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Muscle Memory & Conscious Acts - Apples & Oranges
|Posted by Lance Earl of Lance Earl, LLC on December 29, 2011|
I recently received an email from an individual that shot a couple of our level three Single Operator Pistol Challenges. Overall, his comments were quite positive, however, he did have one issue. A portion of his message follows:
"The only thing I would disagree with you about is your rules to have a shooter move after shooting twice from a position. I understand that you are trying to get a shooter to think and move, which is a good thing and could be more advantageous; however, I believe your requirement of forcing a person to move when a target is presented could also be the worst thing. There were times when I was shooting at a target and had more time to shoot at it than the required two shots. If the target is presented, and the shooter has adequate cover, stay in place and shoot as needed. Once the target moves, then moving to another location might be a better strategy.
Again, I understand what you are trying to accomplish, but I think as the target moves it forces the shooter to move as well—accomplishing the think and shoot strategy. My point is this: a person will react to a stressful situation as he/she has been trained. If you teach yourself to move after two shots, you will do so in a stressful situation without even thinking about it. Case in point, there was a documented case where a police officer was killed in a shoot out. The investigation revealed that the officer had five or ten (can’t remember the exact amount) empty shells from his revolver in his pocket. It was determined that the officer trained and shot at a range where the range master had the officers put the empty shells in their pockets so there would be less clean up. After shooting at the suspect, the officer did exactly what he had been trained to do, put his empty shells in his pocket. This might seem silly, but in a very stressful situation—a shoot out—you will do as you have been trained."
I love this kind of a review. Sure, some of it hit me square between the eyes. However, it is well thought out and therefore, very valuable.
Each of his points were right on the money. In a real life situation, a prudent person will act one way. In a training drill, he may act another way. The risk is that the person might repeat drill activities in a real world event. For example, there are legitimate drills where we might stand in the open and shoot at a target. In a real world incident, this action will almost always be a mistake. The trick is to provide balance where the person can mentally separate tactical correctness from the requirements of a drill.
Our challenges have been designed to force a shooter to frequently repeat skills that he or she may be required to use in a real world event. Therefore, these challenges include reloads, tactical reloads, moving from and to cover, clearing rooms, and more.
With regard to requiring movement, you are not required to seek new cover after two shots, but after four shots. There is a reason that makes this rule very valid in my mind. Moving, assuming a shooting position, target acquisition from a variety of shooting positions, and effectively using cover of various types and sizes are all essential skills. Therefore, our Challenges have been designed to repeat and master these skills. We simply tell shooters to assume that after four shots, the existing cover is no longer effective. Assume that it fell down, drove away, or got beamed to the starship Enterprise. When this suggestion becomes a reality in their minds, moving makes a great deal of sense.
Since he made a valid point, it falls to DallyPost Tactical to do an excellent job. We must be ever vigilant in our instruction to insure that our students know that our Challenges are a rapid fire requirement to complete many procedures. They must also understand that the priorities in an actual fight are to get cover, get help, and create distance if it can be safely accomplished. However, if this strategy were to be used in our Challenges, very little training would occur. The prudent shooter would simply stand behind the furthermost cover and expend all ammunition from that single location.
Finally, I would like to address the example of the cop that died with empty brass in his pocket because I think we are comparing apples and oranges here.
There are muscle memory tasks that we teach and practice so that they can be completed correctly without taking time to think about them. Reloading and most administrative tasks are included in this category. If this officer's muscle memory lead him to take time to pocket his brass, then that was wasted time and wasted motion. It may have contributed to his death. So, the point is well taken. I agree that if muscle memory tasks are practiced incorrectly, they will be repeated in moments of stress.
However, there are tasks that require thought and planning, for example, moving. Moving is not a muscle memory task, therefore, it will not be automatically repeated without conscious thought. Before a person moves, he must decide if it is time to move. This process will include weighing the realities of the specific environment against the need to move. Then he must decide if he will go forward, backward, left, or right. Only after conscious thought and planning will the move be accomplished. I strongly believe that actions requiring conscious thought will be completed on a case by case basis. With proper training, any reasonable person will make these decisions based on real-world realities and act appropriately.
Consider the IDPA rule for reload with retention. This requires a shooter to eject a partially spent magazine and stow it before grabbing a full one and loading the gun. Personally, I disagree with this practice. When everything is on the line, I want to get my gun back in the fight as quickly as possible. If you have only completed half of a reload with retention when things go bad again, your magazine pouches will be full and your gun will be empty. Am I the only one who sees a problem with this? On the flip side, if you only complete half of a Tactical Reload and get interrupted, your gun is loaded and ready to go. Full gun or empty gun. The answer is simple so a reload with retention does not make much sense at all. This practice of stowing a mag before recharging the gun is the same as pocketing the brass before charging a gun. Both can get you killed and one may have contributed to the death of the officer previously mentioned.
Situational awareness and the ability to think and act rationally trumps everything. Therefore, mental training is just as important, if not more important than physical training.
Apples and oranges. Never store them together. Otherwise, they will get friendly and produce little Appanges. Then the world will not know whether make juice or pie and chaos will rule.
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