Last Friday I had a rare afternoon off.

I decided to take advantage of the opportunity, and scheduled an afternoon ITS (Immersive Tactical Shoot) package at Threat Dynamics.

After watching an episode of 20/20, decrying that "average people" were unprepared to face crisis situations, I wanted to put myself to the test.  The video below gives a good summary of what I'm talking about:

Basically, those of us who can shoot - accurately or not - but have only experience shooting in a safe, controlled range environment are relatively unprepared to handle a real-life situation.  I agree completely.

I'm a fairly good shot with both rifles and handguns.  But my shooting experience has primarily been on a closed, controlled range, against a stationary target, with plenty of time to set up each shot.  If ever called on to defend myself or others, I fear I'd be highly outmatched.

A run at some simulated situations was a good way to test that.

I had no idea

The first part of the course was regular range shooting - stationary targets at different distances.  Unlike the previous times I've shot, however, everything was timed.

Add a timing factor to the existing accuracy factor, and you throw tight groupings out the window.  I'm still a competent shot, but once I was given a mere 10 seconds to complete a target, my groupings suffered.

Next were the situation simulations - the first of which I failed at. Miserably.

The simulation places you in the role of a SWAT member responding to an active shooter in an office building.  It was my first time holding a gun while looking at people as potential targets, so I was shaky to begin with.  When the first shooter came around the corner, I locked my eyes on his shotgun and froze.

I eventually did fire; not before he blasted me twice with the shotgun, though.  It took some prompting from my instructor to take a second go.

My next run (and the subsequent single-screen simulations) went smoothly.  I successfully cleared all targets with zero collateral damage (and no one shooting back at me, either).

Situational Awareness

The second set of simulations took place in a room covered in 300 degrees with projectors.  Now, I had to focus just not on what was in front of me, but also to the sides and behind me.

The first simulation put me in the place of a concealed carry permit holder, on his way back to the car after a late-night movie.  A man steps out from in front of my car and asks for my help changing its tire - he was holding a tire iron and, obviously, is the most active threat.

I ordered him to back down, and the interactive simulation followed suit.  I figured I'd made it through the scenario without even needing to draw a weapon.

Until the guy's buddy snuck up behind me and shot me in the back.

The simulation wrapped around me completely, and I locked my focus on what I thought was the immediate threat, rather than being aware of my surroundings and keeping track of other potential attack vectors.

What's Around You

Luckily, this was only a simulation. Once I learned my lesson - thanks to bangs on the screen, laughs from the instructor, and a rapidly beating pulse - I didn't make the mistake again. Subsequent scenarios were conducted with my back to walls or behind sufficient cover.

The entire idea made me think, though.  As the challenges I face - in my career or life in general - become more pressing, how likely am I to focus in on them so much that I ignore what's going on everywhere else?

How likely have I gained tunnel vision in my job? In my code? In relationships?

It's easy to focus on one problem at a time - but then other problems will come out from behind you or in a blind spot to your left.

I realized on Friday that I haven't been keeping a close eye on my surroundings pretty much anywhere. How about you? How aware are you both of the objective dead ahead and of the potential vectors for surprises behind you?