Getting Off Axis

February 25th, 2011

Brownells is offering a really cool new product, the PT 3D Target. It is a reactive 3D target without a clear target indicator. This means you need to shoot until you have an effect on the target. It may take one shot and it may take several. One of the issues with training is getting in the habit of shooting a set number of rounds at a time. If you need to shoot a person it is important that you keep shooting until that person stops being a threat. This can be pretty difficult to simulate in training but the PT 3D target looks like it provides that kind of dynamic.

However, the video provided does not show very good training. There is a maxim, “Train how you fight because you’ll fight how you train.” You don’t need to have been in heavy Blackhawk Down style combat to see this is true. You only need to be in a mildly intense or stressful training situation to see that you don’t rise to the occasion but you sink to your level of training. Police officers have died because, just like they did in training, they did their shooting and then promptly reholstered. Now they are taught to take a careful look around and reholster “reluctantly.” I have to say that I feel pretty silly looking around for bad guys and slowly and deliberately reholstering when I know darn well there is no threat. I stopped caring about feeling silly after going through a few scenarios and being real glad I had good habits to fall back on.

There are several training mistakes in that video but I want to focus on just one. If you haven’t yet, watch the video. It’s only a minute or so. You saw that one of the big suggestions was to have the target charge the shooter. This is a very real threat. People, especially crazy people, will charge someone even if they are being shot at. Training for this situation is a VERY good idea. What is NOT a good idea is to train in the response of shuffling backwards directly in line with the threat’s charge. Moving backwards has two problems. First, you can’t see what is behind you. Since you can’t see to the rear you could trip and fall, back into something, move into a worse place then you are already, etc. Second, moving backwards is much slower than moving forwards. The threat will catch you. So to compensate for these problems we move off axis. Move to one side and let the threat fight his momentum while you fight the threat.

I understand why they did it that way. It was not safe on that range to move off axis and shoot at a charging target. It certainly was not safe to have a group of shooters doing that at once. This does not change the fact that it is bad training. When I say bad training I mean that it is creating training scars that could get the one who practiced it killed. I am not kidding at all when I say that those guys would have been better off sitting in a chair doing nothing than spending all that time moving on axis in line with a threat.

When you practice, create the habit of getting off the point where you start. Take a step to the side (be sure to practice BOTH sides) while you draw and then engage the target. It feels better to get your feet in just the right spot before you shoot but you won’t get that chance in a real life self-defense shooting.

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