Category Archives: Practical Shooting

Close Quarters Engagement : a few things to keep in mind in your home

There are a few fundamental concepts everyone should understand about engaging a threat in their home. Your strategy for handling the situation will differ depending on if you live alone or with loved ones. Let’s start with the basics of handling a doorway.

The infamous Fatal Funnel is the grey area depicted above. Any bad guys who are expecting you are going to focus their attacks on the doorway since that is the way you are most likely to enter. Therefore not respecting the funnel is an easy way to get shot or otherwise injured. Note that the funnel runs in both directions from the doorway. Managing the Fatal Funnel is actually pretty simple: 

  • avoid this area around any doorway
  • if you must move through it do so as quickly as you can

The blue lines show the progression of movement you can use to look for threats in a room while minimizing your exposure. You should step laterally to follow the path and could start from the left side and move right if you came up to the doorway from the left. This technique is called Slicing the Pie. 

  • be sure to move fast as you cross the Funnel
  • visually scan from floor to ceiling as you clear each slice – but don’t linger in the Funnel
  • note that you need to leave space between you and the doorway (at least an arm’s length) when you’re at the start/finish positions- it’s dangerous to crowd the doorway but many people want to do this
  • don’t hug or lean on the walls- that’s another common beginner mistake. Staying quiet is critical and stepping out gives you a better field of vision 
All this is great if you live alone. But what about a situation where a loved one is in the house? When this happens you have a new priority- getting to your spouse/child. Spend 2:50 on this video and get some advice from Asymmetric Solutions on how to navigate a hallway and a few points on managing a defensive situation if your children are home:
Got all that? If you are defending loved ones the key concepts are:
  • get to them as quickly as possible
  • cover the point of egress from the deep corner
  • call the police. It’s ideal if someone else can handle the call while you worry about your firearm and that point of egress

Pistol Retention in Close Quarters

Listening to Grady Powell break down some of the finer points of close quarters pistol technique is an excellent follow up to the kR-15 brief intro to the topic. He does a super job of showing what will help you win in close quarters confrontations. In about 2 minutes he delivers a lot of information.

Some things to consider after watching this include:

  • THAT’S A SIMUNITION GUN- don’t go try this with your pals and a live pistol. Simunition guns fire only non-lethal ammo and are designed for training and simulation of live fire
  • Your mindset should always include getting your gun into the fight as fast as you can. It’s important to practice this to because most square pistol ranges don’t allow or aren’t set up to allow you to fire from hip level or the close quarters ready position demonstrated in the video
  • If you want to pracitce these techniques with a buddy and don’t have the cash handy to go simuntion, you can either invest in an airsoft pistol or a training gun (blue gun). The additional level of safety you obtain by not practicing with a pistol capable of firing live ammo is well worth the small investment – a blue gun can be had for $20 and even less if you shop around

Intro to Close Quarters Pistol Techniques

Using a pistol for self defense at close quarters is about as far from a square range experience as you can get. The dynamics of each situation are likely to be unique- so there are few hard and fast rules you can rely on.  A good way to start to wrap your head around this is to consider the basic goals of escaping a close quarters situation. Learning to not act like a victim can help you avoid many dangerous situations (this document from Safeism is a great read on managing unknown contacts in public) but unfortunately not all of them. So here are some things to consider if you have to defend yourself at close quarters ranges (less than 3 yards): 

  • Your main goal is to escape if possible. If escape is not an option, your immediate goals should be to create distance and neutralize the immediate threat- preferably in that order. To that end double taps or even worse, single shots are not the answer here. You should be planning to fire as many shots as it takes until you see the threat collapse
  • In order to create distance (if the threat is too close you may not have enough space to draw and fire) you may need to strike the threat to permit you to move away far enough to draw. Dave Spaulding showcases a few nice techniques in the video above and self defense secrets like the Tactical Testicle Tap are mentioned in this recap of a Sig Sauer course
  • As noted on the video above, don’t think for a moment you will be able to draw and assume full arm extension into your isosceles stance when fighting in close quarters. The Third Eye technique as explained by Bryce Towsley (of Triple-T fame) is a sound technique but you may not even have time to bring your pistol up that high
  • The technique Dave Spaulding covers in the video above where he holds his pistol tight to his side with his thumb creating clearance is faster than the Third Eye. With a little practice you can even tuck your weapon hand to your hip or abdomen and get a shot off even faster
In real life you will probably end up improvising and putting these things together. That’s the goal- be sure to practice for it to help sharpen your reactions.




Home defense tip: Low Ready vs High Ready for you AR

Using your AR-15, a shotgun or any long gun for home defense requires some different techniques than those used with a pistol. If you have an AR platform rifle (or any other long gun) as your designated home defense weapon you need to be absolutely certain to use proper defensive ammo and pay close attention to Coopers 4th law. That is, always be certain of your target and what lies beyond it. Many of us have neighbors close enough to our homes–always remember that when a projectile leaves your gun you own it until it stops moving.

There are two weapon-ready carry techniques the US Army teaches for close-quarters combat: low ready and high ready. High ready looks like this:




  • Butt stock under the armpit
  • Front sights under direct line of sight but within peripheral vision
  • Barrel pointed slightly upward
  • Eyes forward- keep your visual focus downrange


To engage a threat from this position: drive the weapon forward and slide the stock onto your shoulder. Be sure to aim properly by looking over the rear sight.
Low ready rifle carry is nearly the opposite (hopefully that’s not a surprise) and looks like this:
  • Butt stock resting firmly on shoulder
  • Barrel pointing downward at about a 45-degree angle 
  • Eyes forward- keep your visual focus downrange
To engage a threat from this position: raise the front of the weapon to acquire a close quarters sight picture. 
Low ready is the most commonly used carry method and is the safest way to carry a rifle while remaining ready to take a reflexive shot if a threat is encountered. There are a couple other notable advantages to low ready for home defense:
  • You can fire as you bring the rifle up to your sight picture and get rounds on target
  • The rifle is in a more stable position offering a greater level of control and stability
  • Fewer steps required to get your rifle into the fight 
  • The muzzle is pointed in a safer direction for most situations (unless you have loved ones or neighbors below you)
Unload your rifle and remove any mags or ammo from the immediate area at home and double check the chamber to ensure it is clear. Practice both methods a few times and you will quickly realize which is more comfortable- at the -15 residence it’s low ready all the way. 

Extreme close quarters aiming with your pistol

Recently I was perusing the latest catalog from HiViz and discovered that they offer a wide range of shooting tips from a wide range of contributors. One tip from retired SEAL Mark Hotaling stood out- a technique for aiming your pistol in close quarters.

At ranges of 3 yards or less it is not optimal to extend your arms forward into a full isosceles stance. Doing so costs precious time and puts you in a bad position for weapon retention. In these situations you should:

  • Extend your arms
  • Keep both eyes open
  • Look over the sights while using the front sight to use for aiming reference

This isn’t the only close range pistol technique being taught today and is not a hard and fast solution to every situation- I’m not saying that this is the only way to defend yourself. However I am a proponent of learning many techniques–who complains about having too many tools in their toolbox? Practice this a little bit at the range and at home (double or triple check to confirm the pistol is empty) to see how it works for you and your style of carry. 

Thoughts on Fire Control Systems

Basic fire control systems in AR type rifles can be rough. Heavy, creepy pulls, spongy breaks, and plenty of shots that could have been much more accurate…but that’s what you get with the basic models. Lots of upgrades are out there- the Geissele fire control groups like the one shown in this video spans the $200-$300 range and they aren’t too hard to install. Allen Ladieri makes it look easy too- the fire control group helps but this isn’t the first time he ran the gun and the drill we see. 

The sound of the steel ringing is nearly musical, isn’t it? Enjoy your weekend and stay safe.

Home Defense Tip: Aiming your AR in Close Quarters

It seems logical that anyone who keeps a firearm handy for defensive use would practice with that weapon to ensure that if they have to use it there are no surprises. This means practicing at close range (3 yds or less)- not 7 yds, not 25 yds and certainly not 50 yds. If you have an AR platform rifle or pistol as your primary home defense weapon or even as a potential option for home defense you owe it to your loved ones and yourself to practice close quarters handling and firing.

Bullet trajectory is an interesting phenomenon. Some good background on trajectory is here. If you want to be good at using your rifle in places other than a square range with targets at fixed distances take a few minutes to learn about what happens when you press the trigger. 

The photo above illustrates a traditional sight picture (what is used for a typical range shot at a target 25 or more yds downrange). The chart in the trajectory article referenced above illustrates where a close quarters shot will go with pretty much any zero – you’re going to hit high low (thanks to D. Russell for catching and pointing this out) if you aim the way the photo above depicts. In fact you may miss the target entriely or fail to neutralize the threat- and neither result is acceptable when the safety of you and your loved ones is at risk.

This problem has a pretty easy solution- one that is reliable and repeatable enough for a wide range of people that the US Army teaches it. The proper method of aiming close quarters shots is to maintain the typical rifle shooting position (cheek weld, nose touching the charging handle, etc.) but to look over the rear sight and use the front sight the same way you always do. 

The photo above illustrates this close quarters sight picture. Basically you want to position the base of the front sight on top of the ghost ring. The technique is reliable up to about 13 yards (12 meters) and allows you to engage threats quickly with the sort of accuracy required for self defense. In other words this should cover most home defense situations. 

Be sure to get out to a place you can practice this- that’s one key to deliberate action in a life threatening situation. Also be certain that you are using ammo that is safe for home defense- Range ammo (FMJs), Most frangible ammo and even Defensive ammo like Hornaday TAP can easily exit the walls of your home and keep traveling. Be responsible and stay safe out there.

How to quickly regain focus while training

It’s great to be back at the keyboard- that holiday respite was badly needed. Count on resuming new posts on a regular basis now as 2014 gets rolling. Over the break I spent some serious time on improving my pistol groups to get closer to my goal of qualifying for NRA Instructor training.

To reach a training goal as efficiently as possible requires maximizing the quality of your training reps. One important piece of maximizing your quality reps is to be able to recognize bad reps (ex. Checking your target is one method but even better if you observe something wrong like the front sight jerking downward). Once you can do that, how do you refocus your mind and body on good reps? Here are some techniques that help me regain focus when I shoot a bad split:

  • Stop your reps. Be deliberate about the stop and relax. Take a deep breath. Walk off the firing line if you have to. The goal here is to clear your mind
  • Slow it down – so many problems happen when we rush. Perform the next set of reps at 1/10 normal speed and see if you can pinpoint the breakdown in your technique. If the bad shots don’t persist simply increase your speed slowly as you continue
  • Consider a few dry fire reps- if my trigger press is awry I can tell really quickly with a dry fire rep
  • Use training rounds on a regular basis – mixing training rounds in as you load practice mags has really helped identify areas for improvement. Seeing what happens to the front sight as you break on a training round (particularly an unexpected one) is excellent feedback on your live fire technique
  • Focus your frustration –  if you’re a competitive person like me you know that you can’t simply ‘de-frustrate’ yourself. A good way to focus that energy is into slow, deliberate execution of each fundamental. For me it goes like this: Grip, sight picture, trigger finger position, breathe in, trigger press, breathe out, follow through, repeat. Take a deep breath at each step and relax your mind (not your grip)
Marksmanship is not an easy skill to attain and even then it must be maintained to be useful. Stay positive and keep working at it- remember the FUN in fundamentals.




Follow-through and Recovery: key elements of pistol operation

Follow- through gets lots of attention from some pistol instructors and very little from others. If you query enough sources you will find that many people don’t really know what follow-through is. Follow-through should not be confused with recovery. Recovery should be defined as bringing the pistol back down and getting a post-shot sight picture. Situations where both come on handy include:

Follow-through technique can be gauged by seeing the front sight rise as the shot breaks. That should be your goal with every rep. Remember to keep your visual focus sharp on the front sight:
If your grip and trigger control are solid you are good to go if you see the front sight rise.
Recovery is best executed as establishing the sight picture first and resetting trigger second. Start slow and deliberate and as you get more practice reps under your belt the process will get smoother. There really isn’t much more to this- the difficulty comes in smooth and consistent execution. Make every rep count and you will progress quickly. You can do it! 

Dot Torture Drill and link to Free Target

Dot Torture is a popular accuracy drill that you can use at any speed and keep using to help progress your speed without losing accuracy. Maintaining the balance for this is pretty easy- set your goal for speed around where you can maintain 90-95% accuracy on each stage of the target. Try starting at 3 yds. When you regularly achieve that goal it’s time to either decrease time or increase distance.

It takes 50 rounds to complete the exercises. When you do a good job on the target it looks something like this (which is something I’m using to gauge my accuracy training results- and that target isn’t my work…yet).

Directions are under each dot and 1,2,5 and 8 are stand-alone segments while the rest of the dots function as pairs. There is a great printable target on you can use to print a couple (preferably on the office printer) and try it out. 

Remember that Fast is Fine, but Accuracy is Final. Your personal training goals should reflect this too because you need both but speed without accuracy typically won’t win a fight.