Saturday, March 29, 2014

Training - “I’m Lost!” . . . S.T.O.P.


I see three primary ways a person can be “Lost”. Being “Lost” is the starting point when I begin to teach wilderness survival. I realize survival is about much more than simply being lost, but when a person comes to grips with that realization for the first time – it can be an overwhelming sensation that can easily lead to some very bad, and sometimes fatal, choices. I see it as a good starting point.

There is being “emotionally lost” – those times in our lives where life, the current moment in time, overwhelms us and we feel “Lost”. There is danger here as well where emotion rules our choices rather than handling those things that need to be taken care of.

And, “Lost” can mean we are going down a path that simply doesn’t work for us. It is a “been there – done that” moment when we realize that nothing is going to change and we need to try something different. This is the “Lost” of this post – and I want to apply it to our training efforts, our training goals, our training results – and some choices we can make to get where we want to go.

The “word” S.T.O.P. has a specific meaning that can easily be applied to our training path . . .

Stop Think Observe Plan

"S" is for Stop. Take a deep breath, sit down if possible, calm yourself and recognize that whatever has happened to get you here is past and cannot be undone. You are now in a survival situation and that means . . .

"T" is for Think. Your most important asset is your brain. Use it! Don't Panic! Move with deliberate care. Think first, so you have no regrets later. Take no action, even a foot step, until you have thought it through. Unrecoverable mistakes and injuries, potentially serious in a survival situation, occur when we act before we engage our brain. Then . . .

"O" is for Observe. Take a look around you. Assess your situation and options. Consider the terrain, weather and resources. Take stock of your supplies, equipment, surroundings, your personal capabilities and, if there are any, the abilities of your fellow survivors.

"P" is for Plan. Prioritize your immediate needs and develop a plan to systematically deal with the emergency and contingencies while conserving your energy. Then, follow your plan. Adjust your plan only as necessary to deal with changing circumstances.

Obviously these steps are written from a wilderness survival POV, but they easily move into a method to help correct our shooting ability.

Since this blog is dedicated to the “new and inexperienced” shooter, I want to focus on them. That said, even experienced shooters reach a “wall” now and then, the same methods will help them move forward as well.

STOP: It has been my observation that many new shooters have three primary goals – get their carry permit, buy a gun and shoot like a master. The last goal being said somewhat tongue-in-cheek. It seems that little real thought is ever given to what it actually takes to become an armed citizen that is actually trained enough to stand a good chance of defending themselves, their family or friends in their charge.

All too often the bare minimum training is taken, the gun is purchased and they head to the range a couple of times to prove to themselves they can shoot. It is at this point that things go off the rails for many folks and many become discouraged, they can’t make the tight little groups all the “pros” can. So, put the gun back in the box and there it sits – doing nothing but taking up shelf space.

Or, perhaps you are a more experienced shooter, you can put holes on paper OK – but you simply aren’t happy with just that . . . you understand that there are many more things to learn.

And then there is the very experienced shooter who is working through an “issue” – some part of their skill set that is simply not up to snuff, and they need a method to move through that point.

The starting point for all of these possibilities is to simply STOP what they are doing. That can be a difficult thing to do, to admit to yourself that what you are doing, what you have been doing isn’t working and probably never will. But, THAT IS the starting point – to stop what you are doing.

THINK: Your most important training tool lives between your ears. It is your ability to reason, to bring data together and to make choices and decisions. It is your ability to THINK! Virtually anyone can be an excellent shooter – it is the stuff that is between the ears that stops most folks from reaching their goals. Physical disabilities aside – good shooters begin between the ears. When you have reached the point where you have finally decided to STOP – that is a great time to begin to think, to reason, to understand why you are where you are, and to begin to take another path to get where you want to go.

OBSERVE: This is your time to “take stock”. Everything should be looked at. How much actual training have you had? Was it done by an experienced shooter or professional instructor or just your work bud? Did it cover that basics or just go right to putting rounds down range? Do you understand your gun? Does your gun fit your hand? Do you have a sturdy belt and holster? What about the rest of your gear – shirt/blouse, pants, shoes, range gear? Are you putting in the training time on the range?

For the more experience/very experienced shooter – are you training with a purpose or simply throwing rounds down range? Do you have a defined training plan? Are you documenting your training – noting your weak points, modifying your training to strengthen them? Are you stubborn? Do you know it all or are you still learning? Do you have a training buddy or are you trying to do it all on your own?

This is a time to step back a bit, to be brutally honest with yourself on how you have been conducting your training to date – and to take stock. What’s working? And, what isn’t.

PLAN: None of these steps require you to physically do a darn thing. You don’t need a new gun, new clothes, a different trainer, better targets . . . you simply need to stop what you have been doing, engage your brain, be honest with yourself and then . . . when the noise has stopped . . . and your observations have been made . . . and you’ve chosen to be honest with yourself . . . then – and only then – can you begin to PLAN.

For the “new and inexperienced” shooter – more times than not the first step is to find good training. If your shooting pal has been your trainer, and you’re unhappy with the result – remain pals . . . just seek out some real training to get you headed in the right direction.

I also encourage new shooters to become a sponge – there are any number of excellent publications, video and on-line (but please – youtube is not a training company) training resources that you can use. There are also hundreds of books available on all aspects of shooting. Take your time, read the reviews and then choose a couple that focus on the specific thing you want to learn.

Finally, when you go to the range – have a plan. One of my pet peeves is the guy who plops down his range bag, hangs his target, send’s 50 rounds down range in short order, pronounces his trip a success and heads for home promising to hit the range again in a couple of months. Please, don’t be “that guy” or “that gal” . . . the skill you are learning can mean the difference between you taking your child home in their car seat . . . or a ZipLoc. Treat range trips as the serious business they are.

For the experienced shooter that is looking to hone, improve, refine their shooting skills . . . perhaps it’s time for one of the more advanced shooting schools. They run from the famous – Gunsite, Thunder Ranch – to the lesser known but well regarded like TDI, Rob Pincus’s CFS courses, Masad Ayoob’s MAG-40, Rangemaster . . . to name a very few. Save your money, set the time aside . . . and GO!!

Finally, for the “very skilled” – training never ends. Range time with other trainers, your peer group – where you push, help, refine each other is simply a must. It is easy for everyone to develop bad habits. Make sure someone “checks your six” and helps you stay on track. And, if you get stuck on a particular “issue” – STOP, THINK about it, OBSERVE yourself (small video cameras are a great tool) and then work a PLAN to get past it.

A lot of words to say that when you are LOST . . . there is no value in wondering in the wilderness. Whether it’s in the lakes of the BWCA . . . or a shooting lane of your local range. To find your way “home”, first you need to . . .



  1. This morning, while driving down the road with my wife in the co-pilot seat I made a comment. The comment came from my thought process and I verbalized it (which I almost never do). She said, OMG, you really think about killing people all the time.

    It took me back because I don't think about killing as much as I do about stopping (double tap to the heart and one to the head). I said, "yes, all the time, every day." I what-if everything, all the time and I've done it for so many years now that it's just part of what I do and how I live.

    I asked her, "do you remember when those two guys came up on the car tactically when we were at the movie theater?" (a situation about a year ago where two meth heads decided that a man, his wife and daughter in a high end BMW would make appealing targets.) I said, how long did it take me to diffuse the situation? (essentially take one attacker 'hostage' and use him as a body shield while disarming the other) She remained mute.

    As I type here at my computer screen, I have a tomahawk by my left shoe and a .45 with five spare mags near my right. I'm not fearful, but I'm prepared. I have never been lost. Not once. And so while I do appreciate your timely comments above, I would remind your readers that if you are living your life with purpose and with your head on a swivel, they are unlikely to have the need to STOP. They will anticipate a problem and will engage it long before it actually becomes a problem.

    The tweaker with a knife in his pocket and robbery on his mind, was thinking about something else with his air supply cut off and a (long threaded) .45 barrel jamming in his ear. Likewise his friend had a choice to make - run or throw down - or shoot his friend center mass. Allowing a scumbag to get the drop on you is like being lost. It shouldn't happen.

  2. Good approach, gonna steal that one! :-)

  3. Larry - good perspective that I had not thought of. Agreed, if a person keeps their head in the game, the need to STOP diminishes greatly. Sadly, most folks don't. My primary focus are students/folks I see on the range that are having a bad range day, they're not improving . . . yet they keep doing the same thing over and over. If I can convince these folks to STOP, look at what they are doing and make some changes in their process - they will stand a much better chance of becoming an effective and more lethal shooter.

    I can't ever remember being lost either yet I have watched as a scout or two took us all on interesting detours . . . :)

  4. Hey Jim, your'e welcome to anything here! Safe travels, see you at the NRA convention!

  5. It is important to follow all the rules and guidelines during your shooting range training. Professional gun instructor should be hire to make your shooting skills perfect.
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