Deliberate Practice

This is a great article. It contains many useful tidbits that can be applied to those want to improve their proficiency not only with firearms but also to a broad array of personal protection skills.

Deliberate practice refers to a special type of practice that is purposeful and systematic. While regular practice might include mindless repetitions, deliberate practice requires focused attention and is conducted with the specific goal of improving performance.

Deliberate practice always follows the same pattern: break the overall process down into parts, identify your weaknesses, test new strategies for each section, and then integrate your learning into the overall process.

This is why it’s important to break out the individual components of incidents and include the components in our practice regimens. For instance, home invasion incidents repetitively consist of several discrete skills, almost always in the same sequence.

  • Recognize the problem immediately.
  • Go to the place where the gun is stored.
  • Access the gun (open the safe, etc.).
  • Get the gun into a ready condition (many people store guns unloaded or chamber empty).
  • Safely move back through the home to where the intruder is located.
  • Assess the location of all the friendlies and threats.
  • Assume a position of advantage.
  • Engage the intruder, either with verbal commands or gunfire.
  • Call 9-1-1.
  • Attend to any friendly casualties.
  • Prepare (hopefully) for the arrival of the police.

Sometimes, this is a team effort. It’s not uncommon for one or more of the family members to interact with the intruder while another family member goes for a weapon. A good example was reported in the November 2018 The Armed Citizen column of the NRA Official Journals.

One father’s greatest gift to his daughter before he died was that he taught her to shoot. The training and commitment to our firearms freedom paid off in Forest City, N.C., when the 15-year-old girl fatally shot her mom’s abusive boyfriend as he tried to choke the life out of her. It was actually a joint effort with her 12-year-old brother; the two children saw the man trying to strangle their mother and heard him threaten to cut her throat. At that, the boy retrieved a Colt single-action revolver. His sister grabbed the gun from him and fired twice, shooting her mother’s attacker in the chest. The teen will not be charged, according to the authorities. (, Charlotte, N.C., 8/10/18)

In this case, another skill was required. “Safely pass gun to another person.”

Most people’s practice only includes one of those skills: ‘Engage Intruder with gunfire.’ The NRA Marksmanship Qualification Program Defensive Pistol I Course of Fire starts with that skill and then adds several more skills in sequence.

  • Access the gun (open the safe, etc.)
  • Get the gun into a ready condition.
  • Safely move back through the home to where the intruder is located.
  • Assume a position of advantage.
  • Engage the intruder, either with verbal commands or gunfire.

Defensive Pistol I is just one example of how a skills analysis is useful and can provide us with a guide to better practice. By analyzing our own situations, strengths, and vulnerabilities, we can be better prepared if a criminal attack actually occurs.

3 responses

  1. Some techniques of focused practice I was familiar with, some new and worth expanding but all were of value. Thanks for posting

  2. I do these kind of sequences myself.

    I also do concentrated work on specific parts. For example I concealed carry in a jurisdiction that was dragged by the courts from “may issue” (no issue) to “shall issue,” but which still has some difficulties in their laws, for example if I go to any building that has a federal or local office in it (of which we have a lot) or have to run in to sign out one of my kids from school, or if I have to take public transport, the firearm must be, if in a parked car on the street, or in the case of public transport in my briefcase/backpack — unloaded and both ammo and firearm secured separately

    For that reason of having to do a fair amount of manipulation out of the discretion, privacy and relaxed nature of my home, specifically unchamber and rechamber maybe a half dozen times a week, including while sitting in my car — and therefore my carry gun is with external manual safety.

    With just normal informal practice at the range one in twenty times, sometimes even more often I would fail to fire due to forgetting safety. if I had my wife or adult daughter with me they would fail to fire on too many occasions as well.

    I found a regimen of two highly deliberate 10- minute sessions a week drawing and disengaging external safety with a sweep of my thumb as soon as holster was cleared, set this as reflex after a few months. I can’t even draw the gun without seeping off the saftey now. When I do need to manipulate/unload the operation is so different, I’ve always taken the gun while still in the holster it I am looking right at the side so I visually check safety is on so my reflex does not interfere with when I want that safety on.

    So I do concur with deliberate practice, both in sequences you outlined, plus any single aspect/step that may need specific attention/re-enforcement.

  3. Tactical professor, I wanted to make a comment on your bad outcomes article but comments there are closed. I will put it here.

    for my CCL course I had to take a two day general safety course, four hours of firearms and self defense law and four hours of live fire training.

    OK now I am against mandatory training for home ownership of a firearm and am mostly against it for CCL since I have witnessed firsthand such laws being erected in order to intentionally reduce Secodn Amendment rights by creating more hassles, more delay and more, often egregious, expenses..

    That said it is my observation from other students, including ones who were obviously expert at gun handling, in my four hour self defense law class, and also from comments by readers your bad outcomes article, that WAY too many people have no idea what the laws are. Not most, but a heck of a lot of people have ignorance that will put them in prison for a long time.

    Especially if you are going to carry I would highly recommend that people take NRA Personal protection outside the home, or some other course that includes firearm law, both general self defense/lethal force law and your specific jurisdiction’s code AND case law.

    In my jurisdiction for example there is no stand your ground, but the case law and jury instructions are more protective to the person asserting valid lethal force use. So a simple amateur read of code looks like it is intermediate to less protective of the citizen who used lethal force, but in fact the jury instructions that must be given give more benefit of the doubt to the citizen who used lethal force. in my case our instructor brought in a practicing attorney who had handled both first instance and appeals in lethal force cases.

    some people just have egregiously incorrect views, and other people have educated views from reading general websites but don’t know the case law in their state can very a lot from the general laws. for example what you have to prove or disprove or raise in castle or even stand your ground can vary. In quite a few places with no stand your ground the prosecutor will have to prove you knew a retreat was available AND knew it was safe — for you and for your whole family.

    Also there was a LOT of misunderstanding related to third parties. In theory you can defend a third party under the same imminent threats as to yourself — but in the real world that third party you assisted can be very likely to turn against you in court. For exampe say you hear screaming outside and step outside with your firearm and see a woman being brutally beaten, perhaps even threatened with a weapon and intervene with lethal force in what you reasonably think is a threat of death to that woman. There are plenty of cases where the abused partner can say (and may have a Stockholm symmetry reason — or financial motive!) that they were just horsing around, or she attacked her partner first, and you murdered or severely injured the father (and income provider) to her kids without justification. In most places even if you get off on the criminal charges they can still sue you in civil court at lower burdens of proof.

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