You’ve all heard the statistic; 50 percent of all police shootings occur at a distance of 0′ to 5′ from the suspect. Instructors recite it to students like passing on the Grim Reaper’s phone number. It’s been called “in the hole” and “death’s doorstep” but in reality, it’s where cops work. It shouldn’t surprise you that this is where the majority of our armed confrontations occur.
To be efficient, we must make close human contact —there’s no avoiding it. Taking suspects into custody requires hands-on contact. Can you imagine the complaints if you tried to stand back 30 feet when you make contact with a citizen? “Sir, I need you to take your driver’s license out of your wallet and throw it back to me. Yes, I know I’m pretty far away, but I’m keeping a safe distance in the event you attack me.” Yeah, that would go over big.
Extreme Close Quarter Shooting (ECQS) is all the rage in ﬁrearms training these days. It was ignored for decades as to do it safely is hard. Now it’s the new darling with every instructor trying to make a buck. It’s “something new” and it has cool initials. The only initials I hear more is CQB —please, I think I’m going to puke. Let me clue in all of you instructors and students of the Demons of Darkness, Ninjas of Doom, Delta Force, Navy SEAL, Force Recon, CQB, ECQS, CQC, XYZ “disciplines.”
Everything worth knowing about defensive ﬁrearms training has been invented — we know it already. Quit trying to come up with something new to sell to the masses and let’s focus on getting good at what works.
Photos: Rich Stahlhut
TIME AND DISTANCE
When it comes to EQCS, or “Close In Shooting” (not very sexy, is it?) the skills needed aren’t complex regardless of what some “expert” says. They involve ﬁghting — not necessarily with a gun. We must close on suspects and citizens in order to do our jobs. Don’t be surprised; this is where you’ll be attacked. If we’re within the grasping distance of our opponent, it’s probably not wise to introduce a firearm into a deteriorating situation. We’ll need to create time, distance or both from our attacker to make our gun a useful tool. We will have to hit our attacker. But, agencies are more interested in reducing liability through “subject control” programs than teaching cops to ﬁght. I can’t remember actually using an arm-bar take down, but I’ve hit a lot of people. Why? It’s easier and requires little training.
Fighting requires us to attack the attacker; not withdraw but engage, move toward or into the opponent. It’s beyond the comfort level for many people; most want to move away from a threat. But, it’s not what our opponent expects. It makes it harder for them to generate enough power to seriously hurt you. If a person takes a swing at you, is the punch likely to hurt more if you back away or move inside the arm being swung?
We must be willing to fight empty handed until we can create enough distance and or time to employ a ﬁrearm. It requires us to aggressively move into and over our opponent in order to pre-vail in a close-quarter ﬁght.
STRIKING AND SHOOTING
Some call this “Shove and Shoot.” I’ve been told it won’t work in a real ﬁght. I once took a training course from an instructor who was demonstrating how various ECQS techniques didn’t work. The shove and shoot was one of them. He put a student in a FIST suit and told him to charge. The instructor shoved his arm into the student’s well-protected chest while he tried to draw his gun. Needless to say, the student ran right over him — it’s simply physics.
I was going to mind my own business, but the instructor, knowing what I do, pointed at me and said, “See some-thing wrong here?”
“Why don’t you put on the suit and attack me?” I asked. With a smile on his face and a chip on his shoulder he did. He charged me screaming and yelling and I instituted a shove and shoot, except I shoved my hand up under his chin, lifting his feet off the ground and depositing him flat on his ass. Then I shot him with an Airsoft gun — several times. I probably shouldn’t have but the smug asshole deserved it.
After catching his breath, he said he should sue me and it wasn’t “training safe” and besides, it wouldn’t work in a real ﬁght. Really? You can’t prove it by me, I’ve used the move on three occasions on the streets and it worked each time — and I am not a skilled ﬁghter. We teach something similar by having cops strike the chest, which is safer —then we proclaim the shove and shoot doesn’t work. Hmmm?
Where the head goes the body follows. If you can get your off hand under the suspect’s chin, up his nose, in his eyes or just smash his face in general, it’ll likely give you the time you need to draw a gun. People have a hard time attacking if they can’t see or breathe. A hammer ﬁst on the nose has a tendency to alter one’s desire to continue, too.
PIVOTING AND SHOOTING
This doesn’t mean you pivot, it means you strike the suspect in such a way that they pivot. It takes them off line enough for you to use a gun. John Benner of the Tactical Defense Institute developed the technique. It takes advantage of the body’s two natural pivot points, the neck and centerline of the body. If the body is pushed on either shoulder, it’ll pivot. Benner advocates a maneuver similar to the shove and shoot but instead of striking the chest, the shoulder is the target. It can be done to the attacker’s weapon side, spinning them away but latch on to the arm presenting the greatest threat. You must be willing to drive into your opponent.
I first saw this technique taught by Greg Ellifritz, a Columbus, Ohio area cop and one of the ﬁnest hand-to-hand and knife-skills instructors I’ve worked with. During a close-quarter attack, an attacker may go for your gun, try to stab or slash or strike you with an impact weapon. Greg advocates grabbing on to the arm used for this, keeping the attacker under some a degree of control, keeping them away from your gun and creating enough time and distance to draw your sidearm. I’ve seen Greg instruct and use this technique at full speed and it offers impressive results. But you must have the necessary willingness and commitment.
FALLING AND SHOOTING
This just doesn’t seem like a good idea. While it offers a distraction, what’s the cost? You’ve placed yourself on the ground, on your back with a gun in your hands. You’re not mobile enough to deal with multiple offenders and since attackers often work in numbers, I think giving up your mobility to distract a single suspect for a few seconds isn’t a wise trade off. There aren’t too many things worse than getting kicked or stomped to death.
STEPPING AND SHOOTING
Try this with another ofﬁcer and see how easy it is to redirect your forward attack while someone side steps. By doing so you will see how futile this move really is. Taking a lateral step while drawing is a sound idea as it does make you a moving target, but a lateral step will not dumbfound someone running in your direction.
MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR?
ECQS techniques aren’t mystical and magical, though some want you to think so. They’re techniques any defensive-minded individual can figure out on their own, but they’ll require you to be willing to engage your opponent. Being timid in your response won’t cut it. Grit your teeth, steel your nerves and attack. The ultimate goal is to avoid an ECQ shooting. This means a level of hyper-awareness when working at double arm’s length. Look for attack cues, watch the hands, step back if possible or place an obstacle between you and the suspect. I was real big on interviewing people across the hood of my cruiser and I never received a complaint.
Stay alert and watch for danger. If attacked, vigorously counterattack. It doesn’t take a lot of skill — just commitment. Create time and distance to draw and shoot. Move away as quickly and as far as possible.
Understand “close-in” is your world and it’s likely where you’ll be attacked. Practice for it at the range and in the gym. You don’t have to be a martial artist. You just need to be willing.