Combative Pistol, Part 1

By Ian Strimbeck


When it comes to defensive pistol shooting, there is a an extreme overuse of going to full extension every time during practice or training classes. Whether it’s us practicing on the range or you being an educator in the industry, we need to get outside the “flat range mentality.” Your fight may not be like my fight, and mine may not be like yours. It’s a constantly chaotic and fluidly changing situation. Our skillsets should reflect that, which is why I am a proponent of the concept of the multidisciplinary tactician. This is a term developed by my dear friend and mentor Craig Douglas of Shivworks who also originally developed and tested the following methods/concepts in this article. Through this mindset we can constantly develop in order to create the best version of ourselves daily. With that being said, we need to understand how to literally fight with our pistol. Through my years instructing hundreds of law abiding citizens, law enforcement, military, being an assistant instructor with reputable educators and a student myself I am able to bring my perspective of retention based pistol shooting to the forefront.

The Draw Stroke: What’s the Big Deal? There are about as many ways to draw a pistol from the holster as there are colors you can order a holster in. Instead of solely looking at the fastest time to the first shot on a shot timer, we need to look critically on how to draw the pistol possibly while being entangled and working to extension, or working from extension and having to compress the gun due to the assailant crashing into you. We need to give appropriate extension to the threat when necessary. The extension of our pistol is in a constant flux being entirely dependent on environmental and situational factors. The deployment of our pistol should be broken up into four steps. The #1 position is the base of our draw stroke. This is where we get the initial firing grip of our pistol. As with shooting any handgun, we should look to get our grip as high on the backstrap as possible while the gun is still in the holster as well as have a neutral locked wrist. Once the pistol comes out of the holster, all bets are off when it comes to readjustment of the grip. This is also the position where you would defeat any retention devices (if any) on your holster. This is primarily for law enforcement or military who may have a mandatory policy of Lvl 1-3 retention holsters. Along with the defeat of retention devices, this is also where the shooters off (weak) hand “collects” in between the pectoral muscles if not in use as a fending position. If utilizing our pistol pragmatically in a fight, we should have a consistent collection point of our off hand. If not, we are putting it in risk of being muzzled with it floating freely in space when shooting to extension one handed. If we have a cover garment, we need to pull it as high as possible (nipple line) to make sure our pistol will be free/clear of possible snags. Once the grip is set and our off hand is registered in a fending position or in the collection point only then can we move the pistol onto the thumb pectoral index.

The #2 position is a position that we can shoot from if entangled as well as is the last position where the vertical line of presentation turns into the horizontal line of presentation. This is the only point of the draw stroke that differentiates if carrying strong side or appendix. If drawing from a strong side holster, you will always go to what’s termed as a “thumb pectoral index (TPI).” It’s a position that places the pistol at a downward angle in a kinesthetically verified position with a flagged thumb, high elbow, and alongside our pectoral muscle. With a flagged thumb, the user gives their pistol enough offset from their clothing for the slide to move freely and not unintentionally cause a malfunction. The downward angle may not give us center chest shot placement, but it keeps the rounds impacting in a consistent location that gives us an ability to not necessarily worry about our off hand placement if entangled. With other methods such as simply dropping the elbow or indexing the magazine base pad on the ribcage, this puts the pistol at a neutral angle. Without an aggressive downward angle in a chaotic entanglement, this puts us at more of chance to inadvertently have an upward angle when pulled/pushed around. If a round discharges in this manner there could be little effect to our adversary or worse off, completely miss them and now we’re dealing with possible collateral damage. When utilizing the TPI, as long as we have a decent wrestling base we can keep the downward angle and discharge enough rounds into the pelvic area to wear out the assailant. This will hopefully do enough damage that we can eventually break free of the entanglement and utilize the pistol at distance as it was originally designed. For those that carry in the appendix position such as myself, the TPI is not part of the original vertical line of presentation if we’re drawing to full extension. Obviously the benefit of carrying forward of the hip line with appendix is that it’s technically faster to access compared to those that carry behind the hip line with strong side or similar carry. If going to extension to work the threat at distance, it’d make no sense to pull the pistol back to the TPI. So with that being said the traditional #2 position for appendix would still be to keep it at a downward angle as it comes out the holster and finishing on top of the pectoral muscle. This isn’t a verified position to shoot from, but that’s not what the end goal is if we’re working the pistol to extension. If needed we’d simply pull the pistol back to the TPI and work the threat from there. With that being said, prior to the gun even coming out of the holster, we should utilize the rule of proper In-Fight Weapons Access (IFWA). This theory is utilized while we’re entangled and prior to us going for our pistol. The idea is to gain control of our opponents limb closest to our tool before access. The reason behind this, is to avoid the infamous “bad tie” or our opponent fouling our draw. Time and time again in force on force classes, I see students rush for their gun due to inadequate grappling knowledge and either get their tool taken away, or getting one shot off while also getting shot in the process. By having a basic understanding of effective limb control we can break our opponents posture enough in order to get to a more dominate position. Entangled shooting work is knowledge that doesn’t come easily and takes a lot of dedication to get the desired results.

In the next installment, I’ll talk on the continuation of this draw stroke to the #3 and #4 position as well as working the draw stroke in reverse if leading up to confined areas or the threat is collapsing back on you. Additionally we’ll figure out together the most effective integration of off hand fending techniques in both the defensive and offensive role.

Article By Ian Strimbeck
Hand-to-Hand, Grappling, Edged Weapons
I am constantly evolving how I teach so as to bring the best knowledge to my students which will therefore allow them to be better able to answer the call if violence is the only option.


thanks for the instruction!