Posts Tagged ‘anticipation’

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I’ve seen shooters at all levels that struggle to some degree with “flinching,” or what we commonly call anticipation. This is evident when you look at a target of a student and see the rounds striking the lower left area because just a split second before they fire, they “flinch” and the final aiming point and muzzle dips and turns resulting in a low hit or miss. (Opposite for left handed shooters)

New and less experience shooters, or those who do not practice regularly struggle with anticipation. The primary causes of anticipation are: Fear or uncertainty, improper grip, and lack of practice or training. The good news about “flinching” is that it is curable with a little bit of work.

Fear or uncertainty is usually the first thing we need to address. Everyone has an aversion to pain and new shooters and those who are inexperienced or do not shoot frequently enough are afraid of being hurt by the handgun when it discharges, cycles, or both. There is also quite a bit of anxiety or uncertainty that also needs to be overcome. To be a good shooter you have to tolerate a bit of discomfort, but that can be minimized and managed by a little bit of practice and confidence.

I tell all of my students that the “scary” noise and the mechanical actions happens faster than they are able to perceive it, and none of it happens until micro-seconds AFTER the bullet leaves the barrel of the gun on its way to the target. So getting the perfect shot in the right place happens before any of the things we are uncertain or afraid of, actually take place. So getting the round to hit what you are aiming at is a simple application of the fundamentals… and then the “scary stuff” happens.

I know this information is not comforting to the timid shooter, so let’s analyze the second part of this problem. More gun than you can handle! You need look no further than Youtube for endless videos of idiot boyfriends handing their girls or guy friends extremely large caliber hand cannons, offering no training or advice and then laughing hysterically when they get hurt. These videos breed stereotypes and fear among potential new shooters. Hollywood doesn’t help either when they wrongfully depict a handgun discharging and sending the shooter flying backwards. If you are a timid, new or inexperienced shooter, start with a small caliber handgun and build confidence before picking up something larger. A defensive caliber does not have to start with a point four (.4-) to be effective. (Uh oh… I just said calibers less than .40 are good for defense… Brace yourself for the hate mail)

I have handguns available to rent for my courses and they are usually .22LR or 9mm. I also use steel frame handguns that are a little heavier to help mitigate some of the recoil. Starting off with something manageable helps assuage some of the fear or uncertainty. When they are expecting a civil war cannon bang and all they get is a sharp pop, shooters realize that handling a firearm is not that difficult after all. It only takes a couple hundred rounds for confidence to soar and after seeing how well you can shoot a small gun, most shooters are eager to step up to something bigger. So if you are learning to shoot start small.

The second part of the flinch equation is an improper grip. I teach and strongly advocate the 100% or thumbs forward grip. Shooters of all sizes, strength and skill levels have had great success using this grip. Using your Google-fu you can find dozens of articles on this style of grip and its numerous advantages. This two handed grip style will give you the maximum skin to surface contact on the handgun as well as the best position to manage the cycling of the slide during recoil. If you page through the Home Defense Gun (.net) site you can find an excellent video that demonstrates this grip. If you are improperly holding the handgun, the recoil you are absorbing will be felt to a much greater degree than necessary, which will cause pain or extreme discomfort and cause you to “flinch” unconsciously.

The best way to fight the flinch is to seek out quality training and practice on your own. I recommend a lot of dry fire practice if you have a problem with anticipation or flinching. Dry firing means that you develop strong neural pathways (muscle memory) without any of the “scary” stuff happening. By focusing carefully on the fundamentals of proper trigger press, sight alignment and follow through without having to worry about the noise or mechanical action will allow you to grow comfortable and confident. When you do finally hit the range you can apply the skills you acquired during dry fire practice. With a solid foundation to build on, the right grip, and a manageable caliber handgun you will be well on your way to ending the “flinch” or anticipating.

To end the fight against the flinch once and for all you will need practice. Here is a drill I recommend to anyone struggling with anticipation or “flinching.” Take a handful of empty casings and as you load your magazine or cylinder, randomly place an empty casings into the magazine interspersed with live rounds. (Or have someone else load your magazines randomly). As you shoot on the range, you will not know when your gun will go bang or click and if you have a problem anticipating the recoil or flinching, you will catch yourself doing so as the hammer falls on the empty case. When you pull the trigger and there is no bang, no mechanical reaction and you still flinch and drop the front sight down and left in anticipation… you’ll feel really silly. After a few bouts of this behavior your concentration level will increase, and since you do not know when the gun will really fire, you’ll fight the flinch, stay on target and start making good hits. Try this out and post your results, I’d love to hear your feedback.

Once you master the smaller caliber and the fear and uncertainty fades, challenge yourself and pick up the next larger caliber available. Confidence comes quickly with a little practice and training. Once you grow accustomed to the motion, mechanical action and the noise, you’ll start to relish the discomfort you feel and after a while, you’ll enjoy it… from there you’ll be well on your way to being a top notch shooter.

Train hard, stay safe.

Scott S

Your mind is the weapon, everything else is just a tool! For more information please visit our website at:

http://www.oneweaponanytool.com or find us on Facebook. For more firearms, safety and personal protection articles, videos and sound advice visit my friends at http://www.homedefensegun.net or search for Home Defense Gun on Facebook.

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Your eyes feed a constant stream of data to your brain allowing you to perceive events that occurred micro seconds in the past. Yes, you are all living in the past and there is scientific proof! Your eyes gather the light reflecting off of objects in your gaze pathway and your brain interprets that into shapes, faces, objects and colors that we call sight. The data that is interpreted by your brain is linked even deeper to the various stimulus responses and recognition patterns you have developed over your lifetime. These patterns have been filed away and are interpreted by your amygdala in two ways: Threat or Non-Threat

Without realizing it, every time you look at someone or something your brain has automatically classified it as dangerous to you… or not dangerous to you. If a person, animal or object is determined harmless you proceed throughout the course of your day and lack recall of these people or items. Just try to remember the faces of the strangers you passed in the grocery store. Chance are you can’t because as they crossed your gaze pathway they were deemed non-threatening and you moved on without conscious thought devoted to them. Think about your drive home from work, how many cars passed you that you barely noticed… until one of them swerved a bit too close and then:

Items you deem threatening based on patterns or behavior cause a different reaction. When you see a threat your amygdala prepares your body physiologically by releasing chemicals like adrenaline and your heart rate soars to 160+ beats per minute. If you have schema (See my recent article Schema for Success) your training kicks in and you respond. Drawing from the previous article, (If you have not read it, you should stop, go back and read Schema for Success) having a series of “files,” or “scenarios,” makes you react faster to a perceived threat. Using your visual cortex and the schema you have already developed, this article is going to talk about recognizing the behaviors and patterns prior to the schema or scenario you have in place… If you can anticipate threatening behavior you will react sooner helping you gain the initiative in the fight.

Every behavior we recognize as threatening has a series of movements that lead up to it. Those pre-cursor movements that lead up to the attack are what we need to start analyzing and adding to our files. Every human body is jointed and only articulates in certain ways so unless your assailant is a cast member of the Cirque de Soleil, chances are you can pick out elbow movements, hand positions and shifts of balance.

For example, a suspect who wants to access a handgun in their waistband will have to bend their elbows, and bring both hands to the center of their waistline or appendix area. You will see one or both hands and elbows move upwards to clear the garment covering the gun and then one will descend to grasp the firearm. The downward motion will be followed by an upward draw followed by a twisting of the elbow and forearm extension that will orient the handgun towards their victim. You may also see their head rotate and orient towards the intended target, (you).

Most traditional training teaches students to recognize the actual weapon as the threat. By the time you see the weapon however, the fight is almost over and you have lost. What we need to practice in training is recognizing the series of movement patterns that initiate the accessing of the weapon. This is one main reason we teach police officers to be wary of and watch the hands of a suspect. We teach this because hands have movement patterns that can allow less experienced officers to observe and build schemas in their brain. Eventually officers learn to watch the hands, feet, torso and head position of suspicious people and assemble an orchestra of body movements they may not be able to articulate but their subconscious recognizes as pre-attack cursors.

Every day you watch people and your eyes bounce to different parts of other people and areas looking for specific information so your brain can subconsciously monitor potential danger and to provide you with the information you need to comprehend the activities and tasks around you. As your eyes bounce around, start training yourself to recognize the series of movements that combine into an attack. The faster you can piece these images together, the faster you start your decision making process and begin to respond.

A quick and easy way to train this, is to go to your favorite web site that shows videos of people being attacked, robbed, shot or stabbed. Watch the assailant carefully just prior to the attack and watch how their hands move, how their torso twists, how they balance their stance, etc. You will start to notice a lot of similarities in their behavior. To access their firearm, they will have tell-tale movements you can pick up on. When an assailant goes to throw a punch they set their feet, draw back and clench their fists… again a recognizable series of movements you will see, which will trigger a schema and initiate your subconscious response.

Recognizing these pre-attack behaviors will teach your amygdala that what your eyes are seeing is a threat and your physiological responses onset rapidly instead of waiting until you see the actual weapon or are actually struck by a punch or kick.

There is a wealth of information and books on body language but the best teacher is actual people. Watch them in the world around you and start really looking at how humans articulate and move and you will be on the path to being safer, faster and better prepared to win.

Until next week, train hard a stay safe. Go watch a few videos and see how many common movements and patterns you are able to recognize.

Scott S

One Weapon Any Tool – Visit us on Facebook or at www.oneweaponanytool.com