We held the first Concealed Carry Masters LIVE Course earlier this month and it was a tremendous success. It sold out a couple of weeks before and we received several requests from people who want to attend the next one.

Today, I want to share some of the big takeaways from the weekend, as well as an exciting announcement about the potential for us to run the Concealed Carry Masters LIVE Course in your area!

1 of the 2 main goals of the weekend were to get people to unconsciously identify threats and accurately differentiate surprise threats that required an immediate response from threats that might require a response or didn’t require a response.

The second was to help shooters develop conditioned responses so that they could quickly, correctly, and effectively go straight from stimulus to response.

Based on feedback from the students, everyone there had breakthroughs and marked improvements in their ability to respond to surprise lethal force threats.

There’s a lot that happened that I can’t disclose…when you’re measuring someone’s ability to quickly, correctly, and effectively respond to SURPRISE threats, it’s important that the scenario is as surprising as possible. Telling you specific details about the scenarios would make them less effective when you go through the training in the future, and we don’t want that 🙂

There were several reactions to the scenarios, including, in one case, anger.

The anger wasn’t directed towards us. It was an officer with 13 years of experience who is also a firearms instructor. Within the first half hour of the class on the first day, he realized how effective the training methodology was and was angry and frustrated that he hadn’t had the opportunity to go through anything like it during his previous 13 years of service.

You see, until you test yourself in a fluid scenario under elevated stress, you don’t really know whether you’ve got head knowledge or conditioned responses.

Here’s the difference. Head knowledge is stuff that you know and can talk about and think your way through in low stress situations. Facebook commandos have head knowledge.  Head knowledge falls apart under stress. Conditioned responses are actions and behaviors that you’ve programmed into your unconscious mind and can execute without thinking about each step of the process. This is what you want to have in place for self-defense situations that are moving too fast to think your way through.

This kind of scenario based training SHOULD be mandatory annual training for all law enforcement personnel. If we expect them to perform like Superman when faced with a lethal force threat, we owe it to them to give them the highest likelihood of succeeding. We can’t continue to skimp on realistic training for our law enforcement personnel and expect them to be effective protectors, guardians, and sheepdogs.  This kind of training is a hell of a lot more likely to save a life than another police department getting an armored personnel carrier.

After more than a decade of training law enforcement and studying lethal force encounters, Ken Murray, co-founder of Simmunitions, determined that the vast majority of officers don’t get “up to speed” until after their 3rd lethal force encounter and many quit after their first. We, as communities, have to decide whether we want them to get that experience in stress training scenarios or in real life situations where every bullet that leaves the muzzle has the potential to either protect or destroy.

You see, effective stress training not only helps you perform more effectively under extreme stress (eliminating stray bullets) but it also helps you keep your head and avoid shooting unless it’s REALLY necessary.

Training like this increases civilian safety as well as reducing liability for departments both by giving officers the mental tools they need to NOT shoot their guns when they don’t need to AND to hit their intended target when they do need to fire.

By the end of the weekend, everyone had had a gun aimed and fired at them SEVERAL times, and they’d pointed their guns at other humans posing a lethal force threat SEVERAL times.

This satisfied 2 very important goals.

First, the normal reaction when people have a firearm pointed at them for the first time is surprise, shock, denial, and freezing. This is especially so in low light when there is fire coming out the muzzle at you. Everyone got to the point where the presence of a firearm or knife no longer elicited a panic response and was simply a trigger to clear, draw, rock, join, extend, aim, and send effective fire to stop the threat as quickly as possible.

Second, many people have misstated the rules of firearms safety to say that you should never point your firearm in the direction of another person. That’s true when plinking and hunting, but absolutely false in a self-defense situation. It has caused civilians, law enforcement, and military personnel to die unnecessarily.

It’s amazing how many people can point a gun at a silhouette on paper, or even a lifelike image, but when they’re faced with a lethal threat, point the gun ANYWHERE but at the actual threat. Again, this is bad both because they don’t stop the threat if they shoot, but also because errant bullets can hurt innocent people.

Some of the people there had VERY impressive and enviable training resumes and had trained with schools and instructors that you would recognize. As a result, their gun handling was solid and very respectable.

But what everyone quickly realized was that shooting skills are important, but relatively insignificant in a gunfight.

If you’ve got a sub-1 second drawstroke, but it takes you 6 seconds to observe and identify a threat, determine a response, and start executing your sub-1 second drawstroke, it just took you 7 seconds to get into the fight, it’s probably over, and it probably didn’t work out well for you.

After the fact, people will say you got “ambushed” and “didn’t have a chance,” but is that true? Sometimes yes, sometimes no.

After you observe, identify, decide, and act, THEN your skill level comes into play, but it’s SO far downstream that, like I said, it’s relatively insignificant. There are several links in the chain that have to work before “skill” matters.

Most schools do a great job with the “firearms training” portion of fighting with a gun, but that doesn’t really matter if you don’t even get a chance to effectively deploy your weapon because of a breakdown further upstream in the process.

And that’s what we did…we seamlessly worked everything from unconsciously assessing our environment, observing threats, attempting to verbally de-escalate, if possible, reacting appropriately (including fighting to our guns when attackers were on top of us), scanning for additional threats, handling the following call with 911 without creating unnecessary problems, and then interacting with responding law enforcement without getting shot.

You may have noticed that I skipped 2 things…identifying (orienting) and deciding. In John Boyd’s famous OODA loop, the process for dealing with a threat is to Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act.

Observe something of interest

Based on how that thing of interest orients with your life experience and knowledge base, you identify it as a threat or non-threat.

Decide on a proper course of action

Act

The problem is that if you observe a surprise lethal force threat, there’s a good chance that you’ll experience an adrenaline dump, have a sympathetic response, and you’ll ONLY be able to execute pre-programmed, conditioned responses (neural pathways).

Ideally, what you want to do is develop a “stimulus bridge” that quickly, correctly, and effectively bridges the gap between stimulus (observation) and response (action).  So, the OODA loop becomes an OA loop.

This isn’t something that you can do without repetition, pain, and/or stress exposure.

Expecting to perform at a high level with a gun under life or death stress without significant repetition and/or stress shooting exposure is like expecting a nerdy stats junky with a hoop in their driveway, a passion for the game, and all the head knowledge in the world to be able to flip a switch and perform like a star in a championship game in a clutch situation without ever having played before or even scrimmaged.

It COULD happen, but chance favors the prepared and it’s much more likely that someone who had practiced under stress and scrimmaged extensively would perform better.

One of the participants, after going through the first scenario told me, “I did EVERYTHING wrong, and I kept replaying it in my head and realizing what I needed to do different next time.”

Each scenario had a different combination of non-threats, threats that you could verbally de-escalate, threats that escalated, and encounters that went straight from 0-10 without warning.

Evan so, the mind has the ability to categorize and generalize threats as lethal, potentially lethal, and not lethal and repeated exposures allowed everyone to significantly reduce their “freeze” time and take appropriate action as quickly as possible.

And the guy who did “everything” wrong? He was performing at a very high level by the end of the first day and even better by the end of the weekend.

Part of the reason for this rapid improvement is that when you lay stress training like force-on-force on top of solid observation skills and pre-programmed conditioned responses, your skill level progresses as much in 2-3 reps as it would after attending a traditional 3-5 day trigger pulling class.

On the topic of live fire, we didn’t do much. (We didn’t need to.) We each did roughly 100 rounds. Some of it integrating striking and creating distance with shooting, some of it transitioning from shooting to using our pistol as an impact weapon when it malfunctioned, and some of it was basic pistol fundamentals.

To begin with, we simply didn’t NEED to do more than that. Effective use of the SIRT, blank guns, and simmunition guns made it unnecessary and, more importantly, counter-productive.

At most classes with high round counts, a good portion of the shooting is done to keep the students busy while the instructor(s) alternate between students giving 1 on 1 analysis, assessments, and instruction. We had enough instructors, few enough students, and enough trigger time on the inert training platforms in the classroom that we were happy to sit and watch while the other students shot.

One other unique that we did at the training to ensure student success was to not only send students home with the Concealed Carry Masters Course DVDs, but also with a SIRT inert laser training pistol.

You see, while we effectively programmed threat profiles and conditioned responses into the subconscious that will be with the attendees for the rest of their lives, firearms manipulation skills are perishable skills and must be continually developed, refined, and honed and the Concealed Carry Masters Course DVDs and the SIRT are 2 of the most effective tools for doing this. Thousands of my readers are currently Concealed Carry Masters Course students. If you’re not yet, I STRONGLY recommend that you get it now by clicking >HERE<

Concealed Carry Masters LIVE Course in your area…

Right now, we’re actively looking for ranges around the country where we could run the Concealed Carry Masters Course.

Ideally, it would be a range with a SIM shoot house and a classroom next to the range…similar to what many police ranges have, but we can adapt the training to almost any range that has a classroom area that’s conducive to learning (climate controlled, able to hear, private, and a little room to move) If you’re interested in having CCMC Live come to your area and you have a range that fits these requirements, please let us know by commenting below.

If you’ve done reality based training in the past, please share your experiences and takeaways by commenting below.