AAR: Extreme Close Range Gun Fighting with Greg Ellifritz

This year I have been pursuing some training in things I don’t do well. Imagine that!  As a shooter I fight the trap that many shooters do: becoming myopic on just the firearm and the related skill set.  Even among serious shooters I find a skill that most are weak in is contact distance shooting.  This involves a dedicated sub-set of techniques with the weapon as well as a considerable set of related combative skills that will factor into any situation that requires such shooting.  An “entangled fight” in which you and an adversary are roughly within two arms reach of each other, a distance that is sometimes referred to as “the hole,” is an exceptionally dangerous place to be.  The skills for dealing with this are important, but missing for most.

Distance favors the good shooter, the farther away a threat is the greater the advantage of a capable gunman, obviously. At contact distance and certainly within the two arm’s reach an unskilled yet determined criminal can inflict devastating damage very quickly.  This is a possible situation that a lot of shooters ignore because it is not fun or pleasant to deal with, it is more fun to shoot targets than to go hands-on with training partners and fight over guns.

I have had some basic training in shooting from retention and the like, as well as some training in disarming handguns when at close proximity, but I wanted to get quality training in the entire scenario of dealing with a threat at contact distance when guns are involved. When I realized that Greg Ellifritz was offering a class that addresses exactly this within driving distance I signed up.  I am glad I did.

If you are serious about self-defense and don’t know who Greg Ellifritz is, you are missing out. I have been familiar with him for some time because once I discovered his website, Active Response Training, which is also the name of his training company, I became a follower of his writing.  It is one of the best resources on self-defense and tactical information on the internet.  I also took Greg’s Ground Fighting class this past winter and that was a great experience and highly recommended.  I reviewed that particular class here.

The reason I so highly recommend Greg as a trainer is his versatility. Most good trainers tend to be very focused on a particular skill set: a shooter, a knife expert, a combatives guy, whatever.  Greg does it all.  Literally.  He teaches shooting, knife, impact weapons, combatives, dealing with the threat of explosives, and medical.  I can also attest to the fact that he is not just a “jack-of-all-trades.”  Greg is very skilled in all of these fields.  So, this gamut of skill and experience gives him a perspective on integrating these various elements into the “whole” of self-defense and self-preparedness that very few other trainers offer and this approach really comes through in his teaching.

A lot of shooting instructors will cover retention shooting, but it is usually just a basic introduction to the general technique of shooting the gun from a tightly retained position tucked into the body. I really think that to teach this skill well, however, one needs to be as much a combatives expert as a shooter.  The body mechanics involved in retention shooting, as well as the other fighting skills that go into this, are more hand-to-hand skill than shooting skill.  Therefore, Greg brings a lot to the table with this course do to his extensive hand-to-hand training and experience.

A few notes about the class: this is a more advanced class as shooting from retention, just by its nature, is more demanding and can prove more hazardous than traditional shooting techniques. I would certainly recommend that you have a solid foundation in safe gun handling and that you have experience in safely drawing your handgun from the holster, at least, before attending a close quarters shooting course.  I was pleased to see that was the case with the students in this class, they were all squared away shooters.

There were twenty students. Four females, sixteen males.  Men are always a majority at such classes, but more women are attending and I hope that ratio continues to grow.  For you ladies out there interested in good training, l can’t recommend Greg enough.  There is no loud-mouth drill instructor macho crap from this guy.  He is absolutely polite, approachable, and helpful.  About half the students were using Glocks, there were a few M&Ps, a couple of Walther PPQs, a couple Sig p320s and a couple 1911s.    All the guns ran fine although there were a number of malfunctions, which was expected, as the retention position introduces a number of ways to easily obstruct the function of an auto loader.  All of the malfunctions seen resulted from this, not of issues with the guns, they all seemed solid.  I used my Glock 19 and it ran flawlessly throughout the day, no issues even from the retention position.

We spent the morning of the class “building the position.” Greg does a great job of explaining all the details related to how you should stand to maximize stability.  The core of the technique is covering one’s head with the support hand, in sort of a “half cage,” while firing from retention, and using body mechanics to direct the rounds into the target.  Greg breaks it down step-by-step at a level of explanation that I have not seen before.  While this “half cage” stance is quite standard now, Greg really breaks down the mechanics of it and of the placement of the gun.  The position is not necessarily intuitive and it is not at all like a standard “shooting stance” that shooters are well accustomed to.  While in this stance I had a habit of arching over towards my dominant side.  I think it was almost a sub-conscious tendency to attempt to further protect the gun.  In reality, all this manages to do is de-stabilize the stance, and Greg corrected this.

We did a good amount of live fire at contact distance. Greg explains that this is not only to get some experience with the technique, but to simply get acclimated in shooting from that position.  The retention position puts the muzzle in much closer proximity to your face, obviously, than a full-extension shooting position.  You get a bit more blast, so getting comfortable with it is warranted.  We made several different rotations to the live fire range throughout the day.  The majority of the curriculum, however, was spend going hands on with training partners to learn the techniques.

We covered a variety of tactics for stopping an adversary’s draw. Within two arms reach you don’t have time to draw your own gun when reacting to an adversary who is already drawing, and Greg fully demonstrates this, so the better approach is to physically stop the opponent’s draw.  We also worked on techniques for drawing our own gun while restraining the draw of the opponent.  We then worked on skills for dealing with this scenario if unarmed, which incorporated striking the opponent in different ways, as well as disarming him.  The class is physically tiring, but there should be little worry of any serious injury.  It was about 95 degrees in full sun at the range during this class, so bring a lot of water if you plan on attending it in the summer!  Greg did an awesome job of providing several really functional skills into a one day class format and I learned a lot of good stuff.  I can’t recommended it highly enough.

I have said this in my writing many times but I will say it again here: for an armed citizen the handgun is the gun that will most likely be used to protect yourself and your family.  Statistics clearly demonstrate this.  Hand skills that work in conjunction with that handgun are also very important.  I know that taking carbine classes in which we shoot over the top of car hoods with AR15s while wearing body armor are really fun, and I have no issues with people taking such training, but I find too many miss the priorities.  Focus first on the skills you are far more likely to need.  The skills needed to be able to survive and prevail in an entangled gunfight are much more likely to be needed than the weekend warrior stuff.

Check out Active Response Training to learn more. Take any of Greg’s classes, you won’t regret it.

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