Many people train with their handguns for defensive situations without thinking about anything but the shooting part of the equation. The fact is that real-life defensive situations are more complex and instantly stress your body and mind.
Being surprised, threatened or attacked causes your body to dump varying amounts of adrenaline and other potent substances into your bloodstream. Those natural drugs in combination with a stressful situation cause well-documented reactions such as tunnel vision and auditory exclusion (not hearing sounds, even those as loud as gunshots).
You may experience involuntary shakes after an encounter, or even find yourself laughing or crying inappropriately—that is your body’s way of burning off the excess adrenaline. It’s also common to have difficulty remembering exactly what happened. Those reactions to stress are natural, and to be forewarned is forearmed, as they say.
A number of people with concealed carry permits regularly practice dry firing, drawing from a holster and target shooting to prepare for personal-defense situations, but that training doesn’t account for the physical and mental affects people experience when lives are on the line.
How do you condition your body and mind for the adrenaline dump that occurs during and after a stressful situation? Here are a few helpful hints and a video to help you make it out alive:
Being surprised by a situation makes you more likely to become panicked, and panic kills. If you see someone loitering by your car in a dark parking lot or sense someone coming up behind you, you might have time to plan your response or avoid the situation entirely.
Having the muzzle of a gun stuck into your back shouldn’t be your first clue that trouble lurks nearby. If you regularly carry a gun, you have a responsibility to be aware of your surroundings, as everywhere you go there is “a man with a gun”—you.
- What if someone attempts to carjack you while you’re stopped at a traffic light?
- What if you walk into a store that’s being robbed?
- What if you hear your apartment door being kicked at 3 AM?
Think about how you would respond to several situations and develop a plan. Panic keeps you from thinking properly, and plans help keep you from panicking.
For example, when “A” situation actually arises, the soldiers find themselves immediately reacting as they’ve been trained, without having to consciously think about how to respond with “X.”
In this format, the soldier is busy completing an objective and less likely to panic. Soldiers still experience stress, but IADs help them to respond effectively in spite of that stress. Civilians practice IADs to a lesser degree—school fire drills are a prime example.
If you carry a gun, practice drawing it from your holster or pocket and shooting man-sized targets at defensive distances as fast as you can pull the trigger. Proper training also involves knowing which objects provide adequate cover. Practicing the proper fundamentals will help you feel more in control of the situation.
See more training tips here.
A Green Beret who did two tours in Afghanistan once told me, “I was never in a gunfight that didn’t start or end in a foot race.” Your physical condition may prevent you from doing certain things, but in a life-or-death situation your heart rate will increase, your adrenaline will be pumping and you’ll probably be out of breath. Have you ever tried to shoot in those conditions?
Try doing a set of pushups, wind sprints or both before picking up your gun and shooting the target. You’ll find being out of breath with your heart hammering in your chest makes it difficult to shoot accurately, but not impossible.
1. Practice force-on-force inside a building with some friends and airsoft guns.
2. Go out and compete at a combat-style practical shooting match, such as the USPSA or IDPA puts on. Having a range officer follow you with a timer while a crowd watches can be very psychologically stressful—and a great way to get used to shooting while under stress.
3. Some police departments do firearms training in low light with sirens blaring and lights flashing. Heading to the range and don’t have any flashing police lights or any practical shooting matches nearby? Have a friend stand behind you and randomly yell while you try to shoot the target.