2020: Looking Back

Once again this year, separate from my annual “Pay to Play” article, this is what has become another tradition:  looking back at my year (see previous installments here, here, here, and here).  What goals did I achieve or fail to achieve?  What surprises came up along the way?  2020 was certainly a challenging year on many levels, so let’s take a look.

Formal Training

My pace of training classes slowed again this year.  Last year I took part in 6 training events; this year, I was down to four.  If the reader refers back to my 2020: Training Goals article, however, this year was unusual in that two of the classes for which I was signed up as the year began were classes I ended up having to bail out of.  In the case of John Murphy’s class, it was more to do with the uncertainty around COVID-19, travel restrictions, etc., which was still quite an unknown in May of 2020.  In the case of the Force-on-Force class with Bill Rapier, it had more to do with finding what I regarded as a better training opportunity with the guys from Practically Tactical, with a side factor being not wanting to trek into New England in mid-November.

Still, I addressed a number of training deficiencies of mine.  I got to work more on my shotgun skills in Shotgun 360, addressed hand-to-hand skills in the “Contact and Control” class, worked on some compact carbine/carbine bag skills with Bill Rapier, and did more “thinking with a gun in my hand” in the aforementioned force-on-force class with Practically Tactical. 

One hope of mine was dashed this year. I had hoped that if my body responded well to the “Contact and Control” class that I might start taking Jiu Jitsu at a local school that I had recently discovered only 15 minutes from my house.  Unfortunately, though I did “okay” in that course, COVID-19 ended any hopes I had of joining a Jiu Jitsu school.  As Linus once said, “You just wait until next year, Charlie Brown!”


My goal this year was to shoot in at least five matches.  I blew away that goal by competing in seven IDPA matches (and passed up on a couple more that I could have squeezed in).  In addition, I enjoyed more success this year, finishing in 3rd place twice, 4th place twice, and in the top ten in all matches. 

Informal Practice

I renewed my membership at my local range, but unfortunately did not make it there much this year.  The COVID situation had the range closed for a bit, and when it did reopen they had to limit numbers on the range at all times and reduced the hours they were open.  My work schedule also changed a bit (COVID), as did my own kids’ school schedule (COVID), so what had been my personal prime-time to go no longer existed for me. 

The training group of which I am a member also saw reduced meetings (COVID).  We met in February and March and then did not meet again until September, October, and November.  So more than half of the meetings this year were cancelled, further limiting my live-fire practice sessions.  Outside of matches and classes, I fired only 2,452 rounds this year of all calibers (I fired 5,067 on my own last year).  Early in 2021 I plan to shoot some courses of fire for which I have personal prior data to see how my reduced live-fire practice in 2020 may (or may not) have affected my skills.


With more time at home this year (COVID), I did get more exercise in.  I renewed my interest in mountain biking and biked a lot from May through July.  Excessive rain and some family travel in August hindered my efforts here, but I supplemented with running, the stationary bike, etc.  I have been much better the last few months working on strength training.  Last year at this time I noticed more protrusion in the belly area.  This year, it has been greatly reduced.  Besides the obvious health benefits, this is also helping me to conceal my firearm more effectively.


I have really downshifted hard on the purchase of gear.  There really is not much that I would say that I need these days.  In 2019 I purchased no new firearms, and I maintained that same pace in 2020.  I have some friends who ran out with “Christmas money” in early 2020 and bought new guns.  While I did ponder some new purchases, in February I bought several cases of ammunition, and I just recently found a receipt from my favorite internet ammunition source (dated the second week of March):  for my birthday I had treated myself to several more cases of 9mm ($169/case).  In hindsight, I am VERY happy with my decision to NOT buy any new firearms!  Because of my accidental prescience, I can continue to shoot at matches and in classes this year without having to pay the current insane prices for ammunition….if it can be found at all!

Adult Learning

I have had a lot more time to read this year, but have mostly devoted that time to military history and less-so toward “self-defense” topics.  I read 27 books in 2020.  I have added a few new-to-me training DVDs to my ever-growing collection.  Attending fewer classes these days, I am finding these videos to be helpful reviews of many topics. 


My productivity on the blog continues to decline.  However, while the blog peaked in views and visitors in 2017, trending downward the last two years, I am happy to report that our page views trended up in 2020 (above 2019), and the number of overall visitors to our page was higher this year than any other in our short history!  So though we have not been as productive writers this year, it is nice to know that people are continuing to find information on our blog useful.  This is probably a good place to say thank you to all of our readers who utilize our Amazon Affiliate link, which this year netted us a bit more money than any year in our brief history.  Other than the occasional free or reduced-price course, the little bit of money we earn via that Amazon Affiliate link is the only compensation we receive for our work.  So, thank you!

New Connections

This year was more about reconnecting with instructors I had trained with in the past, and that is always rewarding.  Tim Chandler, Ashton Ray, Jessie and Nick from Practically Tactical, and Bill Rapier were all instructors with whom I had trained in the past and was happy to train with again.  The only new-to-me instructor this year was the highly knowledgeable and energetic Jason Kelly of C2T2, and that was a great experience as well. 

Unfortunately, as our readers are aware, we lost our blog and personal Facebook pages (just vaporized).  We still have no idea why and seem to have no recourse to get our personal or blog pages reinstated.  At this point, I still refuse to rejoin under a new name for a personal or a new blog page.  Fool me once…..you know how that goes.  This comes with the side effect of now NOT being in as close touch with so many people we have met in classes (instructors, fellow students, etc.), but the last two months without Facebook have been great for me personally.  I find myself less annoyed in general, have more time to play around with, and seem to be living a much more serene existence.  I highly recommend it!

Final Thoughts

2020 was a tough year on so many levels for me, as I’m sure it was for many of you.  Challenges at work were immense, but I have come through almost all of it as a model (in my school) of how to do things well.  My extended family has suffered and continues to suffer through a number of issues, and several are relying on me as “the rock”.  But, my family remains healthy, my wife and I are gainfully employed, my kids seem relatively well-adjusted considering how their lives have been turned upside down, and so I feel like I have a lot to be thankful for.  Here’s to a more enjoyable 2021!

As always, thanks for reading.  If you have any questions or comments (like how your 2020 went), please post them below, as we always welcome civil discourse.  I can be reached privately at civiliangunfighter.robert@gmail.com.

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