View Full Version : "When the adrenaline is flowing..."

August 9, 2009, 11:15 AM
I have lost count of the number of times I've seen the title quote used in an argument on TFL threads.

It tends to be followed by such things as "... recoil won't matter;"
"... noise and flash won't matter."

The thing is, while stress situations may cause you not to notice such factors, the assumption that they won't matter is just ridiculous. You may not notice how they impact actual performance, but they still will and do impact performance.

Recoil will affect follow-up shots. Any flinch learned from training with the high recoil weapon will likely still manifest in the SD situation, and with shaking hands it may be amplified. Noise and flash will impact your ability to detect and track targets after the first shot has been fired, assuming you think to look for additional BG's.

But beyond that, the underlying assumption that adrenaline will compensate for all ills is not borne out by centuries of military experience. Adrenaline tends to impair cognitive processes, not help them. The militaries of the world have dealt with this through intensive, repetitive training, to create muscle memory for those times when thinking may take too long or just may not happen.

"We train like we fight, we fight like we train."

"The more we sweat in peacetime, the less we bleed in war."

What does this mean? To me, it means that if a weapon has too much recoil, bang, and/or flash for me to train with it on a very regular basis, then if I ever have to use it in a real SD situation I am very likely to have unwanted input from Mr Murphy. A strong shot of adrenaline will NOT compensate for a lack of training.

Find a weapon you can handle, and train with it until you don't have to think about its operation, because if the time ever comes, it's almost guaranteed that your thinking won't keep up with your reflexes. If you have to think in such a situation, you will lose any hope of taking the initiative. Shoot as many rounds through it as you can afford, on a regular basis. Practice from different positions, using both and either hand, to the extent that you can at your practice facility.

Practice multiple target engagement. Practice not lowering the muzzle after the first double tap, just in case you need follow-up shots. Practice scanning the area around the target. Do these sorts of things so often that you don't have to think about them, you just automatically do them.

This isn't to say, "Don't think." Just realize that people don't tend to think so fast when that adrenaline jolt hits.

This is to say that selecting a weapon that is uncomfortable to shoot regularly, for extended practice sessions, is counterproductive. Power is only useful if it can be controlled when it is needed.

August 9, 2009, 11:46 AM
I can tell you that it helps me to dry fire at home because I do the same thing at the range and it does make a difference.
There have been many testimonies that have specifically said that when SHTF they don't remember hearing anything, or how many shots they took, or anything. Pretty much when the adrenaline dump hits you, your brain distorts everything that has happened because it turns off and goes into survival mode. Well, what happens when your brain turns off? The muscles in your body take over. You don't want to die, so you do whatever you can to live. And I mean WHATEVER.
Point of training is to keep you from freaking out as the brain turns off, and to keep yourself in control. I will agree that after a certain point you really aren't going to care about anything else but the survival. But on the other side, the adrenaline does help you. You literally become super human. Your vision becomes intense, your body moves so fast, and you make decisions faster than you can think because your brain is turned off.

You are also assuming that people pick guns that they can't handle all the time. Not true

August 9, 2009, 12:09 PM
I am not sure if this is relevant to the reason for your thread or fits in at all but...
I feel that the more times you induce a full adrenaline rush while performing any task, you overall physical and mental capacities will learn to operate up to or above your overall abilities while not dosed up with adrenaline.

My running hogs with dogs is about the most intense extreme activity I can imagine me doing and the first couple hogs you catch, you realize there were words spoken and actions taken by you or others in the group that you have no clue of their occurrence. After a few pigs under my belt I realize a heightened awareness of the little details. Riding motorcycles a bit too aggressive helped as well.

August 9, 2009, 12:39 PM
I feel that the more times you induce a full adrenaline rush while performing any task, you overall physical and mental capacities will learn to operate up to or above your overall abilities while not dosed up with adrenaline.
Hogdogs, I think it's exactly relevant. One of the main points of training and practice is that you become accustomed to the adrenaline-inducing events, so that your "flow of adrenaline" is either much reduced, or you learn to manage it -- most likely both.

I don't run hogs or ride motorcycles, but I'm a whitewater canoeist... I'm not brilliant at it, but after many years of doing this, I can, calmly and with control (on a good day! :o), run rapids above which I'd have been paralyzed with fear when I started out. Some of that is physical skill which requires training and practice to acquire, some of it is having learned how to read the river, so I know what to expect at a given point, and some of it is just having done it enough times that I'm no longer afraid of some pretty big water.

And MLeake's point, that physical events will still affect you even if you're so stoked with adrenaline that you don't notice them consciously, is an excellent one.

You literally become super human. Your vision becomes intense, your body moves so fast, and you make decisions faster than you can think because your brain is turned off.

Umm, not exactly. When your brain is turned off, you're dead. :D

There's plenty of literature out there on what the effects of adrenaline are (mostly on your autonomic nervous system, rather than on your brain), and you might want to read up on this.

August 9, 2009, 01:38 PM
... with regard to ramping up the intensity of training fits in perfectly with

"the more we sweat in peacetime, the less we bleed in war."

That's the premise, train to perform under high stress. Starting out gradually is fine, but ultimately training should be tailored to the specific, perceived need, and that includes heightened levels of physical stress.

Kyo, people do gain superior levels of strength under adrenaline dumps, and they may move faster. What they definitely do NOT gain is increased fine motor skills. If those aren't trained up, adrenaline isn't going to help them, and may actually hinder them.

People who think they perform better under an adrenaline dump may be the same group of people who think they are funnier and more intelligent when stoned; for those of us who observe, objectively, from the outside, those perceptions often don't match the reality.

(Note: former Navy flight instructor - I can tell you from evaluating hundreds of students that the ones who don't perform well when calm, really don't perform well under stress; the ones who perform well when calm often do perform well under stress; the athletic types in general handle stress better than the desk jockeys.)

August 9, 2009, 01:45 PM
vanya, I meant turned off in the sense of thinking and making conscious decisions. Fine motor skills are gained through practice. I am willing to bet that if I can draw and fire in less then a second then I can do it faster with adrenaline.

August 9, 2009, 01:52 PM
... and I think you'll find out there's a reason for the martial arts axiom that "slow is smooth, and smooth is fast."

Adrenaline tends to induce some herky-jerky movement, and while it might make you move slightly faster, it can also cause fumbling, pulling into snags, etc.

Sometimes, the best thing you can do when the adrenaline hits is purposely slow yourself down just a fraction.

August 9, 2009, 02:00 PM
... I'm referring to threads where people advise such things as:

"load up with hot .357 for HD; you won't notice the extra noise, flash, or recoil"

Note: fired a .357 off in an indoor space once, not having noticed my hearing protection had slipped. Tinnitus for 3 days...


"carry hot BB 305gr loads in your hiking .44 for bear defense; you won't notice the recoil."

Note: I can't comfortably practice with 305gr hammerheads in a Mountain Gun; I can practice with 255gr Keith loads. Guess which ones I'd choose?

Note: I know a lot of people who went out and bought .500S&W revolvers or .454 Ruger Alaskans as "bear defense guns." Of the group I know, less than 1/3 actually shoot those weapons with any regularity, yet most insist that with the adrenaline of a bear attack, they could shoot them no problem. Sure, they could shoot the revolvers, but without much practice, could they hit anything with them?

Note: Read an article shortly after the debut of the .500S&W where some guys wanted to try out the new revolver on brownies. They had rifle-armed guides along with them, which was a good choice. They found a bear across a riverbed, but within range. As I recall from the article, it took 8 rounds of .500 to put the bear down. Point: Even with a truly large caliber handgun, shot placement counts, especially against large bears. Question: Would a shooter who was well-trained with a .44mag have been able to take down a bear with one well-placed head shot?

Given a "powerful" round that one can't practice with all that much, or a "mid-level" round that one can practice with to a high proficiency level, I'll take the mid-level every time, and train the heck out of it.

August 9, 2009, 02:08 PM
I think it really just comes down to finding a gun, an ammo load, and a holder that you feel most comfortable with. Then practice as often as it takes to maintain a level of accuracy and control that you feel comfortable with, and everyone (cept the perp) wins.

August 9, 2009, 02:09 PM
Kyo, people do gain superior levels of strength under adrenaline dumps, and they may move faster. What they definitely do NOT gain is increased fine motor skills. If those aren't trained up, adrenaline isn't going to help them, and may actually hinder them.
I hope I am clarifying not disputing the above...

After many intense adrenaline dumps I feel I have gotten to where I feel I am more hand/eye and impulsively coordinated... Being able to "dip out" of reach with my 6 while reaching behind and getting that hogs ear while slimy with dog drool and dancing a modifyed 2 step all at the same time.... I woulda been hog slop the first half dozen hunts had it happened then.

Seeing junior impulsively choose fight/capture over flight/climb when he was able to "free tip" a 175+ pound runnin' sow was priceless... He ain't likely to be a victim.

August 9, 2009, 02:20 PM
... I thought that was your intent, Brent. I was just trying to shape it to the original argument, as I thought you were also doing.

High levels of training, to include training under physiological stress or physical threat, can produce seriously heightened performance. Inadequate training plus adrenaline usually results in sub-par performance, but the performer is too juiced to notice.

August 9, 2009, 02:26 PM
Note: fired a .357 off in an indoor space once, not having noticed my hearing protection had slipped. Tinnitus for 3 days...

When I was younger and stupider I did plenty of shooting without hearing protection. Pretty much anything generally considered adequate for self-defense is going to cause tinnitus whether fired indoors or out.

Old Grump
August 9, 2009, 04:04 PM
The good news in a high stress high adrenaline environment a phenomenon occurs called Auditory Exclusion. It won't prevent damage to your hearing if you are exposed to enough high noise levels but you will not be effected as much by the sound of a gunshot, especially if you are doing the shooting.

Your strength increases but you develop tunnel vision and tunnel hearing which means you won't hear all the yelling and screaming of others while you are focused on the immediate danger, Booger man or men in this case. Unfortunately this does not apply to your sight and is why I argue against shooting +P or magnum rounds out of snubby barrels if you expect the shooting to go down in low light conditions. I don't feel a large powerful round accompanied by a large ball of flame is going to turn out well if you need to fire a follow up shot and your night sight is gone.

Just my 2 cents but I am more of a 38 special out of a 4" barrel or a 20 gauge with 2 3/4" loads kind of guy in that situation. Lights on or daytime outside give me the biggest baddest gun in my collection but at night, uh, uh.

August 9, 2009, 06:16 PM
I prefer to use what I shoot best and most often, that is suitable to the environment.

Around the house or in town, this is either of my CZ's, or one of my SIGs.

In the woods, this is either a GP100 or S&W 29.

My SP101 and LCR fall into the BUG category, except for the rare occasions when they fall into the "only guns I can conceal" category. I just don't shoot them as well, or practice with them as often.

I'd take the CZ's over my revolvers when 2-legged adversaries are the anticipated threat because I can hit what I aim at, rapidly and repeatedly, until I no longer need to do so. Revolvers may be simpler, but follow-up shots are easier and (for me) more accurate with the CZ75's.

They also make less noise and less flash.

Similarly, with a shotgun I rarely feel a need to chamber a 3" shell; 2-3/4" does just fine for my applications.

What I would NOT want to do is load any of my firearms with a hot load with which I don't practice.

August 10, 2009, 03:17 AM
I agree completely... though having had more experiance in Martial arts I see a different occurance and that is people who dont think they will get hit in a fight. Also those who dont practice at home or even while waiting for class to start. I have been in fights with people where they think they dont need to block but when im leaning over them they regret it. You never go into a fight and think you wont get hit because sooner or later it WILL happen. I just get hit less through practice. standing there in the open shooting like somone may shoot at the range, not realizing they wont know where to stand without being hit later in SD, is not smart.

"Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast"

That is incredibly true, for most everything in practice and use. In use of guns you move fast and thats how you get sloppy. Lack of practice accompanied with possesion of a large gun equals exactly what we call "big man complex"... Same thing applies to all martial arts and though some may disagree self defense shooting along with military training is all martial arts in the end...

In sparring for class or tournament purposes the adrenaline is addictive(atleast for me) and through the sparring you learn what works when and how to accomplish it without being hit. We never used gear in kung fu along with training in outside in all conditions. If a student messed up once when practicing that student was pulled aside by a senior student and trained properly. The rest continued and through continuos practice I became top student in 6 months.

If you dont get it you should either practice it alot or dont bother.

If you think that you can accomplish anything without PROPPER practice you are wrong.

August 10, 2009, 03:41 AM
Hi All,
I have had a few opportunities in life to put this to the test of reality, and am lucky enough to be able to reflect on it, so my words are not based on assumptions.

When you are in a life-threatening situation your training will kick-in and save you the necessity of having to think. This applies to individuals and groups alike. the more you train, as realistically as possible, the better your response will be.

Someone mentioned here that you are unlikely to be affected by the noise of your own shots. I fully agree,in one occasion, even while firing an RPG7 wihtout ear-protection I was more tuned to the sound of the AK's that were pointed in my direction. (again, IMO this is a case where your mind sorts out the sounds according to what is a perceived threat and what is not) and my hearing was still functional enough to hear and respond to commands, so I do not believe that the noise from a hotter load will incapacitate you at that moment (may have hearing damage of some extent, but that only means that you are still alive).

Recoil will affect your follow-up shot in a double tap, but not your first shot in every string, so I personally do not think of a slighly hotter carry load as a problem, but occasionally you may ant to train with what you carry, so that you are familiar with it.

Flash, yes it will affect your vision, but I am not sure that a mild load will affect you less than a hotter one (given the same gun and caliber). However, short of installing a flash-supressor, there is no real solution to this than to opt for longer barrels, which tend to give less flash ( in the same caliber weapon) for example, while the normal length Galil hardly gives a muzzle flash, the short version, using the same ammo, sends out a rather large (read - blinding you and giving up your position) flash.

One last point, dont ever asume that you are faster or better than someone else, take cover, as quick as possible ( and preferably as thick as possible) make it part of your routine training, learn how to use cover as effectively as possible, exposing as little as you can when shooting form behind it.



August 10, 2009, 04:13 PM
Good thread. Interesting thoughts and experiences.

Some thoughts of my own ...

Watch someone methodically and accurately hit a speed bag or a heavy bag in training ... and then flail around with wild swings when actually involved in a fight.

Makes you wonder what exactly they were training themselves to do, right? And under what circumstances?

Now, replace those accurate 'training' punches and the wildly inaccurate punches in a real physical confrontation with bullets. Not good.

There are a number of physiological and psychological conditions which can occur when faced with a fight or flight situation. Some folks may experience some or all of them, and some folks may never experience anything other than an adrenaline surge.

Training can help deal with some of those potential mental and physical conditions, although different folks will probably always experience varying levels of success, or the lack thereof.

Proper training can help. Emphasis on "proper".

A proper mindset can help.

Being 'off balance' either mentally or physically can be a real disadvantage.

Experience can be a hard teacher. Pass/Fail can be unforgiving.

Sheer speed is just that ... sheer speed. If it's achieved at the expense of smooth, coordinated, intentional and effective movement it might be more problematic than helpful.

Now, combine a useful amount of speed with a deftly sure, practiced and smooth application timed to take advantage of the circumstances as presented.

Which would you rather have at your command?