No, sorry, this is not an article about dry practice. You should already be doing dry practice (a.k.a. “dry fire”) anyway. While the current ammunition shortage might have you doing more dry practice in order to preserve the ammunition supplies you have on hand, this article is more about training options you might want to avail yourself of in these tough times. I like to shoot and take “shooting classes”, and you might as well, but without a garage full of ammunition—and even with many instructors reducing the round counts for their curricula—taking such classes right now may not be the best use of your time and money.
Now is the time, in my opinion, to do an audit of ALL of your skills and figure out what areas of relative weakness you might have. Then, see what classes are available to address those needs. You can better your preparation for bad things without firing a single round of live ammunition.
1. Medical—How well prepared are you when it comes to emergency medical treatment? You can take a course with Dark Angel Medical (as I did 7 years ago), Greg Ellifritz of Active Response Training (as John and I did in 2017), Dr. Sherman House of Civilian Defender (John and I attended one of his seminars at the Rangemaster Tactical Conference in 2019), Caleb Causey of Lone Star Medics, or see what other local options might be available to you. You can see if there is a Red Cross “Stop the Bleed” course, Wilderness Medicine course, or even a basic first aid course near you. Having had to perform CPR back in 2016, I cannot recommend learning this skill highly enough.
2. Legal—Do you REALLY know when you can use force to solve a problem? Look up an article or discussion on the Michael Drejka case and read the comments. I have. It ain’t pretty! I think it is safe to say that MANY people can use a good education on use-of-force law. MAG 20 with Massad Ayoob would be the gold standard here, but there are other options (such as with Andrew Branca of “The Law of Self Defense”). I took MAG 20 in 2018 and cannot recommend it highly enough. Take advantage of Ayoob while he is still out there.
3. Force-on-Force—I took the excellent “Who Are You With a Gun?” Force-on-Force course with Practically Tactical last year and got to test my skills and decision-making without ever firing a single round of live ammunition (and only fired 13 UTM rounds). Many instructors offer force-on-force classes (some better than others), and it’s a great way to test yourself without using live ammunition.
4. Edged Weapons—It goes without saying that you probably will not shoot much in a knife class, so now is the time to take one (or three). There are a number of well-thought-of knife instructors out there, and I have taken several (and will take more). The aforementioned Greg Ellifritz offers a great one (I took it), and Craig Douglas of Shivworks offers the excellent Edged Weapon Overview course. I have also done a few classes with Tom Sotis of AMOK! (see here and here), and would recommend him highly.
5. Physical/Unarmed Combatives—Okay, there’s a global pandemic going on, and so getting up-close and physical with random strangers may not be your thing. But, with vaccines being distributed as we speak, this may not be as much of an issue in the near future. Lots of options here from martial arts classes that one can attend weekly to dedicated weekend seminars (such as Greg Ellifritz’s Groundfighting course that John and I took).
6. Less-lethal—You do carry pepper spray, right? Whether you do or do not, maybe now is the time to get some instruction in this area (and maybe then the naysayers will start to carry pepper spray!). John Murphy of FPF Training and Chuck Haggard of Agile Training and Consulting would be my go-to here (see my review of one of Chuck’s courses here).
7. Structure Work—Though this is sort of splitting hairs with some force-on-force classes, there are some instructors who teach CQB courses utilizing airsoft/UTM/Simunitions. Practically Tactical and “Trek” of MDFI offer such courses at the MTAC Facility in Indiana, but they are probably not alone in doing so. Likewise, Craig Douglas’ excellent Armed Movement in Structures course does the same (see my review here). As a side note, even a live-fire shoot-house class is unlikely to utilize large amounts of live ammunition, as I found out here and here.
I would probably be remiss if I did not again mention John Murphy of FPF Training. His “Concealed Carry: Street Encounter Skills and Tactics” course now includes a reduced round count (250 rounds), but also includes some medical, pepper spray, verbal judo, and other self-defense skills in a sort of one-stop shopping format. This year marks his retirement from government service and so he will now be full-time on the road bringing his coursework all over the country. I took this course when it was a one-day course back in 2016, and John did the two-day version (under a different course title) in 2018.
If you are the type of student who likes to go to a two-day class and dump 1,000 rounds out of your carbine or pistol while standing nearly shoulder to shoulder with 18 fellow students, then this current ammunition shortage is probably a major cramp. So, how about stepping outside your comfort zone and expanding your horizons a bit? I am currently signed up for several courses this year and NONE of the classes for which I am registered require ANY live ammunition. I can therefore save my ammunition for personal practice sessions and competitive shooting matches.
What have I left out? Feel free to add other training suggestions in our comments section below so that fellow readers can benefit. Thanks as always for reading. If you found this article of value, please share and share widely. I can be reached privately for questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.