Updated: May 13
Tactical Pistol Training - Shooting From The Hip
Being able to shoot a pistol accurately and instinctively from the hip is a basic and essential skill you need to master if you intend to carry a pistol for defensive purposes.
Most hostile situations where people employ a pistol for self-defense take place at very close quarters. FBI statistics show in the 30 years between 1985 and 2014 that 69.7% of police officers killed with firearms in the United States were murdered within 0 to 10 feet (3 meters) of the criminals. Over half of the police officer, 50.9%, were shot within a distance of 0 to 5 feet (1.5 meters). I am sure the statistics for shootings involving armed citizens would show an even higher percentage of shootings happened well within conversational range.
Think about it, if someone was going to rob or attack you on the street, in your business or home how far away will they be? Will they be at 25 yards/meters or within a conversational range of under 10 feet? Think about where you are now reading this article… If you were attacked from where is the most likely way you could be attacked? What distances would you need to shoot accurately at? What time would you have to react? Would you be able to access your firearm? Would you have the time to get into a formal shooting stance and use the pistols sights etc.? These are basic considerations when planning the requirements for your firearms training program.
There is a big between defensive shooting in reality and a lot of what is being taught by most firearms instructors and schools. The trend for firearms training these days is towards competition shooting, which can teach excellent fundamentals firearms skills, but people forget these are skills for an all-inclusive sport, with rules, pats on the back and trophies… There are no rules on the street and the chances are if you survive a confrontation, and even if you get seriously injured, you will be arrested to start with…
The reason I see many firearms instructors and schools not teaching shooting from the hip techniques is because they themselves have never been taught the techniques or have the operational or real-world experience to realize the necessity of this basic defensive pistol skill.
Most military, police and security firearms qualifications are very basic, and the standards are not set too high as the units and companies need people to pass. Most qualifications from what I have seen, especially outside of the United States, the shooters only shoot from formal stances with a two-handed grip.
I know in the United States the Florida State security guard firearms qualification did require guards to shoot double taps from the hip at a distance of I believe two or three yards on two side by side silhouette targets. It's funny that Florida security guards needed to be able to shoot from the hip to get their armed security "G License" whereas there are people attending an accredited Hostile Environment Close Protection Operators (HECPO) firearms courses that are not taught this basic skill or even need to shoot a qualification course of fire. Maybe this is because the Florida "G License" course, even though basic, is for those who will be carrying firearms for professional defensive reasons and the HECPO courses are really just an accredited tacticool vacation.
To me if your serious about carry a pistol for self-defense you need to be able to shoot from all positions with strong and weak hands from ranges of zero to 100 yards/meters with an emphasis in instinctive close quarter shooting.
When teaching the Florida concealed carry classes I always focused on instinctive close quarter shooting at ranges up to 12 feet. Most of those attending such classes are not “gun people”, they want a gun to protect themselves and won’t be going to the range on a regular basis shooting hundreds of rounds.
For most people to be able to safely handle a pistol and to be able to pick it up and fire multiple rounds into the chest of a target within 12 feet is all they need to protect themselves. This can be taught easily, and the majority of abled-bodied shooters will be able engage targets up to at least 9 feet one handed from the hip if taught properly.
From a more advanced perspective if you are carrying a pistol for professional reasons, you should be able to draw from concealed and engage targets out to at least 12 feet from the hip instinctively. Remember most attacks will take place at close quarters and your responses need to be quick. No time for gun range theatrics, duck faces for selfies and YouTube drama.
From a close protection perspective while engaging the target you might also need to be controlling or clearing a client out of a hostile line of fire. When moving through buildings, crossing obstacles or in confined spaces you might not have the room to hold your pistol out in front of you in the standard two handed grip. At close quarters presenting your pistol in the standard two handed grip can give the criminal the opportunity to attempt to take the pistol from you. Weapon retention is a big consideration in close quarter hostile situations and is something that is not a consideration in competition shooting sports.
Shooting from the hip is simple as long as you keep it simple. Again, there is a bad culture with firearms instructors and schools to over complicate techniques or try to “reinvent the wheel” to try to make themselves look more intelligent. Defensive tactics and shooting techniques must be kept as simple as possible! Nothing more than an instinctive reaction!
You must understand firstly how to grip the pistol properly and pull the trigger smoothly. Your grip should be firm and comfortable while the gun points naturally towards the target. The gun should fit comfortably in your hand with your trigger finger next to the trigger guard, your thumb should push towards the center of the pistol grip, and your middle finger wrapped tightly around it. The other fingers should firmly grip the pistol. The pistol should point naturally in a straight line with the forearm and wrist locked tight.
Before you practice any techniques with live ammunition you should practice them dry with an unloaded firearm, and always ensure the firearm is pointed in a safe direction. Practice pointing the pistol with one hand from the hip at the chest of a target say 9 feet away and assess where the pistol is pointing. This is basic point shooting, point the pistol where you are looking as if you were pointing your finger. As I have said before, you have been pointing at things your whole life, right?
Practice this and if you’re not on target, adjust your aim and try again. You should practice this strong and weak handed while sitting, standing or lying-in bed, this will build up your muscle memory and make you flexible with the weapon. You want to work up to drawing from a concealed holster, pointing and dry firing (handgun unloaded) from different position, this is good training and will improve your shooting.
When you start to live fire, the handgun should be fired with one hand; just look at the chest area of the target and point the handgun where you are looking and fire one shot. Check the target to see where the shot hit and adjust your aim as required. Continue with this until your shots regularly hit the chest area. Then practice firing double taps, then burst up to five rounds or more, and shooting strong and weak handed. When you are competent at this then practice doing the same while drawing the pistol from a holster.
For most able-bodied people there should be no need to use two hands while shooting from the hip. The recoil of most firearms in common defensive calibers should be easily manageable. I have heard of some firearms instructors teaching that the pistol needs to be supported on the body or belt which I have never seen any relevance for. The problem with keeping a semi-automatic pistol too close to the body is the slide can hit the body and not cycle the pistol properly and cause a malfunction or the shooter can tangle the pistol up in their clothing. Again, people trying to reinvent the wheel...
Instinctive shooting from the hip is a basic, simple, and essential skill that you should be competent at and comfortable with if you serious about owing a pistol for self-defense. If you carry a pistol for professional reasons shooting instinctively from the hip or any other position should be second nature, a basic reaction that requires no thought!
Books on Amazon
Shoot First & Shoot Last: The Real World Guide To Pistol Craft
Handgun safety, shooting, concealed carry & tactical applications
Kindle @ https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07CBNGMRB
Paper Back @ https://www.amazon.com/dp/1980698252