September 16, 2014:
Psychological in Nature Pressure is a compelling sense of urgency that forces you out of a normal mode of operating.This post by Ron Avery (one of my personal heroes of Shooting Excellence) provides some valuable insight into the process of developing excellent shooting skills.
Pressure puts you into a higher state of arousal. It’s psychological. Pressure changes your mental state and forces you to deal with challenge over arousal, fear, doubt, and other emotions. If you want to reach higher levels of competency and skill, learn to stay calm in dangerous situations; make good decisions while under duress.
You absolutely have to have pressure on a regular basis and learn to thrive under it. Pressure is created by making a test of your skill, your will, and your self-image — a test that you care about and that matters to you. It forces you to question your abilities, skills, and your self-confidence.
There should be risk of failure and reward built into this test. It can be light, moderate or heavy; depending on what level of training you are at. Above all, it must be appropriate to the skill level of the participants and they must be agreeable to the test. If they don’t want to do it or complain about it all the time, it won’t work out too well.
My emphasis is on Competition, but in fact this training technique is apparently positioned in the "Self Defense" area.
One of the primary reasons why I became involved in IPSC competition was that .... well, I bought a gun.
I own several guns, but this was a 1911 style pistol which I though would allow me to be 'competitive' But I had no idea how well I would compare with other people, so I got into USPSA just so I could learn if I was as good as I thought I was.
I was not as good as I thought I was. I'm better, now, but still not really very good.
The thing is, when you are shooting under pressure, the whole shooting thingie comes down to one thing:
You're not prepared When Things Go Wrong.
I've been competing for over 20 years now (okay, 30 years ... but who's counting?) and the one think I've learned is that something ALWAYS goes wrong. Your individual performance doesn't depend on how accurately you can shoot, nor how quick you are on the draw. It depends on how you react when the situation goes into the crapper.
Prepare for a Gunfight?
No, unlike many others (and Ron Avery, who deliberately posits his contributions to attract readership; he's a professional writer, I'm not) I'm not training for a gun fight. I'm just looking to get better at the things I like to do .... including spending a day at the range trying to be a better gun-handler than I was yesterday.
For the past few years, I've been teaching a shooting class which is preperatory (sp) for folks who want to compete in USPSA matches. I've learned more than I've taught, and one of the things I've learned is that most people who think they are 'good shooters' make very elementary mistakes.
The most common mistake? It will amaze you!
At least 50% of New Shooters fail to properly seat their magazines when they load their gun. They want to Look Good, so they are very snazzy when they load up for the first lesson; but the invariably fail to check that (1) they have properly seated their magazine, and (2) that a round has actually been loaded in the chamber.
So when the buzzer goes off, instead of
And I just look at them, waiting for the moment when they turn their head and look as me with that invariable quizzical expression ... like a dog who has peed on the rug and KNOWING that they have done something wrong, but look for me to tell them what it is.
"It's your time, the clock is running. Deal with it."
This is what "PRESSURE does to Good Shooters.
It turns them into idiots.
While The First Lesson is supposedly about learning the range commands, it's actually about controlling the gun. All they have to do is to load their gun and shoot one round at a target 7 yards away; but they can't do that.
Because they're under PRESSURE!
The pressure of TIME, and everybody is watching them. They have failed the first rule of gun handling .. which is not about safety, at all.
The first rule of Gun Handling is: When you are advised to MAKE READY .. you have to make sure that you are loaded, and ready.
Getting back to "win a gunfight" and "train under pressure":
Look. Most of us think we're pretty good with guns. The truth is, we're not.
We don't really think we're going to "get into a gunfight", but we're sure we are ready if we do.
YOU are not!
Something is going to go wrong, and it is usually that part where you load your gun. Here are the rules:
- Make sure your magazines are fully loaded
- .. and that they are fully seated
- Then check that you have done the first two steps
- and press-check to confirm that there is a round in the chamber
- .... and then that the pistol has gone back into battery after checking your load
That's why I enjoy IPSC/USPSA competition. It allows us to make all the easy mistakes, and many of the not-so-easy mistakes, involved in being prepared to shoot with true confidence.
We've made all the mistakes, we've learned from them, and every time we miss one single step in our preparation it comes back to bite us on the ass. There's only so much humiliation we can accept; eventually, we learn to do all the checks, all the cautionary measures, all the actions which help us to avoid the humiliation of not being prepared.
So, like good Boy Scouts, when we go to the line at a match, we are always prepared.
What does that do for the folks who want to win a gunfight?
- No self-confidence .. only TRUE confidence that we are prepared to shoot.
- there is no Number 2. If you're prepared, then it's only judgement and confidence.