Stupid Disputes

If you spend any time around handgun shooters, whether at a training course, the gun club, on a gun forum or just standing around a gun store, controversies will arise that are so hotly debated I have seen normally reasonable people almost come to blows. I have witnessed this for decades now and I still can’t help but scratch my head and roll my eyes at the emotions displayed in such situations.

While I think it is good to have and express opinion(s), it is the desire of some to force said opinions on others as an “ultimate truth” that makes me chuckle. I have formed the opinions I hold based on life experience, training, actual street time, having been in a few combative situations (including having my ass kicked) and listening to the many people I have interviewed over the years that have prevailed in armed conflict and then “marrying it” all together in a coherent package that makes sense to me. I can articulate why I feel as I do to my students and to those who care to hear. If you don’t, that’s cool…I have no desire to force my thoughts on you. At the same time, if I want to know what you think, I will ask.

The truth is I usually want to know what others think! I don’t know who originally said “Life is like a parachute, it works better when it is open” but it is true, thus by keeping an open mind and listening to the thoughts of others, I might actually learn something new (gasp!) which may lead me to re-think how I go about the process of threat preparation. Truth be told, at this stage of my life I seldom hear anything really new but that does not mean I do not enjoy the journey! There is nothing like sitting down with a group of sharp shooting enthusiasts and exchanging ideas, especially if they are based on real world action and nothing will ruin such an experience faster than a self-appointed guru who barges and tries to dominate the discussion with his/her personality and “knowledge”. Several years ago, I was at an event involving a group of gun writers who were sitting in the hotel lobby after the day’s events drinking a few beers and exchanging ideas. All was going well until a “famous instructor” sat down and began to tell all the best way to do anything. I listen for a few minutes and once I realized he had nothing to offer beyond bluster and bullshit, I got up and started to leave. In a very surly tone of voice he yelled across the hotel lobby, “Hey, am I boring you!?” I stopped, turned around and said “yes, as a matter of fact you are.” Comedian Ron White is correct, you can’t fix stupid…

Stupid are the disputes that are insignificant but people still insist of arguing them even when no one’s mind is changed. Weaver, Isosceles or Modern Isosceles…which is best? I’m not sure it matter if you are lying on your back, shooting through a car window from a seated position or returning fire with an injured arm as you are not going to achieve any of them. You are going to shoot in the position you can obtain. 9mm versus .40 and .45…I know people who are convinced you will die in a fight if you do not have a gun of 40 caliber or larger. While killing the human organism is not hard, it IS difficult to stop it quickly and handguns, regardless of caliber, are famous for doing this poorly. Ballistic science has proven that a bigger bullet will touch more tissue than a smaller one, thus a bigger bullet is a better bullet. Now for the Harsh Reality…the bigger handgun bullet is not so large that it will make up for poor shot placement! Emergency Room Physicians will confirm this if you ask so it is not a matter of just hitting; it’s a matter of hitting something important and possible doing it multiple times… so maybe bullet diameter is not the only factor when selecting a personal sidearm…

Point shooting versus sighted fire makes the rounds regularly with new terminology (target focused, threat focused, body index, etc.) being used in an effort to “modernize” the concept. While both sides claim superiority, actual armed conflict has shown it is not one or the other but both if one wants to truly prepare for armed conflict. Hard core sighted advocates maintain “if you don’t have a sighted index you should have a felt (body contact) index” while point shooters claim the technique will work as far back as 25 yards. Really!? In order to point shoot at 75 feet, a great deal of practice must be put into developing the skill which certainly eliminates the “instinctual advantage” that many claim is the biggest benefit of point shooting. Based on my research into actual shootings and my personal experience on the street, it is not an either/or proposition. You need to be able to point shoot and use sighted fire, know when to transition from one to the other and make the techniques used for each style of shooting blend seamlessly. I call it “Situational Combative Pistol” and I offer it as one of my courses at Handgun

Regardless of what whiz-bang name is placed on any shooting technique, there are only so many ways to shoot a gun and they have all been invented…probably between 1840 and 1940 to be perfectly honest. Anything thought to be “new” is just a variation of something we already know with a new name attached. The fundamentals of combative pistolcraft are really essentials…you must be able to grip the gun with either one or both hands, hold it on target without moving the muzzle (trigger control), present it where it needs to go, manipulate it depending on weapon status, etc. etc. There is no way to circumvent this process regardless of which doctrine you adhere to.

I once had an instructor tell me “trigger control is not important in a gunfight due to the close ranges involved.” Really?! Obviously he did not understand trajectory as 1/16th inch of muzzle movement translates to a 4 inch POA/POI divergence at 20 feet. The vital high chest region is approximately 8 inches in diameter (less if the torso is sideways) meaning a minimal amount of muzzle movement at a room size distance will result in a miss of the vital organs, resulting in a physiological failure to stop. A panic filled, convulsive grip of a pistol is probably 2 or more inches of muzzle movement which translates to what at 20 feet?! It is possible to miss at close range especially in the stress and duress that is armed conflict. I have said for years that trigger control is weapon control meaning the pressure applied to the trigger face spreads throughout the gun and I believe a shooter is more likely to miss due to lack of trigger control than lack of sight alignment. Some will disagree but by spending time arguing are we just entering another stupid dispute? I guess that is for each of us to decide.

Dave Spaulding is the 2010 Law Officer Trainer of the Year and Law Officer’s Firearms columnist. A 28-year law enforcement veteran who retired at the rank of lieutenant, he is the founder of Handgun Compatives. He has worked in corrections, communications, patrol, evidence collection, investigations, undercover operations, training and SWAT—and has authored more than 1,000 articles for various firearms and law enforcement periodicals. He’s also the author of the best-selling books Defensive Living and Handgun Combatives. Visit his web site at and like him on Facebook.


  1. Hello Dave,

    I am very new to the handgun scene, however, I do have a lot of experience in the EMS side of the world. For 17 years I worked as a Paramedic in an urban setting, and laugh to myself when these arguments erupt. I have seen a 22LR kill a person with a single shot, and a .45ACP shot to the chest only enrage someone. Shot placement and random variation explains almost all of what you see in the high velocity lead poisoning world. I hold no fervent opinion that can be applied to how another person should defend themselves. For I am not that other person, nor will I even try to become them to get a perspective.

    My process in selecting a first handgun involved the following:
    1. Does it fit my hand?
    2. Can I afford the ammunition so that I can practice?
    3. Can I press (squeeze from my father’s viewpoint) the trigger and maintain good control of the weapon?
    4. Will I be able to control the recoil and learn how to shoot it proficiently?
    5. Can I place the shots into a reasonable area at combat distances?

    There were a few others, but you get the point. I chose a 9mm because it was accurate, with cheap ammo, and fit my hand well. By definition my selection was highly personalized, and not applicable to others. I would never try to convince another person that my needs fit their’s, not would I accept their solution for mine. However I may listen if they seemed reasonable.

    This behavior is seen in many activities, including Golf (AKA Cow Pasture Pool), computers, software, cars, and the list just goes on. The real issue is ego, and self confidence. It is hard to accept that someone made a different decision than the one you made, and to defend your decision/viewpoint is now personal. I think that this explains the passion and willingness to scorch earth any conflicting opinion.

    I greatly enjoyed you videos and writing.




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