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Top 6 ways to improve your self-defense training.



How to improve your self-defense training

It is absolutely imperative that, once you've picked out your pistol, you actually go to the range with it. As you begin to shoot it more and more, you'll start to realize that your muscle memory takes over, and your body almost knows what to do, even when your mind is trying to catch up. That way, the next time you're confronted with a hostile situation, your body will move on its own, knowing exactly what to do. Here are the top ways to improve your self-defense training:


First and foremost, if you're new to firearms, seek out a qualified instructor to walk you through the basics of that firearm. Have them teach you the basic safety rules that must be followed each time you handle a firearm, and how to shoot it safely. Even if you're not new to firearms, seek out an advanced instructor–you can never know too much.

Holster & De-Holster:

This may seem counter-intuitive, but practicing the draw and return of your weapon are equally important. The main key to remember, is that you need to be able to do both safely. There have been plenty of cases where people have shot themselves, and others, just by simply pulling or replacing their pistol. The reason, at least some of the time, is because the operator didn't keep everything away from the trigger. This means that something snagged the trigger along the way, or they placed their finger on the trigger too soon after drawing.

Shot Groups:

Self-defense Training

Photo Credit: GunsAmerica

When most people think about groups of shots together, they think about shooting a rifle. But, one of the best methods of checking your skills, is by shooting groups with a pistol at various yardages. The same concept applies, you can tell what you're doing wrong based on where your shots are. For example, if three out of your five shots are close, but you dropped two of them, low and to the left, you have something that you need to work out (could be a couple of things depending on which hand is your strong hand). Do this a few times to make sure you get a feel for your week spots.

Scan and Asses:

How can you be totally sure that the bad guy you just put out of commission wasn't acting alone? After you put bad guy number 1 down, remove your finger from the trigger, and scan the area for more threats by looking to the left and right. Please only do so with your head, so you don't accidentally muzzle any innocents. You'll want to return your pistol to the chest ready position, should you need to begin firing again.

Ball and Snaps:

Self-defense training

Photo Credit: copquest

Next time you're at the range, alternate ball ammo and snap caps. Remember to point your weapon in a safe direction. There are two reasons to employ this technique in your training. First, it can help you realize when you're anticipating a round going off. If you watch your muzzle drop, you're flinching and need to work on your trigger control. Second, whenever you squeeze your trigger on a dummy round, it simulates a malfunction. Knowing how to properly clear a malfunction is a must for any defensive situation. Remember this: Tap, Rack and Assess. To clear it, tap (smack hard) the bottom of the magazine, rack the slide back and check for danger. If danger is still present, begin firing again.

Get off the Bench:

Self-defense training

Photo Credit: midwayusa

Generally speaking, I don't bench shoot. I do occasionally, like when I'm trying to get a base group to see how accurate a new gun is. I want to make sure that the new weapon is flawless, so I can make sure that any mistakes aren't the weapon, but something that I'm doing wrong. Whenever I see people shooting from a bench the entire time they're at the range, I wonder if they're even learning anything, or just going through the motions. In order to grow, and be successful at defending yourself or loved ones, shoot off-hand from different positions. Kneel, sit and stand without any rest for accuracy. This goes for pistol and rifle shooting.

What's your favorite method for self-defense training? Share in the comments.

If you liked this article, you will really like this next one: The Marines dry fire, and so should you.

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  1. Tom Dickens

    April 7, 2023 at 4:39 PM

    The key, stated in other words, is to log trigger time in a strctured setting. It forces you to focus. Use your deparmental tactics, and methodology to start. In 6 months of weekend shoots at IDPA, USPSA, and IPSC, you will move above the 90th percentile of non competitive shooters. Pay attention to detail. Focus on precise handling, safety, and accuracy, speed will follow on it’s own. And when you finish a string of fire, stay ready, finger on the trigger, scan left, right, then finger off the trigger, two deep breaths, and scan your 6, and when YOU are sure it’s safe, unload, show clear, show safe, and holster. The range officer will look at you funny, but when it’s for real, don’t put your gun away until YOU are sure it’s safe to do so. Then reload and check everything, and get ready for the next threat.


    January 8, 2017 at 7:42 AM

    You can learn all the things he says by going to an IDPA match.
    1st just to watch – it is usually free to visitors.
    Go to the IDPA web site and find the nearest Gun Club near you.
    Go watch a match, talk to people there.
    It will be average people from all walks of life and all willing to help you.
    This is Combat Pistol competition shooting.
    You will get to see all the things he recommends and everyone there will
    be willing to actually help you learn how to actually defend yourself.

    • Mikial

      January 8, 2017 at 5:31 PM

      Or USPSA. I learned more in a half a dozen matches than I’d learned in two years of static range time.

      • DEFENDER88

        January 8, 2017 at 8:30 PM

        Yup. “You” know what I am talking about.
        Most people “think” they know.
        BUT “Don’t even know what they don’t know”.
        When I (and you probably) try to tell them, I hear back:
        “I have shot guns all my life and know how to shoot”.
        I know, I used to feel that way too.
        How do you say – uhh – sorry but you probably really don’t, not real self defense.
        This is NOT standing in front of a wall shooting off 50rds at an x on the wall from 30ft.
        So when I ask them how fast can they put 2 shots ea in 3 threats at 3 diff heights, From “Retention”, while backing up.

        They usually say “What is “From Retention””
        And what does “Pie a corner” mean?

        • Mikial

          January 8, 2017 at 8:37 PM

          Agree completely.

          The shooters there were amazing, and every one of them was more than willing to very nicely help me grow in terms of moving and shooting, learning how to use cover, make rapid mag changes, shoot multiple targets, etc. No one ever treated me like a noob, and I spent a summer training with them before deploying to Iraq for 2 1/2 years doing CP for American contractors.

          • DEFENDER88

            January 8, 2017 at 9:18 PM

            I appreciate your service to this country. My wife spent a yr in The Nam.
            IDPA is the same. All walks of life and very willing to help a noob without treating you like one. I started shooting pistol 4 yr ago. Been shooting IDPA and 3Gun for 4yrs now – about 200 matches. Mid to high MM, 70y.o. and Still learning. Cant move or “see” like I once could. Makes match practice even more important for me – cant run away like I once could. Now I plan to Stand and Fight(like HELL) if I have too. I also know Isralie Krav Maga, Russian Systema, and Okinawan Isshyn Ryu.
            I wont go down easy.

          • Mikial

            January 9, 2017 at 9:58 AM

            That’s the spirit! Age is only a number. All fighting training can be valuable, but Krav Maga is especially practical and effective.

            The same appreciation to your wife for her service.

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