Press the Trigger Until the Threat Has Stopped

Posted on November 2, 2011 by


For the last three weeks, we’ve been looking at the fundamentals of combat shooting and how they differ from the fundamentals of target shooting. For the purposes of our training, we defined the fundamentals of combat shooting as:

Orient yourself toward the threat

  • Extend the handgun toward the threat
  • Press the trigger until the threat has stopped

In today’s post, we want to examine the third and final fundamental of sound combat shooting: Pressing the trigger until the threat has stopped.

By definition, this is a remarkably simple principle. Once we are facing the threat and have extended our weapon toward it, the next and final step is to press the trigger – not once, not twice and then pause, because that’s how we’ve practiced it at the range. Press the trigger until the threat ceases to be a threat. Whether that means the threat is running in the opposite direction or down on the ground, our goal is to stop the threat, not to specifically maim or even kill. That’s an incredibly important concept to grasp for reasons both legal and practical.

This has a couple of important implications: First, it means we are not intentionally going to attempt a less-effective shot when a more effective shot is possible. An example of this is the “I’ll just wing ‘em” philosophy that advocates shooting a leg or arm. Not only are such precision shots difficult in a Dynamic Critical Incident, they’ve also been proven empirically to be less-effective than center mass or central-nervous-system hits.

Second, it means that when we train, we need to use a method of training that allows us to vary the number of shots necessary to “stop” the target. Whether that’s through a drill (and we will discuss drills that do this a little later on) or via a specialized target or training partner, you need to keep it varied since there is no way to know how many shots you may need to get a threat to stop, regardless of the caliber gun you carry. If the Mozambique drill (for example) is the only drill you practice, you will be useless in a gunfight past the third shot.

This simple fundamental of combat shooting also includes a skill that, while not specific to revolvers, is one of the sure marks of the wheelgun expert: trigger control. A shooter who masters his trigger control can tame any fighting revolver, regardless of the make, model, or presence of a customized trigger job.