About an hour ago, I fell off my bike. I have no idea how it happened. I was talking to Foghorn on the ‘phone. Suddenly, I was crashing. I aimed the bike for the verge, missed a tree, threw my phone onto the grass, fell/jumped off my bike, slid on the grass and walked away without a scratch. Note: I am not trained in controlled bike crashing. I didn’t consciously aim my body or bike in any given direction to prevent injury. I reckon I’d perform the same way in a gunfight: instinctively. Countless hours of training will have little to do with it. Or will it? Gunfighting; nature or nurture? Back to bikes . . .

At first glance, my reaction to the onset of two-wheeled disaster was down to nurture, or training. The last time I fell off a bike was sometime during the Polk administration. But I skied every winter for four decades. As an inveterate mogul basher, I’ve had hundreds if not thousands of spills, from childhood all the way to middle-aged-crisis-hood. I know how to fall.

Ah, but genetics made me the type of person who wanted to go skiing and, thus, someone who became an instinctive tumbler. It’s the same genetic makeup that attracted me to guns. My nature makes me able to enjoy shooting them—to the point where I’ve gained enough skill to consistently double-tap .45s through the same hole at seven yards with a Glock 30. At the range, anyway.

I can’t say what would happen in a real crisis. As far as I know, I haven’t developed an analogous skill set that would see me through an armed encounter. For example, I haven’t played paintball for forty years. This lack of applicable skills, and the depth of my firearms training, may not be the key variable when it comes to surviving a defensive gun use (DGU). In other words, it may not be as important as it’s made out to be.

For one thing, carrying a gun in and of itself may be the most important part of defending yourself with a gun. Ask any gun guru: situational awareness is the most important aspect of armed self-defense. It prevents attacks (through body language) and it give you time to avoid bad guys. Packing heat makes you more aware of your surroundings.

Secondly, although “mere” brandishing is not popular amongst people who train for DGU, I suspect showing your gat is an enormously successful self-defense technique. We’ll never know for sure; most gun owners who brandish don’t report the incident to the police. In any case, you don’t need a whole lot of skill to threaten a bad guy a gun.

Even if it comes down to actually shooting a perp (i.e. if you need to hit what you’re aiming at), I’m not convinced that basic marksmanship is an acquired skill. I took a forty-something former high school lacrosse superstar to the range for the first time. After a short grip and stance demo, the newb fired Sam’s Smith & Wesson 686 at a target from about five yards. His first-ever group was tighter than anything I’ve ever shot with a revolver.

If we accept the assertion that most civilian gun fights follow the three-three-three rule (three yards, three seconds, three shots), how much shooting skill do you need? The most important skill required—grace under pressure—depends more on nature than nurture. I bet the newb would be better in a up-close-and-personal DGU than a lot of gun training junkies.

Perhaps better. The problem with training is that it can limit your ability to improvise. Of course, that doesn’t apply to good training. But how many people get good training?

Bottom line: I don’t think firearms training is so mission critical that it should be an impediment (i.e. a prerequisite) to concealed carry. Given that much of defending yourself with a gun requires no shooting skill at all, tens of millions of people are genetically suited to using a firearm to defend themselves without any training whatsoever.

What of potential collateral damage? No training, no accuracy, innocent people get shot. Only not so much. Even drive-by shooters and trigger-happy cops rarely hit the wrong person (but BOY do we hear about it). I reckon gun safety’s mostly down to common sense—a characteristic that’s as much a reflection of a gun owner’s testosterone levels as their education.

In a straight fight between instinct vs. training, instinct wins. If you don’t agree, I understand. That’s just the way you’re wired.

26 Responses to Training vs. Instinct

  1. Quote: Even drive-by shooters rarely hit the wrong person (but BOY do we hear about it).

    I knew Chicago cops who considered running firearms classes for gang bangers. They got tired of seeing dead 9 year-olds.

      • Compared to the number of dead gang-bangers. This is all from the Chicago Tribune. How many do you want?

        But Desaree Sanders, 7, was struck in the head, an unintended victim of what police say may have been a gang-related shooting.

        Adamnesha Harris, a 5th grader, who authorities said was not the intended target, was struck in the 8800 block of South Houston Avenue while talking to boys she knew, prosecutors said.

        Amy, now 10, was at home on Joliet`s troubled East Side when a bullet struck her in the head as she watched TV. Prosecutors said the bullet was meant for her cousin, a gang member.

        More than six months after the humid summer night when a stray bullet killed 7-year-old Ana Mateo near her Pilsen doorstep, police Sunday said they have charged a teen gang member as the shooter.

        On Easter Sunday last year, 7-year-old Ashlee Poole was shot on her porch by a man chasing people down the block after a fight over a gold chain. She survived. The fatal shooting of 12-year-old Rene Guillen as he left a neighborhood cleanup came to symbolize a bloody Chicago spring.

        A 3-year-old girl was critically injured outside a South Side fast food restaurant Sunday in what police said was a gang-related shooting that also left two teenagers and a man wounded.

        Two gang members were charged Friday in a drive-by shooting that killed a 13-year-old girl as she played basketball in a West Humboldt Park playground.

        Eighth grader Vanessa Montilla was shot in the neck about 9:45 p.m. Thursday in gunfire that was aimed at rival gang members who were also at the Kedvale Park playground, police said.

        A 17-year-old was charged Friday in the fatal shooting of an 8-year-old girl and the wounding of her 7-year-old cousin, both struck by gunfire as they jumped rope on the porch of a Roseland home earlier this week.

        Banks, of 585 S. Genessee St., Waukegan, was convicted this fall of the July 20 murder of Mary Davis, 15. Davis, of the 1500 block of Lyons Court, was shot once in the head as she sat in a car just a few hundred yards from her home.

        As Banks sat without expression next to his attorney, Theodore Potkonjak, Starck cited Banks’ previous convictions as a juvenile for raping an 8-year-old girl and a 5-year-old girl.
        ..
        Starck said he agreed with Lake County Assistant State’s Atty. Matthew Chancey that, although Banks was sorry he killed Davis, he was more sorry he missed his intended victim.

        Rogelio Orozco of the 5000 block of South Washtenaw Avenue was convicted of first-degree murder in the death of Julia Flores. The girl was struck in the head by a bullet as she walked in an alley with friends in the Little Village neighborhood.

        Prosecutors said Orozco was gunning for a gang rival when a round hit Flores. He was arrested later in Arkansas.

        Lawrence Taylor, 19, of 911 N. Hudson Ave., was convicted of murdering Laketa Crosby, a Jenner Elementary School student who was jumping rope when she was shot to death last year.

        In a statement to police, Taylor said he was firing at a rival gang member in the Cabrini-Green public housing project last July 28. After he fired the .25 handgun, he saw that Laketa had fallen, he said.

        Michael Hood, 19, of 6534 S. Bell Ave., and Ladale Spells, 16, of South Claremont Avenue, appeared in weekend bond court Sunday where bond was set for first-degree murder charges. Crystal Merrit, 13, was shot and killed as she walked to school Friday morning with a 15-year-old gang member who was wounded in the attack.

        A 4-year-old boy who was caught in a flurry of gang gunfire in the street outside his Northwest Side home was in good condition Friday afternoon with a bullet wound to his abdomen, Children’s Memorial Hospital officials said.

        Julian Soto was standing with his mother on the sidewalk outside their house in the 1600 block of North Artesian Street Thursday night at about 8:40 p.m. when two hooded men emerged from an alley a half-block south and began firing, witnesses said.

        A teenager has been charged with first-degree murder in connection with the weekend shooting of an 8-year-old girl, Chicago police said late Tuesday.

        Police questioned Kevin Johnson, 17, of the 7900 block of South Sangamon Street on Monday. He was arrested Tuesday morning and charged with first-degree murder, according to a Calumet Area police sergeant.

        Police declined to reveal exactly what role they believe Johnson played in the shooting, in which Paulette Peake was killed Saturday inside a South Side store during what they described as gang-related gunfire.

        The girl was buying candy with her aunt when she was shot in the chest inside Pat’s Food and Liquor Store, 79th and Sangamon Streets.

        A 9-year-old girl was in critical condition Wednesday night after she was shot near her South Side home by a gunman who was firing at another man, Chicago police said.

        The girl, Brandy Thompson of the 9300 block of South Laflin Street, was taken to Christ Hospital and Medical Center in Oak Lawn with a gunshot wound in the back, a hospital spokeswoman said.

        Immediately, he scooped up one of his children and ran for the vestibule of their apartment building at 1349 N. Karlov Ave. As Crump ran, he saw his 11-year-old daughter, Jeanette, already pushing her way through the door.

        By the time he and his other children reached the safety of the building, he knew something was wrong with Jeanette.

        “She was patting her chest, lying down against the wall, saying, `Daddy, Daddy,’ ” he recalled. “When I seen the little blood, I grabbed her and rushed her to the hospital.”

        Jeanette died from a gunshot wound shortly before 8 p.m. Sunday at Sacred Heart Hospital. She was the victim of a drive-by shooting by two men in a beige car, possibly a Cadillac, according to police, who suspect the shooting could be gang-related. One of the men fired shots at a group of people who were standing in an intersection in the 1300 block of North Karlov Avenue, police said.

  2. Training plus experience plus muscle memory plus confidence make the whole. Can an untrained fighter overcome an experienced fighter in a (real) cage match?

    • True dat. But how much of that recipe does the average person need? (BTW: I’m not taking anything away from your skills. There’s nothing wrong with being a MUCH better fighter than a possible opponent.)

      • I’d say intermediate level. Your average street thug only knows how to roundhouse and wrestle on the ground.

  3. I agree with Cujo, because if you can get even three of his four points down you’ve got a great chance of coming out on top.

      • Natural ability is icing on the cake, making you even better. Bruce Lee was born to be a natural fighter. He took that and trained like a maniac. Then he even invented his own form, Jeet Kune Do.

      • Innate skill is really kind of irrelevant if you have the muscle memory (at least in my experience). If you know how to grab someone you are fine in a fight. Cujo is right. Most people don’t know how to fight. Most thugs get by on how they look and act. If you avoid that first wild swing they practically fall into your arms. From there whether or not you lose your head is the issue. A lot of people don’t know it because a lot of people pick up what they know of fighting from TV or movies but most fights instantly hit the ground after the first swing (1-2 seconds from what I have seen). If this number is seemingly preposterous watch a UFC match and see what the underdog fighter does to avoid being beat up. He grabs the puncher and they hit the ground and cuddle for fifteen minutes – seemingly at will and when things are not going his way. We call it a boring fight but the dude is very effectively (in most cases) defending himself through attrition.

        Very, very few fighters can maintain their upright stance if it is challenged. The key, as mentioned on here before with a home defense scenario, is escalation of violence. When that first swing is made and you avoid it (and if you keep your head you will avoid it) you come running at that persons torso as hard and as fast as you can. When you get there you bear hug as hard as you can and then you get your head again. He may have a knife, he may have a gun, he may have whatever it is but that is of little concern to you because you are trying to push him off balance and his immediate concern is (as Robert has already figured out) instinctual. He is trying to keep himself from hitting the ground. He is trying to push back against you but you have taken the initiative and that is very hard to take back IF you keep the initiative.

        Having your arms tied up seems a bad thing in the situation of a knife or gun but really it is all about keeping the other guy engaged in trying to keep upright, his arms are tied up trying to keep himself from the ground. Don’t believe me? Head to a local dojo that does self defense (real self defense – rape defense centers for women) and volunteer and see for yourself. If the person with that wooden gun or knife prop is met with surprise resistance they do (most of the time) have little use for the item in the situation and often end up dropping it or having it rendered useless.

        Where you go from there is up to you. I am a self defense guy. Once I have someone locked up I go balls, knees, eyes all day until it is over. The balls are easy in the hug above if you feel where the attackers left leg is with your right leg. Once you touch the left leg on the inside just pull down with all your might on your arms and up as fast (not hard) as you can. Once you’ve kneed you have opened a nasty door. If you have kept your knee reflexively up (like I do) you can tilt your right leg (think of tying your shoe while standing on the left foot) and stamp down as hard as you can. No one can take a smash to the inside of the knee at that angle, no one. I have been there, I have challenged it. If you kick out that way you will bring an end to the proper walking of that person for life. As for the eyes, well you have thumbs and fingers. Figure it out.

        This is just in my experience in self defense and what I have taken away from it. The aggressor always wins and the first one to BE the MOST aggressive and STAY the most aggressive is the one who comes out of it well. Just my thoughts. Join a dojo and challenge them if you feel like it.

  4. I agree, if only because of history.

    How did all those people who bought Iver Johnsons out of the Sears & Roebuck know how to defend themselves with a gun? People have been using handguns for self defense successfully for over two centuries now. Yet the Modern Technique of the pistol is only about a half century old. And formal combat pistol training wasn’t common until more recently than that. If you learned to shoot in the ’70s or ’80s your training options were limited to your dad, the military, or what you read in Guns & Ammo. Maybe an NRA bullseye class if you were lucky. Only a select few got to go to Gunsite or LFI. It wasn’t until states started liberalizing concealed carry and requiring training for licenses in the ’90s that the modern training industry we know really took off. Coincidentally enough, that’s about the time that Cooper’s students were going off to start their own schools.

    I love having all these opportunities and options, but the whole point of using a gun for self defense instead of a hand-to-hand martial art is that it’s easy. There is some additional benefit to be had from training, but I don’t know if the reward is as great as some would have you believe.

  5. Interesting. I have wondered about this for some time. I try to go to the range and shoot my target, usually at about 7 yds. Any closer seems a little too easy and any farther, I should be “making space” between me and the BG. At 7 yds, I am pretty consistent. I think range shooting is to learn how your gun shoots, kicks, and manual manipulations of the gun… training to fight is WAAAY more mental than physical, all else being equal.

    Stress under fire is the key element. How do you train for the adrenaline, the tunnel-vision, the loss of fine motor skills? People who have played athletics and have experienced situations where the swing of the bat will continue the inning (or win it) or send their team home; the person who has seen battles up close compared to the OFWG mid-level manager; those folks will have an advantage.

    But, I believe a lot can be accomplished just by mentally preparing as well. Thinking of situations you might be in and reacting to it in your mind goes a long way. Ask any elite athletes about visualization and almost all of them employ it in some fashion. To your brain, it has already happened previously – it is then wired to make those connections in the real situation. Sound a little too “new agey”? Perhaps – but I think there is something to it.

  6. How does a (beautiful) model with candy canes sticking out of her backside relate to the subject? Or are we supposed to be so blinded by her awesomeness that we automatically nod in agreement with RF?

    • Well, no. RF is looking for debate, so join in if you have an opinion.

      P.S.
      Please provide link of model with candy canes sticking out of her backside. I missed that post.

      • I swapped out the photo for a news story about an untrained granny performing a DGU. Sorry. Or you’re welcome. Depending.

      • Apparently RF changed the photo, and since he is not explaining what the old pic was, I am assuming that the model objected.

  7. Training is great. Training is fun. The only problem with it is that three days at Gunsight once a year or weekly drills with your trainer only scratch the surface, and not very deeply at that. Even police training is inadequate, and they get a lot more than we mere citizens. I’m not down on training by any means, because it can improve confidence dramatically. However, I don’t think that formal training offers a tremendous return on investment to civilian SD shooters. We’re better off going to the range and shooting again and again to try and master our guns.

    In a real life and death situation, our instincts will take over because we won’t have enough training to override them. Then we’ll either fight or run, or maybe both. Either way, if we panic, we lose. But if we keep our heads, we’ll survive.

  8. Actual civilian self-defense gun fights are chronicled in the “Armed Citizen” features in the NRA monthly magazines, also available here:

    http://www.americanrifleman.org/BlogList.aspx?id=21

    Most of these civilians seem to be prevailing on instinct and a desire to win the fight.

    As for training, based solely on what I have read, there appear to me to be marked differences between the nature of gunfights encountered by LEOs (as chronicled by say, Ayoob) and everyday civilians. Seems to me that one should practice and seek training as it relates to his or reality, not his or her fantasy.

  9. You know the real problem with you guys is a mystical one, call it metaphysical or psychic, if you like.

    You and all your friends, all the like-minded gun owners, who train for that attack or home invasion, by thinking in terms of kill or be killed are putting negative vibes out into the atmosphere. I’m serious. Aside from the fact that such unnecessary paranoia makes you more likely to fuck-up, you’re continually emitting negative and violent thoughts into the universe. That’s bad, in the same way that people who pray together is good, what you guys do is bad.

  10. My one gripe with a lot of firearms training in the self-defense mode, is that it over-relies on trying to create muscle memory that is not in keeping WITH the instinctual reactions of the body. With over 25 years of hand to hand martial arts experience, also involving non-projectile weapons, I will tell you that the best systems of martial arts ( and there are many, I am not parochial), have as an ultimate goal to refine the instinctual mechanisms of the body and make them work under control and precision.

    An example I criticize is in draw drills. Most carry and draw training is from the 3:oo position strong side, or behind the hip, palm in, and some appendix carry — that covers about 75% of the carry population, is my guess. The training I have seen shows essentially “pull, then push” mechanics of the arms in bring the weapon out and then to bear on target.

    Except — when the body is surprised with instantaneous danger and it does not do anything of the kind. The arms flail instead of using push-pull mechanics. The limbs are driven by partly reflexive action that are under largely indirect voluntary control, if any, and thus hard to “train” in any direct sense. Traditional martial arts systems that use seemingly “odd” posturing methods or forms, when you examine them closely, and see them done properly, are meant to train this kind of indirect control working within the reflexive manner of action of the body.

    Any draw drill that does not start with this alternate arm mechanics as a given is working against the nature of the body. One reflex response to threat with a weapon in hand is essentially that of a palm-down throwing motion toward the threat. The wrist thus tends to lead the draw, rather than the muzzle. Another reflexive motion is the same action that happens when you snatch the hand back from a hot pan — the arm retracts and the hand rotates palm inward or up. The latter actually works very well for close-retention draw from appendix carry and firing from the hip.

    But considering reflexive action, the wrist-led defensive throwing reflex causes traditional strong-side draws to be problematic. With the wrist leading, the muzzle faces inward from appendix carry. With a palm-in draw from strong side, the muzzle again naturally points inward at the body during the draw. This is reflexive and thus VERY hard to modify — and hence the seemingly constant attention to the sweeping/flagging problem in draw training. More of concern is that by pulling the wrist back to get the thumb down and between the weapon and body in a strong side grip, the fingers naturally flex, making trigger discipline ineherently harder. Conversely, with the wrist leading the fingers are naturally extended, but then flex naturally when the hand rotates out and on target.

    But reflexes are faster than voluntary motions, anyway, even trained voluntary motions. So go with them and don’t fight them. Choose a reflexive action to train — and that is the reflexive action you will habituate as reaction. Try placing you hand in your carry location and just directly snatch it back or throw it out toward a threat. See what you would have swept in doing so if you had a weapon.

    A wrist-led draw shows how the palm-out behind-hip draw (much criticized in traditional circles), actually both natural and safe. The natural rotation of the wrist point the muzzle away from the body. Cross-draw is inherently natural and safe on the same grounds. Appendix carry needs to use the reverse reflexive “snatch-back” action to draw to close- retention as its initial position — but it is inherently unsafe from the natural reflexive mechanisms if you train a forward draw directly from that position.

    FWIW.

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