Tiger McKee

Shootrite Firearms Academy

Talking to Learn

When learning a new skill, or modifying an existing action, it’s necessary for the conscious mind to focus on each step of the process as you’re performing the proper actions. The best way to force the conscious mind to focus on the actions is to use self-talk. For example when firing a precision shot, in my mind I’m thinking “front sight,” to remind myself to visually focus on the front sight, and then “press,” which insures I’ll apply increasing pressure smoothly to the trigger. After the shot fires I’m thinking “front sight,” to acquire another sight picture, and “reset,” which reminds me to reset the trigger in anticipation of firing another round if necessary.

“Self-talk” forces the conscious mind to focus on the task at hand. To use this technique for learning there are a few tips that will increase your learning curve. First, you need to understand that even though it is a conscious process, the subconscious is still involved. And the subconscious can’t distinguish between positive or negative quantifiers. So when using self-talk always use statements that don’t contain a quantifier. You say, “Press the trigger,” instead of saying “don’t jerk the trigger.” The subconscious drops the “don’t” and all it recognizes is “jerk the trigger.” You’re programming yourself to do exactly what you’re trying to avoid.

It’s also important to consider the words you use to talk to yourself. I have students say “press,” because that is exactly what we need to do. If you use “pull,” your mind thinks about pulling, an act which involves using the muscles of your arm. When you squeeze something you use your whole hand to apply pressure. What we want to do is isolate the movement to the one finger that is pressing the trigger smoothly to the rear until the weapon discharges.

It also helps if you actually vocalize your thoughts. Saying the command out loud forces your conscious mind to think about the action being performed. When I have a student who is experiencing difficulty with a particular action I’ll have them say the sequence out loud enough so I can hear them. This way I know what they are thinking, and they are getting the mental repetitions necessary to learn the skill. This works for beginners and experienced shooters. For a beginner they may say “presssssss the trigger.” After doing this for a while then the command is shortened down to “pressss.” After thousands of repetitions this is shortened to a short and quick “press!” After a lifetime of this then it just happens without you even thinking about it.

When training and practicing we use every technique possible to maximize our learning process. Remember, we’re learning skills that when needed will be the difference between life and death. And while very few ever reach the point where they “become one with all,” every one of us can work and strive to fight well.


September 19, 2010 - Posted by | General Training

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