Recently, I had a conversation with a gun owning friend that I think of as being a “typical” gun owner. He has no specific training, but goes to the range on occasion and is safety conscious. However, he doesn’t carry, and in fact does not yet even own a holster. I mentioned (again) the need for him to get some formal training beyond his pistol permit class and what I’ve shown him and he asked what he would learn in such a class. He was not questioning the value of such training, but more what he would learn and why it was relevant. My answer dealt mainly with the fundamentals of marksmanship and defensive use of the pistol. In short, how to run his pistol with confidence and competence. Now, I’m not an instructor, but I am of the opinion that his shooting ability and knowledge would be significantly enhanced by a formal class. As it is, the training I refer to is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to employing a gun for self defense.
In a similar vein, I just finished listening to an episode of the Safety Solutions Academy Podcast with Paul Carlson in which he interviewed John Corriea of Active Self Protection. (If you’re not yet following both, you should be…) Among the many salient points discussed by the two was the paradox that while training is important, many people do not seek out training and yet hundreds of people manage successfully defend themselves with a gun every year without the benefit of formal training.
This brings me to the point of this post. I value competent gun handling, both for myself as well as for other gun owners. Why?
One reason is because it makes us safer as a community. I would argue that risk of injury is increased by ignorance. Think of all the things you did as a child that you wouldn’t necessarily do today because you realize, as an adult, what can happen. Mind you, I write the above as a confirmed adrenaline junkie. Competent gun handling skills fostered through formal training reduces the risk of injury to ourselves and others and makes the community stronger as a whole. Furthermore, common display of competent gun handling chips away at the fallacious shell of many anti-gun arguments.
Another reason is that if we agree that training is a good thing, then competent gun handling is requisite to getting the most from training. No one wants to be that guy holding up class because they can’t perform basic skills and need remediation that takes time away class. Yes, you go to a basic class at first to learn these requisite skills, but “advanced” training really just relies on solid execution of the fundamentals in increasingly adverse conditions and scenarios.
Finally, I view competent gun handling as part of a complete package. We can all agree that a fast draw with an accurate first shot is of paramount importance. Conversely, almost no civilian needs to reload in a defensive gun use. But, one does need to know how to reload to train efficiently. Some of the same manipulations involved in loading a pistol are common to malfunction clearances, and malfunctions do happen in challenging conditions and scenarios. Robert just recently posted an article on ready positions. The many ready positions and when each is appropriate is highly dependent on context. One method of racking a slide works better when the pistol is at extension, and a different method is ideal when the pistol is held in retention.
The point I’m trying to make here is that fluid and unconscious pistol manipulations are the cornerstone of fighting with a handgun. Your pistol should be familiar to you and you should be comfortable handling it. Note that I said comfortable and NOT complacent! You don’t want to be fumbling with it when the chips are down and you certainly don’t want to be careless. Handling your pistol should be as familiar to you as driving your car down the interstate, although riding a motorcycle might be a more apt analogy.
Returning to training, ingraining solid and correct pistol manipulations is simply part of being a responsible gun owner. Practice is important, but you should practice the right things. You have to practice the right things the right way. The “right way” is subject to debate, but perhaps not as much as some think. Go back and read both Robert’s and my experience with the video diagnostics offered by John “Shrek” McPhee to see what I’m taking about. While we embrace the concept of learning “a way” instead of “the way,” there is something undeniable to be said for economy of motion and efficient pistol manipulations.
To end this post, I’m simply going to implore our readers to get solid training on the fundamentals of concealed carry and practice those fundamentals until they become automatic and subconscious. While I’m very comfortable with a pistol, I don’t pretend to fully embody this ideal yet. But I’m working on it every day! I hope our readers are as well.