As a former soldier and law enforcement officer, I’ve heard that phrase countless times. “Train the way you fight, because you’ll fight the way you’ve trained.” The intent behind such a motivational phrase is to intensify the level of training, to step it up a notch or two, prepare yourself for combat, and not just go through the motions so you can simply say you’ve completed training. Easier said than done. It wasn’t the majority of gun owners then and it isn’t today. New gun owners or civilians who are poised to make their first firearm purchase are normally for defensive purposes. Still those are the gun owners with too much of an “it can happen to ME” mindset. This is usually brought to light in that gun owners training, or lack there of typically. I’m not looking to instill fear or paranoia. My intention is ramp up and intensify training to adequate and effective levels, so as to make firearms training truly beneficial.
With the Diamondback Training, it really doesn’t matter if I’m training Federal Agents, or active duty military personnel, or civilians the emphasis on “real world” training is the same. It also doesn’t matter if it’s a ‘basic’ AZ CCW course, or an Intermediate Handgun course, or even a Defensive Handgun or Shotgun course. All of which I teach and emphasize the same principles. Many of which crash headlong into the square range training mindset and attitudes of most folks. Of course, in an Intermediate or Defensive course, participants will get to implement those principles A LOT a lot more than merely discussing them in an academic setting like a CCW class. Just a few examples of the training principles I’m talking about that are covered in our courses are the 50% rule, indexing magazines, after action drills and fully racking the slide on your semi-automatic handgun.
Many shooters have a dangerously lethargic mindset, as demonstrated (and sometimes articulated) in their range training. It’s the “it won’t happen to me” mindset. Or the “I’ll rise to the occasion” mindset. And a personal favorite, the “I’ll only need two, three shots at the most” mindset. Not to be overly dramatic, but all of these notions, born and perpetuated by the square range training atmosphere, can get you killed. They’re as dangerous as they are false. The reality, which is forged through and fundamentally supported by hard data, is quite the opposite. You will not rise to the occasion. You will fall to your most recent level of training. And then, you’ll only be 50% as effective or accurate as your most recent level of training. As for the crowd that bets on “I’ll only need two or three shots”, how do you know? Did your magic eight-ball prophetically warn you that on the worst day of your life you will only face one adversary? What happens when four appear? The reality is, stuff happens. The reality is, adrenaline happens and fine motor skills are lost, gross motor skills remain, and they’re very shaky. The reality is that if you don’t have a “most recent level of training” to fall back on, you are untrained. If your most recent level of training is completely square range, you are untrained. If you’ve never performed under training-induced stress, you are untrained and simply have no way of knowing what you’ll do or how you’ll do them when real stress presents itself in the form of multiple, moving adversaries that mean to do you harm.
What is square range training? Picture your typical public range. Indoor or outdoor doesn’t really matter. All the “good guys” line up on one side, and all the targets are arranged in some stationary fashion at some predetermined distance down range. You don’t move. Your lone target does not move. It’s an intentionally sterile, safe and controlled environment. If all your training conforms to the safety rules of a square range, you are untrained. Why? Because an actual confrontation with an actual perpetrator that means to hurt you would be anything but a safe, sterile, stationary situation. In fact, it will be quite the opposite. Index your magazines. Don’t hold them at the very bottom like a child holds a lollipop. Index them in such a way that when the adrenaline dump happens and you’re shaking like a leaf, you can still find the magazine well of your gun and you can still reload. We cover this in our Intermediate or Defensive courses, you’ll index and reload magazines until you can’t stand it anymore.
Perform after action drills. What the heck are “after action drills?” One of the effects of the adrenaline dump is tunnel vision. You’ll see only the threat directly in front of your face and you will NOT see anything on your peripherals. This could be catastrophic if you’re dealing with multiple assailants. To ensure you remain sharp and avoid that ever shrinking tunnel, you must train it out of you. Look around. Turn your head. Move your eyes, and search for more threats. It’s easy to say but inject just a tiny amount of stress and tunnel vision hits you. After action drills, performed religiously, helps break down that tunnel. You can do after action drills even on a square range. So do them. and do them often.
Stop using your thumb to depress the slide stop to drop your slide forward. First, it’s a slide stop, not a slide release. Secondly, that’s a fine motor skill you won’t keep under stress. Third, the gun is designed to function when the spring is fully compressed, and fully released. We cover this a lot in training because there are many who drop the slide with their thumb-down off the slide stop. If you’re ever in an Intermediate or Defensive handgun course, andup against the shot timer shooting for score, you’ll likely see first hand why the thumb-down method is not your friend. Remember, train the way you’ll fight. You will need to know how to function with gross motor skills only. So do train accordingly.
I’m not insinuating that public ranges are bad. It is possible to train effectively on a square range. You can rack the slide properly, reload effectively, and you can do a modified after action drill on a square range. All of these beneficial techniques are effective training that can help you on the worst day of your life when you need to use your firearm to defend yourself. What you cannot do on most square ranges is: shoot and move, shoot multiple targets, close quarters (CQB) drills while moving, to name only a few. But these are the skills that can ultimately save your life. Boil it down to nuts and bolts, and truly effective firearms training comes down to desire and mindset. You have to want to train, and you have to want to train to win. I’m not interested in training anyone to “survive” a confrontation. Statistics show the vast majority of shooting victims survive handgun wounds. Winning is my goal. Winning the fight with no more holes than when I began is my goal. Surviving comes with winning, but survival doesn’t bring winning. Winning brings survival. Train the way you fight. It’s important.