Gunfight training: Hype, myth, and BS (part three)

What separates world-class performers from everyone else is what they think, believe, and program into their minds and are able to access under stress

If you’ve read parts one and two to this series, you already know that there are a lot of sayings and beliefs which are widely regarded as “true” but in reality, often are either hype, myth, or plain old BS. If you’re just arriving to this space for the first time, you may want to play a little catch up (see the related article links below) before reading on.

Hype: “Experience is the key to performance.”
Reality — Experience helps us understand and learn from situations and acclimate to the stresses and idiosyncrasies of particular environments. However, creative thinking that generates a solution to a problem or allows a higher level of performance and the application of that creative thought to training and programming will lead to a higher level of performance.

Thoughts — If experience was all that mattered, how did we ever get to the moon”?

BS: “The street is the only real test.”
Reality — The street is a validation of skill. You do your testing in training.

Thoughts — There are many indicators of performance that can be trained, tested and validated in training prior to having to use them on the street. If you treat training “like the street” then you will be ready when you do it on the street.

Hype: “I am ‘well trained’ compared to the average guy on the street.”
Most people train once a year and then qualify the rest of the year one to three more times. As Officer Steve Horseman from Tempe PD said a long time ago, “Would you trust your life to an airline pilot who only flew four times a year in good weather?”

Reality — If you train once a month or less with your handgun, you are really not much better if at all from the guy on the street, especially at close ranges under five yards.

Thoughts — If you want to gain strength by weight training, would you do it by lifting once a month? No, of course not, but by the same token, most people think if they shoot once a month, they are well trained.

Sorry, doesn’t work that way. We know from the science of performance training that the participant must do the skills on a very consistent basis. They must also be constantly engaged in thinking about it, visualizing performance, and actively creating programming and processing to go along with it.

While some will try to say that visualization is just as good as practice, I disagree. You need both if you wish to perform at the high end. There is no substitute for regular, consistent training with enough frequency, specificity and duration to give you adaptive stress and a higher level of performance.

BS: “If you fail in training, you will develop a ‘training scar’ that will impact you negatively in the future so don’t ever let your students fail.”
Where is the science to back up this one? Now we are stepping into a field that even trained psychologists will argue over.

Reality — Failure is a part of everyday life. When you are pushing the limits of performance or reaching a max stress load, failure will happen! If you are not emotionally tough enough to deal with occasional failure then you are not well trained!

While I will agree that repeated failure can have a negative effect on the self image; it’s how you choose to deal with failure that is the key to future growth and performance.

Thoughts — I have failed many times in both training and other arenas. It is your attitude towards failure and taking the necessary steps to fix the problems that caused it or actively working on solutions to problems that will ultimately lead to higher performance.

Making things too easy gives a false sense of confidence. Some of my greatest learning experiences came from a failure and ultimately led to me developing strength, knowledge and skill in that area until it became one of my strengths. Your commitment to growth in performance and taking failure and mistakes as part of the learning process will lead to a better balanced and ultimately higher performance level than someone who is afraid to try for fear of failure.

Hype: “I am an ‘advanced’ shooter.”
Compared to whom? What was the comparison that you did that drew you to that conclusion?

Reality — Most police officers who do not compete in action shooting events shoot at less than 50-55 percent of the best shooters in the world with similar gear. This includes SWAT and other special response officers. There are notable exceptions as always but by and large, the above represents the true skill level as measured by myself and others.

Thoughts — If you wish to find out how good you are and where you truly rank in terms of real shooting skill, then I suggest you find out by shooting against the best in the world in a skills test. I do this testing for my clients as part of our new online/onsite programs and it is an accurate gauge of how good you really are when it comes to shooting skill.

Hype: “I am an ‘operator,’ a ‘tactical operator,’ an ‘advanced tactical operator,’ an ‘Advanced, tactical elite operator,’ an ‘advanced, tactical, elite operational warrior/operator/athlete,’ an ‘advanced firearms instructor,’ an ‘advanced tactical firearms instructor,’ or blah, blah, blah....”
In marketing, this is called branding.

Reality — Take a breath! By trying to brand yourself and differentiate yourself from others, you are giving free rein to your ego and elevating yourself to a status that makes it difficult to step back from and see your true performance level. I include myself in this as well and make sure I don’t allow my ego to interfere with personal growth and development.

There was a time when it was enough to simply say “I am a cop.” or “I am a deputy sheriff.” Clothing wasn’t “tactical” — it was simply something to be worn. You didn’t hang a lot of crap on your firearm because it got too heavy and it wasn’t really necessary. You took pride in your shooting abilities, not your golf game.

A self-inflated ego can also trap you by keeping you from participating in activities that threaten your ego and the self image that you have constructed for yourself. This is weakness, not strength. You can’t see or address your weaknesses because you won’t acknowledge they are there.

A classic example is a firearms instructor or SWAT guy that won’t demonstrate in front of students because he might make a mistake or shoots poorly.

It is much the same for a lieutenant, captain, or chief who won’t shoot with the troops. If you actually shoot with your troops and demonstrate your proficiency and interest in shooting — and in the process actually became more proficient — they will undoubtedly hold more respect for. Trust me on this one.

Another is the cop that goes to a competition and doesn’t do well or doesn’t engage at the proper level and then talks about how “in a real situation” they would prevail.

This is the ego talking and it is a weakness.

Thoughts — Do not separate yourself based on occupation or perceived status from your fellow man! You have the same genetic makeup as everyone else.


Your occupation or title or the size of the agency you come from doesn’t automatically infer greater performance than other people. Peak performance is a direct result of superior training and mental programming and is independent of occupation or title. I have trained and have seen too many people that do train; don’t wear a uniform, aren’t cops or military that can perform at a higher operational level than either.

I have seen cops from small departments and other civilian tactical shooters I have trained routinely outperform the cops from the bigger agencies as well as the special ops military people that have access to far more resources and training facilities.
It’s the level of training, commitment and preparedness along with the mindset and mental programming that matter, not your occupation or title.

Looking Ahead
That’s it for now. The next one in this series is actually the most important, so watch for it on (or about) two weeks from today.

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