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What is the best way to simulate “Stress Shooting”?

What is the best way to simulate “Stress Shooting”?

It’s an important question, and one that most people get wrong.

When most people think of stress shooting, they think of trying to shoot in high stress shooting conditions that are usually overwhelming.  Force on force, a dark range with flashing lights and heavy metal or screaming, immersive scenarios, and/or time constraints that are beyond the shooter’s ability.

This type of training does not help shooters improve quickly…it mainly serves to highlight shortcomings and get the shooter to focus on what NOT to do.  In many cases, they cause the shooter to focus on avoiding what caused pain in the past rather than what they should be doing.

This can create intense emotional memories and it can serve as a wake-up call to shooters who are overconfident, but it alters brain chemistry in such a way that it’s harder to learn or improve complex motor skills.

EVENTUALLY, shooters can use high stress scenarios like these for stress inoculation…but that’s after the fundamental skills have been mastered and the shooter has worked on stress modulation and thinking under stress.

Fortunately, there are much more effective ways to do stress training, particularly at home with dry fire.

Stress training has 2 big parts:

1.  Making your technique more and more resilient to higher and higher levels of stress.
2.  Training your mind to remain calmer and clearer under higher and higher levels of stress.

When we think of stress shooting, we think of extreme stress shooting, but stress is anything that takes you outside of your comfort zone and that gives us a HUGE window of training opportunities…again, things we can do at home with dry fire.

So, how do we simulate stress shooting at home?

We use brain hacks.

The brain’s chief purpose is to protect the brain.

To protect it from falling, from being hit by incoming objects, from dying from a lack of oxygen & fuel, and to protect it from being hurt because of having made a bad choice.

What this means is that there are some very cool ways that we can challenge the brain and make it more resilient to stress…things that we can do from home.

Like most skills, building resiliance a step-by-step or crawl-walk-run process.

Basically, we take fundamental shooting drills and alter them JUST enough that you’re out of your comfort zone, have to focus 100% on the drill, and can do the drill successfully most, but not all of the time.

You could call this increasing the stress level or increasing the cognitive load.

“Stress” shooting can be as easy as trying to do a dry fire course of fire while counting backwards from 100 by 7s out loud…or while standing on one leg…or while lunging in various directions.

It can also be a matter of using cold water, holding your breath, or a cranked up TENS unit.

The key is to apply a cognitive load or other perceived threat to the central nervous system that stretches skill vs. breaking the shooter.

Put another way, it’s like a small exposure to a virus that your body can adapt to vs. a large exposure that overwhelms the host.

A small exposure causes a positive adaptation.  An over-exposure causes scarring and aversion.

We cover a step-by-step for doing this throughout Praxis.

Like I said, stress training is a 2 part process…

First of all, we want to make our skill resilient so that whatever situation we encounter will be normal rather than novel.

One way you can think about this is that a life & death situation is stressful in and of itself, but that stress can be compounded if the situation is novel & new and you have to figure out how to bridge the gap between what you trained and what you’re faced with.

When you encounter a real-world threat, we want your brain to say, “I recognize this…I’ve dealt with this before…I know what to do.”  rather than “Oh Crap!…..” and blanking and having significant lags while trying to figure things out to apply the flat-footed, linear skills that you did on the range.

There are a ton of examples of this…
-The threat is at an angle but you’ve always practiced engaging targets straight ahead
-You’ve done all of your practice with a stance and reality dictates that you make the shot while off balance
-All of your training is from the holster, but your pistol is laying on the ground < how quickly can you get a command grip and put accurate hits on target?  (If you haven’t picked up a pistol and made an accurate shot on the clock, there’s no way to know)

Regardless, you want to make your training as varied as possible so it’s as resilient as possible, but you want to add variety in a specific way for maximum effect.

ANYONE can ramp up the complexity of a drill so that it makes shooters tank.

That doesn’t really do any good…the trick is to add complexity gradually so that the drills you’re doing are JUST beyond what you can currently do.  This is one of the keys to the effectiveness of Praxis.

The second part of stress training is stress modulation.

When you experience stress, your brain can either amplify it or minimize it.  It can over-react to it, or it can react with the optimal release of fight-or-flight hormones to maximize your chances of survival.

How you respond to sudden, surprise stress is a skill.  Being able to shift your body back and forth from being primarily sympathetic to primarily parasympathetic is a skill…one that we work on in Praxis.

Once you learn it, you can use events in your daily life as “target practice”…frustration with telemarketers & overseas phone support, kids & grandkids making bad choices, bad drivers, etc.  Each of these situations will change from being an annoyance to an opportunity to practice your stress modulation skills.

How calm can you get when your natural desire is rage & how quickly can you flip the switch?

The effect is life changing…potentially life SAVING…and everyone around you will appreciate it.

If you haven’t signed up for Praxis yet, I really want to encourage you to check it out today.  We’ve got a free presentation on it that you can watch >HERE<

You’ll learn exactly how to structure your training so that you can make it less fragile than flat-footed training and more resilient so it will actually work in real-world self-defense situations.

You’ll learn exactly how to modify your drills to add the exact right amount of stress to maximize learning speed and keep your training fun.

At the same time, you’ll learn proven techniques to modulate your response to stressful situations…so you can make calm, rational decisions when everyone else is freaking out or freezing.

If you’re serious about owning a firearm for self-defense, you absolutely need to go through this training…it’ll save you a ton of time and money and could easily save a life.  Check it out now by clicking >HERE<

One of the really cool things about Praxis is that, after you’ve gone through it, you’ll get more out of any other live training you do in the future…concealed carry, advanced classes, force-on-force, and the lessons even carry over to carbine, defensive shotgun, and long range precision.

And, just to be clear, you DEFINITELY want to do force-on-force training as a method of stress training and/or stress testing your technique, but only after having gone through Praxis.  Praxis will prime your brain and body so that you’ll get the most value out of that type of training and retain the lessons longer.

About the Author /

Mike Ox is an avid defensive and competitive shooter who has co-created several firearms training products, including Dry Fire Training Cards, Dry Fire Fit, 21 Day Alpha Shooter, and See Faster, Shoot Faster. His brain based training focuses on accelerated learning techniques for shooting as well as controlling brain state and brain chemistry for optimal performance in extreme stress situations. Learn more about dynamic dry fire training for defense and competition at

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