This post and the following are going to be about what training methods and/or technologies are best suited for a particular skill or attribute. Contrary to popular belief and a whole bunch of institutional inertia…live-fire isn’t always the best, and is sometimes the worst, method to use for training certain skills or attributes. It isn’t a best-worst dichotomy either, there may be a best solution that is unfeasible, so find a second-best.
I’ll give an example of what I mean. I was watching a well-known trainer demonstrate retention shooting on YouTube. When it comes to the live-fire section, he simulates a strike to the target with his offhand while drawing into retention. He then (for safety) places his offhand behind his back and has a partner confirm the angles are safe, then fires his live rounds. He said that you don’t have to do this live-fire, you can get 90% of the effectiveness with airsoft etc.
Think about that…is it true? Would a tool like airsoft only be 90% as effective at training retention shooting as the whole hand behind back, partner safety check, protocol?
The truth is the opposite in my opinion. You can get near 100% effectiveness with another method that isn’t live-fire. Not only can you strike and shoot from the exact same position as if it were real without a safety concern, you can even swap the unrealistic 2d paper target for a 3d “BOB” striking dummy and strike it full-force. Better yet, use a human partner! (don’t strike them full-force though 😉 ) I think a dummy gun, dry fire with an inert plastic barrel inserted (if using a partner), airsoft, laser cartridge, safe at contact range blanks, or Simunition FX (or similar) marking cartridges are all superior training methods for practicing the skill of retention shooting than live-fire.
Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t ever live-fire the retention position to see what it is like in terms of recoil etc. and to shoot your gun live from that position…but that is a poor method to learn and practice the skill due to the artificial safety limitations.
There are Three attributes needed to survive a gunfight (aside from luck).
Skill-this is how well you shoot, manipulate your firearm, and use tactics. This is also typically the attribute focused on by most live-fire training almost to the complete exclusion of the next 2.
Stress-This is your ability to actually make use of your skills under the extreme stress and physiological/psychological effects of a violent situation.
Mindset (willingness to kill-killing enabling factors). This is your actual willingness to use deadly force. You could have the skills, and have them stress-inoculated so that you can access them, yet either choose not to (pacifism), or be unable to overcome the inhibition of killing someone.
The next post will cover different training methodologies and tools/technology, what they do well, and their limitations. I have always felt that money and resources is no excuse not to have extremely realistic training. By mixing and matching the different methodologies with a healthy dose of imagination, you can get world-class training/practice on any budget.