Under Pressure — Training Under Stress

By CTD Blogger published on in Concealed Carry, General, How To

There’s an old axiom that says your skills don’t rise to the occasion, they default to the level of your training. The question begs to be asked; What is your level of training? But Before answering that, ask yourself what are you training for, and what are your objectives?

By Gordon Meehl

I asked these questions of several of my friends who are average joe exercisers of the Second Amendment. By “average joe” I mean their daily occupation doesn’t involve the use or potential use of a firearm. (Did I mention that this is not a scientific study?) When asked what they were training for, invariably the top answer was their desire to protect themselves, family, and property. When asked what they are doing to train for that, most said they get to the indoor range as often as possible, throw a lot of lead down range, and work on their grip, sight picture, and groupings etc.

They were shocked when I said that a majority of the time and money they were spending at the range could be better spent. Why? Because they are training with unrealistic expectations. Only training to shoot paper at the range tends to make you better at only shooting paper at the range. If that’s your goal, great! But if you want to defend yourself, limiting your training to the controlled conditions of the indoor range is not going to give you all the skills you need in a fight.

A better explanation of the benefits of training under stress as well as some great drills can be found in the following video. Presented by nationally recognized NRA instructor Kelly Ann Pidgeon along with former FBI SWAT team leader and owner of understandingthethreat.com John Guandolo.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s essential to continually practice the fundamentals. The more you can practice the basics the better your muscle memory and the easier it is to execute tasks reflexively. With the exception of trying to drive tacks at 15 yards, however, a lot can be practiced over and over again with dry-fire exercises—saving you a lot in range fees and ammo. (We’ll address dry fire training options another time). You can, however, make better use of your live fire time with more real-world training methods.

The harsh reality is, in a true self-defense situation, what most people practice at the range will fall out the window no matter how much time and ammo they’ve consumed. As your adrenaline spikes, the fight or flight instinct kicks in, your pupils dilate, and fine motor skills go out the window. The clean draw from an IWB holster becomes a fumble-fest in a struggle to get a shirt out of the way, the front sight disappears and a steady, purposeful trigger pull starts to look more like game of whack-a-mole. However, that won’t be the case if you start spending some of your live fire time introducing stress into your program. The more you get used to training under stress the more your brain will learn to filter out “distractions” and allow you to focus on the task at hand. All that ultimately increases your survivability.

How does your stress training compare? Do you agree with the information in the video? Share your responses in the comment section.

Gordon Meehl is a Freelance Writer and Photographer specializing not only in  Firearms but also the the American gun culture and lifestyle. A number of Gordon’s product reviews, gun tests and musing have been published in many of the industry’s most popular publications including Recoil, Offgrid, World of FirePower, GunWorld, Concealed Carry Handguns, Tactical World and Small Arms Review. Gordon is a long time shooter and competes in as many shooting disciplines as possible. He is  known for his insightful yet slightly off kilter perspective developed from his time spent in the employ of major gun manufacturers combined with years spent as a stand up comedian.

Gordon’s EDC is a Barnes Tac-XPD eating Sig P938 . His kit also includes an Emerson CQC-7 and Trayvax wallet.  Gordon competes with an SMOSarms GFY 5.56, XDM9 5.25″ and a Mossberg 930 custom cerakoted byWickedGrips.com  

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Comments (16)

  • Robert


    First, I never said anything to enforce all those scenarios you put up on the wall. If that is what you think then you and I have a different perception of law enforcement. I’ve known many law officers including one who set up security in Los Angeles during a visit of the Pope years ago. None of the those law officers even come close to what you are describing. The ones who do such things are ill trained and have not been drilled by their agencies in technique. They have corrected that to some extent with SWAT teams. Finally, your comment about the guy with a knife is erroneous. Research on the matter, and this is taught in armed security manuals, is that someone with a knife at 21 feet can kill you. Unlike the TV shows a person shot does not fall dead unless you have accomplished a head shot or one to the central nervous system. If he/she is rushing toward youthe momentum will carry them far enough to shove that knife deep into your gut. That is a summary of experience and history.


  • Steve K


    What always has amazed me is people I have known who go out and buy a Beretta or Glock, go and shoot approximately 50 rounds of ammo through it, and load the clip and put it in their nightstand drawer and consider themselves ready to defend their lives and the lives of their loved ones.

    The most important thing is to learn how to properly clean and maintain the weapon, and PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE. Just as the act of buying a set of golf clubs does not make you a golfer, buying a weapon of whatever type does not make you a shooter.

    If you do this then you will have a good chance of defending yourself-as long as you are willing. No amount of training can make you willing. Training makes you capable. Survival instinct makes you willing.


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