shooting for self defense vs shooting targets: are you really prepared?

Once again, my experience and training in law enforcement causes me to have a specific point of view. For example, in my “Shoot/Don’t Shoot” training, I learned how quickly a police officer has to decide whether or not his life is in danger. Very often that length of time is less than one second. Law enforcement training attempts to instill muscle memory so that when the adrenalin surge occurs when the officer’s life is threatened, he or she physically responds according to training and not according to fear.

What happens to the average person who is suddenly confronted by a threat to his or her own life in a carjacking, a home burglary, or getting caught in a convenience store robbery? The surge of adrenalin which provides the power to fight or flee will overwhelm any attempt at rationality. This surge of energy powers panic. Panic can lead to a complete freezing on the spot, incapacitating the individual. Panic can lead to random and unfocused behavior that leaves the person in a position where they cannot help themselves or anyone else.

Going to the gun range, indoors or outdoors, is always a good thing to do. It gives the individual practice in achieving accuracy. When done often it helps that person become increasingly familiar with the firearm, how it shoots, how it feels, and how it sounds. All of this is critical in a self-defense situation.

But most gun ranges do not allow attendees the freedom to practice drawing their weapons from concealment, bringing the gun up on target, and then firing a shot. The very nature of the construction of the lanes at indoor ranges blocks any realistic attempt to practice acquiring a target and firing at it while moving.

In a self-defense situation, the intended victim will not be able to ask the perpetrator to “stand still until I get my gun out and take aim, please.”

People can practice at home drawing their weapon and pointing it at a spot on the wall. This is good and should be done. But not being able to fire the gun to verify their accuracy leaves a hole in their learning.

In an armed self-defense situation, all the movements of drawing a gun, getting the proper grip to fire it accurately, acquiring correct sight alignment, pressing the trigger in a manner that keeps the gun on target, being able to control the firearm under recoil and re-acquiring the target, and all the while moving in a fashion that makes it harder for the bad guy to harm the intended victim, must work together smoothly. Having only two locations for practice, namely home and the typical gun range makes it almost impossible for the average person to develop the fluid muscle memory required for a self-defense situation.

Is muscle memory important? Absolutely! It is what helps anyone under attack to respond with rationality and precision.

There are an increasing number of outdoor gun ranges that allow the opportunity for people to not only learn necessary shooting skills, but give those people the opportunity to integrate the skills into fluid motion (muscle memory). But accurate shooting skills are perishable. If you spend a week at one of these ranges and begin to integrate all the skills into a single, coordinated pattern, you need to be able to continue to practice them. Solving that dilemma is a topic for another time.

My point here is that shooting on a range where the lanes are fixed is good and should continually be made. My thought is it only gets you, maybe, half prepared.

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