The Cornered Cat
Different Domains

Not long ago, I came across an online video from a well-known trainer, someone I respect, who said some very important and true things.

He said that for ordinary people looking for training in firearms-based self defense, there’s little sense in seeking out instructors who have a military background. He pointed out that even though many excellent handgun instructors have been in the military, there’s very little experience in the military that directly applies to the ordinary person who intends to carry a handgun for self-defense.

Regardless of the branch, he said, very few members of the military use handguns at all, and of those that do, they rarely consider a handgun as the primary weapon system. He added that the rules of engagement between military and civilian gun use differ widely, and so do the expected situations where handguns might come into use. This means, he said, that an effective and good military mindset might in fact be a dangerous and perhaps illegal mindset for a civilian who carries a handgun.

So far, so good, I suppose.

Then he went on to say that ordinary citizens who want good defensive handgun training from an experienced source should instead attend classes taught by law enforcement professionals.

And that’s where he lost me.

He lost me because there is as wide a gap between law enforcement experience and ordinary citizen needs, as there is between military experience and ordinary citizen needs. Even though many excellent handgun instructors have spent time in law enforcement, there’s very little experience in law enforcement that directly applies to the needs of the ordinary person who wants to carry a handgun for self defense.

Military, law enforcement, ordinary citizen. These are three different domains, with different potential problems and different rules for solving those problems.

7 Responses to Different Domains

  1. larryarnold says:


    Add to the different LEO/CHL experience required the fact that many LE firearm instructors, unless they work at an academy, spend their time recertifying officers, and seldom teach beginning shooters.

  2. Willkirby says:

    I served 9 years in the US Navy and the only time I was allowed to even hold a sidearm was in boot camp for shooting qualification.

    An LEO’s job description regarding firearm use has at least one key element that citizen self defense doesn’t, and that’s OFFENSIVE tactics.

    LEOs are required to be proactive and to walk in the direction of danger.

    I admire their dedication and sacrifice, but teaching me that part of their skill set isn’t going to do me much good.

    Thank you.

  3. Fred says:

    First off, anybody who says that a mindset is illegal, is a tyrant. I get what the person meant; if a self-defense shooter says, during a phase of investigation, that they treat everyone as a potential enemy and every avenue as a threat vector, then that would certainly get some attention. Speaking of military, I swore an oath that I would fight to the death against those that would seek to control. Ideas like “illegal mindset” catch my attention. I do completely agree with the greater thought of your well known trainer friend.
    If you want training in the use of an AR platform as a primary battle rifle, then go with .mil trainers perhaps. Some want this training even if it’s only to play commando on an odd weekend or two. Hey, it’s America, good for them, and better trained than not.
    One place where law enforcement as instructor would be useful is in threat recognition. Part of situational awareness is to recognize the look, demeanor, and characteristics of criminal behavior. This would be classroom though, for the purposes of recognizing that person type. Yes it’s profiling, and when it is not used in the absence of a crime being witnessed, it is, in fact, the entire job of being law enforcement.
    Even with my background I did prefer some training that I received from a prior state cop over some I have had with DoD guys. The grocery store is a much different environment than the battlefield.
    I have not had training from a civvie but I do read Cornered Cat and would love to learn from you or your friend.

    • Kathy Jackson says:

      My apologies; I paraphrased what my friend said and probably botched it up.

      An “illegal mindset” is just shorthand for “having a habit of holding bad ideas in your mind that would be against the law if you were to do them.”

      Further (and this is where it gets sticky), most people don’t realize that the defendant’s motives (eg, mindset) for acting as they did are indeed relevant in criminal trials where self-defense has been raised as a legal defense to the charges. This makes it all the more critical that we who are interested in self-defense do guard our own mindsets, to be sure that both our actions and our motivations will remain on the proper side of the law.

      • Fred says:

        “…most people don’t realize that the defendant’s motives (eg, mindset) for acting as they did are indeed relevant…”

        Precisely. Interesting post. Thanks.

  4. Drang says:

    As a retired NCO I often — like, always — tell people that just because their neighbor, co-worker, that guy at church, etc., was in the military, or is/was a cop for that matter, doesn’t mean they are particularly knowledgeable about guns or able to advise/instruct them.

    In my own experience, I can affirm that even though I was issued a pistol as a sidearm during several of my assignments, the Army never showed any particular interest in teaching me how to use it beyond the minimum qualification. Perhaps if I’d been an operational operator operating on operations, but being an MI Geek turns out to be much less interesting than a James Bond or Tom Clancy movie might lead one to believe.

    OTOH, the Army did teach me to train people. As an NRA Instructor my training plan doesn’t involve transport to the range or meals for a battalion, but I think I do a pretty good job of presenting the material in a way that the students connect to. Part of that is recognizing when to rephrase the material, not to mention when to forestall digressions into dangerous territory.(Students in NRA basic classes often present “what ifs” that can go places we shouldn’t, not to mention the possibility of the instructors getting carried away…)

    Which is not to say that everyone with a DD214 is necessarily qualified to teach a Home Firearms Safety class. On the other hand, a DD214 hardly disqualifies one, either.

    Nor do a badge and LEO credentials necessarily mean that one has the background to train people, not to mention that it is a sad fact that few police officers really understand the law as well as they think they do. (Mrs. Drang and I once assisted our local PD teach a Refuse To Be A Victim class, and the Police Officer in charge flat out referred questions about concealed carry to me. Too bad he retired a month later…)

  5. larryarnold says:

    not to mention that it is a sad fact that few police officers really understand the law as well as they think they do

    I somewhat agree, but (to defend LEOs) there’s a reason for that. Cops out on the street need to know all of the laws they are called on to enforce, as amended by the latest legislation. Everything from whether you have to make a right turn at an intersection into the right-hand traffic lane, to the age at which robbery becomes aggravated robbery of the elderly. That’s just a whole lot of laws.

    CHLs, OTOH, mainly need weapons law on where we can’t carry and justification of use of force. So we tend to have a deeper understanding about our limited sections of the law than cops do. And that’s aggravated by the fact that CHLs are overwhelmingly law-abiding, and therefore LEOs don’t get much practice enforcing legal carry laws.

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