Sunday, October 8, 2017

Book Review: gunFight! by Richard Nance

Book: gunFight! An integrated approach to shooting and fighting in close quarters by Richard Nance (2016; 309 pages). Available in soft-cover and as a Kindle e-book.

       I enjoy reading science-fiction. And, occasionally, an author will include in his world a fighting style or martial art that is based around the technology used. Dune, for instance, featured personal shield technology that brought back knife fighting as a method of dueling because only slowly moving objects could penetrate the shield. In his book, Hegemony, author Mark Kalina invented a martial arts which he called telestraal: "the ancient martial art of gunfighting, of marksmanship, movement and timing...."

     I read somewhere an article in which the author, speaking to someone from (I believe) Japan, indicated that America did not have a national martial art, to which his Japanese friend corrected him: firearms and using them were America's martial art. However, there is a gap between the use of firearms (marksmanship) and unarmed techniques (hand-to-hand) rather than a continuum. There are exceptions, of course--soldiers being trained to use bayonets and butt-stroking with a rifle, and retention techniques learned by police and anti-terrorism units--but, overall, I think my conclusion of a gap holds true.

       Nange's book tries (quite well, I think) to bridge the gap between firearms. He recognizes that a physical, hand-to-hand, confrontation can escalate to using a gun; or that attempting to use a firearm can rapidly devolve into having to go hand-to-hand with an assailant. He begins by noting the same gap I write about, above, stating:
        With rare exception, police and civilian defensive handgun curriculums focus on teaching a shooter to prevail from the five-yard-line to the 25-yard-line, with the bulk of the training taking place between seven and 15 yards. This despite the fact that, according to the FBI's 2013 LEOKA (Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted) report, nine of the 18 police officers killed with handguns that year were between zero and five feet from their offender when shot. (2013 wasn't an anomaly. Zero to five feet is always the deadliest distance for cops). 
        LEOKA statistics tell us that during the 10 year period between 2004 and 2013, 219 of the 474 officers killed by gunfire in the United States were shot from a distance of no more than five feet. The next deadliest range was six to 10 feet, with 77 officers killed. In contrast, only 27 were killed at distances over 50 feet (As distance increases, so do the odds of the best shooter prevailing.) 
         Despite this irrefutable evidence, disproportionate amounts of training time continue to be spent firing from distances that are statistically, far less deadly. Some contend that by practicing shooting from further distances, you will be able to hit a closer target that much more easily. Although it may seem logical, this naive rationale doesn't account for the fact that mastery of shooting fundamentals such as sight alignment, sight picture, trigger control, and breath control will be of little help during a deadly force encounter at arm's length. 
While there nothing comparable to the LEOKA reports for concealed carriers or those defending their homes, there are a few sources of information that suggest that citizens should also be concerned with a melee breaking out in what was supposed to be a gun fight. One such source of information is Tom Givens of Rangemaster Firearm Training Services who has kept track of shooting statistics for his students. A 2011 Personal Defense Network article noted that, at that time:
Tom told me that 56 of his students have “had to use a handgun to defend themselves or family members.” He said that of the 56 students, two were in physical contact with the attacker. In three cases, the defender was forced to fire at 15 yards or beyond. The longest was 22 yards. Tom uses the length of a typical car as a training distance. He said, “Confrontational distances are conversational distances, for the most part.” This certainly makes sense and matches up with my experience investigating shootings during my law enforcement career.
I would also note the recent mass shooting at the  Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in Antioch, Tennessee. by Sudanese immigrant and black power advocate, Emanuel Kidega Samson. When Samson entered the church and began shooting, he was confronted by a church usher, Robert Caleb Engle. Engle attempted to tussle with Samson, and was pistol whipped by Samson (Samson apparently also shot himself accidentally). Engle then went to his car, retrieved a hand gun, and was able to get Samson to surrender.

       The point of this, however, is to illustrate that, even if you are not trying to apprehend a perpetrator, or be openly carrying a handgun which a perp might try to grab, as do police, you are still at risk of having to shoot and fight at short distances. And at those distances, as Nance writes, "compressed reaction times and contact distance weapons such as knives and clubs and anatomical weapons like fists and feet become potential game changers." It is also at these close and contact distances, Nance observers, that weapons retention becomes important.

       Unfortunately, even if you are a student of the martial arts, or have had self-defense training, that training probably does not address weapons retention or use, but only disarming techniques ... and even those techniques taught may not work in the real world. A couple years ago, Matt Schaffer wrote a piece concerning problems he sees in weapon disarming techniques that illustrated this:
         I was training with another instructor years back and he wanted to show me his favorite disarming technique (the one where you slap the gun and his wrist to make the gun fly across the room).  I held the gun out for him several times while he demonstrated and then he asked me to try to shoot him before he moved and sure enough he was so fast he disarmed me every time.  I then asked him if we could go a turn where I acted like a real criminal; after he said he was ready I stepped in between his legs, grabbed him by the throat with my left hand, pressed the gun into his left temple, drove him backwards and screamed “GIVE ME YOUR…(you can probably guess)!” 
         Needless to say not only was he not able to do the technique but he nearly defecated himself.  Static training where you just stand there is all fine and dandy but a criminal just doesn’t appear out of thin air ready to shoot you if you breathe wrong; something always leads up to it and happens after it.  It also doesn’t teach you to deal with what I call the “Oh Shit Factor” where your brain suddenly falls out your butt when surprised with sudden violence.  
         Sure, the criminal may be standing there just holding out the gun and not moving, it happens all the time; but he also might be pushing, punching, choking, or grabbing you with his free hand while he screams and the gun could be held back, shoved right in your eyes, or who knows what else.  The point is after you have the technique down you should simulate a real robbery while you have to do your disarming technique in that fast and dynamic situation.     
       Nance observes: "Inside five feet, shooting becomes less about marksmanship and more about your ability to fight with your gun." Thus, Nance's purpose is to "address drawing and shooting while in contact with your adversary, shooting from the ground with an adversary on top of you, addressing a drawn weapon, fighting with an empty or malfunctioning gun, and retaining your gun in even the direst of circumstances."  Accordingly, after addressing safety and legal considerations, Nance moves first to explaining the mental attributes needed--awareness and mindset--and the dynamics of close quarters engagements. This is the foundation material on which the rest of the book rests.

       The remainder of the book addresses the actual mechanics and tactics: from types of holsters, to the draw stroke (both how to detect and neutralize an adversaries, but how to protect against an adversary doing the same to you), deployment of the hand-gun, retention of the handgun, shooting from retention positions, contact shooting (including near contact for those using a semi-auto), using your handgun as a striking weapon, fighting from the clinch or from the ground, and dealing with multiple assailants. While there are some specific instructions--such as if your opponent does X, you should do Y--a great deal of what's in the book could be considered guides or heuristic rules to deal with a general situation because, as the author recognizes, every fight is different.

       The focus on mental preparation is, in my mind, important. I remember in his book When All Hell Breaks Loose, Cody Lundin spent the first part of the book also going over mental and spiritual preparation before discussing the actual mechanics and techniques of surviving a disaster. It is the will to survive that often means the difference between life and death. Nance similarly notes: "it isn't marksmanship or picture-perfect technique that will save the day--[but] your willingness to inflict jaw dropping violence on your foe is what will enable you to win the fight." He later expands on this:
In close quarters, aggressiveness reigns supreme. When clinched with a criminal eager to send you to an early grave, the fundamentals of marksmanship will be of little consequence. What matters is that you avoid being shot, stabbed, or bludgeoned long enough to bring your gun to bear on your adversary and deliver fight-stopping fire. At this distance, you're involved in a fight, not a shooting.
And it is how to get the time to draw your weapon to which the bulk of the book is devoted.

        I can't summarize his entire book, but just as a flavor of what is inside is the "push, pull, and twist technique" of retaining a handgun that is already in your hand, should an assailant grab it. Nance writes:
        One of the simplest, most effective handgun retention techniques I've learned is sometimes referred to as the Push, Pull, and Twist technique. Not only is this gross motor based technique easy to remember, simple to execute, and applicable against virtually any type of gun grab, it's based on sound logic. It capitalizes on the fact that the assailant can't resist both the pushing and pulling action, which occur almost simultaneously. Congruent with many traditional marital arts principles, you're able to use the assailant's own energy against him.

         When employing a proper two-handed shooting grip, let’s assume an assailant directly in front of you grabs your gun. Take a lunging step forward with your gun-side leg then your other leg, allowing your hands to collapse against your chest. After the second step, extend your arms fully to drive the muzzle into the assailant. If the muzzle actually strikes the assailant, it could serve as a viable distraction. In either case, as soon as you’ve pushed your gun toward the assailant, it’s time to pull it back as hard as you can. 
        Stepping into the assailant causes him to back pedal. When you start to pull the gun away, take a shuffle step back, leading with your rear leg and allowing your front leg to trail. Because the bad guy’s momentum is going backward, it’s unlikely he’ll be able to hang on to your gun when you pull away.  
       To increase the odds of fully extracting your gun from the bad guy’s hands, twist the gun inward (counterclockwise for a right-handed shooter) as you pull. Twisting the gun will cause it to rotate in the bad guy’s hands, which will help break his grip and potentially lacerate his palm and/or fingers with the front sight in the process.
And, as Nance points out, one of the nice things about this technique is that if it doesn't work the first time, you can repeat it as needed. While it could be effective to fire the weapon, especially if a revolver (see Schaffer's article that I cited above), there are a couple things that might mitigate against immediately trying to do so. First is that by having your finger in the trigger guard, if your opponent is able to twist the gun back in your hand, it is possible that your finger will be broken. Second, is whether you can fire the weapon without endangering an innocent or yourself. Third, particularly with a semi-auto, is that the weapon will probably misfeed in some way or may even be pushed out of battery and not work in the first place.

       Obviously, reading the book won't make you an expert at weapons retention and melee. But it gives you things to think about not only about how you carry your weapon, but techniques you can practice with a willing partner at the dojo or at home; and, in fact, the author includes specific training tips. Nance's book also provides knowledge of hand-to-hand techniques that you will find on the street, but may not have necessarily have encountered in the gym or dojo, such as the clinch. I've seen other books that have addressed retention techniques, such as turning your body away from a perp, using a raised arm/elbow to keep someone from getting close to a weapon, and, of course, techniques for disarming, but Nance's book goes well beyond these to discuss the blurred boundary between shooting and hand-to-hand combat. It would be a good addition to your self-defense library.

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