Not Knowing What You Don’t Know Can Kill You

By Paul McCain

The CCW class that I took several years ago was expertly delivered and covered basics of safe firearm handling along with legal ramifications, but that was about it. I left entirely unprepared to use my concealed carry weapon effectively. It was not the instructor’s fault. In fact, he repeatedly cautioned us that simply because we have a license to carry a weapon does not mean we have the training necessary to carry it effectively. I must say his warning fell on deaf ears at the time and I figured it was just a sales pitch to get us to take more classes from him, though he was careful to emphasize that we needed more training and to get it from anyone qualified to deliver it. I went on my merry way thinking to myself, “I’ve got this, no problem. I’m a member of a local gun club and I have become pretty good at poking holes in paper at various distances. I’m ok. I’m ready. I can do this.” Wrong, wrong wrong . . .

I didn’t know what I didn’t know. And that is a dangerous thing.

I kept up my “training regimen” with nearly weekly visits to the Arnold Rifle and Pistol Club in Pevely, Missouri (an awesome private club here in the greater St. Louis, Missouri metro area) and along with my recreational shooting I specifically drilled myself on drawing from a holster and shooting at a target from reasonable distances. I watched YouTube videos made by “experts” and many are very helpful to the beginning shooter. Many others, aren’t. I figured I was doing pretty well. I was putting rounds put on paper in a reasonable group relatively quickly. So, I was feeling pretty good about my skill set.

But then I happened to meet the managing principal of Asymmetric Solutions. We struck up a conversation and he noticed I was wearing my gun club membership badge. He asked me, “Do you like shooting guns?” Oh, yes, indeed I do. “Do you?” I asked. He said, “Yes, in fact, I have a facility in Farmington you might like to visit,” and invited me out that day.

Forty minutes or so later, I found myself rolling into a gorgeous piece of property located in the gentle rolling hills of south/central Missouri on 2,500+ acres, including Missouri’s second highest elevation. After looking around at their facilities, their shoot house, the ranges, I realized I was dealing with a whole new level. I found out that Asymmetric Solutions has been offering training facilities and opportunities for military special forces units and law enforcement agencies for a number of years and had started offering training for civilians, too. Their cadre of instructors include a number of former special forces guys. Talk about being in the right place at the right time.

I began taking classes and have now gone through their Basics of Tactical Shooting Class, their Fighting Pistol I and II and Fighting Carbine I and II classes and a few others. Each time I learn more and realize more how much more I have to learn and the need to keep practicing.  It has been a sobering and humbling experience.

Simply put: there’s a huge difference between standing in a bay at a gun club, taking deliberate aim and delivering rounds on paper and training to shoot under stress. Being timed and analyzed for accuracy while you are moving in every direction, engaging multiple threats upon command and drawing from concealment makes a big, big difference.

And here’s my point. I’m sure everyone who has had a similar experience moving from a required CCW class to the “do it yourself” training and then to professional training is either nodding in agreement, or perhaps saying, “Of course, you idiot.” Either way, the point I’m making here for all who might fall into the DIY category is: get training!

Seek it out from people who have the real-world experience and credentials to deliver training that’s as realistic as possible and shows you the huge difference between target shooting and defensive use of a weapon in various scenarios. In real life the moment of crisis comes suddenly, before you have a chance to touch the sidearm you are carrying. If you have to think it over, even for a second, when the moment of crisis is upon you, that’s a recipe for disaster and may well cost you your life, or the life of your loved ones or others you acting to defend.

Professional training equips you with the skills you need to keep practicing effectively. Taking a few classes is by no means the end-all of training. It’s merely the beginning. You have to use the skills or you lose them. At Asymmetric Solutions we heard, over and over again, “These are the skills that we have found to be the most effective in actual combat experiences. We will tell you what we have found to work the best for us and you can decide from there what works best for you. But whatever you do, you need to practice, continually. Dry firing should be what you do 70% of the time with your weapon.”

When you are put in a situation where your heart rate is up, the pressure is on and the adrenalin is flowing you quickly discover that your basic skills with a firearm – stance, grip, trigger control, sight picture – go right into the toilet. Fast. Faster than you’d ever realize without training. So get ready to eat a huge slice of humble pie.

The instructors at Asymmetric Solutions repeatedly drum it into your head: “A well-placed shot from a small caliber is far more effective than a poorly placed one from something more powerful. Remember: mindset, training, then equipment.”

That’s worth repeating: Mindset. Training. Equipment. In that order.

What I didn’t know that I didn’t know was dangerous. What you don’t know is dangerous. That’s why competent professional training is key and if the training doesn’t focus on proper mindset, then teaching skills to be practiced, no matter what the equipment is, you are not getting the right training. I was fortunate to stumble on great place for professional training. I urge you to find one, too because what you don’t know may well get you killed.