The act of defending oneself with a firearm is not a skill you are born with or taught as a kid. Since it doesn’t come naturally, self-defense must be learned by conscious repetition and instruction.
Drawing, aiming, and firing a handgun is a motor skill.
Like other actions requiring coordination such as bicycling or swimming, skills related to shooting can be learned and honed through repetitive practice.
Repeating the same movements over and over helps solidify the muscle-to-mind connections and partially automates the process.
With enough practice, gun handling movements can become almost unconscious. Have you ever automatically put on your seatbelt to move your car across the yard a few feet? It wasn’t necessary, but the automatic part of your brain took over from habit.
This type of automatic mind response can be dangerous if you allow it to take over your perception of self-defense situations.
Unlike motor skills, you don’t want your mental assessment of threats and self-defense situations to become inflexible. If you train as though you’ll always be approached and threatened in the same manner, you’ll seriously limit your ability to act in real time to a legitimate threat.
Any preconceived notions of how things “should be” will add several seconds to your response time. You’ll have to first realize that events aren’t going according to your preconceived model and then adjust yourself in order to respond to reality. This lag in response time can give an attacker an advantage.
Author Bruce N. Eimer, PH.D. discusses this in his article “Mental Rehearsal in Combat and Firearm Training” on USConcealedcarry.com:
“The most common delay is when a conflict develops between what one observes and one’s expectations upon orienting the information. Thus, one of Boyd’s rules was: ‘Reality’ always trumps expectation! Reality is always ‘right.’” (Read more at USConcealedCarry.com)
Self-defense training is mostly action, usually involving reactions to threats. Inaction can be deadly, but so can taking an incorrect action. It would be a mistake to train yourself to draw on a threat no matter what because some threats are far enough away or simply don’t warrant deadly force.
Fine-tuning your ability to quickly assess threats in real time and responding appropriate by calling on your learned motor skills is something that takes dedication and practice. Learning these skills will allow you to respond appropriately to threats without losing ground or reacting too aggressively.