A viewer of my Shooting to Live Advanced Methods demo YouTube video asked an interesting question.
“Do you think that there is any value added by practicing the WWII Combatives shooting methods beyond learning historical training firsthand?”
In a conversation with him, he further elaborated that he was asking from his perspective as a competent shooter who practices regularly using demanding time and accuracy standards. From that perspective, my answer was NO. The only value to him would be for historical academic interest. There is nothing that will be learned of practical value for someone with his level of proficiency.
However, I continued on by saying that to the millions of first time gun buyers of the past few years, MAYBE. Only a miniscule fraction of those people will ever take a class on gun safety and learn how to shoot to some standard, whatever that standard might be.
For those millions of first time gun buyers, studying actual WWII shooting combatives, such as Shooting to Live and Field Manual 23-35 Pistols and Revolvers (1946), could have some value. Shooting to Live and its immediately successor, US Army Combat Firing, at least provide some structure and standards for brand new pistol shooters. Any system based on real combat is preferable to going to an indoor range and randomly blasting away based on what’s shown on TV.
I began the long term series about ‘Unsighted Fire’ aka Point Shooting on Patreon for a very specific reason. It is that obviously the vast majority of people who write about point shooting or make YouTube videos on “Fairbairn Method” shooting have never really read or studied any of the literature about it, including Shooting to Live. From the perspective of an historian and researcher, this lack of fact based information is both annoying and disturbing.
The gunhandling and safety aspects of WWII pistol combatives alone have a great deal of merit. Gripping the pistol properly. A strong emphasis on practical gunhandling in addition to marksmanship. Including malfunction clearance in early stages of Live Fire. Equal weight on Dry Practice as Live Fire, especially prior to the initial firing practice. Highlighting the concept of treating a pistol as always loaded. Emphasizing the importance of muzzle direction when handling a pistol. Practicing clearing and making the pistol safe when less than a magazine has been fired. Those are all highly useful skills, probably even more so than the marksmanship standards, which were not very high.
But please avoid muzzling your instructors. We won’t be happy about that. We will try to keep away from putting ourselves in a position where you can.
While the hit standards Shooting to Live and Field Manual 23-35 Pistols and Revolvers (1946) establish are rudimentary, they do give new shooters an idea that they’re supposed to actually hit something when shooting. The standard in Shooting to Live is 50 percent hits on a silhouette for single presentations within Social Space (4 yards). The 1946 US Army standard was 100 percent hits for single presentations on an E Silhouette at 5 yards.
Although most proficient shooters today would consider the techniques obsolete and the standards mediocre, at best, they’re still better than practicing what’s seen on TV and in movies. TV and movies are where most gunowners’ training takes place and that’s bad news.
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Who has the expertise to teach this now?
I attended the Smith & Wesson Academy under Charles Smith the original FBI weapons instructor. We learned hip shooting from him properly. Three weeks of firing full loads improves anyone’s score with proper techniques. It is a triangular set up of using your bodies Centerline-elbow and peripheral vision. Knowing how to extract and use the essentials is still valid today.
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