Teaching students how to shoot well and how to manipulate the gun is only the beginning of defensive handgun training. But many people treat it is though it were the entire goal of training – the end point which, once reached, means the student has nothing more to learn. Maybe a bit of regular practice, but that’s about it.
Of course, you and I know that’s not true. We know that teaching students to shoot and handle the gun only paves the way for them to learn the essential skills of self defense, in the same way that learning to walk prepares a child to play hide’n seek, or jump rope, or walk into the kitchen and take out the trash. The kid learns to walk so they can do all the other things they want or need to do in the world. Walking isn’t the goal in itself, just the first (and truly needed) step in the right direction.
How would it be if, when we taught a child to walk, we never encouraged or allowed them to move on to those other applications?
What if we never showed a child what their ability to walk could be used for? Never showed them how to run, or kick, or jump, or climb a tree? Would it help a child’s ultimate independence and ability to do those other things if instead of doing those things with them, we kept the kid in a perpetual state of improving their skill at walking? If we measured and categorized every step they took, telling them all the different ways they could improve their walking performance? “Kiddo, look, your step-to-step times can be improved if we just eliminate a little wasted motion right at the top of that left leg swing…” We might even put together little contests for them with their other friends, where we tightly scripted and carefully measured their walking skills, with stages that emphasized foot flexion, leg extension, stride length, being able to balance on one leg or the other, and so on.
In many ways, that’s what a lot of trainers do with their students. Instead of helping their students see the vast world of application that naturally follows from learning to shoot well and handle the gun safely, they and their students get stuck chasing incremental improvements in the base skill set. Split times and reload speeds fill their world. Meeting and exceeding the standards designed to measure technical performance becomes more important than learning how to solve the problems the skill set enables them to now solve. Learning to walk has become an end in itself.
Others make the opposite mistake, and fail to teach their people how to walk before encouraging them to run, play hopscotch, or jump on a trampoline. If the kid hasn’t even learned to walk yet, it’s really hard to get them engaged in a good game of tag. In the same way, a student who hasn’t learned to handle the gun safely on a static range is unlikely to handle it with safe efficiency during a violent encounter. A person who cannot reliably hit a eight-inch circle on unmoving cardboard at five yards isn’t likely to do any better when the target moves, talks, and violently assaults the innocent. Learning the basic skill set forms a critical foundation to doing those other things.
And doing those other things is the point.
Both are needed, of course. Help the kid learn to walk, then teach them how to apply that skill to the other things they want to do. Get the students shooting effectively and handling their guns safely, then show them how to apply those skills to a much wider world.
Learning to shoot well and handle the gun safely opens up the world so you can learn how to defend yourself. It’s not the goal in itself.