Thursday, October 2, 2014

Trigger Check

I was at the range the other day. There was a guy there shooting his Glock. He asked me some questions (guess I’m starting to look old…and wise). We got to talking. I’m careful about what I say at a gun range to people I don’t know. He asked a couple of questions that I could answer vaguely. I pointed out something that he did that could be dangerous. After he was done emptying his magazine, He would keep his finger on the trigger, turn the gun, and drop the magazine. I noticed he did this every time. His muzzle control was fine, he didn’t point the gun at himself or anyone else. It was still pointed downrange. I told him I taught military members that had the same habit. I told him about one particular guy who had been in the military for quite some time. He had the “expert” ribbon, which meant he knew how to shoot and had some experience. He had the same habit. He was used to gun up, press the trigger. Basically aim/shoot. I kept at him about how dangerous that was. He couldn’t understand even though I warned him that any amount of stress could cause him to trigger check, or worse aim/shoot. When you train yourself to aim/shoot that’s what you end up doing. Some of those who compete may have some similar habits. So what if they draw their weapon in a real life combat situation and see that they SHOULDN’T shoot? In the fraction of a second (or longer) it takes to bring a gun up to a target, the situation can suddenly change. You can recognize the target as a friendly. An attacker can drop their weapon. An innocent person can jump in front of your target. You can become aware of a greater threat elsewhere. My student was deployed. I forgot about his habit and life continued. After about 18 months I recognized my student once again in a qualifying class. After his qualifying run I welcomed him back. He asked if I noticed he no longer had the habit. I had forgotten he had it to begin with because he obviously no longer had it. He told me what had happened in his first combat experience. He was at a checkpoint and a suspicious vehicle drove up. Without warning 3 guys jumped out and were looking suspicious hiding their hands. Eventually it turned into a firefight where the insurgents came out on the losing end. Not two days later another vehicle drove up to their checkpoint and also without warning the driver jumped out. My student had his weapon up and was expecting another firefight. The driver was a young teenager who was not armed with anything but a black cell phone. My student said he saw his hand go up with something black in it. At the last second he adjusted his fire shooting the young man’s vehicle instead of him. He said he had not meant to shoot, but because of his habit, he had. I asked how he changed that. He said it took a conscious effort and many hours at the range, and the better part of a year to change those habits. The guy at the range looked at me and then said “Can you help me change this habit?” We talked about some things he could do to work on it.
Everyone knows rule 3 of the gun safety rules: Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target.
This includes when you’re “finished”. Often you may not know there is one left in the chamber. My advice is to put your finger as high on the gun as you can. But the real training is to train yourself not to shoot. You must train yourself to bring the weapon up to the target with your finger off the trigger and then not touch the trigger until you decide to shoot. This way you have an option to not shoot. Sometimes you need that option in the half second it takes to acquire and identify a target. If you have that muscle memory of point/shoot and your finger is already on the trigger, you may commit what we call “friendly fire”. That is not something you want to deal with. It’s difficult enough dealing with a correct assessment of threat, and a defensive shoot, especially if death is involved.
Checking the trigger is a similar action to a new concealed carry participant who is constantly touching his weapon. The difference is the danger in the trigger check. It is noted that we lose fine motor skills when faced with a high stress situation, especially a life and death situation. Pressing a trigger or not is a fine motor skill that if lost may turn into a reaction squeeze. This is not a good thing but it is a natural thing. That's why we have to train so carefully to stop it from happening. One of the things that also can happen in a stressful situation is that we tend to be thinking of other things other than where our finger is, or much of anything else.
If you have watched tactical shooting training you will notice that often it is taught that once you have engaged your primary target that you look to the right and left. This is to break your tunnel vision and check for other targets. The same should be said for going into a stressful situation. Try to glance to the sides of what you perceive is your target. Don’t get distracted, but make sure you are not experiencing tunnel vision and that you can concentrate on taking care of yourself and those you might be working with. If you can manage the stress and avoid tunnel vision you will have better experience and more success.
Surviving a life or death experience usually changes people. I’ve noticed that the change can be for good for those who handle the stress better. This could happen to you or me. So we should focus and ingrain proper handling habits to ensure that it doesn't.
Stay safe!
Semper Paratus
Check 6