in complete control of it! Moving back slowly will keep you in control. Work the low ready, the compressed ready, and from the holster as needed.

The goal is to get the shooter to easily hit everything inside of seven yards, to give them a pattern of success, to give them some confidence, to take some of the pressure off of them. You still have to work on the fundamentals of marksmanship outside of seven. But now hopefully, you have a more confident shooter, someone who now knows that they can do it. Also, someone who has built up some upper body strength due to the repetitions and someone who has learned to remain calm and not tense up. As you work on the fundamentals, as soon as the shooter gets frustrated, bring them forward and let them succeed with some threat focused shooting.

Working a problem shooter through the fundamentals can take some time. By having “inside of seven yards” down cold, this may give you the time that you need. Remind the shooter of the “importance” of inside of seven yards and how they have “the most likely” covered. Let then understand that they already have an important piece of the puzzle and the next piece (fundamentals of marksmanship) will follow as long as they remain calm, confident, and put in the work.

As instructors it is our job to help people overcome their problems. These problems do not mean that the student is anything more than someone with a problem that must be overcome. There may be events in their past that have left them recoil sensitive (a lot of shooting with a 12 gauge shotgun as a very young child, an electrical explosion in my hands, and thirty years of working a tool, where the trigger was pressed with the whole hand instead of one finger were some of my issues.) Reprogramming can be a tough job for an instructor. Here are some “less known” tricks of the trade that can make this reprogramming of a problem shooter and the teaching of a new shooter much less of a burden.

Remain calm and relaxed

Establish a pattern of success

Develop confidence

Solidify that confidence by maintaining absolute and complete control of that confidence at all times