We all have to start somewhere. Everyone is a beginner once. Think back to the days of your learner’s permit” and Driver’s Education classes. When we first learn to drive, every aspect of the car and its operation is new and a little bewildering. I learned to drive with a standard transmission car. Talk about doing it the hard way. At first, when you go through Driver’s Ed, your instructor tells how to do everything. “Put the key in, depress the brake, turn the ignition, put the car in drive”, etc. Before you’re allowed out on the road, you go to a wide open, flat parking lot full of orange cones and practice. A lot. After a while . . .
you get pretty good at maneuvering around the cones and you’re finally ready for the challenge of the road. But no one goes straight from the cone slalom to their license exam. You need to learn to work in traffic, keep your eye on the other cars and deal with unforeseen circumstances.
When you think about firearms training, particularly with a handgun, the path toward mastery is similar to that of learning to drive. As you begin, every move you make is slow and deliberate, hopefully guided by an instructor. That’s how we master the fundamentals.
Unfortunately, far too many gun owners and shooters stop at the square range or what I like to call “the cones.” The cones help you to become a safe operator. But if you plan to someday use a firearm in the most dynamic and dangerous situation ever – personal defense – you need to get away from the cones and learn to think with a gun in your hand.
Ballistic Problem Solving
The purpose and design of the Ballistic Problem Solving course (BPS) is to get the shooter out of their square range/orange cone comfort zone. During a rapidly developing and hyper-violent deadly force encounter, you won’t have a coach to help you work through the problem.
Too often, instructors will teach people to become shooting robots. The shooter can’t operate without specific commands within the square range structure. There are firearms instructors and institutions so afraid of armed students that they won’t allow shooters to make a move without specific instructions.
Yes, a brand new shooter needs detailed guidance, but we need to help people progress beyond that and move forward. Getting stuck in the cones doesn’t help a shooter learn to deal with the realities of carrying a gun in out in the world. The real world is has far more things in it that should NOT be shot than things that should.
Outside the matrix, in the real world, if you put a bullet into something that shouldn’t have a bullet in it there are some serious consequences. A bad shot can cost you money (attorney fees and fines), time (court and jail), or even your life in the most extreme circumstances.
When it comes to safety, rather than forcing people to become shooting robots, afraid to load their guns without permission, we need to provide the best training possible. One of the most profound and practical pieces of advice I got when I was learning came when I attended an NRA LE Pistol and Shotgun course. After going over the 4 Universal Safety Rules with us, the instructor advised, “all safe actions are permitted.”
He went on to give an example. “If you need to load, unload or clear your gun for some reason, move to a position where you aren’t muzzling other shooters and do what you need to do. As long as you don’t violate one of the four rules you’re good.” I was impressed by the logic and simplicity of that guidance.
Thought Provoking Drills
After a shooter has proven to be a safe operator and understands how to effectively manipulate the gun, it’s time to take off the training wheels. If a person can’t be trusted to handle a firearm in a safe and conscientious manner they need to be dismissed. Guns aren’t for everyone.
The most dangerous thing you can teach a shooter is to fire their guns reflexively or without thinking. Snap shooting is a recipe for disaster. During the BPS course, students are put into situations where they have to discriminate between targets. Target images of various shapes and with different numbers are placed down range. Rather than prompt the shooter with a preparatory command, they’re instead told to engage the shape or number the instructor calls out. The shooter doesn’t know what shape or number will be called until they hear it. This forces the student to engage their brain and find the correct target before they press the trigger.
Other drills put the shooter in realistic and unusual positions. They might begin from a seated position in a chair or facing away from the target. No one begins a real gunfight standing flatfooted, facing the target with their hand staged like the quintessential western gunfighter. Before launching bullets, shooters have to move themselves into a position where the target can be effectively engaged.
Given the recent event where armed “professionals” fired at a single bad guy and struck nine bystanders, I think a serious discussion of target discrimination is warranted. Square range qualification training just doesn’t cut it in the real world.
It’s been said that shooting is ninety percent mental and ten percent physical and I believe that’s true. A firearm is just a tool. It’s the mind or the brain that allows the body to use that tool effectively and efficiently. The world doesn’t need more shooting robots. What the world needs are people who understand how to think then shoot.
More information about the Ballistic Problem Solving course and other training can be found at http://ww.studentofthegun.com/university . To watch a video explanation go to StudentoftheGunTV on YouTube.com
Paul Markel © 2012
111 Practicing to hit the right target.
112 Orange cones will only take you so far.