Understanding the Defensive Double

Sheriff Jim Wilson's Take from the NRA's Shooting Illustrated

Contrary to what one sees in the movies and television, defensive handgun cartridges rarely cause a dynamic physical reaction by those hit. I have seen men hit at fairly close range with the .45 ACP and with the .357 Mag. and in either case, there was no immediate, noticeable physical reaction. The handgun is a good defensive tool simply because it is more portable than a rifle or shotgun. As a fight stopper, it leaves something to be desired.

For this reason, we suggest delivering two shots to the vital zone when forced to use deadly force to defend yourself. Two shots double the chances of incapacitation and bringing the fight to a quick end. Delivering this pair of shots can be divided into two techniques: the hammer and the controlled pair.

The hammer applies to close-range engagements. The shooter sees the front sight against the target and quickly presses the trigger twice. He or she then quickly comes back on target, reacquires the is front sight and evaluates the need for further action.

The controlled pair is used at slightly longer ranges. Here, as quickly as the shooter can deliver accurate shots, they see the front sight and press the shot. Then they quickly reacquire the front sight and press the second shot. Finally, they reacquire the front sight and evaluate the need for further action.

In either case, it is important to recover and get back on target to see what effect the shots have had. Did the threat go down and, if so, does that threat still have a weapon and capable of using it? Is the threat still on his feet and posing a danger?

If the bad guy has taken two hits to the center of his chest and is still on his feet and creating an active threat, it doesn’t make much sense to keep shooting at the center of the chest. It could be body armor, or drug induced. It really doesn’t matter. The smart thing to do might be to go for a head shot and get the whole thing stopped.

It would be a mistake to fail to stay focused on the threat until you are certain that there is no longer a threat to yourself or others with you. And it would be a mistake to bring the handgun down to a ready position until that determination has been made. The delivery of a defensive pair is not a matter of “shoot twice and stop.” Instead, we deliver the pair, recover immediately, and take further action if needed.

A version of this article appeared in Shooting Illustrated.

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