Does training to act with focus under extreme stress affect your shooting ability?

This is a discussion on Does training to act with focus under extreme stress affect your shooting ability? within the Concealed Carry Issues & Discussions forums, part of the Defensive Carry Discussions category; OK, my disclaimer... I maybe full of bull on this one and if you disagree with me I look forward to hearing your counter point. ...

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Thread: Does training to act with focus under extreme stress affect your shooting ability?

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    Ex Member Array Doodle's Avatar
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    Does training to act with focus under extreme stress affect your shooting ability?

    OK, my disclaimer... I maybe full of bull on this one and if you disagree with me I look forward to hearing your counter point. Further, I have never been in a defensive scenario where I have had to draw much less fire so, to those of you who have I would especially like to hear your thoughts on this one. Lastly I absolutely understand that I am NOT superman.

    A little background... I spent 8 years in the navy as a submarine nuclear reactor operator. During the course of my naval career I was drilled (at least weekly underway and we where underway ALOT) with simulated casualties and actual controlled casualties inserted for training while operating the reactor plant. There where 2 obvious reasons for this. The first is so that I was conditioned to take action if an actual casualty occurred. I can personally attest that the training worked I was on watch for an actual reactor plant casualty that occurred while I was on watch, but I can't discuss particulars due to classified information. The second reason is so that we performed well on our yearly operational reactor safeguards exam (oarse).

    During oarse, the oarse team would come from Naval Reactors (navy version of the NRC and they are very closely related) examine us and run previously undisclosed drills on us, i.e. we didn't know what drills where coming. The oarse board had a plethera of drills to choose from including fires, flooding, reactor scram (emergency reactor shutdown) and recovery, steam line ruptures, and so on and on and on. So needless to say these are not the kind of drill sets one could pass unless the watch team could really operate the plant VERY well.

    With this training and drilling I noticed I developed a keen sense of focus while under extreme stress. Before the drill sets I would of course be nervous, but as soon as the indications occurred I found my situational awareness going through the roof and my focus to be absolute in every sense of the word.

    Now lets tie this in to being in a defensive situation... I hear over and over about your shooting ability at the range going out the window when your life is on the line and I know this is a gross generalization. I wonder how well that applies to someone who has ever been subjected to real stress and has been trained to act with focus under that stress. I understand the lay persons idea of stress is somewhat of a joke compared to what military members and leo's endure. I somewhat doubt with my background that in a life or death situation I'm going lose control as it's implied a shooter may in a defensive situation.

    How bout it former military and leo who are conditioned to function under life and death situations... Thoughts?

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    VIP Member Array suntzu's Avatar
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    Spock: these cadets of yours…how good are they? How will they respond under real pressure?”
    “As with all living things, each according to his gifts.
    Star Trek II:The Wrath of Khan
    I have seen some of the best shooters imaginable not be able to perform on stress. With that being said the more time you train under stress the more of a chance you will perform during the real thing.
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    Ex Member Array Doodle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by suntzu View Post
    I have seen some of the best shooters imaginable not be able to perform on stress. With that being said the more time you train under stress the more of a chance you will perform during the real thing.
    So to further my question if I'm trained to act under extreme stress extensively but it has nothing to do with firearms, and I train my movements at the range from the bench and shooting IDPA (where a little stress is induced by the clock and competition) , I wonder how that would translate in my reaction under the extreme stress of a defensive scenario.

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    Senior Member Array jdsumner's Avatar
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    ok, I'll take a shot here.
    My take would be: if your mind is 'clear' and focused because you have drilled to keep it so under extreme duress, then your ability to have to 'think' your way throught your shooting steps will be greater than one who is perhaps a better 'bullseye shooter' but has never been placed under stress.

    Clear as mud, right? Lemme try to clarify my own thoughts, even for me. I answered faster than I could accurately relay my thoughts. You're not quite a fastdraw, 1.5 second from hip to hit IDPA/IPSC gunslinger, BUT, you are one ice cold, cool, calm, and collected cat under fire. And you have basic gun handling skills. Now, because your mind is not in a total panic, but is processing information, and you are in a constant OODA loop, rather than sensory overload, you can better decide how to employ those basic skills.

    Versus the guy who shoots regularly and competitively, but has never considered his own reaction matrix. Or had it tested beyond the weekend match. His mind is in critcal mass w/ all the input from a sudden, violent, lethal encounter (as I ASSUME that's where we're headed w all this). He may not be able to get his OODA loop engaged and cycling at the rate he needs it to be to decide how, or where to inject his pistol/firearm into said violent, lethal encounter. He may have the hardware, but not the software nor the processor to make the hardware run.

    The absolute ideal, is to be both: well trained, well tested. But, we do what we can w what we got, right?

    dan
    SpongeBob TacticalPants
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    Ex Member Array RayBar's Avatar
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    Close combat survival stress is a topic that has been scientifically studied at great length. The issue here is not what causes the stress,but how stress affects the body. The body reacts naturally to stress preparing itself for the threat. It creates influences on the body's thinking,perception,skill,and performance which can be a real serious issue when we are required to make split second decisions. A very long story short,this is what happens.The why is very long and complicated. The normal heart rate is 50-80 bpm.At 115 bpm fine motor skills deteriorate. At 115-145 is the optimal survival and combat performance level. Above that at 155 bpm,complex motor skills deteriorate. At 160-175bpm,cognitive processing deteriorates, loss of peripheral vision,(why we scan and asess) it helps to break tunnel vision,loss of depth perception,near vision, and auditory exclusion.Above that, things can get nasty.175-220 bpm,freezing,irrational behavior,vasoconstriction,(less bleeding from wounds)voiding of bladder and bowels,gross motor skills at highest performance level.These are some of the body's natural reaction in preperation for fight or flight.No one is immune to this .Its a fact. The adrenal glands flood the blood stream with chemicals that cause this. The decision making process is broken down into four steps.Perception,analyzing,formulating a response,and initiating a response. Any skip or disruption in this process will result in an increase in reaction,and possibly a no reaction (freeze).This process will deteriorate at 145 bpm,and up. This is why it is important to train under stress to develope gross motor skills in our responses and actions.Remember,your attacker will experience the same bodily reactions. His shaking seemingly uncontrolably,and yours, is probably not from fear, but from excessive amounts of adrenaline.This touches on it,its well worth looking into. Hope this helps.
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    Senior Member Array jdsumner's Avatar
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    well, if you wanna get all technical and scientific............
    nice post RayBar. Well put together, and direct in addressing the 'numbers'.

    dan

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    Ex Member Array Doodle's Avatar
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    I would say good posts all around

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    Ex Member Array apvbguy's Avatar
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    you hope that your training and doing many many reps will build muscle memory and help you perform despite outside pressures or adrenaline dumps kick in but you never will really know what will actually happen if the SHTF until you are in the middle of something bad, I would advice a lot of training and hoping for the best.
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    VIP Member Array Eagleks's Avatar
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    I don't get stressed..... I get busy. That's my nature. Whatever it is, I take care of what needs to be taken care of or needs to be done, and concentrate on that. Then later, I think about it.

    Some people are not good in many situations, because they either stress themselves out & can't think straight ... or go into panic mode, shutting off their brain completely in the meantime.

    I'm not sure that's "learned" ..... or if it can be "trained" into someone. I've seen many people run like hell when shtf, and had the best training imaginable. I do think people can be 'conditioned' to expect certain things and not let them distract them, or be surprised by them when they occur.

    My .02 cents.
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    Distinguished Member Array Burns's Avatar
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    There's a big difference between stress and fear. In most life/death situations (involving a BG) it is fear you would need to be trained for, at least in my L/D experiences. You can train people to do stuff in very stressful situations, but how really are you supposed to train people in very fearful situations? It's not something you can learn from a textbook or the internet, I believe the only real way to learn to cope with it is to be in quite a few of those situations, thankfully I have already "been there, done that" and am still alive and feel I am much more capable of thinking rationally regardless of fear. Just my 2 cents, take it or leave it.

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    Ex Member Array apvbguy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eagleks View Post
    I don't get stressed..... I get busy. That's my nature. Whatever it is, I take care of what needs to be taken care of or needs to be done, and concentrate on that. Then later, I think about it.

    Some people are not good in many situations, because they either stress themselves out & can't think straight ... or go into panic mode, shutting off their brain completely in the meantime.

    I'm not sure that's "learned" ..... or if it can be "trained" into someone. I've seen many people run like hell when shtf, and had the best training imaginable. I do think people can be 'conditioned' to expect certain things and not let them distract them, or be surprised by them when they occur.

    My .02 cents.
    you may say that from the comfort of your living room but until you are actually in a bad situation you really don't know how you will respond. J/S

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    Quote Originally Posted by apvbguy View Post
    you may say that from the comfort of your living room but until you are actually in a bad situation you really don't know how you will respond. J/S
    I'll take Eagleks at his word. Some of us really do get calm and perform very proficiently under stress. For some it's natural, others can be trained to some extent. Some never do adapt.

    There is no substitute for training though. Most military have been through some sort of battle training where you are required to make decisions and perform fine motor-skill functions when you haven't slept for three days. It can be done, and it can be honed through further training.
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    Ex Member Array Harryball's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by apvbguy View Post
    you may say that from the comfort of your living room but until you are actually in a bad situation you really don't know how you will respond. J/S
    Have you ever heard the term "he has ice in his veins" Its not that the dump doesnt affect him, its that he knows how to handle it, when it does.....

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    Ex Member Array RayBar's Avatar
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    Fear= stress,the more the fear, the higher the stress,the higher the stress,the more you experience the effects of it.you can train to reduce the effects,maybe even control it to a point,but you can't eliminate it.

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    Senior Member Array Dennis1209's Avatar
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    Back in 1970 I pondered that very question, and was anxious to know how I would react when put to the test. This is personal experience and your mileage will vary.

    Whether it's a military combat zone or the parking lot of Wal-Mart, the fact is, it's still your life and you want to protect it at all costs, we're all human. Having someone shooting at you and wanting you dispatched is not an everyday occurrence for most people. Fortunately, the only times I've been shot at was over seas on my jungle vacation.

    The first time was the most terrifying, memorable and a learning experience. Have you ever heard of the "pucker factor"? My definition of the "PF" is pure fear, heart racing at 500 BPM, cotton mouth and a severe case of tunnel vision. For some reason, the first experience of bullets coming at you is the worst?

    I reacted pretty much as I was trained, but mostly it was probably a self preservation mechanism to defend my life I assume. The secondary effect was a military operation. My "tunnel vision" was to keep my eye on where the machine gun fire was coming from and return suppressive fire, and nothing in between! You've all heard of, "make sure of your target and beyond", well, in my case, it should have been, "make sure of your target and what's in between". I spent the entire night changing out the left skid on the helicopter from errant M-60 machine gun fire and the tail rotor from a stream of brass hitting it. That in itself was some effective training that allowed me to never make those mistakes again.

    So, what I gleaned from my military experience that translates into my civilian life carrying a lethal weapon, and God forbid I ever need to use it in defense of my family and I...

    1. It's going to be the very last recourse available to me.

    2. Been there done that but, I'm going to be scared and nervous.

    3. Hopefully I'll be aware of what is beyond and in-between of the BG and not get that tunnel vision again.

    IMHO, the difference between military training and civilian training is; in the military you train so frequently it becomes "almost" second nature. I don't believe the average Joe civilian has enough time with everyday family / life to become ingrained as second nature or "muscle memory". But, the more realistic training, the better I suppose.

    Having never been in a civilian life or death encounter, IMO, four factors will likely determine the out come... Mind set, composure, awareness and decisive deliberate action.

    Thought I would share my thoughts and experience's guys. Stay safe.
    Harryball likes this.
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