“If you are ‘old school’ like me and need a good training refresher, you owe it to yourself to take this class. Things have changed; there are new legalities involved, new tactics at play, and you can’t just rely on everything you learned back in the day.”
Rob Pincus, the founder and chief instructor of ICE Firearm Training Services, teaches shooters to embrace their startle responses and react effectively in case of an emergency, starting with a natural shooting stance.
Pincus uses very detailed targets during his Combat Focus Shooting courses to help trainees understand how gun movement affects bullet impacts. He also doesn’t believe in using your iron sights for quick, up-close shooting.
Rob Pincus is a professional instructor who founded ICE (Integrity, Consistency, Efficiency) Firearm Training Services, and he is currently involved in a U.S. training tour with the Personal Defense Network (PDN). His background includes a commission as a U.S. Army Reserve officer after graduating from Norwich University, the oldest private military college in the country, and years of work as a full-time law enforcement officer.
Rob has authored six books (his seventh is nearly complete) and numerous magazine articles, and he’s been featured on firearms-related TV programs and videos. A decade ago, he moved into private training and consulting. In 2007, he formed ICE to train armed professionals and others interested in self-defense. Rob’s fundamental program is what he calls Combat Focus Shooting, and it has been adopted by law enforcement agencies, military units and private instructors who have been certified to teach the course.
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Recently, I was invited to attend a one-day Combat Focus Shooting course hosted by Joe Ball of the Gun Teachers Institute at an outdoor range just south of Toledo, Ohio. It had been more than a year since I’d been to a formal firearms training course, and it sounded like the instruction would be a good update to firearms training I have participated in and given over the last 45 years as a shooter and retired law enforcement.
So, I packed up my everyday carry Glock 19 Gen4, my carry holster and mag pouch, extra magazines and 500 rounds of 9mm ammunition. Attendees are encouraged to bring the weapon and gear they use on duty or what they most often carry for defensive purposes. During the training, I came up with a few “Pincus Power Pointers” that seemed to sum up the instruction Rob imparted.
When confronted by a dangerous situation, it’s instinctive or intuitional for human beings to react. The first reaction is usually a startle response where the person moves into a defensive position with their hands up, their body crouched and their legs separated. Simultaneously, the eyes are focused on the potential threat, so the mind can direct the body to act. One emphasis of Combat Focus Shooting is to take these natural reactions/movements and transform them into an intuitional shooting stance. These movements will most likely happen anyway, so why fight it? Instead, use it.
First is the natural inclination to crouch, making yourself into a smaller target. Your head will be lowered for the same reason. You will also most likely spread your legs shoulder-width apart and lean forward, lowering your center of gravity. So, using these movements, Pincus teaches you to push your weapon out towards the threat and lock both arms into an isosceles stance. You’ve now formed a “shooting triangle” with your head, upper body and arms.
Another intuitional segment of this natural shooting stance is focused vision, as mentioned earlier. Both of your eyes will be on the threat. Unfortunately, this can result in tunnel vision, a natural inclination that you have to fight so some degree. Will you revert to focusing on your gun’s front sight in a fight? Must you?
Part of Pincus’ gunfight research has been into the actual distances involved in lethal-force incidents. With the Internet and other sources, there are tons of gun battles on video to analyze, and as of May 2017, Pincus found that 86 percent of defensive shooting situations occurred at distances from 9 to 15 feet (Rob quotes the 9- to 15-foot range from data collected by Rangemaster Tom Givens.) Moving back to 21 feet covers 90 percent of gunfights, with 5 percent occurring beyond 21 feet and 5 percent occurring closer than 9 feet. At the distances that might be expected in 86 percent of all gunfights, how necessary is it to actually take aim?
A good portion of the material Rob presented contradicted a lot of my pervious training, and it’s hard to break habits formed over some four decades. While a Weaver stance might be great if you’re shooting at a target, does it offer you the natural flexibility and mobility afforded by Rob’s more intuitional position? You are not rooted to the ground, nor is an adversary, so you must incorporate lateral movement into your training. This adds some confusion for your opponent, who will probably be mentally calculating where you are going to be.
As much of a dinosaur as I am, I do know that oftentimes the first to shoot is the winner of the fight. Once the lethal threat is verified, you push your weapon outward, fire and keep firing until the threat has ceased. Early in the day, shooting at 9 feet, I was nicknamed “The Marksman” due to my small and well-centered shots on the target. But Rob teaches students that it is better to scatter out the shots or even miss during training. Training as such will expose deficiencies that you can learn from.
So, do you really need to take deliberate aim where 86 percent of gunfights occur? That’s one of the things we trained on for that day, first from the high-ready position, then from the holster. Practically all of the shooters in my group were able to get decisive hits on target at distances from 9 to 15 feet using Pincus’ intuitive stance and shooting with both eyes open, not taking deliberate aim using the sights. This isn’t classic point or hip shooting where the gun is lower and normally not in the peripheral vision—this is a controlled stance that naturally places bullets on the target.
Granted, you may discover that your adversary is not going down and could be on some serious pharmaceuticals or wearing body armor. Now is the time for precision. The targets we used in the class had a Q-type FBI silhouette surrounded on the sides by six 3-inch-diameter circles and two black squares below the silhouette marked “A” and “B” that were about the size of the center- mass of the silhouette target. We used this target for both fast and more deliberate aimed fire drills. If you are going for a headshot in the “facial triangle” formed by the eyes and nose, this gives you about a 3-inch target. Here’s where you want to take your time, using the principle that speed is fine, but accuracy is final.
Rob also teaches that, when in doubt, go ahead and use the sights. Plus, as the distance to the target increases, the shooter will most likely have to use their sights for decisive shot placement. If you can hit the target without your sights at 7 or 15 yards, go for it.
We did some close-range one-handed shooting, too, as sometimes this is necessary. Malfunction drills and one-handed reloads were not practiced, as “real-world” scenarios show that they don’t happen 99.9 percent of the time. However, moving to cover and moving while reloading were emphasized.
Embracing Gunfight Chaos with Rob Pincus
A gunfight is a dynamic occurrence. Things happen fast and often in unexpected ways. Things can go haywire in a hurry, so Rob alludes to this chaos and incorporates it into a confrontational method of training. This training is not for newbies or those who wear their feelings on their sleeves. Getting rattled is part of the experience to see how it will affect your reactions and handgun usage.
In an active-shooter scenario, like something that could happen at the local mall, you, the handgun-carrying good guy, will have to confront a number of circumstances. Is the guy with the gun a bad guy/terrorist, a good guy with a gun like you, a plainclothes cop? Is he/she a “lone wolf,” or are there others? You must identify the target(s), people who can help you and innocent bystanders. After you take the shot on a legitimate target and the target is down, now you must make an assessment for further threats while at the same time verbalizing so that somebody doesn’t see you as a threat, too. Analysis of videos shows that most often when Bad Guy #1 is shot, his accomplices beat a retreat.
To put the shooter into a simulated chaotic position, Rob uses a “Figure Eight Drill,” where the attendee walks around orange cones set up in—you guessed it—a figure eight. There are multiple targets, and the silhouettes are marked in several places with big red and blue letters, numbers and symbols. When Rob yells, “Two!” the shooter must convert a startle reaction into the intuitive shooting stance, identify the target by finding the two, then move laterally, stop at the instance of the shot string and assess the threat situation.
The student then starts walking again. This is a natural walk—not tactical hopping or foot-dragging. I’ll tell you, this is harder than it sounds, especially when you’re doing it multiple times, possibly with multiple targets, and reloading on the move, all while Rob is yelling and stopping you the moment you screw up.
If you are “old school” like me and need a good training refresher, you owe it to yourself to take this class. Things have changed; there are new legalities involved, new tactics at play, and you can’t just rely on everything you learned back in the day.
For more information, visit icetraining.us.
This article is from the November/December 2017 issue of “Combat Handguns” magazine. To order a copy and subscribe, visit outdoorgroupstore.com.
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