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  • Federal Firearms Licensed (FFL)
  • Personalized, 1-on-1 Firearms Training
  • Maryland HQL
  • Maryland Wear and Carry
  • Washington, DC Concealed Carry
  • Utah Concealed Carry
  • Certified as NRA Pistol and Rifle Firearm Instructors
  • Recognized by the Committee for Tactical Emergency Casualty Care (C-TECC)

Developing Mental Toughness to Survive the Fight of Your Life



This article is part 2 of a series of articles about mental toughness. Part 2 focuses on information about perfectly executing gun handling and marksmanship skills to survive the fight of your life.


The Spartan Firearms Training Group, LLC in Maryland has been delivering high quality firearms training since 2016 to thousands of Maryland residents through our Handgun Qualification License courses, our concealed carry courses, our emergency casualty care courses, and personalized 1-on-1 firearms training.  We are pretty darn good at what we do.


We train with some of the best warriors in the world:  Army Green Berets, Army Rangers, Navy Seals, Marine Raiders, and top secret special operations task force operators, among others.  We don’t train with average instructors. We take what we learn from those warriors and we pay it forward to our customers.


One of the things we learned from these warriors is about the critical importance of being able to perform on demand when faced with a deadly force threat.  Performing on demand means responding to a deadly threat quickly and effectively because you will not have time to think about solutions to that problem. 


The ability to perform on demand requires a sufficient level of mental toughness.  Mental toughness does not mean having guts or being exceptionally brave.  Mental toughness is about preparing yourself mentally, physically, and emotionally to perform on demand when faced with a deadly force threat.


You develop mental toughness by engaging in a mental training routine that you follow every time you train.  Your mental training routine focuses on the perfect execution of shooting skills, visualizing yourself in potentially dangerous situations and seeing yourself dealing with those situations, and engaging in positive self-talk about your gun handling and marksmanship skills.


Where Firearms Skills Are Developed


If you asked 100 people where gun handling and marksmanship skills are developed 95 of them would likely say on the range doing live-fire drills.  The other five who answered differently are the professionals:  competitive shooters and warriors.  The professionals know that firearm skills are developed along several different pathways that include proper instruction, an uncompromising dedication to dry practice, and very little live fire practice.


Dry Practice


To engage in dry practice you use an unloaded firearm with absolutely no ammunition in the training space. You can practice almost all of the firing cycle skills through dry practice.  These skills include: acquiring the target, drawing from concealment, gripping the firearm, aiming (sight alignment and sight picture), and trigger press.  You will likely be unable to practice resetting the trigger without racking the slide repeatedly (however, a company called DryFireMag (Home – DryFireMag) sells special magazines that allow you to dry fire and experience trigger reset without racking the slide. They have expanded their product line to include dry fire magazines for several different handguns.) You cannot manage recoil while doing dry practice drills.


Perfectly Executing Firearms Skills


It is critically important to practice correct firearms skills correctly.  Practicing correct skills incorrectly or practicing the wrong skills creates training scars that are difficult to fix.  We experience this phenomenon on the live-fire range with some of our concealed carry students.  Some of them have years of experience shooting their handgun, but have never received proper instruction on correct firearm skills; for example, they use incorrect gripping technique, or they use an incorrect trigger press, or they do not align their sights.  When we see this happening we give those students in-the-moment feedback to correct the errors.  Then, when they start to shoot a second course of fire they repeat the same errors again, and again, and again.  The incorrect skills have been programmed into their brains and that programming blocks the learning of correct skills.


Neural Pathways


Neural pathways are created in your brain to accommodate new skills.  Myelin coats the neural pathways as you continue to train a particular skill.  The myelin becomes thicker as you train. The neural pathways with thick coats of myelin become very efficient which helps you to use those skills quickly and effectively without thinking.  But, there is a catch!


If you practice a correct skill incorrectly you are training your brain and subconscious to use that skill incorrectly.  If you practice incorrect skills you are training your brain to use the incorrect skills. You are training yourself to fail.


The myelin that is created cannot be removed from those neural pathways that have been trained to fail.  You will need to create new neural pathways to accommodate correct skills practiced correctly.


Solutions in the Moment


If you are ever faced with a deadly force threat you must find solutions in the moment to neutralize the threat.  You will not have time to think through your options.  You must react with speed and effectiveness.  If the solutions you use are not correctly trained into your subconscious you will likely not survive.


When you are engaged in skill-training you are also programming your subconscious to perform. As they say in the computer programming world, “garbage in, garbage out.”  Once the wrong skills or the correct skills trained incorrectly are programmed into our subconscious it will take double the effort and time to correct and rewrite the subconscious training programs into new neural pathways.


Train Smart-Train Correctly-Train Often


Training to use your handgun to defend your life or the life of a loved one is critically important.  Your life or the lives of your loved ones will depend on your ability to find fast solutions in the moment for neutralizing the threat to your lives.


Remember, that competition shooters and warriors devote much time to relentless dry practice.  You should too.  This means you have no excuse for not training because you can dry practice any time day or night and it won’t cost you a penny. 


Remember, also, to visualize possible deadly threat scenarios you might find yourself caught up in. Imagine yourself dealing effectively with the threat.  Every once in a while imagine a worst case scenario where you have been wounded while imagining staying in the fight and living for another day.


In part 3 of this blog series we will talk more about visualization.