It seems that every time I turn around, I get an e-mail or Facebook message from some new training company that claims to be the next, best thing. If I may, I wish to briefly pontificate on firearms training.
First, I think that a lot of the training in the industry is more akin to a working dude ranch than it is about teaching life saving skills for the average citizen. While it might be neat to spend the weekend with a former Tier A-Number-One Boom-Boom Operator™ and kick in plywood doors on a shoot house, recognize it for what it is: a fun time.
The probability of the average citizen ever “kitting up” and “stacking bodies” is about as high as getting hit by a meteor. That kind of training can be fun, but don’t think it is the most efficient way of gaining life saving skills unless you are going to far away lands and doing things you can’t talk about. As my friend Grant Cunningham recently wrote about training: context is everything.
Secondly, just because an instructor was an Army Ranger/Navy SEAL/SWAT cop doesn’t mean he or she can (1) teach or (2) understand the dynamics of a civilian self defense shooting. A few do, but in my experience, many do not. They are good at what they did, but they may not be good at teaching you the skills you need.
Something else to keep in mind: the legal issues around carrying and using a gun should be your primary concern. Too many gun owners rely on internet forums, some guy at a gun shop or “muh daddy always sed” as their source of legal advice. This is a good strategy for winding up on the wrong side of the law.
#ProTip: Most “get your CCW permit” instruction is not adequate training when it comes to lethal force.
There are a few good instructors out there on legal topics – but far too few when compared to the number of people teaching you how to shoot. If you don’t know when to shoot, you really don’t need to worry about how to shoot.
As far as prioritizing your life saving skills, why not spend some time working on your first aid knowledge? You are far more likely to need to know CPR, the Heimlich or how to apply a tourniquet than how to shoot another human being. All of the high speed, low drag classes in the world won’t help you when your daughter is choking on a hotdog or your spouse goes into cardiac arrest.
Lastly, training is an ongoing process. Showing up to one class and never following up with realistic practice and additional courses is not a winning strategy. Target shooting at the range is ok for keeping basic handling skills fresh, but nothing replaces time with an instructor in an environment where movement, drawing from concealment and other skills can be honed.
A lot of people are quick to point out the inadequate training cops get and the resulting dismal results – but police officers likely get more training than most gun owners. (Readers here may be different, but you represent a very small slice of the gun owning community.)
Every department is different, but unless you go through a minimum of two range qualifications, a refresher on use of force law, and some type of force on force and/or judgement training every year, you are behind what the average cop gets. You’ve read the hit stats for police officers – where do you think yours would be? Better or worse?
Your opinions may differ from mine, and that is fine. I’m not going to tell you who you should train with, that’s only a decision you can make. But, I do recommend you spend a little time researching the person or company you want to train with and make sure they are teaching realistic skills for your lifestyle. You are investing your cash and time – make sure you are getting the skills you need.
(Note: Thanks to Paul Carlson of the Safety Solutions Academy for allowing me to photograph several of his classes.)