Firearms training: Will you react as you have trained?

Every opportunity you have to properly manipulate your weapon system or your gear is a training opportunity


Would you agree that repetition is the mother of all skill? I would. The only thing I would question would be the number of repetitions necessary to build a skill. Some folks say that repetitions in the thousands is necessary to build a skill while others would say that it is only in the hundreds. With me it is impossible to know which is true. I did not come to a hands-on job because of my love for scholastics. Depending on what I am learning, it can take anywhere from hundreds to thousands. I, like many other visual and tactile learners, learn best by doing. The more comfortable I am with a new skill, the faster I learn it. The less I have to think about a skill or the more I understand the “whys” behind a specific skill, the faster I can pick it up.

So, let’s get back to the question, “Will you react as you have trained?” I think you may react how you have trained which may not be what you want. Do you know how you have trained? What motor programs have you been practicing? When it comes to firearms training, most agencies admit training only once a year and it is usually centered on qualification. There may be a fun shoot or tactical drill after everyone is done qualifying but, it’s not really training.

Qualification, simply put, is a minimum display of proficiency. This proficiency is generally displayed best on a cold range with a safety officer / range officer who is concerned with getting the job done safely. Get ‘em in, unload their guns, prepare magazines of six (because the course of fire is laid out in sixes), load and unload when told to do so and do everything administratively (because it is the safest way).

What Have You Been Repeating?
If repetition is the mother of all skill and, for the most part, qualifying once a year is your training, what have you been repeating? Are you doing things you would want to do in a fight for your life? Do you load and make ready from your magazine pouches or, do you just carry the third magazine down range in your hand and slap it into the back of the pistol when told to load?

“Every opportunity you have to properly manipulate your weapon system or your gear is a training opportunity.” Will you agree?

What kind of training have you been doing by carrying that third magazine down range, slapping it into the back of your holstered pistol, taking the gun from the holster and chambering a round, then putting the gun back into the holster (unsecured I’m sure, because it’s qualification time and you gotta be ready), shooting your six round stage of fire and holstering an OBVIOUSLY empty pistol only to start the whole process over for stage after stage? Add to all this the ready position, you know the one, feet just right, holster unsnapped, hands in a contrived position with one maybe almost touching the pistol while you stare at the target. If your gunfight starts like that, it’s a good day. But, probably not. So, will you react as you have trained? Hopefully not.

Knowing that we need training, and that manipulating your weapon system and gear properly is training, why don’t we take some extra time to do things right? Below is a list of manipulations or actions that can cause you to react properly when reacting is all you have time for.

Make a conscious decision to draw your pistol from a secure holster every time you get a chance, rather than “taking” it from the holster in an administrative fashion.

Load your pistol like your life depends on it (it may one day) and load from your magazine pouch not with a magazine in your hand, pocket, radio pouch or other unlikely location.

Re-holster tactically, don’t just drop it into the holster and leave it unsecured to get the advantage. Stay frosty and alert, until the gun is secured.

Breathe scan and check your surroundings. Build awareness skills by watching partners and range staff. You create a safer environment by seeing what is going on around you. Situational awareness breeds safety.

When your gun runs dry, reload it quickly and smoothly, like your life depends on it, and get back to the target. Build this reaction to an empty gun. If you are on a cold range, simply take your time unloading it after you have re-holstered.

Stop worrying about foot placement. If you have to have your feet just right before you can shoot you are setting yourself up for failure.

Start your drills from any position but a ready position so you have to learn to move to the gun and draw it. Don’t stare at the target. It’s not there until someone calls threat.

I have been using and teaching a solid motor programs for loading and unloading all weapon systems for many years now. The way I run my guns and gear is how I expect to react in the field. Below is a motor program for loading and making ready. It employs all we do with a pistol except for shooting. If I combine this loading sequence with an unloading and clearing sequence, it truly does employ all we should be competent in doing with a handgun save for the shooting aspect.

• Load and make ready sequence of events
• Assume a firing platform
• Draw your pistol to full presentation
• Get on the sights
• Bring the pistol back to your work space
• Muzzle up at a 45* angle, magazine well turned inward and visible
• Strong arm triceps glued to the upper body elbow pointed toward your belly button
• Gun up high looking downrange through your trigger guard
• Keep your head up and scanning.
• Remove a magazine from where you normally carry it
• Look the magazine into the magazine well and firmly seat it
• Head up scanning
• Chamber a round and punch back out to the target and get on the sights
• Bring your pistol back into a high ready position and de-cock if appropriate
• Press check if desired
• Situational awareness
• Head up scanning re-holster

It doesn’t always have to be just like this. You may have to do things differently at different times or for different reasons. Have a base motor program to rely on.
Remember that you are responsible for your training. Make a conscious decision to do things tactically sound when handling weapons and gear. Repetition is the mother of all skill. What kind of skills have you been repeating?

Until next time remember,
Those who can, do.
Those who understand, teach.
Chris

About the author

Chris Cerino, who has served with Medina (Ohio) Police Department, Federal Air Marshals, and the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy, is a nationally-known firearms instructor who has been training law enforcement officers and military for more than 10 years. Chris has worked in law enforcement positions for municipal, county, state and federal agencies spanning 19 years. A majority of those years have been spent in tactical and firearms related fields. As the director of training for Chris Cerino Training Group, Cerino remains immersed in the firearms and tactics training culture. Teaching the importance of fundamentals in a “do as I do” fashion has enabled him to be a respected instructor across the country.

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