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Accurate how? You know, we teach an area target. We don’t teach people to shoot groups like this [makes a small circle with fingers]. No, we teach an area target. It’s a rectangle here [his fingers outline approximately 8 x 12 on his upper chest]. It’s an area target. I don’t care if you hit the edge or hit the middle, but you will miss completely if you go too fast–and that is what most people do. They go too fast. If I can use casino parlance, going too fast is like hitting a 17. You say, “I know that next card is a four! I just know it.” Well, sometimes it is.

Jeff Chudwin is fond of saying, “Never let good luck reinforce bad tactics.” Sometimes when we get a good result, we think it must be because we are geniuses. At the poker table, we have this expression: “Don’t mistake good cards for brains.” You know, good results don’t demonstrate good play. Good play will generate good results more often than poor play, but even poor players catch lucky sometimes.

Sometimes, someone will catch lucky and then base a whole training program on something that only happened once! I am thinking of the guy who tripped, fell backwards, shot through his knees, killed the bad guy and they incorporated that technique into their training program. It had never happened before and it has not happened since! But it happened that one time! [laughing] Well, that’s silly, and shortsighted.

eJournal: Realistically, we have to choose between recklessness and excessive caution.

Farnam: For example, we can be too fast and miss. In cards, that’s like hitting on 17. Well, we can be too slow, too. We can be too accurate. That’s like standing on 11.

Why would you stand on an 11; you can’t possibly hurt yourself! Take a hit! You say, “Oh, but, I’m so afraid!” Well, it is the same problem.

We have to find that Goldilocks zone–just right.

In poker playing and in shooting, we spend too much time talking about lucky shots. I tell my students, using a poker analogy, you have to play your game as if luck has nothing to do with it. You have to win on skill alone, because that’s the way it really is.

The problem is, you can win and lose at poker a thousand times in one evening, and you can learn that lesson. How many times do you get to get killed? None of us have all these experiences. Someone says, “I’ve been involved in 52 gunfights!” Well, with all due respect, that’s bullshit because you’d be dead.

eJournal: Let me ask another “then and now” question: How are gun owners doing in terms of the consistent practice of gun safety?

Farnam: There is no doubt that we have made progress. However, 75% of gun shot wounds are self-inflicted accidents. I would like to think none of those were my students. Obviously, either directly or through proxy, we did not get to those people.

I’ve had a couple of ADs (accidental discharges) in my life. Not recently, but when I was a young student and didn’t know what I know now. The body of knowledge that we teach now didn’t even exist!

eJournal: What hadn’t we learned yet in the 70s?

Farnam: Muzzle consciousness and trigger fingers [mimes holding a gun with trigger finger far away from imagined trigger guard]. While that is the main part, I think that teaching a routine [mimes precise steps to bring gun down off target, trigger finger straight, to compressed high ready, to low ready, to holster]. Instead of “Oh! I’m glad that is over!” [Mimes swinging gun dramatically off target toward feet.]