Dave Smith: Adjusting and Adapting to Aging

If you are lucky, you will get older on the job, and you’ll have to learn how to compensate for declining skills.

Dave Smith Headshot

Dave Smith

I have always loved shooting. When I was a little kid my dad made us shoot our .22s with the rigid discipline that his Marine Corps Instructors demanded of him. Pull the trigger and get a ripping he would bark. “Some damn Communist SOB might not miss if you don’t hit your target!”

Yeah, Korea really focused my dad’s shooting skills. I found later in my life that handgun shooting in my police academy days was taught with the same intensity, as learning a skill with life and death consequences is certainly a serious business. But damn it was fun!

Besides being fun, it was something I seemed to take to naturally… well… sort of naturally. Once my instructor Sgt. Goodnight and his crew straightened out all of my bad habits, I actually became a really good shot. I was even coached by some of the super shots from my agency and started shooting in competitions soon thereafter.

Fast forward to today, and I am now getting ready to requalify for my LEOSA certification. Unlike many states, Arizona requires us old coots to shoot the same course of fire we did on duty and, unlikely as it seems, the same old Tucson Police Firearms Instructor who did our qualifying in the mid-70’s is still running my qualifying. Larry had a full career with Tucson and then went off to the feds for another full career, all the time using his outstanding training skills to hone the abilities of his fellow crime fighters.

The one real difference I find as I’ve gotten older is my ability to shoot a damn handgun is declining. Aging is a natural part of life, and I wish old age on all of you because the alternative is not as good. The joys of life are marvelous and the aches and pains of aging are just part of the journey. Knee replacement, hip replacement, shoulder problems, and myriad other things are just part of my life in my 70s, but my adventure continues and I want yours to as well. Unfortunately, one of the things that goes first as you age is your eyesight, and that has a major negative impact on your shooting skills. To compensate, I recommend you keep training to maintain your skills at a high level. But you have to accept the limitations time and life impose on you. Learn to adapt and compensate for your new limitations.

Some of my friends are using optics on their firearms, they are also carrying better firearms, and they are practicing more in new and fun ways. My wife, the Sarge, and I have started using some of these strategies as well. New laser training systems allow us to practice right in the living room and we can use concealed carry and full-sized firearms with only a minor change of laser cartridges. It’s easy and sure forces you to control your trigger properly and prevent the development of the bad habits my good friend Larry would have to correct on the range.

Even more fun, or annoying if you are trying to read or listen to something when your wife is practicing right there in the damn living room, is the sound effects that go along with the system. Worse, around Thanksgiving trying to get the gang to come to the table can be a real challenge when they are practicing with the handguns they brought with them, can actually become a real issue. In fact, thinking about this, you might want to keep the laser training system in the closet during the holidays.

Now, let’s talk about adapting to injuries, illness, aging, and life. Don’t be stopped by obstacles like these. One advantage of the modern era is the vast array of aids available, so don’t let pride get in the way of gaining back a skill and advantage in life. Can’t run anymore? start biking. Can’t see the sights anymore? Get a red dot. Hip pain has become almost intolerable? Get a titanium replacement. Mine works great and makes me wonder why my macho pride made me wait so long.

For you youngsters who are wondering what the hell I am talking about, just bear this in mind. Keep training, maintain your fitness, never stop learning, and pray that you live long enough to become an old retired cop yelling at the neighbor kids, “Get off my lawn!”

One final thought, I sure enjoy this laser training system, but it seems to shoot low and to the right! I’ll need to talk to Larry about that...

Dave Smith is an internationally recognized law enforcement trainer and is the creator of “JD Buck Savage.” You can follow Buck on Twitter at @thebucksavage

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Dave Smith Headshot
Officer (Ret.)
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