The Last Training Opportunity

The Last Training Opportunity

The Last Training Opportunity

“Unload.
Show Clear.
Hammer Down.”

Wait – SCRATCH THAT!

“Unload.
Show Clear.
Take your last training opportunity.”

I’ve followed the commands “Unload;  Show Clear;  Hammer Down” a hundred times on ranges in Falling Plate and other competitions and training scenarios.  It translates roughly to: Eject your magazine, show the RSO or instructor that your gun is clear, and press the trigger as you’re still safely pointed somewhere down range (to be absolutely stinking sure the gun is empty) before you re-holster.

What if we change the “Hammer Down” command to invite the opportunity to take your last, best shot of the hour/day/week with a perfect dry practice run?  What if we applied this invitation to view EVERY circumstance we come across as a dry practice/training run?

I love training with instructors from across the country as I travel and this week I scoped out Jeron Tree of 360 Defense Inc. as I traveled through Salt Lake City.  This one invitation to “take your last training opportunity”, delivered in a simple form of rearranged verbiage than that which I was used to (“hammer down”), spurred me to evaluate and recognize a myriad of training opportunities we have throughout every single day.

Rather than just pointing the gun down range in any ole’ (safe!) direction and pressing the trigger as a purely functional and necessary drill as prescribed, Jeron encouraged me to perform a perfect dry practice shot with accurate sight alignment, sight picture on my threat and perfect trigger control each and every time.  Each time I subsequently did so, I was making the conscious decision to visualize and practice precisely placed shots, utilizing perfect fundamentals along the way.

How many times have I wasted that “last, best training opportunity” over the years by not seizing the opportunity to make following the “Hammer Down” command be useful as yet another training shot?  I mean, isn’t that why we practice anyway?  To perfect our fundamentals?  To repeat something (done WELL!) thousands of times so that muscle memory kicks in when we need it most?

What other training opportunities do I walk on by?

What is my alertness level while in my home, on the couch with my husband, watching Pawn Stars?  Does this change when I’m at the gas station, scrubbing my windshield of dead bugs?  And in the back stairwell of my apartment complex on a cool spring night?

As I sit by the window putting these thoughts to paper tonight, have I evaluated what a threat looking in might see as my overhead light casts a perfect backlighting for him to see my every move, versus how pitifully far I can see into the dark nightscape from my comfortable chair?

Have I made the most of all of my last, best training opportunities BEFORE the Gift of Fear, as Gavin DeBecker calls it, sets in and the ‘bad guy’ tries to lay claim to what he wants?

“Unload.

Show Clear.

Take your last training opportunity.” 

And make it count as though, in your very next breath, you may just have to use it to save yourself.

Photo by Mellor Photography

  • Guy, Liberty Firearms Training

    Outstanding article and great point Lynn, thank you.

    • Thanks, Guy. What did you walk by yesterday that you used as a training opportunity today? 🙂

  • Max Wasatch

    I think you are my new favorite writer here! Thanks!

    • Hi Max! Nice to hear from you again ~ and Thank you! That’s a lot to live up to; I’ll do my darndest. 🙂

  • Hoss Nelson

    As a Range master / RSO, if I see you pull a trigger (dry fire or not) after i’ve called cease fire! Clear and show, I will politely ask you to leave. Cease fire means STOP NOW, FINGERS OFF TRIGGERS, it does not mean fire your last shot! Or dry fire

    While I may of seen your chamber empty and then looked at another shooter only to look over and see you pointing down range and finger on or pulling the trigger how do I know you didn’t load one last round to fire? We have RSO and range S.O.P’S rules for safety. If you want to make your own rules then open your own range and pay your own insurance.

    The rules we have are clear and are precise, and are there for safety of everyone

    • Cobrawing

      I totally agree. I’m a Vietnam veteran, retired law enforcement officer after 28 years of service, former NRA competition shooter, multiple gun club member, former FFL dealer, etc. I too always adhered to the tried and true command after cease fire to stop ALL weapon activity and absolutely keep my fingers OFF the trigger! I respect the author’s intent here to try and take advantage of opportunities for dry fire, but I totally oppose her instruction here to continue activity with your weapon AFTER being instructed to STOP ALL ACTIVITY! You have tons of opportunities to practice dry fire . . . but that moment ain’t one of ’em!

      • Absolutely, Cobrawing ~ IF a Cease Fire had been called, in this training scenario, competitions, or other realms, this would have been totally inappriate and I would have stopped firing, taken my finger off the trigger, kept the gun pointed in a safe direction while awaiting further instruction from the RSO.

      • Herb S.

        Cobra, please cut and paste where the author said to “continue activity … after being instructed to stop all activity.”

        • Cobrawing

          Go back and read what the author said was the third command “Hammer Down”. How do you then continue to dry fire when you’ve been instructed to drop the hammer? Dry firing is the practice of “firing” a firearm without ammunition. That is, to pull the trigger and allow the hammer or striker to drop on an empty chamber.

          I’m waiting Herb . . .

          • Deliberate Defense

            The idea is to perform the dry fire when executing the “Hammer Down” command, instead of just point at the ground or berm and pulling the trigger.

    • I COMPLETELY agree that “Cease Fire” means ‘stop now, finger off trigger’, Hoss. Had a “Cease Fire” been called, this would not have been appropriate by ANY measure.

  • Samwise

    The list for NJ was missing “Range 14 at Fort Dix” in central Jersey. Great people and a safe range….. Anyone can join, discounts for military and former military. Follow the rules please, they are there to keep you safe.

    Rifle, pistol, skeet, trap. Since firearms sales and ammo sales exploded, range time is at a premium. Range 14 is getting pretty full, but don’t be afraid of some bad weather. It can be great practice sessions.

  • Deliberate Defense

    I think that Hoss and Cobra are not understanding the situation. After you finish a stage during a defensive pistol match the commands are: Magazine out, Slide back, chamber clear, slide forward, hammer down. Lynn is just suggesting that we change hammer down to dry fire practice. A pretty darn good idea. There is NO CEASEFIRE in this situation.

    By the way, Lynn you need to update your profile. You should certainly have NRA Training Counselor in there by now.

    • You are correct on both fronts ~ thanks for the reminder, Rick! 🙂

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  • cawpin

    I’ve been shooting my whole life, done some pistol competition and training, and never thought about this. It’s a great idea.

  • Vanns40

    When I go away to tactical training and we finish a drill our instructor NEVER has us unload, we simply holster and move to the next drill, take a break etc. we’re treated like responsible adults. There has never been an ND at this facility and the entire facility is considered “hot” from the time you step out of your car in the parking lot. I don’t understand why competitions should be any different. When you’re finished, reload on the line, holster and step away.

    Every facility and event can make their own rules, I just don’t understand them.

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