Out running your headlights

Recently in a class, I had a sidebar conversation with one of the student’s spouses. He’s a dialed in operator has been for quite some time. We were discussing our frustrations with regards to folks shooting faster than they can process the available information.

He was commenting how within his organization he sees a lot of folks who fail out of the qualifications because they are shooting well beyond their abilities in a shoot house/CQB scenario.

We see something similar in our assault programs as well, when shooters aren’t able to process the information quickly enough to prevent themselves from shooting a no shoot or failing to shoot a threat. In a sense, they shoot first, ask questions second. It all boils down to thinking on your feet, being able to quickly process the information, sort out what is critical, discriminate between friend and foe and then apply lethal force if necessary. When guys are running through the shoothouse with nothing on their mind but “shoot, shoot, shoot” they don’t see things they should. That’s not only a liability, it’s just plain JV.

There are a lot of folks preaching “speed, speed, speed” without really knowing the adverse effects of that type of conditioning. It’s great if the only target discrimination you have to do is on a flat range of a brown sided target or a white sided target. That hardly represents true target discrimination in the real world. There are so many other responsibilities and tasks that shooting is only part of the equation. I put way more stock in the guy’s who can take in the big picture, not get so tunnel vision they miss things.

The truth of the matter is we’ve got to teach the shooters to be able to process the information as it’s coming to them real time and make accurate split-second decisions. This is why we put a higher premium on marksmanship, The shooter has their individual and team responsibilities they must perform, shooting is only a part of it.

Moving into other realms, performing target discrimination is often foreign to many students. All they every do is practice engaging a shoot threat, it is a planned event. Everyone knows what’s about to happen so there are no “unknowns”. There are planned events and unplanned events. On the range, everyone practices planned events, so there rarely is surprises or complexities to deal with, but most everything we do in real life falls in between, what we call a semi-planned event.

When we run our Multiple Threat Tactics class it is sometimes the first look at more than one person in a scenario. We explain early on that not everyone is a shoot threat, that you have to perform some form of target discrimination. This can fry the circuits of some who haven’t really had to deal with IFF scenarios. Then as the situation starts to get ramped up they mistakenly engage threats without justification for lethal force being met. That is a serious problem obviously and when we debrief the drill we ask them to justify their actions. A lot of times there is a blank stare at the other end.

Yes, shooting fast is important, don’t get me wrong, but so is not shooting the wrong target or failing to shoot the right one. No rush, you only got the rest of your life.

6 thoughts on “Out running your headlights

  1. TonyK says:

    For myself this points out the negatives of using shooting “games” as training. Training opportunities in my area are rather scarce so I started shooting in IDPA matches for the self defense bent that they claim to have. But of late it seems to be far more focused on speed and the gamer side of things. You know exactly what and where you are going to shoot. Accuracy is still there but it takes a back seat to speed, the guy who runs and guns will just about beat you every time when the scores are tallied, even when he misses a lot and even hits no shoots or fails to neutralize a threat. Not exactly indicative of your ability to handle yourself in a true defensive situation.

    I would love to have the opportunity to shoot a course or stage “blind”, ie no walkthroughs or really knowing what is coming. I would think this would be far more valuable to a defensive shooter than being the fastest guy to punch holes in brown cardboard.

    Target discrimination seems to be a huge part of defensive shooting and it is totally ignored by many. The more I learn, the more I realize actually pulling the trigger is only a part of a bigger picture.

    If you ever hold a Combative Pistol 1 class in the Pacific Northwest count me in…

    • Jeff Gonzales says:

      Great stuff Tony. You are right regarding games, however I will say this. You get out of it what you put into it. If you care little for accolades, but rather use the matches as testbeds for your skills and equipment its a win. RE: CP1, we rarely do them out of our home state so you will have to travel to one. Until then, take care and stay safe.

  2. TonyK says:

    Jeff
    Absolutely agree that you get out what you put into it. Accolades are definitely not for me, I don’t even check the scores anymore. I tend to just pay attention to my shooting, what went right and what went wrong, how can I improve etc. I try my best to self analyze how things went.

    What concerns me is that shooting too many IDPA matches might instill some bad habits (due to some of the rules of the game) and is there a good way to avoid this. And this goes for all training. Just how do I spot things that may be detrimental to my training?

  3. RamZar says:

    Target discrimination, identification and surroundings are key and require throttling back on the speed dial. Knowing target foreground, background, up and down will tell you to either forgo the shots or take fewer well aimed shots with safer exit trajectories. Examples are NYPD in densely populated areas of NYC this year and last and LAPD in the two newspaper delivery women during the Dommer incident.

    Speed is a blessing and a curse. The proper application of speed based on the scenario is what I strive for.

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