Speed is important.
And once you can go at one speed, you want to or may need to go faster.
In working with a student the other day, I realized a need to change my phrasing. And roll with me on this because it’s still a fresh idea in my head that I’m working on.
The scenario was Defensive Pistol Skills 1. In that class, we start to impress upon students the realities of gunfighting and self-defense with firearms. One of those realities is there there isn’t much time. The saying that the typical gunfight is “3 shots at 3 yards in 3 seconds”? That’s why Karl developed the “3 Seconds or Less Drill” as a test and measure of your ability to perform in that realm. DPS1 puts students under pressure, and then ratchets up the pressure by doing drills against a timer.
Most students end up discovering they’re too slow. Buzzer sounds, and they might get 1 shot off before the stop buzzer sounds 3 seconds later. They get better by the end of class because they start to understand a need to go faster, but I started to see how “going faster” isn’t always the right way to direct the students. It’s about the use of the phrase “go faster”, and what impression that leaves, what seed that sows, in the mind of the student.
Here’s what seems to happen.
Start buzzer sounds. Student moseys their gun out of the holster and gets it up on target, but then realizes OH SHIT! I NEED TO SHOOT AND THERE’S NOT MUCH TIME LEFT! and then doesn’t get a good sight picture, slaps and yanks the trigger hard, and they have a gloriously unacceptable hit. And while they got their unacceptable hit the stop buzzer sounded.
What I believe is happening in the student’s mind is they think that they need to “go faster”. But this seems to be some sort of acceleration curve where they start at zero and just accelerate what they’re doing until the exercise is over. This is not what we want to do, at least, not always and not so simply.
There are all sorts of things that happen between the start and stop buzzer. You hear the buzzer, you recognize it’s time to start and make the decision to start, you start moving, you clear your cover garment, you get a grip on the gun, you draw the gun, you present the gun, you acquire the sights, you press the trigger, the gun goes bang. There’s lots of things that happen here, but often what the student is thinking about is “shooting the gun”, which many times just boils down to pointing at the target and pressing the trigger. But as you can see, there’s a lot more that goes on. They know they have to get the gun out of the holster, they know they have to do all these other things, but they don’t necessarily factor in that it consumes time to do those things.
Consequently, the effort to “make time” doesn’t necessarily mean we have to accelerate in a single linear manner from start buzzer to stop buzzer. What it may mean is that we use the alloted time in the most efficient manner possible.
As an example, in this particular DPS1 class, there was a student that I knew had the marksmanship fundamentals, but when all the time pressures were put on her she was having a hard time hitting much of anything. I took her aside to the small range to work on things. I broke it down. I had her take all the time in the world. Point the gun at a target, get a good sight picture, slow smooth trigger press, and see what happened. She rang the steel every time. When there were no time pressures she could do it all. So once that was established, I stepped it up just a little bit. Now I had her start in a low ready position, move the gun up, then sights, trigger, press off the shot, etc., but again, no time pressure. And she was fine. Next I told her to move the gun up but take a little less time between getting the gun up and getting the shot off. Not to rush anything, just to not waste as much time. To still move at her slow pace, just eliminate time where nothing useful was going on. And she did fine. And this is how we worked for a while, taking “half a second” off here and there, but never moving faster, just eliminating wasted time.
The upshot? The total time it took her to go from start to finish was reduced, but she never “went faster”.
The next step was trying to do some things simultaneously. Before I had her do everything in series: present the gun, acquire the sights, press the trigger. Now, I wanted her to do things in parallel: press the trigger while presenting the gun and pick up the sights as the gun is presented. Multitasking. We did have to slow down, but it was about getting her to process the notion and actions. But even tho she moved slower, her total time from start to finish was again reduced because actions were happening in parallel, not serially.
We didn’t get beyond that, but I can talk about another aspect that might actually involve going faster, and that is in fact going faster. But realize that going faster doesn’t mean some constant linear acceleration across the entire task. What might happen is you divide up the greater task into subtasks, and accept those subtasks might move at different speeds. For example, when the buzzer sounds and it’s time to draw, that draw should be as wicked fast as you can draw it. And no matter when nor the circumstance, always draw fast… I can’t think of a time when you want to draw slowly. After you draw, you present the gun. But in this presentation, you may need to move at a different speed. If you’re shooting at less than 5 yards, you probably can get the gun out there as fast as you can and be just fine. But if your first shot is at a target 25 yards away, you cannot blaze away; you must slow down that presentation so you can make the precision shot. Again, it’s quite common to see in DPS1 class that as students are learning to draw from the holster there’s this linear acceleration from start to finish of the whole task, going slow to get the gun out, but once the hand is on the gun they smear the draw from position 1 to position 4, struggle to find their sights, waste time, and end up yanking the trigger all in an effort to “go faster”. In the end, they weren’t fast, nor accurate.
Which brings to another point about how to “go faster”, using proper and efficient technique. While it’s true that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line and thus likely it’s also the fastest way to get from A to B, the handgun draw does not abide by that rule. The right way to “go faster” is to make an “L” shape, drawing the gun straight out of the holster to the armpit, then straight out from the armpit/face/upper-chest area pressed out to the target. While technically it’s a slower path of travel, getting the gun from A to B isn’t the only factor involved — your eyes need to pick up that front sight. When you do this “press out”, it gives your eyes more time and ability to find and fix on the front sight and get the sight picture you need. When you start to couple that with simultaneous actions like pressing the trigger as you press out, all of these things come together to help you “go faster” without going faster.
Watch Mike Brook as he shoots the F.A.S.T. drill in 4.92 seconds
Buzzer sounds and he’s quick to react to it. His draw is wicked fast (and appendix carry doesn’t hurt either). But then his press out goes slowly — a must since the first (two) shot(s) of the drill is into a 3″x5″ box at 7 yards. Once second shot is over he’s right onto the reload, no dawdle there, and then completes the drill. If you watch, it doesn’t necessarily look fast in the sense of rapid acceleration and “pedal to the metal” shooting. There’s no blazing away. He’s not shooting faster than he can see and get acceptable hits, and at some points it looks like he’s going slow. But he’s doing all of the above in terms of not wasting time, changing speeds, performing simultaneous action, using good technique, and it all comes together for a fast time.
So… for me the thing I’m trying to figure out is a good and efficient way to express this to students. You can see in my above elaboration that well.. it’s laborious to explain. But it’s about how to “go faster, without going faster”. To find the right terms to help the students overcome the notions and help them really get it. Because when we say “go faster”, they’re not necessarily going to think about all the ways they can actually go faster without going faster. It’s not really the right term.
Hrm. Something to continue thinking about.