Gun Skills: Inducing Stress

posted on April 28, 2023
shooter at the range
Photo courtesy Frank Melloni

Many of us believe that we have everything needed to handle a life-or-death encounter in the streets or in our homes: an adequately maintained firearm, quality ammunition and some form of illumination. And perhaps all the tools are there … but what about the right mindset?

Spending hours poking paper at a square range isn’t going to build a solid defensive mentality because stress isn’t built into that kind of practice. Inducing stress into even a simple shooting routine will reveal weaknesses in your approach and force you to focus and adapt.

Any Firearm, Every Stressor
What gun should you use for this drill? Stress will weasel its way into both our minds and bodies, and regardless of what style of firearm you might use, any added pressure could cause you to fumble as you try to load and fire accurately. So, for these drills, just grab your favorite defensive firearm and learn what it’s like to use it under stress.

Besides your gun, you’ll only need a full-sized paper or cardboard silhouette target, a countdown timer and a buddy who also likes to train for the worst-case scenario. After running your target out to seven yards, you are ready to begin.

Phase 1: Physical Stress
Place an unloaded firearm on your shooting point.
2. Drop to the ground, execute five pushups and return to the shooting point.
3. Immediately load your firearm with one round and fire one shot into the center mass of the target.
4. Repeat the procedure and add one more pushup and one more shot to each repetition.
5. The drill is complete when you have reached a fatigued state.

Phase 2: Emotional Stress
1. Place an unloaded firearm on your shooting point.
2. While you remain unmoving on the firing line, have your partner agitate you through any non-physical means you agree are acceptable, such as yelling creative insults or banging a pot behind you—heck, use a bullhorn if necessary.
3. While your partner creates this stress, load your firearm with two rounds and fire a controlled pair into the center mass of your target.
4. Repeat five times, adding two more rounds per repetition.
5. The drill is complete after 50 rounds have been fired.

Phase 3: Mental Stress
1. Place an unloaded firearm on your shooting point.
2. Set a timer to count down from 10 seconds.
3. On the word “go,” have your partner activate the timer.
4. Load and fire two rounds into the center mass of the target before the timer ends.
5. Repeat the procedure and subtract a second for each repetition.
6. The drill is complete when you find a time you cannot beat after 10 consecutive attempts.

Bringing these basic stressors into even the most-rudimentary drill will illuminate critical information on how it influences your movements. It also will teach you things about your firearm that have likely gone unnoticed during static, untimed shooting; for example, during the first drill, you might find that it only takes a little bit of sweat to cause a loss of purchase on your firearm, showing you where you might need some after-market texturing. The second drill on the list will teach you whether you are prepared to ignore unpleasantness and concentrate on the task at hand. 

Lastly, the simple act of adding a time component might introduce what I like to call “fat-finger syndrome,” and this drill will show you which controls create a sticking point and might need to be adjusted. Through this shooting routine, you’ll learn a tremendous amount about your gear and your being. All it takes is a little ammunition and a whole lot of willingness to adapt and overcome. 


gun range timer
gun range timer

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