Speed is important in firearms training. Whether it is clearing a cover garment, getting a consistent grip, clearing the holster, acquiring the sights, or squeezing off the first and subsequent rounds, speed is crucial. But there are different qualities of speed. I touched on this earlier with the story of the two quarterbacks and with Tim’s BUD/S training, but the key to developing high quality speed is to repeatedly practice a given technique exactly the same way.
Another mental picture is using a cable saw to cut through a log. If you reposition your saw after every stroke, you will end up with lots of shallow cuts on the log, but no progress towards cutting through it. Running the cable saw over the exact same spot as few as a dozen times, on the other hand, will work a permanent groove into the log and eventually cut through it. It’s probably pretty evident by now that repeatedly working the exact same groove with the cable saw is the same as working the exact same technique with your firearm. It will help you get the results you’re looking for MUCH faster than inconsistent technique. The trick is to repeatedly perform a technique EXACTLY the same way.
The most powerful trick for practicing consistent technique is to do the technique slowly. Frankly, I don’t like slow. I like FAST. I like doing things quickly, learning quickly, and blasting through obstacles quickly. Ironically, training slowly is going to increase your default speed quicker than training fast! I remember going shooting with my brother after he’d just gotten back from leading a SF team in Afghanistan. I started shooting and I was trying to get off double taps from concealment as quickly as possible. When he started shooting, he looked like a turtle crawling through molasses. But he had absolutely no wasted movement and every shot was identical. As he sped up, he kept the same efficiency and consistency, and was quickly shooting faster and more accurately than me.
You’ve heard the saying, “SLOW IS SMOOTH AND SMOOTH IS FAST” and there’s a reason for that:
Smooth movement is efficient and doesn’t waste motion.
• If you repeat smooth movement consistently in slow motion, it will wear a groove in the brain and your default movement will be smooth and efficient.
• Just like the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, the fastest technique is the one that is the smoothest and wastes the least motion.
• When you are under stress and acting quickly, your brain will quickly playback whatever groove is worn the deepest. If that groove happens to be a smooth, efficient technique, than you will perform smooth and efficiently under stress.
When you are training techniques, especially initially, you want your technique to look the same as a competition shooter looks at ½ or ¼ speed. Said another way, if you were to videotape yourself, you should be able to play it back at 2x or 4x speed and have it look like a competition shooter…perfect, smooth, and free of wasted motion.
Where does recoil make you pivot?
This may seem like an odd question, but it’s vital to consistent firearms performance…especially when firing multiple shots.
When someone fires a handgun with a loose wrist, it’s called limp wristing and it can cause a failure to feed the next round. This is because the recoil is causing a rotation at the wrist. If you tighten the wrist, the next joint where you can rotate is the elbow. Tighten the elbow and the next joint to rotate is the shoulder. An example of rotating around the shoulder is when a shooter shoots a handgun, only to have it end up pointing straight up in the air when they’re done.
Once you tighten the shoulder, the next joint to rotate is the waist. It’s common to see new shooters with their hips thrown forwards and their shoulders thrown back a little bit further after every shot if they don’t know that they should have a forward leaning, aggressive stance… kind of like a fighter in mid punch.
But if you tighten your wrist, elbow, shoulder, and waist and have a fighting stance with your spine bent slightly forward, you end up rotating around your front foot and your back foot acts like a break, stabilizing you and helping you keep a solid shooting platform so you can get off subsequent shots without having to make major aiming adjustments.
One of the big reasons that this works so well is that when your wrist, elbow, shoulder, and waist are flexed, the recoil of the shot gets absorbed by the mass of your entire body, rather than just your hand, arm, or upper body.
I’ll get into detail on specific techniques and strategies in next month’s issue, but for right now, let’s talk about some concrete steps that you can take over the next few days & weeks to put this information to use.
- Pick one firearm to start practicing these skills with. “Muscle confusion” is a sexy technique for fitness, but not something that you want to do with firearms training.
- Take at least half of your dry fire and range time this month and spend it trying to do everything at 10-20 percent of full speed. Focus on removing any unnecessary movement from your you are using the exact same technique every time.
- As you’re returning your firearm to your holster, don’t think of it as holstering your firearm. Think of it as drawing your firearm in reverse and try to do everything in the exact opposite order that you did when you drew your firearm. (You’re going to have to determine if you can do this safely at the range.) This is not necessarily the best way to re-holster your firearm. It is simply a way to “work the groove” of your muscle memory in both directions.
- During your dry fire time, practice drawing your firearm while facing a mirror. If you have a video camera available, record yourself a few times, watch, analyze, fix, and repeat. Focus on getting rid of inefficiencies and smoothness. If possible, try watching the video at 2x or even 4x speed and see how it looks—it should look the way you want to perform under stress.