Linear Range Training Scars


You’ve probably heard the saying before, “Train the way you want to fight because you’ll fight the way you trained.”

This is wisdom that you can take to the bank.  When your stress level gets so high that your mid-brain takes over control from your frontal lobe, you lose most of your critical thinking ability.  You’re left with the actions that you’ve actually practiced.  There are a few names for this…

Practicing until you reach unconscious competence
Doing skills that you can execute subconsciously…without consciously thinking through each step
Executing neural pathways that have been repeated enough for myelination to happen
Immediate action drills
Conditioned responses
Executing skills that you have in your procedural memory

Regardless of what you call it, you’re only going to duplicate the actions that you’ve actually done and/or deliberately thought through and visualized in the past.  You’re not going to be able to do things that you only read & talked about or only practiced a couple of times.

Thinking on your feet goes out the window and you end up fleeing, freezing, or repeating whatever “fighting” actions you’ve practiced the most.

You might be familiar with some of the more popular “training scar” stories, like the California Highway Patrolman who was in a gunfight with his revolver and was taking the time to “save” his empty brass and put them in his pocket during his reloads.  He died.  I’m not sure if the empty brass played a role, but I KNOW he could have spent his time doing something better than cleaning up his brass.

Or the story about the officer who confronted an armed robber in a convenience store, did a perfect disarm, and then handed the gun back to the robber, like he did in practice, to get another turn.

It even happened to a friend of mine during a home invasion.  The robber had a Beretta 92FS and my friend did a 1 handed disarm and even released the slide and removed it in the process like he had trained, practiced, and instructed for years.  The only problem was that, as soon as the disarm was done, both he and the robber went back and forth between looking at the gun parts and each other in complete confusion about what to do next.

Which gets me to “linear range training scars”

Essentially, they are the scars that you get when you spend the majority, or all of your training and practice time on a linear range…a range where you can only shoot “downrange”, can’t shoot the walls, and can’t even point your muzzle towards the ceiling or over the berm.

There are literally dozens of examples of these training scars that shooters develop when they only train on linear ranges.

Some quick examples:

  • Shooting humanoid targets with a prescribed number of shots and/or looking for hits rather than shooting until you get the desired effect.  We talked about that >HERE< last week.
  • “Move with the muzzle of your gun pointed down.”  This comes from the fact that most indoor ranges don’t have bullet resistant ceilings, it’s not safe to shoot over the berm at an outdoor range, and a lot of shoot houses have catwalks above them where the instructors walk and watch.

    It makes perfect sense in these situations, but in a close-quarters, weapon retention and weapon strike situation, muzzle down isn’t always the best solution.

    It’s not even always the safest solution.  What if you’ve got young “ankle biters”, family/innocent people curled up on the ground, pets, or you’re upstairs while the rest of your family is downstairs?  This is something you’re going to have to struggle through on your own…I’ve chosen to practice muzzle-up because of the tactical advantages, but I have to switch to muzzle-down at many training and competition events because of range rules.

  • Not knowing how to safely transition between targets that are more than 45 degrees apart—Your transition between targets needs to be different, including your footwork and how you physically move your gun, depending on whether your attackers are close to each other, 90 degrees apart, or 180 degrees apart.
  • My pet peeve, the “silly scan”.  The silly scan is when people engage a target in front of them and simply pay lip service to looking over their shoulders for other threats.  Their feet remain firmly planted, and if they never actually find additional threats, they’re training themselves to go through the motions and don’t “see” additional threats when they’re actually there.  Just to be clear…360 degree checks and checking your “6” are good, but they become “silly scans” when you train your mind to simply go through the motion and not actually see something in the process.  You should look at specific things, like hands for ability and eyes for intent.  If possible, you should treat your environment like a 360 degree environment and move your feet while you’re doing your scan.
  • “Never let your muzzle cross the 180.”  This means that if you’re facing your target and you hold your arms straight out to each side (180 degrees), you should never shoot if anyone is in front of that and you should never let your muzzle cross that 180 degree line.

    This makes perfect sense for training new shooters.  Safety trumps everything else with firearms.  It makes sense on a range where only the downrange backstop is designed to take bullet impacts.  And, it makes perfect sense for shooters who don’t have muzzle or trigger finger awareness (most shooters), but it doesn’t make sense in a real-world, 360 degree environment.

    In the real world, you might actually have to turn your body in a fight.  And while it looks kind of funny to see competitive shooters turned to the side and running with their pistol still pointed downrange, it’s an incredibly ineffective habit to develop for a real life encounter.  I have adopted this on purpose for competition and it’s very irritating to see myself doing it on video.

    This is actually something I train kids as young 5-8 on.  I have kids spread out around a room and start randomly walking around.  Then I give a SIRT (inert training pistol) to one of the kids and have him walk around the room and back while following the 4 rules of firearms safety…one of which is to not point the muzzle at anything they don’t want to destroy.  They have to maintain muzzle discipline and not point the SIRT at themselves or anyone else while moving in a 360 degree environment.

  • “When you’ve got a gun on your hip, a gun is the answer to a lethal force threat” One thing that fighting and free-form force-on-force training has taught me is that going for my gun is not the fastest way to stop an attacker within 10-20 feet (depending on how I’m carrying).  At those ranges, a strike to the throat/eyes/neck are almost always faster and stop the threat faster.
  • “A zone” or “Down zero” hits stop the threat.  Some threats are stopped the instant they see a gun.  Others when they see a muzzle flash.  Others with the first hit, regardless of where it is.  Other threats don’t stop until they no longer have the ability to fight.  A-zone or “lethal” hits don’t necessarily stop fights.  “Lethal” hits have a clock attached to them.  Someone with a nicked femoral artery away from advanced medical care has a lethal injury…but they may still be able to shoot, pull the pin on a grenade, or hit the button on a detonator for several seconds or a few minutes before being out of the fight.  Solid hits give you the highest probability of stopping a fight quickly, but it takes assessment to know whether perfect shot placement equals desired effect.
  • “Shooting while slow-walking straight back”  This is a skill drill in IDPA, and it’s good in a crawl-walk-run progression, but when you call something a lethal force threat and then do the “IDPA shuffle” backwards, straight away from a humanoid target that represents an attacker, it’s not a good idea.  When face to face with a threat, you should move aggressively and at an angle or close distance, but moving straight back puts you psychologically, physiologically, and physically at a disadvantage.  How do you fix this?  When you’re working on fundamentals, use non-humanoid targets…bullseyes, dots, balls, boxes, etc.  When you’re working on combat or self-defense skills, use humanoid targets and humanoid tactics.

And many, many, more.

Don’t get me wrong, range training is valuable–vital, in fact.  But if you think you might ever need to use a pistol in self defense, you also need to practice techniques that will work in the real-360 degree-world after you’ve got your safe gun handling and fundamentals of marksmanship nailed.

Many people will want to figure out the best techniques and drills to do on their own, but if you’re interested in plugging into ultra high-speed, low-drag, accelerated firearms learning techniques developed by a retired Navy SEAL from Team 3, I want to strongly suggest that you check out  It’s firearms training, and results, unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.

What have others who have gone through the course said?

“This has improved my shooting and techniques dramatically. Just when you thought you knew what your doing a great video compilation comes along and makes it better”

“Since beginning working on fundamentals and dry fire drills, my accuracy at the range has markedly improved.”

“My performance has become markedly better and continues to improve.”


When you go there, make sure you read about the 4 officers who are alive, in part, due to the training as well as the 3 big reasons why their training methods are so much more effective than traditional firearms training.  Check out CCMC now by clicking >HERE<

If you’ve got any “linear range training scars”, other “training scars” or training techniques that you’ve used to overcome them, please share them by commenting below…

Please follow and share:
Pin Share


  • Bob

    Reply Reply August 12, 2016

    I got the CCMC and watch it often. It is the best money I have spent in a long time. Larry is an exceptional instructor and very methodical. If you are even thinking about getting this course, don’t hesitate, as the information could benefit you right off the bat, and in today’s society your life and the life of your loved ones could be at stake !!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Ox

      Reply Reply August 12, 2016

      Thanks, Bob…I think the world of Larry and Beau.

  • Tthrasher

    Reply Reply August 12, 2016

    Larry Yatch approaches gun fight and self-defense training like a scientist. The Concealed Carry Masters Program is an excellent resource. It is a great place to start bridging the gap between simple marksmanship and self-defense shooting. Although I have my own methodology, I frequently use much of his material in my own courses. It is highly recommended. MSG THRASHER, SF.

    • Ox

      Reply Reply August 12, 2016

      Thanks, Thrasher…please let us know if there’s any way we can help.

  • David Eberhardt

    Reply Reply August 12, 2016

    I read one of the comments about the pizza delivery guy getting robbed and carjacked. Whenever I pull into a gas station or anywhere else for that matter, during my approach I scan the area and ascertain what the heck is going on and who is in the area. At first, this skill was a little “awkward feeling” but has now become quite easy and comfortable to do. Of course, I don’t take this technique for granted but it has become part of my SOP. Some people might think this would cause you to feel paranoid but the opposite is true. I actually feel more confident and at ease knowing that I most probably will not be caught off guard and subsequently hurt or killed. Soldiers get conditioned to be hyper alert and this can lead to problems later but they actually face numerous instances of live fire or IEDs. In the civilian world, you don’t get that kind of daily exposure so you don’t get the bad side effects from being vigilantly aware.

    • Ox

      Reply Reply August 12, 2016

      Awesome points, David…thank you! Looking around and being paranoid are kind of a chicken/egg thing…they can both go together, but not necessarily.

      Neurologically, the brain is constantly sucking in sensory information and combing through memory to maximize survivability. The more good information you feed the brain, the more comfortable and relaxed it is. The more you deprive the brain of sensory input, the more stressed it becomes without active relaxation…so much so that sensory deprivation is a method of torture and putting a hood over a prisoner’s head (limiting visual stimulus) is a way to stress them and make them more compliant.

      When you look around and give your brain the sensory input that it wants so that it can evaluate threats, it will be less stressed…so, yes, it makes perfect sense that you’re more confident and at ease after scanning your environment. People who scan and are more nervous oftentimes have programmed their subconscious with inaccurate or random threat profiles. When this happens, they identify a lot more things as threats than what is really there…so the more they look around, the more nervous they get. The answer, if you’re talking to anyone who DOES get nervous the more they scan, is to feed the brain accurate threat profiles to minimize false alarms.

  • David Eberhardt

    Reply Reply August 12, 2016

    I read these articles with great attention and intensity since they are always packed with vital information. Due to the strength of these articles I purchased the dry fire training cards and the companion guide. I also have the CCMC which I review regularly. There are many training products out there but I’ve been basing my training decisions on articles like this and many others by David Morris & Ox.

    Keep up the excellent work guys and thank you for all your valuable information!

    • Ox

      Reply Reply August 12, 2016

      thanks, David…I’m glad we can help.

  • Samw

    Reply Reply October 22, 2014

    On another site I mentioned shooting prone it was like herisy!!

  • David Eberhardt

    Reply Reply July 30, 2014

    After reading this article, I am strongly considering laying out the dollars to purchase this course.

  • Middleagedmama

    Reply Reply July 30, 2014

    A smidgen off topic–but good advice–get a gun now and get trained with quality training–I work in a gun store and the guy who delivers our local order of pizza for lunch told me yesterday that he was going to get a gun next paycheck due to the fact that last weekend he was carjacked at 11 pm. After a delivery he stopped at a gas station to fill up. He had gotten out of the car when he realized the station was closed. A man “appeared” (no situational awareness) at his side and put a gun to his head demanding phone, car, & wallet. He gave his phone (bad guy smashed it to stop him from calling 911), and wallet plus tips. He refused to give up his car and got back in it, the bad guy shot into the car just missing him. He gave up the car & bad guy drove off. He was a lucky man. The BG was caught an hour later, car returned but no wallet. Our delivery guy will be packing heat after Friday’s paycheck and will be getting his concealed carry license and carrying (no matter what employer says regarding firearms). He knows he got a freebie that night but he said he’ll never have a gun pointed at his head again. My advice is to get a gun, get trained with quality training – don’t spend all your time shooting downrange at a static target. BGs show up when you least expect it and you need to be ready with the proper response.

  • Allen

    Reply Reply July 30, 2014

    My example comes from when I decided to use an airsoft pistol to do training in my house. I had one of the cheaper models that requires you to manually pull the slide back each time to reload the pellets. That was a lot of fun, and I think very useful.

    My problem came when I next went to the range. I found that I had trained myself to pull the slide back after every shot, ejecting the next round onto the ground!

    • Matt

      Reply Reply August 1, 2014

      I would recommend a gas blow back pistol. It costs a little more than the spring one. It uses propane and silicon oil/green gas and the slide goes back every time. That way you don’t have to manually pull the slide back and it is still safe around the house because it is airsoft.

    • Michael

      Reply Reply October 22, 2014

      I second that! I’m looking at a CO2 blow-back BB pistol as my trainer exactly for that reason. Money spent on GOOD training is money well spent.

      • steve

        Reply Reply October 23, 2014

        i use a Colt Commander Co2 blow back bb pistol very effective tool & inexpensive

  • Dale

    Reply Reply July 30, 2014

    Chuck, that works on someone who just wants to vent anger or looking for an easy target. Not likely to be effective in the scenario described with a homicidal nut that already has his gun drawn. I happened to have participated in that scenario and the two most successful options were to run away without hesitation and hoped the perp. missed (maybe your best option in CA where armed self defense isn’t allowed), or to have positioned yourself when getting out of the car to have options on moving and fighting. My suggestion to all is that when you hear a news story, to imagine yourself in the situation and practice what your options are. I HAVE DONE THIS TRAINING AND HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT. Don’t let the first time you think about or practice these skills be when your life is at stake.

    • David Morris

      Reply Reply July 30, 2014

      ++ Dale. Thanks

    • left coast chuck

      Reply Reply October 22, 2014

      Situational awareness. See Col. Cooper’s writings regarding situational awareness.

      • Ox

        Reply Reply October 22, 2014

        You’re right, Chuck, but I want to add to what you’re saying. I have a pretty good indication that you’re to this point, but not everyone is…

        Knowing about situational awareness is one thing.

        Being able to be consciously situational aware is another thing.

        Being unconsciously situationally aware and having it be a conditional response is something altogether different that goes beyond being able to recite the color codes.

        People THINK they’re practicing situational awareness by throwing their gaze over their shoulders after shooting. More often than not, they don’t have the visual acuity to see anything with as fast as they’re scanning. They don’t want to hold up the line, they want to get back to shooting, it’s a skill to be able to switch modes back and forth between fast and slow, AND, they’ve been conditioned to the fact that since there has never been a threat behind them when they’ve scanned before, why would there be now?

    • Michael

      Reply Reply October 22, 2014

      Wholeheartedly agree. I always quiz my girls and wife “What would you have done” when we read or hear about an event.

  • Lwft Coast Chuck

    Reply Reply July 30, 2014

    If you are in a gas station pumping gas you don’t need to draw your weapon. You have a powerful weapon right there in your hands already drawn. Just make sure you draw back the rubber vapor seal. (*a few sentences were removed by the editor to protect the commenter*) For those of you lucky enough to not have the rubber vapor seal pumps as we do here in SoCal, just point and shoot. If the perp has a weapon a sharp strike with the nozzle on his wrist should cause him to drop his weapon, then seriously play whack-a-mole on his face and head. If you cause a cut, a little more gas on the cut will burn like a mother.

    I didn’t see a motorcyclist and inadvertently cut him off. I pulled into a gas station to gas up. He had seen me pull into the station and came racing back to discuss my poor driving and perhaps demonstrate to me his superior MMA skills. I just turned to face him with the nozzle pointing at his face, but held close to me. He skidded to a stop and pointed out my lack of driving skills. I replied that I knew after I turned that I had cut him off, that I hadn’t seen him prior to turning and that I was sorry, that I was a biker myself and had also experienced that when I was on a bike. He said I should watch my driving in the future and stalked off. I knew from the way he was approaching a discussion was not his intent. The sight of the nozzle pointing at him caused him to have a sudden flash of common sense. Use what is at hand, people. Keep alert to what is going on around you. Also, try not to run down bikers, both motorized and pedal-powered.

Leave A Response

* Denotes Required Field