Prepare Against Stress in Firearms Practice
by Sara Ahrens

Introducing stress to a firearms practice program can help inoculate shooters against stress and preventing panic. Those who consistently train outside their comfort zones will be better able to handle the stress brought about by competition, and even deadly force encounters. There are several methods that shooters can use to artificially replicate or heighten stress during training

Method #1 – Physical Extertion

Increasing physical exertion, using a shot timer, and creating competition are some basic methods for increasing a shooter’s stress level. By physically exerting oneself, the end result is an increase in heart rate. This increase mimics the physiological symptoms of stress. The shooter must learn to control their breathing and discharge their firearm during naturally occurring pauses. If they don’t, their shot placement will suffer. Physical exertion is the least effective method. Even though it replicates an increased heart rate, it fails to affect the mindset to the degree of truly stressful events.

Method #2 – Shot Timers

Shot timers cause stress for the shooter because of personal expectations to succeed. The stress of being timed caused shooters to rush their shots leading them to shoot faster than their capabilities. Keeping a written record of speed and accuracy will document long-term improvement. Shot timers are only effective if the users are willing to push themselves.

Method #3 – Competition

If you are a competitive person, you will most likely feel stress when set against another shooter. If you are significantly better than the other shooter, the stress may arise from fear of losing to that person. If both of you are equally skilled, you want to prove you are better. Even if you are a novice shooter, competition increases stress because of your desire to beat someone you know is more experienced than you. Each of these scenarios impact a shooter’s mindset to one degree or another. When shooters cannot control their physical reactions to stress, they are likely to face a mental breakdown and “choke.” Competitions need not be informal, the formal competitions area just as stressful. Formal competitions may be more stressful if onlookers create stress for the shooter.

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