fine..gross..lets call the whole thing off

Another interesting post over at Vuurwapen Blog. Andrew talks about one of my favorite “tactical sacred cows”…the whole “you won’t be able to do that fine motor skill in combat” meme.

I was first told about “fine motor skills” while in the military; the explanation I was given was that anything to do with using my fingers under stress was a bad idea. That doing so would not work, that I just wouldn’t have the dexterity. I was told to use the bigger parts of my hand, or my fingers bunched together, to do any sort of weapon manipulation. This, they said, was a “gross” motor skill that would be better under stress, which apparently makes your fingers turn to jello.

However, I was also taught by other people to do things like punch buttons on military radios and put tiny needles in small veins, both of which require dexterity. In addition, both are skills which might be critical to saving lives under stress (or taking them, in the case of calling for fires). I also found, on my own time, that I could manipulate safeties and slide releases just fine with my thumbs.

The author goes onto explain that in his opinion the issue all comes down to ones familiarity and recent experience with a weapon system. I agree 100%. If you are unfamiliar with a weapon, finding the small buttons and levers under stress will indeed be more difficult than grabbing a slide and slingshotting  it home. However, if you know the weapon like it’s part of your hand, it’s stupid to lose time doing “gross motor movements”.

I did some comparisons of handgun reloads back in this thread:

To be honest, I now use the slide release lever so unconsciously that I doubt I would ever do the overhand slingshot technique under stress.


8 thoughts on “fine..gross..lets call the whole thing off”

  1. Yup… “gross motor” focus training is a key consideration when dealing with creating ‘basically trained’ professionals, but when dealing with elite level professionals, it has to be recognized that the increased desire for excellence, the increased level of training time and increased quality of training will tend to balance out the ‘dumb hand’ factor…

    1. I don’t even buy that.

      If the “basically trained” professional is too panicked for his thumb to operate the slide release, then how did he get the empty mag out of the gun in the first place? Head butt the mag catch?

      Further, the whole “gross v. fine” thing is an attempt by meathead instructors to scam a term from child development & medicine that Does Not Mean What They Think It Does. A “gross” skill involves a limb; a “fine” skill involves the fingers. Grabbing the top of your slide* is as much of a “fine motor skill” as tripping the slide stop.

      Further, I note how many instructors tell you that you will not be able to operate a slide release under stress then go on to tell you to carefully let the trigger out only far enough to reset…

      1. *Incidentally, “slingshotting” the slide overhand opens you to a whole host of stress-induced fumbles that using the slide stop does not, from your hand slipping off the slide and not tripping it to accidentally riding the slide and setting up a malfunction.

        People come up with all kinds of elaborate kata to minimize the chances of that instead because it looks all tacticool and ¡WARRIOR! instead of just using the little lever that was put there for the purpose in the first place.

      2. Of course Glock recommending the slingshot technique only muddied the waters.

        I have yet to hear the reasonong for this on Glocks part. But since so many LE agencies use Glock products and so many LE range instructors attended Glock schools, the “slingshot” technique became firmly embedded in many PD’s.

      3. Because while the tenifer finish on a Glock slide is harder than woodpecker lips, the underlying steel is not so very much so. Early experience showed that enough use of the slide stop on Glocks could eventually wear through the nitrocarburized outer layer and then quickly put enough of a bevel on the notch in the slide that the slide stop would no longer hold the slide open.

        Rather than fix perfection, Glock came up with the whole phony-baloney slingshot thing. (Newer Glocks are better in that respect, but not much.) The same thing is behind the original NFML mags versus the improved drop-free versions. The original ones were cheaper, and Glock justified them with a cock-and-bull story about how it was to prevent Austrian soldiers from losing them in the snow…

      4. I haven’t read a current Glock operators manual, but I hear that the newer ones mention using the slide lock lever on reloads….

      5. It’s not an issue of total functional/performance failure for things like depressing the mag release… its hedging the bets/statistical likelihood of a failure in a motion. We’ve seen it so many times with martial arts/hand to hand training. The “White Belt” material is VERY ‘gross motor’ in the sense that it is basic/functional motions – not a lot of finesse. Boxers keep it really simple too. FMA’s are rampant with pretty intricate locks and disarms with sticks that I just don’t buy as possible in a real fight either because they have too many “fine motor” requirements to work together while the other guy is trying to stab, punch or strike you with a stick…

        I think the instructors who GET the idea of ‘gross/fine’ considerations won’t throw away a movement because it is ‘too fine’ so much as recognize that ‘fine’ motions in a total sequence have to be attended to during training so that when the brain turns the many steps into one mental “chunk” that is not a VERY weak link in the chain of movements.

        What most of the ‘meathead instructors’ don’t understand about performance development is that the brain/body will tend to “Chunk” a series of motions together into ONE thing… like the sequence of drawing/firing a pistol. In the beginning of training it will be a series of SINGLE steps… after dedicated repetitions it becomes ONE thing that you do made up of a chain of parts… that’s one of the things that our brain does to fast track complex activities – as you said, IF gross/fine was so absolute then why can hockey players puck handle through crowds, while crossing their feet on skates and still zing off that precisely accurate shot at the 5 hole – or the same basic thing for basketball players who have to change subtle pressure with they fingers to make accurate shots on a basket? It doesn’t fly with me that ALL gross motor and ALL fine motor is good or bad…

        I’m not disagreeing with you that there will always be SOME ‘fine’ motor skills that are part of this stuff (firearms/empty hand…) just like the ‘fine motor skill’ of operating a mobile device or keyboard if you are under stress is possible because of repetition and practice. There are NO absolutes about things like this. IF ‘gross/fine’ motor was an absolute, then we would never have been able to function under the stress of rock climbing since we were doing some pretty tricky moves at times as well.

        You make an excellent point about the ‘gross/fine’ debate when you mention trigger control as a fine motor skill. But, that may be why there is such a focus on it in the basic levels of training and it so essential to concentrate on at all stages/levels of skill – because it is probably one of the first things to go under stress if you don’t train it repeatedly.

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