I've mentioned some drills in previous columns, but here are a couple more things that I would like to suggest. If you want to hardwire the basics, begin by emphasizing smoothness over speed and making each shot "perfect." Then begin to speed up. Whether it is drawing from the holster or getting hits on the target, smooth repetition of the basics will soon bring increased speed. Going for speed first will only cause faster misses. As you come up to speed and get consistently good results, push the speed a little harder. Just don't let the fundamentals break down. For example, whatever the times are for your basic qualification, cut them, say, in half. When that becomes comfortable, cut them in half again. The increased speed will require good fundamentals. If the results start to fall apart, back down a notch and work some more. A colleague of mine, a deputy sheriff in Wisconsin, also has a firearms training company. He conducts a two-day class that begins with a standard speed qualification. He then takes the students through practice of the fundamentals at double speed. After a double speed qualification, he moves them on to triple and finally quadruple speed. At the end of the second day, and about 1,500 rounds later, the students go back to the single speed qualification. The increase in accuracy is dramatic. Equally dramatic, is that the students are far better gun handlers as well. Drawing, holstering, reloading and general safety awareness are all burned into their subconscious. The officers are then at a whole new level of competence and confidence.
Okay, I realize that one weekend class like that would burn up the yearly ammunition supply of some departments. An alternative is to practice on smaller targets. Striving for accuracy will also force you to refine the fundamentals. Sight alignment and trigger control are at the heart of accuracy. If someone is used to shooting at, say, a B-27 style target, start using any of the various smaller designs for practice. There's nothing like a small target to make you focus on the task at hand. Once you can shoot well on a smaller target, the larger qualification target should be much easier. And, again, you'll have the fundamentals hardwired. One word of caution, though. Although people seem to be able to slow down without any problems, sometimes when they go back to a larger target they think they can't miss! They can, if they don't remember to "aim small."
Once the basics are there, then folks can move on to the more dynamic training. Shoot houses and tactical scenarios are fun, and a challenge. But running and gunning without the proper foundation just exaggerates any deficiencies. All of the reputable private firearms training schools with I am familiar with have prerequisites for such training. They have to be confident that their students have the proper foundation. Law enforcement agencies must do the same. I've seen some officers who are on various special teams who are certainly enthusiastic about their assignment. But they needed more work before they could reach their potential in the dynamic part of their training. Sometimes the "warrior mindset" gets ahead of a person's skill. It is the responsibility of the department instructors to manage their training so that their officers will be able to get the job done. We need to remember that, as much fun as some of the advanced training can be, it is still done for the day when a deadly serious situation must be resolved successfully. And we also need to remember that most officers will never find themselves in such situations. Their gunfights, when they come, will be sudden, intense and in their face. They will perform well under that kind of stress only if they have the basics ingrained at the "unconscious competence" level.