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No matter how good you are on the range, it doesn’t replicate the conditions you’d face if someone was really trying to kill you. Adrenaline, faster heart rate, the complex environment of the real world, and the fact that the target isn’t made of paper, steel, or gel (and may be shooting back) all add up to reduced accuracy.

You can partially make up for this by practicing with a high heart rate (doing things like running with sandbags), or by using something non-lethal, but still painful to train against others, like Simunitions or some training simulators. But these solutions have one important thing in common: they rely on putting the most realistic memories in your brain possible.

How does this work? This video about preparing for high risk, low frequency events explains it pretty well . . .

To prepare for something you can’t really practice, you need to work with your brain. To make decisions, we rely on recognition-primed decision making, or RPDM. When you’re faced with a bad situation, your brain searches its “hard drive” looking for similar patterns in your memory for something that worked out well, and then you end up going with what works.

When you don’t have anything similar in your memories, you’re going to have a rough time of things unless you have a lot of time to think it over. Sadly, in most defensive encounters, you won’t have time to think it through.

We don’t all have the time or money to do things like sign up for Simunition shoot houses or advanced taser-like use of force simulators. Just hitting the range on a regular basis is hard enough for most of us, and if we’re not exhausted from work in both the morning and evening, we might also get some dry-fire practice. So, most of us are going to need to come up with other wayus help us put something useful in the old noggin.

Fortunately, when I was doing some research for another article, I came across a study from the Netherlands at Force Science (a website you should already have bookmarked). It’s not new, but it sheds light on something many of us are already doing in the gun community to improve our odds . . .

After an initial shooting exercise to establish a baseline, some officers were exposed to a seven-minute session during which they imagined themselves shooting with unfailing accuracy even when under the stress of an attack, while a control group merely listened to unrelated audio input.

When then exposed to a simulated gunbattle, the mental imagers consistently out-performed the others, whose targeting skills under fire tended to erode significantly from their “normal” level of accuracy.

This finding has led the researchers to recommend that imagery exercises not only be incorporated into “regular” police training and practice but that officers “use mental imagery whenever they have a spare moment” to improve their performance in what may be life-or-death situations.

How can you do this at home? It’s actually fairly easy. There are a number of YouTube channels that give you footage of self-defense encounters along with some analysis and tips.

Active Self Protection is one good example, and the many, many accounts posting wild videos of crime on YouTube are another source. Just searching “Body Cam” can bring up some good results.

What you do next can turn recreational video watching into useful training. Instead of just watching the video, visualize yourself in the person’s shoes doing what you should do in that situation. Ask yourself some questions . . .

  • What should I do in that situation if it was me? (Fight? Run? Find cover/concealment?)
  • What is legal in that situation? What’s moral in that situation?
  • Are there any new skills I should be practicing on the range?

If you don’t know the answer, find reputable sources to get the answers to these questions. If you haven’t already, take a good class given. by a reputable instructor so you’ll know the basics when trying to answer these questions.

Also, do what the study above suggests and visualize yourself shooting if that’s an appropriate and legal response to such a threat. Visualizing yourself doing the things you need to do creates a memory in your mind of doing things right. That memory will pop up if you’re faced with a similar enough simulation to light those neurons up.

The more variety of situations you’re exposed to in this way, the greater the chances are you’ll be ready if such a situation were to come up in real life, so don’t just watch a few videos and call it good. This is something you can and should do regularly and it won’t cost you anything.

Don’t be afraid to search out things you’re personally most likely to run into. It’s all about having not only the data, but the right data in your memory bank. For example, if you work at a phone store or a jeweler, search for videos of store robberies to train with.

You’ve probably never heard anyone tell you this before, but go watch some YouTube now. It’ll be good for you.

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  1. I am a student and I do work part time on this website to meet my needs. One who is jobless or want to earn more money for himself, (buc-49) should must try this because this is really very easy and less time consuming and also advantageous
    without investing any amount..

  2. This video has either been DDOS’d for being part of this article or has been moved by YouTube for the same reason.

  3. I HAVE been under stress. Unarmed & jumped by a thug on the el in Chiraq. I performed quite well. And intervened in attempted crime-more than once. Like being in combat without a medal. YouTube is a major resource. Just be aware there are a lot of self-proclaimed experts out there you aren’t!

  4. Take the time to mentally “survey” the places you frequent on a regular basis. Your house, workplace, favorite restaurants, gas stations/convenience stores. Assume a situation where a DGU would be called for in those places. Where and in what direction would an attacker most likely come from? Where are the exposed areas that you shouldn’t stick around in? Where can you find good cover/concealment? What’s the safest direction to shoot towards (in terms of avoiding overpenetration)? Do the owners/employees of those places carry or keep defensive weapons on hand (in other words, can you expect backup)?

    Don’t leave to thinking, what you can concretely find out. The more questions like these that you can pre-answer in advance, the less sources of hesitation there will be in the heat of the critical moment.

  5. Yea tons of good data on YT… like YankeeMarshall… amiright?

    But seriously, some people have total shit situational awareness. It’s kinda scary actually.

  6. You simply CANNOT train people over U-TUBE to use firearms aand to even considxer it is borderline insanity. Take the POlice or Armed Service. Itakes weeks of training to become even mildly competent and this has to be backed up with periodic and incessant training routines under supervision. To get to a professional standar takes more than that, or it bloody well should to attain the messessary PSYCHOLOGICAL steadfastness. Have you any idea as to how long it takes the UK or the USA to train a Recruit in basic musketry by some of the best instructors in the world/ ? Though on second thoughts it’s perhaps better to compare it to US Police Training. However I seriously doubt that U-TUBE training has a very big part to play in it. Train by U-TUBE. SERIOUSLY!

    • You missed the whole point.

      This is nothing new. For years (decades), we have visually rehearsed missions before executing them. Usually just after the mission briefing and main rehearsal, we would sit quietly with our eyes closed and visually play through the mission.

      Mockups, models and realistic training facilities all provide the same purpose that the author proposes by watching YT videos. It enables the person conducting the exercise to visualize the scenario and environment.

      Unlike you, Albert, I have spent decades in the military, in combat.

    • Albert the Fake-Limey Poncey Liar,

      ” Itakes weeks of training to become even mildly competent and this has to be backed up with periodic and incessant training routines under supervision.”

      But “no one needs more than 25 rounds”??? We’re sick of your lies, you wanking poofter. You are NOT a Brit, you are NOT (and never have been) a military firearms trainer. You live in your mommy’s basement, and probably flunked out of community college. Go micturate up a cable, you lying s***weasel.

  7. Jeff Cooper spoke of this all the time, but in a slightly different vein:


    All the training or situation study in the world will not help if one is not already predetermined to do what ever it takes to survive and live another day. This, in and of itself, takes some real practice and soul-searching long before encountering any life-altering incident. In some cases it may mean standing one’s ground, in others it may involve running away as fast as one can.

    And Ablert: I don’t think the concern here is as much “firearms training” online as it is to present or filter out a large number of “situations” and postulate how I might deal with them if I was unfortunate enough to find myself in a similar position.

    There have been many cases of LEOs killed and maimed around the world simply because, at the time, they couldn’t really believe what was happening right before their eyes, or because their training also involved concerns about what might happen to their career path if they actually defended themselves with what ever means they needed to allow them to go home to their wives and families at the end of the shift.

    I’m not one to sit around watching YouTube if the video takes more than about 20 seconds- I prefer reading. For those who seem addicted to “The Tube”, however, it might be better than the other BS they’re watching.

  8. Ever watch a precision flying group such as the Blue Angels prepare for a performance?

    Sitting in a chair, eyes closed, visualizing each element of the performance; essentially “playing it out in their heads” before they ever hit the tarmac.

    We used similar techniques when I was racing, closed-course autocross (Solo II). We were not allowed to drive the course before the actual competition.

    First we would walk the course to get familiar with the layout. Some of us drew a map and then visualized driving it. Others actually “walked the course” in their mind, envisioning their position behind the wheel while imitating the car turning and negotiating the elements. It looks silly to a bystander, but I found it invaluable in preparation.

    This is what I was asking about the other day, in how to prepare for a stressful situation while being concerned how I would perform “when the rubber hit the road.”

  9. Shoot IDPA or USPSA. Nothing like a timer and friendly competition to push your fundamental skills and provide a little stress.

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