DVD Review – ShivWorks’ Fighting Handgun, Volume 1

ShivWorks has produced 4 DVD’s. Previously I reviewed the Practical Unarmed Combat DVD. Now I’d like to review the Fighting Handgun Volume 1 DVD (note: as of this writing there is only the 1 volume; hopefully volume 2 will come someday). Note that I have no connection to SouthNarc or ShivWorks… I’m just some guy that happened to buy the DVD out of my own personal interest.

Production quality is good. Menus available to skip around. Sections are titled so it’s easy to navigate. About 1 hour and 40 minutes of content. Skills are progressive and repeated. That is, a topic is introduced then broken down into component parts. Each component part is discussed and explained (a lot of “why” in addition to “how”). The component skill is then demonstrated, often from various camera angles (both SouthNarc turning different directions and repeating the skill and use of multiple cameras to get different angles including close-ups), and repeated numerous times. The next component is introduced and the sequence repeated. At the end, all the components are put together and the sequence repeated. Next skill is introduced, and this skill builds upon the prior skill. All things are progressive, well organized, well presented.

The DVD starts out covering the combative handgun drawstroke. Many of you may be familiar with the 4-count drawstroke, so this may seem like a waste of time for you. It is not. First, I’ve seen the drawstroke performed in slightly different ways by many people. Understanding how SouthNarc does his 4-count drawstroke is important as a foundation for the other skills he lays out (all later skills on the DVD build upon former skills). Furthermore, there are subtle details and differences in how he does his drawstroke that I found improve the drawstroke over what I had originally learned. For instance, flagging the grip thumb during parts 1 and 2 of the draw, the importance of drawing/indexing high in part 2 and not dropping the shoulder in part 3 to allow faster acquisition of the sights as you go from 3 to 4. It’s subtle refinements, but they make quite a difference. These little details come into play as the DVD’s skills are introduced and build upon each other.

After covering the drawstroke, SouthNarc moves to the gun range to demonstrate live fire from the #2 position. This is an important step towards using your gun in an extreme close quarters (ECQ) fight. Note that practicing this in a live fire situation is dangerous and risky. SouthNarc presents a series of progressive drills to help practice the skill in a safe manner (so long as you have access to a gun range where you can practice this; if not, dry fire is better than nothing).

With basic gunhandling covered, SouthNarc then adds in some hand skills. One thing I did not like about his horizontal elbow was indexing your thumb at your tracheal notch. I did not like having my thumb hanging out, and especially pressed into my trachea. If my elbow/arm got pushed back into me (very likely, given how the horizontal elbow is used), my thumb goes right into my trachea. That does not appeal to me. However, the technique can be modified to avoid that and otherwise the technique is fine. The hand skills start with fences and there’s some discussion about the F.U.T. (fouled/fucked-up tangle — think clinch only more chaotic, like a non-sporting fight could be) and how to deal with that empty-hand so that you can transition to your handgun. Some discussion of dealing with ground-based combatives are presented as well. But even as he talks about fighting on the ground, the concepts presented earlier in the DVD are ultimately what you’re using.

One thing I like about SouthNarc (and all the trainers that I tend to prefer) is how he strives for true simplicity. He works to come up with as few moves as possible, but moves that work in many situations. The less you have to remember, the better. The less (quantity) you have to practice, the more you can practice and get very good at those few things (quality). Everything SouthNarc presents is aimed towards true simplicity.

Furthermore, while SouthNarc demonstrates specific skills, it’s evident what’s more important is addressing concepts. That yes, there might be some specific way to do something and he’ll show you his way, but more important is the underlying concept and how you work to apply that in dynamic combat. You can see SouthNarc’s Filipino martial arts background showing through here.

The DVD isn’t perfect. A lot of the shots have the microphone and/or mic boom in the shot, but that’s not really a big deal (they were dealing with a lot of wind on the gun range and it would blow the mic into the shot). Sometimes SouthNarc rambles a bit or talks to the camera in ways that don’t matter (e.g. you could have not said that, or it could have been edited out to keep focus). But these are all minor issues that in no way detract from the quality concepts and material that SouthNarc presents in this DVD.

While DVD’s are good ways to get information, nothing beats formal instruction with a good teacher. If you cannot receive instruction from SouthNarc himself, some of the skills covered in this DVD I’ve experienced before in KR Training’s Defensive Pistol class. It’s slightly different material, slightly different presentation, but still good stuff.

I think ShivWorks’ Fighting Handgun Volume 1 is a solid DVD, good introduction to the concepts. It’s not for beginner fighters/shooters, but it does provide a good foundation to the skills that SouthNarc teaches. I do hope he comes out with a Volume 2 someday.

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