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BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU ARE LEARNING

DUANE “BUCK” BUCKNER, AIMPOINT’S US DIRECTOR OF TRAINING, explains how well-intentioned learning can wind up being an impediment if you’re not careful.

The shooters all adopt a good stance, stare intently at their targets and await the “threat” call. When it comes, they draw their pistols in near unison and engage their targets uniformly. Some are a little faster, some a little slower. After the shooting is over, each of them swings their head quickly to the right or left and then reverses the procedure before holstering their pistol. This is called “scanning.”

I always ask the students what they are teaching themselves when they do that. The answers I get are all very predictable and all hover around the concept of situational awareness.

Duane “Buck” Buckner at

The remarkable thing about this is that I don’t think that is at all what they are learning. I think they are learning not to see anything.

Consider the powerful effects of repetition. These same shooters come to the range and diligently practice their draw strokes fully anticipating that it will make them better at it. It will. Repetition is the mother of learning and there is very good biology to back that up. The more you do it… the better you get. The problem comes when we don’t fully understand what we are learning.

Let’s revisit the line of shooters, diligently scanning after every shot or string of shots. What do they see? Considering that it is likely the same range scene they are accustomed to… their brains probably recognize an opportunity to marshal resources elsewhere by turning the visual process down a few notches. Particularly truly “seeing” things in a novel setting. We all experience this. How many times have you absently looked at your watch before realizing that you didn’t internalize any of the information found there? How about not seeing something (your keys) plainly in the open because you are unaccustomed to placing them in that particular spot? The brain glosses over these areas as not needing our attention, so we don’t “see” them.

So, the shooters are truly teaching themselves to see “nothing” because that is what they are practicing. Every time they turn their heads, nothing appears… and they get good at it.

One of my mantras on the range is this: Be careful what you enshrine here, it isn’t easily forgotten.

Your body is writing a book based on what you do, not what you intend. The practice of “scanning” is well intentioned but isn’t what we are learning.

Give some thought to your training process. Ask yourself what you are actually teaching yourself versus what your intentions are. There is often a wide gulf between the two.


Author Bio

Duane “Buck” Buckner

After spending 25 years in the USCG, Duane “Buck” Buckner is now the U.S. Director of Training for Aimpoint. The Aimpoint Training Division conducts training courses for military and law enforcement agencies up to the Federal level as well as for the prepared civilian. Buck is widely known for his emphasis on brain psychology as it relates to combat and survival.

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Posted by Duane Buckner, Aimpoint US Director of Training on Jul 7th 2022