Out of all the grudge purchases people make, firearm training is perhaps the most resented out of the whole lot. Some of this is likely rooted in the fact that people don’t think they really need it. Or at least don’t need it beyond some arbitrary preconceived point in their skills development cycle. Which in itself is a position that sprouts from ignorance.
Why ignorance? Because anyone who seriously trains their defensive pistol skills is fully aware that they are never good enough – they can always improve on something. And when we are talking about a fight for your life, is there even such a thing as “good enough”?
This doesn’t remotely mean that you will never be able to successfully win a violent confrontation unless you have Tier-1 Operator skills. Shooting a four centimetre grouping on target at seven metres in under 2 seconds from concealment is fantastic. And it is certainly a standard worth striving for. But this isn’t all that defensive shooting proficiency is about.
But more about this later.
Firearm Training is a Constant Process
Think of firearm training in the same way you would about physical training. If you train every day to run 2,4 kilometres in under 10 minutes, and then stop training for several weeks, do you think you will still be able to achieve your benchmark? Or if you go to the gym five times a week all of January, and then perhaps only once a month for the rest of the year, what do you think your physical condition will be come Christmas?
Firearm training is exactly the same.
Newbies need to put in time and effort to develop and anchor basic skills from scratch. Once they have achieved fundamental proficiency, they can build upon that foundation to develop more advanced skills. There is however an inescapable reality that applies to all shooters, regardless of their skill level. If you do not maintain your skills through regular practice, they will erode and you will lose them.
Speed is Less Important than You Think
Coming back to speed – the obsession many shooters have with it rather irritates me. Yes, I get it: the combination of speed and accuracy is important, and we should certainly strive to meet realistic benchmarks consistently. But if you are shooting sub-second hits from concealment on a 20 centimetre plate at 7 metres, yet spend no time practicing unarmed combatives, shooting from behind cover, moving with purpose, malfunction clearing, reloading, and working on your physical fitness – you need to seriously rethink your priorities.
Especially that last one.
In fact, stop the obsession with speed altogether. How to we become faster? Very simply by eliminating excess movement. The more efficient you are at clearing concealment, establishing a grip on the pistol, drawing it in a straight line, bringing your hands together in front of you, and pushing out so the sights align where you are looking – the faster you will be. Usually the faster someone tries to be, the slower they actually are. Because they are not smooth in their actions.
And slow is smooth, and smooth is fast. Some understand this, and others don’t.
The speed will come on its own. The less time you spend obsessing over it, the better a shooter you will be.
So let’s say you have eliminated nearly all excess movement, and are now super fast and accurate with consistency. That’s great. But are you physically fit? Do you know how to hold your own when going hand-to-hand? Do you understand and practice Situational Awareness? In fact, are you properly acquainted with the Principles of Personal Defence, and live by them? Or do you spend all of your time solely trying to become a sub-second wunderkind shooter? And most importantly – do you spend the time to develop a Combative Mindset?
As with all things in life, you need to find the correct balance.
Train Deliberately and with Purpose
Yes, you will need to invest a lot of time and effort mastering the essential skills of combative shooting. But it is equally important to not lose perspective of what you are trying to achieve. Look for blindspots in your skills development process and address them. If you fixate on shooting, and shooting alone, you will neglect a number of vitally important skills and attributes that feed your ability to defend yourself in a violent encounter. And this will be greatly to your detriment.
It is also important that you train and practice with purpose. You can fire thousands of rounds, and spend hours at the range, and achieve absolutely nothing. Equally, you can spend 15 to 30 minutes a day doing dry fire practice at home and achieve a great deal.
The key is that you need to understand what you intend to accomplish with the training session before you go and actually do it. Which infers you have some idea as to what your weak areas are, and prioritise working on them.
And this is where instructors come in.
Instructors Don’t Teach You How to Shoot – They Enhance Your Understanding
We don’t actually teach you how to shoot. Instead we equip you with the knowledge you require to develop your skills yourself. This means that every time you attend a training course, the instructor is there to expose you to simple, sensible and proven methods of developing and anchoring the skills you need to learn. We can point out if you have developed bad habits, or help you find a technique best suited to your body mechanics.
Experienced instructors will also tell you when you are neglecting combative elements beyond shooting skills. So if they tell you they think you should spend some additional time in the gym: that’s not an insult. That’s making you aware of a potential blindspot in your training regime that you should probably think about.
All of this feeds into bettering your understanding of the process, so that you can make informed and rational decisions pertaining your own skills development.
But nothing can change the fact that regardless of how many courses you attend, you will still have to put in the time and effort to practice your skills at home. A good instructor will also explain to you the numerous ways of doing this. That 15 to 30 minutes a day dry fire we spoke about earlier? That’s the ticket to becoming a really good defensive shooter.
Even more so when you start throwing in useful training aids. Like SIRT pistols, laser training cartridges, laser-reactive targets, and (my personal favourite) blowback airsoft replicas of your carry gun.
Hence the reason why you should attend training courses is to learn and develop new skills, as well as to revisit and re-anchor skills you already have.
Mindset Leads, Training Feeds, Everything Else Follows
I have a mantra that I stole from my good friend Bryan Mennie which goes Mindset Leads, Training Feeds, Everything Else Follows.
Essentially it means that your Combative Mindset is the single most important factor determining the outcome of your fight. You develop a Combative Mindset through, among other things, Training that Feeds it via combative skills development. This skills development process builds competence and understanding, which in turn builds confidence you have earned through hard work. And this earned confidence Feeds your Combative Mindset. Which is what makes you such a dangerous adversary for violent criminals – your mindset is one where you have made the active decision to prevail at all costs, and have the skills to make good on that commitment.
This is how ordinary people prevail over dangerous criminals who outnumber them on a regular basis. They possess the Mindset, the Skills, and the Equipment to win. And regular training is a central pillar to this recipe for success.
Remember that you don’t carry a gun because you are afraid of violent criminals: you carry a gun to make violent criminals afraid of you.
Stay safe, be dangerous.
Training Opportunities 2022
If you want to train with us, we have the following training opportunities coming up (click the links for full course description and booking info):
- Handgun Combatives & CQB – Cape Town, 26 February
- Handgun & Unarmed Combatives + CQB – Centurion, 5 & 6 March (2-Day Course)
Written by Gideon Joubert.
Gideon is the owner and editor of Paratus.