The most common issue we encounter in every class is speed. And I'm not talking about the good kind. Everyone wants to go fast. Constantly, during the entire class, we have to remind students to slow down. It sounds wrong, but during training, practice and even in a fight "fast" is usually a bad thing.
Training – regardless of the level - introduces new skills, techniques and fighting principles. You discover how to use firearms properly, safely and in defense of life. You're modifying or fine tuning existing skills. You're not going to actually learn the material in a two or three day class. Learning requires practice. Training shouldn't be about speed. Get it right while the instructor is watching so you know what and how to practice. Training - new material - needs to be taken slowly, literally one step at a time.
After training comes practice, performing the repetitions necessary to actually learn a skill or set of actions. In other words, practice until you don't have to think about it. The conscious mind says, "reload." The subconscious takes over, performing the reload. To embed a skill into the subconscious literally takes thousands of "good" repetitions. "Bad" reps don't count, and the experts say that every bad rep takes dozens of good ones to erase the bad. The only way to ensure you're "gettin' gooder" is to slow down. Don't think about speed; concentrate on technique.
Good technique reduces or eliminates mistakes. You're acting efficiently. Yes, we're preparing to fight, but in a fight every action must be clean, with no wasted motion or unnecessary actions. You can go really fast, adding unnecessary movements and making a lot of mistakes, but this isn't helping you learn, and it definitely isn't preparing you to fight. A little thing - not getting the magazine positioned properly in your hand - creates a big problem - dropping the only mag you have on the ground while moving to cover. Slow practice creates efficiency.
Practicing slowly teaches you how to react to mistakes. Yes, we just talked about not making mistakes, but the fact is they happen, especially under stress. When a mistake occurs you correct, compensate and continue. Go too fast, make a mistake and you step into a default mode. You stop thinking and start reacting, reverting to "natural" instincts. The problem is most skills we use to fight with firearms are not natural. By working at a moderate pace you are able to identify mistakes sooner and immediately apply corrective actions.
In "No Second Place Winner," Bill Jordan records advice he received from Texas Ranger Captain John Hughes: "If you get into a gunfight don't let yourself feel rushed. Take your time, fast." The only thing you can control in a fight is you. Jordan adds that while this isn't easy advice to follow, everything you need to know about gun fighting is summed up Hughes' words. "When you really understand their full meaning," Jordan adds, "you have come of age." (Pg 107)
During training, slow down. When you practice, slow down and focus on technique and efficiency. In a fight, trust your skills and apply them at the proper speed. Victory will follow.
Tiger McKee is director of Shootrite Firearms Academy, located in northern Alabama. He is the author of "The Book of Two Guns" - http://shootrite.org/book/book.html writes for several firearms/tactical publications, and is featured on GunTalk's DVD, "Fighting With The 1911 - http://shootrite.org/dvd/dvd.html Website: