For the last several years lots of responsible citizens have followed the advice of experts and begun storing extra food at home. Most have gone out and purchased a gun or two or three and stocked up with ample quantities of ammunition. The sale of gold coins has pushed the price to heretofore unheard of levels. Prepping is now a growth industry. Snicker if you will but society benefits when citizens take responsibility for their safety and well being. But there’s a problem . . .
Plenty of industrious preppers now find themselves with a plethora of gear but little skill or knowledge of how to use it. To paraphrase the late Colonel Jeff Cooper, “Owning a gun doesn’t make you a gunfighter anymore than owning a guitar makes you a musician.” We’ve all suffered, gritted our teeth and smiled as we listened to the self-taught musician. The self-taught shooter is pretty much the same. They might get by without hurting themselves but they possess little true skill. (Yes, I know there have been self-taught musicians that succeeded and went on to fame and fortune so save your comments.)
You can’t buy your way around training
Far too often people, men being the biggest offenders, will try to buy their way around training and practice. They spend thousands on the most expensive firearms they can find, then equip these guns with high-powered scopes, red dots, and laser aiming devices. All of these accessories can enhance the ability of a trained shooter, but in the hands of an untrained novice they’re not much better than expensive toys. The red dot sight won’t fire the rifle and the laser doesn’t guide bullets to the target.
I’ve known guys who purchased $3000 custom M1911 pistols, hand-bonded exotic leather holsters and never attended a single professional training course. Although they might not realize it, they are trying to buy their way around training. James Yeager of Tactical Response equates training to buying a new car and making payments. “When you attend a training course you make the down payment on the skill you need. After returning home you must continue to practice what you’ve been taught. That act is like making regular payments. If you make enough payments you own the skill.”
Sonny Puzikas, a former Spetsnaz soldier, now a confirmed capitalist firearms trainer, once offer that, “You cannot buy skill. When you combine professional instruction with dedicated practice, the end result is skill.”
Mindset: The Toughest Part
The first step toward the development of skill is acceptance – the admission to oneself that you are lacking in a certain skill. This is absolutely the most difficult concept for most adults to grasp and admit to themselves.
The hierarchy of training was explained to me by John Farnam more than twenty years ago. It flows like this; Unconscious Incompetence (blissfully ignorant or you don’t know what you don’t know), Conscious Incompetence (realizing you don’t know, but are willing to learn), Conscious Competence (if I think about it, I can do it), and finally the end goal, Unconscious Competence (I can do it without having to stop and think about it).
Most citizens fall into the Unconscious Incompetence category. They deceive themselves into believing that if they ever need to perform in a crisis that the will or desire to perform can make it so. That’s like sitting in the cockpit of an airplane with no training but telling yourself that you could fly the plane if it was “really an emergency.” Gun owners do this all the time. “Well, I might not have training, but if I ever need to fight I’ll know what to do.” That thinking is delusional, but it’s also comfortable and thereby far too easy to accept.
When someone makes the transition to Conscious Incompetence, they think “I realize I don’t have the skill but I want to get some.” They’ve overcome a tremendous obstacle and the road to proficiency and genuine skill is opened up in front of them. As soon as you overcome the denial stumbling block and accept that you in fact don’t know it all, that’s when the learning can begin.
More than Guns
For the prepared citizen – the family that has indeed purchased extra food, firearms, medical supplies, etc. – the road to skill and genuine security has several milestones. Many will purchase pre-stocked bug out bags, survival kits, and medical gear. Based on the suggestions of experts or from watching television, these folks will buy a medical trauma kit, but again, all they really have now is gear without the skill to use it.
Should find yourself or a loved one lying on the ground leaking badly, that’s not the time to try to read a manual to figure out what to do. Reality check: how many of you purchased some type of battle or military trauma dressing from a catalog but have never taken it out of the package? If someone you care about was bleeding to death, would you have the skill to apply that bandage or would you simply be making it up as you go along?
In the same way, I’ve had people tell me that if things got “too bad” they would live off the land, hunt, kill, and eat wild game. Most of these same folks have never actually killed or eaten anything wild in their lives, much less done so with enough skill to feed themselves and their families. Again, it’s the self-deluded thinking that says “I’ll know what to do if the time comes.”
Genuine Skill leads to a Strong Mind
“The sword is more important than the shield, and skill is more important that either. The brain is the final weapon. All else is supplemental.” – John Steinbeck. While it’s not possible to will the body to acquire a skill, the possession of genuine, earned aptitude leads to a strong mind. When faced with a true crisis – a life or death situation – it’ss a strong mind that will guide you through to the other side.
But first the mind must accept that the body needs to be trained. When the mind and body are working in consort and real, tangible skill is achieved, the mind will be stronger and more resolute. What was once thought to be impossible now becomes achievable. Self-imposed limitations begin to fall away, old boundaries at pushed back and horizons expand. The first step, however, always seems to be the hardest. Are you ready to take that step? In the end the choice is yours.
© Paul Markel 2012, reprinted with permission
Author Bio: Paul G. Markel became a US Marine in 1987 and served this nation in time of peace and war. Mr. Markel has been a professional bodyguard, police officer and small arms and tactics instructor. His lifelong training and skills are currently being put to use as an instructor at the recently launched “Emergency Tactical Skills” program. The ETS program is an intensive, comprehensive training program designed to give the end user the skills they need to be victorious and survive the most hostile of situations. For more info go to: www.EmergencyTacticalSkills.com