Becoming Completely Ambidextrous and Dry Practice

By Roger Phillips, Owner and Operator of Fight Focused Concepts

I remember back in 2002 when I made the decision to work to become ambidextrous. At first, I felt “inept!” I was slow, clumsy, weak, and inconsistent. I refused to accept that feeling as my reality!

Right off of the bat, I knew that I was going to have to get squared away on my own, through dry practice. The reason for this was not just about getting over my ineptitude but to get past the significant safety concerns. I had an ignorant left-handed trigger finger and an ignorant right-handed thumb. In comparison to my educated right hand trigger finger and my left hand thumb, the differences were astronomical.

I did not want to show up to a live fire course feeling inept and having major safety concerns. I did not want to be “that guy!” When I did show up to the live fire course, the instructors watched me like a hawk to make sure that I was ready…..and I was.

The time that I spent on my left-handed dry practice may have been the most valuable dry practice that I had ever put in. My right-handed skill set were never “inept,” They were just ignorant. But my left-handed skill sets did start off at “inept.”

The Stupid Trigger Finger

Make no mistake about it, until you have educated your secondary hand trigger finger……it is stupid……and stupidity can get you killed! You need to bring the level of “educated trigger finger” to the point that it is ingrained at a purely automatic level. This is an absolute “must have down cold” portion of your dry practice.

The Stupid Thumb

This is not so much a “life and death issue as it is a “don’t hurt yourself” issue. The thumb of your primary hand must learn its place when it becomes the support hand during your two-handed shooting. It must learn its “thumbs forward grip” position to keep you safe from the slide coming back and smacking the stupid appendage. That thumb is used to “wrapping” around the back strap and that is what it is going to want to do unless you train it to do something else.

Why Am I So Inept?!

This is temporary and can be moved past very quickly with dedication. “This too will pass” is the mindset that you must have. Once you get past this period of ineptitude…..it will never come back. I went away from my “mirrored set up” for a good six years. When I came back to it, it was as if I had never left it. Right now I am at about 90% of completely ambidextrous. If I did not have significant problems with my left wrist. I would be at 98%. This was not a hard level to reach. But, it had to be reached initially, through dry practice.

The Learning Progression

Dry practice until you are past being inept and unsafe.

Dry practice to the point that you acquire the skill level that will facilitate not making a mistake that could be painful or deadly.

Step back down to the fundamental courses and run them secondary hand only.

Acquire the confidence in your well-earned ambidextrous skill sets through live fire.

Step back into dry practice and practice your intermediate skill level skill sets.

Begin to work past the fundamentals and start working fluid, well-rounded, and versatile skill sets.

Take these skill sets into the intermediate live fire courses.

Step back into dry practice and work your advanced skill sets.

Take those skill sets into the advanced live fire courses.

This is the progression that I took and it is the progression that I would recommend to all of my students. Do not be “that guy!” You know what I say about “that guy”…….he can get somebody dead real quick!

Got Completely Ambidextrous? (New Article)

By Roger Phillips, Owner and Operator of Fight Focused Concepts

From Fight Focused Handgun III, to Fight Focused Handgun V, and Beyond

To the vast majority of trainers and students out there, my flagship Fight Focused Handgun III – Point Shooting Concepts (FFH3) course would be seen as an advanced course. Those that train with me know that in reality, it is actually nothing more than an introductory course to the true realities of fighting with your handgun. The course is perceived as being advanced due to the fact that we do not accept that the fundamentals of marksmanship are the “end all be all” to fighting. While they are important, they are just one piece of the overall puzzle. To be as deadly as you can possibly be, while fighting for your life with a handgun, there are many more pieces that need to be added to the puzzle.

I remember the very first FFH3 course that I taught and how before it was even over, the students were asking me “where do I go from here……what is next?” This is a very important question and one that needs to be answered. I could have just created another course that had a few more advanced drills in it and continued to ride the wave of success…….or I could do what I believe to be right and create a course that actually is more advanced and does prepare my student base at a higher level, inside of the matters of “life and death.” The easy route for my students and I, would be the first option. The problem with the second option is how it required me taking a good number of my students and pushing them outside of their comfort level and their belief system.

From the very first, I felt that the Fight Focused Handgun V – Advanced Point Shooting Concepts (FFH5) should be heavily focused on becoming completely ambidextrous. I still vehemently feel that way today!

To become completely ambidextrous, the most efficient and effective training requires mirrored set ups, consisting of a holster on each side of the body and a magazine pouch on each side of the body. We are not talking about becoming partially ambidextrous. Handing the gun over to the non-primary hand is entry-level as far as being ambidextrous. To become completely ambidextrous means, that you can and that you do, everything on the non-primary side that you do on the primary side. About 50% of my student base shows up to the FFH5 course with mirrored set ups. I would say that another 25% wished that they did and end up showing up the second day with a mirrored set up. It is the remaining 25% that this article is aimed at.

The most common reason that I hear for not wanting to train with a mirrored set is “I do not carry that way, so I do not believe that I should train that way.” Guess what? I do not carry that way either! For me, this is not about training for carrying in a mirrored set up. Sure, I could do it at a very high level if I wanted to and if I was planning on just hanging out in Detroit or some other God forsaken part of the country . But I do not hang out in Detroit, so I do not carry in a mirrored setup. Training with a mirrored set up is about much more important things than carrying in that manner. It is about training to be completely ambidextrous, totally well-rounded, thoroughly fluid, and without any weaknesses or chinks in my armor. It is about training to have all of my “most likely” covered to the very best of my ability. You see, needing to be very good with your non-primary hand is not a luxury…….it is a necessity.

For those that have taken force on force (FOF), how many times were you shot in your primary hand or arm? How many times have you heard about people in gun fights being shot in the primary hand or arm? This is a reality that we have to face, but it is not even the most likely reason that you need to be good with your non-primary hand. How many times have you heard of shooters who injury their primary hand or arm in completely unrelated (to guns) accidents? How many times have you heard people admit in despair, when they realize that they have not taken the time or put in the work and now they have to carry a gun without the proper skill level. On the other hand, how many times have you heard the glee in a person’s voice when they find themselves injured and find themselves prepared for that injury due to having the skills to overcome their problem. Now this is the most common of situations where you are going to wish that you had trained with a mirrored set up!

Being completely ambidextrous is like knowing how to point shoot. You all have heard me say this hundreds of times…..”It is not about point shooting, it is about what point shooting allows you to do.” On the same token……..”It is not about being completely ambidextrous, it is about what being completely ambidextrous allows you to do!” Overcoming injuries is marginally interesting! The real benefits to being completely ambidextrous do not even show themselves until you are at the upper echelon of your advanced training. We have the obvious skill sets where you benefit such as shooting around cover and shooting on the move, but that is nothing compared to your abilities inside of CQB and structure clearing. In my opinion, this reason and this reason alone, is not only the number one reason to own completely ambidextrous skill sets, but the most important reason to own ambidextrous skill sets at an exponential level. If you are clearing structures using your primary hand only, you may as well tie the other one behind your back. It is my opinion that you are handicapping yourself to a level that borders on insanity.

Clearing structures should flow like water. A right-handed corner needs right-handed skill sets and a left-handed corner requires left-handed skill sets. The transfers should flow without any thought and the ambidextrous retention concept should be as fluid as your movement. All of the things that you need to do to keep from being seen and shot, while fluidly keeping the handgun in the most advantageous positions as possible is not going to take place unless you have taken the time and put in the work to acquire completely ambidextrous skill sets. Training with a mirrored set up is the beginning of this path.

I do not sell holsters, magazine pouches, or handguns. I am not telling you all this to sell gear. I am telling you all this because it is what I believe, what I have experiences, what I have seen, and what I know to be the very best information that I can find for my student base. If you trust me to teach you the very best information that I can find…….trust me on this!

In the last two FFH5 the student base safely reached a completely ambidextrous skill level that was simply amazing. We did this in a very safe and methodical manner through dry practice and repetition. The experience from those two course and those two groups of students, has solidified my resolve to continue on this path of excellence. It had such a profound effect on me that I have now introduced a new course called Fight Focused Handgun VI – Advanced Fight Focused Drills (FFH6.) This course is going to pick up right where we left off in the FFH5 course. It is going to be heavy on completely ambidextrous while running the most advanced of the drills that have ever been seen inside of any of the Fight Focused Concepts courses.

If this is a skill that you would like to improve on, come on out to Vegas April 25-28, 2015

“Which One First, Sighted Fire or Point Shooting?”

By Roger Phillips, Owner and Operator of Fight Focused Concepts

From the archives of the heretic……

Here is my thinking as the heretic that I am. This is not mainstream thinking, but that has never stopped me before.

When we get down to the very core of sighted fire and point shooting, each of them have their own very distinct mantra. The sighted fire mantra is “front sight, front sight, press.” The point shooters mantra is “focal point, focal point, drive that gun to the focal point.”

When we look at the very core thinking behind the mantras, which mantra emphasizes being perfect before we even touch our gun?

That would be the point shooters mantra.

Which mantra emphasizes the very last thing that we actually do right before we shoot the gun?

That would be the sighted fire mantra.

Back in the day of the sighted fire-vs-point shooting debates, the sighted fire guys use to love stating this one phrase. “Sighted fire can degrade to quality point shooting, but point shooting can never upgrade to quality sighted fire.” While this statement sounds good to those that do not know what they do not know, there is actually no truth to it. The reason that there is no truth to it is because the point shooter is focusing on the perfection of his body mechanics to facilitate the perfection of eye/hand coordination before he has even touched is gun. This act alone, from the very start, will make him a higher quality sighted fire shooter when the need/ability to gets to the sights is actually needed/possible.

In comparison, the sighted fire shooter is focusing on what he does at the very end of the draw stoke. In reality, he is allowing the sights to lead him around by the nose instead of using them as the final confirmation of an already accurate aim that came out of is perfect body mechanics facilitated by his perfect eye/hand coordination.

While this may seem like a small issue, in reality it is not because there is much less “sight adjustment and confirmation” needed when the perfection of the body mechanics and eye/hand coordination are focused on from the very start.

Inside of the Fight Focused Handgun course that I teach, sighted fire and point shooting at the very same time. Because it is all just about getting the hits inside of the situation that you are dealing with. I talk non-stop about the correlations between the two forms of shooting. But, the bottom line is that the first few live fire drills run inside of this course are run before we have even covered the fundamentals of marksmanship and the use of the sights. The first few drills are all about the “eye/hand coordination draw stroke” and driving the gun to the focal point. This approach sets the stage because it covers what we do at the beginning of the fight……not what we do towards the end of the fight.

Once the “eye/hand coordination draw stroke” is put in place, teaching somebody the fundamentals of sight fire is actually much easier because the use of the sights is just something done and the end of the perfection of the body mechanics and the eye/hand coordination.

Let me ask all of you a couple of questions.

What percentage does your body mechanics and eye/hand coordination get you on the targeted area?

Mine gets me about 98% of the way there.

If this is so, why would it not be best to start the training with what we do at the beginning of the fight instead of what we do towards the end of the fight?

The Mantra…….

We have heard it over and over “front sight, front sight……press.” Then guys like me come along and teach you a new mantra “focal point, focal point………drive the gun to the focal point”

But who is right? What is the best mantra? Does one cover it all to the highest levels possible?

The best mantra is actually a combination of the two. The very best mantra would go like this. “Focal point, focal point……drive the gun to the focal point……front sight, press”

It is the combination of eye/hand coordination and perfect body mechanics that get you on target in the most efficient and effective manner as possible. The sights are nothing more than  a 2-5% verification of an already accurate aim. If you can nail down this mantra and combine it with a very nice focal point transition during the draw stroke……..you are at the starting point to hit the highest of levels.

Think like a point shooter before you ever even touch  your gun. Nail down the perfect body mechanics that come out of the your eye/hand coordination draw stroke. Get to your sights whenever you can or if they are needed. Find the perfect balance of speed and control  so there is no disruption at the end of your draw. Make sure there is no wasted movement……… economy of motion is key.

That is the optimal draw stroke, the paragon of draw strokes! This is the foundation for everything that follows.

More from the archives of the heretic…..

If looked at this subject with an open mind and a solid understanding of how each is taught, sighted fire and point shooting can be taught at the same time. Since they are not separate skill sets, they do not need to be taught separately.

Context is everything! If the context of the fight is kept at the forefront, the ability to see the need for a conceptual approach is evident. Many trainers of the recent past considered their students to not be sharp enough to understand the context and dynamics of a fight……all while learning how to shoot.

Over the last five years of instructing, I can say that that is a pure misconception. Many people want to believe that “common sense is not common.” I believe that is an elitist attitude that has very little reality attached to it. The students that I have trained with since 2010 seem to recognize and understand common sense very quickly.

What we are talking about here is teaching “the mental aspect of the fight” from the very first minute of training. When teaching the fundamentals, if they are addressed in this manner, it is very easy to teach the continuum of shooting right off of the bat. When addressed correctly the students understand that the situation is the dictating factor and that there is a need to be well-rounded and versatile.

When you give the student an open-minded perspective to start with, the barriers that are created by the closed-minded instructors are simply nonexistent. When the student has never been subjected to closed-minded teaching, they are in a much better position to learn at a pace that is more in line with their real ability.

To inform a student that he “needs” his sights is a blatant lie and perpetuates the closed-minded training that we have seen between 1950 and 2000. I have found that it is very beneficial to teach a more open-minded approach from the very start, an approach that teaches sight fire and point shooting as nothing more than pieces of the puzzle that must be connected.

Very few people actually know how to teach point shooting. Even fewer know how to teach sighted fire and point shooting as one fluid concept. Until you have actually seen the two taught conceptually…….you may not know what you may not know.

It is hard to judge something that you may have never even seen before. But that may be why the terms “open-minded” and “closed-minded” are used so many times.

Just because people say “That’s the way we have always done it” does not mean that is the best way.

Heretic on a roll………

I’ve given thousands of tips as an instructor, here is one that is worth as much or more than any tip that I have ever given.

Whether your entry-level course is fundamentals of marksmanship, or fundamentals of point shooting, make the mental connection between the two from the very start. That is what this thread is about. Do not compartmentalized the information as a “sighted fire course” or a “point shooting course.” Begin to identify the correlations between the two skill set from the very first minute!

What this does, is it allows you to be a better point shooter as you learn the fundamentals of marksmanship. In return, you will become a better marksman as you learn the fundamentals of point shooting. The two go hand in hand. They complement each other. They are just points inside of the “just shoot the dirt bag” concept.

It is all about making the hit! Eye/hand coordination and the corresponding body mechanics is what allows this. The sights only refine the precision an additional 2%-5%.

Once we begin to understand the applications of eye/hand coordination, solid body mechanics, and the concept of “economy of motion”, we can begin to start taking short cuts.

It is the short cuts that facilitate the differences between the “one-handed combat draw stoke” and the “two hand high pectoral draw stroke.” Both of these draw strokes are linear. Both work off of eye/hand coordination. Both use solid body mechanics. Both work within the concept of economy of motion. The difference is just a natural progression in your short cuts. The height out of the holster that I “turn the corner” and drop that elbow is dictated by the situation. One handed combat shooting is all about speed so I turn the corner as soon as I have cleared the holster. This is just a natural progression in your skill level and your ability to implement short cuts.

These are not separate skill sets. They are just points inside of the continuum.

Back to the Present…..

Most of you guys know me, what I think, and what I believe to be important. I have always been concerned with how long it takes to bring somebody up to a decent skill level, to actually be able to fight with their handgun. Fight Focused Handgun I – Introduction and Fight Focused Handgun II – Fundamentals are courses that I have been teaching since 2010 and are designed to combat the specific problem of there not being enough fight focused material taught inside of basic courses.

I seriously have an issue with people not being as ready to defend themselves or their loved ones, as well as they should be able to, after one or two days of training.

We all know that the fundamentals of marksmanship are “most own” skill sets! But, the reality is that they are too intricate to be the primary focus inside of the first couple of days, inside of self-defense courses. If we are going to call our classes “self-defense” then “the reality of the fight” has to be the primary focus. As we focus on the reality of the fight, we need to accept the most likely way that the fight will come down and the most likely effects that they will have on us. That means that there is a very high chance that our new students to self-defense may not be able to get to their sights.

“Spray and pray” is what happens when a new shooter can not get to their sights due to their lack of knowledge on the mental aspect of the fight and when they have no other skills to fall back on.

This is progression on how I think that a basic “self-defense “course should be run.

1) The reality of the fight
2) The mental aspect of the fight
3) The hits that can be made using your natural abilities (point shooting)
4) Loading and unloading
5) The eye/hand coordination draw stroke, including grip and stance (point shooting)
6) The understanding of good body mechanics
7) The fundamentals of marksmanship
8) Malfunction clearances
9) The seamless integration of sighted and unsighted fire
10) The retention concept
11) One handed shooting and the seamless integration of sighted and unsighted fire
11) Making the hits on the move

This is what I teach in my eight-hour “Introduction” course. Seeing students that actually own fight focused skill sets, after one day of training, gives me a great sense of pride. I will never teach a one day course that does not reach that same level of pride.

In my opinion, I owe my students a fighting chance after the very first day that we spend together.

After they have a decent understanding on how to fight, then we can take the time to nail down the intricacies of high level sighted fire.

“Hand on the Gun”

By Roger Phillips, Operator and Owner of Fight Focused Concepts

 The “hand on the gun” concept is the concept of having a gun in one of your front pockets with a firing grip already on the gun. This concept is one of the many things that I teach inside of my “Fighting at Night” courses and one of the most deadly dirty tricks that there are.

In this discussion I would like to concentrate on the gun in the front pocket of your pants, not on the gun in the jacket pocket.

When the hand is already on the gun you can reduce your draw stroke time 50%. So if I have a .75 draw stroke (and I do) I can achieve around a .37 -.38 draw stroke. Not bad considering that Jelly Bryce had a .43 draw stroke and Bill Jordan had a .22 draw stroke.

When things do not look right, having the ability to put the hand in the pocket and acquire a firing grip, without anyone being the wiser that you just completed 50% of your draw stroke is a huge advantage. When you work this with the “flashlight in the hand” concept it makes for some devastatingly dirty night fighting tricks. A .38 draw stoke combined with a blinding white light borders on being as easy as shooting fish in a barrel (if you don’t believe me come on out to my Low Light FOF courses and you will be made a believer.)

The point of this thread is to nail down the optimal hardware to go along with this optimal tactic. I would like to hear what others are doing, using, tried, found to have worked well, or found to have not worked well…….and why.

We all know that a J-frame is not an optimal weapon. But when it is used inside of its proper context it can be pretty close to being optimal. As it stands my “go to” “hand on the gun” weapon is my J-frame. The gun already has its niche as my non-permissive environment (NPE) deep concealment gun, so I do get a very significant amount of training with it. Since I do like consistency across categories it also doubles as my “go to” “hand on the gun” weapon.

I carry my J-frame in a Garrity leather right-handed pocket holster. The gun disappears in NPE’s and is smoking fast out of the pocket, as long as it is already in my hand. It is not that quick in a reactive draw stroke, but then again, the vast majority of times that I carry my J-Frame it is as a secondary to my G19 (all except NPE’s)

My “gun in the hand” training is predominately about getting the J-frame into action, emptying it into the adversary, then tossing it on the deck and transition to my G19.

I know there are some fine pocket semis out there such as the Rohrbaugh, but the number you can depend on or are actually small enough to draw well from the front pocket seems to be quite low. I own a G26 and would love to find a way to have this work well from my pocket, but have yet to see a solution that allows that huge Block to not print horribly or be drawn well…… unless I am wearing an appropriate pair of cargo shorts. They often have huge pockets.

As it stands here is my current setup. I carry my full size Glock appendix at the 1:00. My pocketed J-frame is in my right front pocket. There is plenty of room for both guns.

My J-frame may become the secondary gun, but the draw stroke from a pocket really sucks unless you have put your “hand on the gun” before the gunfight even starts.

The “hand on the gun” concept is one where the J-frame is actually my primary and my full size Glock becomes the secondary, when there is a possibility of proactive gun fight. The hand goes to the gun as I try to make the ID or stop the encroachment. The plan is to dump five rounds into the bad guy, dump it on the ground, and go to the full size Glock. By having the hand on the gun, I cut my draw stroke in half and can be legally “off-sides” without any risk of brandishing charges.

If you break away from thinking about the pocket gun as your secondary in a reactive gunfight and look at it as a way to be “off-sides” during a proactive gun fight many of the problems with the draw stroke become no issue.

I am about 95% ambidextrous, it would be 100% if it were not due to actual physical damage to the left hand. But even then, I tend to start fighting on the right side just due to the realities of the loss of fine motor skills when you are in a reactive gunfight. I can access my appendix Glock with either hand quite easily.

The “hand on the gun” is a concept and there are varying levels of readiness.

1) Hand on the gun with gun in holster

2) Hand on gun with gun partially out of holster

3) Hand on gun with gun nearly all the way out of the holster

4) Hand on gun with gun completely out of the holster yet still in the pocket

5) Gun in hand and out of the pocket, hidden by palming, behind the leg, in the Secret Service stance, with folded arms, and out of the Jack Benny.

6) Gun in hand and in the action!

Yellow……Orange……Red…….and black.

Being off sides is a very good place to be, especially when nobody knows that you are not just off sides………you are WAY off sides!

Let’s discuss this and build the ideal solution……a solution that will allow the “gun in the hand” to be the most ruthless of the dirtiest of tricks.

Combat Accuracy Part Two

By Roger Phillips, Owner and Operator of Fight Focused Concepts

“Combat Accuracy” started out as a lecture inside of my old Point Shooting Progressions courses. The improved version is now part of my new Fight Focused Handgun III – Point Shooting Concepts (PSC) course. It was designed in order to get people to look past their past training and begin to look forward toward their future training.

For the students who come to me with FOF training in their resume, the speed of their movement was right where I needed it to be. They were past “stand and deliver” and they were past “controlled movement.” They had already learned the lesson of pain and blood, that the faster you move the less likely you will be shot. Getting these students to push the dynamic movement skill set was a no-brainer, they knew what they knew and my job was to teach them to improve their hits and the efficiency of their movement.

Unfortunately, not all of the students that show up to train with me have experienced the FOF epiphany. They do not know that they can get their hits while moving quickly and they do not know how easy it is to get hit when they are moving slowly. It is this group of people who The Combat Accuracy Lecture is geared to.

The well entrenched training of the recent past had ingrained bad habits into us. We were taught that we had to use the sights or we could not get good hits. We were taught that the only way to get to the sights was with controlled movement. That became the doctrine! The problem was that the doctrine was flawed at the very genesis of the thinking. Since point shooting was considered “heresy” and the people teaching were considered “snake oil salesman” controlled movement and sighted fire was seen as the very best that the human machine could possibly do.

WRONG!

The Combat Accuracy lecture was designed to break away from the incorrect and dogmatic thinking that inside of the gunfight “making the hits” was all you needed to be concerned with. Once the reactive gunfight, the OODA loop, and that bad guys are not stupid is laid out, it becomes very clear that “to hit and to not be hit” is the true reality of a gunfight. Of course those who have had the FOF epiphany know this to be painfully true. But that brings us back to those who “do not know what they do not know.” I cannot give them the FOF epiphany inside of a live fire course, all I can do is try to explain reality through common sense, historical fact, long proven combat experience, and medical knowledge/substantiation (thank you John Meade.) In short, I got tired of people either refusing to move quicker or refusing to quit being dependent on their sights and their controlled movement. So a little reality check was put into place and that reality check is “The Combat Accuracy Lecture.”

In my experience, this lecture changes people’s world. It may not change it as dramatically as the FOF epiphany, but it has a profound effect on the “marksmanship over all else” crowd. Once the reality of the fight is laid out, people are much more open to new ideas and new concepts. Let’s face it, I spend nearly half of a course convincing people that I can teach them, what I say that I can teach them, and that is after nine years of rave reviews.

Once the Combat Accuracy Lecture is received (not “given”, you actually see the lights come on as they receive it) the ground is now fertile for me to teach people to be as deadly as they can possibly be. The dogma washes away, the minds open up, the ego hops in the back seat, and the learning progression really begins.

Common sense and reality is plain to see when the presentation is sound.

My reputation as an Instructor would not be where it is now without The Combat Accuracy Lecture. The Fight Focused Alumni would not be who they are without The Combat Accuracy Lecture. The knowledge that the lecture gives us allows us to break through the BS of the past and allows us to focus on the reality of the future. It is what allows us to push as hard as we can possibly push.

“The amazing human machine” is something that I talk about all of the time. This lecture was essential to creating the atmosphere that allows us to keep pushing the amazing human machine, so that some day we may find out how far we can really go.

“Some Thoughts on Point Shooting” – The Rebuttal

By Roger Phillips, Owner and Operator of Fight Focused Concepts

Recently there has been a decent amount of anti-point shooting talk in some circles. While some of this talk comes from people who do deserve a good deal of respect, I feel that it would be wrong to not address some of the misrepresentations that have been made in order to cast a bad light on point shooting. The way that I look at it is, it does not matter how elite you are, if you are going to dismiss the accomplishments and skill sets of the elite that came before you, you have put your comments into the position to be judged by others, the same way that you have judged others. The bottom line is that point shooting as been used successfully by some of “the elite of the elite” for a very long time. It is a combat proven skill set used by some of the greatest gun fighters this world has ever seen, people such as Col. Askins, Jelly Bryce, Bill Jordan, Col. Fairbairn, Col. Sykes, British SAS, and Darby’s Rangers, just to name a few. To suggest that these men did not know how to get it done would be extremely presumptuous.

I am going to give a point by point rebuttal to some of these recent anti-point shooting statements and misrepresentations, my comments are in bold.

“Some of the stuff that we are seeing on the range that is a concern to those of us that are out there as trainers in this industry is that people want to talk about point shooting.”

Some of the stuff that concerns me as somebody that is out there as a trainer in this industry is when combat proven skill sets are dismissed out of hand, without the training necessary to make the distinction on whether the skill sets have merit. It concerns me when trainers are unable to see the successes of the past or feel that they cannot learn anything from the elite that came before them. It concerns me when closed mindedness keeps the student of the gun from honestly understanding how some of the very best got it done. This closed-minded “exclusive” approach only gives the student a partial view of the reality of the world of gun fighting. If you do not know about the skill sets that some of the greatest gunfighters used, then you do not know the history of gun fighting. If you do not know the history of gun fighting, then you do not know what has been extremely successful.

“You do want to see your sights every chance you get.”

Anybody that would say anything different from that would not be very smart. I know that I teach “if you can get to your sights……. get to your sights!” The difference between what Fight Focused Concepts (FFC) teaches and what anti-point shooters teach comes down to being either open-minded and “inclusive” or closed-minded and “exclusive.” FFC teaches to “get to the sights if it is at all possible……but do not die trying to get to something that may not be there or the situation may not allow for.” When we look at the realities of the fight inside of typical civilian CCW attack (because that is what FFC focuses on) it is very clear that we are most likely going to really be up against it. We are most likely going to be behind in the reactionary curve and not proactive. This is the key difference between elite military unit application and typical civilian CCW application.

Let’s take a look at “the most likely” of the reality of the fight for typical CCW civilians.

  • Behind in the reactionary curve due to the fact that we are going to be reacting to what the bad guy is doing
  • 70% of all gun fights are in Low light
  • Both you and the adversary moving dynamically
  • Activation of the sympathetic nervous system in the fight or flight response leading to a dilation of the pupils causing a probable inability to focus on anything small or up close
  • Adrenaline dump that reduces the quality of our fine motor skill sets
  • Instinctive desire to visually lock onto the person or thing that is trying to kill you
  • A retention problem that is fluid and ever-changing
  • High possibility for the needed integration of hand to hand along with the use of the handgun, since over 50% of all gun fights happen inside of three yards.

These are all issues that can substantially affect your ability to get to the sights. The philosophical question is, as an instructor inside of this industry, do you teach the student what to do if the situation does not allow you the ability to get to your sights, or do you teach a closed-minded “exclusive “ approach that leaves the student with an inferior skill level when the student cannot get to his sights? That is the question! Do you leave your student out there with no quality skill sets to fall back on if he cannot get to the sights?

We teach the student to be the very best that they can be when they can get to their sights and when they do not have the chance to get to their sights. That sounds like teaching that takes care of the students needs even when the student is in the deepest of trouble……..unlike the closed-minded “exclusive” approach.

“It is a sad state of affairs to start teaching our LEO’s or Soldiers to generally shoot in an area that they think that there might be a target.”

I do not know one person that has actually been trained in quality point shooting that would consider that statement as something that is even remotely accurate to the philosophy, skill sets, and actual application of the point shooting skill sets that they use. This statement here is either over the top marketing, using over the top verbiage in order to try to make point shooting look stupid, or a sure sign of how little is actually known about the actual skill set.

Trained point shooters target a dime size focal point on the threat using eye/hand coordination. The bullets go where the eyes go just as a baseball thrown by a pitcher, a three-point shot taken by a basketball player, or an arrow shot from a long bow. The idea that point shooting is not accurate aimed fire is absolutely false. It is aimed fire using a methodology that is based on pure science. Anyone that has had quality point shooting instruction knows this to be so. While it is based on solid science it is also very natural, instinctive, and reflexive. This means that it is relatively easy to learn and the retention of the skill sets is outstanding.

The concept of “shooting in the general area” would be a failed concept used by those that do not have point shooting knowledge or skills. This would be what is done by those that are only taught a closed-minded “exclusive” training philosophy and suddenly find that they cannot get to their sights. That is what somebody with no point shooting knowledge, instruction, or skill sets would do. Let’s not misrepresent the skills of the open-minded “inclusive” trained student with the skills of the closed-minded “exclusive” trained student. FFC will make sure that you will have the skills, no matter what the situation is. The ability to get to the sights or not……. we will make sure that you have your bases covered. You will not be out their floundering just because your pet technique was not accessible due to the reality of the fight.

“For LEO’s, point shooting is probably not the road to go down, for liability issues for one. We need to make sure that we account for every round that is fired.”

Sighted fire “always” has been the predominant training methodology inside of Law Enforcement (LE) for a very long time. The national recognized hit ration inside of LE is 15%-25%. That means out of every 100 rounds fired there are 75 to 85 rounds that miss the adversary completely. I do not blame the LEO’S for this……. I blame the closed mindedness of the predominant training methodology. If we look at the civilian CCW list above of “most likely” is becomes clear that LEO’s deal with many of the same issues as the civilian. “Sighted fire always” methodology leaves the officer with nothing to fall back on when the situation does not allow for the officer to get to his sights. The officers need to own sighted fire and have the necessary skill sets when they cannot get to the sights. The only way to do this is to train in an open-minded “inclusive” manner. When you train within the reality of the fight you are in a much better position to rise to the level of the situation. If the situation does not allow the LEO to get to the sights, we need to make sure that he has the skill sets so he can still go home at the end of the shift. I have real concerns that these highly successful, combat proven skill sets are being held back from those out there that go into harms way. If their Department won’t teach them due to having more concerns for liability, than that of officer safety……I will!

When we look at liability and the nationally recognized hit ratio, it is clear to see that the liability to only teach sighted fire is a major concern. Our LEO’s should be given the very best training available to deal with the reality of the fight. They need to have skills that cover the situations where they are unable to get to the sights. Training to get to the sights needs to be the priority, but training when getting to the sights is not possibly, needs to be addressed also. To not do this leaves our men and women in a very dangerous position, a position where they are required to attempt something that they have never received any training to do.

“That does not mean that if we are at contact distances that we would not just point our weapon and squeeze the trigger until we have eliminated the threat. What that means that if we have a target that allows us to get to our sights on that target, we need to make every effort to see those sights.”

The debate about point shooting has been a debate cursed by ignorance and semantics. The ignorance part of it deals with people who have zero point shooting knowledge, skills, or instruction offering up their uneducated opinions as fact. The semantics portion of this comes down to people changing the definition and name of point shooting in order to not give point shooting it’s due credit. This also causes confusion as to what point shooting really is. I work off of the historical definition of point shooting, which is……. “If you are focused on the threat, then you are point shooting. If you are focused on your sights then you are using sighted fire.” “Contact shooting” is a term developed so people did not have to admit to the fact that they do actually point shoot. If you admit to point shooting, you simply cannot debate against point shooting.

The question arises, “what is contact distance?” Many people believe the answer is two yards.

From what I have seen, people with good instincts begin to instinctively consider retention at around four yards. If two men were to stand apart, at four yards and reach towards each other, the distance between the men would actually be less than two yards. So it is my opinion that we need a retention concept that allows us to be the very best that we can be inside of four yards. This retention concept should allow you to extend the gun out just far enough to guarantee the hits, but not so far that you leave yourself open for an attack on the gun, the gun hand, or the gun arm. This retention concept could be called “contact shooting” due to the desire to not project the gun unnecessarily into contact distances. But the reality of the matter is that the retention concept would be nothing more than point shooting. If you look at the reality of the retention concept and it’s absolute fluidity, it is plain to see that you need solid fluid point shooting skill sets in order to be the very best that you can be. The further out you extend, the more accurate that you can be. Yet, if you extend out unnecessarily, the more open you are to a retention issue. It is all about the perfect balance of speed/accuracy/retention properties.

In my opinion, to say that it is alright to point shoot at “contact distances” means that it is alright to point shoot out to four yards, out of the retention concept. If you agree with this concept then you are going to need point shooting skill sets. If you disagree, you may want to test your opinions inside of Force on Force (FOF.) Run the Tueller drill with a training partner that is trying to take your head off. Run it down to six yards, then five yards, then four yards, then three yards. Once you have done that then come back to me and we will discuss the retention concept again.

Retention is not a position……it is a fluid concept.

Contact shooting is not a position……it is a fluid concept.

Contact distance is not a set distance……it is a fluid concept.

The average gunfight happens at three yards. That means that half of all gun fights happen inside of three yards. Do not project your gun into contact distances due to the fact that you do not have quality point shooting skill sets. Being a slave to any pet technique can get you killed.

Situations dictate strategy, strategies dictate tactics, and tactics dictate techniques……techniques should not dictate anything.

If your techniques are dictating your response to a situation……you may not be as ready as you think you are. The situation is the dictating factor and you are going to need versatile, fluid skill sets in order to be the very best that you can be inside of the fluid reality of the fight.

“We need to make every effort to use those sights, I think you will have better down range results once you do that.”

Once again, you recognize the fact that there are times that getting to the sights will not be possible. The question arises again, “do you teach your students what to do when that happens?” I know that FFC does.

Every point shooting instructor that is worth is weight in salt knows that getting to the sights will allow you to be more accurate. But, inside of a fight it is not just about accuracy. It is also about what is actually possible. It is also about the perfect balance of speed and accuracy……dictated by the dynamics of the fight……..inside of the balance “to hit and to not be hit” all while taking the retention concept into consideration. Being accurate means nothing if you are too slow in your draw stroke, too slow in your movement, too slow in your initial shot, too slow in your follow-up shots, or if you project your gun into an area of danger. The quality use of our sights should be a priority inside of our thinking. Making sure that we do whatever needs to be done to guarantee that we go home needs to be our priority inside of the fight. Staying fight focused does not necessarily mean that you have to stay sight focused.

“Point Shooting, I’m not a big fan of that”

I am not a big fan of closed-minded “exclusive” training, especially when it is recognized that the sights will not always be there for you. If the student cannot get to his sights…. that means that the student is in really deep trouble. Is it really wise to not give the student the tools to deal with the most difficult of the problems? It would seem to be a disservice to the student to say “there are times that you will not be able to get to your sights……..sorry I got nothing for you in the curriculum on that.” Is that really the best way to handle that when some of the greatest gunfighters of all time have already shown us how well point shooting works?

I guess this all comes down to perspective.

The Fallacy of the “Retention Position” (Revised)

By Roger Phillips, Owner and Operator of Fight Focused Concepts

This is something that I originally wrote in 2006 or 2007. This was a time period where people believed that they did not need to know how to point shoot and that two shooting positions (full extension with the use of the sights and a very compressed retention position) covered everything that they could ever possibly encounter. The retention concept used as a fluid concept has become much more prevalent since those closed-minded and dogmatic days.

As I move forward in the training progression and now teaming up with renown knife and combatives Instructor Tom Sotis and the study of integration of hand to hand, knife, and pistol this old article comes to mind, so it has been revised to reflect what I believe is of the utmost of importance. If you have read it before, I would suggest that you read it again because the revisions are directly related to my upcoming courses with Tom Sotis.

The Fallacy of the “Retention Position” (Revised)

The retention position is another sacred cow that simply does not stand up under the dynamics of the reality of the fight, critical thinking, or inside force on force (FOF) training. The idea that you have only one retention position that will take care of the full spectrum of retention problems, that you may come across, is simply ridiculous. If you adopt and train in only one retention position, then you are forcing a sub-optimal niche technique into a concept driven, continuum based skill set. The study of force fitting of niche techniques, in order to replace fluid concepts, is the undoing of the technique based training of the recent past.

As in almost anything that we do in regards to self-defense, there is a continuum in regards to retention. This continuum is once again based on the distance of the threat and the dynamics of the encounter. The distance aspect of this equation speaks for itself. The main goal is to protect your gun, gun hand, and gun arm by extending out only as far as is needed, dictated by the difficulty of the shot. This concept is very cut and dry….at least until we add in the variables of the dynamics of the encounter. It is the dynamics that much of the training of the recent past has completely ignored. The context of the fight dictates the amount of extension of the gun that is allowable and necessary. The weapon used and the forward drive of adversary are additional factors that must be considered. Your movement response to these factors also must be taken into consideration.

As we recognize once again, that this is not a “one size fits all” world and that the situation is the dictating factor. It is plain to see that having only one retention position ties our hands is so many ways. Retention is a concept…..not a position. It is a fluid skill set…. not a locked in positional technique. The retention positions that I have been taught in the past were geared towards very limited situations. On the most part they were stand and deliver techniques that were only good at “hands on” bad breath distances. Now this may be good for “one foot” but what about one yard, two yards, three yards, four yards, against a knife, against an impact weapon, with dynamic movement, and after you have gone “hands on” and created some distance?

From my personal experience and while watching other experienced people in combat and FOF, I feel that we all need to start considering retention at about the four yard mark. The reason for this is simple. Remember the retention main goal;

“The main goal is to protect your gun, gun hand, and gun arm by “extending out” only as far as is needed, dictated by the difficulty of the shot.”

Four yards with two men extended towards each other is really only a two yard gap. A two yard gap can be closed by a stationary adversary in around .5 of a second. Contact at .5 of a second…… and that is without a weapon that extends the adversaries reach. Factor in an adversaries forward drive and the time is considerably less. To come out to full extension on an adversary within four yards is just daring for a gun grab attempt or an attack on the gun hand and arm. By compressing the gun inward you accomplish two very distinct things, you take the gun further out of reach and you let the adversary know that you are not an idiot. Projecting the gun is a fool’s mistake. By compressing the gun you are limiting the adversary’s choices and possibly taking away his best choice.

If we accept that compressing the gun is a good tactic at four yards, well then it is obvious that compressing it even more so, is a good tactic, as the distance decreases. If all of this sounds familiar, it is because this concept has been around since the 1930’s. Fairbairn and Sykes understood the need for a fluid retention concept. Quarter hip, half hip, and three-quarter hip were designed, in part, with the main goal in mind. One thing that we need to keep in mind is that these “hip” positions are just points that you can flow to and through. They are not set positions….. they are fluid points that had to be given names so that they could be discussed.

Work the concept not the technique!

This concept of retention is so far superior to a retention position. It takes in the reality of a violent encounter…..which is all based on distance. The fluid use of kicks, punches, strikes, the use of a knife, a sword, etc, etc are all based on distance. To have only two shooting positions make as much sense as having only two ways to throw a punch. It is like only having a very short upper cut and a very long right hand……with nothing in between.

As we look to the dynamic movement skill set, it is very important to consider retention as we work the oblique angles or parallel tracking. At certain distances, with certain movement we actually close the distance. This fact must be kept in mind. Do not project the gun and open yourself to an attack on the gun, the gun hand, or the gun arm. Compress the pistol as you close in on the target and extend the pistol out as you create the distance from the target.

In my humble opinion, there are no hard rules in gun fighting, but there are plenty of general guidelines. An example of some of these guidelines are as follows.

The further you extend out, the more accurate that you can be. On the flip side of that coin is, the further you extend out the more you open yourself up to an attack on the gun, the gun hand, and the gun arm. There is a balance that must be sought out and trained in. This takes time, work, training, and testing. To compress the gun back to keep yourself safe, while still not having the ability to put fast and accurate hits on board is simply not good enough. You must have the fluid retention based skill sets of quality point shooting and dynamic movement skills, to make it all come together.

In regards to fighting against blunt weapons and edged weapons, this retention concept is of the utmost importance. We have all heard the phrase “don’t bring a knife to a gun fight” but we also know that the opposite is true “don’t bring a gun to a knife fight!” Dependent on our skills, what tool we choose to use against a blunt/edge weapon attack comes down to being user dependent. If you are a gun guy and want to use your pistol as your go to tool, you are simply going to have to use you “defense against blunt/edge weapon attack” skills to get that weapon off of you and create some distance to be able to get your tools in play.

You are looking to turn a knife fight into a gun fight.

How much distance you are able to create is what the fluid retention concept is all about. Ideally, I am going to want to create seven yards. If the stars align and I do my job, I can create that much space. But, while fighting things do not always go as you would like them to go. The seven yards you wanted may be substantially less and you are going to need the combination of the retention concept, dynamic movement, and point shooting to keep the distance you created from being closed on you again.

I have seen the training where a small amount of distance is created and the knife attacker gives up as soon as he sees the pistol or is shot once. But that is not reality! They all do not quit or stop that easily. When you shoot some people with a handgun, you just piss them off more! It is not just about creating the distance and getting our tools into play, it is about taking control of the dynamics of the fight by turning a knife fight into a gun fight……and keeping it a gun fight until the fight is over.

If we look at the retention concept from an open-minded point of view, it becomes very apparent that any retention training that does not incorporate quality, fluid, combat proven point shooting, and dynamic movement skill sets is simply training to be ineffectual.