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 why these sacred cows can limit your performance.

There’s a rule in brain science that says 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.  (use it or lose it)

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 “Everyone gets tunnel vision in a high stress situation”

If that’s how you train, you’re probably right.

That’s what happens to most people under stress.

But what if people are different and we exist on a spectrum?

And what if people at one end of the spectrum have complete tunnel vision under stress and people at the other end have much wider peripheral awareness?

Let’s take it one step further…

What if there are specific drills that we can do to change which end of the spectrum we’re on rather than just settle for bottom-of-the-barrel visual performance when it counts the most?

There are.  They’re ridiculously simple and they’ve been used and proven by fighter pilots, race car drivers, professional athletes, and hundreds of shooters who have gone through the at-home Tactical Vision Training program.

Myth #2: “All fine motor skills go to crap under stress”

We know this isn’t necessarily true because brain surgeons operate in extreme stress situations and people successfully release retention on their holster, press the trigger, hit the mag release and other fine motor skills in high stress shooting situations.

A better way of stating this rule is that

#1.  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.

#2.  The more you’re able to moderate your response to stress in a situation that’s causing other people to freak out, the more fine motor skills you’ll retain.  (I cover a proven process to blunt/moderate your sympathetic stress response that you can do in the comfort of your own home in Upgraded Shooter.)

Finally for today, Myth #3: “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 focus of your eye anymore.  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 remember that 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 you suddenly use it in a life and death situation?

FYI, I practice and teach both sighted and unsighted shooting and blend the two, but I’m a strong believer that sighted shooting is a base level skill that everyone needs to know how to do.

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 coaching session 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?  Share them by commenting below…









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  • Louis Palshaw

    Reply Reply August 19, 2019

    Was curious about the 21 foot myth you mentioned, many years ago as a police officer we were taught to shoot anyone approach with a knife because the FBI said the lounging distance of someone with a knife was 15 feet. About the time I retired that distance was uped to 21 feet. One comment about 2 to the body and 1 to the head again many years ago in training we were showed a video of a shooting incident where both cops were killed by a person on drugs with one of the cops own guns after the suspect was shot 6 times with fatal wounds, 2 of them to the hart. The suspect was dead but his body did not know it do to the drugs in his system. After being shot he was able to disarm the officers and kill them with their own guns.

    • Ox

      Reply Reply August 19, 2019

      Great thoughts, Louis. The 21 foot rule basically says that it takes the same amount of time for the average person to travel 21 feet as it takes the average officer to draw from the holster and put effective rounds on target. The myth is that it’s a hard and fast rule.

      It doesn’t take into account lateral movement, using barricades, having your gun drawn and pointed at the threat, how quickly hits make the threat a non-threat, etc.

      The 2 & 1 is a proven sequence, but it’s not a cure-all…especially with a pistol…and the problem isn’t with using that sequence as much as how you train it. Here’s 2 points:

      1. The 2 & 1 or Mozambique or failure drill is normally practiced for time, which encourages people to figure out the angle that they need to move the muzzle to transition from center-mass to head without necessarily aiming or assessing the target to see if a head shot is needed. On a paper target, the head doesn’t move between the center mass shot and the head shot. But in real life, visual perception delay and the speed that the head moves can turn what would have been a hit into a miss VERY quickly. As an example, if one of the body shots causes the threat to begin falling to the ground and you shift your aim to the point in space where the nose was when you started shooting, the top of the head will be below your point of aim before you can transition and make the shot (roughly .2 seconds)

      2. When people JUST practice 2 & 1, it creates a longer than desirable lag if 2 & 1 doesn’t work. Ideally, you’d use reactive targets where there was a visual indication that it is appropriate to stop shooting. In the absence of that, you might want to do 2 to the body, 1 to the head, 2 to the pelvis…almost anything that keeps your brain engaged and not falling into a rut. A training rut can make you VERY fast in practice, but when reality doesn’t match the conditions that you’re practicing for, it causes unnecessary delays.

      Please let me know if you’ve got any other thoughts/questions/comments on this.

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