Back to the Fundamentals

We sometimes hear the phrase, “Go back to the fundamentals.” A better way of saying that is, “Go back and properly learn the fundamentals.” Experience, backed up by research, shows us how we should have learned the fundamentals, but didn’t.

Learning fundamentals is a slow step by step process. Failure to learn the fundamentals in a step by step way often causes inconsistencies during gun fighting. Those inconsistencies can cause you to lose some types of gunfights.

Learning in a proper order would look something like this:

  1. Grip with front sight focus, trigger finger on frame (no target, just empty wall).
  2. Grip, front sight focus and trigger press.
  3. Draw to sight alignment (front sight in focus no target just empty backdrop) and trigger press.
  4. Draw to flash front sight picture with target (presentation).
  5. Presentation while side stepping.
  6. Presentation while continuing to move and shoot
  7. Presentation while using cover, etc.
  8. Draw to the ready (#3 on a four count draw). We don’t always draw and shoot the bad guy.) Don’t do this for time. Just quickly and properly.

Taking the above list we might argue that the skill of using cover is more of a priority than the skill of just side stepping. What we probably would not argue is that a person must grip the pistol before they actually draw the pistol. It is actually harmful to our long-term skill retention to learn to present the pistol before learning to grip the pistol. It’s better to learn each in isolation and then practice them together.  It’s not just learning bad habits, but putting those habits incorrectly into our long-term memory. After practicing each step, try to test yourself during your next practice session. If you can do the previous skill correctly then move on.

I can usually tell someone who was impatient and practiced to draw the pistol very fast but never took the time to learn the grip. It usually presents itself with the student having a slightly different grip each time they draw the pistol. I can usually tell if someone spends a great amount of time drawing to the ready position but not to on target with front sight focus. I can usually tell if someone practices to draw and shoot quickly but does not incorporate movement with live fire. And I can usually tell if someone has trained under a lot of stress before learning the fundamentals. A small amount of stress it good but too much is bad. That often shows up as a block to future learning. We see this often with female students (but it is not only them. They are just a bit more susceptible to early stress than men.) This stress seems to lock the bad habits into their brain and it is difficult to relearn it.

If we believe there is some level of accuracy that is important in a self-defense shooting, then having a grip that is different each time usually ends up with a slightly different trigger press each time and thus a slightly different bullet placement on the target. It certainly makes shooting consistently shot to shot almost impossible.

If that variability in accuracy is then added to variability in movement (shooting during moving because we never learned correctly, sight alignment, etc. then what we thought of as, “Good enough” suddenly isn’t.) When we look at why people have poor accuracy it isn’t just that they didn’t practice. Or lost control and sprayed and prayed. It’s also that they practiced in an inappropriate way.

Some great shooters have obtained that skill over time. It took years to shoot, move and make decisions that well. As a new person you can do the same thing over time. I think it’s just better to do it in a somewhat efficient way. Learning the fundamentals first over a few months time will allow you to perform at a high level consistently. Don’t take years to learn, unlearn or relearn what only takes six to twelve months. Sometimes unlearning is very difficult and some neurologist are suggesting that if it’s unlearning visual it might be impossible. i.e. don’t learn to point shoot at a high and fast level then try to use your sights. More on that next time.


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