Self-defense situations trigger your natural fight, flight or freeze response. As your bloodstream fills with adrenalin you start thinking and moving a lot faster than normal. But your perception of time may remain the same. In other words, you have more time than you think you have. I’ve pointed this out before, and counseled self-defense shooters to force themselves to react slowly. Because you won’t be reacting slowly. You’ll be reacting just as quickly as you would in a less stressful environment, but doing so with more control . . .
When you’re trying to avoid or counter a violent attack, the more mental and physical self-control you can muster, the better. You’ll make better defensive choices and, if necessary, shoot more accurately. You may even use your ammunition judiciously rather than, say, emptying your gun and wondering “OK, now what?”
Bottom line: to survive a violent assault, you need to quit the cult of The Fastest Gun in the West. Which is everywhere you look: TV, movies and down at your local gun range. Doing no one any favors.
To wit: Top Shot competitor Sara Ahrens’ performance during last night’s episode. Ahrens choked under pressure. Which is a less than kind way of saying she didn’t give herself the time and mental space she needed to shoot the lightbulbs in front of her with a Smith & Wesson M&P.
For a SWAT team member, that’s a lawsuit of not good. But it’s perfectly understandable. All police firearms training is timed. Shoot X rounds in X seconds at a target at X distance. Ready? BEEP! If you hit center mass but do so outside of allotted time, you fail. Timing is everything.
Civilians are equally susceptible to this focus on frenetic firearms firing. I see it down at the American Firearms School all the time: shooters practicing unholstering their concealed handgun who rush their draw stroke. Time and time again, they push themselves beyond their skill level. There’s no consistency. It’s a herky jerky affair without the slightest hint of grace.
That’s because they’re forcing their gun on target. While they’re hitting the paper as planned, they’re mentally disengaged. They’re not thinking. There’s no time for that. Must. Shoot. Faster. Throw in pop-up shoot / don’t shoot targets and a bit of stress (e.g. yelling commands) and see what happens. Their accuracy—and judgement—goes to hell.
Here’s a piercing glimpse into the obvious: when the SHTF, thinking’s good. Do I really need to shoot that person? Should I stop shooting or shoot some more? Who else needs shooting? All of these thoughts can save your house, your liberty, your sanity and your life. But they require mental bandwidth. You need time to think. You need to slow down.
The shooters in the video above are whippet quick. They’re also professional shooters on a closed course. Whatever planning needs doing is done before they begin. There aren’t a whole lot of variables involved. No friends and family in the field of fire. No hidden bad guys. No cops or passersby. Equally important, they’re wearing hearing protection. And they get a heads-up when it’s time to start.
Professional shooters have to be quick to win. You? Not so much. They’re trying to keep their job and/or earn brownie points. You’re trying to survive.
If you’re under attack, take your time, bring your firearm to bear (where appropriate) and sort it out. Quickly. If you know what I mean. If you don’t, have a firearms instructor demo the concept. Ask him or her to draw and shoot three times: slow, medium and fast. Notice the difference in technique. There isn’t any.
When that’s true for you, too, you’ll have both the speed and the presence of mind needed to use a gun to survive a life-or-death self-defense situation. Or not.