This first technique is one that seems to have, just in the last year or so, become very popular amongst; shall I say; “tactical youtubers”. (Those who make “how to” tactical shooting videos). Just in the last year I have noticed more and more in tactical shooting videos that after shooting a target, the shooter pretends to follow it down to the ground with the muzzle of the gun.
The idea appears to be to simulate that the threat has fallen from shots and as it is “falling to the ground”, drive one’s muzzle down to the ground to the base of the target with the intent of building the muscle memory ensuring that one is indeed, looking to at the threat to verify it has been neutralized.
Sounds good right? After all, why wouldn’t you want to keep your sights and muzzle trained on a threat to ensure it is are truly down?
Well there a few problems with this technique. First, it assumes that your initial shots were successful. Secondly, using this technique begs the question—which I have yet to get a good answer from those who do this is when shooting multiple targets, when do you follow the targets down? After you shoot each target or at the end after you shoot all of them?
Concerning the first issue, assuming one’s initial shots were enough to do the job, then looking down at the ground pretending the target is there seems like you are opening up yourself to prematurely taking your pistol off the target. I don’t think you are doing yourself any favors, shooting a string of fire at a target, pretending to follow it down to the ground only to later look at the target and perhaps see that most of your shots were not in a non-critical area to do any real instant damage (heart, lungs, head, or spine).
FOLLOW THROUGH: WHAT YOU SHOULD BE DOING
Whether it’s one or a dozen threats, what I think one should be practicing is re-indexing all threats with the muzzle looking to ensure you have good kill zone hits. Ideally while you are shooting, you should be seeing where your sights settle between shots. If they settle off the kill zone or worse off target, chances are you have a weak hit or a complete miss, if that is the case, then you should make it up instantly.
Example: While shooting a double tap if I notice after my second shot the sights settled on the C-zone of a USPSA target. Then there’s a good chance it was a C hit not a A (kill zone). So, I would instantly make it up turning a double tap into a three-round string because to me, a double tap means two kill zone hits, not just two shots fired hitting anywhere. After that, I would again re-index the target with the gun (sights and muzzle) to ensure I have the desired number of rounds in the kill zone.
The question of when do you pretend to follow down when faced with multiple targets? Do you shoot a target follow it down, then proceed to the next target? Or does one, shoot all the targets, then sweep the ground in front of all of them at the end?
I would like to hear from those that practice this technique. It would seem me that it only makes sense to shoot them all first, then trace the ground around the targets. Simulating they have all fallen.
The other way; shooting then aiming at the ground before going on to the next target seems like you will be just giving time to the other threats to shoot at you. So if it is the former, (shoot all threats then trace ground) now requires one to have to have two different reactions, based on if one is faced with single or multiple threats. Wouldn’t it be easier and more natural to use a technique that is the same regardless of the number of threats?
This is why this technique seems to have been dreamed up by someone who has no practical experience in facing real threats. By practicing aiming at the ground after shooting a target, they may not remember to watch the threat in real life, in a gunfight. Of course, those with real world experience will tell you otherwise.
Under pressure, your brain has already taken care of threat focus. That is why so much time is spent by most tactical instructors of making students aware of hyper focus or “tunnel vision” on a threat. That occurs when faced with danger. Your body and mind’s built-in danger response will have you focusing on a threat until subconsciously, your mind deems it no longer a danger.
Regardless of what the standard engagement response to a threat is in training by police—double tap, single shot, etc.—watching body camera footage of officers in real shootouts you will see that more often than not the natural reaction by officers in danger is to continue to shoot a threat with multiple rounds until it either falls, stops moving, drop a gun, or other action that conveys the visual message that they are no longer a threat.
One’s natural threat response is going to take care of you being able to focus on a threat. That is the number one reason why I think that, while it may look “tacticool” training to follow a threat down is a complete waste of time. If you do want to practice watching/driving targets to the ground instead of staring at the base of a target stand, there are better alternatives.
There are several different falling targets available (some pretty inexpensive) that will fall or drop only if they receive kill zones hits: torso or head, or both. Using dropping targets adds more realism in training because now, targets will only drop from good kill zone hits.
So, when faced with multiple targets, you are forced to use good shot placement (to make the target fall) before you can go onto the next target which I think is a lot better, than make believe and staring at target stands after you shoot.
ROLLING THE RIFLE OVER
The next technique I first saw being utilized by fellow Special Forces soldiers. About ten years ago I saw a Special Forces training video for close quarter combat (CQB) training. I noticed when practicing transitioning, prior to going to the pistol when the carbine was empty, they would roll the carbine over giving a quick look into the chamber, then transition to the pistol. I assume the reason for the quick look, was to see why the rifle stopped shooting.
I don’t know which SF Group the video was from, I can tell you it was not a 5th or 3rd Special Forces Group, (I have served in both).
I don’t know if the SF guys had decided it was a good thing to do, or if they picked it up from some outside source, but upon seeing it I was instantly thinking what’s the point? Now I can see the good intent with the technique after all, wouldn’t taking a split second to diagnose why the rifle stopped be a good idea?. So, one might be able to fix it real fast and save themselves from having to transition to pistol, in the first place?
Well, perhaps, but the problem is no one actually seems to make an effort to really see what the issue is. Instead, from every video I have seen of shooters rolling the gun over to peek into the chamber, regardless of the condition of the rifle, they transition always to the pistol anyways.
So if one is not going to do anything to get the rifle back up into the fight why bother wasting valuable, precious time taking time to look into the chamber to begin with?
Even if one is making a real effort to look at the chamber to see if it is something they can remedy, without having to transition to the pistol doing it every time the rifle goes click is still flawed. The reason is it will only work if the environment allows one to see into the chamber in the first place.
What if it’s night or one is operating in a poorly lit room? Chances are you are not going to have enough light to see into the chamber. So by doing this techniques every time on the flat range, one is building the automatic response that only works under very specific conditions.
Plus, chances are if the carbine goes click while in the middle of engaging a threat, the threat is still active. Do you really want to waste time getting to the pistol?
The real flaw with always peering into the chamber prior to going to the pistol is it should not be based off the condition of the rifle, but instead the distance to the threat. For example; if your rifle goes down 100 yards from a threat, which would be faster getting rounds back on target? Transitioning to the pistol hoping to make a 100 yard with rapid and accurate rounds to finish the threat or seek cover, get rifle back up and finish the fight with that. The answer I would say for most of us is get the rifle back up.
Now if carbine goes down at room distance and one is standing in front of a still active threat is peering into the chamber knowing you do not have time to doing anything about, is it helping you get to the pistol any faster? Of course, not. Deciding when to transition should be dependent on the threat distance. Is it within practical pistol distance or not?
For many, anything under 20 yards may be close enough that going to the pistol and getting hits would still be quicker and only then trying to get the rifle reloaded or a malfunction cleared. Anything beyond that I recommend testing oneself to see at what distance they can quickly and accurately place rounds on target.
TESTING YOUR TRANSITION DISTANCE
How to go about finding the distance where one can and cannot transition fast enough to be practical, is pretty simple. But before your go about this one has to decide, at what point based on length of time it takes to get a hit with a pistol is too much time, and getting the rifle back up would be better.
There is no real set answer to how much time is too much time, but I recommend basing it off two factors: how fast you can reload a rifle vs. how fast you can draw a pistol and hit a target at room distance.
Let’s say you can transition and draw a pistol hitting a target seven yards (room distance) in 1.5 seconds and shooting a shot from a rifle then performing a bolt lock reload and shooting a second shot say takes you three seconds at that same distance.
You now have a baseline to start with. You now know if it takes you over three seconds to transition to a pistol and get a hit, then it could be better to just get the rifle up. After all nothing is going to make you feel more inadequate than going against an enemy armed with an AK-47, at rifle distance, and you are shooting back with just a pistol.
So now using this baseline, knowing that anything near three seconds to get a hit with a pistol, you would be better off getting the rifle back up. It’s time to turn that in to an actual distance you can use a reference, for when you should and should not be transition.
Starting at seven yards where you shot that 1.5 transition with the pistol, simply take a couple steps back and repeat the same one shot rifle, one shot pistol transition. The goal of course staying as close to that 1.5 seconds as possible.
Keep repeating taking a couple steps back and shot-to-shot transition, until it takes you three seconds to get with a hit the pistol. That’s distance that is now your point of diminishing returns, let’s say its 15 yards. (It will be different for everyone based on their skill with a pistol).
One person might be able to get to the 25-yard line, before the time it takes to make hits with a pistol is too much. while others may be forced to transition a lot closer (or even farther) from the target.
The important thing is, in doing this, you will now know what your max distance is you can effectively perform a transition. So instead of wasting time practicing some automatic waste of movement (rolling the gun to look into the chamber) you will now be basing when to transition off the distance you know you can make the fastest hit with.
This also now sets you up with a quantifiable way of measuring your progress in practice. Let’s say you can quickly transition out to 15 yards. Knowing this you can now set goals working towards beating that distance. This is a lot better than just adopting some generic technique based on hoping you have the time and correct lighting for it to work.
The technique of automatically trying to look into the chamber every time the rifle goes click also ignores a key thing most experienced AR shooters know. That is the difference in feel between a rifle locking empty on the last round and a rifle jamming up from a malfunction. The feel of an AR going empty is pretty distinct. If you can tell by feel, that negates half the reason for looking into the chamber in the first place.
THE WRAP UP
What truly separates a trained shooter from a novice one? It’s not the amount of cool techniques one knows, it’s knowing what techniques to use and when apply them. A trained shooter’s manual of arms is not only usually shorter but also more refined based off the circumstances.
So instead of relying on some generic techniques, find out what you are truly capable of shooting. Then base your reactions and methods off that.