Self-Defense Tip: Be Cool, Fool

“When an expensively-trained police officer from one of the largest police departments misses a felon six times at a range of ten feet (and don’t think this doesn’t happen), his failure is not due to his technical inability to hit a target of that size at that distance, for he has demonstrated on the firing range that he can do so,” Col. Jeff Cooper writes in Principles of Personal Defense. “His failure, and often his consequent death, is due to his lack of concentration upon his marksmanship—the loss of his cool.” Cooper correctly points out that grace under pressure is an invaluable survival skill for an armed self-defender that’s both genetic and environmental. In other words, you can train yourself to be cool. So how do you do that then?

Cooper recommends that armed self-defenders play football “of course.” He also sees training benefits from sailing (sailing?), flying, motor racing and mountaineering.

I know I speak for many members of our Armed Intelligentsia when I say my knees are shot; boats, planes and track days are well out of my price range and the highest point of Rhode Island is 812 feet. And my parachuting days are over.

But I get the main point: do something where you have to make decisions in the middle of a big ass adrenal dump. Even better if that something involves shooting at targets. In that sense, I’m down with Cooper’s exhortation to shoot competitively.

The average competitive pistol shot works and trains far harder to earn a little brass cup than the average policeman works and trains to acquire a skill that can save his life.

We’ve talked before how competitive shooting is NOT self-defense shooting and can create training scars (e.g., no “no shoot” targets) that can get your ass killed. But the benefit of shooting under pressure outweighs the disadvantages of having to reprogram yourself on a regular basis. As long as you do.

I also can’t stress enough the value of force-on-force training. Wherever and whenever you can get some, get some. Nothing quite prepares you for firing a gun whilst being fired upon like firing a gun whilst being fired upon. Eventually it becomes . . . routine.

All that said, finding your inner Dirty Harry is not necessarily the key to survival. In fact, coolness seems to fly in the face of some of Cooper’s other personal defense principles. How can you keep cool when you’re also trying to be explosively fast, unreservedly aggressive and morally ruthless?

Dunno. And even if you manage that trick, you might get killed anyway. Still, that is the goal.