The Importance of Learning to Shoot under Stress
Getting winded really impacts shooting performance. If you practice to use a firearm for home defense, self defense, or on duty - it is very important to work in training for shooting under stress. Thankfully, it is easy to do.
Shooting under stress is a very under rated skill amongst the firearms community. When the adreneline kicks in, the heart rate elevates, and breathing gets heavy, strategy goes out the window and major tunnel vision kicks in. Yet despite that, many firearms enthusiests only take to a static shooting range to brush up on their marksmanship skills, which is entirely different than shooting under stress.
Shooting under stress changes everything
Even though Tom Scott isn’t a professional marksman, the effects of even just an elevated heart rate and heavy breathing are very clearly seen in that video. Simply going for a short run makes it significantly harder to pull off accurate shots.
The adreneline rush of an actual self defense encounter makes Tom’s experience look tame.
We train how to punch holes in paper, so why don’t more shooters train how to shoot under stress?
How to train to shoot under stress
While no training scenario will come close to a real life self defense encounter, there are many training opportunities to improve our skills for shooting under stress.
Force on force classes
The hands down best way to improve these skills is to take a force on force class. In these classes, shooters use “simunitions” to shoot each other in close to real scenarios. In these force on force classes, shooters will have to grapple, shoot, and talk their way out of simulated deadly encounters. When someone points a gun at you, even though it’s only shooting paintball like rounds, adreneline kicks in and weaknesses in the fundamentals of marksmanship become very apparent.
Outside of actual combat, where else are you going to be able to put your shooting skills to the test on actual humans?
The next best way to train shooting under stress is with local shooting competitions. Local club matches usually only have a $20~ entry fee, and are very laid back. “Competitors” are more like friends, eager to provide pointers, talk about strategy, and discuss firearms. A local club match really is a great way to get connected in the firearms community, make friends, have fun, and improve shooting skills.
Shooting competitions allow shooters to engage multiple targets, rapid fire, shoot while moving, and shoot all sorts of unique reactive targets. They really are a lot of fun.
Combining work outs and shooting
If your schedule is too busy for either of those, then simply doing some squats or getting in some short sprints is an excellent way to get the breathing heavy and elevate that heart rate. That can be done at many ranges between magazines, or even at home during dry fire practice.
There’s no excuse to not work in at least some training for shooting while out of breath.
Getting winded really impacts shooting performance. If you practice to use a firearm for home defense, self defense, or on duty – it is very important to work in training for shooting under stress. Thankfully, it is easy to do.
What’s your favorite technique for practicing shooting under stress?
Written by Brian Purkiss - always a student, sometimes a teacher.
I don't consider myself a competition shooter - I think of myself as a performance pistol shooter. I am all about performing at as high of a level as possible. Towards that end, I am obsessive about learning how to perform. I spend a lot of my life learning from the best across the entire firearms world and even into other areas of performance and other sports. I am a USPSA Carry Optics Grandmaster, currently working towards my second GM title in the Open division.
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