“You don’t have to be fast, just don’t be last.”
So there I was, young(er) and full of myself, toes on the line with THE Jim Higginbotham, and I was about to be taught (another) valuable life-lesson.
The sun was shining to our backs. The challenge/target was a small defenseless fruit no more than 6” in diameter, but nothing I had not routinely engaged effectively in a “timely manner”. My gun was cleaned and oiled, the leather surrounding my holster was broken in and I have drawn from it 1,000 times perfectly (my mother has told me a million times not to exaggerate). I was as smooth and fast with this set-up as any, and I could “win” this challenge. I was ready, so I thought.
That 6” piece of fruit was nothing to hit. Place it in the center of a man’s upper chest and all the important “boilermaker” parts lay within its diameter. The “A-zone”, as it’s referred to, is where a person can just about guarantee a stop from a threat in just a few moments. The “A-zone” is where we work. Again, nothing new. I got this!
Now the lesson: “You don’t have to be fast, just don’t be last”. The fellow standing behind us tossed that bright orange fruit (easy enough to see, right?) in front of us and we could engage the moment it was safe to do so. Jim and I were both watching down range as we waited. I noted out of my peripheral vision Jim casually rocking back and fourth on his heels, undoubtedly completely aware of what was about to unfold as we awaited the signal.
Flashback 5 or so years. Our team was traveling through the town of Al-Hilla, Iraq and the crack of gunfire erupted out my right side vehicle. All my training kicked in.
My door opened quickly, weapon indexed, and safety was off before anyone knew what was happening (even me). Target folded up and it was over. I wasn’t first, but I wasn’t last. Training creates a mechanism within us that allows us to “catch up” when we’re behind (and since we’re the good guys/gals we tend to start from behind) we can invoke those polished mechanisms and work through that terrible haze and get caught up!
And there it went, the ball was tossed, a juicy and tasty orange in this case. I quickly picked the movement as it traveled over our heads the moment it entered my highly tuned peripheral vision. Leather was broke and about the time I was about to pick up my front-site and do work when I could not help but notice that Jim had not even began to draw. What?!? What did I miss? What else was going on? Did he even see it? Of course none of these were the right answers. The orange rolled slowly to a stop not 15 feet away and I loosed my 1911. First round, miss, second repeated the first. About this time, I noted the movement from Jim as the orange rested and as quick as he began his presentation, it was over. I had 4 shots, but none counted. 1 well-aimed shot ended it and my lesson was learned. So the smooth part, got it, but the big lesson to take away too was Jim was training, I was competing. Jim looked at this event as an opportunity to improve and I took it as an opportunity to showcase a set of useless skills. Jim “let” me get out front so he could test his ability to “catch up” and deal with someone that did indeed have an okay presentation of the pistol but lacked the mindset. He won, but as with training, a lesson is worthless if it is not learned and accepted. I did both. Thanks, Boss.
Just. Don’t. Be. Last. Stay poised, stay calm in all things and when the moment arises, the problem will be solved. There will be plenty of time for panic when the situation is resolved. Take all the time needed THEN! Trust yourself. We will never rise to the occasion, but default to our best our lessons and training has taught us. So to solve these issues, plan the work and then work the plan. If there is no plan in place then “nothing” should be of no surprise as the outcome when the time arises.