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Training Outside Your Comfort Zone

Training out of your comfort zone, and your state.

We don’t know what we don’t know. What appears to be an obvious and simple statement, when applied to training, becomes a little more complex. When we train we tend to gravitate towards a sphere of influence. Multiple factors drive this: availability of training around us, friends and coworkers who we train with, and what we feel comfortable doing. The final factor of what we feel comfortable doing, our comfort zone, is what stops progress and the actual ability to get better. By surrounding ourselves with the same structure of training and influences we limit the ability to learn new things, identify deficiencies, and make a structured practice plan to improve. By stepping out of the usual sphere of training influences we create and challenging ourselves by stepping out of our comfort zone, we identify considerations in performance that we never knew were factors. Add in an environmental change by travelling to attend a training and you have a plan for success that goes beyond just our individual performance.

The Ranch Tactical Training Facility located in Eagle Lake, Texas hosted Shooter Symposium 2018 from April 6th to the 8th. This multi-day training event was attended by over 100 shooters and multiple ITOA members made the trip to train. Shooter Symposium brought in multiple instructors who are recognized nationwide for their expertise in various disciplines allowing attendees to have a 4 hour block with their instructors of choice. The weekend was a well rounded event with the following instructors and disciplines; Scott Jedlinski (Modern Samurai Project) Red Dots: Fundamentals and Performance, Jared Reston (Reston Group) Performance Gun Fighting, Dan Brokos (Lead Faucet Tactical) Carbine Fundamentals, Bill Blowers (Tap Rack Tactical) Pistol Fundamentals, Steve Fisher (Sentinel Concepts) Intermediate Distance Carbine, Aaron Cowan (Sage Dynamics) Force Focus Fundamentals, and Chuck Pressburg (Presscheck Consulting) Night Vision Fundamentals. With only 4 hours available the instructors focused on the core principles of their program. This quickly pushed shooters out of their comfort zone and identified areas of improvement that the instructors then addressed through various drills, demonstrations, and instructional methods unique to each instructor.

While training with various instructors it became obvious that their different backgrounds ranging from military and law enforcement to competitive shooting, issues were being identified that may not have been considered or practiced within the normal training routine back home. Brokos pushed shooters with their rifles in positional shooting. Blowers broke down pistol fundamentals to put everything together with both the how and the why. Reston used his method of programming performance across pistol and rifle to relate practice to gun fighting. Jedlinksi focused shooters on economy of motion and removing unnecessary motion to more efficiently get good hits. Fisher coached students at distances that the average officer doesn’t get to shoot at allowing for students to identify considerations of intermediate distances with their shooting platform. Cowan utilized force-on-force situations using simunitions to put students in various scenarios requiring a response from beginning to end. Pressburg gave students the opportunity to operate under night vision and receive instruction on a skillset that doesn’t receive much attention or focus. All of these blocks of instruction left students with considerations that they had never been identified before as a shooter. For those attending who are also instructors, they walked away with new methods to present ideas and assist those they work with and teach.

There is obvious value in this type of training and identifying issues to improve performance. There is also an intangible and often overlooked byproduct of this type of event; networking. The event started on the Friday before the training with some competitions for prizes from a large array of sponsors. On site were companies such as Big Tex Outdoors, Surefire, Railscales, Sons of Liberty Gun Works, Unity Tactical and Heathen Systems showing off product and various items that were for sale. During this time attendees socialized on site and were able to share experiences and other opportunities for training. Throughout the weekend there were shared meals and at the conclusion of each night a campfire with time to socialize. Opportunities like this allow us to expand our network and grow that sphere of influence. This increases growth both professionally and personally allowing for the perfect mixture of expanding both what you know and who you know.

We all know there is value in training. Stepping outside your comfort zone and training away from your normal sphere of influence is the best way to expand your skill set. It provides value as an individual performer and instructor with the benefit of allowing you to bring something new back to the group that you’re used to training with. Shooter Symposium 2019 is already in the works for April 4-7, 2019. No matter where you go I encourage you to get out there and get at it, step out of your comfort zone, change your sphere of influence to challenge yourself to get better. If you can get out of state, do it, see what is out there and experience different facilities and expand your network. The only thing stopping you from getting better is you.

About the Author

Jim Dexter is a 13 year law enforcement officer currently serving with the Lisle Police Department. He is a 6 year Veteran of the Illinois Army National Guard having served a combat deployment in Iraq as a Military Police Officer. His former agencies include Madison, WI Police Department and the Federal Air Marshal Service. Currently assigned as a member of FIAT SWAT he is an instructor in various things to include; FBI Pistol Instructor, SWAT Instructor, RTF Instructor, ASHI First Responder Instructor, Ballistic Shield Instructor, and various other law enforcement topics. He holds a Master of Arts Degree in Criminal Justice from American Military University and a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Western Illinois University with a concentration in Law Enforcement and Justice Administration. Along with law enforcement instruction he is an Assistant Instructor with Modern Samurai Project specializing in red dot pistol instruction. He can be reached at

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