I sometimes have very strong opinions on certain topics, especially in the area of shooting and self-defense. I ran across this quote at a self-defense blog the other day, and because of my strong opinions felt the need to address it.
I’ve never been very keen on developing fast draw skills. Though necessary for competition, they should be unneeded for defense as long as someone maintains a decent level of situational awareness.
The theory behind that is one that I’ve heard on multiple occasions, namely that you should be so aware of your surroundings that you’re ready to draw if a threat presents or you’ve already drawn and are ready in the event of an attack. It’s a nice theory, but it’s wrong. My own personal anecdotal experience would disagree with the statement. When I was the subject of an attempted mugging, I was very situationally aware. I saw my attacker at a distance, employed ranged weapons to keep him out of his effective attacking range, and successfully defended myself without injury. One of the things I remember clearly about that moment was trying to draw my pocket pistol in a hurry. While I’m sure it was the quickest pocket draw I’ve ever executed, it felt slow. Because my attacker had a knife, there is nothing I wanted more than to get my gun out of the holster and in to action in a great big hurry.
That’s my big problem with the situational awareness theory of why you don’t need to draw in a hurry. I was aware of my surroundings, but I posses the physical limitation that I can’t see through brick walls. That allowed an attacker to get within a reasonable attacking distance for a contact weapon without me knowing he was there. I was forced to react to his actions, but because I was able to react to his actions quicker than his thought process, the initiative changed to my favor. Again, while this is only a personal anecdote from one experience, the lesson to take away is that speed in reaction can change the dynamic of the fight.
While I’m not a big fan of the whole OODA Loop concept for casual shooters, it does provide an adequate example of the benefit of speed in a self defense encounter. The four letters in OODA stand for “Observe, Orient, Decide, Act” and represent the four components of any decision made and especially those made in a dynamic environment. In a mugging situation, your attacker has already reached the “act” phase – he’s observed his target, oriented himself for max advantage, decided when and how to press the attack and is now on the “act” phase of the attack.
Generally, the act of fighting back in and of itself will interrupt your attacker’s decision making process and force him to do a battlefield risk/reward calculation. The speed at which you react will help that calculation end in your favor. Hypothetically example: you’re confronted by an attacker armed with a contact weapon but initially outside of contact range. He’s in the “act” stage – you observe, orient (filter the information through your training and evaluate the best course of action), decide to draw your pistol, and then act on that decision by drawing your pistol. Because you’ve practice your draw form concealment, you’re able to perform the entire action above in 1.5 seconds or less. Because your attacker was not likely expecting you to react in such an aggressive fashion, you’ve now changed the dynamic of the fight. Instead of you reacting to his initiative, he’s now reacting to your actions. That’s a much more advantageous position for your to be in.
The key element that allows you to change the fight dynamic in a surprise attack is your speed. Unless you walk around with your hand on your gun at all times, you’re not always going to be in a position to draw. Yes, situational awareness will always help you be more prepared for that dynamic incident, but unless you’re able to act on that situational awareness faster than your attacker, it’s not going to do you a whole lot of good.
There is a reason that Gunsite Triangle on my challenge coin is “Accuracy, Power, Speed”. Speed in a vacuum isn’t necessarily that valuable, but speed in action when combined with the will to defend yourself and the skill to act allows you to change the fight dynamic in your favor. Simply “being aware” isn’t enough. It doesn’t matter if you can see the threat coming if you lack the physical skill to act on that awareness fast enough to make a difference.
Speed isn’t a panacea, because you need the accuracy component as well. Fast isn’t very useful if you can’t hit anything. That being said, if one day my ticket gets punched by someone else, it’s my hope and prayer that I’ll be at the very least fast enough so that I don’t die with my gun in the holster.
Diligentia, Vis, Celeritas