Metrics Don’t Matter. Until They Do.

Metrics in firearms training are needed. When we’re at a range, we are training people to pass a test that will determine if they life or die, so why wouldn’t we want to see how well they’re doing at that sort of thing and track things like draw speed, accuracy under pressure and split times? That sort of thing becomes VERY important when bullets start flying.

The problem is, all the things that lead up to that point, the de-escalation, the awareness of a potential violent counter exist in a metric-free zone. There is no way to empirically judge how ticked-off a potential attacker is at any given moment, there are no ISO standards when it comes to how much beer is required to turn a milquetoast accountant into a raging berserker, and mastering the skills needed to not get into a fight in the first test is a very, very ambiguous task, one that relies more on intuition and (dare I say it) feelings than cold, hard facts.

Let’s face facts. The firearms training world is dominated by guys, and guys (Trigger warning: Cisgender, heteronormative stereotypes ahead!) tend to be more goal-oriented, left-brain types who crave metrics*, and we tend to like training that caters to our demand for ordered, “rational”progress. Is that the way it SHOULD be? Is that the way it will always be? Is that a good thing?

Dunno. But denying reality ain’t gonna get us to where we want to be.

Metrics matter to those who want to improve their skill because they give us goals to strive for. They don’t matter to people who want a gun to “feel safe”. To borrow from Kathy Jackson‘s excellent analogy of swimming lessons, most people learn to swim in order to not drown: It’s only a few people who take up competitive swimming as a hobby or career. It’s been decades since my last swimming lesson, but one thing I remember from all of my Red Cross-approved swimming lessons was that there were metrics, even for us wee small children. In order to move on to even the next level after dogpaddling, you had to prove to the instructor that you were capable of drown-proofing for XX minutes or could swim X^2 lengths of the pool in Y number of minutes using a variety of swimming styles.

And no one freaked out about how those requirement were discouraging students from learning how to stay safe in the water. The basic swimming classes gave enough info to not drown for those who needed such thing, and set up the next rung on the ladder for we Type A personalities who needed more.

It’s not No Standards / Standardize All The Things, it’s using standards to get better where standards can help, and leave them alone when they’re not needed.


* As pert of my long and varied job history, I’ve taken psych test after psych test during the hiring process, and they pretty much all show that I am almost perfectly balanced when in comes to left brain / right brain or rational / intuitive types of things. This means I crave metrics, but the metrics I crave are… weird. 🙂

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