Reactive Combatant/ Instinctive Shooting: Not what you think it is
“Just point and shoot at this distance” or “it’s instinctive shooting you need - practice harder!”
Heard this? Who hasn’t. It’s also an overused and poorly understood pre-9/11 concept. Ask someone to explain what it is and you’ll get the same generic response along the lines of:
“Just point and shoot using your natural point of aim” or “just keep practicing and it’ll develop.” This does not provide any real or developed understanding, let alone a method for you to actively train this ‘instinctive shooting’ method so you apparently don’t need to look at your sights, as advertised.
First issue - the above isn’t actually instinctive shooting. Secondly, practice makes permanent. Eventually you’ll begin to hi-jack your natural point of aim and soon reinforce bad habits via stupid and endless drills. More rounds does NOT make you better. Train with a purpose, correctly!
There are a tonne of instructors regurgitating this concept with no understanding of what it is, the human performance at play and the potential risks of forcing someone to practice to “instinctive shoot”. These people need to hand in their guns and step away; more than likely these people are also responsible for half the BS in the industry. Get your money back.
Alright. What is instinctive shooting then? The common response is along the lines of:
“The shooter presents their pistol/ carbine on target and can engage x rounds on target at x distance without using their sights or getting a complete sight picture”.
Looking at training models and human response measures, everything we do is by the numbers. Slowly we complete drills and immerse ourselves in real world training environments, utilizing the skills we have been taught, before hitting the main stage. Your main stage can be anything - combat or a competition.
After having direct feedback, a little study, hitting up a few mentors in the finest US Govt organizations and watching various footage related to the feedback and studies, the conclusion is this: instinctive shooting isn’t real. It’s a myth. If you can successfully shoot without fail, to a standard that would fall under this myth category of skills, you have actually ingrained the core fundamentals of shooting so well into you that they truly have become subconscious acts.
So what is actually happening and what is the human response at play?
You know your weapon. You can manipulate it flawlessly to pull off the perfect shot and you know the sight picture required for x zone hit. This is where your subconscious comes into play and where people begin to think they aren’t looking at their sights to get that .25 split and passing the 5/ 2.5 Drill. It, your subconscious, knows what task is at hand and the components at play through the endless drills you have executed flawlessly, thus working independently of you actually thinking about it. Remember - this is why you have trained!
You ARE seeing your sight picture and your subconscious brain is easing the load of process so you can cope in the high stress environment and operate effectively. This was most notable in footage of shooters stating they hadn’t seen their sights yet engaged their targets successfully. The footage showed the truth; it was all clean execution of the core fundamentals so quickly that the subconscious mind was at play.
Side note, the fastest response a human can react to visual stimulation is .25 of a second. So don’t rush yourself trying to out shoot your brain. Doing this will cause repetitive failure and reinforce bad techniques in turn taking your mind out of the game.
For those who attend classes and trainers can’t explain this concept without understanding the components at play, ask for your money back and call BS on their training modules. For those of you labeling your performance like this because that’s what has been regurgitated to you via potatoes in the industry, start calling it what it is - HARD WORK! You’ve put in the yards and can just shoot damn good.