I listened to The Squirrel Report online broadcast last night; well to be honest - not to all of it but quite a bit more than half of it. It was my first time as a listener of that online audio discussion panel. I was all ears when the topic of firearms training came up. I was pretty dismayed by the fact that at least one of the panelists seemed to believe that some firearms trainers or bloggers, who strongly advocate for training, are really trying to tell those in the gun world that if you train you are better than those who do not train in a social status type of way. I can understand why that was brought up and why the panelist thought that way, I can even understand why others on the panel seemed to agree to a certain extent. Most assuredly, there are some real arsehats among those who receive training, and yes they probably think themselves as socially superior in the world of gun folks. Thankfully, they are the exceptions. Yet, championing of training, as a method toward betterment, is sometimes, even oft times, misconstrued as snobbery by those who have not been trained or who have not been trained as much as someone else. In such cases, I think many miss the point about how the whole training thing actually makes one better. For now, I will merely point out that, in my opinion, training certainly does make you a better and more responsible gun owner. That is especially so for those who obtain a firearm for self defense purposes - but more on this later.
Before I delve into why I recommend that anyone who gets a firearm for self defense should also be trained in how to proficiently use that firearm, allow me to tell you what are, and are not, the essentials of firearms training. Firearms training is basically the way by which you become educated about firearms. That is it, in a shell casing. What it is not is a method by which people, who have been trained in various aspects of firearms use, should try to stratify themselves as being better than other people in a caste like system sort of way.
Now, why to train, especially for those who have a firearm for self defense:
I strongly recommend firearms training, as much as you can reasonably accomplish, if you have a firearm for self defense. I make that recommendation with the absolute conviction that if you are well trained you will be a better gun owner. The great majority of people who are trained in firearms are simply people who want to do it better than they did before their training. While firearms training may not make you socially superior to a gun owner who has not trained with firearms, it certainly does make you better, or at least has the potential to better you, than the other guy. No, no, no, not better socially. Didn't I just say it does not elevate you on the social status ladder! How it makes you better is that if you train in various aspects of firearms use and tactics, you likely will become better than you would have been had you not been trained and you may also be better at handling, shooting and firearms tactics than an untrained person. Mostly, it is self improvement that gives you an edge and I think that an awful lot of people, who do not see the need to train, miss that by a long shot. You see, it does not matter that the other law abiding citizen, who owns guns, is not trained in their use. It does not make them less of a law abiding citizen (unless they are required by law to get the training), does not make them less moral, does not make them less nice - you get the picture. Likewise, being well trained does not make a person more law abiding (unless the training is mandated by law), more ethical, or a friendlier person. It does, as I said above, improve or better them in a personal, self fulfilling, self improvement, sort of way and it gives you a potential advantage over someone such as an assailant who may not be as well trained.
What good practical training does is gives you that edge, a possible advantage, a one up that can make you the winner in an armed encounter. How does it do that? It does so because it prepares you for various situations, for things you may never have expected or thought about on your own and it gives you options. In addition, after you have trained long enough, and covered enough of the numerous aspects of firearms use and tactics, you come to the point where you can reliably improvise. Thus you may be able to make wise tactical decisions during the heat of the moment even though the encounter in which you find yourself was never directly addressed in training. In other words, training helps to educate you to make educated choices should you ever be involved in a self defense encounter that was not exactly like those scenarios that were used as examples during your training. Someone who does not have that same education, or a similar one, may not do things to their best advantage or may not expect you to do the things that are to your own advantage, thus that winning edge I was talking about.
Uncle Joe teaching you how to squirrel hunt (no reference to The Squirrel Report intended) with a 22 rimfire is fine but unless Uncle Joe is trained in firearms tactics and instruction, I would avoid him teaching me how to act during an armed encounter with a bad guy. The same thing goes for most of the other sources of training, I prefer a professional trainer to them all.
Here is an example that will point out some of the other types of training. Danielle is worried about crime in her neighborhood. She decides that because of the recent rash of home invasions, many resulting in the residents winding up badly beaten or even shot, she is going to buy a gun for self defense. Being a woman in and of modern times, she goes on the Internet to search out information about guns and obtaining them legally. Along the way she pays attention to the things she sees about shooting and so on. She joins a firearms forum and asks lots of questions. Finally, she feels ready to purchase a gun and goes to the gun store. Luckily, for her, someone on the forum recommended she try to find a gun store with a range, where she can try out several pistols before deciding on which to buy. She does just that. After trying several, she decides on a Beretta in .380. She purchases the pistol and some accessories like a cleaning kit, a holster, and some ammo.
Her training was not formal but she certainly was trained to some extent. Some from the Internet gun forums, some from the guys who run the gun store, some from other shooters at the range. Yet, her training is not over. When she gets home, she opens the case of her new pistol and before taking it out to admire it, she takes out the manual and reads it from cover to cover. She discovers that there are certain idiosyncrasies about her pistol that make it quite different than others, such as the fact that it has an additional operating mechanism that allows the barrel to pivot up and away from the frame and slide. She also has read up on how to field strip it for cleaning and decides to give it a try. She takes the pistol out of the box, checks that it is empty and takes it down. She cleans it and then reassembles it.
Would she have been able to do any of what I mentioned if she had not been trained? No she would not. None of it was instinctual, it all required some amount of learning. Even the most novice among us is usually trained to some extent when it comes to firearms use. You would truly have to be a fool, to handle and shoot firearms, let alone carry one for self defense, without some sort and some amount of training beforehand. In fact, carrying one for self defense increases the need for training more so than say collecting wall hangers. Sure, you can do it just like Danielle did it and never go beyond that as far as training goes or you can proactively seek some education for yourself on how to do it to the best of your capability. Why bother? Because you do not want to learn the hard way that you could have been better prepared to face an adversary who is intent on injuring or killing you when he is actually trying.
Let's continue with Danielle for a bit here. She starts to carry her pistol (yes legally). She wears it in the holster that she bought when she purchased the pistol. It is a design she saw a couple of others at the range using. An open topped leather holster that rides inside the waistband. There is no retention device other than the friction of the holster body. She can draw lightening fast and get right on target. she is not all that concerned about pistol retention, heck she has never even heard the term before, but even common sense told her that her pistol should not fall out of her holster if she runs, or jumps and the holster seems to hold her pistol snugly. She goes out to the market wearing her new rig. when she gets home, she finds goes into her house and hear an unfamiliar noise. She realizes someone is in her home and it sounds like he is rifling though drawers. This is her house, she is armed, she goes to investigate. She has made her first tactical mistake. had she received proper training, she would have realized that it might have been best for her to have walked right back outside and called the police once she was safely away from her house.
She walks down the center hall toward her bedroom, her gun is in hand, her eyes on, and only on, the doorway to her bedroom, the room from which the noises are coming She sees an intruder going through her belongings. He hears her and starts to turn on her and appears to be drawing a weapon, she fires, he goes down and he drops a pistol. She goes closer to see if he is still alive. She has watched television and movies, she actually remembers having seen a police officer on a show pick up the bad guy's gun to make sure he cannot access it again in the vent he is only wounded. She then clears it. Wow, she is on the ball so far. The guy seems to be gasping for air, he is pale, he looks as if he is dying. She backs out of the bedroom and holsters her pistol as she heads to the phone in the kitchen. As she reaches for the phone, someone grabs her from behind. They struggle. He grasps her pistol and pulls it out of the holster, he fires three times. Danielle is wounded, and falls to the floor; the bad guy takes off and makes off with her gun too. The dirt bag who shot Danielle was one of three who had been in her home. He hid when he at first saw her with a gun. Was afraid to come out while she had the gun out. Was passed by her in the hallway twice, once as she went to her bedroom, then when she headed to the kitchen, he was in another room off the hall. Then, as you saw, he got the jump on her because she never realized he was there and he came u behind her after she had holstered her pistol. What had she done wrong that a professionally taught firearms training course or three may have made her do differently.
We already know that maybe it would have been best for her to leave immediately once she her the noises, then call police. She was not in immediate danger of harm at that point. Once she had decided to check out her house to investigate the noises it was a different story and had she had some tactical training as well as retention training or even holster selection training things may have turned out differently. If you did what she did, came home and found someone in your home, would you investigate further or get out? If you would investigate, would you, after finding one intruder, expect that he was the only one or would you realize that home invaders often, if not usually, work in teams? Would you have tried to secure the bad guy's gun? Would you have any idea of how many times you fired at the intruder? Would you have any idea of how many rounds were in your weapon? Would you have reloaded once there was a lull in the action (would you even be carrying an extra magazine)? Would you have even stayed in the house after shooting the first intruder you encountered? Would you give loud and clear verbal commands to the other guys in the house, to drop there weapons and put there hands up high over their heads, even if you were unsure that anyone else was there? What else would you command them to do? Would you tell them, there accomplice was shot and dead and that could be their fate too? Would you command them to leave or to stay regardless of whether or not you actually knew anyone else was there? Would you have holstered your weapon before clearing the house or getting yourself to relative safety? Would you know what to have done had you been grabbed from behind and the bad guy tried to take your weapon away? Would you know how to defend yourself once someone else had your weapon? Would you, and I mean this most literally and seriously, be affected (as in distracted) by the fact that you feel the warm flow of urine running down your legs or the heaviness of a bowel movement in your pants? Would you be so shocked by this last unexpected development that you loose control of yourself completely and thus drop your guard?
Training can prepare you for all the things I have mentioned and more, much more. It can bring to light things you may never have imagined not only about how to shoot well, but how to consider a holster for purchase, how to fight back against someone going for your gun, how to retain your guns while under a hands on attack, what to do in a situation like the one presented as to stay and investigate or get out to safety and call the police, and even to expect the possibility that the pucker factor (sphincter and bladder muscles) may fail and you may soil yourself and that you need to ignore it until you are safe.
Yes, training can make you better than the other guy. As I said though, not in a social way and you should not be concerned about it bettering you inn that manner anyway. The thing with which you need to be concerned, the person you want to be better than, is the dirtbag bad guy who may try to injure you or kill you. winning the fight for your life, against a guy or guys like that, makes all the professional training you can get well worth it. Want to know where to get it - try the NRA website. I recommend them before almost any other organization as an excellent source for all sorts of firearms training from basic gun handling to home defense. Why them? Because they have a national program and have instructors who have all been trained to train you in essentially the same manner as one another. Sure, you can go elsewhere and I recommend that too but I strongly recommend you start with training from NRA certified instructors in an NRA training course. After you have been trained, practice, practice, practice, then get some additional training. You don't have to go overboard but some basic gun handling training and a bit of basic and even some advanced self defense training can be a really good thing.
Sometimes staying safe depends totally upon your own abilities. Think about when you are more able, when well trained or not. The choice is yours. Unless you we team up during a SHTF situation or TEOTWAKI, or maybe even during the Zombie Apocalypse, it does not matter to me one iota how well your are trained. It will matter to you whether it is you or the bad guy who is the better trained person when the bad guy is trying to kill you or your loved ones. Leaving it to dumb luck is simply not for me; I want to be the better man in such an encounter. Remember, it is not a social status thing. It is being better personally, being more responsible toward yourself or your loved ones, with the intent to come out of an armed confrontation alive and as the winner. If that doesn't float your boat, then don't train and maybe win by dumb luck, or maybe sink like the Titanic when the unexpected happens and you are ill prepared to deal with it. It is your choice.
All the best,