Certificate of completion from FPF Training.
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Back in a different life, when I wore the badge, I attended a number of training courses put on by different agencies and schools. All of them were directed towards a law enforcement-centric mindset. Basically, you’re going to get into a shootout with bad guys and this is how you win.

Afterwards, we always went over the legal aspects of our use of force and, more importantly, how Florida law and agency policy required us to intervene because we were on duty 24/7/365 and had a duty to act.

When I hung up the badge and became a normal person in the civilian world, I continued to attend a number of training courses. I noticed something while going to these classes. A number of them, while great for learning new shooting skills or maintaining already established skills, never covered the legal aspects of a shooting.

Some of these classes were what I’d basically call fantasy camp. You’d be decked out in gear, run through a shoot out, learn how to shoot faster, etc. . . Which is great and all. From a good class and instructor, you learn solid gun handling skills and learn to shoot better.

But honestly, as John Q Citizen, I’m not rocking a plate carrier and a carbine during my daily activities. I’m usually carrying a concealed handgun with a reload or two and have my wife and kid in tow with me, or I’m at the house with the long gun in reach and at the ready in case bad things come through our front or back door.

That’s what led me to seek out better instructors and classes geared towards the civilian aspect of self-defense.

When I lived in North Florida, I had the pleasure of attending a few courses put on by Bob Capps of Signal-0 Firearms Training.

Bob runs a heck of a course out in Jefferson County, about thirty minutes east of the State Capitol. Bob is no slouch when it comes to teaching. Having a long resume in both the military and law enforcement, Bob tells it like it is and covers both the tactical and legal aspects.

I knew Bob from my cop days, and when I got out I attended his classes because — guess what — I needed a good crash course on how not to think like a cop. After fifteen years it was hard to change some ingrained trains of thought on how to respond to things.

Bob going over firearm safety and legality of a shoot.

But Bob knew what he was doing and would go over the legal aspects of a shoot, along with putting you through how to shoot and how to maintain your weapons.

Since the AR-15 is very popular for self-defense in the home, Bob would do a lot of classes centered around it. Bob is big on teaching the ways of the AR-15 and I’m glad he does that, because that’s what a lot of people keep around for self-defense of their hearth and home.

We saw that with Mark McCloskey back in 2020 in St. Louis when protestors threatened him and his wife at their residence.

Courtesy Associated Press

Bob would cover the legal aspects of such uses of force like this. I always took something positive from his classes and enjoyed them. Plus, Bob would get some very interesting instructors for some higher-end, high-speed stuff, too. Like using your AR-15 at night and even with night vision.

Why? Because this is Florida and hurricanes with widespread power losses do happen.

Bob is still a cop on the street and he sees the changes that affect our legal system when they happen. Because of that, Bob is passionate about teaching and training. He doesn’t do this for profit; his full-time job is still in law enforcement. Bob puts on these classes because he cares about the community and wants folks to be able to take care of themselves and each other.

Just a few hours south, in Central Florida, you have some excellent classes put on by West Orlando Firearms Training.

WOFT is a heck of a place, with indoor and outdoor facilities.

They have a number of highly skilled instructors covering different subjects. I enjoyed WOFT for their low light flashlight classes, use of simunitions, and hands-on defensive tactics courses.

Yes, you read that right, they us simunitions.

Now, as a cop, I’ve been on the two-way paint range with the blue guns. But never have I seen a place that offers simunition training for the general public. It is a great way to put theoretical use of force discussions into actual physical training and face real life threats and situations in a way you can never really do with paper or 3D targets on the range.

They used factory built HK VP9s and SIG P320s.

They’ll put you through different scenarios, like you being in a coffee shop during a robbery or maybe you’re the victim of a car jacking.

Afterwards, they’ll go over as a class what you did and discuss it with you on a play-by-play review. Including the legality of your actions and if you were justified in your use of force.

One of WOFT’s courses is defensive tactics with certified instructors including hands-on fighting and grappling.

That’s my out of shape self doing an open palm strike on the instructor.

Self-defense isn’t just abut drawing your gun. Self-defense involves a lot of things because you might be disarmed due to being in a “gun free zone,” or you might need to keep your attacker from getting your gun.

Why is that important? Because if you’re carrying, every possible confrontation has, at the minimum, one gun that could be involved. YOURS!

WOFT emphasizes this in their training and I can’t say it enough. They are a top notch place with top notch staff. I can recommend them without any hesitation.

Okay, but what if you don’t live in North or Central Florida? Well, you’re in luck.

There is a traveling class put on by John Murphy of FPF Training.

I looked into what FPF Training had to offer and liked what they promoted on their page.

As an instructor, John is a former crayon eater and intel officer (US Marine). He’s spent a lot of time studying the ways of the gun and the mind. But more importantly, he still takes classes himself to expand his knowledge base.

Because of that, John is big on self-defense with handguns and the legality of a shoot. So I figured what the hell, I signed both my wife and I up for his two day class that he was putting on in Homestead. Down on the extreme south end of Miami-Dade County, right before you hit the Florida Keys.

Prior to the class John sent us homework; actual material to study. A lot of it was videos of deadly encounters, and he wanted us to watch these videos because they would be brought discussed in class.

So, we went to the class expecting two days of shooting. Well, I was very surprised when at 8am on day one, John told us we won’t be shooting at all for the entire day.

John going over the legal aspects of a shoot.

Yup, the first day of a two-day shooting course involved no shooting. Instead, we went over the legal aspects of use of force. When is it justified and when it is not, but more importantly, the different levels of force and medical care.

Everyone was given a first aid kit and wore them on their ankle during the entire two days.

As a cop, I’ve gone through taser and OC spray training. I’ve ridden the lightning and tasted the sun enough times to know that both suck. But I’ve never been to a civilian self-defense oriented class that goes over the use and deployment of OC spray.

My wife, using OC spray for the first time under instruction by John.

While my wife knows how to handle a firearm, OC spray was an entirely new experience for her. But John put her through the legal uses for it and, more importantly, he stood before the students and took a shot of spray to the face. Luckily for him, he had trainers that had a nice minty flavor.

I was very impressed by that part of the class. Sure, I knew what I was doing with spray. But I was the only cop in the crowd. Everyone else never really used OC spray. Some folks admitted that they purchased it, but they never deployed it.

Everyone, my wife included, learned about some important things when using OC spray such as spray-back due to the wind, effects of distance, and the physical deployment of the spray.

A fellow student hitting John right in the face with OC spray.

As I said, the legal aspects of a shoot were discussed, too. After multiple safety checks and physically disabling each gun with a safety device, John put us through different scenarios. Some resulted in a shoot and others resulted in simply walking away. As students, we never knew what the end result would be.

He was big on having people call 911. Why? Because in a self-defense shoot, you need to establish that YOU WERE THE VICTIM OF A CRIME. By calling 911 and reporting the incident, you establish that fact.

Notice the cellphone being held by the student in one hand while holding John (acting as the bad guy) at gun point and keeping distance from him.

As a cop, I recall how it really did matter who reported the incident first to dispatch. Because dispatch is who relays that information to law enforcement and law enforcement are the ones who show up on-scene with guns drawn. Plus, after the fact, what is reported to 911 is later used by the State Attorney’s Office to determine if they’re going to press charges against you for defending yourself.

John was also big on pushing folks on establishing distance and shouting loud commands. He wanted his students to yell things like “this guy just tried to kill me, I had to defend myself!” Why? Because in today’s world, when a shooting happens, folks pop up out of the woodwork and video the aftermath on their cellphones.

That was part of why he wanted us to watch the videos prior to the class. Because those videos were of just that, the aftermath. Videos where some dirt bag attacked someone and they used lethal force to defend themselves. But those videos make it seem like the dirt bag bleeding out was the victim because dirt bags usually travel in packs and all you’d hear in the videos is “oh my God, you shot my buddy! He wasn’t doing anything wrong!” And all you’d see is the person who used lethal force in a vapor lock, silent.

John discussed how those videos are entered into the case as evidence and how the State Attorney’s Office will use them to paint you as the bad guy.

Thus, the purpose of yelling things out and the 911 call is to establish that you’re the victim, not the criminal.

That was the first day from 8am to 5pm. It was how to use OC spray, using your gut instinct to walk away from an altercation before having to resort to violence, and what you do after you use said violence.

Day two was all about shooting.

So, just to give you a heads up, I’m a revolver fan. I carried a GLOCK for my entire career as a cop, but off the job and now as a private citizen I carry a revolver. Why? Because I like ’em. John’s class is structured for a semi-automatic. Prior to attending, I asked John if I can shoot it with a revolver and he said yes…under one condition. I can’t hold up the class.

I agreed to that one condition. So why exactly did I want to do the course with a wheel gun? Because I really wanted to challenge myself. My daily carry right now is either my S&W Model 586 or my Colt MKIV Series 80 Government Model; with my S&W winning out six out of seven days.

Two 80s era classics. My L-Frame S&W Model 586 and the old reliable slab sided Colt Series 80 1911.

I decided to take my S&W Model 27, the big old honking N-Frame. My wife, being far more logical and having an abundance of common sense, took her GLOCK 17.

My wife used her 9mm GLOCK 17 Gen 4 and I used my S&W Model 27-7 in .357 Magnum.

The N-Frame is a beast of a gun and concealing it isn’t easy. But I pack it when I travel into the frigid winters of North Florida under a jacket and I spend a lot of time up there. So I figured what the hell, put the big gal through her paces. I’ve wrung out the L-Frame through Bob’s classes out in Jefferson County enough times already.

So day two started off on a good start with a cold snap coming through and staying in the high 50s and low 60s! John wanted to see where everyone was in their firearms handling so he had us form up on the line and do some controlled draws while empty and then progressed the class to shooting controlled groups to see where folks were on accuracy and handling.

From there, he’d move us farther and farther back and start giving us different shooting commands, have folks do the Mozambique drill, engage two different targets, have a shoot and no-shoot target, etc. . .

My wife, while shooting her GLOCK 17. Caught the gun while cycling and recoiling.

I stuck through the whole class with my trusty S&W Model 27. I shot it with range reload .357 Magnum ammo, too. Yeah, I put a box of .38 Special through the gun, but most of it was with .357 Magnum since that’s what I carry in my guns.

Rocking my S&W Model 27 on the line, engaging two different targets while on the move.

As the day progressed, we went from dealing with static paper targets to 3D targets that moved.

You can see my wife engaging one such target charging towards her as she draws from concealment and engages the target.

Breaking leather, disregard the fact that she’s using a kydex holster. Breaking leather is an old term for drawing okay.

Notice the position of the charging target and my wife.

Lining up the sights and engaging the target.

She moved to the left to get out of the attacker’s path and engaged the target.

If you look closely, you’ll see the impact of the round in the dirt after it passed through the target’s body.

John even went so far as to give us different scenarios with the 3D target. Sometimes it would charge at you as if attacking, other times it would just go at a slow pace. And during all this, John was talking to you and even had the class yell, make noise, etc. to distract you.

John ended the class with us clearing our weapons and going through an entire self-defense scenario from start to finish. The confrontation, attempts of avoidance, use of less-lethal force, use of lethal force, post-shooting-incident steps like calling 911, and even what you might experience by having law enforcement show up on scene and detain you.

A student going through a use of force scenario that resulted in shooting the bad guy.

All in all, day two ended perfectly. No one got hurt, people learned new skills, and most importantly, my wife walked away with a better understanding of how the legal system works and how she can defend herself.

My wife after a long two days of training.
My wife’s certificate of training.

I’m ending the article on this note.

I truly believe that folks should seek out instructors who cover both the tactical and legal aspects of self-defense shooting. It is our collective responsibility as gun owners to better ourselves both in our physical and mental skills.

In today’s environment, it is vitally important that, as a gun owner, you understand the legal environment you’re operating it. Some places are far more legally friendly towards your civil rights. Others, like NYC will string you up and go after you with a vengeance while defending the dirt bag who attacked you or your loved ones.

I can highly recommend all three of the training establishments mentioned here, and I like FPF in particular since they travel across the state, which obviously gives you a much easier opportunity to attend training.

Luis Valdes is the Florida Director of Gun Owners of America.


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  1. THIS is the stuff of *actual* training.

    Training is NOT about getting your license to carry. Those are two very different things. People should get training. But you should never think that comes with getting a license. It doesn’t.

    • I advocate for training! But not this kind of training. I advocate for training on how to unload a firearm, keep it unloaded, and keep it safely stored in your homes, as governed by safe storage laws that we need passed here in the US. If we can keep your guns locked up in a locked box/safe, in a locked closet, in a locked room, in a locked home, and make that law, it would greatly make me “feel” better about how you are running your lives. It would also be ideal that the ammunition would be locked in a different locked box/safe, in a different locked closet, in a different locked room. It’s also very important we pass universal background check laws ensuring we have lists of who has what, and for us to create a majority where this can be voted on, so a panel of people we like, can determine who can have what they are asking permission to have. #yaydemocracy #tolerance This would be a great first step, amongst many small steps, in passing the 10922nd law on guns, to help us reach our end goal, which I will not discuss here. We can call this law, “The freedumbbbbbb firearms act of 2022.” Because nothing says freedom like a panel of people deciding what you can and can’t have, or a majority of people deciding for that matter. #democracy! #freedumbbbbbb

      • To the fake dacian, the Dunderhead. People like you should be caged. Part of any firearms course is the safely loading and unloading of a firearm.

  2. “…we were on duty 24/7/365 and had a duty to act.”
    reespekt, mon. i admire this.
    but legal precedence suggests otherwise.

  3. Fck dat pepper spray.
    1993 a woman says ” Oh I got pepper spray”- I’d been drinking a little, said gimme that, directly point blank into my eyes and then made it across the small room, jumped on top of her and chocked her.
    It ain’t going to work if your aggressor is really crazy mad or fcked up.

  4. Luis,

    Thanks for the timely article. I have a daughter who lives near Apalachicola. I am forwarding this TTAG directly to her….hoping it will inspire her to seek additional firearms training.

  5. I’m just shocked that you CC such a big and heavy revolver. 😳
    Now, I wonder if I should swap my pocket carry Ruger Max-9 with my old Security Six. Twice as big, twice as heavy, and half the round count.

    Those North Florida winters are brutal. I spent five years in Gainesville. I even saw a few snowflakes once. 🥶😉

  6. Luis, didn’t Ayoob have a school around Monticello? Worked with Joe M. FDLE (ret.) if I recall. Maybe it was Live Oak. Anyway I know Ayoob used to winter over there somewhere. Suprised you didn’t mention Charlie and J.D. in the article.

  7. Montana, when you visit her make sure she takes you to The Grill. An Apalachicola landmark. Genuine Florida Gulf of Mexico seafood. Try the fried jumbo shrimp. Cheese grits, cole slaw and hushpuppies are recommended sides. Oh, the fried blue crab claws or oysters on the 1/2 shell are great apps.

    • In fact, if they’re available, you want fried soft shell crab. (For those not familiar, it’s a blue crab that is molting, cleaned and deep fried.) Served on a platter with fixins’ or on a Po’ Boy, that’s grub.

        • Specialist, that’s the truth! One of my favorite ways to spend a day was when Randy and I would run across the bay from Carabelle to fish the the back side of St. George Island. Trout, redfish, pompano, etc. We always stopped at Julia Mae’s on the way home. A cup of grouper chowder to start. Whole flounder, stuffed w/crab and grilled. Cheese grits and slaw. Key lime pie to go for the kids when I got home.

  8. Two other sources of good training:

    Mas Ayoob’s MAG series of classes. They cover both legal and shooting aspects of self defense. He teaches them in person at various locations around the country.

    Andrew Branca’s Law of Self Defense. His book is available from Amazon and he sells DVDs that go into more detail. There is a general one and a specific DVD for each state. He covers current cases of interest on his website. Once or twice a year, he teaches a live, online class.

  9. Thanks Luis for all the work you have done for gun owners. Great article. Floridians certainly have a host of training opportunities throughout the state.

    At Signal-0 I have removed all the economical excuses for not getting quality and contemporary training. While I am not a lawyer, I think it’s important to educate citizens on our state’s Use of Force Law so they are better prepared to make better decisions.

    I believe training should be just that… training. Running and gunning is fun, but it is practical? Training should be tailored to uncover skill-set shortfalls and then provide shooting tasks to improve upon those shortfalls. Training never ends… evaluation, practice, accountability, reevaluation, etc.

    Many times I hear experienced folks say they don’t think it’s worth it to attend a class because they have been to several classes already. Those are the ones who fail to realize it’s not always about learning “something new”, it’s about having your skills reevaluated periodically by a fresh eye so you stay as sharp as possible. Skill maintenance is as important as skill development IMO.

    I just hosted Robert “Bob” Keller from Gamut Resolutions. The class was such a success his follow up class for October (Advanced Carbine) sold out in less than 24 hours of posting. I strongly recommend those serious about gunfighting training to seek out one of Bob’s classes.

    Floridians are certainly blessed when it comes to training providers.

  10. Gadsden Flag – Ayoob’s Florida classes are in Live Oak, and he also travels the country. Tom Givens lives in central Florida and is also a frequent visitor to Homestead. Randy Cain does a lot of training in Lakeland. I highly recommend all three.

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