Shooting in the hole

Different firearms instructors have different opinions about the most efficient way to train for shooting in the hole. In fact, many of us have different names for contact and near-contact shooting. Me, I like “in the hole.” I have heard, “in the...


Different firearms instructors have different opinions about the most efficient way to train for shooting in the hole. In fact, many of us have different names for contact and near-contact shooting. Me, I like “in the hole.” I have heard, “in the crucible,” “point blank” and several others. In any case, it defines the area where the threat is close enough to touch.

Statistically, the hit ratio of close encounters is relatively low, even when officer and assailant are within a contact distance. One study (in one region) found that hits were about 43 percent for shootings within six feet. There could be a lot of reasons why the numbers seem low, but it could also be argued that these numbers aren’t bad, considering the factors. Regardless, this article is an examination of some of the training considerations for shooting “in the hole”.

The biggest problem with shooting in the hole is the fact that all options are counterintuitive. Within the realm of close quarters battle, one option is to shoot at close distance, another is to fight, rather than draw, and yet another is to shoot and create distance. Which option is the best in extreme close quarters? They all are, depending on the tactical situation and the strengths of the officer.

Inside the hole, the officer has to do one of two things: stay ahead of the sequence of events, or short-circuit the OODA Loop. These strategies have two completely different outcomes. The truth is, officers need to prepare themselves to engage at all distances.

Within the hole, the level of sight alignment changes as the distance increases or decreases. As the threat comes closer, a precision engagement isn’t as important as a fast delivery. Still the rule is, deliver rounds until the threat is no longer a threat.

I had a chance to pick the brains of three firearms experts. As training experts, their credentials are extensive. But that’s not quite as important as the fact that I know them personally and have seen them train others. John Hall, Dan Gray and Dr. Ron Martinelli are results-driven trainers.

Gray, a retired police sergeant and lead instructor/owner of Trident Firearms Academy, told me that the “speed rock,” the rocking of the heel of the gun to bring the muzzle level just above the holster, is dead. He has been teaching the “high tuck” position, which differs from the original speed rock because the firing position is not over the holster, but at chest-level.

The logic behind abandoning the speed rock makes the most amount of sense when the officer needs to draw from a seated position. Seated in a vehicle, a booth at a restaurant, or in a similar position, officers would have to stand to be effective and may not have time to stand. Raising the handgun to the “high tuck” position allows the officer to be effective.

The target area, Gray continues, is also different. From the high tuck position, the hit zone is lower in the abdomen, rather than high up in the big blood bearing organ areas.

The support hand now becomes part of the weapon defense system. Its purpose is to strike, deflect, protect, grab or defend. When the officer draws, he uses the non-drawing hand to facilitate getting bullets to the target, which can mean striking or even drawing the assailant to the officer.

Gray’s training to shoot the lower abdomen/pelvic girdle area has added benefits. This area can quickly take away an assailant’s mobility. Most important, a miss is most likely pointed toward the pavement.

Hall recommends that officers practice their close quarter draw consistently. When he teaches this, he uses an IDPA style target with the center circle cut out. I do, too. We sometimes call this a “negative” target. The idea, of course, is to shoot the close quarter target through the hole without hitting the target.

Officers begin at a distance of approximately one arm’s length. On the command to draw, they perform a distraction strike while beginning the draw stroke. As the gun clears the holster, the officer raises the muzzle, canting the gun slightly away from the body. The officer continues to fire and create distance.

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