Glossary of Combative Terms
This glossary is a reference for some of the industry specific terms you may come across in our articles, videos, etc. They should not be relied on for legal purposes. Always refer to the applicable laws in your area or consult with an attorney for legal advice.
A-Zone – The “A” or “Alpha” zones the area on IDPA and USPSA targets that represents the ideal shot placement on an attacker.
Armed Combatives – “Armed Combatives” is a set of techniques, tactics and procedures (TTPs) designed to counter the most common deadly force threats. More specifically, these TTPs combine both hand-to hand and handgun techniques into a single integrated approach. The term deliberately suggests that a combative vs a defensive mindset is the only appropriate approach to overcoming a deadly force threat.
C-Clamp – In the shooting world, the term C-Clamp traditionally describes a method of holding a rifle like the AR15. Chris Costa is largely credited for popularizing the C-Clamp. The name comes from extending your non-dominant hand far forward on the handguards with your thumb crossing over the top of the barrel and your four fingers crossing under, thus forming the shape of a “C”. The C-Clamp improves your ability to move the gun quickly, maintain it’s steadiness and reduce recoil. The Combat Shroud uniquely allows shooters to comfortably get the same benefits of the C-Clamp when shooting a handgun.
Combatives Instructor – This is a distinction given to instructors who teach a curriculum focused on the counter-offensive, hand-to-hand and handgun techniques and tactics needed to prevail in a deadly-force encounter. This distinction separates them from the more commonly found “marksmanship” instructors, who focus more specifically on teaching shooting skills. Shooting is just one small part of combatives.
Counteroffensive (vs defensive) – The moment we discovered the essentials of surviving the most common deadly force attacks, we recognized that any suggestion of a “defensive” mindset needed to be eliminated from our vocabulary, our emotions and our thinking. We will never have the luxury of taking the offensive in an attack. We do not make preemptive strikes on people we suspect to intend us harm. The most important thing we must do is neutralize and reverse an attacker’s intent toward us into counteroffensive pressure that forces him to defend himself against us. We keep that pressure on until his will or ability to continue is crushed.
Deadly Force – Most statues define Deadly Force as any type of force that is intended or likely to cause death or serious bodily injury. Serious bodily injury means injury that creates or causes serious permanent disfigurement, protracted loss or impairment of function of any bodily member or organ, or creates a substantial risk of death.
Deadly Force Attack – Any attack from an assailant who is demonstrating his or her intent to use deadly force.
Deadly Force, Justification for the use of – Most statues only justify the use of deadly force to protect yourself or others from a deadly force attack or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony. (Check laws that apply to your particular situation.)
Draw-to-First-Shot Time – Whether you’re a civilian carrying concealed or an officer carrying in a duty holster, getting the handgun from the holster to a shooting position quickly and safely is arguably the one of the most important and skills you’ll want to master. Training to shorten that time is an important part of your practice.
Effective Accuracy Standard (EAS) – The Safety Accuracy Standard (SAS) defines the level of accuracy needed to ensure no bystanders are injured. Moreover, it’s a relatively black or white, go or no-go type of standard. Conversely, the EAS defines the accuracy needed to effectively stop an attacker. The EAS is not as binary as the SAS. Instead, the EAS is measured on a scale we want to advance across. Any hit on an attacker will likely have some effect. The question is how much and how consistently can we improve our effectiveness.
Felt Recoil – As the gases that drive a bullet escape from the muzzle, they turn the gun’s barrel into something of a small rocket engine that drives the gun back toward the shooter. This is recoil. Pure recoil is a mathematical constant for a given caliber, weight and load of a cartridge. Felt recoil, on the other hand, is the measure of how much recoil is felt by a shooter. Felt recoil will vary based on the size and weight of the gun, the shooter’s grip, body structure and posture, etc.
Five-Step Draw Sequence – There are five landmark positions we pass through as we take a handgun from the holster to the Full Extension position. To learn this basic draw sequence, we follow a 5-count cadence where each count coincides with one of the landmarks. As a new shooter gets more experienced, the five separate positions merge into a single fluid movement.
Full Extension – Full extension typically describes a shooting posture where the shooter’s arms are extended out in front of the chest. While this usually implies the shooter is holding the gun with two hands, it can also apply to a single-hand grip. USPSA and IDPA competitive shooters shoot almost exclusively from full extension, unless they’re required to do otherwise. Full extension’s popularity has spilled over into combative shooting. Unfortunately, attempting to shoot from full extension, in many of the most common real world situations, will put you at greater risk.
Gun Stability – The aiming process is a relatively easy skill to master. The more challenging aspect of shooting is to keep the gun stable and properly oriented on target throughout the trigger press.
Hand+Gun Combatives – “Hand Plus Gun Combatives” is a term coined by Rick Molina in 2015. As an instructor, he was trying to find a succinct way to label the multi-aspect nature of what’s needed to survive attacks at near-contact distances. Hand+GunTM combatives describes any fighting methodology that combines “hand-to-hand” techniques (including strikes, joint locks, sweeps, kicks, etc.) with handgun or short-barreled rifle shooting, striking and leveraging techniques.
IDPA – The International Defensive Pistol Association is the governing body of a competitive sport shooting league that tries to simulate defensive shooting scenarios in its competitions.
In-Structure Attacks – Outside of military environments, most attacks can be categorized as either “In the Open” or “In-Structure” attacks. Attacks in the open simply mean there are no structural barriers to deal with. Conversely, In-Structure attacks are when you’re dealing with an attack in or around structures, such as home invasions, store robberies, active shooters at a workplace, malls, theaters, churches, etc.
LON Light Environment – LON is an acronym for Low Or No Light environments. There are three general classes of lighting: illuminating light, low light and no light. From a shooting perspective a lighting environment is determined by the class of light in front of the sights and the class of light behind the sights. Consequently, there are nine (3 x 3) lighting environments.
Meat and Metal Aiming – To the best of our knowledge meat and metal aiming is a phrase coined by Gabe Suarez. It describes the rapid “point and shoot” type of aiming that’s appropriate at near contact distances. When you see metal (your gun) in the middle of meat (the attacker), you’re on target. (Also see PEK Aiming.)
Muscle Memory Aiming – This is another name for PEK aiming.
Muzzle Energy and Recoil – Muzzle energy is a metric based on the speed and weight of specific types of ammunition (i.e., 9mm, 45 ACP, 357Sig, etc.) as they leave the muzzle of a gun. Generally, the higher a round’s muzzle energy, the better it’s terminal ballistics will be, and therefore the more effective the round is as a man-stopper. However, the more muzzle energy a round produces, the more felt recoil it produces – making the gun harder to control and slower to shoot.
Near Contact – Describes an extremely close range of distances where an attacker and his or her intended victim are either in contact or almost in contact with each other.
Off Hand – Lingo for a shooter’s non-dominant hand.
Patridge Sights – The Patridge sight design uses a single post or blade for a front sight and a notch or slot for a rear sight.
PEK Aiming – PEK is an acronym for Proprioceptive, Exterioceptive, Kinesthetic. These are the proper physiological terms for the human sensory systems involved in non-visual aiming.
Photo-Real Targets – Photo-realistic targets help give shooters at least some exposure to what it’s like to aim at a person. These targets are not used for simulating hostage situations as commonly thought. They’re used to develop proper habits like replacing normal eye contact with a tactical sight picture.
Point Aiming – The terms Point Aiming or Point Shooting have been around for along time, and over that time they’ve been used and misused to describe a lot of different things. Today, most qualified instructors steer away from these terms because of the potential confusion. That said, there are still some who use these terms to loosely describe some form of PEK Aiming.
Proprioceptive Aiming – This is just another name for PEK Aiming.
Range Games – We use range games as a part of practice, not only to make practice fun but also to add the stress of competition and to push ourselves outside the normal range of our drills and exercises.
Reactive Targets – These are targets that react in some way when they are hit. Reactive targets may move, fall over, make a sound, etc.
Retention Positions – Shooting from a position of retention is used in situations where an attacker is close enough to possibly grab your gun. The number of shooters that practice shooting from retention is surprisingly small, given that close-distance attacks (0 to 5 feet) are the most common. Retention shooting techniques all combine blocking an attacker’s efforts to get your gun while also engaging the attacker with effective counter-offensive gunfire.
Shooting from Retention – At Near Contact distances we must shoot with grips and from postures that ensure we will retain possession of the gun.
Shot Placement Feedback – When shooting on paper or steel targets your shot placement (where the bullet hit) is obvious and immediate. This subconsciously gives the shooter feedback he or she can use to make adjustments. This is way the latter rounds in rapid-fire strings tend to be more accurate than the first round. In a real situation, where attackers wear clothing with different colors, patterns, thicknesses, etc., your shot placement is much less obvious, if it can be determined at all.
Sight Picture – Traditionally, Sight Picture refers to the shooter’s image of the front sight’s, rear sight’s and target’s alignment in relationship to each other. In combatives, it’s that and more. Because, in a combative situation, you need to identify, and focus on, a target that’s a specific part of an attacker body. Moreover, that attacker will likely be around innocent bystanders.
Target 3D – Three-dimensional targets can be anything from rough, cube-shaped cardboard facsimiles to anatomically correct manikins. They are best used to learn how engage targets at angles not often represented on other types of targets.
Target, Photo-Real – Photo-realistic targets help give shooters at least some exposure to what it’s like to aim at a person. These targets are not used for simulating hostage situations as commonly thought. They’re used to develop proper habits like replacing normal eye contact with a tactical sight picture.
Target, Silhouette – Near life-sized frontal and profile targets are used for the vast majority of our firearms training. They teach shooters how to quickly get a sight picture based centering within a torso-like outline.
TechniqueONE – Predator Combatives’ training curriculum is built around a single, limited-decision, counter-defensive technique that seamlessly blends empty-hand and armed maneuvers, which are triggered by primal, instinctive and natural reactions to the most common deadly-force threats from attackers. TechniqueONETM is a trademark of Predator Combatives, LLC.
Terminal Ballistics – In combatives, terminal ballistics refers to the study of how different bullets perform when entering a human body, and structures such as residential walls, car windows, etc.
Trigger Control – The biomechanics required to successfully break a trigger without disturbing the gun’s orientation to the target is considered one of the most difficult skills in handgun shooting to master.
Two-Handed Retention Grip – Very few people practice any type of “retention” shooting methods. Moreover, those who do, tend to use outdated methods handed down from law enforcement agencies that are forced to only use “sanctioned” curriculums approved by their governing political bodies. With these methods, you’re taught, almost exclusively, to use one hand to fire the gun and the other hand to block, strike or distance yourself from an attacker. This often leads to a stalemate between the attacker and the defender. Techniques that keep both hands on the handgun guarantee you will always have a mechanical advantage over your gun, and maintain the ability to block, strike, guard, trap, throw or distance yourself from an attacker.
USPSA – The United States Practical Shooting Association is the governing body of a competitive sport shooting league that tries to simulate defensive shooting scenarios in its competitions.
Visual Aiming – Some incorrectly correlate visual aiming with the use of traditional Patridge type sights. Visual aiming is actually any type of aiming that uses visual feedback to adjust the orientation of a gun when shooting.
Weapon Retention – A category of principles, practices and methods for retaining possession of your weapon. Weapon retention is usually broken down into two area retention in the holster and retention after the draw.