The Floating Gun
If you’re going to take your point shooting skills as far as the fight needs them to be, you’ve got to have it.
Suarez International Instructor CR Williams
I see it over and over again, and I still do it myself (not as often as I did, but I still do). I see them at classes, on the range practicing, in groups, watching others work, and when working by myself. Once you know what to look for they’re pretty easy to spot. They’re like chronic or recurring illnesses.
Let's call them the 'Welded Hand Syndrome' and the 'Locked-In-Position Syndrome'.
Welded-Hand Syndrome is characterized by an unconscious but nonetheless strong and determined reluctance to release the support hand from the grip of the gun. The shooter beset by WHS acts as if his or her hands have been super-glued and duct-taped to the grip such that they are unable to let go and shoot with one hand despite the position they are in or the angle to the target they are engaging. They will twist and turn and step, bend and flex, and move the wrong way trying to keep their gun on the target, unaware that they are in the grip of the Welded-Hand Syndrome.
Related to and often seen in conjunction with Welded-Hand Syndrome is Locked-In-Position Syndrome. LIPS is characterized by the unthinking drive to keep a pre-set arm and upper-body shooting position under any and all circumstances and no matter where the target is or how they are moving (if they’re moving) whether it is appropriate to the circumstances or not.
WHS and LIPS do occur in isolation but will most often be observed appearing together. Both syndromes have the same three primary causes: A lack of experience or training, a history of training that is totally or almost totally devoted to the proactive gunfight, and the tendency we all have to want to remain ‘squared up’ to something or someone that is trying to kill us.
Diagnosis of either or both conditions involves observation of the shooter in question to answer these questions: Is the position and placement of the gun appropriate to what the shooter needs to be doing with it? Does the shooter appear to be ‘bound up’ or in an awkward position? Is the shooter moving more slowly and awkwardly than they should be or in a different direction than they intend or that is appropriate to the situation? If the answers are ‘No’, ‘Yes’ and ‘Yes’, then WHS or LIPS should be suspected. Further observation is then necessary to confirm the presence and severity of the conditions.
Examples of Welded-Hand Syndrome and Locked-In-Position Syndrome:
Moving from right to left while attempting to keep a two-hand grip and squared torso. I did not deliberately cross-step, it occurred naturally as a result of my conscious desire to keep the same grip and upper-body position. You will see this unconsciously with those suffering from WHS and LIPS. If I had continued out of camera range, I would end up walking backwards.
Here I am moving properly to about 1:00, but because I refuse to release the grip or alter extension I would end up doing two things: putting the gun in range of a still-standing opponent, and curving back into the target instead of properly flanking it like I would prefer to.
(Full-size versions of all photos available at: http://photobucket.com/FloatingGun)
Effects of these conditions range from being frustrated about your ability to easily get good hits on a target that’s other than directly in front of you to your being killed in a fight because you can’t maneuver properly, move too slowly, are unable to get the gun into line like you need to, or from ineffective use of cover that exposes too much of your body to incoming fire. Given the potential severity of the effects, serious thought should be given as to how to avoid falling victim to these conditions. Fortunately, effective treatments are available and are simple (not always easy, but simple) to apply.
Treatments are both corrective and preventive and may need to be applied on an ongoing basis.
Treatments are as follows:
Learning and practicing ambidextrous use of all weapons. (At the least, getting as near to full ambidexterity as is possible.)
Learning and practicing one-handed shooting (of the handgun).
Learning and practicing to be able to shoot accurately with the gun below the eye-line, in other than dead-ahead directions, and held at distances ranging from in contact with your body to full extension.
The aim of the treatments is to develop the ‘Floating Gun’. This is a state in which you will automatically and without much if any conscious thought put the gun at the level you need and extended to the distance required in any direction of the clock face as the situation and the target you are engaging dictate. Sometimes one-handed, sometimes not, sometimes in one hand, sometimes in the other, sometimes held far away and sometimes in contact with your body, high, low, in-between, getting hits where you need them as you move where you need to without binding, bending, or twisting unnaturally. Furthermore, that point, that extension, that position, that direction, can and will change the moment the situation changes and the moment your relationship to the target changes. As you turn, as you change direction, as you change levels or speed or distance, or as the target does, so does your gun. It goes where it needs to be so that it can do what you need it to do.
This is a simple illustration of letting the gun float. Beginning in arm's reach of the target, I displace left as I draw and fire the first shot at waist level with the gun close in. I will continue to fire as I bring the gun up to eye-level to first a close-in two-handed shooting position and then, as I cross the 'T' of the target and then turn to advance along a parallel track, move to a more standard two-hand position. (Because of restrictions necessitated by the camera view range, I maneuvered in a much smaller area than if I were running this as a full-speed drill.)
Another way to answer the same question is to switch hands. Beginning from the same position and with the same initial displacement, I move the gun from right to left and continue the engagement. For complete development, both options should be learned and practiced.
Note that, unlike in the first examples, I was able at all times to move normally and naturally and did not have to cross my feet or become awkwardly 'bound up' to get the hits.
To best develop and keep updated on the use of the Floating Gun concept, therapy under the guidance of a qualified Suarez International instructor is highly recommended. Formal courses of treatment include Point Shooting Gunfight Skills, Close Range Gunfighting, Point Shooting Progressions, Advanced Close Range Gunfighting, and Advanced Point Shooting Progressions. Ongoing practice and training and refresher training is advisable, as without re-emphasis of the concept, Welded-Hand and Locked-In Syndrome will often re-occur. It’s happened to me; don’t let it happen to you.
Don't forget to work on 'floating' the long-gun as well:
PSP graduates will recognize this as the parallel-track approach to evasion and counterattack. I use a rifle here to illustrate that the concept of 'floating' is not limited to handguns. Long Gun Point Shooting Progressions will teach you more about this and is recommended for those wishing to become more facile in the quick and sure handling of the rifle or shotgun.
(I’ll get a bit more serious now: I believe there are two fundamentals that should not change no matter what you’re doing with the gun, and one fundamental that almost never should but can sometimes. The two things that should not change are your grip (the way you grip, not the tension of the grip), whether one or two-handed, and the way you work the trigger; these should always be consistent. The one fundamental that should almost not change is eye-hand, or eye-weapon, alignment. Even if the gun is below your line of sight, it should as much as possible be aligned with the dominant/shooting-side eye in order to have the best chance of hitting the intended target. As long as these fundamentals are satisfied, then the gun should be allowed to ‘float’ to where it will best get the hits you need.
Being able to float the gun does more for you than just to enable you to make hits from any position in any direction in an emergency, though that would be more than enough to justify the acquisition of the capability. Where employed deliberately, ambidextrous and one-handed facility with the weapon specifically will give you tactical options you will not have otherwise. For all these reasons, having the ability to float the gun is an all but must-have skill to everyone that carries and a definite must-have skill for the serious student of the gunfight.)
Take the time, make the effort, get the skill, and learn the Floating Gun. You will not regret it.
You be safe out there. And if you can't be safe, float like a butterfly and hit like the Hammer of Thor.