Bob entered the range. It was an unusually nice February day, near 50 degrees. It was quiet except for the dull hum of the motion-triggered lights that snapped on as he walked in. The floor was clean with no excess brass, recently mopped leaving the light minty smell of Simple Green. As he twisted on the timers for the remaining range lights, the fans started rumbling to life, pumping crisp new air in from outside.

(Bob’s Nighthawk Counselor, aka Brian’s favorite gun Bob owns.)


He needed to zero a newly installed optic, a mundane task that he could perform with fewer than 10 rounds of 124 grain 9mm Fiocchi. But he knew himself better than that – under his arm was his double-stitched nylon mag carrier. Inside the carrier were 10 pockets for magazines; but Bob was a 1911 aficionado. After all, his license plate read M-1911. He had slid in 20 Vickers Tactical 1911 mags, fully loaded – 2 per pouch. The front of the case had a sewn-in hook and loop space adorned by only a few of the patches he’d acquired over the years from expert trainers, special operation forces, and world champions.

He was going to shoot more than 10 rounds.

He put his target out at 15 yards. And with his Nighthawk Custom Counselor 1911 fired two rounds, slow and steady – 2.5 inches left. He confirmed the miss with 2 more rounds. They, likewise, missed the bullseye by 2.5 inches left.

“Good grouping, though,” he murmured to himself.

A few clicks later with his sight adjustment tool, he fired another two rounds. Bullseye. The inevitability wasn’t lost on him. Confirming with two more shots, more out of discipline and an attempt at self humility, he delighted in the clover-shaped hole he’d made in the x-ring. Satisfied, he took aim at the target’s small logo on the bottom right and, with the remaining 2 rounds in his gun, obliterated the ½ inch logo.

Bob could stop there. He had confirmed zero. He wasn’t training or practicing. He just needed to zero his new optic. But for the next 140 rounds, Bob took advantage of his range time. How could he possibly get any better? He was at the max distance for the range and putting rounds nearly through the same hole in the paper.

He’d add stressors.

One handed shooting drills, leaning left then right, standing on one foot, 2 and 1s, 3 and 1s, ball and dummy on a timer. After 22 minutes, Bob had had a workout. A private training session with himself, finishing with some extra bullseye practice.

When Bob trains, he thinks of ways to make himself fail a standard, then practices him fundamentals.

So what are stressors?

A stressor, in the context of training, refers to any element or condition that increases pressure or induces a sense of stress during the learning process. In pistol shooting, stressors simulate portions of real-life situations or conditions that we may encounter. These can be time constraints, physical exertion, target size or movement, distance, distractions, or environmental factors. Stressors are incorporated into training to help shooters develop the ability to perform effectively under pressure.

Here’s my target from our last LABS session.


It shows 2 groups of fire. The group on the left was my first attempt and is not as good as the group on the right. Similar speed (I didn’t put this on a shot timer) and 50 feet away. How did I shoot so much better on the second one? Was I warmed up? Iron vs PMO? Different ammo?

Nope. I added a stressor. Take a look at the kind of holes on the left and right group. Can you see the jaggedness of the holes on the left? Those rounds hit the target from the back of the target. Here’s a photo of the back of this target.


My stressor was not having a big black circle at which to aim. I know “about” where to aim, but I didn’t have a definite target on which to aim. When I turned the target around for the second group, I did, and shot more accurately.

So why is this important? It’s one thing to hit a paper target at a distance, but to pick your spot – pick your aim point is also very important and very practical. In a real fight, you have choices to make. On the range, a great stressor is making yourself choose a shot. This drill is a great stressor.

Other stressors to add to your range time could be:

Time Pressure: Set time limits (par times) for completing shooting tasks or drills. This can simulate the pressure of having to make quick decisions and shoot accurately in a limited amount of time.

Physical Stress: Introduce physical activities such as sprinting or push-ups before shooting to simulate the physical exertion that may accompany shooting in real-life scenarios. Or shoot one-handed, or while holding a bag of simulated groceries.

Multi-Tasking: Combine shooting with other tasks or distractions, such as verbal commands, reloading drills, or navigating obstacles. This challenges us to maintain focus and accuracy amidst distractions.

Competitive Environment: Organize a shooting competition or drill where shooters compete against each other. We do this at the end of each LABS live fire event. Competition adds an element of stress as shooters strive to perform better than their peers.

Variable Conditions: Train in different environmental conditions such as low light, rain, or wind. This prepares us to adapt their shooting techniques to various situations they may encounter. A great class for this is our EDC course with Instructor Michael.

Decision-making Drills: Create scenarios where shooters must quickly assess threats and make decisions about when and where to shoot. This helps develop rapid decision-making skills under pressure.

Failure Consequences: What are the consequences for missed shots or failure to meet performance standards? Points off score? Extra drills? Buying buffalo wings for the class? Consequences motivate us to focus and perform while having a small element of fear introduced.

Keep training. Keep practicing. Add stressors.