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Shooting Like a Pro:
Close Quarter Techniques

By Justine Williams |

Justine Williams shooting

Shooting technique is crucial no matter what the distance is. Most of us tend to focus on shooting super tight groups at ten to twenty yards while standing still, but a self-defense situation rarely allows for us to use that same technique. Threats can sometimes come within five or ten feet before they reveal themselves as deadly. So, to be ready for any situation, you need to have a solid strategy for dealing with threats within ten feet and threats within an arm's length.

Know When or if to Draw

There are a lot of things you can do before drawing a firearm. Every situation is different, so you have to use your best judgment to tell if a person is presenting a deadly threat or if it is something you can deal with without a firearm.

The best-case scenario is verbal de-escalation. If the initial problem was some public disagreement or display of aggression, it is best for everyone involved to swallow their pride, calm everyone down, and walk away if possible. Cross words frequently cause deadly situations, so the best self-defense in a situation like that is not getting yourself in it in the first place by saying things you could have kept to yourself or ignoring someone just looking for a fight.

Next, it is an excellent idea to learn some sort of hand-to-hand combat technique. You do not have to be an expert, but knowing the fundamentals of a hand-to-hand combat technique will give you a significant advantage over an opponent throwing hay-makers. If you are large enough and strong enough to stop a threat that doesn't have a deadly weapon with your hand-to-hand combat, that is the best course of action.

However, these de-escalation methods are suitable until you have a threat that is determined to harm you or has entered your home. If that is the case, or they are presenting a general deadly threat, it is time to use your pistol.

Close Quarter Firearm Technique

Before we get started, it is helpful to define what close quarters are. The definition will likely change depending on who you ask, but I define close quarters as a distance where a stationary threat could get to you or your firearm before you can draw and fire as you would from 20 yards. For me, this is around 10 feet.

Hand Extension

If the person is moving toward you, they are likely only a few steps away from being able to reach or deflect your firearm, which is maybe a couple of seconds. To keep them from grabbing or hitting your gun, you do not want to fully extend it out like you usually would.

Instead, you want to keep your hands in and centered around your chest. You want to keep your hands as close in as possible, but still give your slide enough room to reciprocate. Keeping your pistol close to your body makes it easier to control and easier to keep away from the threat. This benefit is definitely worth the sacrificed accuracy.

I should also note that in this position, the pistol has about a 45-degree tilt to the left (right-handed shooter) in this position. This is a more natural angle since your hands are so far in. If you try to keep your slide straight up, you will likely pull your shots right due to the overcorrection in the moment.

Your Stance

When I am standing in my isosceles stance, I typically step about six inches forward with my left foot to increase my stability. Although in close quarters, I like to step backward with my right foot about twelve inches. This gives me extra space to deal with an advancing attacker and adds to my stability, which will be very important if the threat gets close enough to land a hit.

It is also very possible that a threat could still get to you after being shot at this distance. If they are running at you, their adrenaline will keep them going. Bullets are not magic off buttons, and there are hundreds of examples of this on police body cameras.

How You Aim

Since your hands are so far in, you will not be looking down your sights. You are better off looking at the threat and thinking of your next move based on what you see from their movements. If you do shoot, having your shoulders centered on your target means that is where your muzzle is pointed, and you are likely to land a hit or two. In this situation, a laser might be handy.

If your pistol has an easy-to-use or automatic laser that you don't need to think about, you will still be able to aim and be much more accurate. Of course, that is assuming that you are actually able to focus on the dot that is on a quickly moving target within 10 feet when your adrenaline is pumping, and life depends on it.

I think it's a little easier to focus on the attacker as a whole and try to land a few mid mass shots without a sight. For that reason, I wouldn't immediately run out and buy a laser for close quarters.

Extreme Close Quarter Firearm Technique

If you do not have time to draw your pistol before the threat is right on top of you, that is considered extreme close quarters. This is about 6 feet or closer. In this situation, you will likely have to defend yourself with your hands before you can pull your pistol out.

Defend Against the Initial Attack

If a threat is advancing toward you at this distance, especially if they have a weapon, you will need to focus on defending against their attack before you can be offensive. If they have something like a knife, you will need to take control of it before you can draw, or else you may be stabbed or sliced multiple times before you get your pistol out.

You will generally do this with both hands and then draw with your dominant hand when the opportunity arises. If they are not attacking with a weapon, a popular strategy is to use your non-dominant hand to gouge or scratch their face as a distraction while you pull out your pistol. This means you will have to fire one-handed while attacking or defending with your non-dominant hand.

This is different from the widespread strike, draw, step back strategy. With that method, you are making an aggressive attack on the approaching threat's facial area in an attempt to make them pull their hands up and defend their face, giving you an opportunity to draw your firearm. This method works better than the defensive method when the attacker also has a gun.

Strategically Drawing Your Pistol

Since they are so close, you need to pull your pistol out in a smart way. You have to keep it close to your body, and away from them so they do not attempt to take it. You also have to draw in such a way that the muzzle is not going to pass over any part of you, including your non-dominant hand, which will be in front of the muzzle.

A good way to draw is straight up and far back, with the muzzle just in front of your pectoral. Then try to drive the left side of your magwell into your rib cage and keep your dominant hand thumb between your pectoral and the slide. These two "landmarks" will ensure that the pistol is far enough back not to be taken and can still run. If you have a jam at this distance, you have zero time to fix it.

Muzzle Angle

You also want to keep your muzzle angled down. It is more difficult to hit a mid mass shot from this position, and your other hand or arm is up there. So to avoid shooting yourself in the arm, and keeping your hand at a natural angle, keep the muzzle angled downward. It helps to try to get your shooting elbow as high as possible; this will naturally cause your muzzle to point downward in this position. This angle will make you hit the threat in the stomach or pelvic region. If you shoot them in the pelvis, you can be sure that they will not be running after you anymore.

Create Space

Once you get a few shots off, it is time to create some space. It is no secret that you are not going to be super accurate at this range, but even if you don't hit the threat, you will likely make them slow down when they realize they are being shot at. Once you take a few shots, try your best to back up and create space, then, if needed, put more shots on target.

Every Situation Is Different

Every self-defense situation is widely different, but it is better to practice something other than your stationary 15-yard shot. There are also many different strategies for shooting close quarters, and I only outlined a few here. The important thing is that you have an idea of what you need to do in a close-quarter situation, and you are not just blindly reacting to a life or death situation.

You need to practice this technique, but it is smart to do the majority of that practice with dry fire. These angles and distances to the target are more dangerous, and you need to take your training even more seriously than normal. Nonetheless, it will be worth it, and learning and practicing a close-quarters shooting technique may save your life.