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Watching shooters

By now, nearly everyone in the competition side of the shooting world has seen the following video, as have many of us within the self-defense and training side of things. It’s disconcerting to watch, and because it’s disconcerting, it’s tempting to react to it in emotional ways — by getting angry rather than thoughtful, by pulling out our virtual pitchforks to storm the castle and burn the heretics at the stake.

There may be a place for emotional reactions, but I’d like to set those things aside here so that we can really think about what happened. We can explore how it happened, and discuss how we — as shooters, as observers, and as instructors — could prevent something similar happening to us on our ranges and in our clubs. Even if you do not play action shooting games, you’ll find something here that you can use to help keep yourself and the people around you safe.

As I’ve said many times in the past, the only thing worse than a bad mistake, is a bad mistake nobody learns anything from. So let’s learn!

The video

You can also watch the video on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HUzTIKAbI3k

What happened

As you see on the embedded video, a man ended up downrange and in the line of fire during a match. He was apparently picking up brass — you can see the rakelike tool he was using for that, briefly, on the video at 00:31 — and did not realize that the taping crew and observers had all left the bay in preparation for the next shooter. He was completely focused on his task and may not have noticed when the shooter began his run through the stage.

As the shooter and RO come around the vision barrier, the man cries out.

The shooter did an excellent job of stopping — instantly! — as soon as he realized there was a problem. He took his finger off the trigger and immediately lifted the gun to high ready, with the muzzle as far away from the brass picker as he could reasonably get it. He then turns to the RO and asks, “What’s going on?”

The RO tells the shooter to stop, and the shooter thanks the RO.

Some responses

Many people have suggested that the video should have been kept under wraps. “Way to give the antis more ammo!” wrote one angry commenter in an expletive-filled rant on a private forum. Another, in a calmer venue, wrote, “In my opinion posting it for the whole world to see does a disservice to this organization.”

The political fear in these posts is palpable. We’re afraid that “they” are going to take our guns away. Or that local clubs will stop hosting action pistol matches. We’re afraid of the social backlash if non-shooters widely believe that shooting sports could be dangerous rather than simply fun.

It’s an understandable fear. It’s also both irrelevant and unreasonable: irrelvant because the video exists, and unreasonable because the only thing that keeps our shooting sports safe is our ongoing community commitment to learn from rare incidents like this.

The only way to learn from a mistake is to first admit that a mistake was made. This may be a painful truth, but it is a truth.

The lessons

There are five roles we can see people playing in this video: the brass picker, the RO, the assistant, the shooter, and the observers. Each of these roles puts us in a position to prevent the kind of danger we see here. Each of the people we see in these roles on the video did some things exactly right and each also made some mistakes. Let’s take them, one at a time, and put ourselves in each person’s role.

Whups… before we do that, let me handle the human issue here: we aren’t burning the heretic at the stake today. We are putting ourselves in each role because at some point, as members of the firearms community, we are likely to find ourselves in exactly these roles. There’s absolutely nothing that happens on this video that any one of us could not do tomorrow. That’s why we should learn from what happened, today.

The Brass Picker

During a match, many people must go into the bay during the lull between shooters. We go downrange to score targets, tape or reset the targets, and to pick up brass. Picking up brass could technically wait until the match is completely over and all shooting has stopped. Unfortunately, waiting that long would mean that some shooters wouldn’t get their brass back for reloading. “No brass picking during the match” is an unpopular rule, and few embrace it.

In order to play the game at all, we do have to score and reset the targets. This means there’s no way to avoid having people walking into the stage at the end of each run, even if we don’t allow brass picking. The challenge is, how do we make sure that those people have left before we start the next shooter?

We’ll talk about the RO’s responsibilities in a moment. But for us, the people who participate in matches, oberve them or assist with them, it’s very simple indeed: it is 100% our responsibility to get out of the way before the shooting starts.

Whether we went downrange to set targets or for any other reason, it’s completely on us to be aware of what other people are doing. When other people start leaving the area, it’s our job to see them leaving and go with them. If someone else has to remind us that the shooting is about to start, we’ve just ducked our own personal responsibility to protect ourselves.

The Range Safety Officer

Many people have observed — rightly, I believe — that the primary fault for this dangerous situation fell into the lap of the RSO. Here’s what the shooting club said about that:

The primary fault naturally lies with a complacent RO, who did not make the extra effort to verify that the course of fire (with particularly poor visibility) was clear before starting the next shooter. Lesson: don’t pick up the clock unless you are prepared to perform the duties of the RO with the seriousness and thoroughness that the job requires.

Just like firearms instructors, range officers hold a heavy responsibility to keep their people safe. When the job is done well, shooters and bystanders may not even realize just how much work these folks are putting into that job. But make no mistake: it is work, and it does require our full attention while we’re doing it.

There’s a careful procedure I use whenever I work inside a deep bay like this, whether it’s in the context of a class, at a match, or even just informally shooting with friends. Keeping shooters safe is a high-focus task, and because human attention spans are limited, we have to carefully budget our focus while we’re working to be sure we see the right things. This is how I do it.

Because prevention is far better than cure when it comes to group safety, I’m obsessive about clearing the bay after each shooter. When we go into the deep part of the bay to tape or reset targets, I make a conscious effort to be the one standing closest to the berm while we finish that job, and I try to never step toward the open end of the bay ahead of anyone else. I don’t care who it is, or what they’re doing here; if it’s my job to be sure nobody is downrange when the shooting starts, then whenever someone comes into the  bay, I stay either right next to them or between them and the back berm until they leave. That way, I can escort them out and be sure they won’t still be there when the shooting starts.

When we’re done taping or resetting targets, I deliberately look around, glancing behind every target and looking either around or under any vision-blocking props as we leave the bay. This helps me be sure nobody will still be downrange when the shooting starts.

Before I give any commands to the shooter, I  quickly count my ducklings — the squad or students — to be sure all are present. If I come up short for any reason, I ask who’s missing and where they went. If the answers are at all nebulous, I walk back into the bay to be sure nobody got left behind in there.

After I have cleared the bay, primary responsibility for the surroundings shifts to the assistant and my focus shifts to the shooter. This has to happen because keeping people safe is a high-focus task and it’s impossible to do it very well when your attention is divided. This is why most matches have both an RO and an assistant RO on every stage. Nobody can see it all!

As the shooter loads and makes ready, I watch his (her) hands. Not interested in the targets anymore at this point, because I know they’re clear and won’t move. But I’m going to watch the trigger finger to see how it behaves, the muzzle to stay in safe directions within the rules of the game we’re playing, and the shooter’s general body language so that I can anticipate times I may need to step in and grab for a drifting muzzle.

Whenever we do the job of the range safety officer, it is 100% our responsibility to make sure the range is clear before the shooting starts.

The Assistant

The assistant’s primary job is to keep general awareness on the surrounding environment, which includes being sure that the group stays where they were told to stay. It’s the assistant’s responsibility to see and stop morons who walk over the top of the berm to get a good picture, idiots who remove their protective eyewear to scratch an itch, and nincompoops who pull off their ear protection for whatever reason. The assistant will also be running the clipboard, but they’d better not be watching the shooter, except maybe for keeping an eye out for the shooter’s  foot faults in cover (if that’s within the game rules).

The RO will very likely not see any of the things the assistant must watch, because the RO’s full attention will focus on the shooter’s hands from the moment the shooter begins handling the firearm. Both the RO and the assistant need to be ready to call CEASEFIRE at any time. But we don’t have the same spheres of responsibility. By dividing our tasks, we’re better prepared to see potential problems before any danger develops.

Whenever we work as an assistant safety officer, it is 100% our responsibility to make sure the range stays clear after the shooting starts.

The Spectator

At shooting events like this, there are always spectators. In this case, one of the spectators had a video camera and that’s why you and I (who weren’t at the match) are aware of what happened.

But what about the people who were at the match? When we are at a match, not shooting and not working as an RO, is there anything we can do to help the people around us stay safe?

There sure is! We should keep our eyes up and speak up if we see something wrong. As much as possible, we should keep our attention focused on what’s happening inside the stage. Not only will this help prevent similiar incidents to the one we see in the video, it also helps us be sure we aren’t caught with our hearing protection down around our necks and our eye protection resting on the brim of our ballcaps when the shooting starts.

As spectators, it is 100% our responsibility to alert range staff and shooters whenever we see an unsafe condition happening, or about to happen, on the range.

The Shooter

In many ways, the shooter was the hero in this piece. If you’ve never played an action shooting game, you may not realize just how many different piece of information bombard the shooters’ brains — all at the same time! — while we’re shooting a stage. Keeping track of all those details takes our full attention, and there’s not a lot of room for unexpected information coming in. We’re also often fully adrenalized, which makes it easier to react and harder to think.

This shooter did very well in how he responded to the unexpected presence of a live person where a person was definitely not supposed to be. He deserves full kudos for that.

Let’s talk about something that could and should have happened before the shooting started, though. Every time we pick up a gun — for any reason whatsoever including just playing a game with our friends — we know that we’ll be held accountable for where our bullets land.

When we shoot a high-focus game, it’s good to have safety officers and squad mates we can trust to do their jobs, but even the most trustworthy associates cannot take full responsibility for where our bullets land when we’re the ones holding the gun. It will be our legal, emotional, and financial nightmare if one of our bullets hits someone. That’s the grim reality and there’s no erasing it.

That’s why, even inside the context of a game or class where we have a supervising safety officer, it’s still important for us as shooters to glance underneath the vision barriers before we step into the shooting box. That quick look can tell us immediately if there are any human legs mixed in among the target stands inside the bay, and can prevent this kind of close call.

When the rules of the game or the setup of the stage don’t allow us to make that quick glance, as shooters we know we’ll be completely at the mercy of the RO and assistant to do their jobs. That makes it even more important that when we’re on deck, we watch the procedures as they clear the range for us. We should be aware of what the other shooters on the squad are doing, and we should notice if anyone in our group wanders off. Focusing on stage strategies shouldn’t stop us from noticing whether everyone has come out of the bay before we begin shooting.

As shooters, it is 100% our responsibility to make sure nobody is standing in the area where we are about to shoot.

Personal Responsibility

Shooting sports remain among the safest sports we can play, with an injury record far below that of most of most other competitive outdoor games. The reason this is true is that people within the firearms community, by and large, embrace the concept of personal responsibility for our actions. We know that safety isn’t “everyone’s” job; it is the job of each one of us, individually and personally.

We also know that our community will stay safe as long as each one of us does the job we need to do to help keep our events safe. When one of us fails our own responsibility, we know we have an army of others prepared to step in and take up the slack. This shared commitment to safety is one of the most beautiful things about the firearms community.

That’s why close calls like this are rare, and it’s also why we work so hard to learn from them. Whether it’s at a formal match or class, or simply playing with friends on the range on a sunny afternoon, shooters and spectators must embrace their own personal responsibilities. It’s how we keep each other safe.

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Power

A few days ago, Rory Miller posted some thoughts on power. It’ll be fascinating to see where he goes with it; the seeds so far look very promising and you should probably go read his post for yourself.

Because, like my friend Tamara, I hate using good material only at away games, I decided to share with you something I said in Rory’s comments section:

Looking back through my notes from a class I took 7 years ago and (thought I) had long since forgotten, I’d jotted down a verbatim quote from one of the other students in the class. It must have resonated with me at the time because it made it into my notes.

But I don’t remember it.

I have no conscious memory of that segment of the class. No idea who said it, even — just the little squiggle next to the words, that indicated it was a fellow student and not the instructor.

That student had power. He or she changed my life. And I know this, because I’ve been using that idea, in those exact words, for the past two or three years at least, as I’ve taught others.

Lots of weird permutations there. I wonder how much of who I am today, I owe to people I don’t even remember. Every idea I’ve ever had came from somewhere — where?

We have the power to change the world. And most of us don’t even notice when we have.

Thinking about this today in the context of teaching others, because I’ll have many opportunties this year to teach other teachers. There’s the Cornered Cat Instructor Development Class coming up in June here in the Pacific Northwest, which should be a lot of fun and a bit of a challenge for all involved. Before that, I’ll be down in Texas for the AG&AG Conference where I’ll have a chance to work with many of the group leaders and chapter facilitators for that organization. This is in addition to the usual round of working with students (many of whom are also instructors) and with my own assistants and apprentices.

Massad Ayoob speaks of teaching as having an ‘oil stain’ effect — when you plink a single  drop of oil into a puddle of water, that oil will spread around and change the nature of everything the water touches. That’s power.

To me, one of the most important components of instructor development is helping new teachers understand their own tremendous power and embrace the responsibility that goes with it. Most of us really aren’t 100% comfortable with having power, with having the ability to change the world for good or bad. So we retreat into denial and reject the responsibility we should be embracing.

“We” means… me. I do that. It’s more comfortable to think “no one listens to me anyway” than it is to measure thoughts, weigh words, think about the potential effects before I throw something out into the world.

What about you? What parts of your own power scare you — and why?

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Taking care of others

One of the challenges perennially faced by firearms instructors everywhere: convincing family-minded people that investing in professional training classes for themselves is not a selfish use of family resources. In fact, it’s one of the least selfish things you can do.

Is it selfish to get the skills it takes to protect your family?

Learning to protect yourself and the people you love is one of the least selfish things you can do for your family.

It’s a hard sell, because people who teach defensive handgun classes have traditionally emphasized self defense in their advertising. We talk a lot about being prepared to take care of yourself if the need arises. And it’s true that if you ever need to solve a criminal problem, you are the only person that you know for absolute sure-and-certain will be there and on your side.

But that’s not all there is to it.

If you’re anything like me or most people in this world, you have family members, close friends, people you love, people you care about and spend time with. So maybe you won’t be alone when trouble strikes. Maybe there will be other people there with you — a spouse or a significant other, a grown son, a teenage daughter, a best friend or a favorite niece.

  • Are your skills good enough to protect the people you love?
  • Is someone you love willing to protect you — but you aren’t sure you would know how to help them do it?
  • Do your younger loved ones know what to do to help you solve the problem if the unthinkable happens when you are together?
  • Do you know how to help the people you love learn to protect themselves, so that you are all better prepared to take care of each other?

It’s worth thinking about.

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I have a dream

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the gun-owning world and about my place inside that world. I’ve thought about the gun owners I’ve met at the range and the students I’ve met in class. I’ve thought about the people behind the counter at the gun stores and the people you run into at gun shows and shooting events. I’ve thought about the competitors, the trainers, the hunters, and the regular people who just enjoy plinking on a Saturday afternoon. And I’ve thought about what brings all these people together into one subculture.

It turns out, one core principle drives everything I do: I want to change the way we approach gun ownership in America in some very specific ways. Toward that end, today I’m starting a new series of blog posts: the “I have a dream…” series. It’s about gun culture – what’s good and beautiful about it, and what we need to celebrate, and what we need to change to make it even better. I hope you’ll enjoy reading this series as much as I enjoy writing it.

***

Just after Christmas, my friend and fellow firearms trainer Greg Ellifritz posted a wonderful, heart-warming story about a woman he met at the range one evening. Greg writes:

I find out she’s a single mom with two kids. Her house has been broken into three times in the last two months. The last burglary attempt occurred while she was in the house with her kids. She has never shot a gun, but she recognized that she had a duty to protect her family. She went to a gun show and bought a Jimenez Arms JA-9.

… She tells me that she has a bad feeling that the robbers are coming back tonight to get the x-mas presents she bought for her kids. She doesn’t know anything about guns and doesn’t know anyone who can teach her. She’s signed up for a CCW class, but no one teaches classes on the week of Christmas and she can’t find an opening until January. The problem is that she thinks the robbers are coming TONIGHT. A January class isn’t going to help.

… That’s why she was there by herself at the shooting range. It didn’t matter that she was by herself, that she was the only woman in the room, or that she knew nothing about guns. She had babies to protect and was going to figure out how to do it, come hell or high water.

Read the whole thing. Of course Greg stepped in to help her. The challenge: in exactly one hour, show a brand new gun owner how to use her gun so that she is better prepared to deal with an immediate challenge to her safety and her family’s safety. Could you do it?

Thinking about Greg’s story, I have a dream.

I dream that one day, every woman who goes to the gun range in time of need will meet a person there who has both the willingness and the skills to teach her what she immediately need to know, with the expectation that she will in time be prepared to turn around and help spread that knowledge to others.

Right now, we can celebrate that there are so many truly Good Guys (and gals!) at every range, people who’d be happy to help others learn. But right now, most of those Good Guys do not have the skills to get someone else up to speed in the most critical basics for self defense. Those who come in the range in time of crisis won’t often run into someone with that expertise unless we – as ordinary people, as shooters, as formal or informal instructors – work hard to learn what we need to know.

We can be the change we want to see in this world.

That’s my dream. What’s yours?

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Speed and accuracy with small guns

Back when I was editing CCM, Karl Rehn wrote an excellent article titled, “Is a Pocket Gun Enough?” In it, he discussed many of the common experiences people have with little guns and some of the concerns people express about them (caliber, accuracy, capacity, shootability). It’s worth reading in its entirety, but one of the more fascinating things he did was that he ran a bunch of people through the same shooting test. Each person took the test twice: once with a full-size gun, and once with a pocket pistol.

He tested three groups of people:

  • new, inexperienced, and untrained shooters
  • intermediate shooters who had taken classes
  • highly skilled shooters

Rehn considers a score of 90 to be a passing grade on this test.

What Rehn found was that shooters who were not highly skilled — this would include long-time shooters who had taken no classes other than the basic carry permit class — gave up a LOT of skill when they moved to smaller guns. He also found that well-trained shooters could move down to the small guns with very little loss of skill.

Here’s the data:

"BUG" means "backup gun." These would be the small guns people shot for the test.

“BUG” means “backup gun.” These would be relatively small guns, appropriate for pocket carry or (in most cases) for wearing in a bra holster.

 

Note that the trained shooters did twice as well on the skills test as the untrained ones. It wasn’t a minor difference.

Bottom line is, learn to be a good shooter. This includes taking professional training classes that help you build your gunhandling skills to the point of automaticity, and practicing those skills on a regular basis. Then you can choose the most convenient gun to carry without giving up anything on the achievement side of the bargain.

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Practice time

While the rest of the country remains locked in the grip of the Winter That Never Ends, the weather here in the Pacific Northwest has been unseasonably mild — so much so, that the daffodils are blooming, the cherry trees are in full bloom, and my youngest son keeps wandering around the house in shorts and flipflops without so much as a glance at the calendar. It’s not normal for us to get even a few days of consecutive sunshine this time of year, and yet for the past few weeks our porch kitty has been drowsing in the sun every afternoon. Weird.

Dot Torture target with one dropped shot on Dot 8, the weak hand only drill.

Dot Torture target with one dropped shot on Dot 8, the weak hand only drill.

So of course yesterday afternoon found me at the range with a buddy. First we shot Dot Torture drills at 7 yards. Those are always humbling, and sometimes annoying. My inner perfectionist (who is a whiny little child) hates DT drills like the whiny little child she is. My grownup self enjoys the challenge, but I always have to stifle the urge to cry for a Mulligan with the first dropped shot.

And yes, there’s nearly always a dropped shot.

That’s because the goal is continuous improvement. You first shoot the entire DT course of fire from 3 yards, untimed, until you can do it perfectly. That might take months of regular practice. Because it requires your full concentration, it’s a surprisingly tough course of fire even at close ranges. Once you can do it perfectly at one distance, you either move farther away from the target or you add some time stress. Or both. It’s a deceptively simple series of exercises, and if you use it regularly you’ll always find yourself being stretched as a shooter.

For the skills covered and the trigger control required, I believe Dot Torture is one of the best practice time investments you can make in 50 rounds. The drill forces you to run through your basic gunhandling and requires excellent marksmanship out of the holster, after a reload, transitioning between targets, single handed with either hand… you get the idea. It’s not just marksmanship, but marksmanship skills performed in context. Some people can’t ever seem to hit the target after a reload, for example. Dot Torture helps prevent that problem or cure it. It’s also a very restful high-concentration routine that forces your mind into the here and now, like some types of yoga.

But my inner perfectionist still hates it.

When we finished our DT workout, we shifted over to the moving targets. The system we use runs the targets on a side-to-side track at varying speeds. We set it up to run a single IDPA target between two barrels set roughly ten feet apart, so that the target would take roughly two seconds to cover the distance between the barrels. We worked out of the holster at 7 yards, to get two shots into the center circle every time the target ran between the barrels.

Target shot on the moving target system from 7 yards.

Target shot on the moving target system from 7 yards.

My first run — which I shot from the holster but without a cover garment — exposed a nasty little flinch problem. You can see the tape over the dropped shot on the outer edge of the -1 zone in the lower left, though I’d rather you didn’t. Two or three runs later, I’d settled down and was getting nearly all my hits in the center circle, which felt nice.

It turns out that watching the front sight and pressing the trigger smoothly really help you hit your target even when it’s moving.

When my turn rolled around again, I put my cover shirt on and worked my draw from concealment. Still plenty of time for a good draw and two smooth presses of the trigger on that moving target, but no time for fumbles or bumbles during the process.

Toward the end, we changed the procedure so we could work on the “trapping” technique for moving targets. With this technique, you simply put your sights over the place where you know the target will appear, and remain unmoving until the target gets there. You must fire a single shot at the exact moment the sights are aligned in the center of the target, before the target moves out of your view.

The trapping drill on moving targets really exposes flinch and trigger mash problems, since it forces you to press the trigger Right Now when the target appears in front of your sights. But it’s very satisfying when you nail it.

Altogether, we each ran through around 100 rounds and walked off the range with smiles. It was a good day.

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Update on ATF’s proposed 5.56 ammo ban

ATF announced today that it will not move forward — at this time! — with its proposed ban of the popular M855 “green tip” ammunition used primarily in AR15 style guns. That decision was driven by the record number of comments it has already received about the issue. More than 80,000 comments came in, and the vast majority of those were against the proposed ban.

The ATF will continue to accept comments through March 16, and it’s still a good idea to contact your politicians about the big picture issues discussed here. You can find contact information for your Senators here and your Representative here.

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It’s not what you think

The skills taught in professional defensive handgun classes sometimes surprise new students. There’s this tendency to think of it as a “shooting class,” and certainly marksmanship remains one of the building blocks to using a handgun for effective self defense.

Shooting well is a good thing. It isn't the only thing.

Shooting well is a good thing. It isn’t the only thing.

But plain marksmanship, as important as it may be, isn’t the only skill taught in good classes. Defensive classes teach students to shoot within the larger context of self defense, which creates the need to cover a much wider and deeper set of skills than simply pulling the trigger.

In addition to simple shooting and smooth gunhandling, serious defensive handgun classes usually offer other important lessons, such as how to build a legally-defensible survival mindset or how to deal with the physical sensations of sudden stress. They might discuss the interpersonal skills that go with avoidance, de-escalation and deterrence. They may teach pre-incident threat management and what to do in the immediate aftermath of a shooting, or how to spot (and thus avoid) a predator looking for a fresh victim. They often teach crisis management and how to solve problems with the gun in hand. They might teach related physical skills, such as how to retain the handgun if the criminal tries to take it away, or what to do if you’re trying to draw the gun in very close quarters. They sometimes throw students into role-playing scenarios to force the students to put their own shooting skills into a realistic defensivce context.

In short, it’s a big field with a lot of closely-related subspecialties.

Well-rounded schools

To quote longtime defensive firearms trainer John Farnam, “The best schools are well-rounded. Our Art embraces an extensive repertoire of psycho-motor skills, verbal skills, and disengagement skills, along with a sound philosophical overlay, all of which must to carefully integrated. Some of the material is dry, but it is still important and must be included.” Farnam also notes that in his own gun courses, “we do a lot of shooting, of course. But, aggressive verbal and postural disengagement are also critical skills and must be learned and exercised in scenario-based drills every time we’re [on] the Range practicing our shooting skills. In this life, you’re going to talk with a lot more people than you’re going to shoot… with any luck!”

Farnam’s outlook is shared by other professional defensive firearm trainers. Almost universally, the pros regard the non-shooting portions of their programs to be at least as important as, or even more important than, pure shooting skills.

Where do you find them?

These necessary danger management skills may be taught, to one degree or another, in nearly all professional defensive firearms classes. But you certainly won’t find them in “this is the end the bullet comes out” classes intended for beginners, nor in pure shooting classes intended for competitive shooters. They only really show up in defensive firearms classes intended for ordinary citizens. 1

Quite apart from any specific, individual skill they might learn, students walk out of this type of class with a firm understanding of what they don’t yet know and what they can’t yet do. That’s a tricky thing to teach (because confidence is a good thing), but it’s absolutely vital. The self-knowledge that says, “I’ve thought this through, and I’m willing to live with doing This but not That,” or that says, “I do not yet have the skills to do This, but I am able to do That” — that type of self knowledge can keep good people out of a world of hurt. It makes it less likely that you’ll jump into inappropriate situations, and more likely that you’ll survive when you fight back in appropriate ones.

But it all starts with understanding that defensive firearms skills are not the same thing as shooting cardboard targets at the range, not the same thing as playing fun and useful shooting sports games, not the same thing as imitating military and law enforcement tactics. Classes designed to teach defensive firearms skills might have some elements in common with any of those, but they also go far beyond that into life skills that aren’t offered in any of the other venues.

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Footnotes

  1. The best value in such classes comes from trainers who deliberately and consciously avoid teaching from either a law enforcement or a military mindset, and instead focus on the tactics and survival rules an ordinary person should follow to tip their odds toward the best possible outcome. Even though many good instructors have such a background on their resume, that background should not form the mindset taught in class to non-LEO, non-military students. See Context Matters for more about that.
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