December 2, 2021

Will I Make My Gun Jam During a Gunfight?


If you’re like many shooters, when you do have time to train on the gun range you probably go out and stand at 10 to 15 yards, plink on some targets and call it a day. While it is true that some practice is better than no practice, at the same time it’s best to train for real situations.

For instance, most concealed carry defensive shooting situations will be well within seven yards. At that distance, it’s possible the bad guy that’s trying to kill you will be able to get his hands on you, and it will be a physical fight for survival. In this scenario, the strongest person will win — unless you know how to effectively use your gun.

Man shooting at a 3D target from the retention position
With his Springfield Armory Hellcat, the author demonstrates how to align the gun to the target from a retention position.

A Knife Fight … with a Gun

This comes down to something known as retention shooting, and training for it is something that can help you greatly. Just to clear the air, here is how we define retention shooting.

If you are so close to the threat that you cannot extend your gun out with two hands for the fear that the threat could get their hands on your weapon, then you need to hold the gun closer to your body and away from them. This is what we call shooting from the retention position.

Man demonstrating how to shoot an attacker in close quarters
In extreme close quarters, drawing your pistol and getting it on target can be difficult. Training is essential.

When the gun is this close to you, it does introduce a new set of problems called stoppages. This would not be a malfunction of the gun, but rather it would be caused by user error. Usually, the stoppage from the retention position is caused by the slide of the pistol not being able to reciprocate, eject the empty and pick up a new round.

Man demonstrating how to shoot an attacker in close quarters
Appendix carry is a fast and comfortable CCW position. You must practice to ensure you can safely draw it at close distances.

This happens when your pistol is stuffed against you and the slide can’t cycle because your torso is in the way. The slide hitting you will not cause you any harm, but it will mean that you will only have one shot then you will have to manually rack the slide to clear the fired case and cycle a new round into the chamber.

A Solution

The way to stop this from happening is training to fire from retention in the correct way. Grant, our instructor, teaches you to tuck your elbow straight back, keep your thumb straight, and place it up against your side. This will keep your line of fire straight, help you manage recoil and keep your slide out where it can operate fully.

Man rotating the gun to the target
Shooting from retention lessens the likelihood of a bad guy getting to your pistol. At close ranges, the accuracy remains good.

The second most common stoppage would be when the bad guy is so close that he can grab the gun. Shooting from a retention position will cut down on the threat being able to reach the gun, but if the threat is close and aggressive this is still a likely danger. If he has his hands on the gun, then there is a very good chance his hands will stop the gun from cycling. This means, like before, you will have to find a way to charge the gun and clear the spent brass.

For clearing these stoppages, it is tough to come up with a one-size-fits-all solution as there are so many variables. Once you are in a fight like this, you could be standing and fighting, or you could be rolling around on the ground fighting for your life. None of these situations will be pretty; it will be messy and frightening.

There is one thing that you can do: have a carry gun with a red dot optic. This will give you a means to more easily charge the gun one-handed if you are in a close-quarters fight. You can always rack the slide using the face of the optic off of your belt, your boot or even the assailant’s face. If you don’t have an optic, that’s where having a vertical ridge on the rear sight is helpful. In a scuffle like this, all bets are off and you need to clear the brass so you can fire until the threat stops.

Angled view of CCW draw in close quarters
If you are able to gain distance from the threat, you can transition to a two-handed hold of the pistol.

Conclusion

Each situation will be different, but you can practice for this situation by loading dummy rounds in your magazine to practice clearing these stoppages one-handed as if you were in a close-quarters battle.

As always, it’s best to train in such a way that you maximize your chances of survival. Planning for a close-quarters fight is a pretty good idea considering how close most of the incidents turn out to be. Good luck, and good training!

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