Skill Set: Manipulating Small Pistols

Small pistols are easy to conceal. They are a viable carry option, especially considering all the options today, which are reliable and come in acceptable calibers. This is the golden age of “defensive” pistols. Larger pistols –what I call combative pistols – have a large magazine capacity, and if necessary can be used to take control of your environment. Defensive pistols, usually smaller caliber with a limited magazine capacity, are used only for defensive purposes. Shoot the threat while creating distance and escaping to a safe area. The smaller, compact defensive pistols will do the job – you’ll probably fire three to five rounds. But, if you’re going to carry a smaller pistol there are some things you need to consider

First, if you’re going to carry a compact pistol then that’s what you should train and practice with. Attending training and practicing with a full size pistol is good for learning the fundamentals. The larger pistol is easier to manipulate and shoot accurately. This is fine for the beginning. Once you decide to carry a smaller pistol then that’s what you should focus on, working with it almost exclusively so everything is consistent with what and how you carry.

The smaller the pistol the more difficult it can be to manipulate. Larger hands and small pistols can be a difficult combination. For example a lot of compact handguns have a thumb safety, just like their bigger brothers. The problem is that the safety is small, in proportion to the size of the frame. A miniature thumb safety is difficult to operate already due to its size. Add larger hands into the mix and it can become almost impossible. None of my compact pistols have thumb safeties. If I did have one with the small safety I would try to fabricate up a larger safety for it.

Compacts have shorter grips and magazines. This requires you to develop some specialize techniques for inserting and removing the magazine. Normally the grip and magwell will not extend past or below your fingertips. When inserting a fresh mag, to load or reload, it’s usually necessary to do a high-tea kind of thing and get most of the fingers of the strong hand out of the way so the mag can be inserted and locked into the pistol without fingers getting in the way.

The same is true when removing the mag, for example when reloading. The fingers and heel of the hand are usually in contact with the magazine, especially if the mag has extended base plates to increase capacity. When the mag release is pressed the hand/fingers are in contact with the mag. It will release, but probably won’t drop free. The solution is to use the support hand to strip the mag out of the grip as the hand goes for the new mag.

Usually we use a “C” clamp grip to cycle the slide, grabbing the slide between the heel of the hand and the fingertips. With a smaller pistol it may be necessary to use the “sling-shot” method, pinching the slide between the thumb and first finger of the support hand. Regardless of how your cycle the action make sure the ejection port isn’t covered or blocked by the hand/fingers. This can quickly turn a Type I or II malfunction into a Type III stoppage.

There is not set standard way to manipulate small compact pistols. Pistol and hand size will determine what works best. Explore the various options to determine works for you. Once you determine what techniques you need then use them all the time. Remember consistency is key for safety and efficiency. Smaller, compact pistol are good, as long as you know how to operate them properly.


Skill Set: Simple and Effective

There are no advanced skills. Responding to a threat is a matter of being able to apply the fundamentals. The techniques used should be simple to understand, easy to learn – with the appropriate investment – and easy to apply. For example moving, communicating with the threat – issuing verbal commands, using cover, and shooting if necessary. Don’t forget to be thinking too, figuring out how to best solve your problem. These concepts are fairly simple. For some reason though, a lot of people like to look for secret or magic techniques. They try to make it a lot more complicated than it really is.

With most things you have to figure out what you’re trying to do before you can determine how to do it. Take the basic fundamental of pressing the trigger as an example. To fire an accurate shot you press the trigger smoothly, without disrupting the sight picture or anticipating the recoil. Hold as steady as possible, press and let the shot fire whenever the firearm decides it’s time to fire. You’re looking for a “surprise” break on the trigger. This is simple to understand, but if you don’t grasp the concept you’ll never learn how to press the trigger properly.

You start applying this concept with the basics, firing one accurate round at a time. Try to go too fast – for example pushing to see how quick you can dump the whole magazine on target – and you’ll never master the basics of a good trigger press. When you get to the point you can always fire one good shot then start working on firing two accurate hits. Eventually you get to the point that no matter how many you fire, they are all accurate. The same principle applies to drawing the pistol, acquiring a proper grip and every other skill needed to use the pistol safely and efficiently.

A lot of times we’ll read about the techniques a professional/competition shooter uses. It may be a new or different way they’ve come up with to press the trigger. Just keep in mind these guys have been shooting a long time, with thousands of hours racked up on the range. Their job is to shoot. After that much time they have modified the basics, changing them in order to create the best performance they can produce. But, they all started with the fundamentals just like everyone else. Then, over time, their techniques evolved to fit them personally. Often times you’ll hear them say, “This is what works best for me.” This doesn’t mean it’s going to work for you. The only way to find out what works is to do it.

At some point you’ll begin modifying the way you do things. The way you acquire the grip on the pistol while still in the holster changes as you become more comfortable with drawing. You discover exactly where the support hand needs to be on the pistol. Over time the amount of pressure used to grip the pistol changes. This is good; you’re discovering what works best for you. Just don’t stray too far from the fundamental concepts.

Don’t be afraid to experiment. But keep in mind just because something is new or so and so does it doesn’t mean it’s better for you. When you change and then realize it’s not working go back to what you were doing before. Don’t try to force something to work. The techniques you use should be easy to understand, easy to learn, efficient and effective. Practice will make it all better.

This article originally appeared in the October 12, 2017 edition of The Tactical Wire ( That last paragraph is really a great one to take to heart.

Being Prepared – Anywhere/Anytime

The murder and assaults that occurred Sunday last at the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in Antioch, Tennessee have a lot of lessons for us to learn.

According to reports the “suspect” – Emanuel Samson – was carrying with two pistols, three magazines of ammunition and wearing a “tactical” vest. An AR-15 was in his car, plus a .22-caliber semiautomatic pistol. One woman was killed, and seven more injured.

Robert Engle, an usher, “physically engaged” Samson. Engle has a concealed permit, but his pistol was in his car. During the exchange Engle was “pistol whipped;” the shooter was shot in the chest. Engle rushed out to the car, retrieved his weapon, and then held Samson until law enforcement arrived.

1. It Can Happen Anywhere

Engle, in an interview afterwards, said, “I’ve been going to this church my whole life. I would have never, ever thought something like this would have happened.” There are very few places that are truly “safe.” Yes, all houses of worship should be sanctuaries, islands of security. Reality is that danger, the life and death kind can happen anywhere, anytime.

Samson had attended the church in the past, but members said they had not seen him in a while. (He wasn’t recognized at first because he wore a mask.) He had worked as an unarmed security guard, and had a couple of contacts with law enforcement for domestic disputes. Church members said Samson was friendly to everyone, including one of the victims.

Anyone can be a threat. About eighty percent of victims are familiar with their attacker to a certain degree. Don’t be caught off guard if the threat is someone you know, a friend or possibly even a family member. Once they cross that Rubicon they don’t deserve any more consideration than you would give a violent, rabid dog that was trying to attack you, your family or friends.

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