Decision Making Under Stress and Training

While deciding how we will conduct our training, buy equipment and piece it all together into a system we must understand the gunfight from both our and the bad guy’s perspective.

We need to think about how the average gunfight happens and what will happen to your senses when you enter it. Most gunfights last in the seconds and studies show that when confronted with a life threatening situation over 90%(some say 99%) of people have some combination of tunnel vision, distance distortion, audio distortion, time distortion and loss of linear thinking.

When people start talking about tunnel vision they tend to mistake it for losing ones peripheral vision from the side. If you are like most people who report tunnel vision it will be like looking through the cardboard tubes that are inside a roll of paper towels. This tends to make judging distance difficult if not impossible.

This is important when you decide how to train for a gunfight. For example if someone suggests you can pick up the front sight before it gets to eye level or shoot a certain way based on distance, you might not in a gunfight.

Our minds make decisions differently while relaxed versus a life threatening situation. We think in a linear process while relaxed. We can take our time and ponder what the best solution is. During a life threatening situation our minds do something different. A simple way of describing it is we look at mental pictures that we have created through our experience/training and grab the one that we believe will keep us alive. The up side is that if we can do this incredibly fast. The down side is that we need to put the pictures in our mind. This is where training comes in.

Training with repetition is nothing new. A physical act practiced with repetition will become subconscious. For example, Repetitively training to perfectly present the gun from the holster to sight alignment will allow you to do it in a gunfight without consciously thinking about all the steps. If you always practiced say, to bring the pistol to chin level, then there is a good chance you will bring it to your chin instead of eye level in a gunfight. In my opinion this is why so many police officers have done just that. They practice their draw without a target and bring it comfortably to their chin. Under stress of a gunfight they draw just as they practiced it.

In the next post we will talk more about how to produce these mental pictures by combining your earlier study of laws with a few “what if” scenarios.


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