I have heard for decades that when faced with a sudden, high-stress situation a person will automatically do what they have been trained to do. I have heard this so often that I came to believe it as gospel, until I started to study the cases where this mantra was put to the test.
It is true that in many instances a person will do what they know best.
For example, there is the instance of the trap or skeet-shooting cop who was faced with having to go into an alley after a gun-toting robber. Our police officer entered the alley while a crowd of interested onlookers stood around out of the line of fire. When the officer finally encountered the bad guy, the standers by heard: "Stop, police officer! Pull! Bang! Bang!
The cop was accustomed to calling "pull" each time he fired his shotgun, and in a moment of supreme stress, he called "pull" before he shot the robber.
Contrary to that, an interesting phenomenon that I have personally seen is that a person who is well trained to come to a 2-handed hold each time he draws his handgun will often use only 1 hand when faced with an armed protagonist.
Here is another interesting thing that often happens when a person is faced by a gunman. In every case that I know of, when a person is taught to use a handgun, he or she is taught to draw the gun, come to a 2-hand hold, line up the sights, concentrating on the front sight, and squeeze off the shots as carefully as time allows, trying for a center mass impact.
The actuality of what happens is often quite different. There is an immense amount of difference between lining up the sights on a nondescript black, gray, or green target, and lining up the sights on a living, breathing, sweating, snarling human with a gun in his hands. This is the reason that some law enforcement agencies are going to targets with faces and guns - a great idea, I believe.
In a real life armed encounter where the bad guy is pointing a gun at the defender, the defender will often visually lock onto the gun. Often the bullets from the good guys gun will then follow his line of sight and impact the hands of the bad guy. I personally know of one instance where this happened.
A Border Patrol agent of my acquaintance happened onto a rape in progress on the bank of the Rio Grande River near Laredo. A young hoodlum from Nuevo Laredo had aided a young female illegal alien in crossing the river and decided to take his pay out in her unwilling affections. When the BP agent blundered onto the scene the would-be rapist jumped back into the river before he could complete the evil deed. This, however, is where he made his mistake. Instead of heading for Mexico at flank speed, he stopped, and standing in the shallow water, produced a small pocket pistol of some kind, which he pointed at the agent. Big mistake!
I dont think it is quite so much so now, but the officers of the U.S. Border Patrol used to be known far and wide as gun hawks of considerable skill and speed. Apparently our young river rat had missed that memo.
As the agent already had his gun in his hand --- as is standard operating procedure when faced with screams for help from the bank of the International Boundary --- when the rat pointed his peashooter at him, the agent merely triggered a round from his .357 Magnum. However, instead of hitting the rapist center mass, which our agent had been trained to do, and which had been his intent, he hit the bad guy in the hand(s), surgically removing one or more fingers.
At this the rapist fled south, nursing the stump of his finger, while our hero gathered up the illegal alien and headed to the office to complete the pile of paperwork that went, even then, with having to fire your weapon in the line of duty. He was thereafter known to his comrades-in-arms as 3-fingers Barrientes.
This phenomenon is further evidenced by the fact that two of the surviving FBI agents involved in the infamous 1986 gun battle in Miami were shot in the hands.
I recommend, always, that a shooter practice --- every time --- drawing the gun from the holster before firing a string. I also stress using the same holster he or she will be carrying on the street, carried in the way it is carried on the street. Such practice will imprint the movements of the draw into your mind and make it as automatic as such a movement can be.
I additionally stress that the holster be worn in the same place and in the same way every time. Do not use a quick-draw holster when you practice and then use a floppy inside-the-waistband holster for every day use. This is a recipe for disaster and has caused more than one police officer to be killed or wounded. In fact, dont carry a floppy holster, because the ability to re-holster quickly and with one hand is almost as important as being able to draw the gun quickly.
Also, it is much better if you carry only one gun, all the time, for everything. If you carry a 1911 some days and a Glock 22 other days, you may find it difficult to remember to flick the safety on the 1911 when you are under stress, as you will be when faced with an armed crook.
I know of one officer who was killed or grievously wounded because he vacillated between carrying a .357 Magnum Highway Patrolman and a Colt 1911. One day he made a stop on a car and when he approached it was met with an armed felon. He apparently managed to draw his gun in time to fire first, but was carrying the 1911 that day and kept trying to pull the trigger without hitting the thumb safety, as he would do with the revolver. The result was that the bad guy shot him. As this happened many years ago, I do not remember if the officer was killed or just seriously wounded.
HOW MUCH SHOULD you practice? This is a very important question, and I wish I could give you the perfect answer. I guess the best answer is, as much as you can. However, there are other qualifiers that should be added. You should never practice so much that you begin to tire and do it wrong. In that case you are not practicing things that will make you better, but are making mistakes that will eventually become bad habits.
Also, if you practice your quick draw, do not practice the draw, then immediately replace the gun in the holster. If you do this, you are practicing it incorrectly and you may do exactly that when faced with an armed bandit bent on your destruction.
Instead I suggest that you combine your quick draw practice with dry-fire practice, making sure you abide by the rules I gave you on dry-firing. That is, make sure the gun is unloaded and remove all the ammunition to another room. Then if you are interrupted, begin all over again. When you are practicing with a gun, you can never be too safe. Check it, then check it again, then check it the third time to be certain it is unloaded. I have seen too many accidents when an unloaded gun got mysteriously reloaded to take any chance, at all.
(See Dustins Dry Fire Tips on page 40 for mor on this subject).
No matter what kind of gun you carry or what kind of holster you carry it in, the most important thing of all is safety. You cannot call back a bullet that is on its way, so make certain of your target before you shoot, and make certain that safety is your first thought during practice. And if you see someone else doing something that is unsafe, dont be too timid to tell him so. Do it kindly and with respect, but do it.
Dry Fire Training
Trigger control is one of the most important aspects of marksmanship. In this one action your sight alignment, grip, and stance will be meaningless if you were not able to press the trigger in a smooth and consistent manner. This skill takes thousands of repetitions to master, and with the price of ammunition constantly rising those thousands of repetitions with firearms can be quite costly.
Practicing Sight Alignment and Trigger Control with the SIRT Pistol.
One solution to this problem is dry fire practice. Now there is the old gun shop tale of "dry firing breaks your firing pin!" Well, 75 years ago with most revolvers this was true. But with most every modern firearm it is completely harmless and even condoned by manufacturers. There are a few odd actions and rim fires that could be damaged so check your owners manual if you are unsure. Better yet, purchase some dummy rounds or snap caps that cushion the firing pins fall and allow you to run through malfunctions and loading with the simulation of ammunition.
Reloading a Gas Operated Airsoft Pistol. Same controls and feel as a Glock.
Besides the advantage of saving money on ammo, you can dry fire practice anywhere without a costly range or fees. The firearm safety rules need to be strictly followed before, during, and after a dryfire session. Triple check that your firearm and all magazines are unloaded, and then remove all live ammunition from the room you will be training. While training, you still need to dryfire your pistol at a safe direction such as a gun safe or other solid backstop. Proceed in training with perfect form and dont make it a speed contest. Practice stance, grip, presentation, sight alignment, trigger press, follow through, reloads, weak hand shooting, different positions, malfunction drills, shooting with a flashlight, and reholstering. Training with your empty pistol is also the safest way to practice odd yet very useful technics without putting a hole through yourself.
Reloading on the move with the SIRT.
Next, make the most out of your range time. Instead of blowing through your $15 box of ammunition in the first five minutes, give yourself a refresher course before you go live. Spend the first five minutes running a few drills dry, reacquainting yourself to the triggers take up, weight, break, and reset. After this dry practice go live and affirm the benefits of your practice and continue with recoil and follow up shots.
It is best to train with your primary pistol so you can practice with the exact feel and trigger. Yet, unless you have a double action-only pistol, you will need to cycle the slide or cock the hammer for every trigger press. There are solutions to this cocking issue with certain systems that will allow you to train as if shooting multiple shots. I recently purchased a quality gas operated airsoft gun to teach my six year old how to shoot. Turns out I like to play and train with it as well. It has all the functions of a real pistol but at a fraction of the cost to fire. The only difference is the slightly different trigger pull and lower recoil. There are high quality metal airsoft clones for almost every popular pistol on the market that will fit your holster perfectly and give you the exact sight and grip alignment, its a great training investment that will run about $100 and $.01 a shot. Ive read of professional competitive shooters from other firearm freedom restricting countries winning world championships by practicing with an airsoft pistol all year long and competing after a week of training with a real firearm.
Finally, if you are a hardcore dryfire shooter there are products such as the Next Level Training SIRT (Shot Indicating Reseting Trigger). Capable of using Glock 17 holsters and mag holders the SIRT pistol allows you to practice with an adjustable resting trigger, green and red lasers that indicate shot placement and follow through as well as using weighted magazines. The SIRT is the king of the dryfire world that competition, military and law enforcement shooters use for training.
Dryfire practice is an easy, inexpensive and convenient way to practice your pistol tactics and the most important art of trigger control. It has several advantages and very few disadvantages. Every champion competition shooter swears by it and trains with it daily. I highly recommend every shooter to dryfire practice.
You are bound to improve your trigger control and shooting skills.