In a recent survey that I conducted, one of the most common problems that shooters had was that they wanted to improve their reaction times.

Specifically, how to cut the time that it takes to respond to a stimulus and put an accurate round on target.

So, today, I’m going to share 3 tricks with you that will speed up your reaction time.

It’s worth pointing out that reaction times are different, depending on the sense being stimulated and the complexity of the signal.

If everything’s working correctly, you’ll probably react to touching a hot stove quicker than to a beep.

You’ll react to a beep quicker than to a blinking light.

And you’ll react to a blinking light quicker than a complex visual situation that you have to interpret.

These tips will work, regardless of the situation.

First is to decrease your cognitive load.  Being emotionally charged takes more brainpower than being relaxed.

You can help in the moment with breathing and setting specific triggers+actions.

On breathing, the easiest pattern to remember is “square” breathing or combat breathing.  What you do is breathe in for a 4 count, hold it for a 4 count, breathe out for a 4 count, and wait for a 4 count before breathing back in again.  It will help oxygenate your eyes & brain and calm the limbic system

On triggers & actions, you want to say something like, “If he turns his gun towards me, I’ll shoot x number of rounds at the vertebrae even with his armpits, step to the side, and assess.”

Why shoot then step rather than step then shoot?  It’s your call…you need to test it out and come to your own conclusions and it may depend on how far behind the curve you are…but reacting with your lower body will take .1-.2 seconds longer than reacting with your hands/arms.

Second is take full advantage of the speed of your midbrain.

In a high stress situation, the reticular activating system prioritizes what you’ve got stored in your midbrain (skills) over what you have stored in your cortex (head knowledge).  That’s why your memory can *poof* disappear under stress and it’s why it can be SOOO hard to think your way through problems that you haven’t faced before under stress.

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One of the biggest things that you can do ahead of time that you can’t do in the moment is develop your reflexive or conditioned responses, like drawing and making a precise first shot from the holster.  Reflexive or conditioned responses are stored in the midbrain, so you’ll actually have access to them under stress.

Emotional, physical, and cognitive challenges all dip from the same pool of energy and bandwidth in the brain and doing something that you can do reflexively takes a fraction of the mental bandwidth as something you need to think about…that frees up your brain to deal with reacting and moving quickly.

This is another reason why it’s so important to do precise practice like what I teach in 21 Day Alpha Shooter.  If you can make precise shooting something that you can do automatically, it’s one less thing that you’ll need to struggle with in a self defense shooting situation, freeing up mental energy for other tasks.

Third is to see the whole picture.  The more visual input your brain gets and the more accurate that input is, the less threatened it will feel.  The less threatened your brain feels, the more relaxed your muscles will be and the quicker (and more accurately) you’ll be able to react and move.

Vision plays another key role in reaction time.

The better your visual clarity, the further away you’ll be able to start the reaction process.

The quicker and more precisely you can shift focus, the sooner you’ll be able to start the reaction process.

The wider your peripheral awareness and peripheral vision, the sooner you’ll be able to start the reaction process.

The quicker you’ve trained your mind to process visual input, the quicker you’ll be able to start the reaction process.

You see, pure reaction time is difficult to improve very much.  Improving reaction time by .1 seconds is phenomenal.

But if you see threats and opportunities further away, at wider fields of view, and process them quicker, you can improve reaction times by half a second, a second, or more. (A LOT more in some cases)

Because of the fact that the brain craves visual input, the visual aspects of reaction times are some of the easiest and quickest to work on.

And that’s one of the big benefits of the See Quicker Shoot Quicker Tactical Vision Training Course…incredibly quick results that will not only help you shoot quicker and more accurately, but identify and react to threats and opportunities quicker as well.


by Mike Ox

Mike Ox is an avid defensive and competitive shooter who has co-created several firearms training products, including Dry Fire Training Cards,

Dry Fire Fit, 21 Day Alpha Shooter, and See Faster, Shoot Faster.  His brain based training focuses on accelerated learning techniques for shooting as well as controlling brain state and brain chemistry for optimal performance in extreme stress situations.  Learn more about dynamic dry fire training for defense and competition at

Photo by Graham Baates