Negative training scars
The following events took place in our lab during one of our CCW Classes:
When we take our CCW students into the lab we begin with their own pistols that they are preparing to qualify with at the range. We do a safety check to ensure that there is no ammunition present, then we have the students run a few dry fire drills using our digital targets as reference points to aim at.
“Ok shooters. On the command of ‘gun’ you will do a five count presentation onto your target. All we are doing is practicing that five count presentation and making sure it is right. Don’t go ahead of me… I’ll call out each step and move you along.”
“Gun! …Ok shooters… begin at count one, move to count two make sure that your gun has cleared the holster, count three… drop your elbow and get the gun oriented down range, make sure there is a 10 degree cant to the gun to clear your clothing… four… move your hands together and get a good grip… five come out on target.”
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What? was that the sound of a trigger being pressed on an empty chamber?
“I did not give the command to engage the targets… we are only practicing the five count presentation. No one should have made the decision to shoot, so all fingers should be off the trigger and outside the trigger guard.”
I noticed a bit of a commotion taking place between one of the students and another instructor on the line.
I decided to head over.
As I approached I heard the student talking:
“I Know I pressed the trigger… I do that because of my laser bullet”
Hmmm… this is going to be interesting.
“Whats up?” I asked raising my coffee cup to my mouth.
“I was getting chastised because I pressed the trigger… I do that each time. I have this laser bullet and I use it.”
“Ok… your going to have to help me on that one… you have a laser bullet?”
“Well… no.. its a.. its a thing you put in the chamber, when the firing pin hits it it sends out a red laser.”
“Oh… got it.”
“I do that each time to make sure that my grip is proper.”
“Yeah…. that is a problem.”
“Why?!? I think it is a good thing. If I’m coming out of the holster it is because I’m going to shoot. I’m not coming out of the holster because I’m going to wave my gun around. Besides… I’m using it just to check my grip.”
“Ok.. first off, there is no guarantee that every time you come out of the holster you are going to shoot. In fact, I would hope that each time you put your gun away at night you do a five count presentation to take it out of the holster. Your neighbors might get upset if each time you put your gun away at night you launch off a round.”
“Well… of course. I’m not going to do that.”
“You might…. You are training yourself to develop a muscle memory pattern that involves a trigger press with each draw. You may very well do that when you are not intending to actually fire.”
“Nonsense… I just use it to check my grip.”
The next day we were at the range for our live fire qualification. When we do this each of us instructors stand behind a student to make sure that they are performing their actions properly and staying safe. Like in the lab, the first “round” is a dry fire exercise.
Since this student was “mine” on the line I leaned in and told him, “Don’t put your finger on the trigger as you come out of the holster.”
The live range exercise always makes students a little bit more nervous so he was already a little amped.
He nodded, understanding my range command.
He drew his firearm, and as I suspected his finger went to the trigger and began a press.
He looked at his hands and became visibly shaken.
“Oh my God… I can’t believe I just did that!”
“I can… you’ve trained yourself to do that, and right now you are under a little bit of stress. When we are under stress you default to the muscle memory that you have burned into your psyche during training. You’ve literally trained yourself to do that.”
“But if we were loaded right now, not doing dry fire I would have sent a round down range!”
“Yes… or into a dresser, or drywall, or desk.”
“Some draws do require a trigger press.. but not all. If you train that they all do then you will do it each and every time.”
“Point taken counselor… I’ll start using something else to check my grip.”