Record numbers of new shooters combined with a HUGE number of firearms instructors with combat experience have created an explosion in firearms training.
In almost all cases, the schools are delivering great instruction.
But most students leaving these classes are buying into one, two, or three of the following gun training myths…even though the instructors don’t believe in these myths and don’t want their students to fall for them either.
This is important, regardless of whether you’re an instructor or whether you’ve trained with an instructor in the past, plan on doing so at some point in the future, or just plan on doing your own things with tips you pick up online, on books, or on DVDs.
Training Is Practice
I want to start off by saying that I’m a big fan of live firearms training. I’ve been to dozens of classes with dozens of high-speed instructors over the years and even the “mediocre” classes were great experiences and this is not a criticism of firearms instructors at all. They’re given the almost impossible task of conveying a lifetime of instruction, practice, and experience into as short of a class as possible at a price that students can afford.
With that out of the way, myth #1 is that firearms training is equivalent to practice. It’s not.
Training: Where a student is taught how to do something by an instructor.
Practice: Where a student repeats what they’ve been trained to do until they can do it automatically, or without thought. It becomes a conditioned response that bypasses the parts of the brain that are most paralyzed in extreme stress situations.
Training is when you watch proper technique and try to duplicate it until the instructor says, “you’ve got it” and you move to learning the next technique.
Practice is when you repeat that perfect form at various speeds, consciously paying attention to every detail, until one day you wake up and realize that you can do it perfectly, automatically, and FAST, without having to think about it.
Training is what most civilian and law enforcement shooters do.
Practice is what elite SWAT units, military units, and competitive shooters who consistently win do.
When shooters are looking for a firearms class to go to, most want to get as much training as possible for their time and money, so they look for the class with the most credible instructor who’s covering the most “cool stuff” in as few days as possible. (This is a false economy but that’s a conversation for another day)
Instructors, on the other hand, know that they may only have one shot with a student and the student may live or die based on the information they’re taught. It’s a heavy burden that causes instructors to try to cram as much information and training as possible into the limited class time that they have. I get it. I appreciate it. But it’s not practice; it’s not how most instructors learned and became good; and it’s not a good long term solution for students.
This approach may get students performing to a given standard during the class, but it won’t “stick” without repetition. Most experts agree that students will lose 60-80% of the benefit of what they learned within a few short weeks without frequent and timely practice after the initial instruction.
Practice is truly the single biggest missing ingredient in modern firearms training. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m pretty passionate about it. That’s why I co-wrote Tactical Firearms Training Secrets, co-created Dry Fire Training Cards, and 21 Day Alpha Shooter work closely with Matt Seibert in promoting Insight Firearms Training’s Deadly Accuracy Course, helped former Force Recon Marine, Chris Graham, launch 30-10Pistol, and helped Retired Navy SEAL, Larry Yatch, launch Concealed Carry Masters Course.
We want to revolutionize firearms training and take it from a model where the focus is on getting students to be able to perform by the end of the class to a model where firearms instructors not only get students to perform in class, but focus on teaching students how to practice properly, after the training, so that they can get the full benefit of the training that they paid for.
In the meantime, here’s what you can do as a student.
When you’re taking a class and taking notes, constantly ask yourself, “What points do I need to write down so I can practice this properly when I get home?”
At the end of a class, in addition to having notes of facts, figures, and how-to’s, you should also have specific drills to do that are based on what you learned in the class. Some of them should be dry fire drills and some should be live fire drills, but ALL of them should be ones that you can shut your eyes and rehearse in your mind.
Again, the sooner you start this practice after your training and the more frequently you do it, the more long term benefit you’ll get from the training.
All Gun, All The Time
Most shooters go to firearms classes to get trigger time in, to shoot better, and/or to learn and practice tactics. As a result, that’s the kind of classes that are mostly offered.
And an increasing number of defensive shooting classes teach a little bit of situational awareness, deterrence, and disengagement, but the vast majority of the class is still focused on the gun because that’s what students demand.
Again, I get it. I love guns. I love gun stories. I love learning about guns. I love shooting. But my day has gone incredibly bad if I ever have to fire my gun in self defense.
One of the sayings I keep in my head is:
“An Ounce of Deterrence Is Worth a Pound of Lead”
And, I have to add in situational awareness and disengagement to deterrence.
Sun Tzu may have said it better, “The greatest victory is that which requires no battle.”
Regardless, if you can avoid conflicts with pre-fight skills, then hopefully you may never have to find out whether your gun skills are adequate or not.
You probably realized this, but the skill of being able to avoid and deter confrontation becomes more and more valuable as you get older. It may not be as sexy as gun play, but you get to use it a lot more and it might save you from a conflict escalating to where you have to use your gun at all.
How can you practice this?
1. Every day, watch people and situations. Study them. Evaluate the people around you and your surroundings to get a general feel for how safe or unsafe you are. Then, BE COMFORTABLE LEAVING situations when things start getting hairy. Click >HERE< for a systematic proven approach for this.
2. As you find yourself in disagreements and conflicts, begin the practice of disciplining yourself to add water to the fire, rather than fuel.
3. In disagreements, step back mentally while they’re happening and “take the temperature” of both yourself and the other person. Pay attention to the impact of the words you use, the volume, and your body language. And be prepared to physically leave and regroup if one or both of you can’t calm down or you run out of verbal tools to calm things down.
The 21 Foot Rule
Two fundamentals of fighting that have been around for thousands of years are:
1. Use deception.
2. Close distance before surprising and engaging your opponent.
Bad guys know these rules…and they use them.
While we’re practicing being in our lane at the range, squaring up to a target 10, 11, or 21 feet away and drawing and engaging from the holster, bad guys in real life approach from the side or behind and hide their true intent until they’re too close for you react when they finally expose their intent.
Don’t get me wrong…many bad guys are dumb as a box of rocks. And I thank God for them. They expose their intent from a distance or are dumbfounded when their “victim” turns the table on them.
But I don’t want the effectiveness of my training to depend on an attacker being from the shallow end of the gene pool. You want your training to reflect reality…not just a best case scenario.
“If you learn “indoor” techniques, you will think narrowly and forget the true Way. Thus you will have difficulty in actual encounters.”
Miyamoto Musashi, “The Book of 5 Rings”
It’s definitely OK to practice shooting at targets on a one-way range at set distances. It’s a great way to develop fundamental skills.
But make sure that you also practice responding to threats to your right side, left side, and behind you. What would you do if you were 2 feet away from someone who pulled a knife on you? Would you bet that he won’t stab you while you take 1-4 seconds to get a concealed gun into the fight? I wouldn’t. There’s no one right answer to this question, but there are definitely some wrong answers and there are some answers that are more effective than others.
When you get a response, test it out with a training partner and an inert training platform. If it works, practice it until it’s automatic. If it doesn’t work, try something else.
And, I would deserve a trip behind the wood shed if I didn’t give you a one-stop answer to an incredibly effective way to address these three training myths in the comfort of your own home, for a fraction of the cost of the live training equivalent.
Photo courtesy of Travis Pike