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  • Writer's pictureBrad Parker

Shooting and Parallel Parking

Updated: Feb 13, 2022

Driving instructor and driving student testing.
Remember the dreaded Parallel Parking test? Eliminate that from your defensive shooting capabilities.

You probably remember you and your friends looking forward to your drivers test to receive that coveted drivers license when you were 16. And you probably remember the nervousness of most of your group confessing to their lack of confidence and being able to pass the parallel parking test. We all worked very hard on being able to drive fast and perform competently in breaking and cornering. But the very mundane aspects of parking, turning left on a yellow light, and backing up seemed more terrifying than the actual driving part. Or how about this one, learning to start driving forward when you are stopped on an incline. This was especially difficult if you were learning how to drive on a manual transmission or stick shift.

These were the things that threatened to derail our driving tests. We probably did not give the time needed to become competent on these aspects. Which led to the anxiety of the actual driving test knowing that we probably were winging it when it came to the dreaded parallel parking test.

The shooting and gun-handling techniques that can give us problems are the mistakes that can be made during the very mundane aspects of clearing concealment garments on a draw or changing magazines to keep the handgun running. In other words, it is the simple non-shooting actions that can cause hiccups during the technique.

And this is the warning that I need to give to all of us as defensive shooters. We need to master the very basic tasks surrounding manipulating of the firearm. I have experienced the same type of problems during a recent competitive match when my "drop free" magazine did not drop free during an emergency reload stage. The small hiccup caused an interruption in my thought process as I'm running to my next stage. Reflecting on it, it was a red flag warning that I don't want to experience during an actual self-defense encounter.

As Mike Ochsner presents in his book, Real World Gunfight Training, most people don't train enough with their handgun to become competent with it and, additionally, most people don't train in a way that is consistent with lethal force encounters in real life.

He says a study by Karl Rehn and John Daub shows that less than 7% of gun owners in Texas have done any formal training and less than 1% have done anything more than the minimal training required by the state. And that's in Texas. Imagine most other states and the numbers are probably lower. It would seem likely that most people buy their handgun, put some rounds down range and think "yeah, we're good". Their confidence in their handgun is more based on the inherent capabilities of the gun rather than the owner's capabilities with it as a tool.

I remember when one of my martial arts instructors asked me out of the blue one class which series of techniques I disliked. I immediately gave him an example. I'm pretty sure I might have insinuated that it was a weak response and I didn't see the point of it. Luckily for me, this instructor was a highly-trained teacher and he recognized my resistance to the techniques stemmed from my lack of ability to perform them.

So, one entire Saturday afternoon was spent repeatedly performing the techniques. First one by itself. Then others in a combination. Then with movement. During this time he introduced examples of what the technique was used for. All. Afternoon. Over and over.

As you can guess where this is going, I got pretty good with the technique. I began using it with more power. I began understanding the importance of the principle being used.

I developed a better appreciation for it and trained it to a higher level of performance. As a result, I was not bothered or anxious when I had to perform it.

If we had this same instructor for our driving test, we would have been way better prepared. We would be able to parallel park with the best of them. Because we would have been out there parallel parking every day. Over and over. Until we mastered it. It would have ceased to be a problem for us.

This is the same lesson we need to learn when we are training for defensive firearms use. We have to be masters of the elements of shooting, obviously. But we cannot -- must not -- give short shrift to the elementary elements of loading, reloading, and drawing.

Strive to master the elements of your emergency reload, your deliberate (sometimes called tactical) reload, and your draw from concealment. Train the elements individually. Then in the entirety of the movement. Then in combination with the other elements of the technique. Then as you are moving.

Work on these small -- but important -- aspects. Our lives depend on it.

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