Concealed Carry & Home Defense

Engaging A Moving Assailant At Close Range

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By Ed Santos, The Shooting Channel

The Department of Justice statistics state the average civilian gun encounter is from a distance of 0 to 6 feet, typically in diminished light. What they don’t state is that they are seldom experienced without movement. So it seems very logical that I write about the engaging moving assailants at close range – 15 yards or less.

Any concealed carry holder should be prepared for the fact that any and all opponents may be moving, or more than likely will be once the shooting starts.

This can complicate our ability to defend ourselves with a firearm, especially a handgun, and make appropriate decisions that could improve your ability to win the fight. Our training for confrontations should reflect the need for engagement of a moving assailant. This article will address hitting with handguns at 15 yards or less.

Factors Affecting The Moving Engagement 

There are many factors affecting our ability to put effective rounds on the threat.

We can’t lose sight of the statistical reality of a zero to 6′ encounter. The opponent may be turned sideways – especially if moving laterally – so their amount of exposure is less because a person is usually 9-14 inches thick when viewed from the side. The combination of side profile and movement along with swinging arms will make the target appear narrower that they are.

The close position of the attacker may require you to utilize short range movement, which can greatly affect your stance and upper body/arm positioning while tracking with the target. If you are behind cover your range of motion will more than likely be limited in tracking, unless you are exposed, or the opponent is moving farther out into your field of view.

You may not be alone or you may be confronted by a multiple opponent scenario.

The presence of bystanders and having an adequate backstop can be a potential problem. As the assailant moves, a bystander or non-deadly force actor may quickly get in the way of your muzzle.

The combination of varying levels and distances of threats; difficulty in making rapid and multiple threat identification; our ability or inability to guarantee every shot as a hit; and the short time and space that we may have to make all of these decisions exemplify the potentially dynamic and challenging nature of a gunfight.

The general rule of “shoot-look-shoot,” certainly may apply as a moving opponent may immediately cause you to lose track of the status of other opponents, as well as bystanders. How about shooting an opponent who is moving away? If they are still armed and continue to shoot and/or threaten you with a firearm, then be prepared to keep shooting. If they are moving away and no longer possess a deadly force tool, this may present itself as a situation where firing may not be justified.


The reason that most shooters tend to "trail" the target, is due not to target speed or lack of a lead, but lack of proper follow-through during the shot process. Tactical firearms training image by STS.

The reason that most shooters tend to “trail” the target, is due not to target speed or lack of a lead, but lack of proper follow-through during the shot process. Tactical firearms training image by STS.

This of course, depends upon the circumstances, particularly, if you are still in jeopardy at that point. Just keep in mind, if they are moving and shooting and you are standing still, who is easier to hit? In complicated situations like these, sound tactics, such as spontaneous use of movement and cover, may be applicable.

In general, exposure time may be very short, especially when in a building or other enclosed structure, such as a parking garage. So there will be little time for anything but quick reactions and getting the gun on target rapidly.

Let’s talk about some techniques that may help us win the fight.

Leads -There should be no need for a lead when engaging a moving assailant at close range. Given the average range of most confrontations, a projectile fired from most center-fire handguns travels in excess of 800 feet per second. At these velocities and higher, there is no need to lead at short distances because the bullet covers that distance much faster than any human can move.

The reason that most shooters tend to “trail” the target is not due to target speed or lack of a lead,  but the lack of proper follow-through during the shot process which is caused by stopping the swing of their gun while firing. In some cases a small lead of a few inches, or keeping the front sight just inside of the leading edge of the moving opponent’s chest may be useful.

Fundamentals Can Help

Square the body with the target, “driving” the gun with the target, firing and moving your gun with the target as it moves. Fire until the threat stops, becomes incapacitated or until they disappear from view.

The sight picture is critical, especially on a moving or less exposed target. Keep the front sight on the intended area of impact. Try to index or focus the front of your gun on the target. A well practiced shooter may be able to index the gun on target very well, and possibly achieve hits without using the sights. In either case, follow-through is the key to hitting the moving target.

Keep the trigger moving when you are firing and do not stop tracking your target. Stance and body position can be an important factor. A flexible lower body and slightly forward upper body are necessary. Continue to square the body with the threat and turret or pivot as you drive the gun with the opponent.

One Last Step

Don’t forget to get to cover as quickly as possible since you will more than likely be exposed.


Ed Santos is author of the books “Rule the Night Win the Fight” published 2008 and his latest “Low-Light Combatives” published 2013. He is the Owner/Founder of Center Target Sports, Inc. and Tactical Services Group. He teaches advanced firearm skills and Low-light training around the world and can be reached at

Thanks to the team at The Shooting Channel. Take a minute to visit The Shooting Channel – click here.