Slaying 3 Sacred Cows Of Firearms Training

One of the things that I find fascinating about the world of firearms training is how fast opinions or personal anecdotes become set-in-stone rules.

“Rules” like…

The 21 foot rule

EVERYONE will have tunnel vision in a defensive shooting situation

2 to the body and 1 to the head solves all problems

You’ll never see your sights in a gunfight

All fine motor skills fail under stress

And more

These rules are almost sacred cows in many firearms training circles…even though none of them are necessarily true for all people all of the time.

But believing them and basing your training on them may actually make them true for you and put an artificial ceiling on how well you perform in a high stress shooting situation.

Today, we’re going to quickly address 3 of these sacred cows and show you how you can train beyond their limitations.

Let’s start off with some quick neurology that’ll help explain why these sacred cows can limit your performance.

There’s a rule in neurology called SAID.

It stands for “Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand”

In “normal speak” it means that your brain is efficient and will only grow as far as you push it.  If you don’t push it, it will reduce your ability to perform.

If you don’t practice lifting heavy things, you’ll get weaker.

If you don’t practice moving fast, you’ll get slower.

If you don’t practice jumping, your vertical will go from feet to inches.


The reason it’s important to start with this is because if you buy into a belief that isn’t necessarily true and train as if it is true, the chances of you performing beyond your training in a life or death situation is incredibly slim.

Nobody believed a 4 minute mile was possible…until Roger Banister opened the floodgates.

Nobody believed it was possible to complete Steel Challenge in under 80 seconds…until 3 shooters did it in the same year.

There’s a tendency to think that all practice is good, but if your practice puts an artificial lid on your performance, then you might want to consider practicing in a way that will help you perform better.

Let’s start with building your training around the average distances and average numbers of hits to stop a threat

I’m going to start with some quick math.

Let’s say we’ve got 10 shootings.

5 of them took 4 hits to stop the threat. (20 shots fired)

4 of them took 1 hit to stop the threat. (4 shots fired)

And 1 of them took 14 solid center-mass hits and 2 to the head (based on a real shooting) to stop the threat. (16 shots fired)

20+4+16 adds up to 40 rounds fired on 10 threats and an average of 4 hits to stop each threat.

If you’re programming yourself to think that 4 shots is the right solution to all situations (or 2 to the body and 1 to the head), then there’s a really good chance that you’re going to shoot too many or too few times.

The better approach is to shoot until you have a visual indication that you’ve stopped the threat.

Practice 1, 2, 3, 5, and even 10 shot strings.

Next, “All fine motor skills go to crap under stress”

This normally comes up in relation to using the slide stop vs. racking during a reload, which we won’t get into right now

If anyone tells you that all fine motor skills fail under stress, ask them 2 questions.

First, ask them to define what a fine motor skill is compared to a gross and complex motor skill.  What I’ve found is that most people commenting authoritatively on fine motor skills don’t have a clear definition in their head about what a fine motor skill is.  Please don’t view this as a challenge when you ask it…it’s an honest and important question.  I’ve learned a lot by asking this question.

Second, ask them why they think that disengaging retention, aiming, isolating the trigger finger and pressing it straight to the rear, hitting the mag release, and inserting a fresh magazine will all work under stress, but hitting the slide stop won’t.

A better way of stating this rule is that “all non-myelinated skills will go to crap under stress” and that the stress you feel in a particular situation will be determined by past exposure (novelty of the situation) and your general stress conditioning and ability to handle stress.

So, what’s a myelinated skill?

Some people call it muscle memory.

Here’s a VERY simple (and mostly accurate) explanation…

When you perform a skill, an electrical signal goes through a chain of neurons in your brain.  They determine how hard you flex, whether entire muscle groups flex or individual muscle fibers, how long you flex, and more.  That chain of neurons is a neural pathway.

Starting with the 2nd time you use a neural pathway, that particular chain of neurons starts getting wrapped with an insulating cholesterol sheath called myelin.  The more you perform the skill in the same way, the thicker the insulation and the quicker more precisely, and easier you’ll be able to perform a given task the next time.

Regardless of what you call it, the more you precisely and deliberately you practice a skill, the better your chances are that you’ll be able to perform at a high level under stress.

Finally for today, “You Won’t See Your Sights In A Defensive Shooting”

Some people won’t.

It depends on how they practice and their stress response to the situation.

Your stress response may be so high that you can’t change the size of your pupil or the shape of the lens on your eye enough to see your front sight clearly.  Again, that’s a function of past exposure, your general stress conditioning, and ability to handle stress.

But in talking with people who have used a pistol in self defense, a pattern emerges…shooters who are disciplined about focusing on their front sight in practice tend to see their front sight in a high stress shooting.

Shooters who aren’t disciplined about focusing on their front sight in practice rarely use their sights in a high stress shooting.  This makes sense when you go back to the SAID principle…the brain adapts to the demands that you place on it.  If you don’t train it to use the front sight in practice, why would it suddenly use it in a life and death situation?

One of the interesting things that has come out of doing a lot of video analysis of shooters is that a huge percentage of shooters THINK that they’re using their front sight, but video review clearly shows that their sights aren’t lined up with their eye.

How can a shooter think they’re seeing their sights but not really be looking at them?

In doing video review with shooters, I have them aim an unloaded pistol or SIRT at the center of the lens of a camera and take a dry fire shot.  It’s incredibly binary.  The pupil, rear sight, front sight, and target will be lined up if they’re using the front sight.  They won’t be lined up if they aren’t.

(If you haven’t gone through a private video training session with Ox yet, you need to sign up now by clicking >HERE<.  It’s fast, easy, and has been completely life changing (beyond shooting) for many of the shooters who have been through it.)

“Seeing” your sights and knowing that they’re in front of you is very different than shifting your focus to a particular spot on your front sight and knowing that the sights are perfectly aligned.

It’s fairly common to see it take 1-2 seconds for shooters to shift focus to their front sight and for their focus to stabilize.  When that 1-2 seconds is added on to the end of a reactionary gap and a drawstroke, shooters normally end up pressing the trigger before their vision has stabilized and before they’re truly using their front sight.

This is one of the big reasons for point shooting, and there’s definitely a place for point shooting, but if there was a simple way to increase the speed that your eye can shift focus and your brain can process that image, wouldn’t it make sense for you to use it?

(There is…and that’s one of the reason why I created our Tactical Vision Training program)

With each of these myths, if you buy into them and reinforce them by talking about them and training them, they’ll probably be true for you.

So challenge yourself.  Push yourself.  Doing so will make “ordinary” easier…just like lifting heavy weights makes lifting lighter weights easier over time.

One of the quickest, easiest, and most dramatic ways to do this is with vision training.  Doing just a few minutes of the right vision training per day, like what we have in our Tactical Vision Training program, can increase your peripheral vision, increase the range of motion of your eyes, the speed that you can move your eyes, and the speed that you can accurately process what your eyes are seeing.

It’s something that you can do for shooting that will have a positive impact on EVERY area of your life and almost everything that you do.

It can help you see threats faster when you’re driving, get your focus back on the road when you need to check your speed, change your radio, or check your mirrors.  It will help you find things faster when you’re shopping, and identify and avoid trip hazards when navigating uneven terrain that you’re not familiar with.

And, of course, it will help you see your sights quicker and more accurately so you can shoot better and have more fun at the range.

Learn more about our Tactical Vision Training now by clicking >HERE<

Questions?  Comments?  Anecdotes?  Share them by commenting below…and keep an eye out for the next 3 myths in a couple of days.









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