Gunfight training: Hype, myth, and BS (part two)

What separates world-class performers from everyone else is what they think, believe, and program into their minds and are able to access under stress


In part one, we looked at hype surrounding the phrase “slow is smooth and smooth is fast” and the myth that you “won’t be able to see your sights if your heart rate goes above 140 BPM.” We also acknowledged that it’s plain BS to say that “if you keep missing your target, you need to slow down.” Pretty good start, but I’ve only just begun. “Where would you go from there?” you ask? How about...

Hype: “Speed’s fine but accuracy is final.”
Reality — This one originated from the ‘Old West’ in the era of the gunfighter circa 1800s to the present day. The reality is that speed is a very real component of gunfighting. Speed in the counterattack and speed in the offense or defense can mean the difference between being dead or alive. Small intervals that are measured in 0.10 to 0.15 hundredths of a second can make a difference when you are under fire and need to get good hits... fast!

In the force-on-force research I have personally conducted, and the hundreds of other experiments over the years, the speed of the counterattack with good hits was the constant that kept coming up in terms of surviving some really tough episodes. Moving off the X wasn’t nearly as good if the practitioner was too slow in the counterattack; especially at closer distances. Besides, you have to be moving at nearly a dead run in order to increase your odds of not being hit seriously. You may get hit somewhere anyway so plan for it.

Thoughts — Great saying but needs to be explained. No one ever said that shooting slow was going to be the deal maker. What they are really saying is you better put the bullets where they belong…before the other guy does it to you.

Being able to move with both speed and precision is where it’s at in terms of gunfight shooting performance. Being able to shoot little bug holes doesn’t help much if you are too slow, as we found out from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s in reviewing training and performance.

Speed’s fine but accuracy is final should be: Speed with accuracy is final... Sooner!

Hype: “You use your handgun to fight your way to your rifle.”
Reality — I credit this one to Clint Smith. He is a great guy and I know what he meant when he coined this phrase, but, the reality is that you use your handgun to fight... period!

If you feel the need to run back to your car and get your carbine every time you feel threatened then you have the wrong mindset and are simply not prepared to fight with your handgun. This is where cops and civilians differ from their military counterparts. We carry the handgun as the primary arm almost all of the time.

Thoughts — This requires a different mindset.You need to truly believe in your handgun and its capacity to do the job. It won’t have the energy of a rifle but, if you select a proper weapon, it will do the job very quickly and handily, provided you train adequately for the task.

Now is where there will be a comment from someone that wants to talk about stopping energy, lethality and hit capabilities and ammunition capacities of the two systems. My counter to that is this:

Unless you have it in your hands, you are not going to be able to do a damn thing at the moment when you will need a firearm. Thinking you are going to “fight your way to your carbine” in the middle of a traffic stop with bullets flying at you is a delusion that will get you killed. Better to upgrade your handgun skills to a very high level and win the fight with it!

Myth: “In a real situation, you will not rise to the occasion but default to your level of training.”
Reality —
If your training is inadequate in volume, specificity. or intensity (as in, not enough adaptive stress), then you MAY perform subpar.

However, I have performed above my training in both real and competitive situations and have seen too many others I have trained RISE to the challenge and do extremely well in situations where others fail. Mental programming and conditioning along with adequate preparation in other areas is the key to better performance.

Thoughts — Bottom line is to train at the proper level of intensity and specificity and you will not only do well, you may do even better than you did in training. I have trained many people now that have gone on to win their fight under really tough conditions and performed really well. Stop telling people that they are going to suck when they get into a deadly force situation. It is not true!

BS: “The square range is BS!”
Reality — The theory of the “one shot qualification” and then run off to force-on-force training because you are “above all the square range BS” is trite and doesn’t stand up to the rigorous testing and validation process I use to evaluate student preparedness.

The “Square Range” is where most of the mental, tactical, and physical skills involved in deadly force shooting get programmed at high operational levels. I have trained many successful, real world performers on square ranges that have had to use their skills in real world situations after training with me. Their response was, “Ron, it was exactly like we did in training!”

It is common now for my students to report that they were the only ones to make fight-stopping hits when multiple officers were involved in deadly force events. This is a direct result of specific training, much of which occurs on the square range. It’s how you are trained and programmed that matter.

Thoughts — Your ability to shoot, process, and multi-task at a high level is developed on the square range and in dry fire. You are only limited by your imagination in terms of what you can do and what you can program.

Yes, other forms of training are beneficial and necessary. Don’t think you’re “above” the square range. It is a core component of a proper training program.

BS: “Competition will get you killed.”
Reality — Competition is not the only training you should be doing. You definitely need other forms of training along with it. But you definitely should be competing. Competition is a necessary component of a well-structured training program. It’s one of the ways you test and toughen yourself.

Whether done formally or informally, you need to test and validate your skills and get a sense of “where you are” in terms of performance as it relates to other people. In competition, you don’t get to control the environment or the process; you are being subjected to the test.

Provided that you are properly engaged mentally, it will give you a very real measure of what you can actually do and is a strong indicator of real world performance, provided the competition is related to the skills to be performed in the real world environment.

If you are competing “just for fun” or to “learn a few things” then you are not mentally engaged at a meaningful level that will show you were you are in terms of performance. You have to be willing to go for it and risk failure in order to find out how good you really are.

Thoughts — I’ve trained many different varieties of clients over the years. For me, it is an undeniable fact that the higher end competitive shooters that I have trained and interact with perform at the highest levels of any shooters in the world. This is also related to performance on tactics and strategy as observed in addition to shooting skills.

This is over and above the typical “name brand” assortment which includes US Army Special Forces and Delta Force operators, Navy SEALs, FBI, DEA, U.S. Secret Service, you name it on down the list of those I have personally trained.

Given the right value and belief systems along with proper tactical training, those that engage in high level competition consistently outperform all others in the field. Competition won’t get you killed. It will make you better than you are right now. Just don’t think it is a substitute for correct tactical training or proper mindset. It is a vital ingredient of a high performance training package.

Looking Ahead
Okay, that’ll do it for part two. Watch for part three in a couple of weeks, and in the meantime, add your comments below or send us an email to let us know what you think.

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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