Ensuring your training avoids negative training scars

Because the artifact we are looking for in our training is a high level of performance designed to win on the street, our training should have a lot more scrimmaging than standing


The word “artifact” has many meanings depending on its context or what profession is using it.   Museums are filled with artifacts. So are computer programs. What matters to us is that so do many of our motor programs. The dictionary describes these artifacts as method-depend results. In police lingo we call it, “Playing the way you practice!”  

We all know you perform a motor program under stress exactly as you trained it and anything the learner does in the performance of that repetition during training will do it under duress.

Faulty Programmers, Faulty Programming
The problem is, when students do a skill a certain way to fulfill the criteria for measurement, the limitations of the facility — or the whim of the trainer — that student can get programmed with useless or detrimental artifacts.

Firearms’ training is filled with artifacts, from the design of ranges to courses of qualification.  

Why are we standing, without cover, at seven, fifteen15, and twenty-five25 yards?

Why is a two-by-four bolted on a pole considered a barricade?  

Why are some agencies still having officers shoot two and evaluate? Evaluate what?

If you do enough repetitions, this is will become an artifact that will pop up in the midst of a life-and-death struggle. We shoot until we stop the threat then we look for another...period!

Early firearms simulators simply reinforced the bad artifact of standing in the open. Worse they taught students to continue to stand, frozen in place in the open.

Today, simulators shoot back, cover is often used and video feedback is given to the officer to enhance learning and give feedback that help minimize artifacts. This is sort of the same as scrimmaging in sports to give a skill context and mitigate or eliminate any artifact the initial learning phase may have given the athlete.

In law enforcement the student is an athlete of another sort performing under extreme stress without the benefit of referees, coaches and timekeepers or even boundaries.   Our skills are performed in a purely “open” environment where sports are performed in various degrees of structure or “closed” activities.  

Graphically, a continuum of activities or skills it would look something like this:

Closed Skills         Open Skills
Darts Archery  Basketball  Soccer  Hunting  Policing

In darts, the instrument, the distance, and the board are all fixed. As we move down the continuum more and more ambiguity is introduced and the participant needs to have a greater and greater awareness of the outside world — there is little time for introspection or pacing, mostly recognition and reaction.

Whereas darts is one, self-paced skill, law enforcement has no line to stand at, no starting whistle, no clock to run out. There is pure ambiguity as to when a particular crisis will occur and what skill you will need when it does.

The Artifacts of Measurement
Unfortunately, traditional firearms training has been a lot closer to darts than police work. This was due to the need to acquire a training score (versus winning a life-and-death struggle on the street.

Because the artifact we are looking for in our training is a high level of performance designed to win on the street, our training should have a lot more scrimmaging than standing. The need to qualify often leaves the officer with several bad habits which are nothing more than the physical manifestations — the artifacts — of measurement.  

Trainers can introduce artifacts by simply doing repetitions a certain way because of facilities or ease of observation, or by the way they measure the progress of the learning, or simply failing to have the learner do the skill in the context it will be performed.   Where does this skill occur, what are the cues that trigger it, what are cues that the performer needs to attend to, and does the officer believe in that skill?

In this day and age, we can use Airsoft, Simunition, and red man gear, to train in context…to scrimmage, and that is an essential element in the training process.   Not only does the brain learn the final parts of the “schema” of a motor program but the trainer can spot any artifacts that are being done and correct them.  

Getting smacked with Simunition is a pretty good reinforcement for effectively using cover!

The goal of our training isn’t to just get a certificate or to qualify — it is to WIN on the street and WIN in life.

The trainer is in a unique position to not only provide skills to our officers, but to help them to develop and maintain a winning attitude and faith in their performance that will give our law enforcement folks the edge they need.

The main artifact of training should be a Winning Mind

About the author

Dave “Buck Savage” Smith is an internationally recognized law enforcement speaker, trainer, video personality, and author. He began his police career in the State of Arizona, holding positions in Patrol, SWAT, Narcotics, Supervision, Investigations, Training and Management. Dave holds numerous instructor certifications in firearms, defensive tactics, and human performance and is a proven expert witness and consultant.

In 1980 Dave developed the popular “JD Buck Savage” video training series and was a police instructor for the original “Street Survival” seminar by Calibre Press and was an intricate part of the company for nearly 30 years. He now writes for numerous publications, speaks internationally and is the author of the popular book In My Sights

Dave is currently the owner of "Winning Mind Seminars" and the Director of Video Training for the online PoliceOne Academy. Dave Smith is one of the most well known law enforcement trainers on the market today and is available for appearances through his website at www.jdbucksavage.com.

Contact Dave Smith and Follow Dave on Twitter

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