Muscle Memory II

Muscle Memory II


Muscle Memory…

The other day we had two students come through Artemis for an Art of the Pistol training session.  Both were extremely good shooters, and their comfort with firearms became instantly apparent the moment they stepped into our Lab.

We will call them Alpha and Beta

Alpha it turns out was a criminal defense attorney that had spent a good chunk of his life as a competitive pistol shooter.

Beta works for Homeland Security.

Beta definitely had a leg up when it came to communication during an engagement. He had no problem reporting his position, calling for additional resources, and paying attention to his surroundings.

Alpha had no problem hitting whatever targets were placed in front of him… However, Alpha also had a habit he had developed as a competitive shooter…. the moment he was done shooting he quickly removed the magazine from the pistol and locked the slide to the rear.

We counseled him about this while we were doing marksmanship shooting on steel targets, but he did not seem particularly interested in changing his protocols.

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I should also mention that Alpha is a CCW holder, and carries his firearm regularly as a self defense tool.  He also carries a minimum of 2 extra magazines with him.

We then moved to the VirTra 300.

Alpha was the first to go through a a use of force simulation.  As we expected the shooting prowess he exhibited on the steel targets evaporated when he was confronted by an armed assailant.

He forgot to focus on his front sight and instead focused his attention on the threat… the first four shots formed a halo around the threat instead of being true.

Shot #5 hit home and stopped the threat instantly.

As he did with the thousands of repetitions that preceded this instance, he immediately removed the magazine and locked the slide to the rear.

That action proved to be fatal.  (Well… not fatal… as you all know, no one is allowed to “die” on our simulators… let’s just say it resulted in him “underwinning” the next engagement.)

“Bad guys always travel in packs”

That is our mantra, and in this simulation it proved to be true.

Bad guy number 2 showed up to see what had happened to his buddy, and saw Alpha standing there with an empty gun, with the slide locked to the rear…

Not the best position to be in when the goblin shows up.

The bad guy engaged and Alpha fumbled, ultimately dropping the magazine and pointing an empty gun at the bad guy.

After the simulation had ended he sheepishly looked at us.

“Well… that didn’t go well.”

“Nonsense… that went perfect according to your training.”


“You’ve trained to be a competitive shooter, and your unload actions are part of that training.  The problem is that the bad guys aren’t competitive shooters…. that puts you at a significant disadvantage.”

When we make the conscience decision to use a firearm for self defense, we also must make the same conscience decision to ensure that our training prepares us for that eventuality.

I love competitive shooting… but I don’t like… nor will I tolerate, the development of negative training scars.  Some actions we undertake at with our weapons during practice must by design, be administrative in nature.   We must be conscience of that fact, and ensure that our actions during those administrative events be just that… administrative.

The development of Mastery of Skill At Arms, is not with out potential peril… we must do everything we can to ensure that we do not instill in us the recipe for our own failure.

One of the ways we ensure this is the understanding of the “why”.

Every action we undertake with our weapon…from how we present, to how we return to the holster, is done with specific reasons.  If we don’t understand the reasoning behind the actions, we won’t understand the negative consequences for not using them… or replacing them with another set of actions.  We also won’t understand when it might be necessary to abandon them altogether.

Alpha learned the consequences of this in the simulation… thankfully it was in a simulation, and not in an actual use of force event.


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