Minimum Competency for Defensive Pistol – Sub-minimal

In her book Effective DefenseGila Hayes described a simple test:

  • 5 shots
  • in 5 inches
  • a 5 yards
  • within 5 seconds

Some people refer to it as the “forty-five” drill, some the “4×5” or “5×4” or “4^5” or “5^4”. Claude Werner has a “5^5” variation, adding “repeat the drill 5 times to eliminate luck and ensure consistency”. Greg Ellfritz made a “6×6” varation. However you label it, doesn’t that seem to mesh directly with multiple hits? small area? close range? quickly? It’s quite a simple drill, and looks like it can fit the bill.

Looks are deceiving tho, because it doesn’t require you to draw from a holster. If the data shows that most incidents are going to be in public spaces, that means you need to be carrying the gun (i.e. it’s not on a table, in the nightstand, in the glove box, etc.), which means it’s in a holster, which means it’s concealed (under clothing, in a bag, etc.). So this implies you know how to draw and present a gun from concealment. That’s actually two implications: drawing from concealment, and being able to carry concealed in public.

If you’re going to carry concealed in public, in most states in the USA that means you need to have some sort of concealed handgun/weapons/carry license/permit. Many times that means you have to pass some sort of shooting test. To receive a concealed handgun license (CHL) in Texas, there is a shooting test. Notice the test is structured around getting multiple hits, (somewhat) quickly, from various “close” ranges. It’s a bit better than Gila’s test since it works different amounts of shots and different distances. But it fails on a few counts. First, the B-27 target and “within the 8-ring” is akin to hitting the side of a barn; that’s not “in a small area”. Second, just like Gila’s, there is no drawing from a holster. Did you catch that? The Texas test for obtaining a license to carry a concealed handgun — which implies a need to draw the handgun out of concealment — doesn’t require you to show you can draw the gun from concealment. Note, I’m not advocating changing the test because there are reasons why it is the way it is. But do these tests truly provide you with the needed skills? or a false sense?

I will say this.

Both of these tests are something I could label “sub-minimal”. That is, they are reasonable tests, but not quite to the standard we’re trying to define.

I believe the primary reason for Gila’s test isn’t so much a proficiency test as a shopping test. That is, if you get a gun, you need to be able to do her test with that gun. If you cannot, that is probably not a suitable gun for you. All too often I see a woman that comes to class with the gun her husband or boyfriend gave her: she has small, weak hands, and he gave her a Sig P226 which she simply cannot operate — she would easily fail Gila’s test. As soon as we swap her with a more reasonably fitting gun, her skills and abilities didn’t change, but now she could pass Gila’s test. If you read the linked-to article on the 6×6 variation, Greg Ellfritz struggled with the Ruger LCP because it’s too small a gun (fit) for him. So perhaps consider this test more of a good way to suss out appropriate equipment than skill.

But certainly, if you cannot perform Gila’s test (or I’d say Claude’s variation, to ensure you didn’t get lucky on the one run) or if you cannot clean the Texas CHL, and you cannot do these consistently and on-demand, then certainly you do not have the minimum competency. These aren’t enough due to shortcomings in the drills themselves, but they are a rung on the ladder.

So if these are “sub-minimal”, what might be minimal?

(This post is part of a multi-part series. For now, you can find other published parts of the series by looking at the “minimum competency” tag or category).

One thought on “Minimum Competency for Defensive Pistol – Sub-minimal

  1. Pingback: Minimum Competency for Defensive Pistol | Stuff From Hsoi

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