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  • Writer's pictureMikey

Combat Shooting Versus Defensive Shooting

Sometime back, I watched a well-known firearms training company training about 20 students on a flat range. I observed a former "SOF Operator" giving one-on-one feedback to a newer shooter. The instructor scolded the "newb" to hurry up, jam his magazines, so he can "get rounds downrange" at the hostile threat. Defensive shooting is an extremely dynamic concept that makes it irresponsible to gloss over fundamentals and legal ramifications. This situation was the catalyst for the formation of Range University. Treating civilians as soldiers without an in-depth discussion of ballistics, physics, morality, and legalities is an endangerment to all Americans and the US Constitution. 

In a post 9/11 America, combat shooting "tacticool fantasy camps" train civilians as if they are to deploy into combat, and these camps have become disproportionate to traditional defensive shooting courses that focus on statutory compliance.

I personally have lost sleep worrying about near and dear friends that may wrongly employ offensive combat shooting techniques acquired from "tacticool fantasy camps" while in a defensive situation. 

So, I want to discuss the difference between the two types of shooting methodologies.

Combat Shooting and Defensive Shooting are two distinct training methodologies. There is a clear distinction legally between the two types of skills. The definitions boil down to offensive actions or defensive actions when a firearm is employed against a threat to life. 

Combat shooting is based on military tactics. Military tactics are defined as the art of organizing and employing fighting forces on or near the battlefield. Tactics involve applying four battlefield functions

closely related – kinetic or firepower, mobility, protection or security, and shock action.

Most "tacticool fantasy camps" use offensive verbiage such as breach, shoot, move, and communicate in their course titles. These courses set training precedence to take offensive actions in situations that require defensive action or situational patience.

I have personally heard a "tacticool instructor" yell, "Close distance and empty your mag in his head." This situation is a combat scenario of domination and destruction in a direct action mission context. If this tactic is employed as a civilian, there will be direct legal questioning focused on the point when your life was no longer threatened. If the assailant dropped the weapon? At what point was the assailant incapacitated? The list of legal questions goes on and on.  

If the only training you have done is military tactics based... you will employ the techniques you have developed. 

Also, all the training you have attended will be displayed to the jury. The course descriptions and objectives will be read aloud. Are these terms beneficial to your trial?

So, what is defensive shooting? Defensive shooting can be described as the act of using a firearm to preserve the life of someone other than a hostile actor. In the civilian world, defensive shooting is almost always a reactionary product of a direct threat to life. As an American, you have the inherent right to self-defense. Specifically, you must understand the legal difference between a controlled, necessary, and proportionate force to repel an attack and an excessive and disproportionate force.

In other words, you must only use the amount of force necessary to protect yourself.

In short, defensive shooting is a form of self-defense, and like any other martial arts, shooting requires training and sustainment to maintain a high level of proficiency in marksmanship and situational discipline. Shooting skills are incredibly perishable. We never stop learning, and small improvements are the keys to long term results.

However, defensive shooting is more than marksmanship and tactical techniques. Defensive shooting is the lawful employment of a privately owned weapon to stop a threat to life. That last sentence is powerful; please re-read it. Let's break this down.

Lawful Employment: As a gun owner, do you know the state, county, and city laws? If not... ignorance will not save you while on trial.

Privately Owned Weapon: Is your weapon registered? Is your firearm legal? Is your ammunition legal for your state, county, or city?

A Threat To Life: How does your state define this? At what point is my life in danger? When is the person no longer a threat to my life?

These are compelling questions that are rarely addressed in combat shooting courses. In combat, there is a famous saying, "Fire and forget." Unfortunately, this does not apply in the civilian legal setting.  

You... the shooter is responsible for every round you fire. 

Range University provides many courses where students can learn and advance the skills associated with firearms and walk away with a better understanding of ballistics, physics, morality, and legalities. 

In our 100 series classes, the fundamentals are honed, and there is an emphasis on accuracy. Do not be fooled by the title. Many long-time shooters have come to our 100 series courses and find they take away a tremendous volume of information. I have often maintained that experienced shooters take away more than novice shooters because they understand their mistakes and the time wasted with flawed training techniques.

If you have questions, please contact us at

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Oct 23, 2020

I've personally witnessed similar situations multiple times, and have, on more than one occasion, gotten into a long discussion of the ramifications of one's actions/inactions (i.e., criminal, civil, mental/emotional).


Jeff Neal
Jeff Neal
Oct 21, 2020

Great article! Made me rethink the past training I have received.

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