Understanding Training

Understanding Training

Training is the the cornerstone in which we all rely upon.

We don’t rise to the level of our expectationswe fall to the level of our training.”

— Archilochus

Simply stated, we expect ourselves to react as trained. Why would anyone trained in the military or in law enforcement want to take classes that are beneath their level of training? The answer is simple – to improve their abilities to teach effectively.

Rules of Engagement

The “Rules of Engagement” are different for military and law enforcement. Citizen’s do not have the protection of the government nor some sanctioned agencies where we can use our firearms. We are taught the firearm is the “Tool of Last Resort”. In the civilian world, military and law enforcement rules don’t apply. The instructor who offers classes by a “Special Forces”, “SWAT”, or “Law Enforcement Veteran” should be “Shot on Site”. What are these guys selling? A course that offers a KILL, Be Killed or not be Killed mentality.

Calling Firearms “Weapons”

The world has lost its perspective and definition on the word “weapons”. Watching a basketball game this evening, the commentators referenced the team as having many “weapons” in their arsenal they could have used to defeat a move by the opposing team. “Weapons”, really? The team had stronger, better, faster, tactical weapons to kill, destroy, maim, and eliminate the other team?

Its a basketball game, a sport, a fun and competitive activity. Its as if we are waiting for “AK weapons” to be drawn and used during a basketball game.

Both military and law enforcement are taught their firearm is a “weapon”. They go to work and are trained they can use their “weapon” to end a conflict – no matter how small or large. This is very disappointing. And yet, they create web sites and social media sites that promote this level of violence.

Seasoned instructors refer to firearms as guns, pistols, revolvers, semi-automatics and so forth. The reasoning behind this is to diminish the thought process of using a firearm as a “weapon”.

Firearms are tools for self-defense, not weapons.

The word “weapon” has a negative connotation:

Allowing the average citizen to carry a weapon with the intent to kill someone, someday, given the opportunity, is so wrong.

Stand behind the second amendment – it will protect you as you serve 20 – life.

This is one reason the industry receives such harsh, untrue and over-inflated negative publicity. Let’s face it, we don’t live in Paleolithic times where a club is a necessary tool for survival, nor do we live in the “Wild West” where guns are necessary. We certainly don’t use our guns for hunting on a daily basis. We live in the 21st century, a time where law and order is our guiding light,  dinner is available at the local grocery store, and gangsters aren’t planning to steal our horses and cattle that once was our means for survival.

It’s important to think about the gun as a tool of last resort and to train accordingly.

Citizens who conceal carry are literally bringing a gun to a fight – if we train citizens they have a “weapon”, psychologically, they reason they can use it to settle differences. Instead, we need to teach them to respect and understand the incredible responsibility they literally carry with them each and every day.

Training for Show

As we train across the country, we hear about instructors who teach how to throw their guns in the air, reload quickly, take the “kill shot” and are “cool” as they move to their next position. Carrying a firearm is a responsibility, not a show, not a game. Unfortunately, those who can perform a show are more redeemed than those who teach responsibility. We are instructors, we teach responsibility.

Training the average citizen to be the next show-off is not the way to teach. Teach with respect to the profession and teach to respect the gun.

Stop Bragging

We cannot share how often students come to class with a chip on their shoulder, how they boast about being law enforcement or some sort of “special services” in the military and then witness their gross negligence on handling a firearm safely and/or missing the target completely.

It’s really quite simple – the more they boast the more likely they’ll fail.

Don’t be intimidated by these guys – we’re not. We just let them show their stuff during qualification.

And here it comes…

“Oops, it’s the gun – haven’t used it in years”;
“Ah, the sites are off – I’ve got to take it to the shop”;
“This is bad ammunition”;
“I’m having a bad day”.

And so on…

Start with the Bench Rest

Here’s how we handle these excuses…

  1. Every student starts shooting from the Bench-rest position.
  2. Bring out the “Pistol Rest”. That’s right, the device that does not move, does not waiver, and does not intimidate anyone.
  3. Be sure to emphasize this is siting exercise, part of the class.
  4. Insert a bore light into the chamber. That’s right, the light that does not lie.
  5. Make sure the bore light and the target are aligned (21 feet) and make adjustments as needed (in ten years, there’s only been three times an adjustment was needed).
  6. Load a live round into the chamber.
  7. Fire a live round.
  8. What the hell, do it again.
  9. Have the student take the next shot. Then the next nine shots.
  10. When to shooter qualifies and then blames the gun or the ammunition, ask the student why the gun behaves differently from the “Bench-rest position” as opposed to the “Isosceles” or “Weaver Position”.
  11. Game over.

And yet, they’ll still find a reason they cannot qualify; seriously.

We are not kidding – we had a “Navy Seal” explain the 48 feet qualification mark is unreasonable because we did not take into account the weather the weather?

Certification is Earned

And here lies in another perceived expectation by the student – they paid for certification. No, they did not! They paid for the opportunity to become certified.

Then comes the whole thing that they will charge-back the class with the credit card company. They will claim you promised a refund, you did not teach correctly, it was not the class they expected.

Sadly, the credit card company will reverse the charges for the class – its automatic. Irregardless you spent money on the classroom, refreshments, ammunition, and materials – none of that matters. A card holder is asking for his money back and he’s going to receive it. Consider it the “cost of doing business”.

Is there any way you can avoid these types of credit card fraud? Not that we have found. We are adding additional disclaimers to the registration form, saving the form to their account, and video-taping their qualification attempts. We are allowing up to three attempts with the opportunity to take private lessons if necessary. You’ll recognize these students immediately after the qualification process has occurred if they did not pass. They are the first to ask for a refund. To claim the process is unfair. To boast about how great they are when not asked to meet a qualification standard.

Qualifying is a lot of Pressure

Possessing and carrying a firearm is all about pressure – 24/7 days a week. If they cannot qualify “under pressure” they certainly should not be carrying nor trying to teach how to perform under pressure.

This is the time to offer the student an opportunity to pass using a different firearm. One of our most favorite students from Billings, Montana refused to use a different firearm. He was shooting with a Glock .9. We did everything to assist him in passing the course. Including the Mantis X system, a training cartridge, a Springfield 4″ .9. Video was introduced – he was anticipating recoil – caught on tape, and still insisted he was doing nothing wrong.

We asked a Marine who can zero a gun in less than 4 shots to assist – all for free. BTW, this was at Black Butte Range in Billings, Montana . Hat’s off to this range – all they want to do is help. Bottom line, we finally instructed his fiance to “tell him” to use our Ruger SR .22 to qualify. First time out the student passed, which met the qualification standards of 16 out of 20 shots at 48 feet. Later that week he met the requirements using his Glock .9.

The moral of the story is simple. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of “Too Much Gun”. We strongly believe every instructor should have a Ruger SR .22 as a beginning handgun pistol for training. Qualification standards are really very low. Hit the target 16 out of 20 attempts using any caliber handgun, with or without a scope, with or without a red dot.


Instructors and students need to know where their limitations are, how to improve them, and how to move up in caliber once the “base” caliber is determined. Like many instructors, I started out with a high-caliber handgun – the Sig Sauer 1911 .45 semi-automatic. I chose the .45 because of its “stopping power” as recommended by may gun shops and gun enthusiasts. It was horrible! I couldn’t control it, I couldn’t hit the bulls-eye at 10 feet, not alone 21 feet. It took me a while to realize I did not need “that much gun” to protect myself – I started looking for another caliber.

Surprisingly, I found the Ruger SR .22 to be a gun I could shoot accurately.  When I say accurately, I mean reliably and consistently. I adopted the attitude that shooting accurately was far more important than missing the intended target. So I trained with the .22 for about six months building on my basic fundamental shooting skills and accuracy. Eventually I decided it was time to move to a higher caliber.

I tested several guns and determined the Springfield XDm would be my next choice in training. Just to be clear, there’s nothing “magical” about the XDm – it just happen to fit my needs. The grip was right, the barrel length was right (4″), the magazine capacity was right (plenty of rounds without the need to count), easy to shoot, easy to clean, easy to dissemble. Going from a .22 to a .9 took some adjustment but not as much as one would think. I had trained on the .22 platform, was very accurate with it, had the fundamentals of shooting down. It took me about six months to train with the higher caliber to realize it was the same as the .22 – all I needed to do was to stop anticipating the recoil. Today, I can accurately hit a target at 50 feet using a .9 firearms, regardless of the manufacturer. In fact, there’s no difference in the manufacture of the gun at 50 feet – none.

My “personal” caliber pistol is the Sig Sauer .380 “Pocket” pistol. It’s carried as a “Back-up” to my Springfield .9 XDm. If I just want to run across the street to simply buy a gallon of milk, the Sig Sauer .380 is always in my pocket – always. It’s a proven and reliable firearm that’s easily concealed and would get the job done should I ever need it.

I know without a doubt I can use my Sig Sauer .380. I carry it faithfully. Should something go down I feel sorry for my opponent because I won’t miss. I train with this gun more often than I do with my Springfield XDm because the Sig Sauer .380 firearm is likely going to be the tool I need should I need to protect myself and my family. I am not over-ran by the .9 caliber “all or nothing” mentality, I simply am not. If I land two well-placed shots with a .380, I’m going home (not really, I’m going to jail); but I “won” in that particular gunfight.


  1. If you really believe teaching the “9m” caliber mindset we encourage you “re-think” that entire process. A .22 firearm, the “Assassins” choice of use, has merit.
  2. If you believe the .380 is “less than” a self defense caliber, get off your high horse and find a real horse. A  .380 caliber will perform as a .9. This is an ego-driven process – get rid of your instructor!.
  3. As  a consumer, your job is to “disable” the attacker; period.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *