Tuesday, July 22, 2014

200th Hour revisited and Plan to Train

I was talking to my wife last night. I mentioned the way my youngest son was mishandling a pellet rifle. This was just hearsay from his sister so I took it with a grain of salt. I talked to my son and he said he did not point the weapon at anyone. My son is a teenager but is very trustworthy. The thing that bothered me was my wife’s comment when I mentioned it. She said “It wasn’t loaded”. How many people have been shot with an “unloaded” gun? Now, to my wife’s credit, I knew what she meant. She meant he had cleared the weapon and was not breaking any of the four rules. I gave her a hard time about what she had actually said and she explained that she saw what he had done. My older teen aged daughter knew I would hear her say from the living room “Don’t point that at me!” But I also know better about my son.
What this exchange brought to my mind is the 200th hour. Do you know about the 200th hour? It is used in the military and was started I think in the pilot world. Statistics have shown that around the 200th hour of flight experience pilots have gained enough knowledge and experience that they get over-confident and thus make a mistake. The 200th hour is when stupid mistakes are made. Hopefully, not too serious of a mistake, but don’t depend on that.
When I was in the military going through jump school we were told about this 200th hour. I was attending a refresher course in Tampa, Florida. We were jumping from a helicopter into Tampa Bay at night. We all had many jumps under our belts, we qualified every 2 years, but it was about our 200th hour of training. One of our class members did not operate his chute correctly and it did not open. Luckily, we were not jumping from 20,000 feet and we were jumping into water. He survived his jump and learned a lesson at his 200th hour!
In my 200th hour mistake I installed the gas piston in a M60 backwards. This is not a horrible mistake
because it turns the weapon into a single shot gun. That is not a problem on the range, but had that weapon been in combat, it would have been a major problem! It also meant that I did not do a function check on the weapon. In my defense, I was distracted many times during reassembly, but that’s no excuse. I am glad to see that the “pig” (M60), as we lovingly called it, is still in the inventory. Now the gas piston will work either way it’s installed.
Look at your own training. Maybe you started carrying a weapon a few years ago. Let’s say you go to the range weekly for a few hours. After 2 years, you’d be close to your 200th hour of training. This article is a call to action. If you are in your 2nd or 3rd year of carrying a weapon, do something unusual to ensure your safety skills are intact. Even if you’ve been involved in shooting and training for 20 years, take this time to re-evaluate. That could be taking a basics class again. It could mean taking specific time to review safety and to review your own training. Be brutally honest with yourself and evaluate how you train. For me, I find someone to teach who doesn’t know much about guns. I offer a basic training course so that I will force myself to review and focus again on safety and the basics of shooting. Take this time to evaluate your training to upgrade it. If you’ve been running a particular drill for two years, find a replacement. A drill that may emphasize a different skill, or a skill you feel you’re weak in. Maybe upgrading your training to make you stretch a little more than you have been. Remember back to when you first started shooting and do some of what you did then to strengthen your foundation. Get back to the basics. Don’t become stale, especially when it comes to safety. Do something different to remind yourself of the safety rules. Place or move a sign. Teach someone these rules that are not aware of them. Find creative ways out of your norm to remind yourself to follow these rules.
I think the 200th hour can also apply to our training. I’ve seen it a hundred times, and have done it too many times. I’ve watched people who shoot pretty well. Maybe they compete and win here and there. Competition is only something they use to train better. They get to a certain level, and it’s not a bad level, and then they plateau and stay there for years. I’m actually describing myself to some extent. I used to train this way. It wasn’t until I changed 1 drill in my routine that things changed. Not only did I improve, but I also brought back the magic of shooting that I used to have. The drill doesn’t even matter. It could have been any change that would make the same old thing different. I know what I need but I have put off doing it. I need to design 4 or 5 different training programs for myself and rotate them ever 6 months or so. I’m doing it now, but it would be easier to sit down and do it on paper.
I know an ex-Navy SEAL. He’s been an instructor for years. People ask him all the time how they can shoot like a Navy SEAL. His answer is always the same, “Dry fire, lots and LOTS of dry fire!” How can this be? Not a drill? Not a special workout program? How about a video or book? No! The fundamentals of shooting can be practiced in dry-fire mode. It’s not as fun or exciting as going to the range, but the truth is, that is where you really improve. It’s just like a sport. A professional athlete takes the fundamentals of a sport and then adds their own power and skill to become the best at what they do. Shooting like a SEAL takes lots of work. Not just watching a video or just going to the range. The boring dry-firing, and gun cleaning work. To be honest with you, I shoot about once a week. That’s probably not enough. I’ve got changes already in mind.
If you don’t know how to get started, ask someone you trust to steer you in the right direction. I could give you what I do, the drills, the dry-fire, but you need to tailor your training program to yourself and your skill level. I would recommend once you get the basics down such as grip, stance, and especially trigger pull, that you incorporate movement and cover into your routine. Most of what I do is engaging at anywhere from 20 to 5 feet with a handgun. Try to put some stress into your training. Some running will get your heart rate up. Using a timer will put you under some stress. None of these things duplicate the adrenaline, heart pounding, fear of a real firefight, but it’s better than nothing at all.
Where ever you are in your skill, start where you are. Don’t wait for some new fangled accessory or futuristic gun. Evaluate and then take what you already have and get everything you can from that. If you’ve been shooting for a long time, you have books, magazines, articles, DVD’s, and even favorite Youtube videos that you’ve already used to improve. There is probably more there you can learn. Try to not let yourself become stagnant. Use the things you’ve already learned to the fullest.
Truly, shooting like a master is just shooting the basics smooth and fast. So make a plan. Write it down. (A goal not written is only a wish) Then get out there and work that plan to the fullest you can. Make small changes to keep it fresh and yourself engaged. Work the basics and create ways to keep safety at the front of all you do.
Semper Paratus
Burn

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