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Advanced Skills

July 15, 2018

(This is a reprint of an article I first posted back in January. It is a critical point that people are still not getting. There is no point in trying to run super-duper, high-speed, dynamic, operator drills, if you can’t even execute the bare fundamental skills FIRST, without the stressors added. I spent three hours yesterday, and two hours this morning doing nothing but shooting small groups with my Glock 17, at gradually increasing speeds. I finished this morning, by shooting 75 rounds, at an average of .35 second splits, into half of a 3×5 index card at 5 meters. Not because it is fun (actually, it is painful and it sucks), but because being able to make every round go where it needs to go, at speed, is pretty fucking important, even if it isn’t the coolest of cool guy drills to just stand there and do the same thing, over and over and over, for magazine after magazine after magazine. Tomorrow? I’ll do the same thing, at 10 yards. Focus on the basics. Those are the advanced skills. –JM)

My buddy, Paul Sharp, of Straight-Blast Gym—Illinois, and proprietor of Sharp Defense, posted the following on Social Media:

When people start talking about advanced techniques my eyes cross. There are no advanced techniques. There are fundamentals honed to perfection through conscious effort. Then there is the application of those fundamentals against ever increasing challenges. The mechanics don’t change, our understanding grows so we’re able to apply the technique against higher and higher levels of resistance. As we advance we face greater resistance and better opponents which causes our understanding of the hows, when’s and why’s to advance. The mechanics remain the same. We become advanced.

Sugar Ray Leonard’s jab wasn’t magically different. His ability to hit anyone he faced at a world class level with his jab was the difference between basic and advanced.

During his seminar JJ Machado taught us all the same guard recovery technique. A guard recovery technique I had been taught my first month of jiujitsu. His ability to apply that technique against the best grapplers in the world is the difference between basic and advanced.

Bruce Gray presented my duty pistol, (a DAO S&W 4586), from a duty rig and hit the A zone of a target that was 25 yards away in a little over 1 second. He used the same draw stroke, mount, and trigger press he had been teaching me. He didn’t teach an advanced drawstroke or trigger press. His ability to make hits in those times with less than optimal equipment was the advanced understanding and application of the technique.

The point is; there is no secret sauce aka advanced techniques. There is advanced application and there is only one way to get there. High level coaching, and practice.

This is something I’ve discussed in rifle and pistol classes for a long time now.

One of the hardest things for me as a teacher is expressing to people that the “basics,” or “fundamentals” we are doing ARE the advanced, high-speed shit. I can demonstrate a drill, in exactly the way I showed the students how to do it, and explain, step-by-step that I am doing it exactly how I just demonstrated and explained it. Invariably, someone will then ask me to show them what I did different…

For fuck’s sake, dude….

There are four basic aspects to using a gun in the anti-personnel role:

  1. You need to be able to hit what you need to hit, in order to elicit the desired response, as many times as you need to hit it, in order to elicit that response.
  2. You need to be able to get the gun into the fight soon enough to make a difference.
  3. You need to avoid shooting anyone or anything that is not doing anything that warrants shooting.
  4. You need to be composed enough to make good, appropriately correct decisions, in order to achieve 1,2, and 3.


There are no secret squirrel techniques to running a gun. Anyone that tries to sell you that shit, like some bad, 1990s TRS full-page magazine advertisement, needs to be beat about the head and shoulders with something dense and damaging.

In the example above, what I did different, is that I have performed the skills of that drill hundreds of thousands of times over the last three decades. I’ve done it in the morning, afternoon, and in the middle of the night. I’ve done it refreshed and well-nourished, and I’ve done it after parachuting into the darkness, and then humping a ruck for 15+ kilometers, through the woods, to get to the range.

The difference is not in the technique. It’s in the practiced application thereof.


Let’s look at how we develop the four aspects above.

  1. You need to be able to hit what you need to hit, in order to elicit the desired response, as many times as you need to hit it, in order to elicit that response.At a very basic level, this is what basic marksmanship training and practice is about. If you can’t hit an appropriately sized target, you’re not going to achieve #1. I’ve seen a lot of “instructors” and “experts” who considered any hit on a silhouette as “adequate.” Thing is, it MIGHT be. If you are confronted with an uncommitted mugger, at conversational distance, even one hit might be enough to stop him from doing whatever he is doing that warrants you shooting him.
    In the acid-rain washed, dystopian future that we are living in however, that may not be adequate. What if the bad guy is wearing a Semtex waistcoat, shouting “Allahu Akhbar!” and shooting up a shopping mall? Your one hit on his silhouette may very well hit that vest and blow it, him, other bystanders, and you to Hell. That is what some would call a “bad outcome.” In a case like that, what you are going to “need to hit” is his brainbox, to shut him down, before he can trigger the bomb.
    Or, the bad guy may be a drug-fueled berserk that spent the last five years throwing around heavy pig iron in the pen, and your one round in his silhouette hurt him less than his former cellmate ass-raping him did, so he isn’t going to stop. Now, you need to either centerpunch that dude’s head, get a lot more than one hit on him, or get ready to give up your virginity.
    You want to be able to hit what you need to hit, in order to elicit the desired response, as many times as you need to hit it, in order to elicit that response? You need to be able to get precision hits, at varying distances, under any conditions. Above, I mentioned being able to run a particular drill under any circumstances. That’s what needs to happen. Too often, when I discuss dry-fire practice with people, they bitch about not having time, or how their wife nags them when they take the time.
    That’s actually beneficial. You think your wife stresses you out when she bitches at you? Try staring down the muzzle of a gun, and listening to rounds zip past your head. Use that stress to add value to your dry practice. Get up twenty minutes earlier and do it. Oh, you’ll be tired? Great. That makes it MORE effective. If you can do it tired, doing it well-rested is cake.
    You were going to go to the range today, but it was snowing, and -20F? AWESOME! Get your ass to the range! You think bad shit only happens in fair weather?
    There is nothing advanced about marksmanship. It’s simply being able to execute basic marksmanship and gunhandling, under any circumstances.
  2. You need to be able to get the gun into the fight soon enough to make a difference.You want a super-reliable, fast, resilient draw from concealment? Take twenty minutes a day, and grab the timer. Set your par time, and beat it for twenty or thirty reps. Every. Single. Day. For the next year. And then do it again, for another year. Then repeat.
    In a Clandestine Carry Pistol class, almost invariably, everyone manages a sub-1.25 second draw to first round hit (and the ones that don’t get it within 1.5 seconds) to an index card, at 10 meters. You know how big an index card is? Roughly the same size as the “instant incapacitation” zone in the center of the human head. It takes most classes about half an hour to get there. And, by half an hour, I mean something like 200 repetitions of the draw, on the timer, getting faster and more efficient.
    You want to master the carbine? Don’t go take ANOTHER class. Take what you’ve already learned, from a reputable trainer, and practice it. You’re solid in your positions, and can consistently get hits out to 600 meters? Great! Now, work on getting into position faster, and getting your hits sooner. One of the things we work on in my carbine class is going from “standing ready” to getting a hit, on a reduced silhouette, from the prone, at 100 and 200 meters, from the prone…in less than 2.5 seconds. You know what? Something like 95% of students manage it within twenty minutes.
    Of course, in that twenty minutes, they’ve done well over 100 repetitions on the timer. I don’t need to add silly shit like burpees to “get their heart rate accelerated.” It’s already a smoker. You know what though? They also learn, quickly, that they can hit that metric, even when they are physically exhausted.
  3. You need to avoid shooting anyone or anything that is not doing anything that warrants shooting.I’ve heard a lot of shit in recent years about “Big Boy Rules,” from would-be tough guy trainers. They seem to think that “safety” is a range issue, and could form training scars. Fucking retards, the lot of them…and I say that as a guy who once questioned a team leader on left and right safety limits, on a range.
    “Gee, Sergeant, it seems like in a real fight, we would be more worried about where the enemy is, and less about where the left and right limits are. What if the enemy maneuvers over there?”
    “Hey, Ranger Mosby. Who is over there right now?”
    “Third Platoon, Sergeant.”
    “That’s right, Ranger. Where do you think Third Platoon would be, if this was a real fight, and those were bad guys, instead of cardboard targets downrange?”
    “Over there, Sergea…..Oh.”
    “Yeah, dumbass. Oh. Safety is even more important in combat than on the range. Let’s make it harder for the enemy, not easier.”

    You know what “Big Boy Rules” are? They are understanding—not just “knowing,” but UNDERSTANDING–the fundamental safe firearms handling rules, and adhering to them in a mature, reasoned manner, no matter what. And yes, they apply in real fights, just like they do on the range, at the gun store counter, and in your living room. Don’t be a fucking idiot.

  4. You need to be composed enough to make good, appropriately correct decisions, in order to achieve 1,2, and 3.This is where “advanced” skill comes in when we are talking about shooting and gunfighting. 1, 2, and 3, above are basics. They are no different for experienced, “expert” shooters and gunfighters than for the new guy at the range, with his very first gun, and his NRA Basic Safety Course certificate tucked into his range bag.
    The difference is that the dude with 100,000 rounds downrange in an organized, planned, developed training regimen, has the ability to execute those three aspects without putting a lot of conscious thought into the process. That gives him the brain space to think about other things, like what is happening in the battlespace around him. THAT, in turn, allows him to make good decisions, in regards to 1, 2, and 3, and the synergistic relationship between them.

    “Shit, that dude needs to be shot, right now…but…I’m armed only with my pistol, and he’s 100 yards away, with an AK….I can’t make that shot on demand…I suppose I could try anyway…but there is a family with kids huddling under that table, on the other side of him…if I miss….okay, fuck it, I’m going to maneuver over there, behind that aisle of shelves, and then sprint up closer to him…that will give me a safer angle, and I KNOW I can make that shot from there. Let’s roll!”

    Having 1, 2, and 3 well-developed, allows 4 to happen. It can range from the rather extreme example above, to simply making the decision that, “Hey, this dude might need to get shot here in a sec….I’m gonna go ahead and get my hand on my gun, just in case…” It might even be…”That dude might need to be shot here in a sec…but I know my limits and my capabilities, so I don’t need to go to guns just yet. Let’s let this play out for a minute and see what develops…”

There are no advanced techniques, but, as Paul pointed out in his comment, “…there is advanced application.” You’ll know you’re advanced when you can do it without trying so hard. You’ll know you’re advanced, when you’re thinking about what you’re going to do, three steps ahead of where you are now. You’ll know you’re advanced when you no longer worry about being advanced.

Quit looking for the “Secret Scrolls of Knowledge of the Sect of Secret Squirrels,” and follow Paul’s suggestion: “Do the work.”

From → Uncategorized

  1. Doing the work is what a lot of people don’t want to do.
    Like any skill, you have to do the same thing over and over and over…then you eventually get good at it.

    • jbryan314 permalink

      I don’t know why they wouldn’t want to? What’s not to like about SHOOTING A PISTOL? Shit. Even if all you’re doing is standing and shooting at the same target for 75 rounds, or 100 rounds or more, so what? You still get to go and shoot guns! Shouldn’t be that hard to do.

  2. Practice the stuff you don’t like, the stuff that’s not easy for you, the stuff you feel awkward doing…until you start sucking at it a little less at those things all the time.

  3. Big Mike permalink

    The “squirrel” analogy made me think back to my youth. Several of us hunted the squirrels in our southern region of the U.S. as a group. The dog treed the squirrel and multiple hunters surrounded the tree, which were up to 100 feet tall, often in heavy brush. The squirrel would jump from tree to tree, bail out, or run down the tree. Learning when to shoot, not shoot, was critical, especially with many people holding 12 gauge shotguns. Spatial awareness is something I understand and learned at an early age. I sure didn’t want to shoot pop or my cousin in the face. As my family watches TV and movies together, we often say “don’t shoot” because we see people in the background and know the person on the screen can’t make that shot. Excellent post.
    P.S. Don’t feel sorry for the squirrels, many got away safely.

  4. Nikk Dibs permalink

    Thank you for the insight and wisdom.
    Much appreciated. Makes a whole lot of sense.

  5. Gator permalink

    A while back I decided I wanted to start appendix carrying. My G43 just printed too much for my liking on my strong hip, and I didn’t really like carrying that thing anyway, too small. Always took me to long to get the proper grip on it when drawing because of its small size relative to my hands. Wanted to carry a bigger pistol, like a 19. So, I bought a sidecar AIWB holster. Only problem was my gut got in the way, especially when sitting down. So, I lost about 30 pounds, and put on a bunch of muscle to boot. Now I don’t have the gut anymore, and can see my abs for the first time in 5 or 6 years. I got my first sub .75 second draw/fire recently too. I say all this just to reiterate that none of this is that hard, it just requires work, time, and patience. Can’t expect overnight results. It used to impress the hell out of me, watching people that could do that from concealment. Now that I can do it too, I realize that there really isn’t anything magical about it, and many/most fit men can do it if they are willing to put in the work.

    Some sort of festivities are likely to kick off in the not too distant future if we continue on our present course, so if any of you can’t draw and fire from concealment in a second or less, I’d get started working on that, among other things. I would like to spend some range time with a good trainer working on rifle, though. Because I am not confident I can do what Mosby described on command, and I need to be.

    • John Thomas permalink

      Lost 30 pounds to appendix carry AND added muscle to boot! Your shooting has improved and you kick ass all thanks to appendix carry. Bad shooting was due to hip carry. You should be on T.V. just for your 30 pound weight loss and muscle gain. How did you do it?
      Appendix carry must be the best carry if it motivated you to lose weight and put on muscle. 4o’ clock has worked for me iwb and owb. I guess it is akes all kinds. You are just Superman. Wow. You should take what you’ve learned and make a You Tube video at least.
      You must have some skills to share.

  6. mtnforge permalink

    Appreciate you John. That is superb common sense standards to train to, fight and live by.
    It is confidence inspiring also, because you and Max teach and train to the same standards. And I believe that is a great thing.
    Thanks very much.

  7. Goose permalink

    While I envy your training and standards the lives of those around me are quite different. Yes , we go to the range 50 or more weeks a year and yes we all fire 50 to 100 plus rounds an outing. But the similarity ends there. All of us are 60 plus and most are in their 70’s and some in their mid eighties. Run and gun is out of the question and a whole bunch or lifetime acquired infirmities dictates our behavior. Most could not hit an index card at your required distance and know that. So we train differently to have to take the defensive shot close in if we are still alive. So rather than a head shot we shoot for the groin as a busted pelvis stops the threat. Old but still nasty. And yes the 1911 in a man bag makes me old and harmless looking and it goes everywhere without a second look.

  8. Hypo permalink

    How do you feel about steel targets for practice?
    Right now I have a 1/2″ thick reduced 7″X11 ” Silhouette swinging on chains for rifle and pistol.
    Have one stand for either a 8″, 5″, or a 4″ plate.

    Have another 4″ round I hang above the silhouette swinger.

    The 8″ is pretty easy now at 10 yards and can keep about a 4 inch group with a 1 shot per second cadence.

    My goal is to hit the 4″ ten shots consistently from a draw in less than ten seconds including moving to cover at ten yards.

    Is that being realistic?
    Don’t want to cheat and use powder puff loads.
    That would be with my full size carry pistol, CZ clone or a P-01 compact, and 147 grain jhp at 1000 fps minimum.

    The 4″ is a breeze with a tuned up 1911 with a 22LR conversion.

    • I use steel regularly. I keep a 6″ round at the 25 and 50 yard lines for pistol and carbine work, and two 6″x8″ steel at 100 yards for rifle and pistol work.

      • Hypo permalink

        Picked up another stand.

        6″ at 25 yards for pistol.
        6″ at 50 for pistol and carbine.
        6″ at 100. For both, whoa.
        I can do my 7″X11″ with my best handgun at 50 most of the time with a slow deliberately aimed two handed shot.

        Raising my standards.

  9. clayton permalink

    Reblogged this on Deft Systems, LLC and commented:
    The truth about “advanced techniques.” 90% of the battle is mastering basics. The “high speed” stuff is actually the easy part.

  10. jbryan314 permalink

    I spent 8 years in the Army, with Infantry and cavalry units, trained at Special Ops Comman Korea, trained in Germany with SEALs and Rangers and SF dudes, deployed to Afghanistan and was attached to some guys from 7th Group, etc.

    Never was taught or even saw any “technique” that appeared to be “advanced” or any different from what I was taught in Basic or any school after that. Everyone was just running, shooting, talking, throwing, carrying, driving, applying direct pressure, etc. exactly the same way. The difference was that some people just did those things as easily and effortlessly as I brush my teeth in the morning.

    I guess that’s the advantage of owning property, but not TOO much property. I have space to practice those boring fundamentals (I too have a Glock 17), but not enough space to dream up some stupid “advanced” techniques and go rolling around my yard doing those useless ninja moves.

    • John Thomas permalink

      My love me in the Army was much like yours. When did you serve? I spent longer but similar experiences. I go with hammers. Sig’s. I work with a 229.40 and CCW an ancient 239 sig.357
      I do love be Glock. The homestead has a G21 for home defense backed up by 92 pounds of unfriendly persuasion (my hound dog). We,band those guys just did the fundamentals very, very, well. I became a DSM even though I was “middle management”.
      Yep wevmay have even crossed paths.
      Fundamentals. Know them. Use them. All day.Every day.

      • jbryan314 permalink

        My 8 years was from early 2011 through November of this year. My last day is November 17.

  11. Reblogged this on disturbeddeputy and commented:
    Practice, practice, practice.

  12. John Thomas permalink

    Former U.S.M.C. soldiers have a fetish of reminding anyone and everyone they come on contact with that the are a Marine. It is becoming the same thing in in shooting literature. Glock owners have to mention that they we’re shooting their Glock earlier….
    Glock perfection. If it’s perfect, why do the owners install new triggers, slides and sights?
    Who cares what you shoot? At your level, the weapon is irrelevant. How you train. How you prepare to train. Results of training. That’s relevant. What launches the bullet is mere fetish are the lofty skill level at which you write.
    Frankly I wonder why you don’t use a weapon system that is just out of the box. A S&W, or H&K. Sig DA/SA are A good way to train.
    Yes we should train with the same weapon platform. But I was taught several platforms in the Army. Many were from Central/ Eastern Europe and Europe. And various U.S. Manufacturers.
    But I train with one 7.62, and one .40 Cal
    Surely I’m not near your level of expertise.
    Plainly, does it matter who made your weapon platform that you ( at your level) shoot?
    I get and agree with staying with one rifle one handgun for training. But I’m blessed with many platforms of many calibre’s and can shoot many different sizes of bullets.
    All this tirade and I have not mentioned my MOS, or any firearm manufacturer.
    Get my point? I got yours…Shoot one rifle, one pistol, train often and hard. Learn and teach.
    Who made it is irrelevant. It’s bragging to day. So if it makes you happy with Glock Perfection Everytime you wrote so be it. Just know I don’t care. Just keep up the good teaching.

    • At the risk of being pedantic, members–current and former–of the United States Marine Corps are not “soldiers,” but “Marines.”

  13. Got an Umarex 40 XD bb gun from wallyworld and have been practicing with it daily . It is real close to my Ruger P90 .45 I carry . They had a nice nylon belt holster for 7 bucks that both guns fit into well. 20 round clip and very accurate up to 25 feet with a fresh Co2 can . It doesn’t scare the critters here on the farm and keeps me tuned up . I’ll bet the first son-of-a-bitch to pull on me gets a surprise .

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Two From John Mosby | Western Rifle Shooters Association
  2. Advanced Skills – Sparks31 Signal Corps

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