By: Jim Stouffer – Instructor

Shooting under pressure is altogether different than shooting paper targets at your local range.  Paper targets don’t shoot back! Being able to hit a bull’s-eye consistently on the range doesn’t mean a thing when it comes to hitting what you are aiming at while under the stress and pressure of having a deadly weapon pointed at you and possibly being shot back at.

Having served as a member of the Organization of American States forces in the Dominican Republic during the revolution there and having experienced first hand the pressures of a Viet Nam tour, I can tell you what stress and pressure is like.

When you are involved in a stressful pressure filled self defense situation, you will find that you aren’t as coordinated as you normally would be.  You fumble at the smallest tasks.  Your fingers don’t seem to work. After emptying your gun at the bad guy and missing all the shots, you can’t seem to get that extra mag out of its pouch……so you yank it out only to have it slip from your grasp and hit the ground.  You start to shake uncontrollably.  You can’t get the mag into the mag well of the gun. You can easily loose control of your bodily functions (use your imagination here).  What in the world is going on inside you?  Why can’t you seem to stop shaking?  What is that wet spot on your trousers?  Why can’t you think straight?  Why do your fingers feel as if they are twice as big as they really are?  Why is you heart pounding so hard you can’t get your breath?  Does this sound scary?  I hope so. Fear triggers the “fight or flight” response in us.  There is a terrific adrenaline dump taking place.  Your metabolic rate increases rapidly.  Your blood drains from your extremities and is rerouted to major muscle groups.  Your fingers won’t work but you will have almost superhuman strength. Ever heard of accident witnesses who could lift a car off of a person pinned underneath?

These are all common reactions to what folks who come under stressful/pressure filled circumstances feel.  The good news is that the more you understand yourself and the more you prepare and train the better off you will be .  One must have a proper mindset to overcome the effects of stress. One must have a survival mindset, one that says, “I will survive this encounter no matter what.  No matter if I get beat half to death, stabbed or shot.”  You must maintain presence of mind and avoid tunnel vision and tunnel hearing.  When facing the barrel of a gun, most people only see the gun and how big the hole is in the end where the bullet comes out.  When facing a knife most only see how big the blade is.  The bad guy might have an accomplice or two.  They may be armed also.  Breaking tunnel vision is a very important tactic in staying alive.

Nothing can simulate a lethal encounter.  No one can tell you how you will react in such a situation, however, good defensive firearms training is as close as you will get to the real thing.

Some organized competitions feign defensive scenarios in their stages and there is a little ‘pressure to perform’ but it is nothing compared to a life and death situation.  If you are serious about your personal safety and choose to own a handgun for self defense purposes, I urge you to get professional training in defensive pistol tactics.