The Survival Code and Situational Awareness: Teaching the Instructed

The Survival Code and Situational Awareness: Teaching the Instructed

by Tony Lee Burleson Phd


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When it comes to the defensive use of firearms, the skill of not being shot is at least as important as the skill of shooting. Moving to cover and shooting from cover should be a constant part of Handgun drilling, but unfortunately, most exercises don't emphasize this aspect of defense.
In a perfect world, the first shots a beginner fires would be from behind cover. Seeking cover while drawing or firing should be an instinct you are training yourself every time you handle a gun, and if you stand out in the open when shooting drills, you are training yourself to stand out
In the open when returning fire, an immobile and easy target, as is very often observed in law enforcement shootings.
The antidote is to shoot from cover, from the very outset, and keep it a constant part of your training. As law enforcement training shifts to this paradigm, they observe that officers who come up for qualification are uneasy firing in the open--they instinctively prefer to shoot from
Behind cover when it is available.
There is very little use of cover in these drills, which is why I mention it here. They can, however, be adapted.
It is up to you to give yourself the kind of training you want to have.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781466929104
Publisher: Trafford Publishing
Publication date: 04/18/2012
Pages: 132
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.31(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Survival Code and Situational Awareness

Teaching the Instructed
By Tony Lee Burleson

Trafford Publishing

Copyright © 2012 Tony Lee Burleson Phd.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4669-2910-4

Chapter One

Handgun Drills, Standards, and Training Page

Notes on the Drills

The material on this page is collected here for the benefit of shooters interested in improving their handgun skills and developing their own training structure.

I assume no liability for any use or misuse of this information.

This page does not teach technique and is not intended as a substitute for good firearms training.

I assume you will seek out training from an instructor or knowledgeable shooter to learn the Basics of any technique before setting them into your muscle memory. Drills practiced with poor technique will only reinforce bad habits.

Contributions to this page are welcome, and will be credited.

Target Systems

Most of the defensive drills are designed for use with the IPSC target.

These targets are available from many different suppliers, usually in lots of 25-50.

A rough substitute for the IPSC A-zone is a sheet of 8.5 x 11" paper. This is the same height and just slightly wider than the A-zone. Most of these drills can be practiced with a sheet of paper on a cardboard backing if you don't have IPSC targets.

Variations: Some agencies tape 3x5 cards in the center of a silhouette for many of these drills, and only count those hits. The theory is that in an armed encounter your group sizes will widen involuntarily, so practicing with a smaller-than-life stop zone is better training.

I have a page on reactive targets and the Poor Man's Target Frame.

Drills and Exercises

Bench rest shooting

Teaches: accuracy, ideal sight picture, relaxation while shooting.

Shooting from a pistol rest is the way to learn an ideal sight picture, good trigger control, and to build confidence that your gun shoots to point of aim. The NRA recommends starting all new shooters from a rest, just so they can see an ideal sight picture and understands that if the sights are aligned on the target when the gun fires, the bullet will accurately hit the target. Once this understanding is established, other kinds of shooting have a foundation to build from.

Advanced shooters will find that by using a rest, they can shoot to the gun's limit. It's an excellent way to observe the shooting process. watching the sight lift, the slide operate, and the gun come back into battery on the target.

Shooting 1/4" dots from a rest is a challenging way to test your limits. Put 15 dots on a sheet of paper with a larger aiming circle around each one. One shot per dot at 7 yards; bullet must break the edge to score; anything over 10 is excellent.

Come back to bench rest shooting anytime you start thinking your sights need adjusting. Chances are it's you, not the gun.

By shooting NRA targets or measuring your groups you can chart your progress.

Freestyle Group Shooting

Teaches: accuracy and an ideal sight picture assures making every shot count.

Put a 1" target dot on a blank sheet of paper and run it out to 25, 50, 75, or 100 ft—whatever distance stretches your ability to put them in the center when taking your best shot. Load ONLY ONE round into the magazine and cylinder, and make the shot as precise as you can, taking all the time you need. After every shot, step out of your shooting position, collect the brass, or do something else to rest. Put a new target out every 10 shots.

Try to call your shots. If you are perfectly focused on the front sight at the moment the shot breaks, you will be able to tell if the shot was high, low, or off to the side. Wherever the sight is when it lifts, that's the direction the shot will go. Handle the gun exactly as you would for more aggressive shooting—loading the gun with the proper procedure and shooting from your normal stance. Pay attention to how your stance and grip feels to you; slow, careful shooting can show you where unwanted tension is coming from. If you feel tired, take a break.

You can measure your groups with a ruler or caliper. Date and file your best target to see how you're shooting changes over a period of months or years.

Variation: Shoot from a rest or sandbags.

Receding Bull's-eyes

Teaches: accuracy, best shots at various ranges, settling into a shooting flow.

Requires: indoor range

Put a 1.5" target dot on a blank sheet of paper and put it as close as the range will allow. It should be relatively easy to put your rounds straight into the bull's-eye with no flyers.

Fire a small number of shots, and then move the target back just a little. Keep moving the target back, bit by bit, to the point where it's difficult to keep it in the bull's-eye. You may be surprised at how you "lock on" to the bull's-eye doing this, to the point where you might shoot a good group at longer distances than usual.

You might also become more aware of the shooting factors that degrade accuracy and make it difficult to shoot precisely at longer Ranges.

Over time, you may find you can move it further and further back—it's a good way to see your own progress.

The outdoor variant is to progressively retreat from your target.

Dummy Round Drill

Teaches: flinch control and follow-through during live fire.

Requires: best with shooting partner, can be done alone.

Principle: If the hammer falls on an empty chamber during slow-fire shooting, your gun shouldn't budge—sights should stay aligned and on target, eye still clearly focused on the front sight. If the gun does dip (or jump), you're anticipating the recoil.

Procedure: Have someone else load a magazine for you, mixing live rounds with snap caps, or for a revolver, leave one or more chambers empty. When you fire the gun, concentrate on keeping the gun steady, sights on target, no matter what happens. When the snap cap comes up you'll be able to check your flinch. If you're doing well, the gun won't budge. If you're not doing well, keep up with the drill until you are. Keep your sights aligned and on target while you release the trigger just enough to reengage the sear (proper follow-through).

You can do this yourself by loading several magazines and mixing them up, or loading a magazine with your eyes closed, or rotating the cylinder with your eyes shut before closing it.

Variations: if you have a laser or optical sight, it's even more difficult to keep the dot perfectly on the target when the snap cap comes up, and easier to diagnose the direction your flinch is taking you.

Also known as: cap-and-ball drill, ball-and-dummy drill.

Sensory Deprivation

Teaches: shooting kinesthetic flinch control.

Requires: a partner and a backstop that will stop your fire even if you significantly miss your target.

Most of the flinch comes from anticipating the noise and flash of shooting, not the recoil itself.

Anyone who has hammered a nail has handled more recoil in their hand than a handgun usually imparts. Shooting blind, with heavy hearing protection, can help show a shooter that the recoil is not difficult, as well focusing attention on the internal feeling of stance and shooting. This aids in Visualization and kinesthetic awareness.

You can cut down on noise by using ear plugs in tandem with muffs. Line up the gun on target, and close your eyes before taking the shot.

Important: your partner is there to watch your muzzle. He/She should keep a hand on your shoulder as long as you are pointed safely. If any unsafe range condition arises, He/she should take the hand off your shoulder.

Variations: learn to tell when your slide locks back by the feel of the recoil alone. Your partner loads a magazine with an unknown number of rounds, and after each shot, you report whether you think the gun is empty or not. Believe it or not, you will be able to tell pretty quickly. You can also do a blind emergency reload when you feel the last round go. Your partner will need to keep a close eye on you for safety.

Caveats: besides the obvious safety considerations, you should probably only do these infrequently. In general, you want to train yourself to shoot with your eyes open.

Correcting Blinking

Many shooters blink when they fire the gun. This is a flinch response to the noise (or anticipated noise) of shooting. If a shooter blinks, they can't be watching the sights through recoil for a good follow-through, and has to require their visual index on the sight before firing the next shot.

BFTF writes that this is a fundamental barrier to advanced shooting; you can't have a fast visual control of the gun if you aren't watching the sight through recoil.

Here is a method (Cappy) to correct blinking. You have to relax the shooter to the point where she can keep relaxed and absorb the visual and physical input from the gun.

This method is the short route; the real answer is Zen-type awareness.

If you have a safe berm that you can get close to, get within 5 yards. You want to shoot into the berm without a formal target to get comfortable with the gun. If you shoot iron sights, try just looking over the top of the gun instead of at the sights.

Wear plugs and muffs to reduce the noise problem. You might find it of benefit to start with a .22 as well. To help in keeping relaxed, try to keep your facial muscles relaxed. Monitor this closely. I work on relaxing the muscles behind my ears for best relaxation and awareness. Use a relaxed grip on the gun and eventually work with weak and strong hand shooting.

Repeat until you are comfortable keeping your eyes open while looking over the sights, firing downrange into the berm without a specific target.

Once you can keep your eyes open for the complete cycle, start watching the sights and monitoring yourself closely. If you are blinking, go back to no target and looking over the gun.

After you have achieved the ability to keep your eyes open and relax, you will find a tremendous increase in awareness.

Credits to: Sandy Wylie.

Correcting Trigger Slap

Shooters moving from slowfire to rapid fire often move their trigger fingers all the way off the trigger between shots. This has a couple of negative effects. First, it takes time. Second, it leads to inaccuracy because the tendency is to slap the trigger on the second and subsequent shots.

To fix this, follow through on your shots with your trigger finger. Hold the trigger back all the way through recoil. When the sights are again aligned slowly release the trigger until the link reengages.

Then press to make the next shot.

This is a great dry fire drill. Once you know how far to release the trigger of your gun, both your accuracy and your speed go up.

Credits to: Lee Winter.

Shooting with Both Eyes Open

Many shooters close or squint their weak eye in order to focus on the front sight—but doing so impairs peripheral vision and depth perception while increasing eye fatigue. Your target-to-target transitions will be much quicker if you are using both your eyes, and you can be more relaxed, which will improve your shooting in many ways.

The problem is usually that the dominant eye is not much stronger than the weak eye, so instead of seeing one image strongly and the other faintly, you see both strongly. When focused on the front sight, you see a confusing array of rear sights and targets, with no way to coordinate them.

It is impossible to sort out the doubled images every time you take a shot. Instead, you need to train your eye to simply "know" what a good sight picture is in spite of the extraneous elements.

With a few months' worth of work, you can shoot as well as anyone else, with complete peripheral awareness, by learning not to "see" any doubling of the sight picture.

The following is a four-step recovery program for shooters with eye squinting problems:

1. Put a strip of scotch tape on your shooting glasses over your non-dominant eye and learn to shoot with both eyes open. The tape will obscure the weak eye's picture to the point where it will not interfere with your sight picture. Shoot this way until you have acquired The technique and your stance, sight focus, and follow-through feel natural and innate.

2. Dry fire every day. Select either the presentation from the holster or low ready, whichever makes sense to your situation (home defense vs. concealed carry), and practice.

First to make it smooth, then to make it perfect. Always keep a strong front-sight focus, and be very aware of where the sights are when the hammer falls. Work your way up to being able to make a presentation with your eyes closed, then open your eyes and see a solid sight picture.

3. When you have reached a point of confidence in your presentation, replace the tape with a very thin smear of Vaseline—just thin enough so that you see a ghostly rear sight image when focused on the front sight. It will be disorienting, because you'll see two rear sights and two targets. But make your presentation and focus on the front sight. You will find that you are able to put the sight dead on the target regardless of the double vision. That's the goal. Continue the dry-fire regimen, and soon you will hardly be aware of the second image. As you get more acclimated to seeing the sight picture with only the strong eye, you can remove more and more Vaseline.

4. Eventually, start shooting with both eyes. Watch the sight through recoil and you will learn that you can follow the sight and retain a sharp picture, disregarding any weak-eye images of the rear sight or target. If your eyes begin to confuse the images, go back to presentations with the other glasses for a few minutes. In live-fire, gradually phase out the old glasses.

Within a few months, you won't ever think about it again—your eyes will "know" the sight picture and the non-dominant image will seem like a peripheral, ghostly superposition. This is because attention is what makes the image strong. The steps above will allow you to shoot as if the conflicting image didn't exist—and the more you ignore it, the more it doesn't exist. The result is no visual confusion, just a strong sight picture, normal depth perception, and the full range of your natural peripheral vision.

Firing from Low Ready

Teaches: Sight acquisition and rapid first shot.

A gun should be held at low ready when danger is probable but the threat is not immediate. It gives the shooter a complete field of vision while enabling her to get the gun quickly on target and fire should it become necessary.

The "foot-shooting" low ready often seen on television is less than optimal. You want to keep the gun just low enough to see well over it, and no lower. If holding persons at gunpoint, you want to be low enough to see their hands. Finger should be off the trigger, gun Decocked (DA/SA semi autos) or safety engaged (SA semi-autos)

A gun is held at combat ready after shots have been fired, and the immediate threat neutralized.

The gun is in condition zero (cocked, no safety engaged), held in the same stance as low ready, while the shooter assesses the target and then breaks tunnel vision to perform a scan of the area.

This should be practiced until instinctive. Don't reholster the gun until you have assessed your surroundings and are satisfied that no further threat exists.

Some people advise decocking DA/SA semi-autos when returning to ready. It's up to you, but keep in mind that in a defensive situation the gun might not be pointing in a safe direction.

Drill: Tape a 3x5 card to a target at 7 yards. On a signal (if you have one available to you), raise the gun from low ready and put a round in the card.

Many indoor ranges prohibit drawing from a holster, but if you are familiar with the drawing track, you can simulate the last half of the draw by starting with the gun near your chest instead of at low ready. If you are not familiar with the drawing track, this drill won't help you. Do more dry-fire drawing first.

Variations: Low-ready/combat-ready reloading drill. Load three rounds into each of your magazines (on your belt or on a table), and two rounds in the mag in your gun. The drill is then:

1. Fire (and return to combat ready)

2. Fire; reload; fire (and return to combat ready)

Repeat #1 and #2 until you are out of magazines. Tape up your target after each drill so you are actively monitoring your accuracy.


Excerpted from The Survival Code and Situational Awareness by Tony Lee Burleson Copyright © 2012 by Tony Lee Burleson Phd. . Excerpted by permission of Trafford Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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