Physio-psychological Response and Surviving a Gunfight.
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Thread: Physio-psychological Response and Surviving a Gunfight.

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Springfield, MO

    Physio-psychological Response and Surviving a Gunfight.

    I've listened to a lot of people here talk about how they would react to a life threatening situation i.e. a gun fight. As someone who has lived through several such life threatening situations ranging from accidents to a drive by shooting in a foreign country I can tell you the reality will be far from what you may currently expect.

    My personal training has been in military Close Quarters Battle (CQB), and law enforcement Tactical Shooting. Both involve the use of deadly force, but obviously the rules are very different for military and LEO. But many of the same principles equally apply for CCW.

    Physio-psychological Response

    So, what makes a truly life threatening situation so different from say any run of the mill encounter you might have in your daily life? Unlike a traditional encounter where you have total control of your mind and body a life threatening situation will likely involve a physio-psychological response more commonly known as 'fight or flight'.

    The term 'fight or flight' was first coined by Walter Bradford Cannon, a Harvard University professor, in 1915. His theory explained that when an animal is threatened it's sympathetic nervous system prepares the animal to either fight or flee.

    'Perceived threats' may be either empirical or priori. An empirical threat is one that a witness would readily agree is threatening, while a priori threat is one that a witness would not agree that a threat exists. What matters in such a case is that the body perceives the threat whether such a threat is in fact real or not.

    When the body recognizes a perceived threat that could result in 'serious bodily harm' or 'death' it automatically responds by releasing hormones that prepare it for intense activity. The side effects of these hormones include but are not limited to the following:

    Accelerated heart/lung action
    Accelerated conversion of fat or glucose for muscle activity
    Accelerated reflexes
    Altered skin pigmentation due to change in blood flow (paling or flushing)
    Altered spacial awareness
    Altered sense of time
    Constriction of blood vessels in many parts of the body
    Dilation of the blood vessels in the muscles
    Dilation of the pupil
    Inhibition of tear and saliva production
    Loss of bowel/bladder control
    Loss of hearing
    Loss/distortion of memory
    Loss of peripheral vision
    Shaking in the extremities

    The body's reaction to a perceived threat involuntarily alters the manner in which the mind normally operates to increase the chances of survival. Our conscious ability to control these effects is limited at best.

    Surviving a Gunfight

    No amount of training can totally overcome the effects of the physio-psychological response, but evidence from real life Military/LEO gunfights shows repeated and reinforced training can mitigate them and further increase the chance of survival.

    Have you ever seen an interview following a shooting where a law enforcement officer says, I didn't think I just reacted. This is an example of muscle memory at work despite the physio-psychological response. I've heard military and law enforcement firearms instructors say it takes up to 30,000 repetitions to develop such muscle memory.

    Now imagine suddenly being threatened by an agressor. Could you do a task as simple as drawing a weapon? Most likely you could, but how quickly? Could you do it in under a second? With a man charging you with a knife in his hand? Or while being shot at?

    Trust me it's easier said than done. I've seen experienced officers fumble with their weapon in training for just these eventualities. It takes practice, practice and even more practice. Then practice some more... But you can learn to do it.

    Now back to that life or death encounter... By some miracle you've managed to pull your weapon. Your heart is racing and you feel out of breath. Everything around you seems to slow down as your vision begins to tunnel. Your hands are shaking and your mouth is dry. The agressor who just a moment before seemed far away is now up close and personal.

    Can you use deadly force? Should you? Can you even remember all those things your instructor told you about the use of deadly force?

    Means... Opportunity... Fear... The Law... The Moral Right...

    Means Does the aggressor have the means to inflict serious bodily harm or death?

    Opportunity Does he have the opportunity to inflict serious bodily harm or death?

    Fear Do you fear for your own safety or the safely of another?

    The Law Is it lawful to use deadly force to stop the threat?

    The Moral Right Do you have the moral justification to use deadly force?

    If the answer to any of these questions is 'NO' then you can't use deadly force, and remember you may have to make this decision in less than a second...

    Obviously, no one is going to know how they'll react until or unless you are faced with a use of force encounter. What I've been taught is the best someone who hasn't been through that experience can do is train for it. Get professional training in both basic and advanced shooting/tactical techniques. Learn the law that covers the use of deadly force in your state and how that law is applied.

    Learn about what you may encounter in such a situation from those who have experienced it. There are case studies and first hand accounts of gun fights from the O. K. Corral to the North Hollywood shooting.

    In your own training keep the physio-psychological response in mind. Practice drawing your weapon everyday. Practice firing your weapon as much as you possibly can. Practice clearing malfunctions. Practice reloading as quickly as possible. Practice two handed, strong and weak hand shooting. Practice shooting from multiple shooting positions.

    Train like you will fight and the chances are improved that you'll fight like you've trained even under the severe stress of a gun fight.

  3. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Bellingham, WA, USA

    Thumbs up Thanks, Danny me lad.

    A good reminder. I am going to practice a bit more diligently.
    "The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government." Thomas Jefferson

  4. #3

    Well put...

    This guy knows his _ _ _ _ ! everyone who owns a firearm should educate themselves & their families on more than just "pulling the trigger".
    Good thread, pass it along....

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