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It's been a while since we've discussed handgun manipulations, so I thought it's a good time to review these skills. Safety is always our primary concern with firearms, regardless of the application. You have to be safe on the range, and it's even more difficult to be safe during a confrontation, when things are fluid and dynamic. This means you must know how to manipulate your weapon safely, and efficiently, which is critical in a fight.
The way I teach manipulations is based on one set of skills: the techniques used to load and unload the pistol. Once you understand how to load and unload you have the skills necessary to reload and clear malfunctions. You don't need or want a lot of different techniques. Hick's Law tells us that the more options we have to choose from the longer it takes to make a decision. Also, the more options or techniques there are the longer it takes to learn these skills.
One set of skills, with a slight variation here and there, works for everything.
For our purposes we'll break the manipulations into two categories – Administrative manipulations and Functional manipulations. The Admin actions are loading, unloading and verifying the status of the pistol. Is it loaded or unloaded? The Functional manipulations are the actions necessary to keep the pistol operating. The handgun runs empty. You need to reload it efficiently, and as mentioned above, safely. A malfunction occurs. Again, you must get the pistol operating, and if the pistol is having a mechanical problem you'll need to do this after every shot.
The Admin actions are done when time is not a factor. In fact you take the time necessary to ensure the pistol is loaded. You perform these actions in a "Low-Ready" position, which means hands and arms extended out and muzzle low. Obviously - or sometimes not – your finger is off the trigger and clear of the trigger guard. Ideally you want to keep your head and eyes up, getting in the habit of not having or needing to look at the pistol. (There's a couple of exceptions to this that I'll discuss as we progress.) All the Admin actions begin with the magazine and end by checking the chamber.
The Function manipulations are done with the pistol on target, or the threat. (I will explain why this is important later.) Step One is to get your finger off the trigger. You don't want to be tapping and racking or doing anything else to the handgun with your finger on the trigger. Next, you'll perform the actions required to get the pistol running again. Once the pistol is functioning again, you're ready, if necessary, to put hits on the threat.
Part of the responsibility of owning a firearm is knowing how to manipulate it properly. For every operation there is a proper technique to use. Consistently using the correct and proper technique provides safety, our primary concern, and efficiency, which is critical for defensive purposes. Over the next few weeks we'll discuss these actions in detail.
Tiger McKee is director of Shootrite Firearms Academy, located in northern Alabama. He is the author of "The Book of Two Guns" - http://shootrite.org/book/book.html writes for several firearms/tactical publications, and is featured on GunTalk's DVD, "Fighting With The 1911 - http://shootrite.org/dvd/dvd.html McKee's new book, AR-15 Skills and Drills, is available off of Shootrite's website: http://shootrite.org/AR15SkillsBook/AR15SkillsBook.html