August means it is back to school time for kids across the country. As a gun owner, now is a good time to remind you that you need to go back to gun school too. In 2020, millions of Americans flocked to gun stores to buy their first gun and subsequently signed up for an intro class on how to operate their new firearm. Additionally, millions more also decided it was the time to take concealed carry seriously and sought out permit to carry classes. Firearms training classes all across the country were filled to capacity and that surge lasted well into 2021. As the news of the riots fell off the front pages, so did the urgency of gun owners to take classes. Today, training is back to pre-pandemic numbers. Statistics from Karl Rehn of KR Training suggest that every year about 6% of gun owners take a state mandated permit to carry class. Unfortunately, intro or permit to carry classes are usually very basic and don’t delve into the skills you would need to prevail during a life-threatening encounter. What is even more concerning is that 99% of gun owners will never attend any additional training.
Levels of Training
I am a big fan of Dave Spaulding’s take on the different levels of training. He has created a pyramid approach that relies on the “essentials” as a base level that you must obtain in order to be “an active participant in your own rescue.” Dave considers the essentials as the ability to get the gun into the fight and put accurate shots on target quickly. I have included his pyramid approach in many of the classes and seminars I have taught, but I have added a “fundamentals” level to show how many gun owners never develop these essential skills. The fundamentals include very basic instruction on firearm safety, loading and unloading, proper grip, sight alignment, sight picture, a little trigger control and slow fire range exercise. This is where most permit to carry classes end! Unfortunately, if you are forced to fire in self-defense, your body WILL NOT let you shoot slow. You are going to pull the trigger as fast as you can, and if you have not mastered those skills, you are likely to 1) Miss the bad guy and hit innocent people or family members, 2) Fail to stop the threat and risk being shot or killed by the bad guy.
Advantage and Cost Savings from Training
Now I know this is the part where you roll your eyes and say to yourself “here he goes again harping on the need for training.” But, I wouldn’t harp on it so much if I my self wasn’t a victim of the “I don’t need training, I have been shooting guns all my life” mentality. I grew up shooting with my dad and uncle. I was shooting skeet and trap just about every week. I shot rimfire rifles and pistols competitively in locally sanctioned silhouette matches and hunted dove, quail and deer every chance I got. I was VERY familiar with how to shoot rifles, pistols and shotguns. When I finally decided to swallow my pride and sign up for a permit to carry class, I realized there was so much that I didn’t know. I also realized that as much as my dad and uncle taught me, they were not “experts” in self-defense or modern shooting techniques, and over the course of time I had developed bad habits which took years to break. Now that I have taken many different training classes, I realize the investment in time, money and ammo pays off more quickly and actually saves money in the long run. For example, let’s say you go to the range once a month for an hour and shoot about 50 rounds each time. In my opinion, this is the bare minimum in order to keep and maintain your skill set. At current ammo prices, you are looking at about $240 a year on ammo alone. Add in range fees ($30 per hour), targets, gas to and from the range and you are easily looking at $700 a year. The cost of a serious a 2-day training class and ammo is about $500, but when you leave the class, your skill set usually leap frogs over what you can do on the range without proper instruction and the watchful eye of a professional. It is not impossible, but without a properly structured class, it is very difficult to move from the basic fundamental level of skill indicated in the training pyramid. If you practice once a month, you may be able to get to the essential level in a couple of years, if you are only shooting once every 3-4 months, you will likely never get there. Training classes teach you the proper techniques that you can then apply in your practice sessions to make meaningful gains more quickly, thereby saving you time and money.
Training Stats for Criminals
Hopefully by now I have convinced you to seek additional training, but if I haven’t consider this. In a violent criminal study conducted by the FBI in 2006, it suggested that criminals who have been in a gun fight with police and then arrested, have far more experience and training than most law enforcement officers. Interviews with the criminals revealed that 40% of them have had formal firearms and 80% of them were practicing at least twice a month. Additionally, 40% had been in at least 1 gun fight before their altercation with police, and 25% have been in more than FIVE gunfights. Compare that to the average LEO who may get 40 hours of firearms training in the academy and then qualifies about 2-3 times a year. Now imagine you find yourself confronted by one of these violent criminals and you are unarmed or un-prepared to respond. You are literally at the mercy of a person who has no mercy. A violent criminal who doesn’t share your moral or ethical belief and does not value human life. Your only hope is to persuade them to let you and/or your family live. It is a helpless feeling when you have no control over a situation that literally could mean life or death. Sure, you may be able convince yourself that encounters like this are rare, so there is no need to train or practice. But it isn’t the likelihood of the event that you should worry about. It is what’s at stake if you find yourself in this position, and the physical and emotional aftermath of being unable to defend your family when they needed you most!
If you want to be become a better shooter and better prepared to protect yourself and your family, it is time to get Back to Gun School! It is truly the most cost effective way to improve.