Why You Should Push Your Skills Beyond What You Think You’ll Need

Shortly after the invasion of Iraq began, Donald Rumsfeld famously said, “you go to war with the army you have—not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time.”

This truth that applies to armies at war also applies to individuals in a fight for their lives, whether it’s a soldier overseas, or law enforcement or a civilian at home.

We continually have to balance the need to be prepared for an event that may or may not happen with the reality that we have limited time and money.

When a fight for our life happens, we not only want to bring enough gun, but we want to bring enough skill.

And the harder you train, the easier you’ll fight.

You want to train past the point where you feel confident…you want to train to the point where failure is impossible.

You may not need to shoot fast, 1 hole groups in a fight for your life, but it certainly might help to be able to put round after round exactly where you want them to go, and practicing shooting fast, precise groups is a great way to make that happen

Analyzing after action videos shows that a shooter who can put effective rounds on target with .4 splits will likely win the fight, even though competition shooters regularly shoot .25, .15 or faster splits and .4 splits are considered slow.  So keep pushing your speed, but don’t be overly critical if you’re not blazing fast.

A shooter who has a 3 second drawstroke from concealment and a 1 second reaction time (4 seconds total) will always beat a shooter who has a 1 second drawstroke and a 5 second reaction time (6 seconds total).  One of the most common phenomenons in shooting is that people freeze for way longer than they believe possible, unless they’ve programmed in conditioned responses.  So keep working on pushing your drawstroke speed…it’s important…but make sure your technique stays crisp and that you stay alert.

Most assaults happen in low light.  Try to practice in low light conditions that you think are close to what you’d experience…then go darker.  Practice dry fire malfunction drills in the dark.  The better you get at doing dry fire drills in the dark, the better and more comfortable you’ll be with every lumen of light that you add to the situation.

Most fights involve movement.  Spend the majority of your movement training at a speed where you can perform at a VERY high level, no matter how slow so that you’re building a solid foundation.  But make sure to push the pace for a few reps…maybe even past what you’d use in real life for so you know how it will affect your performance.

Most fights involve fear…and the release of fear/stress chemicals like cortisol.  One of the drills that I do is to stand with my Dry Fire Pistol on the ground in front of me, with a target about 10 feet away.  I breathe out as much as I can and hold my breath, drop to the ground, do 10-20 pushups, pick up my gun, stand up, and then fire off as many precision shots as possible before breathing.  It’s painful, but there’s no real cause for pain.  My brain is panicking, but there’s no real reason to panic.  My stomach will sometimes spasm, but I will myself to calm down, and make the shots before I let myself breathe.  You can do this sitting on your couch too…just count to 10 or 20 before you start doing your dry fire reps.

Life and death situations are stressful.  But the effects of stress have more to do with how you react to situations than the situation itself.

If minor things cause you to over-react, a life and death situation will probably make your stress meter go to “11”.

If you make a habit of calming yourself in stressful situations, and expose yourself to stress and simulated stress like competition and scenario based training, you’ll condition your body to be calmer in a life or death situation and your stress meter might only go to a 6 or 8.

And any time you can stay calm in the middle of a life or death storm, you’ll make better decisions, see more, perform better, and your chances of survival shoot through the roof.

A quick look at other activities and sports show a similar process…

A lot of people go through driving schools where they learn to drive fast, back up fast, do bootlegger turns, drift, and other “extreme” driving so that they’ll be better, safer drivers when driving a mini-van full of kids to soccer.

Commercial pilots spend 99% of their flying time doing mundane things, but when they do their simulator training, they’re pushed to their limits with extreme situations.  They learn to be calm and make the right choices in worse-than-real-life situations and when a challenge pops up in real life, it’s no big deal.

In Krav Maga, one of the drills is to have 6 or more people gang up on one who’s lying down flat on the ground.  One will take each leg.  One will take each arm.  One will do pushups on the stomach.  The final one will alternate between choking, covering the eyes, and pinching the nose and/or covering the mouth.  When you get used to calming yourself in that situation, all of a sudden facing a 3-on-1 sparring match isn’t quite as stressful.  It’s still dangerous.  It’s still stressful.  But because you’ve learned how to go beyond it, you’re able to stay calmer, see more opportunities, make better choices, and perform WAY better.

All of these are examples of training beyond the situation that you realistically expect to encounter.

And any time you make practice harder than reality, real situations become that much easier to deal with.

Some of these examples may be a little extreme.  So if you want to become a better defensive shooter, what are the best areas to focus on?

Start with mastering the fundamentals BEYOND what you think you might need in a real life situation.

The easiest way to do that is to focus on precision shooting, and then pushing the speed on your precision shooting.

Practice your drawstroke so that it has absolutely no wasted movement.  No wobble.  No hiccups.  Just as smooth as if you were a robot and simply executing perfect repetitions.  Focus on perfection first, and speed will come.

Same with your reloads and malfunction drills.  Slow down and drill perfectly efficient technique with no wasted movement.

For the fundamentals, we’ve got 3 incredible home study courses…my 21 Day Alpha Shooter, Force Recon Marine Chris Graham’s 30-10 Pistol, and Retired SEAL Larry Yatch’s Concealed Carry Masters Course.

From there, once you have a solid foundation, then start stretching your comfort zone with speed, movement, light, and stress.

And when you’re REALLY ready for a challenge, check out Dry Fire Fit.

What have you done and what are you doing to stretch yourself as a shooter?  Please share your thoughts and ideas by commenting below:

Leave A Reply ( 2 comments So Far)

Share your thoughts


  1. zirk
    3 weeks ago

    Well it is old military rule, you fight the way you train. I can speak first hand when the world goes to crap in an instant, it is not book learning or youtube shorts that go through but automatically, your mind it is time from the range, sporting clays that make you hands and eyes do what is needed to stay alive. train train and train some more.


  2. Rick Cross
    3 weeks ago

    Ox & David,

    I’m a CCW Instructor in Nevada and am also a Utah CFP instructor. I’m just starting my eight year and am a 13 year (all disciplines) NRA Instruction.

    You’re right on the money with your post! One thing I tell my students in class is most defensive incidents are fought one-handed and with a flash sight picture. Two hands ARE better than one, but many times, you don’t have time to get both hands on the gun (time is of the essence) and forget about sights – you are focused on the threat and need to get hits on target NOW! Please feel free to chime in.

    I’ve been carrying for upwards of 20 years and have put my hand on my gun three times (keeping it concealed the whole time) and just this year I had two ‘near-incidents’ where my training served me well. I always advocate Awareness, Avoidance, and Action (calling the professionals).

    My first near-incident didn’t involve fear. I was able to avoid the drunk get in my vehicle and leave. But it did involve low light, movement, and stress.

    The second one was not so easy and was the first time I felt a real sense of fear while carrying a concealed weapon.

    To keep the story short, the time was 4:30am in the morning and two perps made and number of moves in traffic to follow me into a self-serve gas station. After meeting with our (I work for a local government) deputy chief of police, he said they definitely would have tried to rob me if I had let them get too close (I didn’t).

    Again, it was LOW LIGHT (4:30am), both me and the perps were MOVING… me away from my vehicle and they towards the gas pump at my vehicle expecting me to be right there.

    STRESS – my stress meter went through the roof as I dialed 3-1-1 (no need to call 9-1-1 at this point but I was immediately switched to a dispatcher). Lastly when the perps moved away from our vehicles, I saw my opportunity to get to my vehicle and at least move away from the scene. Because of the dark tint on my Pathfinder, I WAS NO LONGER ABLE TO SEE THEM.

    This is where I experienced FEAR – Lots of it. I knew I was in danger of being put in Imminent danger of death or grave bodily harm. I got that feeling in the pit of my stomach, felt like I was shaking as I was hurrying to put the gas pump away and could have damn near fell over myself. I was able to drive a little ways from the station into the parking lot and give the dispatcher a description of the vehicle and perps as they drove off.

    The Dispatcher told me I did everything ok (I told her I was carrying but I never drew it), that I could leave and they would dispatch units to look for the men.

    Right afterwards, I got that adrenaline dump from the incident and it really charged me up! I know now that should I be involved in another incident like that, and if I can control that adrenaline dump, it would work to my advantage.

Loading Facebook Comments ...