30 Apr Training Overall
As instructors, we put a heavy emphasis on training, or practice. Let me be frank: there is no gear one can buy that will make them a better shooter. We can buy equipment that accommodates our shooting, i.e. optics, lasers, grips etc., but these items alone do nothing for us without a mastery of the fundamentals of marksmanship.
An analogy I use frequently when talking to potential students is that of a bow hunter. When someone says they want to become a bow hunter, what they are saying is they want to become an archer, then utilize these skills at hunting. These are two different disciplines. If Cam Hanes or Steve Rinella never touched a bow again, this alone would not take away their effectiveness as hunters, they simply would not have a tool that was available to them before. The same concept applies in the tactical world, but with different intended consequences. To be a ‘self-defense’ shooter, so to speak, one must become a marksman, then apply these skills to self-defense scenarios. When training for self-defense it is imperative, we get to a point where we are no longer thinking about the gun anymore; we are simply problem solving with the tool we have in our hands.
Getting to this point of proficiency takes significant time and repetitions. The NRA has said you have to shoot 50 rounds a month to stay at the level you are at. Let’s break this down a bit, as this isn’t a casual range session. This is mind-muscle connection, focused on every little movement and every round that comes out your barrel. Imagine, or follow along. Simply stand, then sit or vice versa. Now do this again and think on the feeling of every muscle moving in your body through these apparently simple motions. This is the level of focus needed to progress. What does this mean for us? It means we have to care.
We will never rise to the occasion; instead, we will only fall to our lowest point of training. This is an expression that is commonly used in the tac world. The reality of the situation is that when gross motor skills fail due to adrenaline and ‘the world is on fire’ we will probably perform to 75% of our lowest point of training. Ask yourself if you honestly have the skills necessary to defend your life and the life of your loved ones. Are you content with your abilities? I am sorry to say that if you answered yes, we have identified our first problem. Mindset. You will never, ever…be good enough to prevail, while existing in the lull of this comfort zone.
Training is a lifelong commitment, it is a lifestyle, and it will change your mind set in unforeseen ways. It only starts with the gun, then turns into your vehicle preparedness, wildlife survival, and so on. You will begin to ask yourself, “do I have medical equipment, do I have water purification, do I have 60-90 days’ worth of non-perishable food?” Do I sound crazy yet? I am willing to bet not, given the wakeup call of 2020. When covid-19 hit, the sometimes-mocked “prepper” saw the fruit of their labor. While everyone else, and maybe you, rushed to get toilet paper, the preppers simply switched mental gears. These men and women took a deep breath and said to themselves, “Word.” Keep in mind, I am not talking about the folks with three undergrounds bunkers and full level MOPP gear, but I am not bashing them either. Something I do when I teach is not only show a student where they are, but hopefully identify a path to where they are going.
In 2014 I was ‘deployed’ to Kosovo. (My veteran brothers and sisters will get why I used quotations. A Little inside joke!) Anyway, I was deployed late and did not receive all the training needed for the mission. As it so happened, one of our unit’s taskings was riot control. While conducting a joint training exercise with the Germans, we donned our riot gear and started to drill. Unbeknownst to us, the Germans would be acting the role of rioters. All of a sudden CS gas cannisters popped, and as acrid smoke filled our lungs, we knew the situation had changed drastically. Through the gas, a line of German servicemen and women with masks came running at us. We rushed into formation and prepared for impact. One major problem: I did not know any of the movements. Fear took me, my vision narrowed, everything seemed fast and slow at the same time. I froze. My commander grabbed me by the arm, snapping me out of this daze and yelled, “Do what you were trained to do!”
I simply could not, however, as I was not physically or mentally prepared for this scenario. After the exercise was over, I sat discouraged, coming to terms with the reality of what just happened, asking myself “what if that was real?”, over and over again. I was a United States Army soldier, and I froze during a training exercise. I let my team and platoon down. Even more than that, I felt like an embarrassment to our nation, having frozen in front of another country’s military. That said, I was lucky this happened during a training exercise. Had it been a real-world situation, I could’ve gotten someone hurt or killed.
So again, we truly don’t rise to the occasion; instead, we default to our lowest level of training. In this scenario mine was zero, but you have to ask yourself how long it took for my service brothers and sisters to get to a point where they got into formation by simply hearing a verbal command under stress, all with elements of surprise creating unforeseen danger, and CS gas burning their face. Ask yourself, under similar conditions of duress, can you accomplish your mission? It’s the middle of the night, you’re half asleep, and the door gets kicked in. What do you do? Your $2000 laser won’t save you; what might, is your willingness to continue sharpening skills and instincts, and the application of those with any tool reasonable to the job.
Stop buying gear, stop buying gun after gun, stop thinking you’re ready. Take a class, take a private lesson. Train.
See you on the high ground.
By: Josh Sandoval – RSO and Firearms Instructor at Bellevue Gun Club