It’s really happening. Someone has decided that today is the day your birth certificate is going to be revoked. Calmly, you draw your weapon, close your non-dominant eye, carefully take aim…
Okay, that’s a bunch of crap, it does not go down like that. Not even close.
Chances are, you’ll be taken by surprise. It might be in dim light, just to add to your misery and uncertainty. You will be scared. Adrenaline will pour into your system and kick in—of that, you can be absolutely certain. The effects of that adrenaline dump will take you off your square like you cannot begin to imagine; your body will do things that it never did before.
I’m going to list some of the effects of that kind of adrenaline dump based on incidents that I’ve been involved in. Some of the effects differ from person to person. However, what is listed here are most of the common effects that influence people.
What are some of the effects of an adrenaline dump?
This is the mind’s distortion of time. Typically, time seems to slow down into a bizarre sort of slow motion. People sometimes report that they feel detached from their own bodies as if they are watching themselves in a movie. While this is going on, it’s possible that you will have dozens, if not hundreds, of thoughts racing through your head. “What’s happening, why is he trying to kill me, Oh my God, what do I do…..?” The racing thoughts can cripple our ability to think clearly and function.
Simply put, sound diminishes. Not always completely, but often, sounds seem far off in the distance. Even gunfire. You may not be able to hear things that are being shouted at you or others.
Dulling of Pain
You may be wounded and not realize it for some time after the action has cooled down. Assuming, of course, that you happen to survive. People have been grievously wounded and have not realized it until the effects of the adrenaline dump begin to wear off, or perhaps someone nearby points out that they are bleeding or otherwise visibly injured. Pain might manifest after seconds, minutes, or even hours after the incident. I’ve seen this numerous times, and even had it happen to me. One individual whom I observed was mortally wounded and fought on despite having horrific wounds. He either didn’t feel it or didn’t care (he was in a state of rage), and fought until he ceased being a habitual oxygen consumer.
Loss of Fine Motor Skills
In short, our fingers and hands can become flippers. Blood is drawn from our appendages into our core when we enter battle. It’s a throwback from our caveman days. Suffice it to say that it makes it a difficult task to operate fine buttons, levers, and such.
Adrenaline can erase large swaths of our memory, or else distort it. This can make it seem as though we are lying on official reports.
Vision Distortion/Tunnel Vision
This is a huge one, and will be the focus of today’s article. Your brain zeroes in on the immediate threat. Peripheral vision basically shuts down as your brain focuses on that threat. Pupils dilate to take in as much light as they can. Your brain doesn’t care what’s going on to your left or right, or behind you. It is hyper-focused on the threat that is in front of you. This can be dangerous because there may be other threats afoot.
I absolutely guarantee that all of these factors are going to mess you up as you have never felt before. For some people, it is fatal because they cannot function.
That tunnel vision can really play hell on our ability to see. People in gunfights often report that they could not see the sights on their weapon.
So how about closing one of your eyes as you were taught during your target shooting instruction days? By closing that non-dominant eye, you are shutting down more than 50% of your vision. Why more than 50%? Because not only is that eye closed, but the fact that you have the pistol up to aim it is also blocking a portion of your vision in that one eye that you have open. Add in tunnel vision to this mix and you’re damn near fighting blind!
Keep Both Eyes Open
For defensive and combat shooting, I highly advocate that you keep both eyes open, especially for close-range engagements. Even with both eyes open, you’re going to have limited vision like you’ve never experienced before. It’s so profound that it’s actually hard to describe.
And it’s not just going to be your vision that’s screwy. Like I said above, all that shit is going to be hitting you in the span of a millisecond, and you’re going to have to try to figure out how to deal with it—all while under a possibly lethal force attack.
The advantage is that you can read about it here and try to wrap your mind around it so that if it ever happens, you at least have an idea of what’s headed your way. It’s better than nothing.
In Center Axis Relock (founded by Paul Castle), the sights are brought in extremely close to the eye to overcome the issue of not seeing your sights under the adrenal rush. In that sense I believe CAR does a very good job of helping shooters to prevail. The farther away from your eye those sights are, the more difficulty you will have in seeing them.
For very close-range engagements, there is another technique that can be beneficial. With the pistol canted slightly, you can use the corner of the slide (where it forms a triangle) as your aiming point, rather than the sights. At short distances where precision is not needed, it is faster and easier. Aside from being faster, it also keeps the pistol lower in your vision, which allows you to see more because the pistol and sights are not blocking a portion of your vision.
The Importance of Scanning
With your vision so limited, it will be much more important for you to scan after your attacker has been dealt with. Criminals and bad guys seem to enjoy working in pairs or packs. Consequently, there’s a decent chance that one is flanking you while you deal with his partner.
To drive home the importance of scanning, one of the instructors in some classes that I took would smack us on the back with a padded bat if we engaged a target and then failed to scan afterward. It wasn’t long before scanning became second nature, and I’m glad for it.
You need to override that tunnel vision to safeguard yourself from other threats.
The first time you deal with a real lethal force or combat situation, you will experience physiological changes that are startling. Not only will you be fighting your foes, but also your own body and mind. Hopefully, this article gives you food for thought on preparing for what will happen.
Aside from that, you now have some methods by which to train so you can overcome at least some of the effects of an adrenaline dump.