Tap, rack, and shooting from the hip – what I learned from my defensive shooting course.
My wife’s uncle is an ex-FBI firearms instructor. He and some colleagues teach an intensive self-defense course that I couldn’t help but sign up the first opportunity I had to take it. While I learned a ton from the course, I thought I’d share a couple of the lessons I still practice pretty regularly.
Three Stage Shooting Drill
The course broke down the process of drawing and firing into three separate stages and had us practice each one.
Stage one: The gun comes out of the holster and is immediately pointed forward.
The practical application to learning to shoot from this first firing position is obvious. If you find yourself in a situation that justifies drawing your gun, chances are you’d do well to have the skill established to get shots off very quickly, with relative accuracy.
Granted, we’re talking fractions of a second from draw to full extension (the third firing position in this practice…more on that later), but those fractions could make all the difference.
I found this to be one of the hardest positions to fire from. It’s literally shooting from the hip. And despite what the Wild West movies would have us believe, it’s harder than you think. You really have to angle the shot upward to hit where you want (tactically, the target is always center mass).
No matter how much I practiced, it always felt like I was pointing at the sky.
Stage two: The gun is held two handed at chest level but before your arms are fully extended.
The idea here is to go from draw (first position) to your full, proper firing position while keeping the gun continuously pointed at the target.
I found this second shooting position to be much easier. The grip and alignment was much more like what I was used to practicing. It was just a matter of getting comfortable with the somewhat awkward arm position.
Stage three: The two-handed, arms fully extended, leaning forward firing position.
I was used to practicing. That was easy. So of course we didn’t spend much time on it. Guess you don’t need to learn what you already know.
Tactical Jam Clearing
I don’t care how reliable you think your semiautomatic is, it will jam on you. Call it Murphy’s Law or just plain bad luck, but it will happen. And likely in the most inopportune of times.
So we practiced this drill a lot.
We loaded our mags with both live and dummy ammunition, taking care not to count where the dummy rounds were loaded. A jam always comes as a surprise and we wanted this drill to be authentic. We took to shooting and when we’d hit a dummy round, the gun would fail to fire.
Then, with instructors screaming in our ears an effort to replicate the high-stress situations we’d be in, we practiced “tapping and racking”.
When the gun jams, you let go with your non-dominant hand and use it to “tap” the magazine – hitting it hard from the bottom to make sure it’s sufficiently seated.
Then, without taking your gun out of your line of sight to your target, you grab the slide firmly with your entire hand over the top of the gun and rack it hard, keeping the gun tilted in the direction it ejects so gravity carries the faulty round away.
Once cleared, you replace your grip and resume firing.
By the time we finished the drill, my fingers were bloody.
If tapping and racking doesn’t sufficiently clear the gun, you’re then forced to remove the still partially loaded mag and spend some time clearing the jam.
I found this exercise to be terribly cumbersome as it was awkward removing and stashing the mag in a pocket where I could then retrieve it, clearing the jam, then fumbling the mag back out, reloading, and getting back to firing. But again, the practical application was evident.
I’ve since practiced much of what I’ve learned in that class on my own at a Maine shooting range. I wouldn’t say I’ve mastered any of it but I’m certainly more confident in my abilities. And that’s really the goal.
In a defensive situation, simply knowing what to do with a jam or how to shave seconds off your drawing and firing speed could make all the difference. Panic works for the enemy. Practice serves to keep both at bay.
*The information contained in this website is for general information purposes only and is not intended to replace professional instruction.
About 5 hours north of Boston sits our private lodge and shooting range. Near the terminus of the Apalachian Trail and Katahdin -maybe the most beautiful area on earth (in our opinion).
From handguns to the heaviest rifles to busting clays with shotguns, there’s plenty of opportunity to challenge your friends.
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