Training Stressors

“Take time to Deliberate, but when the TIME for ACTION has arrived, stop thinking and GO IN.”

-Napoleon Bonaparte

Most firearms/combat training today lacks realism; Those “primal elements” that the student needs to experience when they are TRULY fighting for their lives. One of these primal elements that we can replicate with some degree of certainty is STRESS. In the heady days of firearms training (waaaay before I was a glint in my daddy’s eye) when Jeff Cooper was blazing trails with the “Big Bore” 1911 Combat Pistol and the Modern Technique, it was widely thought that organized handgun matches hosted by groups like the IPSC and the IDPA would give students the added realism of stress using  COMPETITION & TIME. The only problem with that theory is that Competition and Combat Shooting are not the same animals, hell they are not even the same life forms!!

The “Competition Training” Mentality

Those of you that have been reading this blog for some time, know without me going too deep the very wide gulf that exist between “Competition” styled Training and true “Combat” Training, the major division being “square range” versus “360 degree” training. Like anything, behind any system lies the founding and/or “driving” mentality behind it. With competition styled training that mentality (due to tradition more than anything else) resist the notion that fighting is a continuum. There can never be any “dogma” or “system” that answers with complete certainty all of the riddles a person faces when fighting for their lives. If we are to “live to fight another day” we must understand that no stance, grip, caliber of pistol or specific sighting method is the “best”.

So, now that we understand the foundation, let us explore how we can add “STRESSORS” to a combat shooting routine that uses a 360 degree range.

When we are integrating ANYTHING into our training we must always ask ourselves Three Fundamental Questions:

        1. Is it Safe?

It goes without saying, if something is not safe, it needs to be thrown out, no matter the degree of realism it may add.

  2.  Is it Practical to the Student?

If I am teaching CO’s (civilians), I do not need to include stressors or material that a LE SWAT or Tier 1 Spec-Ops Unit would have, this is why some trainers are labeled as “Mall Ninja’s” or “Armchair Rambo’s”..they have no practicality in their methods and are considered a joke in the training industry. These types of trainers (as we will discuss later) can be a terrible liability to the student’s reputation if ever the time arises to question it.

3.   Is it “Street-Proven” (Realistic)?

Is this something that has a precedent in the real world? Is this something that has happened in the real world and not just in a controlled environment like a square range?

Once we have answered these three questions in the affirmative, we can start compiling a list of possible stressors. (Note: When compiling your list, always identify what Skill (or Skills) the stressor is enforcing).

  • Competition

  • Time

  • Physical

  • Audio

  • Environment

  • “No Shoots”


You can take any practical firearms drill and make it competitive, but what I like to do is center in on a particular skill and create a competition around it. For example, to work on Speed and Accuracy you can do the “Speed Dot” Drill. Using a pre-made target or a homemade one, where there are 10 numbered “dots”, one person calls out a number while the shooter engages it. You can then mix it up saying “all evens” or “all odds” or go a step further like me and start doing “cognitive drills” where as fast as possible you have to do a math problem, for instance, you could call out a sum and the shooter would have to shoot the two corresponding numbers to make that sum as quickly as possible. (For 5 it would be the 2 and the 3).  LE Targets makes some paper and cardboard targets that have different colors and shapes to add further challenge and fun.


What can I say about using Time to induce stress that most seasoned shooters don’t already know!? I would add this caveat: Keep it Real! Don’t be that guy that walks around with a shot timer clipped to his belt measuring EVERYTHING he does..reloads, malfunctions, presentation, etc.  that is what I call going back to “fairy tale” land, and letting that “Competition” mentality take over. We have to always separate the two worlds..shooting nice little neat groups in bull’s-eyes, while keeping your reloads down to 3 seconds IS NEVER the same as FIGHTING for your life.


This is where the rubber starts meeting the road guys..when we start replicating these things we are definitely “Keepin’ it Real!!”

Let me make a short list and we will go down the line:

  • Sweating

Not really a big deal until it get’s in your eyes or on your hands and effects your grip on your weapon. No way to really avoid this is except to help your body make less of it under pressure, and the only way to HELP your body do that is to get in decent shape (I will be repeating that ALOT, BTW) BUT, even after that, still, a healthy, in-shape person sweats on hot days or when under stress; it is the body’s way of regulating temp & cooling itself, no way around it. So in essence, the only smart way to deal with this is:

A. Wear menacing looking black Gloves (or the white bedazzled glove like Michael Jackson, your choice) and a American Flag bandanna around your head 24/7 like Willie Nelson (only an option for .03% of my readers I am guessing??)

B. Drill with damp hands and a sweaty forehead and see how you can fight thru it..after all, isn’t it better to discover something in a controlled environment versus the unforgiving real world? The solutions will be different for everyone..some will choose equipment mods like grip tape on their guns, others may just carry a handkerchief…find what works for you and go with it, if it keeps you alive, go for it.

  • Rapid Breathing/Heartbeat

Ahhhh…now we are getting down “Where people live” as an old preacher friend of mine used to say! I want to approach this from two different angles, one is for the guy who knows he is out of shape..listen bro, just be honest with yourself.. if you can’t touch your toes without exhaling loudly because your diaphragm is pressing against that inflated stomach you are toast in a fight, armed or not. Let me dispense with the myth propagated by the “Over 40, Beergut” crowd; just because you pack a pistol does not give you a license to be the poster boy for yourself (and the ones you love) a favor: Drop the Weight and get in shape!

The second is for the guy who is in shape but does not add these stressors to his we stated before, isn’t it smarter to experiment with something in a controlled environment versus the real world?? I always like to throw a couple of guys into a combative pit before a shooting drill just to prove this point, or better yet, make the combative pit the ACTUAL drill by throwing a blue gun in there and watch them claw thru each other to get to it…boy, do they get out of breath quicker than they thought!! Things get real fun then! This is also where force on force can be VERY telling. I think people find out real quick that other people do not stand still when you are trying to cause them harm and when you get tired, you make mistakes!

I have only one thing to say about dealing with rapid heartbeat from what I have seen recently in training; I think people find out real quick what I mean by fighting is a “Continuum” when there heart is pumping 90 to nothing from rolling around doing combatives or being involved in a ECQ encounter and then having to slow waaaay down to make that precise head shot to end the fight. We all just have to find our way to breathe, release the tension in the muscles and make the shot.


One of my all time favorite stressors, because it flies in the face of square range dogma in such a profound way. You would be surprised how few people have really ever truly heard their weapon fired “loud” without hearing protection or how few people do not train (at least in part) without hearing protection. The reason is simple, we have been taught, SCARED might even be the word, since we were little kids about the dangers of hearing loss when shooting firearms. The problem with this “safety dogma” as I see it as a trainer is that it robs the student of the real world “stressor” of a loud gun and the effect that it has on the human body during a gunfight. Now let me be clear so I don’t get a bunch of hate mail from the NRA about promoting “unsafe training practices.”

I am not endorsing training WITHOUT hearing protection, but only doing a couple of drills (maybe 5 rounds) without it, so the students can KNOW first, how loud the gun is and secondly, how much it affects his senses during the fight. I am also a big fan of randomly firing a SAFE gun (using a bullet trap) during drills just to knock people off balance…Fights are noisy and loud, not muffled!

Another BIG reason I do this is something I learned from my security days; hearing gunfire (without hearing protection) randomly but on a steady basis subconsciously in grains the unique SOUND of a firearm into your brain..this can come in handy in a variety of situations for the CO: How many times have you heard news stories of survivors involved in an active shooter situation and the first thing they said was “It sounded like a car backfiring, so at first we did not pay it much mind…” Remember: Awareness is your biggest weapon!

Lastly, and this is useful particularly in team drills, is how loud, out of control, wounded or dying screaming people can affect your communications and thought process. This is where hand signals can come in handy.



This is a very overlooked stressor and one that really lends itself to MAKING yourself grow and expand your skill sets. Example 1: You train on uneven, rocky, hard ground versus nice soft dirt which makes you do more ground combatives and shooting from the ground or on your back drills, just because of the higher probability things will go to the ground when your footing is uneven. Example 2: You train around vehicles, which makes you realize the importance of getting behind the engine block for real COVER and not just CONCEALMENT behind the door frame. It also shows you the often overlooked field of fire UNDERNEATH the vehicle where cover is better than over the top of the vehicle, where you are exposed.

The other side to Environment is WEATHER.

Here we have to really apply that Practical aspect. If I live in Minnesota, where it snows a lot and the temperature averages around 10 degrees, I probably need to train in cold weather with cold weather apparel. If I live in the deep South, where the Temp in the summer can peak 100 degrees, well I need to tailor my fitness, apparel and training around that. Be smart. Remember as an armed civilian, you are ultimately a partisan..that means you use your environment, ie your home ground (terrain and regional weather) to your advantage!!


No-Shoots, like Competition and Time, are stressors carried over from the Competition training mentality, but just like these, when blended correctly into a combat shooting routine, it can be an invaluable stressor. The skill (and mindset) that No-Shoots bring to the table is one of the most powerful allies the CO has on his side:  DISCRETION.

In the overly litigious society that we currently live in, as civilians with legal Concealed Carry Permits (or Open Carry) depending, we must understand that in the event we have to use deadly force to defend ourselves, more often than not, we will have to go to court to defend not only our actions, but our firearms training as well. That being said, I cannot urge my readers enough to be very cautious in the TYPE of firearms training they attend. Like most of you, I have never been the type of person to really care what people think of me, but as history has taught us, if the DA (prosecution) can paint a picture of a person who trains to be a “Uber-Rambo, Survivalist Ninja” who shoots first and ask questions later versus a “Responsible, level-headed Armed Citizen” who does not go around looking for a fight, you will most likely lose your case.  Remember this: Every round that you fire in an altercation will have another Lawyer (or group of lawyers) attached to them, looking to take everything you own, including your reputation and most importantly, your freedom.

This all being said, I am not the type of trainer who has a complete workshop on what to do AFTER THE FIGHT is over. Lawsuits, litigation and legal entanglements AFTER the FIGHT is your Lawyer’s job; and the only advice I can give you is get yourself a GOOD Lawyer NOW and talk to him frequently about self-defense and the laws in your state pertaining to it. You would also be smart in purchasing an up to date Criminal and Traffic Law Manual for casual reading.

Lastly, history has taught us, quite succinctly, through multiple Civilian Self-Defense court cases over the years that the Discretionary Mindset HAS to be a FUNDAMENTAL TRAINING PHILOSOPHY for the CO. When the time comes for the DA to put a microscope on you, it makes you look reasonable, sensible and not like a “gun freak”. If your current training regimen does not reflect this, consider changing ASAP. Always remember this: by exercising the “Big 3”, the CO can, by virtue of self-restraint and a little common sense, solve a huge, pain in the ass problem before it begins!

As far as integrating this into your every day drills, you would not be re-missed in practicing Force-on-Force role playing to rehearse using the “Big 3” on the street. I have found that in the process, it helps sharpen both Combatives and Less-than-Lethal skill sets (like the use of OC). (Sidenote: Do not forget in these drills one your biggest weapons is your VOICE..use it to command authority and draw attention!)

You will also find as you start integrating “No-Shoot” targets randomly into ALL of your drills, that your need for Precision will go up. As time progresses, you will find yourself (out of necessity) having to find that right combination of SPEED & ACCURACY to complete the drill. This is not by accident, it is the Combative Continuum at work.

Stay Dangerous and Train Hard!


“FIGHT” not “GUN” is the Key Word in “GUNFIGHT”


“If you can’t stop the average dude from raping you in the shower, the last thing you need is a Carbine Class.” -Southnarc


In Civilian self-defense training courses you often have certain trainers that require a “pre-requisite or “pre-req”” of certain courses before you take a certain class. For example, before you take an ADVANCED Handgun Course, you might be required to take BASIC Handgun, etc. This is to ensure you have the rudimentary basics down before moving on to a more advanced skill set. This also, more importantly, ensures both the safety of the student and the instructor, but also creates a FOUNDATIONAL “BUILDING BLOCK” concept of learning. It is a solid concept and has been used in Academia worldwide since time in memorial.

Unfortunately, for the most part, it is not being followed in modern civilian self-defense training today. What is being followed is men and women who are NOT establishing a COMBATIVE base of skills to build upon; or in layman’s terms, they have ABSOLUTELY ZERO skills when it comes to defending themselves empty-handed. But instead of trying to rectify that, they are skipping it and moving directly into FIREARMS related skills thinking one supersedes the other. This is a gross misunderstanding of Combative Martial Concepts and is not CONDUCIVE to the student establishing a real-world effective martial skill set. Nor is it helpful in helping to create and maintain the Combative Mentality needed to survive in the increasingly violent world in which we live.

The key word (and FIRST word) in ANY type of FIGHT, whether it be GUNFIGHT, SWORDFIGHT or FISTFIGHT is (wait for it….) FIGHT! What good are you if you know how to shoot nice tight little groups in a piece of paper but don’t have the cardio conditioning to fight off an attacker when he jams up your gun or fouls your draw? What good are you after 45 seconds into a clinch you get gassed and a thug takes your knife or gun away and kills you with it?

This nieve and unrealistic ideal that has floated around nationwide in concealed carry classes and various other civilian self-defense classes that having a G19 in an appendix holster and a Benchmade clipped in your pocket is the answer to your self-defense woes is a LIE!

Having a CCL is a start but is only the FIRST BABY STEP and is in no way the END of the journey! Go Deeper! Get out of your Comfort Zone! Find some type of empty hand training that suits you. I like Combatives and Krav Maga, others may like BJJ or Muay Thai…whatever…just ensure the fighting style is about FIGHTING and not about COMPETITION. (This goes for firearm training as well!!)


knife hand

Understanding the Combative Continuum

Combative skills are built, layer upon layer starting with empty hand and then progressing from there; stick, knife, firearm. If they are not built layer upon layer, you are not building your skills on a solid foundation, and sooner or later, you will come against a situation (ie PERSON) that will find that weak spot and exploit it and most likely in the process, injure or kill you. The CC is not just about getting ready for a fight, it is getting ready to fight in the most efficient way possible. Coach Bear Bryant said it this way:

“The WILL to WIN compares little with the WILL to PREPARE to WIN.” 

By approaching any fighting system from the perspective of PREPARATION and EFFICIENCY, you are streamlining your training and helping ensure that in that day of trouble, your brain has to recall ONLY what it needs to KILL THE THREAT and SURVIVE. If any of these steps are skipped (ie to take that Advanced Carbine or Pistol Class for example) you will have built your foundational martial skills on sand and NOT on solid concrete, and sooner or later, your “house” will sink!

Since I started with a catchy quote, I will end with one too:

“The scars on your knuckles should ultimately teach you how to have callouses on your trigger finger.”  

Let that one sink in and then go out and find a down-n-dirty Combatives and Force-on-Force class and pretty soon, after some bruises and sweat, it will all click.

Stay Alert, Armed and Dangerous.

Vehicle Tactics in a Carjacking

Vehicle Tactics in a Carjacking — How To Play It Safe


When you are talking about Security and Personal Protection you need to focus your attention and training on the three areas you spend most of your time.

For the average person these are: Home, Vehicle, Work.

Out of these three the Vehicle is the one with the most variables.

Some good fundamentals in this article for sure, most notably:

  1. Don’t fart around in parking lots. I don’t care how public or well lit they are. Go directly to your vehicle, get in, lock the doors and LEAVE. (Note: Some modern vehicle models only lock the doors when you place the vehicle in DRIVE…KNOW what your specific vehicle does in this regard and if the doors do not lock automatically, get in the HABIT of locking them as soon as you get in.)

  2. If you go ARMED, the advice about having your key’s out when walking to your vehicle is a NO GO. I want my hand’s free of anything in the event I need to fend off/draw my weapon. I know a lot of trainers tell women specifically to have their key’s out when walking to their car because they make for a good weapon and that’s OK I guess if you want to bet your life on stabbing a violent drug addict with a 1 inch piece of metal.

  3. An addendum to the #2 is since most newer vehicles are keyless entry nowadays, it would pay to get in the habit (Remember Safety is a Lifestyle not a fad) of before leaving the store and your vehicle is within your line of sight, to hit the unlock on your key fob and place the keys back in your pocket. That way you are hands free in the parking lot.

  4. This goes more into Tactical Driving Habits, but the part about keeping a half to a full car length space between you and the car in front of you while driving to allow you room to escape in the event of trouble is HUGE! Practice it!

Pat-Mac has some great tips on this Subject as well, by the way I highly recommend checking out his YouTube channel, the guy is SOLID as they come and has some GREAT Tips for everyday, practical SAFE living.



Crime Awareness: Black on White Attack at Wendy’s in Arizona

Wendy’s worker leaves 67-year-old customer in critical condition after sucker punch


This is the hard reality of the world we now live in folks.

NEVER let your guard down wherever you are.

Stay Alert and Armed 24/7 or Guess Right.

Armed Citizen Corner: By a Long Shot

By A Long Shot

With the tragic incident last month at the Greenwood Mall in Greenwood, Indiana where 22 year old Elisjsha (Eli) Dicken took down an active shooter from 40 yards away with 10 rounds from a Glock 9mm in which he scored eight hits (80% accuracy) the importance for the Armed Civilian to be able to make long distance CRITICAL hits with his carry sidearm has been magnified.

I have asked this question before but due to it’s DIRE Importance I will ask it again:

Could you make a 40 yard braced shot like that when it counted?

Only way to improve the odds that you will be able to do it when the time comes is TRAIN!


The Dicken Drill


  • The drill must be shot cold

  • Shooter at the firing line, 50 yards from the target, gun holstered and concealed

  • 30 seconds of jumping jacks

  • At the beep, the shooter advances to the 40-yard line, drawing and bracing against the object staged at that line. The shooter remains standing while bracing.

  • Must advance from 50 yards to 40 yards and fire first shot within 10 seconds

  • Fire ten shots from 40 yards, center mass

  • All shots must be fired within 15 seconds once the firing string begins

  • Shots must fall within the 8 ring of a B27 or the C zone of an IPSC target to count. Shots bisecting lines for those zones count as hits.

  • 80% hit rate to pass, 100% success rate for a perfect score risking zero innocent bystanders. Scoring such as: 8 hits, 2 bystanders risked or 9 hits, 1 bystander risked.