The positives of negative training

As student shooters continue to advance in their firearms and tactical training, they often notice that the more advanced the instruction gets, the more the concentration seems to be on negative aspects and possibilities: drills that assume failure or disadvantage, scenarios where there is a breakdown in team tactics and an emphasis on critical feedback from instructors rather than self-esteem boosters.

This is by design—workshopping the negatives can lead to many positive learning opportunities, if a student lets it.  Really, all shooters need to be addressing worst case scenarios in their training constantly if they hope to survive a real world gunfight. Thankfully, over the decades shooting instructors have identified common-enough-to-matter scenarios and multiple drills to help shooters prepare for justified lethal confrontations. Such drills may include, but are not limited to, the following:

1. Body armor drills

The traditional body armor drill is also known as the Mozambique and consists of two shots to center mass, then one shot to the head, performed rapidly.  The reasoning behind this drill is to train shooters to successfully engage targets who may be wearing body armor or who are otherwise undeterred in their attack by shots to the body.  In an event such as this, a shooter must train to immediately transition when the target/threat fails to go down.  An alternative to this drill is to transition the final shot from center mass to the pelvis, though it is my philosophy to shoot to stop the threat and the best way to do that (barring a couple rounds to center mass) is with a bullet to the soft tissue of the head.

2. Injured shooting drills

It is my experience that no one ever really expects to get shot. In a gunfight, however, the odds of catching metal go up exponentially and if the necessary skills are absent, an injury can quickly become a fatality.

Injured arm shooting drills are an exceptional way to physically work through a problem, while training to use your nondominant hand and still stay in the fight represents another core component of a complete tactical education.  Most shooting drills can be adapted to incorporate this type of handicap—just remember, it is probably best to use dummy rounds when first beginning to work these drills.

3. Immediate and remedial action drills

When your gun doesn’t fire, what do you do? This is a negative scenario that every defense shooter should be able to diagnose and remedy within seconds.  While technical complications may never occur during a gunfight, Murphy’s Law is, well, unpredictable. Therefore, the only way to be prepared is through a lot of practice and experience.

If you hear a “click,” fix it with a tap, rack and reassess.  If there is a double feed, you need to get a gun back up ASAP and there are a variety of techniques to address each specific type of this one class of malfunction but if you can transition to a secondary gun, I would suggest doing this first.  Otherwise, you’d better be prepared and confident enough to fix your primary weapon lightning fast.

4. Fatal funnel failure drills

When training with partner assisted drills or as a team, it’s important to throw in some negative possibilities as well like a buddy falling down around a doorway, also known as a fatal funnel.  Situation and terrain will always determine tactics, so, whatever the case, it’s important to consider all the possibilities even the not-so-pleasant ones.  If the first person on a team goes down it may not be safe for you to enter or even assist them.  If you’re already inside the door, you may need to step over him to effectively engage the target.

Just as all shooters improve their fundamental gun handling skills through feedback, correction and repetition, all shooters must include negative training in their repertoire to improve their chances of coming out breathing in a real world gunfight. On a final note, however, I want to remind all students and instructors that it’s imperative to always end your training sessions on a positive note. End your training by winning the fight, visualizing success and shooting a full magazine without any malfunctions.

The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of

Safety warning: Jeffrey Denning is a long time self-defense professional and any training methods or information he describes in his articles are intended to be put into practice only by serious shooters with proper training.  Please read, but do not attempt anything posted here without first seeking out proper training.

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