Article by Mark Hatfield.

I was the first to shoot a hostage.

Not that I shot at the wrong person, it was that I hit the hostage while attempting to hit only the hostage taker behind him/her. It was probably a survivable wound but would have been crippling. Thankfully these were only cardboard targets.

A few other things happened during these sessions. I had emptied my handgun and reloaded with a fresh magazine. As I removed my support hand I saw the new magazine fall out of the gun. I simply grabbed another spare mag and loaded the gun, that was much better than getting on the ground to get the fallen mag. The fallen mag might have been irretrievable for a number of reasons, falling into water, an unreachable space, be unseen, or even come apart upon impact. Much better to have more than one spare mag.

On another drill we shot one handed until the handgun was empty, reloaded, transferred the gun to the other hand and again fired until empty, reloaded again then moved to the next station. After emptying the gun the second time, I transferred it back to my dominant hand, or rather I attempted to, I dropped it. When I realized the gun was going, I, for only a fragment of a second, thought of going to the ground after it but instead my other hand drew my other identical gun and had it pointed downrange, possibly by the time the other gun hit the ground. It would not be correct to say that I was glad I had the second gun and more so that I had trained with it, I really didn’t have any such feeling. It was rather that there had been a problem and I had successfully resolved it.

Some people, even rather experienced shooters, when under pressure often forgot to operate the safety before they attempted to fire their rifles. Some, though experienced, had never fired their rifles from the ‘wrong’ shoulder, many had never before fired their rifles using only one arm. Often there were multiple targets, the defender had to move between different locations of cover, to find the right angle or height for which to engage any one or two targets then change to do the others. Defenders would forget that there were multiple targets which were threatening them from different angles. When trying to find the best position from which to shoot one particular target while staying behind cover from that attacker, the defenders forgot about keeping cover between themselves and the other attackers.

Physical fitness matters. Too many people want to ignore that. This was not a physical course, not physically demanding, especially compared to some. But, for best ‘results’, one needs to be able to move short distances quickly, to be able to get up and down, change positions, and adapt as needed. Never forget that a fight, any fight, will not be compatible with whatever skills you practice, what you train for, or what you predict might likely happen. The fight will be what ever it is and you don’t get to choose how it will start or under what conditions. Even a modest amount of physical fitness training can make a huge difference over doing no training at all.

One man, a Federal ‘First Responder’, wore not just his complete gear and equipment but body armor, this significant amount of kit was what he wore daily on his job. Despite the heat and activity he trained in and with the equipment he would most likely be wearing if he needed to do what he was hired to do. This is a sign of a wise man.

Doing anything under stress, even just a little pressure, and your performance can change, it can be very different from just casual practice. The stressors of such drills or even competition is much less than that of an actual event of deadly force. However, after learning a skill, practicing it under stress helps to ‘inoculate’ one to better perform when the stress is not artificial. This includes decision making under pressure, an attribute which is even more important than just skills.

Even a little practice of something, a little preparation makes a huge improvement on how a person can handle stressors and problems of many types. ‘Make your mistakes here’, Do something here now for the first time rather than trying to figure it out for the first time when life depends on it, was the theme of this course. This anti-terrorism aspect of this offering by John Farnam was not about shooting. One could not just shoot fast and accurately, one had to think, decide, adapt, and act, and do it quickly.

John Farnam is known and teaches internationally, his Defense Training International webpage can be easily found. I recommend you sign up to receive his random ‘quips’.