From the introduction to Practics Holistic Handgun

One-handed, formal marksmanship shooting was once the standard in law enforcement training. During the first half of the last century, American and British firearm trainers recognized that traditional handgun training was failing to provide sufficient field skills. Traditional handgun training, which lasted at least into the 1970s in some locales, was based largely on seventeenth-century dueling postures. The British colonial experience and America’s urban crime boom gave somber and substantial proof that close-range, moving targets required more than single-handed bullseye training could provide.

Practics (practical tactics) is a personal defense system based on the moral, legal, and effective use of firearms. Practics Holistic Handgun is the portion of the Practics system that deals with the defensive use of the pistol and revolver.

Practics has seven unique characteristics:

  1. Firearm Based—Practics is not an unarmed martial art adapted to firearm use. European swordsmanship, for example, was built upon the advantages and limitations of swords. Traditional sword techniques included full use of the sword, from tip to pommel, whereas hand-to-hand range techniques for the firearm-equipped defender have tended not to include the use of the gun. Today most progressive police training regimens include some form of defensive ground fighting. However, the techniques taught to law enforcement officers are almost exclusively for unarmed defenders, despite a reasonable expectation for the legal use of deadly force. Practics is a defense system designed specifically for firearms.
  2. Holistic—Practics is a complete handgun defense system. It is not my intention to suggest that popular and established techniques and training have no current value. Certainly, some have been less effective over the years than was hoped by their innovators, but modern training has unquestionably elevated the general skill of the shooting population. The problem is continuity; the draw does not always match the requirement of point shooting, and popular point-shooting methods don’t marry well with aimed-fire techniques. Practics is a system of interrelated techniques and skills based on the entirety of an armed defender’s needs, rather than simply a collection of standalone techniques.
  3. En Motion Fire—Practics emphasizes shooting as movement, not just position. Starting with the good work of William E. Fairbairn and Rex Applegate in the first half of the twentieth century, there has been a march toward practical defense techniques. These efforts have focused on transitioning shooting from traditional slow-fire marksmanship to close-range, point-shooting techniques. Today, the practical crowd has all but won the argument. Police agencies have largely abandoned formal marksmanship instruction. Everybody now knows how to crouch and jerk shots; “missing the mark” has sadly become American police orthodoxy. Having said that, the desire to advance defensive shooting effectiveness is a worthy one. Unfortunately, after six or seven decades, all we’ve accomplished is another form of target shooting. Those who disparaged traditional marksmanship replaced it with “crouch, grimace, and jerk” (a faster way to miss). Both disciplines have value, but both are static, positional firing—two sides of the same coin. To better understand this problem, consider how close-range firing techniques are taught to police and private defenders. Shooters stand on the firing line; on command draw the handgun to the hip, waist, or chest level; cease motion; and fire. Now consider the way knives, clubs, and fists are used in fighting—always within motion. Those weapons were intended to transfer force during motion. In medieval Europe and Asia, swordsmen, not archers, were used for close-range fighting. The blade is used fluidly, slashing within an arc of movement. The handgun is typically fired after a movement—bringing the handgun onto target—which is significantly different than a sword pierce at the end of a thrust, because a strike with the sword point always occurs within the thrusting movement. Knife or sword operation includes using the blade during the arcing movement or thrust. Likewise, the handgun user must also be capable of accurately discharging the handgun without pausing or stopping handgun motion. Pause-and-fire techniques are appropriate for most applications but insufficient for fast, chest-to-chest encounters. If the handgun is to fully replace the bladed weapon for close range, it must also be used en motion.
  4. Practical, Non-sporting Origins—Sports kill. That is, sports can kill practical effectiveness when conforming good defensive practices to fit within the confines of an organized game. Practical shooting sports have tremendous defensive training value but by necessity compromise best defense practices. Firing ranges have directional limitations, organized events require shooters to keep firearms unloaded off the firing line, shooters may be required to run when they should stay, and subjective legal requirements of deadly force can never be objectively scored. Shooting sports do have value for all shooters seeking to improve their technical skills but not without some cost to practicality. Practics has no sporting roots and is not intended to be an organized game. As an answer to a legitimate defense need, Practics is simply practical tactics.
  5. Adaptable—Practics can be modified to include and exclude techniques based on the practitioner’s fitness and health. Practics Handgun includes techniques that some readers will find physically impossible. Each general type of threat, however, has one low-movement Practics response. Practics is a defensive plan as well as a collection of techniques. Those defenders requiring wheelchair use, for instance, will find the offered strategies relevant and some of the techniques sufficiently flexible.
  6. Inclusive—Practics does not replace other defense systems but rather enhances them. Pugilists, wrestlers, and traditional martial artists will find Practics an excellent supplemental system for defensive firearm use. There is nothing in Practics to discourage practitioners from pursuing non-deadly-force defensive training. In fact, Practics recommends further training.
  7. Evolutionary—Practics will continually be improved by its varied practitioners based on their own expertise, experience, and needs. Practical tactics are only practical as long as they serve their purpose. It is impossible to be dogmatic and practical at the same time. Constant improvement of the system is necessary for Practics to sustain a competitive effectiveness.

Practics Handgun is not more reinvention of existing techniques. In fact, it is intended to be a whole lot less: the most direct, concise answer for the defensive handgunner. We must be able to apply marksmanship and point-shooting techniques beyond currently accepted limits. Even so, open distance shooting is not enough. Handgun training must include defensive solutions previously provided by hand and knife techniques. Sub-contact shooting, that is, shooting into compressed flesh, is the logical extension of the handgun as a tool, a true magnifier of the hand, not just a better bow and arrow. Some of what you’re about to read is generations old, forgotten and ill advisedly replaced. The starting point for Practics Handgun was a melding of old-pattern Marine Corps training with successful rural law enforcement practices. Development of the system was oriented toward effectiveness and achievability for a sole defender. In other words, no regard was given to physical grace, competition, or tradition. Practics can have no loyalty to form, system ideology, nor, if I’m to be intellectually honest—myself. Either it works or it is abandoned. Practics is simple, legal, brutally effective, and morally justifiable.

The Author
Albert League is a former Marine and law enforcement firearm instructor who consults on a variety of security topics.
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