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Winning The Gunfight

Pistol in Quartata - Old Sword Technique For Modern CQB


Pistol In Quartata is a term we use to define a movement matrix for extremely close range restricted movement combat. The term "In Quartata" means "out of line" and refers to a swordsman's move out of line with his adversary's attack. Moving off the line of attack is not new and has been a part of the fighting man's repertoire for ages.

We've proved it, both on the street and in force on force training, that it is possible to create a situation where the adversary may miss you with his first shot, while you will likely hit with yours. This can be done by moving dynamically off the line of attack when the fight begins. There are no guarantees in any fight, but we've shown students repeatedly that if you stand your ground and attempt to shoot it out like Matt Dillon in 'Gunsmoke', the odds of simultaneously being hit by your adversary are very high. Conversely, this changes dramatically when you move off the line of attack.

Using your available battle space to your best advantage is always a good idea, however we know that there are situations where total freedom of movement may not be available. These situations may include small rooms, hallways, staircases, and other narrow spaces. The concept of "Moving Off The X" is still very valid, but its execution and application changes due to the difficulty of confined movement. Here is how we address this.

A few years ago I spent a few days with good friend and knife master James Keating. I was there to become certified in Jim's very excellent Bowie Knife system. James explained much of the history of the Bowie knife and how a good deal of it came from the Western European Saber systems.

Much of the Bowie involves faking and footwork. James was a master of this. He was able to sting me with a back cut and zone offline so I could not counter cut him. His natural speed and the use of common fencing footwork made it possible. We studied the Volte, the Inquartata, the Pasato Sotto, and various other western fencing concepts with Bowie knife in hand. Then we proved it works in sparring.

There are those today who like to poke fun at the notion of fencing as a fighting art, but I can attest that true European battlefield sword systems are as far removed from what is seen in the Olympics as the UFC is different from Tai Chi. Properly applied, this footwork is as deadly today as it was 300 years ago. As we will see, it also has applications to the modern pistol fight.

Recently at the Interactive Gunfighting/Force on Force Class we conducted a segment on Confined Space Combat. We were looking at the applications of our movement concepts as applied in a hallway, a narrow passageway, or any other linear application (perhaps such as would be found in buses, planes and trains as well). We allowed the students to brain storm the problem and all stand-and-deliver based solutions failed miserably.


After exhausting many solutions unsatisfactorily, I showed them the In Quartata I learned from Jim Keating's Bowie program, but as applied to the pistol. The aggressor sought to draw and shoot as the "good guy" stood in front of him in a narrow warehouse passageway.

The aggressor's draw was fast and true, but as the "good guy" student drew he moved "out of line" or in-quartata. Results - Good guy hit - bad guy missed. We repeated the drill a number of times with the same results. Shots were often simultaneous, but the man that moved out of line was not hit. Results, the In Quartata got you narrowly out of the way of his gun muzzle and bought you the time for your first shot.

The only issue was that if your shot did not disable the adversary, he was able to bring his gun muzzle back to bear on you, and due to the limits placed on movement, you could not avoid any further in the same direction. In the other direction was his muzzle.

We added a "dropping out of line" maneuver to evade a head shot and counter with a shot up from below. And since having a Plan C is always a good idea the next spot to move to is up on a diagonal to the left as you place a head shot. It should be understood that you get on the trigger as you go In Quartata and you do NOT stop firing until he is flat!

In our research as my adversary drew and fired, and I moved out of line, Inquartata, firing my first shot. As he tracked me to bring gun point to bear, I dropped out of line and fired up at him, and moved up-and-off line again. Results - I was able to get possibly three to four shots on target before my adversary was able to respond. This is a very viable and effective, not to mention time-proven concept.

The other sword movement patterns such as pasato soto, fleche, and volte, also have merit in this close range restricted-movement zone. Just as our standard movement matrix allows you to use your battlefield to your advantage and prevail, the Pistol Inquartata Matrix will help you shoot without being shot when you cannot move in the restricted-movement environment.

I have been fencing Epee with the junior staff for a while now and will say the In Quartata can be thought of as more a concept than any actual footwork. The execution will depend on variables that cannot be categorized, and those variables will dictate the actual execution. Those who try to force an actual “right way-wrong way” approach have not proof-tested things sufficiently.