If you read enough gun forums, watch enough gun channels on YouTube, and talk to enough gun owners you will come across somebody who constantly says the phrase “Train how you fight!” While the advice itself isn’t bad I think a lot of people who parrot the phrase fail to understand some of its key points.
Most of the people who I heard use the phrase imply that you need to train high-speed low-drag and come up with some rather humorous drills that they practice religiously. These people also create scenarios that are often absurd even for police and military personnel. They’ll come up with a drill that involves some kind of ninja-esque tactical roll between cover positions to engage twenty Mongol warriors that just happened to raid the American mall you’re shopping in. Of course the scenario also implies that you are the only person in the mall that can stop this Golden Horde. Unless you have a friend who wants to train with you, then you two are the only people who can save the lives of every man, woman, and child in the mall. Did I mention that these drills must be practiced with an AR-15, a chest rig full of spare magazines, and a sidearm in a drop-leg holster? Let’s be honest, who doesn’t wear that when they go shopping?
Most of us don’t live in a war zone. We’re not carrying around rifles, wearing chest rigs, or having to fight off Mongol hordes in busy shopping centers. Some of the videos I’ve come across on YouTube made by people who “train how they fight” must live in an area where attacks from paramilitary forces is common and nobody hassles them for walking around looking like a discount soldier. I don’t live there and I’m guessing you don’t either.
While I won’t try to dissuade you from coming up with cockamamie scenarios requiring ninja tactics to overcome, because let’s be honest that’s fun, I wouldn’t refer to it as training. If you honestly want to train how you fight consider the following drills:
Place your tail in between your legs.
This drill should be practiced more than any other. In it somebody tries to start a fight with you by insulting your mother, implying you enjoy sexual relations with people of your gender (which you might, but they won’t know that and thus will still try to use it as an insult), shoving you, slapping you, or otherwise acting like an aggressive jackass to you. Upon being engaged by the aggressor you walk away. Don’t say anything, don’t do anything aggressive in return, just walk away. A variation of this drill is the aggressor pursuing you. In this case increase your walking speed until it is quicker than your aggressor’s (the high-speed part of these drills).
The goal of this drill is to overcome your ego. Egos are scientifically proven to be the source of most really stupid decisions. Divorcing your ego from your actions is the surest way to avoid getting involved in a bad situation.
Remove your weapon from concealment.
So your aggressor pulled a weapon on you or running away isn’t viable for some reason. It’s a bad day and it’s about to get worse. Thankfully you have a weapon. But it’s concealed so you need to clear your weapon from concealment.
In this drill you find yourself facing a surprise attack from a Mongol warrior (for the record, Mongol warriors are always armed). Because you live in a constant state of condition yellow the Mongol didn’t get the complete drop on you. But you didn’t have your primary weapon ready. To engage the attacker you must draw your firearm from concealment. If you’re wearing a tuckable holster and normally tuck your shirt into it you must now untuck it quickly. If you wear an untucked shirt you must quickly lift it enough to gain access to your firearm. If you wear a vest you may be safe as the Mongol warrior is probably busy laughing at you but you still need to move it out of the way enough to access your firearm. Once the concealment has been removed you must draw your firearm and bring it up on the pissed off Mongol warrior’s upper torso.
The nice thing about this drill is that it can be done in your home since firing at the Mongol warrior is not necessary. This drill is meant to improve your ability to draw your firearm from concealment.
Shoot the mother fucker attacking you.
You’ve successfully drawn your firearm from concealment and it’s mere presence didn’t cause the Mongol warrior to rethink his actions. That’s unfortunate for many reasons including paperwork, legal battles, and being in a position where you may have to take a life.
This drill is a continuation of the previous drill. In it you’ve successfully drawn your weapon from concealment and have it aimed at the chest of the Mongol warrior. For reasons unknown to you this hasn’t dissuaded him from continuing his jackassery. Fire two shots into his upper torso. A variation of this drill is the Mongol warrior being drugged out of his mind and thus not stopping after two shots. To resolve this situation continue firing until he does stops.
The goal of this drill is to improve your skills at drawing and firing on an aggressor. It should be combined with the previous drill as often as possible. Running the drill against a shot timer can be done to introduce some level of stress.
Wherever you are is bad. Be somewhere else.
Why are you standing around and giving the Mongol warrior ample opportunity to kill you? Move away from him!
This drill is periodically referred to as “getting off of ‘the X'” where “the X” is wherever you’re currently standing. Even after you’ve moved from your initial ‘X’ it will continue following you so you need to keep moving away from it. In it you draw from concealment and shoot your aggressor while moving in a direction away from him (this is very important because moving towards him will make his task of kill you easier). You can combine this drill with only drawing from concealment if you want to practice it at home (assuming your home isn’t a firing range).
I believe the goal of this drill is obvious. Moving targets are harder to hit and the more distance between you and your aggressor the better. The whole point of carrying a firearm as opposed to a sword is that a firearm has a much greater effective range. Utilize it.
God hates you and your gun jammed. Unjam it before Genghis Khan runs you through with a spear.
You’ve overcome your ego, can consistently draw your firearm from concealment, and know how to fire your gun accurately all while moving away from your attacker. But sometimes life hands you a wildcard. What do you do if your gun jams?
If you carry a semi-automatic pistol this is a good list of failure types and the drills to recover from them. Those who carry a revolver have a slightly different set of drills. Ammunition failures in a revolver can generally be overcome by pulling the trigger again. Mechanical failures will leave you with a decision: run away or close range and attempt to use your paperweight as a bludgeon. I’d recommend the former in most cases. Regardless of the type of handgun you’re carrying time yourself when performing this drill. You want to be able to, as the high-speed low-drag crowd says, get your gun back into the fight as soon as possible. That Mongol warrior isn’t going to respect you calling a timeout while you unfuck your gun.
The goal of this drill is to prepare you for the worst when the worst is already happening. Don’t think of it solely as a drill to recover from a firearm failure. It should be thought of as an exercise in rapid analysis and decision making. Bad shit happens and you need to be flexible enough to deal with it.
Stop touching me!
I know we all exist in a perpetual state of condition yellow but even that won’t prevent all surprise attacks. Do you see that girl scout walking towards you? As it turns out she’s a Mongol warrior in disguise (she did smell pretty rank now that I think about it)! Of course you see through his ruse now that he has a grip on your dominant arm (make sure you clean that arm with degreaser after this encounter is over).
There are two things you want to practice in this drill: weapon retention and escape. The variations of this drill are practically infinite. Maybe the Mongol warrior simply grabbed your wrist, maybe he pinned you on your back, or maybe he came up behind you and now has you in a choke hold. Regardless your day now sucks and it’s only going to get suckier. You need to escape and prevent the Mongol warrior from taking your weapon because you’ll need it to engage him in the very near future. When practicing this drill keep in mind that there are these things called blue guns. They’re plastic replicas of real firearms. The nice thing about them is that they can’t actually shoot bullets. Use them for this drill because safety is important.
In reality this drill is probably the least important one on this list to practice. It’s mostly here to encourage you to try some hand-to-hand stuff because hand-to-hand stuff is awesome. The most important thing to practice in this drill is weapon retention. You carry a gun because it’s very effective against human attackers. For that very reason if your attacker realizes you have it he will want it. Keep that in mind.
This list shouldn’t be treated as all encompassing. It’s merely a guideline to better understand how you will most likely fight (again, if you’re not in the police or military). Most people want to spend their time doing things that are fun. For some reason a sizable number of gun owners feel a need to justify all of the shooting they do as being practical training. This leads them to call things that are fun practical when they almost always aren’t. It’s fun to load up the chest rig, design a course of fire around Mongol warriors invading your mall, and engaging them to save the day. But it’s not practical training because most of us aren’t walking around with a chest rig full of magazines or a rifle not slung across our back (unless we’re talking about Open Carry Texas but that’s a very special scenario). We’re carrying concealed handguns. For those of us living in the United States it’s also uncommon for paramilitary forces to invade our shopping centers. Most acts of violence only involve two people. Sometimes a few more are thrown into the mix but it’s seldom and entire army.
I encourage people to have gun but if you’re going to call something training then it should have some practical value.