As we launch the Personal Defense Network, we realize that a huge portion of you are going to be interested in firearms training for defensive use. As I looked over the dozens of topics that I expect to be covered here in the coming years, it was not easy to pick the most important ones. Not easy at all. At the end of the day I think that, when it comes to learning about preparation for the defense of yourself or others, many topics are vital and many more are important.
Narrowing my focus solely to firearms skill development, arguably my specialty, when I looked at our list of contributors and saw the expertise we’ve amassed, it was a little easier to come up with a few topics that needed to be covered early.
Next I considered you, the audience. In a vacuum, it would make sense to start “at the beginning,” but I have an expectation that you are probably already a shooter and have maybe even been through a defensive shooting course or two. To spend a lot of time talking about how to grip a gun or align the sights might be a bit below the common denominator.
With that in mind, I wanted to cover the fact that the mechanics of shooting efficiently—getting the bullet where you want it to go under a variety of circumstances as quickly as possible—are fluid, and not nearly as predictable as some might think.
In the training world, we often hear the phrase “There is no one way.” I don’t always agree with that statement, but when it comes to efficiently controlling deviation, the statement couldn’t be more appropriate. Here’s why:
All shooting is a balance between speed and precision.
Sometimes you need to be more precise, sometimes you need to be faster. Using this concept, most defensive shooting can be described in the following way: You need to get the hit that you need to get as quickly as you can get it. This statement can be summed up in one word: Efficiency. Efficiency includes effectiveness.
- In the Combat Focus™ shooting program, we explain it this way:
- • The target dictates the hit you need to get.
- • Your application of skill determines whether or not you get the hit you need to get.
- • It is your confidence, or belief in your ability that determines when you shoot.
The target determines the need for precision. The size of the target and the conditions under which it presents itself (movement, bystanders, distance, etc.) are what determine your need for precision. You can always make the shot harder—trying to hit a button on a shirt, for example, rather than accepting any hit in the high center chest—but that works against the goal of maximum efficiency. The target and its circumstances are what determine the true need for precision.
It is your application of skill with your given weapon under those given circumstances that will ultimately determine whether or not you actually get the hit you need to get. The concept should be pretty straightforward, particularly if you understand that we are not just talking about your shooting ability, but also about your ability to judge what is going on around you. Specifically, you may possess the skill to mechanically make the shot you need to make, but your ability to apply that level of skill at the time you need it is vital, which is why we stress training realistically.
Your confidence, or comfort if you will, in taking the shot at all determines when the shot is taken. The less comfortable you are with the shot, the more time, effort and energy you will put into the shot. We express that effort as “deviation control.” Would you pull the trigger on a gun during a critical incident if you didn’t believe that you were going to be able to affect your target’s ability to hurt you or someone else?
The easy and right answer is “no.” Of course there is a big exception to this rule. If you are shooting out of fear, you may be pulling the trigger as fast as you can and hoping for the best. In fact, we know this has happened many times during actual critical incidents.
You may be thinking, “So what? Isn’t this article going to tell me when I should use my sights?” No, I’m afraid it isn’t. The question “At what distance should I use my sights?” is right up there with “What gun should I carry?” as one of the least answerable questions ever asked by a student. These are questions that you have to answer.
Certainly an instructor can help guide you, as this article is trying to do, but ultimately, your individual ability and confidence are going to determine when you should use your sights to achieve the level of precision that you need for any given shot. I’m sure that you can imagine scenarios where you would definitely choose to use your sights to achieve a hit, and those where you would not need them. Only through realistic training can you test those theories.
Through realistic practical training, you will learn more about your ability under the circumstances that you are likely to find during a dynamic critical incident. Furthermore, the more realistic your training, the more likely it is to help you recognize the circumstances of a dynamic critical incident and respond more efficiently. Lastly, this type of training can also help you work with the body’s natural reactions to fear and shock, and allow you to overcome the possibility of simply shooting out of fear.
The better you understand your personal balance between speed and precision, the more accurate the correlation between your belief in your ability in a dynamic critical incident and your actual ability will be, and the more efficiently you’ll be able to deal with a lethal threat. Rather than setting yourself for one type of shooting solution, vary your training so that you understand how much deviation control you need in a variety of plausible circumstances.