Science and Art

The defensive, and offensive, use of firearms is part science and part art. There are certain elements that are structured; principles that cannot be ignored nor denied.tiger

Although science is a part of fighting, in its purest form personal combat is an art. Art is a human’s creative application of a particular skill-set. In order to perform in a fight you need technique, the means for achieving one's purpose - the mechanical skill of art - but to apply these skills under combative conditions requires talent. It takes talent, a special aptitude or high mental and physical ability, to be an artist. To fight effectively you must be an artist.

“You can’t be unconventional,” Charles Beckwith, the founder of Delta, said, “until you’re conventional first.” Every artist starts out studying under teachers to learn the basic skills of their chosen field. A future artist learns in kindergarten that mixing yellow and blue will make green. Eventually, they learn to modify that green by adding other colors to produce a certain shade of green, and that the contrasting color of green, which is on the opposite side of the color wheel, is red. As for fighting, you can’t be an artist until you learn the fundamentals.

Fighting is about applying a variety of skills and techniques, in the proper order, to obtain victory. The particular details of the fight dictate the skills necessary to win that confrontation. You can never practice the fundamentals too much. In a fight, you don’t have time to think about each individual skill. You must move, communicate, accurately shoot as necessary and use cover whenever possible. And these are just the fundamentals.

As I always say, “It ain’t gotta be pretty, it just has to work. In a fight, your form will never be as clean as it is during training and practice. Unless you are extremely gifted your skills will degrade under actual combative conditions. If your skills are weak, to begin with, they definitely won’t hold together in a fight. So you need to practice and become proficient in skills necessary. If/when your performance does drop off then you’re still able to function at an acceptable level.

When you press the trigger it should result in your round going where you need it. If you can’t do this on demand, under stress, then you know what you need to practice. Reloading or clearing a malfunction while moving and without having to look at your weapon requires plenty of repetition. Performing these tasks in the dark while on the ground flat on your back shooting at the threat standing behind you is an advanced application of these skills.

Once you can perform the basics, properly, it’s time to combine two or three skills into one drill. The more competent you become the more you add to your drills. Your ultimate goal is to safely replicate actual combative conditions in order to prepare for the realities of combat. Close, quick, dark and dirty are common elements of personal combat.

“How will I know when I’ve mastered the pistol,” the student asks? “When you know that anyone you meet is in more danger from you than you are from them,” the teacher replies. *(This is attributed to Jeff Cooper, but I could be mistaken.) ~ Tiger

Tiger McKee
Tiger McKee is the director of Shootrite Firearms Academy, located in northern Alabama.  He is the author of “The Book of Two Guns” - writes for several firearms/tactical publications and is featured on GunTalk’s DVD, “Fighting With The 1911 -  McKee’s new book, AR-15 Skills, and Drills, is available off Shootrite’s website: