Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Guest Post: Six Baskets of Training


A Modest Outline For Pistol Training For Self-Defense

by George Groot

George is a member of our Facebook Group and has written for us before.

Have you ever been having a nice rational discussion involving the Second Amendment and said some tactical heresy like “I don’t think everyone needs to carry with a round in the chamber”? If so, you know you will be bombarded with a cacophony of “You need more training!” or “Get trained!” or “If you just take this class I’m sure you’ll see it my way.” I’ve heard all of those pointed at me, and I still don’t believe that absolutely everyone needs to carry with a round in the chamber at all times.

I have an actual background in training in the military, and need to point out that not all firearms training currently offered in the United States is worthwhile or a wise use of resources. Bad instructors are out there, as well as good instructors teaching irrelevant skills, so beware and ask around before you plop down the cash for training.

Now, I’m not against training; I am against wasting money on training that isn’t a good use of your time and money. There is a lot of free advice out there on how to train and what to train on, and this is no different. This is based purely on my knowledge and experience, so if you disagree it won’t hurt my feelings. My purpose here is to help people establish a solid base so that they can competently handle themselves and their tools in a stressful situation by focusing their training into areas that are the best investment of time and money to get competent. You won’t become a ninja if you follow my advice, as that requires way more training than I’m going to recommend.

For the purposes of this article, I will write about two types of training: initial and refresher.
  • Training is always to produce a knowledge, skill, and ability. 
  • Practice is to maintain a skill, knowledge, or ability. 
  • Refresher training is when you need to update your skills with new knowledge, or to regain skills that have atrophied through non-practice. 

The second thing is that I’m not going to recommend any classes that are shotgun or rifle oriented. If you can handle a pistol, it is a relatively easy transition to substituting in a shotgun or carbine with familiarization and some range time.

So what training do you need? Let’s lay out six different baskets (two knowledge based, four skills based): Legalities, First Aid, Concealed Carry as a System, Shooting and Moving, Disarmed Defense, and Force on Force. If you make budgets, you can imagine putting time and money into each basket, and let’s see what training you should be getting in order to become competent in each basket for your time and money.

Knowledge Basket 1: Legalities
Who should you contact after using lethal force? When are you justified to use lethal force? What should you do after using lethal force? How should you interact with law enforcement? Why were your actions necessary?

Whatever class you take (such as an NRA concealed carry class) should answer those questions and give you resources to advance your education on your own. After graduation, you need to have the knowledge of what is and what is not permissible, the skills to point out behavior in others that changes a situation to where you can use lethal force, and the ability to articulate that authorization.

Knowledge Basket 2: First Aid
Specifically how to address a gunshot or stab wound along with accidental injuries like broken bones/fractures and concussions. You should come away with the skills to control bleeding and keep someone breathing. This is important because understanding why a tourniquet is worthless for a sucking chest wound is more important than carrying a tourniquet on your EDC kit at all times.

It seems like a lot of people carry gear that they don’t truly know how to use, and first aid in a trauma situation doesn’t leave a lot of time for consulting a manual. After graduation you need to be able to administer self or buddy aid and rush a casualty (or yourself) to treatment, or summon emergency services if available. I recommend “refresher” training fairly routinely.

Skills Basket 1: Concealed Carry as a System
Pick a reputable trainer that focuses on training civilians, not military or law enforcement. Test out your pistol and holster combo with the advice and feedback from a coach/instructor, so that when you are packing in your normal clothes you know exactly how your system works.

After graduation you should know how your system works in your normal clothes, the skill to uncover, draw, present, and fire accurately, and the ability to do this safely and holster safely. You shouldn’t need to retake this class ever as you should have the skills to fully evaluate any changes to your system if you make them.

Skills Basket 2: Shooting and Moving
Pick a reputable trainer and facility that will work on shooting while moving so that you can practice negotiating corners, hallways, and buildings with a firearm in play, in a shoot house if possible and on a flat range with obstacles/barriers as an alternative. You have much more practice walking and running than shooting, but combining the two activities makes both slightly more awkward.

After graduation you should have the knowledge of how your body responds to the stress of multiple physical tasks, the skill to maintain muzzle awareness and control, and the ability to rapidly distinguish between targets. Note that airsoft and/or paintball is a really good venue for practicing these skills, and a fun way to avoid needing to pay for refresher training.

Skills Basket 3: Disarmed Defense
This can be started at any time and continued as necessary. Pick an instructor/dojo/club that focuses on wrestling, jiu jitsu, or mixed martial arts, and engage as you are physically able to engage in training or class. Learn how to control space, escape locks, and be a harder target so that you have a solid base on how your body reacts to bad breath-range conflict with another human being.

Upon graduation (although I recommend continually training at a dojo/club for the exercise) you should have the knowledge of whether you are better at fighting with your upper body or lower body based, the skill to escape a hold, and the ability to remain calm when entangled with someone who means you harm. If you don’t stay active with a dojo/club, you’ll want to do routine refresher training as you can.

Skills Basket 4: Force on Force
After you’ve got everything else covered, consider training with someone like Craig Douglas in his Edged Weapons Overview (EWO) or Extreme Close Quarters Concepts (ECQC) class. This is a great capstone event to tie together your other skills on how to make space, control space, and more importantly when to escalate force.  This is a “post-graduate” level that sort of combines everything else: knowing when it is permissible to use lethal force, contact range through close pistol range, shooting while moving, and how to deal with a knife. There is no graduation from this; your training is really to apply the knowledge you have, identify pre-attack indicators, respond accordingly, and change your posture and escalation as necessary, and the ability to apply that in an unknown situation. Since these courses tend to be expensive, make sure that you put in the practice for your other baskets before paying for refresher training.

If you feel confident in your skills across all six baskets, you probably don’t need to take another class unless you want to learn something specific, like defending yourself inside a car or branching out to carbines and shotguns. If you assess yourself and realize it’s been a while since you trained on First Aid, be honest with yourself and address that. Like I said up front, this is not designed to turn you into some elite master of weapons but rather to make you competent with the tools you have. You can always spend more time and money on training, and there is nothing wrong with that, but don’t neglect your core skills chasing a fraction of a second advantage in room clearing with a carbine unless your job involves a lot of room clearing with a carbine.

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