Service Personnel and Shooting Skill

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How Important Are Uniforms To Shooting Skill?
So that means as a normal citizen [competitive] shooter my [cold] performance was a bit over six and a half times better than the best SWAT team shooter in a multi-state area.

So let’s get away from thinking you need to be a cop or soldier to have great skill at arms. Let’s also get away from thinking that wearing a particular uniform. or having a particular job. automatically makes a person a shoot shooter.
Duane Thomas

This article by Duane Thomas nicely sums up something I discuss this at length in Beyond Expert: Tripling Military Shooting Skills using U.S. Army qualification standards as compared to NATO combat competition courses. This is another data point further demonstrating this.

Shooters interested in and pursuing competition shooting will likely triple the skill needed for military qualification “expert” (or even “perfect”) standards as a starting point. For handgun events, this can be increased by a factor of five or more, as Thomas demonstrates. Neither Mr. Thomas nor I are national champion shooters, which means that the actual champs are even more skilled. It also means every gun owner could shoot as well as us if they’d put in the work.


Humorous and related side note…

Halfway through the stage. Half the targets still left totally unengaged, he is completely out of ammo… We score the targets. He has not hit any of those three targets. Not. Even. Once. Not after blowing off 40 rounds in their general direction. Not even T1 he was practically standing on to start.

I say to him, “Y’know… you only had to fire two rounds per target, right?… And you do know, you have to actually hit at least one target at least one time to get any points on-target, right?”

He puffs up like a banty rooster and says, “I’m training for COMBAT.”

“Oh… okay. You do know that in COMBAT you actually have to hit the targets, too. Right?”


Minimum Defensive Shooting Skills

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Solid advice.

Range standards are denigrated in some circles as being unrealistic, arbitrary, out-of-context evaluations but some sort of minimum is still needed.

It’s true the range environment is artificially easier than elsewhere, but this makes meeting some minimum performance standards easier. Pulling it off on the range is not a guarantee of success should things get more difficult, but a failure when it’s easy does not bode well.

What Do We Expect Of You?
Skills And Drills For Saving Lives
By Ralph Mroz


Having self-defense gun skills means in addition to conscious, slow-fire, deliberate marksmanship, you can run the gun at faster speeds, requiring unconscious operation — while still hitting. Mastering static, slow-fire marksmanship isn’t all that difficult, but shooting fast(er) is hard. This is in no small part because you can’t think your way through the shooting. This kind of unconscious, reasonably speedy fire will be called for in a self-defense situation. I submit you have conscious marksmanship reasonably down pat if you can hit an 8″ or 10″ plate at 25 yards almost all of the time once your gun is zeroed. Which is not to say you shouldn’t try to improve this by adding speed.

With regard to faster shooting, all of the following criteria are subjective, and reasonable people may — indeed, will — differ, and it assumes you’re using a full-sized handgun. You’ll need to make adjustments for smaller guns.

Instructor and teacher Tom Givens has probably had more non-cop students prevail in gunfights than any other US instructor. As I write this the tally is over 60 wins, three forfeits (didn’t have a gun) and zero losses. Tom’s students are almost all ordinary, busy people, not training fanatics.

One of his main standards is drawing from concealment and hitting a 7″ x 9″ target in 1.5 seconds at five yards.

Another is to draw from concealment, take a side-step, and hit the same target with three rounds in three seconds at three yards.

This conforms very closely to what he sees in his students’ actual shootings. Since these are two of the standards the data tells us have a history of preparing people to prevail in actual deadly force confrontations, they are great expectations to start with. Neither will “place” you in even a local club match, but neither are they “gimmies” if you don’t practice.


Another standard I’m fond of is the Higginbotham Controllability Drill. You start from a two-handed low ready and put five rounds into a 5.5″ x 8.5″ target — a standard piece of paper folded in half — in two seconds at five yards. For serious — but beginning shooters — this is a goal. Give yourself more time, but work toward two seconds.

Another standard I think a serious shooter should be able to achieve is to hit a plate at 25 yards from a low ready in 2.5 seconds. Start with any size plate you can hit, but the eventual goal is the A-zone of an IPSC target (6″ x 11″), or the down-zero area of an IDPA target (an 8″ circle or plate). Add the draw into the drill to make it harder, but give yourself another half second or so. The objective here is to be able to hit at a distance and your gun will have to be zeroed for your ammo.

Doesn’t happen in the real world? One of Tom Givens’ students had to engage a guy shooting at him from 22 yards. Read the Ayoob Files in this issue about an 80+ yard shot with a 1911, taking a suspect down. Also, think of the shot you’d need to make in an active shooter situation across a parking lot, down a mall or school corridor, etc.

Nailing these drills won’t get you classified as a great shot, and you will want to improve them as your time allows. But we would consider you as being prepared, practical and prudent in a real-life context. And remember, some practice is much better than no practice.

Metrics vs Mediocrity

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Tom Givens and Rangemaster is a renowned instructor and training facility. Givens has had over 60 students involved in documented fights and his experience is one of the best track records of personal defense students in the United States.

Every student trained by Tom Givens at Rangemaster that was forced into a fight that had a gun available won their fight.

Givens is also a successful competitive shooter and trains his students in a competition-compatible approach. Givens’ advice for being successful in a self defense encounter includes preparing in a manner nearly identical to that taken to do well in a shooting match.

Here are words of wisdom from one the most successful and proven defensive shooting instructors in the United States.

Brilliance in the Basics

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From Mike Pannone

When I played lacrosse in college, my coach Bill Tierney (probably the most successful lacrosse coach in history) rode us hard on the simple things. He reminded us that controlling the ball and consistently working hard on offense as well as defense would win over a more talented but less disciplined team that made mistakes on simple things like catching and throwing. We spent lots of time on ball drills because if you can’t scoop a ball, pass and catch then the rest was a waste of time. The principle was what Brian Searcy from Tiger Swan (also my first TL at JSOC) called “brilliance in the basics”. Greatness is the basics done flawlessly and on demand.

On the shooting side I have often been asked what special techniques SFOD uses or favors. I find that a bit amusing since there are no secret techniques nor any secret tactics. There is only one principle that guides the best units or sports teams or for that matter anyone to repeated success. That is a mastery of the basics and the ability to replicate them on demand precisely and consistently. In life and in training there is no Staples “Easy button”, there is only hard precise work.

So in the end, the magic is…that there is no magic.

What gets lost on most is this “brilliance in the basics” is exactly what works in competition. In addition to his vast championship history, Rob Leatham is often hired by the same special operations personnel Mike Pannone discusses here. Good competitors train in the same manner as good, top-tier military and law enforcement personnel and for the exact same reasons.

On Competition

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Competition is the pressure test of training and practice; it is the means through which resilience is developed. A loss is not a bad thing. A loss is an indicator of development; a lesson. If you do things a certain way you will achieve a certain outcome, the same can be said of winners. Individuals and teams winning competitions were better prepared to compete because their development didn’t involve the simple execution of tasks like an automaton.

Joe Garcia

Real World “Experience”

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I often think that we give TOO MUCH credit to “experience.” Someone who has done something a few times, and done it WRONG, but gotten lucky, is a very, very dangerous instructor indeed. I have seen many times a bad decision luckily turn out well, this “validating” that bad decision. Sorry, it just doesn’t work that way…

The ideal, of course, is considerable real world experience using techniques that have served not only that one instructor, but a wide variety of end users well over a long period of time. I put very little faith in anecdotes, one-offs, and “well, I knocked out Mike Tyson, so I must be the best fighter ever. Well, yeah, he did slip and hit his head on the curb just as he was about to knock me into next week, but my one experience PROVES that my techniques are the best!” I’d rather have an instructor who may never have had to use his techniques, but whose STUDENTS perhaps have used them extensively and proven their value.

One of my personal favorite instructors (who is a Grand Master competitor and has been in more than one defensive shooting situation in his life) has the opinion that far too many “cool new techniques” are developed by people who did something once and got lucky. The thought applies, “Well, if I survived this one encounter by shooting the gun upside down and running the trigger with my pinky [because specific circumstances forced this course of action], then it must work all the time!” Then you get Bobby Lee’s Tactical Pinky Inversion school.

That’s the extreme, of course, but if you look at any number of would-be trainers on YouTube, you will see plenty of folks emphasizing one specific skill-set as the solution to all defensive shooting. I don’t trust any instructor who doesn’t express some sense of adaptability, and whose supposed wonder-technique doesn’t stand up to a decent amount of poking, prodding, and questioning by the students.

More here:

Barbell Training in the Military

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A military Physical Fitness Test is not designed to measure combat effectiveness, nor is it designed to measure combat readiness. Physical Fitness Tests are wellness assessments designed to ensure a minimal level of fitness necessary to avoid medical problems, not for improved performance.

Here is how to do it better and actually improve performance.

Starting Strength and Barbell Training in the Military
Lt. Col. Christian “Mac” Ward


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