Are You Ignoring Your Other Survival Skills?

By Ralph Mroz

There’s an old adage in our world: “The timer and the target don’t lie.” In fact the timer is the instrument I see shooters — including me — using the least in their self-improvement, which is a mistake. We all focus a great deal on the size of the groups we’re getting, and our accuracy.

But we forget the difference between slow-fire marksmanship shooting and faster survival shooting. The former is done consciously and the latter unconsciously. Moving from pure marksmanship shooting (often described as “intellectual shooting”), to survival shooting requires a timer to force ourselves to move into the faster realm of unconscious, mostly kinesthetic, shooting. To a top competitor who wins matches by hundredths of a second, obsessing over minute fractions of a second is appropriate.

But I suggest we regular folks aim, instead, for “windows” of time. Take drawing without concealment and hitting an 8″ plate at seven yards. This is a standard drill and I’m pretty happy when I can do it between 1.3 and 1.5 seconds. For most ordinary people that’s a “good” time. An “excellent” time might be between 1.0 and 1.3 seconds, while a superb time might be less than a second. Likewise a “fair” time might be 1.6 to 2.0 seconds and a poor time over 2.0 seconds. Vary the size of the plate and the distance, or add in concealment, and these windows would shift around. The point is, aiming for windows of time is probably a better practice for most of us as opposed to obsessing about shaving a 20th of a second off of our good runs.

I also like my timer to be simple since I just need to set a delay and/or a par time, and to know the times of each shot from the beep. I use a PACT Club timer. It does it intuitively, reliably and is not expensive, at around $130 or so.

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Charting It

But you can’t measure everything. It’s a mistake to think time and shot placement are the be-all and end-all of survival shooting, and to think every training session has to work on improving those two very important skills. We also have to be concerned with learning tactics, judgment, verbalization, situational awareness, strategic movement, non-lethal weapons, witness management and so on. All of these things, and many more — such as knowing the law or handling the aftermath — are vital to our survival, and after a point they are just as important as shooting faster and straighter.

In the event the real thing happens, a state-class IDPA shooter who has never learned the law or subjected himself to force-on-force simulations will be at a disadvantage to a merely “good” shooter who has. We can visualize this balance of skills by using a management method known as constraint analysis.

Look at Diagram One, depicting a manufacturing operation. The key to increasing this operation’s output is not to simply shovel more raw material into the input. Clearly Operation 1 is the constraint and needs to be improved. If it’s improved to an output of more than 15 units/hour, then Operation 2 is the new constraint.

Now look at this method applied to survival shooting in Diagram Two. This shooter is weakest in speed, so he needs to work on that. Once their speed has reached the “good” level, then they can choose to continue to improve their speed or work on their tactics until they are both excellent, and so on.

If you’re training for survival you’ll be best served by developing all of the necessary skills. Shooting fast and accurately are critically important but they are not the entire skill set you need. After they have reached a “good” level, you should work on the other necessary skills.

Some Are Subjective

Tactics, judgment, verbalization, awareness and some other skills can’t be scored with a timer or a ruler. But just because you can’t measure something with numbers doesn’t mean you can’t measure it. You might measure your tactics with after-action analysis of your video-taped performance. You won’t get a numerical score, but you’ll get accurate and useful feedback for improvement.

By all means work on your fast and accurate shooting. It’s foundational. But don’t get so caught up in it you push it past the point where developing
other survival skills are ignored.

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