Author: David Spaulding at Handgun Combatives
Fighting or shooting…which are you practicing?
It is one of the finest pieces of cinema ever produced IMHO. THE SHOOTIST (1976), Ron Howard (Gillum) to John Wayne (J.B.Books) :
Gillum: “How did you get into so many fights and always come out on top? I nearly tied you shooting!”
Books: “Friend, there’s nobody out there shooting back at you! It isn’t always about being fast…or even accurate…that counts. It’s being willing! I found out early that most men, regardless of cause or need, aren’t willing. They’ll blink an eye or draw a breath before they pull the trigger…and I won’t!”
I was still in the basic police academy when I saw this movie in an actual theatre! When I heard this exchange in the film, it hit me just like being slapped in the face. While it went right past most viewers, it stuck with me and I remembered it. When video (VCR) movies became available, I had a copy of that segment made at a shop that specialized in making VHS copies. I have used it continuously since becoming a firearms instructor in 1982. In the book THE SHOOTIST, the author goes into more detail during this exchange and if you can find a copy, I suggest you read it. If nothing else, it’s just a great novel.
Teaching shooting is not that difficult. All one needs is a foundational knowledge of the mechanics required and then recycle them to a student. Some are good at this; others cannot communicate the directions to the rest room let alone proper technique. Many cannot perform the techniques they are teaching! That said, “instructors” do this all across the country every week and, for the most part, I am glad. Like Robert Heinlein, I believe an armed society is a polite society. If nothing else, it is certainly more stable, secure and safe. My concern comes in the quality of training many receive, but that is another story.
But shooting is not the problem, its teaching students to fight…to be combative… which is much more difficult as many instructors really do not comprehend the concept. Now, I am not bashing on our nation’s Firearms instructors, conflict should be avoided at all costs because every time one enters conflict, they run the risk of loosing no matter how well trained. If an instructor does not understand the dynamics of conflict its easy to focus on splits, draw times, speed of reload and other skills that can be improved with practice. But does such skill make one better prepared to fight? Ahhh…is that not the million dollar question? Skill certainly makes on more confident, but does it make one more ruthless? As the author of THE SHOOTIST so clearly pointed out…and it has been born out by history…the winner of a fight is not necessarily the person with the fastest draw, most bullets, most accurate, best gear…it’s the more ruthless of the two combatants…the one who will not hesitate to inflict harm on an opponent.
…the winner of a fight is not necessarily the person with the fastest draw, most bullets, most accurate, best gear…it’s the more ruthless of the two combatants…the one who will not hesitate to inflict harm on an opponent.
Hesitation can kill…
Every so often, someone will post photos of gang members or insurgents shooting their guns sideways and everyone laughs, jokes and ridicules the VERY dangerous people in the photos. This ridicule comes from people who, mostly, have never been in a fight. Forget that holding a handgun sideways and shooting doesn’t help control recoil, they seem to forget that most all of the people pictured are battle hardened and more than WILLING to cut their head off! They have likely been in multiple gunfights…no, they do not look as cool as many American shooters on the range, but they are very, very effective at what they do….killing.
So, can we teach fighting? We can, but it is more difficult than teaching shooting…and its not near as much fun on a weekend. The skills of shooting and fighting are similar, but their application is different. How can you tell? Well, while not all inclusive, here are a few examples: If you are mostly concerned about your split times, draw speed, perfection on a particular drill or how you look when you do these things, you are probably shooting. If you are focusing on hitting the thoracic cavity multiple times every time you shoot regardless of the orientation of your body or how you look when doing so, you are probably fighting. If you are engaged in regular interactive training and not bitching, crying or making excuses for poor performance…just trying to get better each time…you are probably training for the fight.
Again, just a few examples, but I believe they show the difference in application. This is sure to piss someone off, but then I guess I just don’t care…
Which are you doing?