I tend to think a lot…some might say too much. I credit my philosophy degree with giving me a wider viewfinder on the world, but what I think it really did was make me feel comfortable with my pondering thoughts while doing other things, and giving me a creative outlet (like writing) to express them if I have a particularly good one (SPOILER ALERT…they aren’t all good). So I drive to and from work, often listening to a podcast or an audiobook, all whilst thinking about some of the stuff you read here. I scribble down notes, ideas or outlines and then, if they make the cut from the, “drafts,” folder to the, “published,” folder, you see them. Like I said, not all are published. I’ve got a few that have been swirling around the can for a couple years.
At the 2023 TacCon in Dallas this past March, while making the 11 hour drive from TN, I had a lot of alone time to think. I planned on competing in the annual shooting match, which I have had some limited success in the past, making it into the TOP 16, twice. My problem has always been nerves and competition. Like many of you, my wheels tend to fall off in competitive environments. Which is weird, because I’m a pretty secure person, I don’t have a fear of public speaking like most people do, and I actually enjoy public performance, thanks to my extensive experience in the music and as a college professor. And, in the few self-defense situations or law enforcement actions I’ve been in, I have always stayed cool. So I thought I’d try something a little different for this year’s competition…
First off, don’t try this at home. I decided that I would drink two, 20 ounce, four shot espressos, 30 minutes before my competition time. A mega dose of caffeine CAN make you sick, give you heart palpitations, or push you over the edge of sanity, so like I said, if you try this, proceed with caution. My thought was that if I could get a good enough buzz, I would get my baseline heart rate into the 110’s (my resting HR is usually around 65bpm) then once the competition started, and I got the competition anxiety, I would ramp up into the 150’s. I got into the 140’s, but my sight picture was a steady hum of vibration. Still controlled though. I made all of my shots except the headshot tie breaker, which split the line (with one shot). Aside from that, my shooting was solid and I placed 71 out of a couple hundred shooters. I thought it was an interesting exercise and required further investigation.
I don’t know anyone who has been in a life or death situation that didn’t experience at least some of the effects of epinephrine (AKA adrenaline) on their sympathetic nervous system, and had some kind of sympathetic nervous system activation. Even seasoned gunfight survivors STILL got a FIGHT/FLIGHT/FREEZE response. I’m sure that there have been tests done in the past by actually injecting shooters with epinephrine in controlled doses to illicit a sympathetic nervous system response, but I don’t have the controlled environment to be able to do that. So knowing what I do about humans, anxiety, the sympathetic nervous system, and human physiology, I deduced that a high dose of caffeine would kick me into enough of a sympathetic response that it would heighten my anxiety for competition, and allow me to objectively battle through it, since I was ultimately at the, “helm,” of the experiment, and only worried about competing against myself. It was interesting…those that came to my lecture as short time after, I hope you had a good time because when I am really energized, my lectures are the best version of my oratory work!
BACK TO THE OLD DRAWING BOARD
I’ve recently relocated to an area where I have ready access to a very nice indoor shooting range facility. I can now practice weekly, sometimes twice a week, in addition to shooting in a weekly revolver competition league. This allows me to test my skills against drills that guys like Greg Ellifritz and Tom Givens publish in their writing. I thought that it would be interesting to replicate a similar experience to the TacCon competition, but in a faster format. So I elected to do a similar test on Tom’s ARMADA STANDARDS. From Tom’s newsletter, the ARMADA STANDARDS are as follows:
I drive a Toyota Tacoma, and my vehicle is 19.5’ long, but the concept stands! Both are big vehicles, and like Tom wrote, it is quite plausible that a self defense shooting would take place within that 6-6.5 yard range. This set of standards has everything…shooting from the draw, offhand shooting, strong hand only shooting, and shooting to empty and reloading. I also thought it was most useful to shoot this drill cold, to get the best idea of what it was actually measuring. Of course, since I was trying to shoot it in a very heightened and agitated state, I consumed a 5-shot espresso, 30 minutes before executing the standards!
FINAL THOUGHTS ON SHOOTING UNDER MEGA DOSES OF CAFFEINE…
This was an interesting test for me to set ground work to get over the feelings of anxiety I have when shooting competitions. I’m getting better, but I still get agitated when that BEEP hits! I also am quite happy with my ability to press the trigger smoothly while aligning the sights, and also being able to manipulate loading process and run the slide. LOTS of people won’t be walking into their next gunfight in a completely sober state…hear me out. They will be under the influence of whatever they have on-board AND THEN THEY will also be under the effects of adrenaline on top of that. Whether that’s antidepressants, beta-blockers, anxiolytics, you name it. I’ve seen students in classes that take all of those things and more! Yet, while they are used to training and working while taking those medications, they aren’t used to fighting for their life while taking them! And that is difficult to replicate. Yes…you get a certain kind of buzz from Force on Force and competition, but that doesn’t happen to everyone. But a real fight…that’s a difficult stimulus to replicate.
BUT WAIT…THERE’S MORE