Used with permission.
Originally published at Guns Save Life.com
Carrying a gun lawfully for self-defense can make the difference
between life and death in a critical incident, yet at the same
time it can be fraught with risk to the carrier thanks to a long
list of laws and regulations.
In the perfect world, you wouldn’t need a permit to carry, nor
training in the use of a firearm effectively for self-defense.
Unfortunately, the world isn’t perfect and neither are people.
All it takes is a single incident of oversight, sloppy gun
handling, or lousy gear and you can find yourself without a permit
at best and in jail at worst. And heaven help you if you have a
negligent discharge or pull your gun without proper legal
justification. Make those mistakes and you may end up in prison!
By seeking quality, comprehensive training, the risks of carrying
are greatly diminished and more importantly, the odds of
prevailing in a deadly force encounter are significantly
ALL TRAINING ISN’T EQUAL!
Increasingly, with the proliferation of everyone and their dog
offering “concealed carry classes”, training courses aren’t all
In fact, they run the gamut from inadequate and incompetent to
thorough, well-presented programs designed for those who wish to
learn how to avoid confrontation and have every advantage should
they ever find themselves a reluctant participant in a deadly
Of course, the best way to win any gun battle is to avoid it
altogether. Where this is not possible, training will make the
difference between whether it was luck or skill that allowed you
Most forward-thinking folks would rather not rely on dumb luck to
win a life-and-death struggle. This is where proper course
selection could someday pay huge dividends to you and your loved
The skill sets needed to use a firearm decisively to defend
yourself can be broken down into three subsets. The best training
will incorporate all three areas for their students.
Mindset is the knowledge and psychological attitudes needed to
lawfully utilize deadly force for self-defense. This includes the
legal parameters of when deadly force is appropriate (regardless
of the weapons system) and mental preparation for dealing with all
aspects of a violent encounter at home or in public.
This particular aspect of training emphasizes avoiding conflict,
layering your defenses and teaching you the standard by which you
will be judged. A well-taught class will keep you out of jail for
inappropriately introducing a weapon – firearm or otherwise – into
The functional ability training consists of knowing how to make
your gun work, and the ability to use it safely and effectively,
and the associated aspects of its proper care and feeding.
Any reputable course will inculcate you with basic firearm safety.
Exercising proper muzzle discipline and keeping your finger off
the trigger until you have decided to shoot should be as natural
as breathing. Sadly, for those who haven’t had good training,
poor muzzle control and trigger finger discipline are the norm.
Gun selection plays an important role as well. Some folks may
have compatibility issues with the gun they like, making it a bad
choice for them as they are unable to operate it effectively.
Arthritis, hand strength or other physical limitations are a
common cause for these issues, as well as a lack of familiarity with a firearm’s controls.
Tactical is not “tacticool” where people dress up in “cool guy”
gear to pretend they are something they aren’t.
Instead, it is the practical, hands-on study of the tactics needed
to fight with your personal defense tools. This includes learning
proper use of cover and concealment, proper presentation of the
gun, situational awareness, proper force “application” strategies,
malfunction clearing procedures, proper reloading and so much
Reading a book or watching a video can serve to introduce these
concepts, but there’s no substitute for doing it for yourself
under the tutelage of a skilled instructor who will ensure you’re
using proper technique and minimizing wasted movement. This
allows you to act decisively, without “thinking” about the
mechanics of what you are going to do once you’ve decided to act.
The old saw of how you won’t rise to the occasion but instead
default to your level of training is pretty much true. Indecisiveness, wasted movement and/or poor skills will get you
killed unless you’re a very lucky soul.
FINDING A GOOD COURSE
Better, more enjoyable courses will share many common attributes.
Here are some:
Look for experienced instructors. While everyone has to start
somewhere, previous instructional experience measured in years,
not months, will usually lead to a better end result for you, the
consumer / student. If they try to razzle-dazzle you with
experience in the Boy Scouts, ROTC, or “personal interest”, or a
long list of certifications without offering how much experience
they have actually teaching real students, look out.
Look for instructors who have been to some of the nationally-known
schools. Instructors who have continued their education at
top-tier national schools will bring lessons and teaching
techniques they’ve learned from the nationally-respected masters
to your local class.
“Team teaching” is always a good thing, as instructors can teach
to their strengths and students enjoy hearing a more diverse set
of perspectives. Sure, the instructors make a lot less
individually when utilizing “team teaching”, but end result is a
better educational experience for the students.
A “team” of instructors also offers greater opportunities for the
student to get more one-on-one help as needed, particularly on the
firing line during live fire.
Previous law enforcement or military instructional experience is a
bonus, especially if it is in the arena of training the elites of
military or law-enforcement. Again, it’s about bringing
applicable aspects of the latest tactics to the local students.
High instructor to student ratios. We can’t stress this one
enough, especially for range exercises. If you have one or two
instructors trying to run a range with ten or twelve entry-level
students on the firing line at once, you’re getting badly
short-changed as a student and it’s not as safe as it could be.
Courses that offer more than the minimum. Good instructors won’t
cut corners, but in fact will supplement the required material
with valuable and useful information they have learned from other
schools or instructors.
Referrals, testimonials, and word of mouth are all things to look
for in reputable, experienced instructors. Ask your friends who
have been to a class what they thought of it. Visit your local
gun club or gun rights organization and ask those present for
recommendations on instructors and/or classes.
With the booming popularity of non-resident carry licenses, there
are a lot of instructors, especially newly-minted ones, who vary
significantly in skill, ability and ethics.
There are a number of red flags one should look for in entry level
training to help you avoid a disappointing experience.
Airsoft: Do instructors attempt to replace live-fire with airsoft
guns for the class?
Internet classes: Do instructors attempt to “teach” the classroom
segments of the class on the internet?
Charging for permit application packets: One firearms training
group charges students $20 each for Florida and Arizona license
application packets, even when those respective states promptly
send them out for free.
Unsafe gun handling: Do instructors demonstrate safe gun handling
or do they routinely put their booger picker on the bang switch
inappropriately? Are they careless about muzzle control?
Cutting corners to do less than even the minimum requirements. If
it is supposed to be a four-hour class and the instructor finishes
in three and a half hours? That’s not good.
Instructors teaching flawed, out-of-date or just plain unsafe
information that could get students killed or injured needlessly,
either from tactics or a safety perspective.
Example you ask? Recently: “You should carry with an empty
chamber” and “you should rack the slide of your empty-chambered
handgun on your pants.”
Do a little research. There’s no need to settle to spend money
for a course that will disappoint you. Use the information
contained here to help guide you in course selection.
Make sure the class you enroll in will provide training that meets
and exceeds your needs instead of a marginal offering that falls
short in one or more areas.
Remember, training is inexpensive compared to your life and it is
not a place to cut corners.
Good training that allows you to come out on top is priceless in
the long run.