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Hitting the target in 2010: Why a seven yard line?


I am excited to be back at SHOT Show again this year and to see all the great new firearms and equipment developed for sportsmen, the military, law enforcement, and shooting aficionados. We are sure to see new engineering feats such as better ergonomics, more efficient mechanisms, lower maintenance requirements, and hot new calibers. But there are some things that have never changed and, frankly, some things that have actually gone backwards in terms of humans using the shooting instrument in the context for which they are designed to be used.

“Artifacts” such as yard lines and targets that look like silhouettes, ten rings in the abdominal area, and absolutely no cover to use on the range still seem to permeate our training. From a motor learning standpoint, these things make no sense at all.

Some artifacts such as six-round strings of fire and “shoot two and assess” come from our recent revolver past. Others such as standing out in the open and shooting slowly from fixed distances without uttering a word (or any other “context” whatsoever) are partly the traditional way we measured “marksmanship” in our military tradition. For whatever reason, we still do these things but they should be eliminated. Training has to be brought up to the standard of modern motor learning. In the Street Survival Seminar we remind everyone in attendance to practice the way they want to perform in the real world.

You say that the phrase “we need to train the way we want to play” isn’t a modern principle but a long-honored coaching maxim for optimal performance. You’re correct.

An athlete conducts a skill under stress — we are all athletes playing in a very high risk event called law enforcement and need to train like it.

There are no seven yard lines in the real world, but there is plenty of cover!

When Frank Repass of Orlando PD first introduced a “one-hit qualification” lots of folks were stunned that he would put officers under that kind of pressure, but the wisdom of the process soon became evident. Now we see targets with subjects looking away, ten rings that are heart-lung shots, and cover being used more and more. This is great but what are you doing?

We need to practice all of the skills associated with “winning” not qualifying. We need to verbalize, use cover, shoot from varied distances, and all the other attributes that will build confidence and faith in our ability to win gunfights. We need to provide a variety of stimuli to our officers and make sure they aren’t “gaming” the system like we used to do in the old qualification courses where we would stage our triggers, pace our shots, and blacken our front sight, to improve our “scores.”

There are many new ways to prepare our folks to win and we need to be on the alert for all of them. Here are a few (add your own ideas in the comments area below).

• Use simunition and other scenario-type training devices
• Learn about one-hit qualifying and other intense performance metrics
• Use more realistic targets to develop handgun performance
• Build in problem solving under stress during training

We need to make sure we train safely but stressfully and put the cues, visual patterns, and movements into our training we will need in the real world. We are not just training a skill but an entire mental package to make our folks resilient even when wounded so include physical and mental drills where they have to fight through with one hand disabled or from a supine position or whatever your imagination can up with to prepare them for the one task firearms training, weaponry, and equipment is really about...winning!

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