Training To Win

A pyramid on the levels of firearms training

Last month I traveled to Ft. Worth to the awesome USCCA Expo where I presented a seminar called “Building A Personal Training Program.” The 1.5 hour seminar focused on the Levels of Firearms Training and how important it is for gun owners to continue training beyond their basic permit to carry class. The seminar was inspired by Dave Spaulding’s “Building A Combative Pistol Program” and “Creating a Training Program” topic from the USCCA’s Concealed Carry & Home Defense Fundamentals curriculum. While there is not enough space to include all the information from the seminar, I will highlight some of the most important aspects. So lets begin by differentiating between training and practice.

Training defined is the act of teaching a person or animal a particular skill or type of behavior. The skill, knowledge or experience acquired by one that trains.

Practice defined is the actual application or use of an idea, belief, or method as opposed to theories relating to it. To perform an activity or exercise a skill repeatedly or regularly in order to improve or maintain one’s proficiency.

Training has changed drastically over the past century. Techniques such as bullseye shooting, point shooting, and the weaver stance, have all morphed into what most people call “the modern day technique” developed by Col. Jeff Cooper the “combat masters” in the mid 1970’s.

Today, Law Enforcement Officers (LEO) and Military Members are often cited as being the most highly trained individuals, but your average police officer probably receives about 40 hours of firearms training in the academy and then usually qualify about 2 – 4 times a year. They would most likely rank in the “Yellow” or “Essential” area of the training pyramid. This means they have some level of automaticity and are able to get the gun into the fight and shoot quickly, but statistics show that in a gun fight LEO hits on target are less than 20%. That is because their encounters are usually “combative” in nature. The chaos of a gun fight is completely different from square range qualifications and usually involves a lot of movement and shooting from unconventional positions. In fact, bad guys probably practice more and have more experience in actual gunfights than responding officers. Watch the below video or read Training VS Experience from Greg Ellifritz.

If police are outmatched by bad guys, where does that leave the average citizen? While you may go out and shoot (practice) regularly, most gun owners (93%) have never actually taken a training class. I highly encourage you to read Karl Rehn’s “Beyond the 1%“. Without formal training, you may not be practicing the most current or even the correct techniques. In a given year, only about 4% of gun owners will take a basic permit to carry class, but these classes usually only focus on the “fundamentals” of shooting or “White” portion of the training pyramid. In that same given year, only about 1% will go on to take a class that may move them up the pyramid to the “essentials” or “combative” aspect of training. In order to be better prepared to prevail against a violent criminal, you need to “Train To Win” and the best way to do that is to continue training beyond the fundamentals and essentials.

Building The Pyramid

Fundamentals First – If you have never taken a formal firearms class such as a Basic Handgun, Shotgun or Rifle then this is a great place to start. You will either learn or confirm, that your fundamentals are sound. A good way to test your fundamentals is through Dry Fire and with a couple of drills such as The Aim Small / Miss Small drill, Dave Spaulding’s The 3 Round Fadeback and The Dot Torture Drill. Dry fire can help you confirm trigger control and for drawing from the holster and reloads, and I use a free app called Dry Fire Par Timer. If you find yourself struggling with these drills (the fundamentals) then you should seek out a competent instructor or class to help you solidify the fundamentals.

Building Speed & Accuracy
Once you have mastered the fundamentals it is time to work on building speed and accuracy. This means getting the gun into the fight quickly ,managing recoil and resetting the trigger in recoil. This also includes learning multiple sight pictures and engaging multiple and moving targets. Some good drills for this include Tom Given’s Casino Drill, The FBI Qualification and The 357 Drill. A recent BILL Drill video from Brian Hill’s Red Dot Concept shows the “essentials” in action. The draw time is 1.22 seconds and a total of 6 shots fired in 2.24 seconds.

Adding Combative Aspects – Once the essentials are mastered, it is time to add in the combative aspects. A simple “Getting of the X” drill (as shown in the video below) adds movement to a normally static range shooting session. Competition and matches such as IDPA add in “thinking” skills and movement, while more advanced classes such as our Defensive Vehicle Tactics class adds in shooting from compromised positions. In order for competitors or students to be able to quickly, safely and accurately place shots on targets in these environments, it requires they have the fundamentals mastered and can apply them without conscious thought.

Once safety, fundamentals, and essentials are internalized or “automated” then and only then can you move up to more complex movement drills as seen in this Kinetic Combat Pistol Class video. These are highly trained individuals that have dry fired this drill over and over under the supervision of Dave Spaulding to ensure the drill is safe for all students. “Off the square range” techniques such as turning and running with a firearm in your hand while simultaneously maintaining the awareness of where others are in relation to you, more closely resembles what happens in the chaos of a gunfight, and what true self-defenders should strive to achieve.

Interactive Aspects – While the Interactive aspects are at the pinnacle of the pyramid, it is not something you have to put off until you have fully implemented the combative aspects. There is a ton of mental training that you can get from just watching self-defense videos such as those available from John Corriea with Active Self Protection, or from Force on Force scenarios such as “First Person Defender“. If you are a USCCA Member, I highly encourage you to take advantage of the many options available in The Protector Academy.

While Virtual Simulators require more resources (time and money), than simply watching videos online, they are excellent interactive options regardless of your level of firearms training. They are most often held indoors and cost less than live fire or force on force courses since there are far fewer safety concerns when using non lethal training. The lessons learned in these simulators can be invaluable for both civilians and law enforcement officers. Watch how LEO and top trainer Chris Cerino reacts in one of the scenarios in our Lethal Force Simulator.

Finally, one of the most eye opening interactive aspects is Force on Force training. This is where you interact with real people in simulated incidents using non lethal training guns. While these types of classes are hard to find and usually require more resources than Virtual Simulators, they provide invaluable feedback on the realities of using a firearm in real life situations. Here is a snippet of a recent scenario run here at Boondocks.

In this scenario, a father is distracted by a stranger while another individual sneaks up and takes the “baby” out of the stroller. The first instinct of the father is to go for his gun and shoot, but that may not have been the best option. In the post scenario debrief we discussed all the things that could have gone wrong, including hitting the baby or the innocent bystander (by the car), hitting the bad guy who then falls on and crushes the baby or not shooting at all and watching a stranger run off with your child. In this scenario, the gun IS NOT a good option, the best option is to simply make sure your child is secured in the stroller so someone can’t grab them and run off! Scenarios such as this can help drive home the fact, that personal protection is much more than knowing how to shoot a gun.

Training To Win – While we would like to think training will guarantee that we will prevail in any situation, that is simply not the case. There are just to many uncontrollable factors in a gun fight. In a recent class at Boondocks, John Hearne presented his “Who Wins, Who Loses and Why Lecture”. In it he states, of the things you can control, the most important factors are your levels of “Automaticity” and “Emotional Control”.

If we break down the sbove Bill Drill Video , we see that the draw to first shot time is 1.22 seconds. There are an additional 5 shots fired in 1.02 seconds. The “essentials” of getting the gun out and putting shots on target quickly are a result of “automaticity” and the “emotional control” comes from knowing that if a bad guy is pointing a gun at you, and then turns his attention away, you have about a 1.5 second window to respond. If you add in some combative aspects such as “getting off the x” then you may add an additional half second to draw and fire time! Armed with this knowledge, you don’t have to wonder what to do. You are simply waiting for the turn to act, and you also have a higher level of emotional control knowing that you have the skills to save your life. This is why training is so important!

I will close with the last few slides of my presentation that include “Your Training Agenda” and what you will gain by becoming a better self-defender.