David's Performance and Training Corner
With David Salthouse from APC, Inc.
Associate Director of Training & Program Development
Under Pressure - Training to understand and work through combat stress

I recently was involved in a conversation with someone about a home defense shotgun. Their idea was to use a single barrel NEF Shotgun. They liked that fact that it was lightweight, short and affordable. I countered their argument and stated that I liked the NEF Shotguns and Rifles, but I did not think they were a viable defensive gun due to the limited capacity and lengthy reload process. The person disagreed and produced a video clip from a national training company in which one of their staff instructors was shooting a NEF Shotgun and reloading flawlessly. He was able to reload very quickly and like many good instructors looked very comfortable doing it. With a victorious look on his face, I explained that with practice, he too could reload a single barrel shotgun very quickly… on a range, in a controlled environment without fear or injury, death!

We have all at some point in our lives been scared, or startled. It could have been a narrowly avoided car accident, a sudden loud noise or any number of things. If you can think back to that time you may recall some physiological experiences. Maybe your hands shuck, your kneed knocked, you “needed a minute” to gather yourself? This change in your body is cause by a cocktail of endorphins your body releases in those scary and stressful situations. This study of this is called Combat Physiology.

It is important as we select equipment, develop tactics and train, we keep Combat Physiology in mind. There is not enough room in this article to even scratch the surface of Combat Physiology, so I strongly recommend reading “On Combat”, by Dave Grossman. Understanding what will happen to our bodies is the first step in overcoming it. The second step, and the focus of this article, is to learn ways to introduce combat stress into our training regiment.

There are many misconceptions on how to do this. I have been to classes where they make you run, or do pushups prior to shooting. While this physical excretion affects your shooting, it fails to release that problematic cocktail we mentioned earlier. In order to get that release, we need to create a fear or anxiety of a consequence. This can be accomplished in many ways.

One way is though proper range exercises run by an instructor. Have you have ever been in a class and the second your slide locked back, an instructor got right in your face and started yelling at you to “RELOAD RELOAD RELOAD”?  I bet your reload did not go as smooth as did without any stress. The next time you ran dry, your first thought was wondering if your instructor would be in your face again and even in he/she doesn’t make an appearance your reload is not as smooth. You may have wondered why you paid to get yelled at, but you are really getting your money’s worth because your instructor is introducing controlled stress. Working through the stress is critically important to survival.

Another way to introduce stress is any kind of competition. No one wants to stand up in front of a group of their peers and with everyone watching, shoot poorly and loose a match. That alone creates stress and anxiety. I recall shooting at 5-inch plates at a distance of 20 feet. I was shooting one for one, meaning after every bang, there was a gratifying clank. After a bit, I was matched up with a competitor. Seeing as I had been shooting 100% all day with these plates I was pretty confident. At the buzzer I drew to a shooting position, lined up my sites and fired, BANG. Something was missing, the clank. I missed! I didn’t understand. The added stress had affected my shot and it was humbling, but I left the firing line educated and even though I lost the match, I learned how some artificial stress affects me. That makes me a stronger shooter & fighter. Shooting competitions are a fun, challenging way to sharpen and maintain your skills, but they are not without fault. For safety reason, most competitions require you to do some things that are not tactically sound, for example holster an empty weapon and holstering without scanning 360 degrees. Also, in competition, misses don’t count, in the real world they do. Have fun, but be careful not to develop bad habits.

At the Bridgeport Shooting Range and Applied Protection Concepts we offer ways to advance your skill set and introduce controlled stress through advanced level training, Plate Shoots and IDPA Matches. I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and try one or all of them out. I promise spending the night shooting at bowling pin targets at 35 feet under pressure will close your shot groups and if nothing else, you will meet some great people and have a great time in a friendly, safe environment. So ask our staff about training, plate shoot and IPDA schedules and requirements and as always be safe.


Be safe and remember, Failing to Train is Training to Fail!
Email David at with comments, questions, or topics you would like him to cover in a future article.