(Second in the series about thoughts spawned by attending the Rangemaster Instructor Development Class with Tom Givens. Last time, the post was about something that hadn’t occurred to me. This time, it is about something I already knew, explained in a different fashion.)
If you are carrying a concealed firearm, and have occasion to use it in public on the street (in a Walmart parking lot, at the local gas station, in a Walgreens store) you are never going to miss.
No, seriously, you aren’t. No round you fire will have a bullet that misses.
That’s the problem, you see. In public, every single bullet fired from your handgun will hit something. You will not miss. You may not hit your assailant, but you WILL hit SOMETHING.
That something may be a pregnant woman who was shopping. That something may be a 4-year old child skipping merrily to school one morning. That something may be 9 other people hit either by errant shots or by fragments. Maybe you’ll get lucky and only hit brick buildings—but since you are already having to defend your life, it already isn’t your lucky day.
You aren’t going to miss. Every bullet is going to hit something. As such, your practice needs to reflect the importance of hitting your target every time.
Now, this concept isn’t new—but I don’t really like the common “Every bullet has a lawyer with a 5 million dollar personal injury suit attached to it!!” type of phrasing, because we do not want people too scared to defend themselves. We don’t want people thinking “I better not do this because I might get sued” at the moment where they have to be making a decision to defend themselves.
We need people thinking in practice: I’m going to hit my target every time, and I’m going to practice enough to consistently hit my target every time. That way, if I need to use my gun, I’ll do what I practiced so I don’t have to think about anything but saving my life.
While yes, you need to think about your surroundings in a self-defense situation, that is different from being too terrified of possible consequences to act. We practice to hit our target at speed under stress. We use this thought (“You aren’t going to miss in real life–you WILL hit something.”) to drive our practice so that we have the discipline to hit our target under stress in a real-life self-defense situation.
I practice differently with my competition gun and my concealment gun. (This shouldn’t be a surprise.) When practicing with my competition gun from my competition rig given an audible start signal, I push myself in terms of speed and movement, to the point where I might miss the target entirely. I then dial it back until I get hits, get better at it, then dial it up again. I push myself to the point where I miss. When practicing with steel targets, I miss fairly often when I push myself.
When practicing to defend myself with my carry gun from concealment, on paper targets I have a small “sufficient hit” zone. Part of the rest of the paper target is a “insufficient hit” zone, and worse than that simply isn’t acceptable. If my technique is bad enough that I’m putting shots into the “insufficient hit” zone, I need to fix it. My “pushing the speed” results in occasional shots into the “insufficient hit” zone, NOT the miss zone. I don’t allow shots into the “miss zone” when I’m practicing to defend myself.
That’s significantly different from my competition training–and that’s just fine. I might be using the same target for both, but they mean very different things. I have a different mindset, I have a different mode of practice, and I have a different set of “what is allowed” for accuracy.
Here’s the two versions of “acceptable hit thinking” that I use for practice (of course I don’t write the words on the targets I use, but that’s how I think about it). Obviously competition shooting is on the left, and self-defense practice is on the right: