Last weekend I did not get enough sleep. Of course, it was all my fault. I just stayed up too late, counting on the rainy weather to keep the kids in bed a little later in the mornings. As with so many things, however, my kids did not get the memo. I was soon cursing my decisions to stay up late on Friday and Saturday nights.
As I was getting ready for bed on Sunday evening, I remembered that I was anticipating some free time on Monday afternoon. I headed back downstairs to prepare my range bag so I would not have to fiddle with it the next day. Since I work at a school where firearms are not permitted, I like to be able to dash home, grab my already-prepared gear, and get to the range to get at least a little time in before picking up my kids from their school.
As it happened, I think the lack of sleep over the weekend caught up with me. I arrived at work only to glance at my passenger seat and see that my lunch never made it into the car. I went to the copy room and photocopied some worksheets for three of my classes, only to return to my classroom to discover that I had copied one worksheet twice and another not at all! By the end of my workday, I was tempted to change my plans and avoid the range. However, there were a few drills I really wanted to try and I was curious about something else as well, so I went to the range anyway.
While at the range, a few of my issues persisted. I was shooting the FBI Pistol Qualification, something I had done a few times recently with different handguns. On two separate strings of fire, I failed to make sure that my pistol was loaded with an appropriate number of rounds, both times going to slide lock before the strings were complete. So I had to reshoot those strings. Once I completed the FBI Qualification, I switched handguns and tried the FAST drill, something I outlined in this post from nearly a year ago. Typically I can get times in the seven second range. On this day, I could have set aside an hour and it would not have mattered, as I could not shoot the drill clean! And I don’t even want to describe how I did shooting at 25 yards!
Basically, I had a shit day. It happens, right? In nearly everything I did that required some focus and concentration, I just didn’t have it.
But here’s the deal. I suspected I was not going to be performing at a high level at the range (given my performance at work), and yet I went anyway. Why? Well, I don’t know about our readers, but I am confident that I lack prescient abilities. I do not know when I might be called upon to use my tools to defend my life or the life of others. Given that we all have good days and bad days, we have to expect that there is a reasonable chance that we will be tested on one of our bad days. We might be tired, sick, hungry, or getting over a nagging injury when some loser decides that today will be the day.
In short, I was curious how I would perform. I would not have gone to the range if I thought I might be so unfocused as to be unsafe, but I felt like a worthwhile experiment to see exactly how I might perform. The results, needless to say, were disappointing if unsurprising. On a positive note, though my accuracy was not what I would want it to be, I still easily passed the FBI Qualification at their Instructor level (which does not say much about the FBI standards!). While I could not shoot the FAST drill the way I would have liked, my misses were not THAT far off. And at 25 yards, though I did not get as many hits in the black of the B-8 repair center as I would have liked, all of my hits were in the C zone of the USPSA silhouette target to which it had been taped. In other words, while I was disappointed, it wasn’t like I was a total disaster. I just wasn’t up to my usual standards.
In my opinion, it is a useful exercise to test yourself to see how you might perform on a “bad day”. Just like the best instructors run their classes rain or shine (can you guarantee it won’t be raining the day that scumbag accosts you while you are pumping gas?), and sometimes in the dark, so should you test yourself when you are just “not feeling it” that day. While sick, hungry, tired, or otherwise handicapped, chances are you will not be as focused as you should be. Can you perform “well enough” even on a bad day? Will your likely subpar performance be good enough to carry the day? While there is no way to quantify or qualify exactly how bad a day one is having/how bad one is feeling, I do feel it useful to test ourselves on these subpar days to see how much, if at all, our performance is affected. Again, I would not do this if I thought I might be unsafe due to severe attention issues, medication that causes grogginess, etc. But going to the range or doing other practice routines while you have a cough, sore throat, aching muscles, etc., can give you information about how badly your performance might be degraded in such conditions.
Personally, I am now looking forward to sleep and my next range visit, when hopefully I will be “on”.
As always, thanks for reading. If you have any questions or comments about this topic or any other, please feel free to post below or on our Facebook page, as we welcome civil discourse.