Shooting on the move or move then shoot?

To be or not to be, that is the question…or for us, it’s should I shoot on the move?

As a law enforcement trainer, I am routinely asked to incorporate shooting drills that have the officers shooting while moving.  In class, there are always students who push for that type of training especially in anything considered Advanced.  But what is shooting on the move?

Hear me out.  On a purely observational level, I see people attempt to shoot while moving (usually forward or backward due to range restriction) and the same thing happens.  Once they engage the target, their movement drops to a crawl.  Why?  So they can hit the target.  But is hitting the target more important than moving?  In any real world scenario, moving that slowly out in the open will..get you shot..repeatedly.

Again, I ask why shoot on the move?  Or is it better to, and then shoot from a stationary position behind cover.  I’ve taken plenty of courses from guys who are BTDT dudes (see my profile) and every one of them said the same thing when I asked them this question:  “Did you ever shoot on the move?”  Their reply:  You need to move from cover to cover to get a better position across the street.  While a partner provides cover fire, you run like a bat out of hell to get across the street to the new cover.  At no time did they attempt to move slowly and try to hit targets (bad guys, tangos, you pick).

Move then shoot.

But why is shooting on the move in high demand.  I’ve taught the “moving..MOVE!” method of linear assault on steel in my classes but the average LEO will only do this once a year.  Rarely are they able to practice this in live fire.  So I tell them if they really want to get good at shooting on the move, sign up for action shooting sports (USPSA, IDPA, 3 GUN) where shooting accurate and fast on the move gets you a better time.  This is a skill you must get good at if you want to get through the stage and have a competitive time.  Yes…another benefit of competition (but it will get you killed….)  I’ll go out on a limb and say this method is far better than the standard shoot moving forward, shoot moving backward, shoot left, etc.

But, I’m back where we started with the question, should we shoot on the move?  The only place I see this as a good technique would be on an room entry where you already have forward momentum and the targets are pretty close.  Dominate the room.  You’re not going to stop.

Are there other applications that have a benefit?  Thoughts?

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About Arik Levy

Arik Levy is an 12 year veteran law enforcement officer working full time at a major metropolitan agency in the South East. He spent 7 years working the streets in patrol and as a field training officer. For the past four years he has been a full time firearms instructor teaching handgun, rifle and shotgun. Arik also has been competing in USPSA for the past two years where he is currently classified in Production Division at A class. He is a two time gold medalist in his division for the Florida Police and Fire games 3 Gun match, and a gold medalist in both the Practical Pistol and Shotgun match. He is also the Top Cop Pistol Champion for 2014 and 2015. He has trained with an extensive list of both tactical and competitive instructors including: Mike Pannone, Pat McNamara, Frank Proctor, Scott Reitz, Chris Costa, Max Michel, Frank Garcia, Bruce Gray, Ben Stoeger, Steve Anderson and Jerry Barnhart. Arik is also a certified Advanced Armorer with Glock, Colt, Sig Sauer and Smith and Wesson.

17 thoughts on “Shooting on the move or move then shoot?

  1. From a tactical standpoint I agree and train our guys the same way. Get to cover and use it to your advantage to dominate the fight. We also train contact drills where if caught in the open we get a controlled base of fire and peel off …. When it’s your turn to move, you MOVE! However shoot on the move is taught to patrol and is part of the MPTC QUAL course here in Mass. I’m guessing it was put in there to train officers to react to a lethal situation that develops while you are approaching a suspect you intend to secure or arrest, as they all don’t come on command. I say I’m guessing as I had no involvement in the design of the course.

    So I do see where it has its place in LE for that and other applications. Plus like you said ….. People like it.

  2. I am not an LEO or .MIL but a lowly citizen with a CCW. Though I would like to, I have not taken any classes on the subject of moving while shooting. I have given it some thought though. I do understand your comments from a LEO squad perspective where you have back up. Better to use the back up for covering fire while you move to a better/safer position. However, for the civilian, you rarely have back up and the majority of lethal encounters happen at very close range and are surprise attacks/ambush. I would say that for the CCW crowd, it would be a good idea to learn to shooting while moving backward efficiently. Increasing the distance between you and the threat is always a good idea. Drawing and shooting while in the backpedaling motion could be a very beneficial skill to have. Shooting while moving forward is not a skill that I think most CCW civilians will ever utilize, although it is not a bad skill to have and will benefit your action shooting sports times. So, for me, shooting while moving backward and laterally is a must. Shooting while moving forward is academic but fun and not a bad skill to possess.

    • I agree with most of your post with the exception that sometimes the best cover is in front of you so you should practice moving foward as well. At the risk of getting into the “what if” game the typical shopette/gas station has the coolers at the rear of the store. If something goes sideways while you are back there getting a Coke you cannot retreat that way and moving foward to the end of an isle or a small cooler full of whatever that they put at the end of an isle might be better idea. Just food for thought.

    • Why would you ever want to move backwards? You could trip up on a body or a parking block or a curb etc. etc. and then you are on your ass and in big trouble. Sprint to cover if its there and use cover to your advantage. If there is no cover then you need to avoid with tactical movement, close the distance and put the assailant under duress, DESTROY his willingness to fight, then cover… cover the assailant with your pistol, look for cover and cover your wounds. Be careful how you train. You can get really good at something that will get you killed.

      • In the CCW world we are having to deal with reactionary responses to an already in motion attack in usually very close quarters. If someone is slashing at you with a knife or as we saw not too long ago in the news, someone is swinging a hatchet at you, I think it would be better and a natural reflex to back away from the threat to create more distance between you. A lot of the dashcam videos I have seen show the officer moving rearward in an attempt to back away from the aggressor, while drawing and firing.

        • Adam, this isn’t intended to be rude, but before you convince yourself of something, you might want to back it up with fact/grounded training; not just your feelings and some dash cam footage.

          I’m very hesitant to say always / never. What I have seen with my agency’s shootings, and during tightly scripted FOF scenario based learning, is moving backwards is usually not the best choice. Lateral, lateral front, lateral rear: yes. Backpedaling, usually not. I guess it would beat failing to act and becoming a statistic.

          The two biggest problems I’ve seen while conducting FOF learning is this:

          First, if you are backpedaling it is very likely your opponent is covering more distance faster than you are and, add to it, you’re much more likely to experience a problem while backing. If you can run the 300m as fast backwards as you can normally, I’d be astonished.
          Second, if you’re just backing you aren’t forcing your adversary to react/recycle their OODA loop. Your best or only option is to score a hit from this disadvantageous position, most likely in diminished light and possibly with more than one suspect.

          I really do not like these odds.

  3. Good article!

    Of course, you’ll find plenty of people convinced that moving while shooting is superior, that the best action is to “get off the X” and respond with gun fire while moving. They also might indicate shooting while stationary is a “training scar” from competition that will get you killed.

    Tactical folks in the other camp go with what’s in this article (obviously.) The more foolish among them might claim the emphasis of shooting on the move instead of moving more quickly to cover is a “training scar” from competition that will get you killed.

    Tactics are a mode of procedure. They will vary among situations and people. Skillful application of fundamental skills, however, are the same regardless of situation.

  4. I had the opportunity to ask Paul Howe this question: “Everyone practices it, and no one does it.” His position is that, other than addressing an immediate threat coming through the door, you’re either shooting from behind cover, or moving in between cover.

  5. Given a supporting fire team, I’d rather sprint then shoot, but the Army didn’t let me take them with me after my enlistment. 🙁

    Is shooting on the move an ideal tactic? No, but you’re probably not in an ideal situation, either. Frankly, I would bet that the violence of action would be as much of a deterrent as the actual bullets flying.

    And thank you for pointing out that you’re going to learn great individual shooting skills in competition, when you don’t have that supporting fire team. A fellow 3-gunner got into the sport when his SF unit was getting into regular firefights in Sadr City, and called in a few competitors to teach them faster transitions.

  6. Now, I’m just an ordinary dude, who likes to take some classes and shoot some actions sports. I’m not very coordinated or quickly reflexive (walk, chew gum) so the classes and games help me stick stuff in my brain. So, must this be absolute? Can the moving and shooting (combined) training really just help people learn to move to cover (or not stay stationary at least) under duress (whether actually shooting or not)? If combined in a sport or training, maybe they are having fun (pulling trigger) while learning at the same time?

  7. Watch a bunch of dashcam footage and you’ll see that SOM does in fact occur, often in ways not used in competition.

    It’s a skill that people should have. It does have limitations on what can be done with it.

  8. What percentage of those dash cam SOM cases result in hits? Most folks are not going to hit much whilst moving feet and bowels at the same time I’m thinking. I’m not advocating against it necessarily just looking for a number.

    • This seems very similar to the debate of “Shoot two well aimed shots or shoot rapidly at the target?”. Shooting while moving and rapid shooting both occur naturally in combat. Define “naturally” how you want, but in a firefight, as can be observed by dashcams, there is almost always movement, shooting is almost always rapid, and often the two are combined. So the question as a trainer is, do we train to change this “natural” behavior or do we train to improve it. For officer success/survival, if you are limited on training budget and time, consider training to improve natural behavior. If you are virtually unlimited on training, train to precision in everything. In the past five years, and partially due to the FBI Cop killer study, many departments have started training officers to shoot rapidly at close distances, and I believe it has led to better outcomes in officer invovled shootings. To the question, “What percentage of those dash cam SOM cases result in hits?” I would ask, “How many of those officers were trained to shoot while rapidly moving?”

      • Agree with your concept of train to improve what’s going to happen anyway and the economic reasoning behind it. I’ve allways figured five fast hits on a pie plate are better than a one inch group that takes four or five times as long. Here’s the thing though IS that being trained yet? Still like to see a number, with that and the footage you can see HOW to improve . Also what percentage of those shoot on the move folks are attacking vs. retreating? The guy who turns the tables and goes on offence gets more hits I’m betting but that’s the guy asking for advanced training too.

  9. My little shooting group has been doing short practical drills for about 40 years now, I’m a relative “newbie” who only joined them 20 years back. The electronic shot timer was arguably the best “learning device” invented since scoring rings on targets. Then they came out with a “second beep” feature on the timers. So, we started doing move and shoot / shoot and move drills by giving the shooter only say four or five seconds to get to cover before that second beep sounded, assessing them a penalty. If you can safely hit/neutralize a target on the fly towards cover, great. If not, then hie thee behind the “tree” before shooting.

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