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Off the X

Much psychology and tactical training has been applied to the concept of moving Off the X. And there are many trainers who advocate it during live fire. The arguments for this ideology are strong, which is why we include it in our advanced pistol training.


The X is the place where your opponent sees you at the point where he is either aiming or decides to present his pistol during a live fire situation. For you, at a range for instance, the X is where your primary target is located, where you intend to place your bullets.

But say for instance just prior to shooting, your target moves to the right just two feet. How does this shift impact your sight picture? Does it change your accuracy? How would this effect your mindset as you attempt to adjust your aim? These are the factors you upset when you get off the X.

We can all agree hitting a static target is easier than a moving one. And there is little doubt you will generally be more accurate on a static target as well. Hitting a moving target may not be that much more difficult but doing it accurately, that’s another issue.


First let’s start with some very basic assumptions:

80% of inexperienced shooters error to the left or right; and 80% of shooters are right-handed. In the case of a right-handed shooter, they miss left, left-handed shooters, to the right.

The main reason for this is they lack sufficient trigger control. As the trigger is depressed, the shooter’s grip changes, which causes the muzzle to move. A very common problem that can easily be fixed, but not without potentially hundreds or thousands of rounds of practice. And under stress, a small problem can turn into a big one!

80% of bad guys who commit homicide are inexperienced shooters. They don’t train like you and me, they use their guns as a force multiplier to freeze their victims, not shoot them. When they do deploy their pistol, it is usually at close distance, otherwise their aim is likely abysmal.

So if we assume these two situations exist for a majority of gun encounters, we can also assume there is a high likelihood the shooter will miss their target, especially if you inject additional stress into the equation.


When you get off the X, you essentially take a side step as you are drawing or presenting your pistol. This moves you just a few feet off the last point your opponent has in their sight picture but it also temporarily disorients them, giving you valuable time to aim and fire accurately yourself.

This topic has generated a lot of controversy because it attacks much of the institutional inbreeding many trainers can’t overcome. I can hear them today: “If it wasn’t taught by Jeff Cooper, it isn’t worth my time”. But most skilled trainers today will admit, it merits attention. After all, it’s taught by Tom Givens, also a god in the gun world.

And what’s more, some trainers admit the sidestep method actually increases focus and attention on the intended target; it also increases accuracy. And we agree. With practice, you are placing yourself in an active shooting scenario, and really only one of a few simulations you can perform at a range.

My first experience with Off the X was a video of a Dime Store robbery that occurred years ago. The perp rolls-into the store with a gun in hand. The cashier immediately moves to draw her pistol and takes a side-step to the left, just behind a counter stand filled with candy. As she squares-up with the shooter and presents her pistol, the shooter appears to be totally confused, like she disappeared. By the way, he also didn’t pass the room temperature challenge.


We recommend two different Off the X drills:

Static Target - With a single target at 5-10 yards, prepare your shot. Before you draw or during your presentment, simply take a side step to the left. This goes for right and left-handed shooters. 80% of the time the other shooter is going to be a righty, and 80% of the time the are going to miss left, which puts you at least 2-3 feet away from their bullet path.

Moving Target - This drill adds a little more complexity and assumes your target performs the same sidestep. With two targets, one placed 2-3 feet to the right of your primary target, start your draw on the primary target, take your sidestep to the left, and shoot the right target.

If you want to go even further, try the 3M Drill from Tom Givens with standard times and accuracy requirements.


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