This is part of a multi-part series on tactical pistol shooting. To read on the art of pistol shooting itself, click here. For insights on EDC gear, click here. For advice on self-defense shooting, click here.

The handgun is the most widely used weapon by security forces and law enforcement. It is all too common that individuals put emphasis on tactics rather than solid fundamentals when learning how to shoot their handguns, and it is those solid fundamentals which can turn ordinary citizens into their own first responders, able to react to threats faster and more effective than even the quickest QRF. This is the philosophy of Sergeant Tim Bulot, the owner/operator of the Strategic Weapons Academy in Texas.

Sergeant Bulot is currently a supervisor for the Ellis County Sheriff’s Office’s Patrol and SWAT team. Having spent 30 years serving in the Irving Police Department as well as 9 years overseas in various roles including as a sniper instructor, hostage negotiator, breaching instructor, tactical commander, and armorer, Sergeant Bulot backs up the principles of self-defense he teaches at his academy with real world experience.

Sergeant Tim Bulot

The sergeant and his cadre of highly proficient and professional instructors believe that the more “good guys with guns” are out there on the street, the more criminals will think twice about preying on the innocent. This is why the Strategic Weapons Academy of Texas skips the flashy shenanigans other tactical schools might teach and instead teaches its students only the most practical techniques that they could use in real-life situations.

Equipment

Just as a samurai would not walk the streets of Kyoto with a rusty pair of swords tucked away in rotten wooden sheaths, the modern defender should not trust his or her life to faulty weapons and bad equipment. When it comes to weapons, quality should take precedence over all else. After all, unlike a new jacket or a fancy phone, when a pistol is used in self-defense it’s always a life and death situation. Generally, people don’t die if their phone’s battery runs out. In the mere seconds it takes for a firefight to start and end, the last thing a person wants is to put their life on the line with a firearm that might jam.

Cheaping-out on a weapon like a Hi-Point is excusable if a person has absolutely no money to spend on a firearm. However, this is not an excuse to settle for trash. If you can afford it, you should absolutely shell out the extra cash to buy a weapon that’s reliable and accurate. It doesn’t need to be a $1000 dollar competition gun, but it needs to work when you want it to.

Man with Handgun in Holster A man drawing a gun from a leather holster on his belt. pistol in holster stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

Another crucial element of pistol shooting beside the pistol itself is the holster. Unless one works in law enforcement or security, there is no reason for anyone to walk around Walmart with a pair of handcuffs, pepper spray, and a tourniquet hanging from a duty belt. In the same way, no one at an IPSC competition will be carrying their race guns inside their waist bands.

A holster is more than just a sheath for a pistol. It can serve to either conceal or protect, depending on its design. When choosing a holster, a shooter must think about what he intends to use it for. Holsters carried inside-the-waistband for concealed carry are slower to draw than outside-the-waistband holsters, but OWB holsters not hidden by clothing advertise to everyone in the room that you are carrying, and if an undesirable sees you before you see him, they make you their primary target. With this in mind, anyone wishing to carry OWB holsters should use ones with a retention button to prevent their weapons from being drawn by someone sneaking up behind them. Another reason to go with an OWB over an IWB is if someone has a full sized pistol or if they’re able to conceal their weapons with a jacket or loose shirt.

If you carry every day, Bulot’s instructors teach that one magazine might not be enough, since you don’t know whether you’ll need to fire a single round or dump your entire magazine into an enemy. Every extra magazine provides an additional layer of insurance and can prolong your own survivability in a gunfight.

Cleaning

Regular maintenance is essential for every gun owner Cropped view of a man cleaning his gun gun cleaning stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

Maintaining one’s weapon shouldn’t be looked down on as a menial task that can be put off until next week. If anyone forgets to change their car’s oil, the worst that can happen is an engine malfunction. If anyone neglects their gun, the worst that can happen is death. Knowing this, every shooter should keep in mind that a well-greased gun is a good gun, and a goon gun can save your life.

Using name-brand solvents is always the preferred option for gun maintenance, but for the truly desperate, fully synthetic motor oil can work in a pinch, even though it won’t stay on a firearm for as long as gun oil will.

A good cleaning kit is an investment in extending the life of your firearm. John Knott, one of Sergeant Bulot’s instructors, says that a cleaning rod can be good, but ramming it too violently through the barrel may affect a weapon’s accuracy in the long run. Instead, a bore snake is preferred for thorough but gentle cleaning.

Shooting Stance

Shooting and Weapons Training Shooting and Weapons Training. Outdoor Shooting Range pistol shooting stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

Aside from the odd collector who would never dream of firing his hundred year old Borchardt pistol, people buy handguns to use them. Whether they are used in a self-defense situation, plinking at the range, or at competitions, the fundamentals of handgun shooting remain the same. As any good shooter knows, it takes more than just pulling one’s trigger to consistently hit one’s target. Stance, grip, and trigger control.

In terms of stance, instructors at the Strategic Weapons Academy emphasize the utility of the isosceles stance over that of the weaver. While the weaver is great for stationary shooting, the “one foot forward, one foot back” nature of the stance doesn’t lend itself well to movement. In addition, since a shooter using the weaver stance stands quartered towards the threat presenting his ribs, he’ll be liable to get hit outside his body armor’s protective zone.

The isosceles stance helps the shooter use his very posture rather than simply his hands to absorb the force of his weapon’s recoil. It also presents his chest to any threat, which is good if the shooter is wearing body armor. More importantly, since the isosceles does not require one foot to be in front of the other, this allows the shooter to easily transition to moving.

Grip

Many handgun users have developed their own handgun grips. Most competent shooters agree that a support hand should wrap around the firing hand. A few others still cling to the teacup grip where the support “cups” under the firing hand, and a few poor souls choose to shoot completely horizontally, holding the weapon one-handed. If a shooter can be both fast and accurate with their chosen grip, then that’s all that matters. According to Sergeant Bulot, everyone should use the grip he or she is comfortable with, but there are some foundational guidelines he teaches at his academy that may be helpful to all shooters.

For example, the higher a shooter’s grip, the more leverage he will have on his weapon. Think of a pistol as a lever, with your hand acting as the fulcrum. The lower your shooting hand is on your weapon, the more noticeable the pistol’s recoil will be. For accurate, rapid shooting, it’s best to combine a high grip with a low pistol bore axis to maximize recoil control.

On the alignment of the shooting and support hands, covering one’s shooting hand with one’s support hand must allow the shooter to have unabated access to the trigger.

The trigger is one of the most important parts of the firearm, second maybe to the barrel and the feed system. When pulling the trigger, sight it in, depress the trigger safety, and finally press. Many new shooters tend to immediately release their triggers after they hear or feel the “boom” of their pistols, which leads to anticipating shots, which in turn leads to wild inaccuracy.

Sergeant Bulot describes the perfect trigger process as “sight, slack out, and press.” Deceptively simple, this means that a shooter must acquire his target, gently squeeze his trigger to let out the slack and deactivate the trigger safety (if any) and squeeze – only releasing the trigger after the round leaves the barrel – before reacquiring the target again. All this is done in a matter of two seconds.

While this article covers only the shallowest concepts of pistol shooting and maintenance, anyone wishing to go in depth may enroll in Sergeant Bulot’s course at weaponsacademy.com and get the realistic live fire training they need.

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