In psychology, maturity is the ability to respond to the environment in an appropriate manner. Maturity also encompasses being aware of the correct time and location to behave and knowing when to act, according to the circumstances. Shooter Maturity is the experience and cognitive capacity to comprehend concepts depending on situations and the given topics. This is something I believe needs to be addressed. Shooter maturity is something that separates the real professionals from the “it is just a job” professionals. I also find that it is needed for specialized teams but is often overlooked or unaddressed. In most organizations there is almost always a “professional” that you can think of that shouldn’t be there. Not because they are bad people, but because they don’t have “it”. Now that “it” can be a variety of things, for one it can be their inability to do the job. It can be as simple as their lack of physical or mental abilities (Fitness/skill/comprehension). It can also be their lack of the mindset necessary or it can just be their maturity in the subject isn’t there and needs to be cultivated. Once more, this doesn’t mean they are bad people, but they may want to get their head into the game or investigate a different career path.
Identifying the Lack of Shooter Maturity
Now the level of shooter maturity isn’t how much the person plays around and giggles. It is their lack of experience and cognitive capacity to understand concepts depending on situation and comprehension of a given topic. There have been classes that I have taught or participated in as a student that I could pick out the lowest common denominator. Sometimes this isn’t the slowest, oldest, youngest, worst shooter, or even the out of shape individual. It is the one with the least amount of shooters maturity. So how do we identify the lack of shooter maturity in a person? There are various ways, versions and possible mixture of the below identifiers. These are not the only identifiers, but I do see these the most.
The La-La land student.
Conscious competent student.
Students who lack recall.
Misguided range theatrics.
La-La Land Student
The La-La land student is the one who is staring right through the instructor. They are there physically, but mentally they are in La-La land. They are probably not paying much attention to instruction or what is going on around them. Sometimes they may have heard everything, but they don’t comprehend the topic of instruction because they are thinking about their grip, the distance of the target and/or the last drill (Lack of shooter maturity). The La-La land student stems from the inexperience and inability to compartmentalize the current situation from a previous so that they may perform the intended current tasks. Think of a Special Operations dude, they will literally put the world on a back burner and focus on the current needs of the mission to accomplish it and bring everyone home (This is possibly one of the reasons divorce rates are so high). I have also observed this when the instructor doesn’t properly engage with students in an interactive way (with relevant questions, stories, hypotheticals and jokes) to keep them in the “now”. I also believe there are many other factors that come into play like attention span, student’s expectations and other personal factors, but the more mature the shooter becomes the less La-La land-ish they will be. Pay attention .
Conscious Competent Student
The Conscious competent student is the one that will make a mistake during a drill and when instructed to fix that mistake, they will focus so much on the fix, they make a different mistake. Just like plugging a leak in a boat with a finger and another sprouting in a different location. This is something we all suffer from and mostly it’s because we haven’t subconsciously become competent in a certain skill. We just haven’t reached that maturity level as a shooter. Think about driving a car, when you first started driving you had to think and be conscious of everything, consciously competent. Now as an experienced driver you can drive, eat, comb your hair, bake a cake, change the music and talk on the phone all at the same time. You became sub-consciously competent with driving skills. Now apply the same concept to shooting. If you can draw, present your firearm, remove a seat belt, get out of a car while being aware of muzzle direction and engage targets accurately in a sub-conscious competent manner then you can focus on other tasks like PID, teammates, tactics, and problem solving. This can be learned and cultivated but is rarely addressed.
Lack of Recall
Students who cannot recall their actions during the previous drill show a lack of shooter maturity. This, like others, is a learned skill that is difficult. If you cannot recall what you did in the drill, what were you really focused on? Understand that this recall ability is one that many skip, but in my opinion is very important for professionals and civilians alike. So, what is recall? It is your ability to play back and with practice, visualize what you did in each drill or exercise. For example, if I asked you to recall “How”, not “what”, you ate for your previous meal, could you recall how it was orientated on your plate or how you took the first bite? That is recall. Now I am not saying you need to recall everything in your life, but you must learn to do it for specific situations. In a team based CQB environment there is definitely a need to recall. Imagine how hard this will be if you don’t have the sub-conscious competent skills? Yes, like I said they can be mixed together. Notice of all these skills come back to practice. This is something I force students to do in certain classes to introduce them to the concept and cultivate the skill.
Misguided Range Theatrics
Another sign of a person who lacks shooter maturity, is misguided range theatrics. When you execute theatrical movements on the range, they could have some ramifications that could be detrimental to the goal of training. The goal is usually to become a more skilled lethal human. For example, the search and assessment after every drill or exercise. I have seen students in class search and assess in a fashion that made me want a neck brace. They will shoot, then whip their head back and forth so quick that I highly doubt they saw anything. They aren’t doing what is necessary, they are doing a sub-conscious misguided range theatrics.
Now I am not saying you shouldn’t be aware of your surroundings or recapture the area visually but do it in a manner that makes sense. Look and process what you are looking at. Now why do shooters do this and other theatrics? My hypothesis is twofold, it can be because of someone they are imitating (Instructor, instagramer, etc.) or they want to look cool for whom ever is watching. Real professionals don’t think about how they look doing the needed tasks. They care about what it takes to accomplish the task. It comes back to something I talk about in classes, being process based and not results based in your tasks. That’s like going through life thinking solely on your death (Result) instead of going through the journey (Process) of life. Yeah, morbid. Don’t do it.
Developing Shooter Maturity
So, how can we develop shooters maturity? Like most things we must identify and begin at the source, ourselves. We must learn to build and develop ourselves as students. Students that hunt for information like hungry wolves. Wolves that need and want the information that will feed the hunger. This shouldn’t be a hard concept to imagine, by reading this you are already taking steps to gain more knowledge.
So, step one is figure out “why”. Why do you want more information? Why do you need more? Why? For myself it is a simple answer, it makes me happy (My life goal). Now we all know there are those that believe this is unnecessary (Lack of shooter maturity), but that is their loss. Those of us that are willing to try and discover new or different things will progress as a species.
The second step is passion. Passion forces people to do so many things. It can be because of a personal experience, someone retelling of their experience, or even a natural inclination that pulls you in that direction. The kind of passion that motivates you to rethink what you know and feel about the topic at hand, but the passion needs to be backed with logic and factual data not just an emotion. Notice that most of this can transfer to many other subjects like self-awareness and self-improvement.
Step three is learning to be in the “Now”. That is where the information is being thrown at you. If you aren’t there, you can’t catch it. To stay more focused on the task at hand and be in the “now”, It must be practiced. Have you ever done something that was scary? During that activity were you day dreaming or were thinking about that specific scary thing with all your attention? Exactly! You were focused and in the “now” because survival forced your body to be all in. The more teach yourself to activate your attention in the same manner the more you will receive from information provided. Be there, not somewhere else when it may benefit you greatly to be in the “now” and receive the information.
Once you have step one through three down, it is time to move into the physical side. Learning to learn. As a student I saw many of my peers fail due to not knowing how to learn. Weird but it is an issue. Some assume that when you hear information you retain the information. That isn’t how it works for most of us. So, I learned to learn. One of the things that I noticed in college was studying prior to class everyday helped me figure out questions to ask and/or topics I need clarification on. It gave me a huge step ahead of other students that thought they were coming to socialize. Just like some students go to courses and think it is fun-time gun-time. They miss out on so much and don’t even know it, because they spent that time differently. So, study what material you can prior and/or develop and write down the questions you need answered, especially after the first day to prepare for the second.
Although it isn't cool or social media worthy, note taking is an important part of learning. Some don’t take notes or take such vague notes that they can’t figure out what they meant. Don’t lie to yourself, we have all done it. Take better notes. I have noticed that the more I organize my thoughts/notes the better my experience is in class. A simple way to organize notes is by drill. Write the drill name, draw the drill and explain the drill with key notes and context associated with it. Doing this gives you a great platform to use it to enhance your own practice. Don’t be lazy about note taking. You’re there to learn, Learn! I’ve also realized that taking paper instead of digital notes keeps me from getting distracted as easily by notifications about someone asking me what kind of pants I wear (True story).
The next part is to put in the work. If it is shooting, work on the stuff you suck at until you are okay, and then work on it even more. Then when you think you’re great at it work even harder! It’s a non-stop continuum. One of the practice methods that has been dying off is dry practice. Not with a SIRT or Mantis, or anything other than your empty firearm. This is your time to connect and understand your trigger. This is the time to watch your sights and see how the they act as you press the shot. It’s the time to perfect the pressures in your grip. Be a part of your practice don’t just make dry practice a part of watching tv or some other activity. It’s worth becoming acquainted with your blaster. Something I have heard Kyle Defoor say “Do you really know your gun? Not just the thing you have attached or round counts but know when the trigger breaks or how it feels in recoil compared to others…” This spoke to me. It is like a person you know. Do you know their likes and dislikes, mannerisms, norms, attitude changes, etc.? If you don’t, do you really know the person? It made me really tune into my firearm. To the point that I can feel the spring in the mag decompressing as I am shooting. I can see the direction of my brass flipping in the periphery of my sight picture. This is what starts to make you more mature in shooting.
Now knowing all this it’s time for you to get to it. Go learn, train and practice. Work the mind and body. Don’t fail yourself by not doing the necessary to improve yourself. Also notice that this article can be applied to many different trades, hobbies, or jobs. I hope everyone continues improves their shooter maturity because if your read to this point, you have already started. Now continue .