4 Firearms Myths That Bad Guys Believe And You Shouldn’t

Ox here with 4 myths about firearms accuracy that bad guys believe and you shouldn’t

MYTH 1.  You can’t shoot accurately with a (fill in the blank) pistol.

Normally, I hear this argument about subcompacts, pistols/revolvers with long heavy triggers, or pistols that have a long double action for the first round and a single action thereafter.

The fact is that all of these make firing fast and accurate groups more difficult, but it shouldn’t be an excuse for poor performance.

If you have a sub-compact pistol or revolver that shoots large groups, I challenge you to put it in a gun vice, shoot a few rounds with it at 10-15 feet, and see just how precise and accurate it really is.

9 times out of 10, when someone gives me a gun and tells me that it’s all over the place, I can put the next 5 rounds into a 1″ group.  Am I a good shot?  Yes.  But I’m incredibly average as far as physical ability and natural vision go.  I’ve just put the time in to be able to consistently grip with 3 of my fingers, keep my thumb relaxed, and patiently focus on the front sight while I slowly press my index finger straight back.  The great news about that is that you can practice 90% of what you need to be able to shoot precisely in your living room or basement, doing dry fire, without using any ammo.

And once you can do it with a subcompact or a gun with a “difficult” trigger, you can perform with ANY pistol or revolver.

MYTH 2.  It’s better to practice spreading your shots rather than shooting 1 hole groups.

The logic here is that, as you’re practicing on paper targets, you should TRY to spread out your shots so that you’ll do more damage to more organs and hopefully stop your attacker faster.

I believe the exact opposite…that you should practice shooting 1 hole groups and progressively adding speed, motion, and/or stress.  Here’s why:

First:  Keep in mind that shooting a 1 hole group is a litmus test. The faster you can do it, the more solid your mechanical, vision, and mental skills are for shooting. The slower you have to go, or if you can’t do it at all, indicates that you have some low hanging fruit for improvement. Check out 1holechallenge.com for more info on this.

Second:  When you know you can shoot 1 hole groups, your EARNED (not bluster & bravado) confidence goes up.  When your earned confidence is high, you stay calmer.  When you stay calmer and remain more in control in an extreme stress situation, you’ll dump less adrenaline, have a lower heart rate, you’ll be able to suppress your fight or flight response, and the higher level implicit system of the brain will remain more in control…all of which leads to seeing and identifying threats faster, reacting faster, and performing closer to how you would under ideal conditions.  (Confidence is 1 of many factors…having it won’t guarantee success, but a lack of confidence greatly increases the chance of failure in an extreme stress situation)

Third:  Let’s look at the “TRYING to spread out your shots increases damage” myth.

Theoretically, I agree with this with a carbine or rifle.

A pistol is not a carbine or rifle.  A pistol is a relatively pathetic tool for stopping lethal threats in a timely manner and it normally takes multiple well placed shots to stop the threat from a determined attacker who is at close range.  (Determined attacker=one who doesn’t turn and run at the sight of a muzzle blast, regardless of what it does.)  If you take exception to my comment about pistol ammo being pathetic, check your state’s hunting laws and see what caliber they consider to be the minimum humane caliber to use on deer.  In most states, you’ll find that the guns that most people carry on a daily basis aren’t legal for hunting.

So, back to spreading your groups out vs. 1 hole groups…

2 things…First off, shooting a one hole group at a static paper target standing flat footed doesn’t necessarily translate to shooting a 1 hole group on a dynamic attacker when you’re moving. If you train to shoot 1 hole groups…or at least tight groups, you’ll get the 2-5″ groups that you’re looking for in combat when you add in speed, stress, and motion. If you insist on shooting a standard of 5-8″ groups in practice (without being able to shoot 1 hole groups), stats and hundreds of police after action reports per year show that you’ll probably miss your target with 8-9 of 10 shots fired.

Second, keep in mind that even the best defensive ammo is weak and underpowered compared to carbine and rifle ammunition and piling round after round on top of each other is a wonderful thing…if you have a specific purpose and target in mind. If you’re piling round after round through the lower right quadrant of the belly, you’re wasting time and ammo. But if you’re viewing your attacker 3 dimensionally, as you should be, and aiming through the body for the T3-T4 vertebrae, then let’s say, for arguments sake, that the first round uses up a lot of it’s energy punching through clothing and the sternum or other bone. The 2nd shot could go 2″ away from it and spend a lot of it’s energy punching through barriers again, OR it could go right through the first hole and have significantly more energy to disrupt the circulatory system or possibly even get a CNS stoppage by hitting the spine.  Will it really happen?  Probably not.  The first example is more realistic than this one–the chance of you and your attacker being in the exact same spot and orientation from 1 shot to the next is next to zero…which is all the more reason to TRY to pile your rounds on top of each other rather than adding a variable to the equation.

MYTH 3.  All fine motor skills will fail under extreme stress.

I LOVE this argument, mainly because I’ve been passionate on both sides of it.  I used to be passionate that all fine motor skills failed under extreme stress…until I had enough people who’d been in combat multiple times tell me I was wrong.  Fine motor skills don’t fail under stress, PEOPLE fail under stress and people can train and inoculate themselves to stress to the point where they can respond calmly and precisely in situations where others default to gross motor skills or freeze.

This is kind of tricky and fuzzy, but suffice it to say that there’s a gauntlet that you have to go through before you respond calmly in situations where others get over-amped up or freeze and you won’t know that you’ve made it through until you’ve been tested and had one or more successful outcomes…be it simulated (realistically) or real.

What you’ll find is that the more you’ve practiced a given fine or complex motor skill, the longer you’ll be able to perform it at higher pulse rates and higher adrenaline (among other brain chemical/hormone) levels.  In other words, it’s more accurate to say that fine motor skills will fail when you have an extreme reaction to an extreme stress event.  Here’s an example:  If you’ve had someone with intent point a gun at you at close range 20 times (what I’d call an extreme stress event) and walked away the winner every time, you’re going to be much calmer the 21st time than someone else will be if it’s their first time.

MYTH 4.  You fall down and stop fighting or die when you get shot.

At the beginning of the Global War On Terror, people were getting shot with non immediate life threatening wounds, not realizing they were shot (and still fighting) and then, when they saw that they were shot, falling on the ground screaming like what they’d seen people do on TV and sometimes even dying.

It’s what we see on TV & movies.  When you play paintball and get hit, you raise your gun and yell “I’m hit” or “I’m out” and stop fighting.  Same with airsoft.  Same with MOST wax bullet and simunition training.  It’s not reality.

There’s a 90%+ chance that you’ll survive a single gunshot wound…and that’s without body armor.  SO KEEP FIGHTING IF YOU GET HIT and finish the fight!

Thoughts?  Questions?  Supporting or Contradictory Experience?  Sound off by commenting below…


  1. Repetitive training…….! The gun I was carrying several years ago was a 1934, .32 cal. Beretta. I had trained drawing from behind my right hip and thumbing the hammer to cocked position. One nite as I left my sister-in-laws, I opened the drivers door to find a man on the passenger side floor boards crouched down. He had broken the collar lock on the steering column intent on stealing my car. I am sure he must have thought I was someone who was going to walk by to another car. Surprise…! He bolted from the car and I had that firearm in a two hand stance with it cocked before he had even cleared the car and I don’t even remember doing it. I tossed a shot into the nearby tree with no intention of shooting the man. But you shoulda seen him get a “kick” as he ran for his life. Repetitive training-muscle memory. Do it!

    • Glad it ended well for you. You’re absolutely 100% correct on repetitive training 🙂

      Please don’t take what I’m about to say as a criticism…it’s not. Times have changed and if you draw a firearm on someone who’s running away from you, you risk being charged with brandishing, and if you fire a gun in a city without a lethal threat, you’ve got all sorts of potential legal trouble headed your way.

  2. I would like to say just one thing here.
    If you ever need to use your guy, and shoot someone.
    Have you hands out in front of you. Stand still.
    Just give them your name. And say I was in fear for my life. I want a lawyer.
    Say nothing more until you have a lawyer with you. Know your rights,and use them.
    You can be 100% in the right all the way. But you are going to need to prove it 100%.. Have a lawyer with you. The police are going to turn it all around, upside down. You name it..
    Be safe. Have a lawyer with you…
    Just saying..

  3. I was shot by a .12ga shotgun in my right shoulder two years ago. I never even felt it. I stood for at LEAST the first 10 seconds and calmly stated: I just got shot. The whole time looking at the hamburger that use to be my right shoulder.
    My point being, except for the fact that I WAS knocked backward a bit, had I been in an attack position, i still would have continued before realizing the severity of the damage.

    You’re right on the money on this one, Ox!

  4. mike kilgore says:

    I think it’s not how many as much as how fast but a key think is distance to target. 17 rounds is dumb. it should not take you 17 rounds to stop someone. Accuracy is the beginning and then speed.
    I shoot expert with rifle shotgun pistol and machinegun. I run 700 to 1000 rounds a week. Get a timer and get your one shot draw down to under 2 seconds and hit.

    • (I’m making a guess here since the article didn’t refer to 17 rounds anywhere that Mike checked out www.1holechallenge.com and his comments are in regards to that.)

      That’s an interesting opinion, Mike…if 17 rounds (1 mag) is dumb for the drill, how many rounds is “not dumb”?

      You might have missed where the article says it, but the 17 round, 1 hole group drill is not something to do in a defensive situation, but a great litmus test that quickly reveals opportunities for improvement.

      Great numbers! Are you doing dry fire as well? On the timers, if you don’t have one, you might want to check out the Double Alpha Academy wrist timer…it’s awesome.

  5. I have hand-activated (Crimson Trace) laser sights on all my pistols that light up when I squeeze the grip. In you experience, does that increase accuracy at close range, or are they a waste of money (already spent)?

    • laser sights are AWESOME and not a waste of money at all. People can have a problem with lasers when they use them as a crutch and as an excuse not to practice, but when you practice regularly without the laser, develop good fundamentals, and add the laser to the equation, they’re great.

      With arms outstretched, I’m actually faster without the laser than with, but I really like them for shooting from the hip, during the drawstroke, and around barriers.

    • You must practice with the Crimson Trace. Practice trigger control. Many jerk the trigger when they see the laser dot. I have a Crimson Trace pair of grips that I received when they were still in the trial phase. They are great, but practice, practice, practice. For low light handgun shooting, they’re the best.

      • Marty;

        I agree that you have the tendency to jerk the trigger (resulting in an upward jerk of the pistol) when using the laser. It happened to me when I first installed them, but quickly learned to pull the trigger as if the laser was not installed. I initially purchased one pistol with a LaserLyte installed but found that turning on the laser was cumbersome, and reaching the on/off button was nearly impossible for my wife’s smaller hand. The Crimson Trace turns on without even thinking about it, or without searching for the on/off button.

  6. Rick Anderson says:

    You are right on on all 4 points . Reread #4 As someone who has taken 2 rounds (5 holes) I can tell you from experience , you can live and keep firing! Trust your training and watch your front sight.

  7. Ron Halfhill says:

    I totally agree and thank you for saying it: Fine motor skills do not have to disappear upon confrontation with stressful events. Practice, practice, practice makes the difference along with mindset. Control is what makes the difference.

  8. I’m no expert in these areas. However, there are things you can practice that will help with that stress and adrenaline rush. One is the Soldiers Breathing ‘thing’. Breathe in on 4 counts, hold for 4 counts, breath out on 4 counts and hold for 4 counts. I’m told that by doing this you can reduce the ‘stress’ effects such as tunnel vision and the adrenaline rush.
    I’ve never tried it under real stress conditions so I cannot verify results.

  9. Dan Capron says:

    While I agree with your “myth analysis”, I would like to comment that Practice Makes Perfect. There is a reason why Tier 1 Operators shoot 1000s of rounds per month (or week when working up for deployment). It has to do with “muscle memory”. The more you properly practice repetitive movements, the more likely you will achieve the same result in stressful or real world scenarios. This is evident when you read about police officers and bad guys shooting up the world and not hitting anything or taking 10 rounds to put down the adversary. Law Enforcement usually doesn’t have the resources ($$$) to practice as much as they need or want and the bad guys usually thing a gun and a magazine make them experts.
    So, the lesson here is practice, practice and practice. As much as your pocketbook allows. IMH retired military Opinion.

    • Hey Dan,

      Thanks for the comments…but I have to disagree with the statement that “Law Enforcement usually doesn’t have the resources ($$$) to practice as much as they need or want.”

      I’ve been on a quest to destroy that line of thought for the last few years. The truth is that almost every department DOES have the resources to practice as much as they need or want IF they transition 90% of their training over to dry fire. Dry fire is much more effective/efficient at developing neural pathways and is much easier on the budget. For officers who “get it” and want to master the gun, they can get a SIRT and put in a hundred to a few hundred repetitions during commercials during a half hour TV show each night at zero cost per rep.

    • Who an afford to “Pratice” shoot these days?
      The meek may not inherit the Earth.”

  10. Right on, you can’t learn new skills in a gun fight. I think I read that somewhere, Jeff Cooper. As an armed citizen I am not in gun fights. Anyway, I find that IDPA and timed police quals (double speed) help expose flaws in technique. I also use the Bill Drill, timed 6-round strings in a IPSC target at 7 yd–finding that slow and smooth is faster and more accurate than my best attempt to be “fast.” Dry firing with a Laserlyte focuses on the fundamentals.

  11. I did comment on the things I could not accepting your article sir based on actual experience. But there really is a lot RIGHT with it too. My post was too long as it was though.

    An amazing idea to some is that many assailants who are shot by a homeowner or CCW person etc, well I have reason to think that some of those attackers stopped attacking not because they could not continue, but because they did not want to be shot again.

    But do not count on that because the corollary is ‘handguns rarely kill a person with one shot’

    • Hey Peyton,

      I don’t disagree with any of what you said and I don’t believe the article did either. If it did, just let me know and I’ll either clarify or fix it. Here’s a couple of things in particular that popped out at me…

      First, I referenced a “determined attacker” specifically in an attempt to address the fact that many assailants turn and run after the first shot.

      Second, I am not sure how to fully articulate the concept in a sentence yet in a way that’s not too dry or deep, but there’s 2 groups of people who don’t see their sights in a high stress gunfight…those who don’t CONSCIOUSLY see their sights and those who don’t UNCONSCIOUSLY see their sights. There’s also the instances of using the sights with your eyes, but not focusing the image on your macula…not exactly the periphery, but not focused on the macula.

      It’s my experience that when people refer to the sighted shot, they’re talking about consciously focusing the front sight on the macula of the eye and everything else is referred to as “unsighted”, even though there’s a gray zone.

      • It is in my assumption that you OX are very intelligent I like your group here are you preppers or a tactical group ?

    • I agree with that corollary, whose cousin is the saying:

      “Pull the trigger until the gun goes click. Then get another mag in it tutto pronto”

  12. While there is some truth here sir,I can assure you of two things after training people under true and high adrenal stress in realistic scenarios where they have to make the ‘present or not to present’ decision as well as the ‘shooter don’t shoot’ decision.

    And I have been doing this for 28 years almost nobody even ‘knew’ there were sights on the pistol much less were able to use them in the scenarios.. Some people who come here to training were pros, other never saw real gun to they came to my training ,some were cops,a few were Navy SEALS, a few were competition shooters. etc.

    The only times,and they are very few maybe 1% who could use the sights was the hostage scenario where they were immediately under the threat. These guys were the SEALS too.

    Most people will lose fine motor skills under stress. This is a documented fact. Training can overcome this but only if it is done under high adrenal stress. But at pistol distancesone does not really need any fine motor skills and point shooting is all; most anyone can do. By that they jerk out the gun and shoot.

    Marksmanship training for groups on paper will never allow you to realize this truth. But scenario based training with human being as the ‘target’ when they weak and talk and threten and verbally abuse etc and make fast moves will show this reality every time.

    I have had scores and score of people in over the years thinking that aimed fire is the only way to go, they were adamant about it. But after one scenario they reverse that position every time. Many times when they come off the scenario with their eyes glazed and their hands shaking I will ask” Did you sue the sights?’. If they can answer the thing I hear most often is “I did not even know the gun had sights’. And yet they could be good marksmanship and have countless hours at the ‘range’.

    The more real the training methodology gets to the actual event being trained for,only then do the real problems in doing that actual activity surface. WE sue real guns a low velocity rubber bullets (175 fps soft hollow rubber) and light armor and instructors fire Hollywood blank guns at the students. WE know exactly when,where and if we are hit and respond according. And you are quite correct about handguns being a rather light weapon for an animal as large as a human being. So an instructor hit in shoulder might still return fire on the student. The attendants (students) thus learn to end the threat. Hitting paper targets won’t teach you that realty.

  13. A pistol is the tool you use to fight your way back to your rifle…
    Which you never should have set down in the first place.
    NOT a myth, by the way.

  14. Thank you for the consistent high leverage info. I would like to request more info on non dominant hand weapons manipulation. Im a left handed shooter so this makes its off hand for righties but I would be curious to know more about left handed techniques to run faster. Thank you

  15. Owen King says:


    It is about time that the truth got out about shooting, thank you very much.
    The good news about Hollywood is that they teach such crappy shooting (for the most part) that the terrorists and other boneheads who emulate them don’t shoot well, unfortunately, that may be changing.
    Keep up the great articles!

    • Ouch, and I’m not in Hollywood, yes I may have been the shooter on the “H” when you said that but all good lol

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