Light, easy to handle, effective, a handgun is the ideal weapon for both defensive and offensive close-quarter man-to-man combat fighting. Easily carried at the side, it’s practically a part of you. In spite of the weapon’s light weight and compactness, a bullet smashing through only one of these white pine boards would be enough to seriously wound a man.
Before handguns can be fired properly, man must first complete basic training with the pistol and revolver on a standard range. Here, trigger speed, sighting and aiming, and other fixed and correct firing habits are learned.
This basic training, however, doesn’t prepare a man to get the most out of his weapon in combat, for here on the range, he’s firing under ideal conditions at stationary targets. Being a good shot on the range doesn’t mean that a man will be the same good shot when the target is moving or firing back at him.
To get the maximum out of his 1911 gun, a man must learn to fire quickly and instinctively. Just as a rifleman graduates from the practice range to combat firing, the man armed with a handgun must have the same kind of advanced training with his weapon.
A course in combat or practical firing has been designed to give that needed advanced training. As in this demonstration, men learn to shoot quickly and accurately from any one of the three basic firing positions.
From the prone position, they learn to score hits on a pair of bobbing targets at over 50 yards. Moving up to 25 yards and assuming the kneeling position, they’ll be able to do the same thing. In combat firing, a two-shot burst gives a dispersion of 6 to 8 inches on the target, assuring at least one hit.
When a moment’s delay may cost a life, combat firing trains men to fire instinctively from the standing position, pointing the gun as if it were a finger. To change the direction of fire quickly white at a standstill, just pivot on either foot.
When moving forward, it may become necessary to change direction and fire from a walk if the target suddenly appears on the plane. This is combat firing: quick, automatic and accurate.
Now let’s follow a small group of men who have just finished basic training with a pistol as they are taken through a course in combat firing. Safety precautions apply here, too.
The first thing you always do is inspect and clear your piece. When that’s been done, you’re ready to proceed. One of the most important things in combat firing is the correct grip on the gun stock, so we’ll take that up first.
Put the pistol in the crotch of the hand and take a firm, tight grip on the weapon. The barrel should be in direct alignment with the forearm so if you pointed your finger instead of the gun, it would be right on the target.
If the weapon is held a little to the right or to the left in the hand, the barrel will not line up with the forearm and shots will miss. It should never be this way. For accurate shooting, the gun must be in line with the forearm.
Remember to take and keep a tight, firm grip on the gun stock. A loose grip will allow the weapon to twist in your hand on recoil. Keep practicing this rigid grip until it’s done automatically. That’s the way you’ll have to do it when it really counts.
Your use of handguns probably won’t be limited to the pistol. Let’s have a look at one of the revolvers used by the Army. The revolver is a natural-pointing gun. When placed in the hand, it is directly on the target.
The pistol, however, due to its stock design, requires a slight upward cocking of the wrist to bring it in line with the target. After a little practice, this adjustment will become instinctive. Greater accuracy with either the pistol or the revolver can be obtained by using a two-handed grip. Simply hold the gun firmly with the right hand, place the butt in the palm of the left hand and close the fingers around it.
The two-handed grip can also be reversed for left-handed shooters. In such cases, the gun is held in the left hand, and the right hand serves as the support. The two-handed grip is used in both the prone and kneeling positions. It provides a very comfortable, steady shooting platform and will give the maximum number of hits on the target.
Now let’s watch these men as they practice. The mistakes they make are natural, and you can profit by their errors. Later there will be several opportunities to apply the two-handed grip in the prone and kneeling positions.
After the one- and two-handed grips have been mastered, the group is introduced to the three basic firing positions: first, prone. Although it takes the longest to assume, it’s the steadiest to fire from, and in this position, the body presents the smallest target to the enemy.
As prone is best of the three basic firing positions for steady and accurate long-range firing, it should be practiced until it can be assumed quickly and easily. There’s no set or definite way to get into it as to body angle, legs or heels. Just lie as flat as the terrain will permit with the gun extended.
When in the prone position, additional time should be spent practicing the two-handed grip, for if the gun is not held correctly, you won’t hit the target no matter how steady the firing position.
When your instructor is satisfied with your proficiency in the basic prone position, he may allow you to practice more spectacular maneuvers. A neat trick is rolling out of place and into better cover after each burst of shots. This serves to confuse the enemy and keeps him from guessing your location.
The second basic position in combat firing is kneeling. Like prone, kneeling offers a relatively small target and at the same time is very steady. It’s easy to get into. Just drop down on one knee and extend the gun. You can fire while down on either knee as long as you are well-balanced.
With practice and remembering to use a tight, firm two-handed grip, you’ll soon be able to throw your shots right where you want them. It’s a good idea to alternate knees, for in combat, the terrain and cover will decide which one will be best to use. Learn every movement so it can be done smoothly and promptly without having to think about it.
Now for the standing or point-firing position. Place the feet in a natural position, ready to move in any direction. Face the target, knees flexed, with the trunk bent slightly forward in a crouch. Hold the arms straight with the wrist and elbow locked. Then using the shoulder as a pivot point, raise the gun to eye level. In the point-firing position, do not use the gun sight. Fire instinctively point-blank in the general direction of the target.
When not actually firing, the gun should be carried in the ready position, slightly extended and centered between the knees at about a 45-degree angle from the body. Raised pistol, the position taught in basic training, may affect accuracy when combat firing. As the gun is pushed forward and the arm reaches full extension, the force of the shove causes the wrist to snap, and the muzzle of the gun drops.
Shooting from the hip may look good, but it isn’t practical for combat. The main reason is that you can’t see whether your gun is on the target in that position. Then, too, if you lock your elbow to form a 90-degree angle between the forearm and the upper arm, you’re off balance when you shoot at high targets.
Point firing with locked wrist and elbow and pivoting from the shoulder will give the greatest number of hits. Here’s an alternate position, which some shooters find more comfortable. The elbow is held flexed or bent instead of being locked straight. Considerably more practice is necessary to master this position.
Be sure to extend the gun far enough to the front so that you can get a glimpse of it and correct any shooting errors. When the situation demands an angle shot from either a standing or walking position, don’t just pivot from the shoulder. The chances of a hit that way are only one out of three.
Don’t jump around to change the direction of fire, for like swinging the arm, you can’t land in the same place twice. If the ground happens to be rough or uneven, you’re apt to lose your balance. Turn smoothly. Let the movement of the body take care of any change in direction.
Smooth, easy pivoting will keep the gun in the same relative position to the eyes and body, enabling you to shoot where you look. Pivot on either foot, whichever brings you into the best firing position. When pivoting, bring the gun up to eye level during the time the body is changing direction.
Point firing depends on doing everything quickly, smoothly, instinctively. Practice all the things you’ve learned over and over again until they become as natural and effortless as breathing.
Now let’s see how these same men will do with live ammunition. Remember that these are the first rounds they’ve fired since completing the basic firing course. In order that hits may be more easily seen, tracer ammunition is being used.
Each target appears for only a short time, so shooting must be rapid as well as accurate. A burst of two shots assures at least one hit. At 25 yards, kneeling, the group will do fairly well. Of course, some of the men will make natural mistakes, but misses are not far off the mark. Minor corrections will put these men right on the target in a short time.
With point firing, it’s best to start close to the target and work gradually back as speed and accuracy increase. Watch this next man. After firing at the first target, he’ll relax and change his grip on the gun, missing the second target completely.
Here’s the man who doesn’t have his gun lined up with his arms and isn’t shooting where he’s pointing. This man, however, is using a tight grip and has the gun aligned with his forearm. Result: hits.
For teaching large groups of men combat or practical firing, a regular pistol range can be easily converted. The main requirements are a firing line at 50 yards and replacing the conventional bulls-eye targets with two bobbing targets placed 8 feet apart for each firing point.
When practicing the kneeling position, the pistol stands at the 25-yard line can be used to simulate obstructions over which to fire. The gun should never be rested directly against them or anything else when firing. If additional support is needed, rest the hand or arm against a solid object, but never the gun itself.
For practicing point firing, shoot from the 15-yard line. Allow no more than two steps forward to maintain the safety angle. Point firing will require more practice than firing from either the prone or kneeling positions. Courses of instruction should be designed to provide additional time for the standing position.
To test judgment as well as marksmanship in a realistic setting, Little Berlin or Tokyo installations may be used for small, advanced groups. To avoid being picked off by snipers, the man being tested drops into prone at 50 yards.
As he moves forward, he takes advantage of all cover, keeping constantly on the alert, since targets may be rigged in windows and around corners. At 25 yards, the situation calls for the kneeling position. Ahead in the open, only point firing will be possible.
This is combat firing quick, instinctive, the kind of training that can mean the difference between his life and yours.