The first step is knowing the kind of things that will happen in these high stress situations. When you are in the middle of a shooting and you notice everything is moving in slow motion, and you know there are gunshots going off – but you hear only “pops,” and you can barely feel the recoil of your

pistol as it fires, your brain will tell you – it’s OK, just do what you need to do and we’ll get through this.

The second step is to train realistically so you’ll still be able to operate the pistol and function effectively. Since you know stress & critical incident situations have a profound effect on your body & mind, begin using and training in shooting skills that will still be effective under high stress. The more you train, and the more “natural” the technique (where possible train in techniques that will be an extension of your body’s reaction to high stress), the more likely you’ll be able to perform them when needed.

What will likely happen:

  • You will revert to those techniques that are either deeply engrained (due to a lot of training) or very simple – because of your loss or diminishment of the ability to have creative thought processes
  • You will have reactive instead of thoughtful actions – immediate reaction instead of planning (think chess vs rugby) – you might be able to keep count of exactly how many rounds you shoot – but probably not
  • You will use larger muscle groups, because you have lost fine motor skills due to the body’s constriction of blood vessels in the extremities, you need to either train in those techniques in advance, or you will try to learn them as you fumble because your fingers don’t seem to be doing what you want them to
  • Body reactions and movements – utilize actions that build upon natural reactions to fear, instead of trying to fight them – example: the body’s reaction to fear may include moving into a defensive “fighting” stance, expect that and build a shooting stance upon that fighting stance

Some specific things that need to be trained for, considering the above body reactions, and how those translate into shooting and self-defense requirements:

  • The shooting stance, a “fighting stance” that will consider the body’s reaction to stress
  • The draw – getting the pistol out of a holster and up pointed toward the threat quickly
  • The grip – how to hold the gun to deal with recoil, and have the best chance for success in hitting the target – this includes trigger manipulation and sight alignment
  • Movement – the bad guys won’t just stand still in one place so you can shoot them, they will be moving. You should return the favor and train using methods where you also move as the opportunity presents itself – at a minimum you should train to move between shots, and plan to move as you head to cover
  • Multiple targets, and multiple rounds – rarely will only one round stop someone intent on harming you, or will you have only one bad guy of which to contend, so you need to be ready for that
  • The reload – how to manipulate the pistol when it runs out of ammunition, to get it reloaded or otherwise functioning once again so you can get back in the fight
  • What to do when the shooting stops – training to not relax or put your pistol away before the threat is gone and you are safe

Here is the point. Imagine you are suddenly confronted with a life or death situation, requiring you to draw the weapon you carry to defend yourself. If you know in advance how your mind and body will react to the stress of having your life threatened, you will be more likely to react appropriately. Further, if you have trained in techniques designed to complement your body’s physical reactions, your chances of success in drawing your gun, getting it pointed at the threat, and getting effective hits will be greatly improved.

On the other hand, if you haven’t done so, you will have no idea of what to expect. If carrying a weapon, you have difficulty in accessing it. Then increased difficulty getting it to function properly because your hands don’t seem to be doing what your brain is telling them. Everything seeming to be going in slow motion and you won’t seem to be able to function, as if an unseen force is holding you back and preventing you from saving your own life.

Take advantage of this knowledge now, so if that day comes, you will be ready to respond.