Precision Rifle Training: Keep it Complicated

When it comes to precision rifle training, keep it complicated.


Law enforcement firearms training has always adhered to the "keep it simple" axiom. After all, the less complicated the process, motion or rule in a high-risk maneuver, action or situation, the better. When it comes to precision rifle training, however, keep it complicated.

Police precision shooters who adhere to a regular practice schedule are doing the right thing. They go to the range, and shoot and shoot. Unfortunately, this routine of practice instilling shooter confidence can be detrimental to the training program. The way to improve precision rifle training is to make it complicated. A complicated training program will reduce complacency, instill a sense of urgency and keep training interesting.

Induce stress
When an officer attends a firearm school, he has an apprehension about doing well. This artificial pressure is not only healthy, it makes better shooters. Physiologically, it causes a shift in the shooters ability to handle stress. Just as a person can condition himself to recognize stress levels and control them, an artificially induced stress creates a classroom for breath and trigger control.

Most psychological studies support the theory that a moderate level of stress creates a higher focus to task. For shooters attending an instructional shooting school, the initial pressure of "needing to do well" is good for the shooter. This stress must be monitored as there is a point in time where stress can be detrimental towards performance.

Besides the "need to do well," there are two other ways to introduce stress into the shooting program. The first is to invite an audience to training — a friend, spouse or other party whose scrutiny will add to the equation. For both training situations, it should be recognized that peer and social influences are powerful and should be exploited.

For administrators, the best training influence might be a visit to the range while the tactical team is training. Several studies on military leadership have concluded that regularly inspected troops (whether scheduled or unscheduled) perform better under stressful conditions.

The second method of inducing stress for the shooter is to compete in shooting matches.

There are mixed emotions about shooting matches among experts. Some say that paper punching is just "playing," whereas preparing for the enormous responsibility of exercising deadly force goes beyond just playing games.

It does. However, it is a skill building and often humbling experience in which a law enforcement marksman should indulge. Police precision shooters can arrange closed competitions, provided the participants are thick skinned.

In a study of the stress levels of parachutists, scientists found that novice jumpers experience high levels of arousal (stress) from the moment of commitment to the moment they emerged from the aircraft. Experienced jumpers were aroused following commitment, and then demonstrated a reduced arousal just before they jumped. Experience with stress may moderate the arousal level when the operator needs calming the most.

Stress experience creates a shift in arousal levels. That is, a precision shooter can shift the time he or she experiences the most stress by accumulating experience. This shift in the timing of stress is very significant. Wouldn't it be more efficient for a marksman to have an increased pulse rate at the time of a callout rather than just before squeezing the trigger?

Train complicated scenarios
Imagine a precision shooter taking an overwatch position on a tactical team preparing to serve a warrant at a suspected lab location. As the team approaches the residence, a dog appears and attacks the breaching officer. The precision shooter recognizes the threat immediately and successfully engages the dog. The sound of the shot alerts occupants of the residence, who begin firing and barricading. For this precision shooter, multiple engagement training works.

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