Self-Defense Tip: Don’t Get Training Scars

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For some self-defense shooters finding time to train is the hardest part of training. Maybe that’s just as well. I’m not sure what’s worse: not training at all or training yourself to do something stupid. For example, the vast majority of shooters at a gun range shoot their gun dry, reload and shoot again. Wash, rinse, repeat, pack-up, go-home. If you train yourself to empty your gun once a month for five years or more what do you think’s going to happen when you start shooting in a defensive gun use (DGU)? Strange but true: someone who doesn’t train at all, ever, may be better able to avoid shooting the wrong person better than a “highly trained” shooter . . .

It’s easy enough to train yourself to add that “should I or shouldn’t I” moment to your self-defense training. Just bring your gun to the target don’t shoot. Ah, but you need to do it intermittently. Sometimes aim your gun, shoot one round and assess. Sometimes aim and shoot multiple rounds, assess then shoot more rounds. Sometimes just aim and not shoot, period.

Not so easy now, eh Mr. Bond? You must constantly fight the lure of routine. While it’s true that repetition is the key to creating and maintaining shooting skills, mindless repetition creates bad habits. Habits that become strategically inadvisable automatic responses in a DGU. Training scars.

Training scars can get you killed. Or wound or kill someone who didn’t need wounding or killing.

In the video above, trainer Mark McGregor correctly emphasizes the importance of movement during a gunfight. He draws, moves laterally, shoots and checks for other bad guys. He repeats the exercise incorporating a reload and a malfunction. Clearly, he’s doing it from “muscle memory.”

See the problem?

McGregor is in the open. He’s only moving one step in any direction. If you practice McGregor’s technique as displayed in the video exactly as directed, you’ll create a new natural instinct: one-step it and stop.

[If McGregor was facing an actual bad guy at the wide-open SIG range he’d need to either run-up to the bad guy or zig-zag for a door ASAP, shooting as he ran.]

A better training regimen: practice drawing your weapon and high-tailing it for cover. Run like hell. Then move from that cover to other cover. As I learned during force-on-force training, you need to KEEP moving, scanning, assessing, fighting.

If you can find a range where you can shoot before, during and/or after this mad scramble for cover so much the better. More likely McGregor’s right: home is the best place to practice this kind of armed self-defense movement. (LaserLyte makes an excellent dry-fire targeting system; review to follow. And don’t forget to draw the blinds.)

It is absolutely critical to “train as you fight.” It is equally critical that you don’t train as you won’t fight. In other words, you don’t want training scars that will limit your options.

Designing a training regimen that improves your gunfighting skill set—without creating potentially fatal “muscle memory” responses—is a bitch. But anything less could be worse than simply winging it.

Bottom line: do it right or don’t do it.

comments

  1. avatar Pascal says:

    Can’t wait to read your opinion on LaserLyte. Seems like a pricey tool. American Handgunner just reviewed it and said the hits where high which will force you to change your aim. This may enforce a bad habit as you explain in this post.

  2. avatar uncommon_sense says:

    I agree completely with the author of this post that we need to practice with movement. Unfortunately there are very ranges in the country that allow movement while shooting.

    But why let that stop you? As the old adage goes, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” And there are a couple nice alternatives. First of all, many people are within a few hours drive to a secluded (e.g. safe) location in a state or national forest. You could set up coolers, empty cardboard boxes, camp chairs, towels, blankets, etc. for elements of cover and make your own little range. It would cost next to nothing and take less than 15 minutes to set up. And there is no time limit. You can spend as little or as much time as you want training, take breaks whenever you want, practice malfunction drills, whatever.

    If that doesn’t appeal to you, why not purchase an airsoft pistol for $20 and practice safely in your home, in your yard, at a friend’s yard, etc? For anyone who doesn’t know about airsoft guns, they are basically toys that shoot lightweight 6 mm plastic BBs at velocities on the order of 300 fps. They are safe to use as long as the participants wear safety glasses. (I took an airsoft plastic BB on a knuckle once from 40 feet. It stung a little bit and left a small welt for a few minutes and that was all.) Airsoft does not have the potential to cause huge bruises, welts, or blood blisters like simunitions or paintball, airsoft doesn’t make the mess that paintballs make, and airsoft is considerably less expensive than either simunitions or paintball. (You can purchase a container of 5000 BBs for about $14.) You can even purchase airsoft BBs that are biodegradable for outdoor use.

    Of course airsoft isn’t quite the same as live fire because the trigger and recoil on an airsoft pistol differ from actual firearms. Given the other benefits (cost, safety, availability), I hope that people consider it seriously.

    1. avatar Ralph says:

      there are a couple nice alternatives

      Downtown Chicago seems to be a popular choice.

      1. avatar Will says:

        Sorry. The stakes are too high for my tastes.

  3. I would like to put another concept of focus on this type of training. I teach this in my classes and believe it to be very true. Visualization is very important. However, what makes us different than the guy on the other side of the door trying to move to a place where we can most easily (and justifiably) place the “High-Speed, Lead Injections” is that they don’t see what happens next.

    What I mean is that these people have a set standard: They see it, They want it, They take it. There really is not any more of a thought process to it than that. As law abiding citizens we have the ability to think of what happens next. What will the Officer say? What will the Judge say? What will his attorney… (ok, we know what the attorney will say! All he cares about is getting his fair share of the loot!!)

    When we stop to think it through (“Follow Through” at its greatest level) we need to consider all of what happens next. The cops arrive. If it is a big city like Dallas Texas, they will immediately try to get you to incriminate yourself. Then they will take your gun… and any other guns that they can get their hands on (Its for your own safety). They will separate you from your spouse so that they can get them to further incriminate you. Then when you go to pick up your guns, you will spend the rest of your income trying find the officer that actually knows where they are. Then, you buy all new guns and prepare for the next encounter.

    Let me quote the man from Houston who shot the two gentlemen (Repeat Offenders, Drug Dealers, Illegal Aliens that had been deported several times before) that were robbing the house next door…. a year later he stated, “If I had known the hell I was going to have to go through [to protect my neighbors home] I probably would not have done it…”

    The point I am trying to make is this: Try to visualize the follow through for after the shoot. Try to consider the possibility of it all coming back to haunt you and your family for the rest of your lives. This may provide you with a whole new meaning for “Shoot, Don’t shoot” scenarios.

    It should also help get you more involved in who is elected Sheriff and who appoints the Police Chief!!!

    Don’t get me wrong…. there is clearly a need to pull the trigger when the time comes. And, you should never feel remorse for ending the career of a violent rapist, murderer, thug that is hell bent on making everyone else’s life suck. But revenge is not ours to get! Our mission should only be to stop the violence. Therefore, if the ‘liberal, pansy-assed’ government of your community is dedicated to making sure that you share the loot with them and their attorneys, you must decided, “Do I really need to shoot?”

    In the case of the woman in Oklahoma where the dispatcher said, “I can’t tell you what you can, or cannot, do… but you do what you need to do to protect your child.”
    EMPTY THE FIGGIN GUN!!!!!

  4. avatar Ken says:

    [If McGregor was facing an actual bad guy at the wide-open SIG range he’d need to either run-up to the bad guy or zig-zag for a door ASAP, shooting as he ran.]

    “Serpentine! Serpentine!”
    (obscure movie reference)

    1. avatar jwm says:

      not so obscure for us old guys,”in laws”. peter falk and alan arkin. great movie.

  5. avatar Andrew Snyder says:

    I agree if going to the gun range and emptying your magazines is all the training you do, you better hope you never find yourself in a DGU scenario.

    But there are plenty of other ways to train. For example, I have learned the ambush spots in my home pretty well through trial and error and my sons extensive nerf collection. The son in question, my oldest is only five, and he loves to play nerf wars with dad. For example, I learned that waiting for someone to reach the top of the stairs is much better than attempting to shoot down the stairs, especially if the person you are shooting at is not sure you are there. Because of the one year old we have a self closing gate at the top of the stairs that requires a free hand and some attention to operate. Even better it makes a distinct noise when being operated. End result is I can wait for the target inside one of the doorways on that hallway, remaining out of sight for their initial over the gate peek, then wait for the noise to know when they are one handed and not really looking to come out and deal some damage. Nerf has also taught me the value of distractions, which I think will work just as well on an intruder unfamiliar with your home and already on edge.

    Paintball taught me the importance of avoiding getting hit. I have never been shot by a led projectile thankfully, but that paintballs hurt I can verify first hand. Nothing is as good a motivator as the threat of pain. I learned a lot about quickly scanning for cover and keeping a mental note on immediately available cover through paintball. I also learned the importance of going prone and making yourself a smaller target. And, paintball has taught me the importance of cover fire and advancing under cover.

    Another thing I do is daydream “what ifs”. This I find helps me establish and evaluate plans for areas I commonly find myself like work, home, car, etc. And this is totally free, if your boss catches you, just explain you were doing some internal brainstorming for that upcoming big project.

    And this is going to be controversial, but I also think I learned a bit from playing first person shooter games. Don’t get me wrong, I freely and openly admit this is no training exercise and anyone who thinks otherwise is only setting themselves up for failure when it counts. But, when I think about the things of value I do get from playing them, always at the top of my list is a better situational awareness for when to shoot or not. I like to play the games where killing friendlys is possible, and bad. And teammates do some really dumb things, like surprise you when you are expecting an enemy, walk/stand between you and an enemy, or stand behind an enemy. Because I make it my goal to never kill friendlys I have learned a good bit about how to handle all of these scenarios with getting friendlys killed by my actions. A close second is I have learned “though I rarely do it in games anymore” that finding a good spot where you can cover an area you expect a goblin to be coming from and staying there is really effective. So much so that they call it camping and frown upon gamers that do it because it is considered poor sportsmanship due to the advantage it gives. But in a DGU scenario, sportsmanship is not real high on the priority list.

    So what I am saying is that while training at the range is good, training at your own range with your own rules is even better, but you can still learn things from other off range activities.

    1. avatar Matt in FL says:

      Andrew Snyder: This was a great comment. Thanks.

      For example, I have learned the ambush spots in my home pretty well through trial and error and my sons extensive nerf collection.

      This line made me laugh out loud.

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