New Book: How To Use Neuroscience To Build Better Shooters

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With his new book Building Shooters, firearms guru Dustin Salomon promises to reveal a novel and highly effective approach to teaching gun skills, based on practical principles of neuroscience and designed specifically for armed professionals who do not have access to enough time, ammunition, special facilities, training packages, or resources.

In the opinion of Dr. Bill Lewinski, executive director of the Force Science Institute, Salomon delivers in spades.

Building Shooters, Lewinski says, offers the clearest, simplest, most well-founded psychomotor training program I have seen for developing shooting skills, without the need for extensive live fire.

Most shooting books in the police world are all about tactics. Salomon focuses not just on developing and maintaining mechanical skills but also on improving judgment and decision-making. He explains what works, why it works, and how to use it in the most efficient way.

Lewinski told Force Science News he was introduced to the book by a shooting companion, a Navy SEAL who happens to have been the supervisor of Chris Kyle, the celebrated American sniper.

TRAINING CHALLENGES

Back in 2001, in the wake of the infamous terrorist attack on the USS Cole, Salomon was a young gunnery officer on an American naval warship, newly assigned to conduct a crash course to train and qualify some 200 crew members in weapons that ranged from pistol to heavy machine gun.

Many law enforcement trainers can identify with the challenges he faced: a lack of training ammunition, a shortage of range availability, limited access to the personnel who required the training due to other work tasking, and inconsistent levels of support, ranging from tacit acceptance to open hostility by command staff.

The teaching methods he developed then and has deepened since through ongoing research and experimentation are wholly different than the standard training model and, he claims, produce better results with fewer resources.

BRAIN STORAGE/RETRIEVAL

The book s subtitle, Applying Neuroscience Research to Tactical Training System Design and Training Delivery, captures the thrust of its content which, thankfully, is not as pedantic or intimidating as that mouthful sounds. Fortunately, Salomon s style across nearly 200 pages frames complex concepts in language that is fully accessible by a layman s mind.

An instructor s goal, he writes, is to place information into the student s brain in such a way that it is recalled effectively when it is needed especially when the life-threatening stress of a gunfight, for example, makes the normal cognitive processes [of] complex decision-making, information recall, and data analysis next to impossible.

To achieve that challenging objective, Salomon says, a trainer needs a practical understanding of how the brain as an information system can be influenced by instructional techniques, environmental conditions, and stimuli.

As a foundation, Salomon devotes five chapters to explaining the different types of memory short-term, long-term, declarative, and procedural and how these are properly involved in learning, consolidating, and utilizing the physical and mental elements of effective weaponcraft.

CRITICAL DOZEN

In one 37-page section, Salomon examines 12 critical factors that trainers can directly influence to affect retention, judgment, and performance. These include, among others: non-teaching priming sessions, observational learning, sleep patterns, emotional arousal, exercise, learning interference, and timing of instruction.

Buttressed by documentation from research studies, Salomon presents a bevy of scientific truths that can help in shaping program designs. A sampling:

  • Motor skills tend to degrade less when taught in the afternoon rather than the morning;
  • Downtime of at least 24 hours after learning new material is essential for creating optimum retention (more instruction time and more practice time do not necessarily equate to increased learning );
  • While practicing firearms and tactical skills in a high-stress environment is important, high stressors should not be intentionally introduced when learning skills is the objective;
  • [E]motional arousal can either enhance learning or inhibit learning; the deciding factor is whether or not the emotion is fear, which can disrupt the brain s ability to learn ;
  • If students don’t receive a full sleep period within 12 hours of being exposed to new training, a significant amount of the potential for long-term retention may be lost.

Each such entry is expanded on, with the science behind it clearly explained.

TRAINING MODEL

For the last half of his book, Salomon focuses on what he calls a neural-network-based training model. This he describes as a tool that facilitates a structured, neurologically designed development of courses and allows for tracking student skill development.

He critiques the standard training paradigm that dominates much of the existing firearms training in law enforcement. Then he shows how a progression of steps from his new model can correct the shortcomings of the traditional approach and push trainee achievement to new levels.

Much firearms training, Salomon argues, can (and should) be conducted predominately with an officer s duty weapon but without the use of live ammunition. Experience and research both, he claims, suggest that less live-fire and smarter training methodology can not only improve efficiency but can also enhance operational performance and long-term skill retention.

He disputes the shoot more rounds until you get better approach. Instead of embracing a costly training method that promotes ten thousand rounds per man, he proposes an alternate mantra for any training program that is intended to produce operational tactical competence: Ten thousand decisions per man.

In addition to Lewinski, one of the endorsers of Building Shooters is Art Aplan, an advanced training coordinator with the state of South Dakota. This is essential reading for academy staff, curriculum developers, and firearms instructors, he says. We employ many of Salomon’s recommendations in our academy and improvements in our firearms program are measurable in terms of shooter success.

The book is available through Amazon, new and used and in the Kindle version. Click here to go to its listing.

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