Handgun Offense

This is a discussion on Handgun Offense within the Defensive Carry & Tactical Training forums, part of the Defensive Carry Discussions category; HANDGUN OFFENSE By Captain Rex Applegate Infantry Journal, August 1943 The shooting ability of our pioneers very often put the little fellow on even terms ...

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    Senior Member Array Matthew Temkin's Avatar
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    Handgun Offense

    HANDGUN OFFENSE
    By Captain Rex Applegate
    Infantry Journal, August 1943


    The shooting ability of our pioneers very often put the little fellow on even terms with the big one. The highest premium of all life was often the reward for skilled gun-fighting. The six-gun experts, Wild Bill Hickok, John Wesley Hardin, Billy the Kid, and Doc Holliday, and many others, lived and died by their guns. Their guns were tools, not game getters or target shooters.

    They did not have hand weapons as mechanically and scientifically perfect as those we have today, but the principles and methods which they used are still sound. No other nation has equalled the United States in the skilful use of the handgun in sports and police work.

    The high degree of skill attained by expert target shooters is to be admired, but the soldier is only concerned with the use of the pistol to kill a Jap or Nazi. Therefore, the soldier's goal is to develop confidence in the handgun and to know that he has the ability to use it on the battlefield, where seconds count.

    Most shooting frays take place at a distance of not over twenty feet. Consequently, the man who can handle his weapon quickly and accurately from any position without using the sights is the one who will stand the best chance of not going out feet first. These conditions are entirely different from those of target shooting. Utmost speed, plus confidence and ability which come only with practice are the important things.

    In World War II we are again meeting the man-to-man warfare of earlier times. We are meeting it in street fighting, house fighting, and close-quarter work in the jungle, woods, and mountains. It calls for speedy skill in the use of the handgun and other quick-fire weapons and a revision of the tendency to regard the pistol as of little practical worth in modern warfare. A fistful of pistol is more effective at real close quarters than the unwieldy rifle, the knife, or any other fighting implement of similar size.

    But we cannot learn to use the handgun properly and skilfully by only sighting and firing at bull's-eyes. We have to practice killing Nazis and Japs on targets and in shooting conditions that bear a close resemblance to actual combat. We must learn to hit close-up targets in the shape of the Axis enemy, quickly and with little deliberate aiming. The recruit who battles the black dot on the target range and does no more than that is likely to find that his confidence rises as slowly as his target skill in this stage of his initial training.

    But pit the same man against silhouettes and life-size facsimiles of Nazis and Japs and ask him only to register a hit on a vital spot on the target and the training story is different. His confidence in himself and his weapon rise, and a deadly short-range pistol fighter can be produced with comparatively few rounds, and in a much shorter time.

    This is not a "new" type of shooting. Various experts have advocated its adoption by all law enforcement agencies. Aside from these experts and the FBI, little thought has been given to teaching a man how to use his handgun without the use of sights in offensive combat. The method has been given various names, such as body pointing, instinctive pointing, or finger pointing shooting. The Shanghai Police adopted it and trained men in it extensively to combat criminals. Certain units of the British and United States forces have learned the method with good results.

    Now to get down to the shooting. First you think of the gun merely as an extension of your hand and the barrel as an extension of the forefinger which you are already able to raise and point instinctively, naturally, and accurately at any object. If you were able to sight along your finger, you would be surprised at the accuracy with which you were pointing. All you are now doing is adding a gun to the pointing hand, with the barrel an extension of the pointing finger. This is the basic principle. Accuracy is possible as you will soon discover in shooting at man-sized silhouettes and prove, later on, in shooting at actual men in combat.

    The firing is done with the body in a crouch. The arm is fully extended, although the elbow may be slightly flexed. The grip on the weapon is tight almost as hard as you can hold it. The crouch is used because men firing instinctively take this position. With the arm extended, control of elevation and deflection is easier and the necessity for the large amount of practice in learning to shoot accurately "from the hip" is eliminated. To repeat, the grip on the pistol or revolver is extremely tight. You do this in combat, too, because in the midst of battle a man instinctively grips his weapon hard and he certainly does not take time to hold his breath, line up the sights, and squeeze the trigger.

    Let's consider the difference between instinctive "pointing" shooting and hip shooting. In hip shooting, the weapon is fired from a locked wrist resting on either the right or the left hip. The slightest movement of the wrist from this firm position moves the gun through a decided arc which -makes big changes in elevation and deflection even at close range. When a gun is resting on the hip, the shooter is looking at the target on a line from his eyes to the object at a point roughly twelve inches from that to which the barrel of the gun points if the two lines of sight are parallel. Hip shooting is not practical from a crouching position for obvious reasons. It will do in man-to-man combat at extremely short ranges, but does not have the advantages of firing with the arm fully extended.

    The best system to combine speed and practicability without the use of the sights gives you a stance something like this: Body crouched, arm extended with the gun in a straight line with your belt buckle and your eyes. This is far enough forward from the shooter's crouch so that he can see his weapon and the target at the same time and easily line up the two. To get the pistol into the desired position in relation to the eye and belt buckle, it is necessary to flex the wrist a slight degree to the right, assuming you are a right-handed shooter. Now windage (deflection) will automatically take care of itself and your main concern will be elevation which can easily be controlled after a few hundred rounds of practice. The man who shoots in this manner fires in the direction in which his body is pointing. You are automatically in a line for accurate work by wheeling your body in any direction and just looking at your target. Since the arm is at all times in locked position at wrist and elbow, the only movement will be raising and lowering the weapon from the pivoting point of the shoulder.

    In practice you should stand about six feet in front of a full-length mirror and take the crouching position. Either your right or left foot may be forward. After taking a crouch, you should raise and lower your hand, all the while looking at your image but never looking at the pointing finger only at the spot you are going to hit. In the crouch, your body should be leaning forward, your shoulders as nearly level as possible. This position is in reality only the pause for firing which you would make if you were walking with your gun in your hand ready for any Jap or Nazi.

    After a short period of mirror practice, you should practice with a gun, snapping the trigger as you raise it in line with the point on your reflection in the mirror. The best part of a man's anatomy to get a hit on is the midriff. Any hit a few inches up or down, right or left, is almost as good. You should now stand at right angles to the mirror and then wheel and snap the weapon at your image.

    Because of the different positions in which your feet may be at the time of firing, you should let your body direction change by moving your feet any way that comes naturally. Any set method of wheeling the body and moving the feet is not advisable because of the uncertain elements of terrain, ground, and position of your feet which will be common in combat.

    Now stand with your back to the mirror and whirl around toward the target. It is apparent that with your arm extended and the gun in line with your eyes and belt buckle, the body does the actual aiming at the target.

    It can be demonstrated how much better this method is if you face at right or left angles to the target and, instead of turning your body, merely swing your arm from right or left toward the target. It is easy to find that it is hard to swing your arm in a new direction and maintain the proper deflection for accurate firing without turning your body. Usually two-thirds of such shots will go off either before your arm swings to the target or after it has passed beyond it.

    After the pointing stage has been mastered, get a toy gun which fires a little wooded dart with a rubber suction cap on the end. You can use this just as it comes from the toy counter, or you can put its mechanism in a wooden dummy of the shape and weight of the gun which you will later be firing. With this toy you can see in the mirror the exact point of impact, and also your own errors. Small BB type pistols have often been used for this purpose.

    After some practice with this you are ready for live ammunition and a target. Start out at a distance of not more than eight feet from a man-sized Nazi or Jap silhouette. You will be able to see your hits, and you will find that your errors are: (1) A loose grip which makes for wide dispersion and is easily corrected; (2) Failure to raise the weapon to a point where the barrel is parallel with the ground also easily eliminated by practice; (3) Failure to adopt a locked wrist and elbow in the shooting arm; (4) Instead of using the pivot of the shoulder joint alone when raising the weapon, you may shove your arm and gun forward in firing. This makes the barrel point downward.

    After you have mastered the feel of your weapon by firing live ammunition and can place your shots in a group no larger than the spread of an average hand, increase the distance to a maximum of twenty feet. At this distance, a shot group which can be covered by a spread of two hands is not bad in the early stages.

    From this point it has been strictly frontal firing, so far move back up to the eight-foot range and practice on the silhouettes from right and left angles, taking care to see that you make the complete body turn changing your foot positions naturally and instinctively.

    You have probably noticed that this article does not deal with the quick draw. It is assumed that in combat you will already have your gun in your hand, perhaps in a lowered position, and that you are anticipating its speedy use. After the first moments of tenseness after a soldier goes into a combat, gun in hand, he will relax a bit and usually carry his weapon with the barrel pointing toward the ground at about a 4 5-degree angle from his body. It is then necessary for him to raise it to a 90-degree angle to enable him to fire accurately.

    And now a final word as to the difference if the weapon is a revolver instead of a pistol. The training method outlined applies to both weapons, allowing for a few variations in procedure owing to the differences in build of the two types of handguns. Generally speaking, automatics fall in two classes, the U. S. Army calibre .45, and all other well-known types of automatics, both American and foreign. Because of the butt construction of the GI .45, a tight grip will make the weapon automatically point its barrel downward even when the arm is raised to fire. This calls for a slight upward cock of the wrist to bring the barrel parallel with the ground. But the soldier should be warned that if he uses a revolver or a different type of automatic, he will find that such a cocking of his wrist will reduce the accuracy of his shooting. The U. S. Colt .32, all European 7.65mm., weapons of comparable type, and the Luger are all constructed so that a natural tight grip without the wrist cock and a slightly flexed elbow will make the gun point accurately when the arm is half raised so that the weapon is at a point midway between the belt and eye level for the firing position. The following method has been found equally useful in handling pistol or revolver.

    To fire the gun, hold it in a tight grip, without cocking the wrist, arm straight and rigid, and raise the gun to a point not quite on a level with the eyes. Although distance the weapon is raised is practically doubled because the elbow is not flexed, and the time of firing is a fraction of a second more, a shooter trained this way can fire a .45 or any other type of handgun with accuracy and still use the natural pointing position. Having once learned this way, the shooter will not be forced to change his wrist action in changing weapons.

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    Distinguished Member Array kelcarry's Avatar
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    Hey MT: What I find interesting in this forum and others is when the subject is about sights and/or lasers and you bring up point shooting, these posters seem to go on the offensive. It is more evident when I read about a poster who is equipped with a pocket carry mousegun and seems to be discussing his equipment as if he is going to have a long range exchange of gunfire. It could be in the words I use, but I try to be front and center on what I am trying to say--close in/quick action/minimal time. The comments, more times than not, are an indication that they take offense to any comment that questions posters' long-standing opinions not only on aimed fire, but on their decisions to purchase every conceivable type of add-on to their firearm. I believe it is the nature of firearms, not only as a defensive tool but as a "hobby" for want of a better word. You start to "collect" firearms and then you branch out to accessories on the firearm and expensive signature holsters with intricate leatherwork and design--none of which makes you better at defending yourself. I have no problem with that aspect of the world of firearms but would hope that your message is received by all because it might just save their lives.

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    Member Array monk's Avatar
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    Thx, Matthew..... Good stuff.
    Chinese Proverb:
    "When someone shares something of value with you and you benefit from it, you have a moral obligation to share it with others."
    VCDL member (DE.357;Ruger 4" GP-100 .357;Ruger 2.2" SP-101 cc hammer .357;BT .380cc.

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    Senior Member Array Matthew Temkin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kelcarry View Post
    Hey MT: What I find interesting in this forum and others is when the subject is about sights and/or lasers and you bring up point shooting, these posters seem to go on the offensive. It is more evident when I read about a poster who is equipped with a pocket carry mousegun and seems to be discussing his equipment as if he is going to have a long range exchange of gunfire. It could be in the words I use, but I try to be front and center on what I am trying to say--close in/quick action/minimal time. The comments, more times than not, are an indication that they take offense to any comment that questions posters' long-standing opinions not only on aimed fire, but on their decisions to purchase every conceivable type of add-on to their firearm. I believe it is the nature of firearms, not only as a defensive tool but as a "hobby" for want of a better word. You start to "collect" firearms and then you branch out to accessories on the firearm and expensive signature holsters with intricate leatherwork and design--none of which makes you better at defending yourself. I have no problem with that aspect of the world of firearms but would hope that your message is received by all because it might just save their lives.
    Thanks.
    Too many want to substitute gear and gadgets for the realities of lethal self defense.
    As if these "things" will serve as a magical shield that will see them through the night without any chance of injury.
    It is a fight--and one that you may lose even if doing everything right- that mere technique or hardware will not resolve.
    It takes simple tactics, guts, heart and a ruthless attitude to have a fighting chance of making it home.
    At least IMHO.

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    Distinguished Member Array kelcarry's Avatar
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    Hey MT: Simple tactics also means situational awareness, IMO, as Number 1. I am 68 years old and from NYC/NJ which are not exactly the most pastoral of places and I have NEVER found myself in a position where I needed a defense. It is only the last 2 years of so that I found our society from Washington on down to be intolerable to me and my societal ethics and I decided to own a firearm (never had even touched one before that) and get a CCWP. Before that decision I truly looked in the mirror and convinced myself that I had the resolve to use a firearm--it is only then that I went about acquiring same. Appreciate your comments.

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    Senior Member Array Matthew Temkin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kelcarry View Post
    Hey MT: Simple tactics also means situational awareness, IMO, as Number 1. I am 68 years old and from NYC/NJ which are not exactly the most pastoral of places and I have NEVER found myself in a position where I needed a defense. It is only the last 2 years of so that I found our society from Washington on down to be intolerable to me and my societal ethics and I decided to own a firearm (never had even touched one before that) and get a CCWP. Before that decision I truly looked in the mirror and convinced myself that I had the resolve to use a firearm--it is only then that I went about acquiring same. Appreciate your comments.
    Thanks and a big 10-4 to being aware.
    Nine years of being a NYC yellow cab driver (1973-1979), 30 years in the courts and ten years working security and I have yet to be taken by surprise.

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    New Member Array deacon 29's Avatar
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    Very good articles on offense and defense. We all become tired or lax at one time or another. 30 years of law enforcement in and out of uniform has taught me several things, one of which is you can be taken by surprise. It is humbling experience and sometimes painful. But it can happen. No offense meant nor do I disagree with anything said. Just my 2 cents worth. Great forum

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