Want to win a gunfight? Train under pressure

If you don’t have pressure in your training program, you are at risk of failure on the street


Shooting a bunch of drills on the range or doing canned force-on-force exercises without stress or pressure is the definition of complacency.

Sure, you need to learn the drills and go through them to become competent in the execution phase of training.

However, if you want to become really good at handling pressure, you must make pressure part of your “new normal” in training.

Psychological in Nature
Pressure is a compelling sense of urgency that forces you out of a normal mode of operating. Pressure puts you into a higher state of arousal. It’s psychological.

Pressure changes your mental state and forces you to deal with challenge over arousal, fear, doubt, and other emotions. If you want to reach higher levels of competency and skill, learn to stay calm in dangerous situations; make good decisions while under duress. You absolutely have to have pressure on a regular basis and learn to thrive under it.

Pressure is created by making a test of your skill, your will, and your self-image — a test that you care about and that matters to you. It forces you to question your abilities, skills, and your self-confidence.

There should be risk of failure and reward built into this test. It can be light, moderate or heavy; depending on what level of training you are at. Above all, it must be appropriate to the skill level of the participants and they must be agreeable to the test. If they don’t want to do it or complain about it all the time, it won’t work out too well.

There are many ways to create pressure. What you are looking for is something that creates both challenge and a bit of doubt. Here’s an example I often ask in training:

I put up a three- or five-inch circle at a certain distance and I ask, “How many people here think they can draw and shoot this circle in one second?”

Several hands will go up at this point. Then I ask, “how many will be willing to bet $100.00 on it?”

Hands go down.

I can modify this question and say, “if you make this drill then we buy you lunch.” But then, there’d be no consequence for failure. Consequently, there’d be no pressure.

I could say, “If you make it, we buy you lunch but if you fail, you buy everyone else’s else lunch.”

Then there is risk and reward built in. Don’t get stuck on the cash reward — get stuck on how to make this work in your training world.

Putting distractions in creates pressure. Making things competitive — either team versus team or person versus person — creates pressure.

Qualifications are inadequate because they may create pressure but they don’t have enough reward (other than keeping your job!). You get too many “do overs” when you fail a qualification, all without too much risk attached to make it meaningful pressure.

The best pressure comes from having to perform against other opponents directly or indirectly. Keeping scores, man-versus-man drills, force-on- force contests, handicapping good performers against weaker performers so that the contest is more even are all examples of how to utilize pressure-induced training.

I get very tired of hearing trainers tell me that no one should ever fail. Really? You have never failed in anything in life and had to get up and get after it until you succeed? If you want people that can stand up to the pressure of the street, you need to start having them deal with psychological pressure in training on a very regular basis.

In our training, we constantly put people under adaptive pressure until they evolve into a higher state of function and belief system. They consistently out-perform people that may have been training or working longer but do not put themselves under pressure on a regular basis.

It is time to change the state of training to reflect a new reality. Your opponents are much like you:

— They want to win
— They want to beat you
They are willing to accept some risks in order to do so

You need to be better than they are. You must be able to handle pressure better. You must be able to shoot extremely well under pressure if it comes to that.

The only way that’ll happen is if you start voluntarily putting yourself into pressure situations and learn to thrive in that environment. It is scary at first, but it is more a change in your belief systems.

I have a saying that I tell my students regularly: “Make your mistakes fearlessly.”

This doesn’t mean I want you to be unsafe. It means I want you to go for it, test yourself, push limits, defy conventional thinking that is holding you back and see how far you can go. Pressure is absolutely necessary for personal growth and development.  Without it, complacency sets in and the status quo is maintained but little if any increase in performance is achieved.

While many administrative types don’t like the idea of winners and losers, real life teaches us that it is truly survival of the fittest. 

Recommended for you

Join the discussion

Copyright © 2019 PoliceOne.com. All rights reserved.