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.
A criminal wants one or more of three things: your property, your body or your life. Being careless with any of these things will make you a more attractive target to criminals- aka a soft target. The holiday shopping has the potential to overwhelm anyone, but there are things we can all keep in mind to make ourselves hard targets to avoid becoming a victim. Make sure you don’t just read this but also remind your loved ones about these simple tips.
From a recent Edwards AFB memo:
- Keep your doors and windows locked (both car and home)
- Before you leave the safety of your vehicle survey the parking lot- is something suspicious? Trust your instincts- if something doesn’t look or feel right it probably isn’t– avoid it.
- Park in well-lit areas: criminals prefer darkness to conceal their activities
- Stay off your cell phone while walking to and from your vehicle- stay aware of your surroundings
Some other things you can do to make yourself a hard target include:
Stay aware of your surroundings- remember that if you don’t act like a victim it can go a long way to help you avoid criminal interest.
Maintaining situational awareness is an ongoing task- not something you learn once and automatically continue. Dangerous situations don’t happen to most of us on a daily basis- while this is generally a good thing it does allow our brains to easily focus on other things- leading to a dangerous false sense of security.
Here are 5 common barriers that reduce our ability to understand a situation. Understanding each of these will barriers can help you recognize them. With time and a little practice you can strengthen your own mindset to focus your awareness when you are in places or situations that require you to do so. Remember that the OODA loop is your framework for maintaining situational awareness- simply reading this article will help you Orient to these barriers.
Perception (based on faulty information processing)
Perception is an individuals view of reality. This can be affected by these dangerous contributors:
- Past experiences – these may or may not be helpful. If something appears similar to a past experience we are likely to respond accordingly to the situation in progress
- Filters- sometimes we don’t acknowledge information that does not align with our mental picture
- Expectations- sometimes we interpret new information in our environment in a way that aligns with our plan or expectations
If one motivator occupies too much of your attention you have disrupted your own OODA loop. Don’t let your own behavior impose filters and expectations that inhibit your ability to assess and respond to your environment effectively.
Routine is a dangerous thing- it can lull you into assuming that everything is under control. Before you know it you’re fixated on the wrong things- maybe it’s your phone. Task fixation in public is bad, task fixation while parked in a parking lot is an invitation for bad guys to make you a victim. When you’re in a public place that’s familiar and mundane, challenge yourself. Ask your companions (this is great for times out with your kids) to point out nearby cover, exits, etc. Make a game out of it.
Know how to recognize your own signs of stress. When you’re overwhelmed it takes longer to perform simple tasks and you sabatoge your own OODA capabilities. Prioritize and minimize distractions as much as you can when you notice your stress levels rising.
Taking care of yourself includes forcing proper rest cycles if that’s what needs to happen. Fatigue will diminish anyone’s ability to process inputs from their environment. In fact there is not much good at all that comes from a lack of proper rest. This is one of the most difficult barrier to overcome as it requires time or someone to take your place. For that reason among many others we should all do our best to avoid fatigue.
Congratulations- reading this has broadened your personal depth of experience. Now you know what the 5 common barriers to effective OODA execution are. When you’re in public or in a potentially dangerous situation and you recognize them the best thing you can do is work on refocusing yourself. Losing your situational awareness increase your risk of making mistakes you could have avoided under more typical circumstances. Practice the mindset and it will be harder to lose it when you need it.