Having the necessary courage under fire is a behavior you acquire, not a birthright. The key to elite survival systems in any armed encounter starts and ends with your training repetitions. When you do the right things at home or at the range, you’ll do the right things the right ways when you’re under extreme stress.
Creating Elite Survival Systems Through Routine and Daydreams
Routine Can Save you Save You in Times of Crisis
We live our lives as a series of routines. Where we put our car keys and cell phone, how we drive to work, what we usually say in social situations, are all based on patterns we develop. Routines can work under stress too. Professional athletes prepare themselves to be “in the zone” in the critical moments of a game, long before it ever happens to them. When the pros are doing their practice work perfectly, their responses are designed to become routine. Their actions are not forced. They flow. When they do stop and think about why they’re doing so well, the flow stops, and the zone goes away. Trained repetition and the ability to not overthink in the stress of the moment makes pros in any endeavor successful and establishes elite survival systems.
In extreme or life-threatening gunfire stress, you should find comfort in your tactical routines. These routines will tell you what to do, how to do it, why, and when. You should see safety in your routine responses. From your routines, you are able to quickly and accurately do the right things, at the right time. You've established these routines every time you trained with skilled rangemasters and instructors or practiced with dry fire practice at home or drills at indoor or outdoor ranges.
Consider a factory making spark plugs or ammunition. A routine day is one where the equipment works, and the manufacturing process operates at such a high level that every product comes off the assembly line perfectly created. However, when one little thing goes wrong, the whole product fails. The smallest nudge of an important and interrelated machine gives you spark plugs with no tips or missing primers in your bullets. In contrast, when the routines work, we get exactly what we want.
Philip Crosby was an American who taught the Japanese to build better cars with what he defined as “zero defects.” His 1979 book, Quality is Free, called for a change in the process of making products. He recommended breaking down every single part of the manufacturing process into a series of error-free steps. Crosby said that if you’re building something and every single step is perfect, then the end result is a perfect product. Crosby’s mantra was, “Zero defects means doing things right the first time.”
Turn Zero Defects into Tactical Perfection
Let’s take this idea of zero defects and turn it into tactical perfection. Why not apply Crosby’s theme to tactical handgun use? If you practice perfectly on the range, and build the muscle memory and the mental and physical skills to draw and shoot accurately then when the moment of truth comes, you’ll respond “perfectly.” You can do this by going through each critical step in your mind. Remember to break leather cleanly, see the target clearly, breathe calmly, get your sight portraits, and squeeze smoothly. Do this over and over again.
This process is possible, because of your ability to control the often-unmentioned puzzle piece in the Fight or Flight response to life-threatening situations: Freeze. To go back to the sports world, freezing is also known as choking. To athletes, it means hesitating when the game is on the line. In this moment, they either over-think their next move, or worse, have no idea what to do.
Under-thinking and over-thinking in times of great stress screws up your ability to respond as you normally would. Tell yourself that as part of your move toward tactical perfection, you will always do the small things. More than that, you will do them perfectly.
Start by seeing the outcome you want and create or fine-tune the small steps in your head that will lead you to a safe outcome. Think about more than just survival. Think about winning.
Build Elite Survival Systems Through Tactical Daydreaming
San Diego Police Det. Sgt. Gary Mitrovich survived a 1984 police shooting that left two of his fellow officers dead. Later, when he was a Field Training Officer, he used to remind his trainees to practice what he called “tactical daydreaming.” This meant that smart cops should spend some time each day in a safe place. Here, they think about how to respond to bad people and bad situations. They imagine not just when everything goes right, but when everything goes suddenly wrong.
To develop your own system for tactical perfection, you’ll need to go back and rethink the steps you should take when confronted by a shoot or don’t-shoot situation. You should also think about what you would do when facing one or more bad guy. Break down those small steps — from the uncovering of your firearm, to when it needs to go back into the holster. With this process, you build the muscle memory that makes the phrase “routine response” a good thing.
The streets are a unique sort of factory, filled with people, equipment, systems, and outcomes. Our finished product, in our safety and security “factory,” is when we leave the scene safely and head for home. We should accept no other possibilities, because mistakes should be what the bad guys make when they enter our zero-defect world. Adopt your new motto:
- Practice Perfectly.
- Train Tactically.
- See the Scene.
- Aim Accurately.
- Fire First.
Do you feel like you can now build elite survival systems? Let us know in the comments or reach Steve at [email protected] or on Twitter @DrSteveAlbrecht