Get Off The X
With hot lead heading in your direction freezing in place will likely get you killed. It is harder to hit a moving target so you have to move if you find yourself in a defensive shooting event. This is known as “getting off the X.”
“X” marks the spot you are standing on before the gunfight starts. It’s where your adversary is focused. Getting off the X means once the shooting starts you are moving–moving to cover, moving to create distance, moving to give yourself time to draw, or moving to make yourself a harder target to hit.
Most shooters train on a “square range”—indoor and outdoor. Training on a square range is important for training the fundamentals—stance, grip, breathing, sight alignment and sight picture, trigger manipulation, and follow-through. However, to develop the skills to engage a shooter in a defensive gunfight you must learn how to move and shoot.
Movement drills for defensive shooting, according to Pat McNamara, focus more on footwork than on stance (achieving an athletic stance is the common recommendation for shooters on square ranges). It is impossible to have an athletic stance while moving.
If you are confronted by an armed assailant who has not yet made an aggressive move and if you are carrying a concealed handgun you are both thinking about your next move. That thinking process is called an OODA loop (Colonel Boyd’s famous guidance for observing, orienting, deciding and acting when facing a potentially dangerous situation). Your goal in this situation is to disrupt the aggressor’s OODA loop by getting off the X. The movement is disruptive because it is unexpected.
Pat McNamara, a retired Army special operations warrior and firearms trainer addresses the need to get off the X. If the aggressor starts to draw his or her firearm McNamara recommends taking a 12 inch lateral step to your left that will temporarily disrupt the aggressor’s OODA loop because it is unexpected. Why step to the left? In addition to being an unexpected move, McNamara points out that ninety-three percent of the American population is right-handed. Furthermore, he says most people can’t shoot and most of them will jerk the trigger. Jerking the trigger will cause their shot to hit low and to their left (your right). So, if you are stepping left they will likely not where they are aiming. Of course, if you observe that the shooter is left-handed then you must take a 12 inch lateral step to the right.
McNamara identifies two important training points about learning to move while returning fire. The first point he makes is that people need to develop awareness of how their various body parts are moving through space and time. He calls that awareness proprioception. The second point he calls kinesthetic sense which is simply known as muscle memory. Muscle memory comes from constant correct repetition of a physical movement. Both proprioception and kinesthetic sense are developed by carefully designed training.
The Spartan Firearms Training Group incorporates “shooting while moving” drills into our defensive shooting course. We use an array of steel targets, cardboard silhouette targets, reaction targets, moving targets, and various forms of simulated cover and concealment. The courses of fire typically include both forward and backward movement as well as lateral movement. Each shooter is timed as he or she moves through the course and points are deducted for misses. In our more advanced courses these drills are run with multiple shooters navigating the course simultaneously which helps teach and emphasize the need for communication.