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Training for the fight… What can go wrong, probably will.

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A criminal with a gun holding a woman hostage.

Let’s be honest. It’s absolutely great that drawing from concealment is now necessary as part of the Permit to Carry Qualification. If you plan to carry in New Jersey, it needs to be in a concealed holster. So of course, you would need to know how to draw from it properly. That’s just a start, just touching on what’s really needed when you plan to carry a firearm. I’ve heard and felt the excitement, from people who can now finally carry in NJ. So many have been waiting for this opportunity and it now has arrived. The handgun is a tool, to be used defensively to protect human life, and those that choose to carry it, should know how, when, where, it can be used and for what reason. They should also be responsible, and prepared for the consequences if and when deadly force is needed.

Most people, thankfully, do not deal with violence every day. If you really think about a violent, deadly encounter, even if you’ve never experienced it, it’s probably safe to say that quite a few things will be happening, at times simultaneously. You’ll probably need to move, my guess is if you stay flat footed, a sitting duck, things may not end well. You’ll probably need to evade, defend and possibly get into some uncomfortable positions. The attacker will also be moving, using all kinds of angles to inflict possible violence and pain. The attacker will most likely have the upper hand, because his attack was planned and coordinated. Your reaction will then be slower. Certainly, you will be under an enormous amount of stress. After realizing this, you should probably be thinking that the permit to carry qualification is the easy part, it’s just a start. To put it simply, the qualification is not a realistic evaluation of whether or not you can fight effectively with a handgun. Your preparation should not merely be to place a handgun in your waistband, but learning to survive this deadly encounter.

Think about the fight!” I always say in my live fire classes, the fight comes with its inherent consequences. If you haven’t, just imagine, but if you’ve been in a fight, you’ll know what I’m talking about. When your punch doesn’t quite land, when that tackle winds up with a faceplant, when you actually tried to “sweep the leg” but it didn’t quite work. Well, same will hold true in your possible gun fight.

You should also be preparing for those unforeseen things that may happen while using your firearm. We’ve all heard that old adage, “Anything that can go wrong, probably will, and will more than likely happen at the worst possible time”.

Throughout the years I’ve seen so many things happen on the range, from the somewhat prepared to the more experienced shooter, unable at times in dealing with a mishap. There are many factors that would cause things to go bad, stress, fear, anger, the lack of preparation and knowledge, just to name a few. Let’s look at some things I’ve seen happen in a controlled training environment.

Are you a permit to carry holder? Were you nervous during your qualification? Shooters at times, even during simple firearms drills, get nervous, and the silliest things (tragic at the time) start to happen, drawing the firearm but the entire holster also gets drawn, causing that embarrassing moment when he/she then needs to remove the holster, usually throwing it to the ground prior to shooting. This, because you may not have the proper holster/equipment. The slip and falls during some drills, the “click” (so loud!) when trigger is pulled instead of “bang”, the inaccurate shot placement, the really quick miss, forgetting to reload, the inability to think things through clearly during training, all these due to shooter error, and so on…

I remember many years ago, while demonstrating a sequence of fire, as I multitasked (explaining, manipulating, staying aware, checking my area and equipment) some of my fellow instructors came on to the range and began to watch me behind the students. Just their mere presence, threw me totally off my game, “What are they doing?” “What do they want?”, “Did something happen?” …so, there it went, the demo goes sideways, my unseated magazine falls to the floor! Yes, one of those embarrassing moments. If you’ve been teaching for a while, …it happens.

I can say this for sure, if all you’ve done is shoot from a port on a range, you’ve more than likely instilled some bad habits and absolutely need to update your training. Shooting from a port, although beneficial for first timers, develop what we call training scars. In a gun fight, you will not be loading from a table, the target will not just be moving forward and backwards, you will be turning and moving and so will your target, you’ll be under a whole lot of stress, to name just a few realities. It’s important to train more realistically and induce a more realistic response. Like effective scenario-based training, adding movement, incorporating the use of cover, oh, let’s not forget the beloved shot timer! Even for some common tasks, that usually are done without a problem, the mere addition of a timed test brings in the stress. So, when these mistakes happen, they could be diagnosed, fixed and hopefully improved in a training environment, but we should prepare for reality. Nothing in training could replicate the actual stress, fear, anger, poor judgement and decision making that may occur in a real gun fight. Things will get worse under pressure, and so many of these small slip ups can lead to major catastrophes.

Preparing could be challenging. There are so many components that need to be discussed and thought through, what would you do if you witnessed a shooting? will you get involved? how will you ascertain if the shooter is a good guy stopping a bad guy or just a bad guy? What are your true capabilities with your firearm? It’s safe to say that the better you are with your firearm, the more you train at making fast accurate decisions, the more comfortable you are in the fight, the better your response will be when called to action. You have to absolutely come out of your comfort zone and test your skills under pressure. If you’ve trained with me you’ve heard “Proper Repetitive Training Builds Automatic Permanence!”. The more repeatable reps you get in, the more efficient and comfortable you’ll be. Your proper preparation will also build your confidence, the ability to know that you can fight through unforeseen events even when things may get tough.

Let’s not forget about mindset. The pessimist mindset, if you knew that after you changed lanes this morning on the highway, to avoid traffic, your lane would then become the slowest lane, or because your coffee didn’t taste right it was just the start of the worse day ever. Let’s just know that things are not always going to go our way. When dealing with mishaps, since you never know when they will creep up, it’s best to just plan for it, understand it, it will help you deal with whatever life may throw at you!

So, now that you can carry a firearm, if you plan to protect yourself and your loved ones, train for it… full throttle! With confidence comes competence, walk the walk…. Get out of the ports, get into a class, learn what needs to be learned, get good at it!

Remember, “Under Pressure, you don’t rise to the occasion, you sink to the level of your training”.

See you on the range!

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