Scientific firearms training: The new frontier

Using kinesthetic awareness (KA) correctly, with proper coaching, will greatly increase the conscious and subconscious understanding


If you have ever watched truly world-class athletes perform their skills, you can appreciate the fact that their seemingly effortless performance is the result of dedicated training, correct coaching, and mental focus.

We marvel at their skills and we wonder how they do it. Maybe, we even start to compare ourselves to them and imagine ourselves performing at that level.

What would it take? How would we do it?

Using Kinesthetic Awareness
For many years, I have participated in — and studied — world-class performance with firearms. Both as a competitive shooter and as a cop working the street or rural areas, I knew I wanted to be better and I diligently searched, researched, and innovated new ways of thinking about training and performance.

After more than 30 years of conducting and studying training, I have repeatedly come to the conclusion that we really need to use the existing sciences to explain what we do and how we do it. We also need to do it in a form that is reasonably objective.

Being able to describe what we do in terms of proprioception, kinesiology, kinesthetic awareness, muscle memory, visual processing, mental processing, and biomechanics greatly aids in being EXACT in what we are actually talking about.

Here is where I feel the world of firearms training is lacking. We tend to brand things as “tactical this or that” or use clichés to describe performance instead of being exact as to how we actually create the performance we are trying to do. This is simply inefficient and leads to all kinds of performance errors that hinder progress.

As an example, I have been using kinesthetic awareness (KA) to teach use-of-force skills for more than 30 years. I still have people that want to call it “muscle memory” which is in essence a learned reflex that is a byproduct of KA.

Using KA correctly, with proper coaching, will greatly increase the conscious and subconscious understanding — internalization and execution of a skill in a much shorter time period then when not using it. This has been proven in my research and after action reports time and time again.

Most of the problems I see in shooting are because of a student’s lack of understanding and awareness of how their body and brain actually works to control performance.

High Level of Performance
If you really want to understand and gain high end performance, you need to accurately be able to understand, describe and communicate the performance and be able to teach it with a high level of detail.

There is a skills hierarchy that also must be understood and applied if you want this type of performance.

This argues for a higher level of education on the part of the trainer as well as the student as to the behavioral and motor learning sciences and the applications of that knowledge to firearms and use of force training.

That is not to say that we must all become scientists or that academia replaces knowledge gained by experience in the real world. I do believe that experience is a wonderful attribute to have when it comes to training and shooting.

So is talent.

However, we did not get to the moon on experience alone. We had to use creative applications of what we knew to create new ways of thinking that allowed us to go farther than we ever had before. Scientific, creative application of knowledge will take you farther than experience alone can. We use both to elevate performance.

I offer this same parallel when it comes to use-of-force training. Understanding and using scientific principles, terminology, and applications that accurately describe what we do in firearms training will make you a better trainer and performer. It will be more detailed and precise and will allow for better understanding and absorption by the participant. We also reduce ego, branding, worn-out clichés, and outmoded thinking and move into an era where we can learn what it really takes to bring ourselves (and our students) up to a high level of performance and execution under stressful conditions.

You can also design drills and exercises that precisely target the performance you are looking to improve instead of just going out and shooting courses of fire or some drill you saw on the internet.

I have brought up many shooters now to high levels of performance far faster than I was able to do it. Back then, we didn’t know nearly as much about how to train, think and perform as we do now. I relied on my natural talents but I really did not understand how I did things until I took the time to do my homework in the other sciences.

A Long Road Ahead
I still feel I have a long way to go as a student and a performer. But I am confident that the scientific approach to training and performance is the only way to go if you truly want to excel as a trainer or a performer. I know I use it exclusively and I am constantly learning more and more about how to apply scientific methods to my training to raise my own performance and that of my students. The better I can understand, describe and explain performance, the better I can teach it to myself and others. And that, I would say, is what we are all after.

There is also a glut of pseudo-science being passed off as real science and it is truly a buyer-beware market out there.

I believe in using scientific terminology for the sake of being accurate in what I am trying to do; not to impress or baffle the student with smoke and mirrors. It is not necessarily simple, but then again, I don’t think any of my students are stupid either. If you want to perform at a higher level, you are going to have to step up to a higher level of education, application and execution.

I will be doing further articles and blogging on this material as time goes on. See you next month!

About the author

Ron Avery is President and Director of Training for The Practical Shooting Academy, Inc. and Executive Director of the non-profit, Rocky Mountain Tactical Institute - both training institutions dedicated to professional firearms and tactics courses, higher police standards and training and use of force research. Train with Ron Avery. Visit his Course Calendar. Ron is a former police officer with many years of street experience, which he brings into the training environment. He is internationally recognized as a researcher, firearms trainer and world class shooter. His training methodology is currently being used by hundreds of agencies and thousands of individuals across the US and internationally. Ron has worked as a consultant and trainer for top level federal agencies, special operations military from all branches of the armed forces and law enforcement agencies across the US. He is a weapons and tactics trainer for handgun, carbine, select fire, precision rifle and shotgun, as well as advanced instructor schools, defensive tactics, team skills and tactics, low light tactics, arrest and control and officer survival. Contact Ron Avery

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