Gunfighter Trifecta Series Part 1: Mindset
October 4, 2017 By JT Timmons, Tactical Instructor
This is the first installment of a 3-part article that lays out the 3 essential possessions of every person who has the intention of preparing themselves for an armed encounter with a gun. In other words, the series is about the 3 "big things" required to be a gunfighter. I call it the "Gunfighter's Trifecta". The three things are the mindset, skillset and the toolset.
This first article will be about the gunfighter's mindset. The gunfighter's skillset and the toolset will be discussed in upcoming editions of the Government Training Institute newsletter. Keep in mind that each of these articles is in no way a complete curriculum for each of these deep subjects. The intent of these short lessons is to create a brief overview and an awareness of the necessity of a more in-depth study if you are one of the millions of Americans today that either choose to or are required to carry a firearm with the possibility of having to use it take another person's life.
I cover the gunfighter's mindset first for a reason. If I were forced to choose one leg of the trifecta that was most important, mindset would definitely be it. Don't misunderstand what I say here. The study of the skillset and toolset are also imperative, but to be perfectly honest, the physical act (skillset) of placing a bullet inside of a face sized object at typical gunfight ranges is not difficult, nor is it difficult to acquire the adequate weapons (toolset) to carry out that action. Without a doubt, the least understood, or the most misunderstood leg of the trifecta is the gunfighter's mindset.
First off, let's all agree that this is a touchy subject to teach, particularly to men. In order for a grown man to learn something about a gunfighter's mindset, he must first admit that he might not know all about it yet. I'm not implying in any way that most guntoters do not have enough conscious knowledge, mental toughness, conscious desire or enough testosterone to press the trigger if the time comes to take another person's life. There is plenty of all of that in almost every guntoter that I've ever met. What is missing is this. It is a trained, SUBCONSCIOUS willingness to engage in a fight, without hesitation and with raw aggression. The key word here is SUBCONCIOUS. That means that a person's SUBCONSCIOUS is trained to react appropriately to a stimulus WITHOUT CONSCIOUS THOUGHT having to guide their actions. It also means that your SUBCONSCIOUS has been trained to overcome the natural, human nature instinct that prevents the SUBCONSCIOUS willingness of one human being from harming another human being. This is a more important subject than most modern guntoters will admit. The reason why is that it is not a physical thing that can be seen or measured when practiced. People generally like to learn and practice things that are tangible. This is not one of those things, until you actually see the difference in one person that has got it and another person that does not have it in a real life situation. This is called experience. Until you have real life experience, you have to listen to and trust those that do. This is not always an easy thing to do, but it is necessary.
Let me give the illustration that I often teach in class about the difference between the conscious knowledge and the subconscious skill. If a person who wants to be a rock and roll guitar star studies and memorizes every book about music theory and every book that teaches you step by step how to play a guitar, and that person buys and wears the latest, coolest rock and roll guitar player clothes, owns and EDC's the highest quality, best sounding rock and roll guitar available, is he a rock and roll guitar star?... absolutely not. He may have a very high level of conscious understanding of how to play a guitar. He may know exactly where to put every finger for every note and he may consciously know how to play every chord. He may be able to read music as well as any guitar player in the world. BUT… until that person trains his SUBCONSCIOUS mind to play songs without any need for conscious thought, he is NOT a guitar player. Conscious knowledge is necessary to know first in order to learn any skill, but it is only the first level of knowledge that is required. After the conscious knowledge is learned and understood, it must be burned into the SUBCONSCIOUS mind before it actually becomes a USEFUL skill of any person. This "burning in" only comes from high repetitions of quality, correct practice.
That illustration takes care of 1 part of the gunfighter's mindset, the mental aspect of transferring conscious knowledge into subconscious skill. However, it still does not take care of what I consider the most important aspect of the gunfighter's mindset. The most important aspect of the gunfighter's mindset is what animal fighters call "being game". People who fight animals for sport know all about this part of being a fighter, whether it is with a weapon or with teeth, fists, whatever. It doesn't really matter. A person, just like an animal, must be "game" or willing to put himself "all in" the fight without hesitation. I will offer another illustration to my point.
As a police officer, I had the opportunity to witness many fights between humans. Some of the fights I saw while they were still in progress, some of the fights I was personally involved in and some fights I only got to see the results of. Obviously, size, strength and physical ability all play a part in fighting. But, the biggest factor that determined the outcome of every single altercation that I was a witness to was which participant was the most willing to engage first and with the most aggression. This is where fist fights, knife fights and gunfights are won or lost. A trained black belt martial artist who is not "game" or willing to engage will get his ass kicked by an untrained street fighter who is all in. Just as a trained USPSA, IDPA, bullseye shooter, etc., will lose every gunfight to an untrained "street shooter" if that highly trained, competitive shooter is not SUBCONSCIOUSLY prepared to engage in a gunfight without hesitation. The issue is this… how do you become "game" when you were raised in a civil, middle class household and never had to fight for anything. You cannot go out and get into fights on purpose just to train your subconscious to become willing to engage. It is not natural for a human's subconscious to react like a fighter if they were not raised in an environment that developed that skill. Children who were born into hostile environments are much more "game" than children who never had to fight for anything. Those children who were raised in hostile environments have unknowingly trained their SUBCONSCIOUS to respond to hostility with hostility at a moment's notice and without hesitation. This is called survival and it is a very natural occurrence. This is where most middle-class Americans who choose to carry a gun need to ask themselves a very serious question and be real honest with themselves with their answer. Ask yourself now…."is my SUBCONSCIOIUS game"? Or does my conscious mind just want to believe that it is willing to engage in a fight because it has a high level of conscious understanding or a high desire to be a fighter. Do not confuse conscious desire to be a fighter with actually being a fighter. Do not confuse conscious knowledge of fighting with being a fighter. They are not the same. So, the big question is this….if I wasn't born into a fighting environment and I haven't trained my subconscious to be a fighter, how do I become a fighter? How do I become "game"? Good question. There is a good answer.
The answer is this. In order to train to become a gunfighter, you have about 3 different options. Option 1 is not really an option for anyone but a very few select special operations military personnel and special operations law enforcement officers. They get real world fighting experience with live ammo, but before they are put into real world live fire environments, they are trained with options 2 and 3. Option 2 is with Simunitions exercises and realistic scenario training. The more realistic the training environment and scenario is, the faster your subconscious will start reacting appropriately to the stimulus that the training instructors are carefully exposing it to. The scenarios are set up so that it gives the trainee an opportunity to respond appropriately to win the scenario if you react quickly and effectively. If the scenarios are set up properly, your conscious mind may know that it is only a training scenario, but as far as your SUBCONSCIOUS is concerned, it is a real fight. The trick is to make the training realistic enough to trick the SUBCONSCIOUS mind into believing that it is a real fight. With repetitions of realistic scenario training, your SUBCONSCIOUS mind will slowly but surely morph into the mind of a fighter. You will become "game". The third option also takes advantage of the ability to "fool" your subconscious mind into believing something that your conscious mind knows is not real. The power of proper "visualization" has been used by martial artists, Olympic athletes and more recently special operation soldiers to learn new skills without having to physically be there or physically do the activity. There are visualization techniques that when properly practiced, you can visualize yourself as realistically as possible in situations that require you to respond quickly and effectively. Do not mistake this "visualization" for just thinking about or daydreaming about. Proper visualization is a very focus intensive mental exercise that is so realistic that you can see the sights, hear the sounds and even smell the smells of whatever environment you choose to train your subconscious in. The realism of the visualization creates the same emotional responses as a real fight would. This emotion is what changes or trains the SUBCONCIOUS mind. When this mental exercise is practiced properly and with enough realism, emotion and repetition, your subconscious mind will begin to change. The picture or mental images that you program into your SUBCONSCIOUS will change how you automatically respond to your environments. When your SUBCONSCIOUS is convinced that you are a gunfighter and you combine it with the skillset and toolset of a gunfighter, then you are a gunfighter. Before that happens, you will just be a person who carries a gun.
Be a gunfighter. Train the Trifecta: Mindset, Skillset, Toolset.