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The tactical funnel: An ‘outside the box’ thought on training

One of my best instructors, Rob, developed a term ‘tactical funnel’ into which we put a ton of information. After a couple days of working at it, all of that information flows from the large opening into the end result, smooth, fluid, directed performance. Rob is truly my hand holder for difficult students. His patience and ability to obtain performance, from those students who would otherwise be left behind, is amazing.

As for the funnel’s role in diagnosing a’s not too complicated. To diagnose a shooter, you as the instructor need to know a couple things yourself. First, you have to be able to do what you want your student to do. Then, if you are a good shooter, you need to know why you’re good. You also need to know all the important ingredients that go into the funnel. I’m not saying you have to be the best shooter but, you’d better be pretty darned good. After all, you need to inspire the student to want more.

When we watch a person shoot, we try to look at the whole package; the large opening of the funnel. By this I mean everything the shooter does from loading and making ready, to shooting and then unloading and clearing. Especially how they handle the weapon system and their gear. I look at what they do when they shoot and watch for subtleties in the way they interact with the gun as each round is fired. I also try to see where their focus is or what their attention is distracted by.

Watching Their Basics
There’s a change in thought out there these days and it’s one where instructors are thinking we need to teach people to shoot and not to just qualify. I hear this from the top down, across the instructional age bracket. Administrative handling of weapons in rote fashion doesn’t cut it and usually leads to the same when handling personal gear. Think about this. If repetition is the mother of all skill, what skills do we build on a daily, quarterly, or yearly basis starting with academy cadets?

When diagnosing any shooter, I’m watching their basics. Here is a list of fundamentals followed by some jeers. I’ve been there, so as you read this, think if you have too.

• Two step draw-strokes (unlocking the holster before obtaining the master grip)
• Taking the gun from the holster (rather than drawing the gun)
• Presenting the gun in a “heyyyyy yoooouuuu.” fashion (high pitched voice added)
• Focal points (“Don’t let the gun get in your way, you won’t see the target!”)
• Bringing the head down to sights (think, gun out front, head down)
• Reluctance to touch the trigger or a rush to get off the trigger (Academy scars?)
• Trigger finger movement (touch it, slam it)
• Proper stance (gotta have my feet placed just right before shooting)
• Head gun separation (Gotta check the target NOW!)
• Scan and breathe (paint the I stare at the target)
• Lastly... Rush back to the holster (while I continue to stare at the misses)

I can laugh at this list. Like I said, I’ve been there, done that. However, think about what I said earlier about being pretty darned good? If you could fix yourself by identifying bad habits, you could fix someone else. You as the instructor need to understand why you hit, as well as why you miss. Follow?

How do you see all this at once to identify it? Well, I suggest a real soft focus. Almost as if you are looking through the shooter, the range and the target. Peripheral vision is very strong. Once you start noticing these habits, you’ll pick ‘em up easier.

The Tactical Funnel Theory
Now, for the ‘tactical funnel’ theory. Take all of those items from the list above, teach them individually and correctly, and then throw them all into the funnel. Picture this:

• Combat draw-stroke (release the gun and obtain the master grip at once)
• Presentation (Bring the gun to interrupt the plane of vision. Think, “FREEZE!”)
• Trigger finger (knows its job and hops to it when the sights become visible)
• Focus turns to the sights (with the target beyond)
• Feet (are where they are, no special placement)
• Head and gun (Stay together until the shooting is done. Follow through)
• Trigger finger (again? yes, on the trigger for follow up shots if needed)
• Situational awareness (See what is needed when you’re off the sights. No tunnel vision)
• Re-holster (at your own pace, based on the circumstances, no rush)

When we throw all this into the funnel, what comes out is quick, decisive, accurate shooting, followed by solid situational awareness. Think about it. Every one of these fundamental actions takes time. If we train shooters to perform the fundamentals correctly, to trust their equipment and their own skills we can compress the time it takes to draw and fire down to fractions of a second.

Remember what J. Michael Plaxco said: “There is no advanced training, only advanced applications of the basics.” I’ve said for years now that as instructors we need to be masters of those basics.

When it comes down to diagnosing shooters, the above is how I start. If one or more of those basics is faulty, I focus on it until I get the results necessary or until the shooter begins to show fatigue. Then, shift gears to another fundamental that needs work.

Right now you’re probably wondering: “How do you know what their focus is or how do you know if they are working the trigger correctly. Holy cow! That needs to be saved for a whole other column but, we’ll get there.

Until next time remember:
Those who can, do.
Those who understand, teach.

Part-time police officer Chris Cerino is most recognized as the competitor that came in 2nd place in both Top Shot season 1 and Top Shot All Stars. He is currently the field host of Gun Talk TV, Guns and Gear and a trainer on The First Person Defender series on Gun Talk’s YouTube page. He is an internationally known firearms instructor who has been training law enforcement officers, military operators and civilians for more than 18 years. He has worked as Peace Officer in a variety of positions from municipal and county to state and federal agencies spanning 23 years. Chris continues to instruct through his company Chris Cerino Training Group at the national and international level. A published writer on the topics of firearms training and instruction he continually pursues validation of his skills and the skills he teaches by competing in three gun, precision rifle matches and NRA action pistol matches across the country.

Contact Chris Cerino