By Sheriff Jim Wilson, Shooting Illustrated
I am re-reading an excellent book on Texas Ranger Captain Frank Hamer: “Texas Ranger: The Epic Life of Frank Hamer” by John Boessenecker. In it, Boessenecker quotes an early interview from the captain in which Hamer talks about what it takes to win a gunfight, and as most people know, Hamer won quite a few. Hamer tells the interviewer that it is critical to stay calm and hit the mark with the first shot. He suggests that a person take the time to make sure his sights are on target when he breaks the shot.
Col. Jeff Cooper wrote that when the fight becomes unavoidable, the proper response and the only successful response should be “Front sight, press—front sight, press.” Both men are saying essentially the same thing; the calmer a person can stay, focusing his entire attention on reliably running his gun and hitting the mark is the key to survival.
Now, you might point out, and rightfully so, that staying calm when someone is trying to kill you can be a difficult chore. It is human nature to worry about being hurt and even possibly killed. But we know that staying calm in a fight can be accomplished, because many others have done that very thing. The calming effect in a shooting situation is accomplished by incorporating several factors into our personal-defense plan.
We begin by accepting the fact that bad things really do happen, and they can happen to us. Controlling your emotions in such a situation is difficult, but we begin by learning and practicing to control our emotions throughout the various aspects of our life. I accept the fact that bad things can happen, and I develop a plan to deal with it. Having a plan helps to calm me when the real thing occurs. Cooper pointed out that the person without a plan and training will often respond with, “Oh my god! What am I going to do now?” The person who has planned and trained is more likely to think, “They told me that this could happen, and I know just what to do about it.”
Of all the things that will help us survive a violent criminal attack, the ability to draw the defensive handgun and center-punch your attacker with that first shot is the most critical to success and survival. It trumps fancy guns, state-of-the-art ammo and cool tactical gear. Even with multiple attackers, this response to the threat will often make additional targets disappear. We do everything we can to avoid a fight but when one is forced upon us, we clear our mind of everything except seeing the front sight and pressing the trigger.
Obviously, some folks are better at this than others. I have found, throughout my life, that the best practice is to force myself to be calm during all of the little things that can go wrong in my everyday life. Okay, I didn’t want this to happen, but now what am I going to do about it? It also helps to train frequently and make time to practice what has been learned in training.
“Be calm & hit the mark” is an excellent road map to survival.
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