Defensive Marksmanship

By Jim Higginbotham

Let us start off with a fundamental in self defense shooting and one that is oft misunderstood: Marksmanship. Now ask the uninitiated what Defense Marksmanship means and he will tell you that it is simply hitting what you shoot at. That sounds right but it just isn’t necessarily so. Hitting what you shoot at (and the definition of that is even in question) is only part of the problem. So, let us examine the subject which may help us understand why we do things the way we do with our targets and scoring.

Successful Combat or Defense Marksmen know that there are three elements to what we call Marksmanship. They are Accuracy, Power and Speed. These three elements are interdependent on each other as all are necessary to a degree and one effects the other. For example; a person who is able to get his weapon into action rapidly – even before his antagonist can deliver any hits and who is armed with a weapon of sufficient power still is no better off if he misses his target – or even hits the target in a non-effective area such as the arm, leg or lower torso. Another example is the defender who can employ his weapon rapidly AND accurately but who’s bullet lacks sufficient power to incapacitate ( the subject of power in handguns is highly controversial and complex and we will devote an entire MOD issue to it later). The third and final example is of one who is armed with an adequately powered weapon, who is very accurate in its use but who is slower than his opponent at getting the hits. This means he might not get his shot off at all or he might strike his blow after he himself has been mortally wounded – which makes it a moot point.

As you can see, all three elements of Marksmanship are necessary for successful self defense. No two will suffice without the other and so no one element is more important than the other. This is why we use a target with realistic scoring areas, differentiating between cartridges that give reasonable performance ( .40 caliber and over) and cartridges which give mediocre performance ( 9mm, .38 spl etc.). We discourage the use of smaller calibers as they are of little effect unless a hit in the Central Nervous System is achieved. It is also why time is such an important factor in our scoring. The shooter who can place a center hit in 1 second is twice as good as the shooter who takes 2 seconds. However we severely penalize shooter for striking outside the A-zone because few pistol rounds are effective there.

This idea is not new. Wyatt Earp knew these elements as evidenced by the fact that he always carried a handgun in .45 caliber or a 10 gauge shotgun for lethal encounters and was often heard advising “Take your time (meaning get the hits) Fast!”. Col. Jeff Cooper, known as the Father of the Modern Technique of the Pistol is the one who we credit with putting these principles in the simple formula we remember them by: DVC which stands for the Latin words Diligentia (accuracy), Vis (power) and Celeratas (speed). Celeratas is pronounced with a “hard” C.

Know you know – “Take your time fast” or as Nathan Bedford Forest would say – “Get there Firstest with the Mostest”

DVC, Jim

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