Firing options and thinking out of the box – by Mark LeClair

Published by the Author on November 24, 2010 at 12:01 am > How-To Guides and Other Info > Firing options and thinking out of the box – by Mark LeClair

Over the past month or so, I’ve reprinted a few articles that were provided by Mark LeClair of Smart Tactics, a security consultation and instruction company.  Mark recently sent me another article, entitled “Firing options and thinking out of the box,” which can be seen below.  Just as interesting as the content of the article is the rather strong reaction that some people have had to the article’s advice about where one should aim.  I’ve found that heated debates and even a departure from civility are somewhat common when it comes to discussions of caliber, tactics, or other similar issues. With all that said, I’m certainly interested in hearing peoples’ thoughts on the aiming advice discussed below by Mr. LeClair:

“Firing options and thinking out of the box”

Recently there was an article that was written regarding a style of shooting, “double taps” to be precise. It was written by a known author Wiley Clapp and was published on “American Rifleman” website {}the 10th of November 2010. The article impacted me wrong, by wrong I mean someone that reads information in place of pursuing instruction may have read this and thought that this was the “end all be all” regarding double-taps.

This article in particular, which I title “Firing options and thinking out of the box” is my attempt at approaching the same subject, with more to add, while incorporating the style that I created a while back and implement daily for the Army. I teach firearms, big and small, Monday through Friday of every week on the local Army Post and have taught over 56,000 soldiers in 4.5 years and all have come home. I hope you enjoy.

Firing Options:

There are numerous fundamental subjects that are associated with shooting and all are equally important to each and every shooter. Without the fundamentals you would have to rely on luck and luck has no place when someone is trying to kick in your door at 2 A.M. in the morning. Practicing the fundamentals will help finite your skills and accuracy.

Understanding what the firearm is going to do and the cycle of operation that your firearm accomplishes are important because all of that action will impact your shooting. It does not matter who you are or how large and strong you believe you are, recoil happens and will continue to happen as long as you are putting bullets through that pistol. What happens after that recoil could be the deciding factor regarding your safety.

Every instructor has their own ways that they teach and no “one” instructor has all of the information perfectly. By that I mean, we all put our own “twist” and “flare” to what we teach and over the years each instructor would lean more towards the styles and ways that they like the best, not necessarily the ones that may benefit everyone else. I have always said “the week I don’t learn something new regarding firearms, is the time I stop teaching”.

Being able to teach individual groups to suit their needs is an art form in my mind and with much luck, myself and my employees have been very fortunate teaching various groups from Federal agents and departments to SWAT teams and the Armed Forces. Each group learns their own ways with their own phraseology and in order to reach each group to finite their skills, fundamentals and teaching styles must be incorporated along with proof of concept (being able to perform after instruction has been given).

The military no longer uses the term “double tap” (which was what the article was about), instead they now call it “Controlled pairs”. The double tap, which was established in the 1930’s in Shanghai, was the practice of placing two shots rapidly at a target for more stopping power. The shots would be accomplished with two very rapid trigger pulls to provide more stopping power against a threat.

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Part of the article regarding this topic state “But some students of this combat shooting business are now suggesting that the very idea of delivering two shots to the target—whatever you call it—is fallacious teaching” (Clapp Ref. 1). Fallacious is defined as untrue, misleading and deceptive. This I do not agree with. Controlled pair firing could very well work for some in certain situations and, as with everything in this world, situation would dictate.

The purpose of controlled pairs is to deliver two shots close together to add more stopping power. I truly believe that some may not be fans of using controlled pairs because they miss their targets. Those that miss attempting a skill may do so because they may not be sold on its efficiency and desired end result. Why would most miss? Under a stress-fire situation; anxiety, fear and anticipation will dictate where the bullets can impact against the target and most of those bullets are over the head or shoulders of the threat. I will explain in future paragraphs.

The controlled pair would come in handy with lower caliber firearms: the Army uses a 9mm, Special Forces use everything from 9mm to .45. At the Team I was attached to we used 1911 .45’s, which were my absolute favorite (still is today) and that got swapped out with the SOCCOM .45 and finally settled with SigSauer 9mm. That is a very large difference in stopping power: from a .45 caliber down to a 9mm pistol. If you have a lower caliber firearm a controlled pair may be needed to stop an immediate threat.

This article is by no means to discredit the author at all, I more so wanted to clarify to those that may have read the article and believed everything that was written in it. I believe that some of the article is opinion.

The article states that some believe that teaching others or “programming” others to perform double taps is a waste of ammunition when only one shot may be enough. It is referenced from what he calls “some students of this combat shooting business” and state that the student should be trained to keep firing until the threat is resolved. This is why I wanted to get this article out.

Depending on the students would depend on how advanced the training can become. Every soldier that I train could very well be sent over to a combat zone where they could be shot at daily. Would that mean that each of them has the mindset and skills to effectively be taught how to control their fire, acquire their target under stressful situations and assess whether or not they should use a double-tap or controlled pair at a target? Not even a little. Each person is different and that is how I advance their skills.

To say using controlled pair is a fallacy is incorrect in my mind, I would have to say situation would dictate but I would also rather have the skill and know I can use it if I needed it than to need the skill and not have it. Once again, I did not want readers to think that this article represented the norm as far as tactical shooting goes.

Differences in phraseology:

Previously and I won’t state how long ago because it makes me feel old, I can tell you that my teachings were different from the way the Army teaches. The Army uses controlled pairs but used to call it double-taps. Where I was in the Navy, the double-tap had a totally different meaning and use:

Army’s double tap is now controlled pairs: two rapid shots in one small location. I used to teach a controlled pair for one big impact in a small area on the body. That way if there were armor plates in the way it would still knock the threat down long enough to egress away or gain the advantage.

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The double-taps I used to teach had a different meaning: the ability to put two rapid shots into a threat/target spaced apart while still moving the firearm. The reason behind this was to create two impact points, which would be harder to patch up than just one. Another reason was stress and anxiety will dictate the actions along with whatever skills are muscle memory. This could cause one shot to miss but gain the impact of at least one shot. So you perform this style hoping for two but getting at least one hit under a stressful and deadly situation.

There are more important fundamentals that should be taught each student before trying to teach them how to accomplish a controlled pair onto the target, such as: grip, stance, target acquisition, approach, holster draw, sight picture, sight alignment, affects of stress and trigger pull. Then strong hand and weak hand firing may be a good direction to take it, especially to any “students of combat shooting businesses”. If your strong arm were to take a bullet, would you be able to fire using the weak hand? Not well if you never practice with it.

Another style, which I am sure there are some that have something negative to say about, is Mozambique or as the Army calls it “failure drills”. I believe the Army calls it Failure Drills because if the first set of bullets (the controlled pair into the chest) did not stop the threat, then the follow on head shot would. So this style is two to the chest and one to the head. Regardless how much body armor is worn, there is never a plate to protect the face.

At some ranges, they may remove you if you attempt this style of shooting. Some ranges are concerned about their target systems and ceiling and those that attempt to conduct “cool daddy” shooting at the range to impress their friends or girlfriends, seem to fire into the ceiling or into their target retrieval systems. That is never good. Save this style for those that are actually being taught combat tactics and survival close quarters techniques.

Recoil is going to happen every time the firearm spits a bullet out of the barrel (unless you have a squib round and which case the bullet sort of just falls out of the barrel, if it comes out at all) and all you can do is acknowledge that action and have a way to counter it to put your next round accurately onto the target. This is where things may differ because there are many factors involved: weight of the pistol, bullets being used, strength of the supportive arm and situation. That is what can dictate how much the recoil would affect the end result.

Good fundamentals and copious amounts of practice can finite anyone’s skills and accuracy but it is important to seek advanced instruction from those that teach it on a regular basis. Shooting on an indoor range is great practice but for those that face threats on a daily basis, they may want more advanced training since they will never be attacked by a paper target.

The following is where I expect to be challenged and I accept that challenge because once it is practiced, the end results of precision and speed will overpower even the most stubborn of instructors (maybe).

“Thinking out of the box”

Why would shots miss their target in a stressful situation?

Mostly because most everyone teaches “center of mass” as their focal point. What is wrong with that you may ask? Under stressful conditions (getting shot at, someone busting in your door at 2 A.M.) those that are taught center of mass have a large tendency to start their trigger pull at center of mass but how did they get there? They had to have come from somewhere.

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Center of mass does present more mass to impact, which should give you more room for error in a stressful situation. I am more towards the mindset that I would rather have all of my bullets hit my target than just some of my bullets. The approach helps considerably:

Bottom center approach: by bottom center I am speaking about approaching the target from the bottom centerline (coming up from the bottom and keeping the firearm approaching centerline of the target) to capitalize on more target mass. There is more mass from the bottom of the target to the top of the target than there ever will be from one side of the target to the other side. Go ahead and check a target to solidify what I said, I will wait here for you to return.

Back already? Good, now you understand why I would approach from that direction? In a stressful situation I would much rather have more mass because anxiety, fear and stress is going to cause me to be a lot more shaky than I would be at the indoor range shooting into paper. It will also cause my bullets to impact higher than I expect. This is why center of mass is not my favorite, most of the shots in the above situation would have gone over the shoulder or head if the focal point was center.

The reason I believe so strongly in not aiming center of mass in a threatening or stressful situation is because of the trigger pull along with muscle memory: if you train your muscle memory to conduct a trigger pull at center mass each time, even if your approach was from the bottom centerline, as I teach, you may luck out and hit the top of the target, maybe. Most commonly the shots were ending up too high because of the location where the trigger pull was started.

Again, it depends on the groups that are on the firing line, but it does not matter the group that I am teaching, their approach is practiced constantly along with their aim point: around the belly-button area of the target.

I have tailored this process and incorporate it into my training sessions and call it the “START Process” where START stands for “Skill Training Against Reactive Targets”. This has helped out over 56,000 soldiers not to mention the civilian sector that I train also.

The focal point being the bottom of the target combined with the avenue of approach would cause the trigger pull to begin towards the bottom of the target as the bottom centerline approach is being accomplished. Where would the bullets impact: centerline and between the belly area of the target and the upper chest area of the target. Under stressful situations, this process would create a greater impact percentage than the normal center mass aim point.

Once again, situation would dictate and there will never be an end all be all for everyone. Repetition is the key to muscle memory, gaining more training from qualified individuals that teach on a daily basis and learning new techniques will keep those skills finite and give the person much more confidence with their firearm.

The skills and processes explained in this article are part of Smart Tactics and the end results can differ slightly, which is why it is always recommended to gain instruction from qualified individuals that teach often. It is not recommended to attempt any of the styles or tactics explained in this article without the guidance of a professional. Smart Tactics is not liable for anyone attempting any of the tactics listed above.

Any questions or comments, please email them to us at

Ref: 1 –Clapp, Wiley. American Rifleman accessed 12 Nov 2010 1:10PM { }

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  • Herrbags

    Sir; I am sure you are very good at teaching soldiers and law enforcement what to do in a violent conflict. But to a older citizen sitting at home on a Saturday night watching TV and scratching his dogs ears your information from caliber of weapon to tactics are totally useless. In fact nothing you say relates in any way to the average go to work every day and come home and take it easy citizen. I have been on a great deal of gun forums and they all seem to have the same fantasy scenarios about guns, calibers and cartridges. It is a bunch of nonsense which pertains in no way to real life. Going from condition white to life threatening personal self defense has nothing to do with weapons it has to do with personal awareness and ones life situation. It must be thought about and dealt with on a daily basis until it becomes a ingrained reflex. It will never happen the way one imagines it will.

    • MArk

      You are under a great misconception: it does matter and it can be practiced to be prepared. It is not only the soldiers that I train but also the civilian sector: the older citizen that is sitting at home scratching their dogs ears, as you put it. My point being that everyone, no matter the person or what you do can be prepared as long as you are proactive about your own safety. You may want to read more than one blog or article on different forums and then maybe some tactics books if you want to become educated on tactics. No "one" person can have all of the answers but please do not read someones blog or article and think that it is the end all be all.

      • Herrbags

        I don't understand what misconception you are talking about. I also have no idea what you are talking about. How you came up with your reply leaves me with two heads to scratch mine and the dogs. I have quite a few books on armed defense and some on case histories of people who defended them selves legally and still were convicted. I was on the receiving end of an armed robbery and had to post 80,000 in bail so I could go home after I got out of intensive care. There is book learning and game playing and neither have any thing to do with real life. I have no problem with what you are teaching. But when it comes down to the nut cutting things never work out the way you think they will. AS far as guns go, my personal defense preference is a 3 inch chambered judge loaded with 000 buck. I have other guns but I now have 6 judges and one is always near me. I have been in several so called gun fights and I have a pretty good idea of how things can go. I am sure you will disagree but each of us has to know his limitations. I am 74 years old and eaten up with aging problems Speed, agility and eye sight are a thing of the past. In our society people like me are the most vulnerable and most likely to be victims. All I want is that if anybody tries to hurt me or my family, even though they may do it they will go down with us. My wife and I practice shooting at least once a month. WE have a private range. When I see what ten rounds of 000 buck out of a pair of judges will do to a man sized target in 3 to 4 seconds it makes me feel warm and fuzzy. You seem like a sincere person who is offering a valuable service I hope you never have to learn what it is like to get hit in the chest with a hail of bullets.

        • MArk

          Sir, I commend you on wanting to protect your family, I can tell you that I am a disabled veteran that served many, many years in Special forces and got hurt very badly while doing my job. This is why I created my very small business, to help those that dont know what to do themselves in the avenue of personal protection and such. I teach numerous courses along with conceal carry courses and one of the biggest misconceptions that I clear up is when someone states "I will just shoot them if they enter my home". They dont quite understand what "imminent danger" is, they just want to react. I teach "action will always beat reaction" so I teach people to have action.
          The Judge is not for everyone but is definitely something that has stopping power, because if someone is busting into your home at 3 AM it is not to give you a flower arrangement. I am very protective over my family as well and will defend them until my last breath without questions. Statistically your age group are at risk for home invasions and assaults. Be safe and keep practicing because it will provide you with the muscle memory needed in the event anything happens. Good luck to you sir.

  • Herrbags

    I have never been in the military but I was a rent collector for nine years in black ghetto's of Houston Texas. I got cross-ways with the second largest MC gang in the country which ended up in a few skirmishes and accidentally walked into a border war in el Salvador. Other than that I have had a rather mundane life. My opinion is In a case of up close self defense a 5 shot ,410 revolver is the only gun for the average citizen. First you never fire at anybody over 35 feet away it will most likely get you charged with homicide. You make the first shot, bird shot to show the jury that your main intention was not to take a life. Of course the jury might be sympathetic that the fellow will need a face transplant and a seeing eye dog. You also want to avoid any secondary lawsuits from innocent bystanders. It really helps to make as loud a bang as possible with plenty of fire works. Most people including criminals are terrified of being maimed and hurt and at the first signs of excruciating pain start quickly thinking about calling it all off. The man or woman that is defending his loved ones and his worked like hell to get property will gain the immediate high ground. If the victim is a coward nothing will save him except maybe filling his britches and grossing every body out. If you are forced to take a life there is a very good chance you are going to end up in front of a jury with the prospects of going bankrupt and getting nightly bowel inspections. So you had better done it right cause there is no second chance. Most of the people I have listened to on numerous gun sights actually believe that the law is fair and just and the truth will set them free. I think this may be the some of the reasons we have our current president.

    • concerned citizen

      if you try and take what you call a birdshot you will end up in front of a judge yourself unless your state has laws to protect you. If your state does not have those laws, taken a shot deliberately missing shows that you had enough time to get to a safer location away from the threat.

      • clemoswhomp

        Again I am confused, it must be my age. I have no idea what it is to take a bird shot. Although I have shot people the bird. Who said anything about deliberately missing. What I thought I said was that shooting them in the face with bird shot would show a jury that your first intention was not to kill but to deter. A lot of people my age could not get to a safer location if they had all day . I guess I will sit in my chair with my dog and my judge and my single shot gun with the broken firing pin and hope nobody messes with me. Have a strange day. They are a lot more interesting than having a nice day.