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We’ve put this question to the Armed Intelligentsia before. But I thought I’d raise it again, what with the release of this documentary about Front Sight. ‘Cause it strikes me that a lot of today’s firearms training is edutainment rather than “proper” self-defense training. In other words, it’s security theater with a gun. (E.g., shooting while standing still from an erect stance in a huge line, telling students that they will be searching their home for a bad guy.) Given that the vast majority of defensive gun uses (DGU) don’t involve anything more than firearms presentation by a more-or-less completely untrained citizen, how much instruction does an armed self-defender need, really? Isn’t survival more dependent on genetics than coursework? Sure it can’t hurt. Or can it? [h/t “G” from WA state]

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  1. This question has an answer. The problem is that no two places are going to have the same one.

    Out here in South Dakota my odds of meeting a street gang rip crew are nil. In Rodgers Park, Chicago its a different story. The threats any of us may face will be different , and as such there’s no one standard of training which can be established that applies to all shooters equally. Legalities further muddle things up, because in some places Scary Looking Rifles aren’t allowed-so that changes the equipment dynamic on top of the training issue. I may not need to learn how to get off the X to defend my home with an AR15, but in Chicago I’d be forced to use a 10 round mag in a pistol to do the same thing.

    My only consistent point would be that no state could mandate training for CCW issuance. As LEOs and military regularly prove, you cannot train a dedicated idiot to competency.

        • The Marines must be a little more traditional in their training methods and punishments for failure, because when I was in the Army, I saw complete morons remain complete morons with firearms.

          This despite substantial effort, but equally substantial restrictions. At least, compared to what I’m told the “good old days” were like.

        • I don’t know when you were in the Army but when I went thru basic at Ft.Benning Ga in Aug 1981 we had two guys wash out because they were complete morons with weapons,grenades and what little we got to work with explosives/claymores.
          But at that time most of our DI’s were Vietnam Vets so you learned, got your ass whooped till you learned or you got washed out!!!
          Was in from 81 till 96 so seen a few morons with weapons but they didn’t stay in any of our LRSD’s or LRSC unit’s if they couldn’t meet the standards!!

  2. The simple answer is as much as possible.
    Wouldn’t it be great if all AD and IGOTD only went to only law enforcement individuals.
    Certainly we have a right by choice not to take any training, or never practice. But the reality of the situation is that we should, and attempt to make training as real as possible.. Simunitions?
    Depending on where you live being able to practice like a true DGU might be difficult, or impossible. Low light, active movement, rapid fire, moving targets, OMG human shaped targets lol
    Here in California, finding a range near you that has all this great stuff is difficult if not impossible. In fact most of the guys at the LGS shoot on private lands for that very reason.
    While we can’t stop every bad use of a gun, by everyone, it certainly would do us all a favor to educate ourselves and others. Make it so that we have the strength of knowledge, and others won’t just look at us a gun nuts, clinging to our guns and religion.

    • *******Make it so that we have the strength of knowledge, and others won’t just look at us a gun nuts, clinging to our guns and religion.*****

      If only that’s all it would take to change their minds. If every single gun owner in America were a member of IDPA/USPSA and had legal education by Mas Ayoob, we would STILL be labeled as paranoid white redneck yokels overcompensating for something.

  3. Your firearms training should be a never ending thing , you need to try different ways of shooting, different positions , also try different holds, I learned to shoot a pistol with both hands and both hands at same time, learn to shoot in all types weather, rain, snow, learn to reload your shotgun or rifle with only your weak hand, FUN, learn to shoot in low light or no light.. learn to shoot running, uphill, or down hill. The reason is your firearm becomes a part of your body , use the sling, use only iron sights on the rifle too. learn to shoot moving targets, and start all over, read books from pro’s get more tips, police and military, and old west shooters too… shoot skeet, you name it try it… and this will tell you what wears out and does not work well , get the parts that will wear out or come loose or apart NOW.

  4. We’re not LEO’s, or military. we’re not hi speed and low drag. For us civilian types going about our dailey routines safe gun handling is the priority. Being competent in our safe gun handling and simply being armed will deal with nearly any situation that will arise for us.

    Now if you wish to go spend a weekend paying Sonny the mad Russian good money to learn how to play in a shoot house, feel free.

    Just remember, Sonny didn’t learn his skills by a few weekend courses. He, like all other police and military “operators” were paid to train full time until their skill sets were second nature to them. And then they were paid to go to bad places to practise those skills. And those that lived came back to train some more.

    Unless you have the time to devout to full time training and the support of the G’s dime to do it on you’re deluding yourself if you think you can become hi speed and low drag after you’ve spent 40+ hours a week paying for the morgtage and the kids shoes.

    • First trash the TV, and football games get 2 extra part jobs, people in Amerika waste more time , Ha I have worked 3 or 4 jobs, and still spent lots time shooting , reloading , and family time too. take the kids shooting , take the guys at church or work shooting ,, shooting is a ART SKILL, and when time comes , everything is second nature , But Amerikans need to turn off the TV and get off the sofa too. Fix things your self , saves you money and time,, SHOOT every open hour… Shoot to live FREE……….and take a liberal friend shooting , make it fun for him , will be another pro shooter . and turn off the computer games … come back to the REAL WORLD…

      • You don’t even have to get extra jobs, you just need to prioritize. I take my .22LR to the range every single day. I paid $350 for a yearly membership (unlimited lane usage), so a dollar a day. Every day, it’s about 100 rounds of .22 (so, $7 or so for Minimags that work well in my P22). IPSC targets in bulk are about a quarter a piece, and some minor amount for some masking tape to patch holes between mags. My daily outlay comes out to less than $9/day ($10, if you include the purchase price of the gun over the course of the year).

        How much dosh do other people spend on coffee every day? Cigarettes? Eating out? Netflix?

        Sure, I’m only shooting .22 most days, but I’m SHOOTING EVERY DAY. In less than two months, my accuracy with my carry gun (which I bring out once or twice a week) is substantially improved.

        • I’m not talking about practicing with your guns Casey. I spend quite a bit of time at the range. I encourage people to shoot often.

          What I’m talking about is paying big bucks for a weekend of training with some former “operator”. I don’t see that the money is a good investment.

          We are civilians, not military or LEO, we do not have to seek out and engage the enemy. All we have to do is keep the average tweaker at bay.

      • im with last marine.

        the same goes for all of those guys bitching about money. “ammo is expensive” “aimpoints are expensive” blah blah blah.

        cut out the cable, alcohol, tobacco, junk food, and everything else that wastes your time and money. hell, go donate plasma, get another part time job. those that are serious will find a way. the losers just make excuses and whine about costs.

        And lets stop with the “were not high speed low drag military and leos”. That is a shitty attitude. The most essential thing besides fighting proficiency, fitness, and marksmanship is having the will to win. if youre not high speed then change. get around high speed people. lets stop celebrating mediocrity and low expectations.

    • [commence rant]Let me get this straight. You can’t be the best, so don’t bother trying? But having a gun will make it all better anyway, so you don’t even need to bother with practice, as long as you follow Jeff Cooper’s 4 inviolable laws. Is that the jist what you just said? [end rant]

      I honestly think you could not be more wrong.

      • I think what is saying is LEO and Military generally have different goals than civilians protecting themselves, so our training and tactics are going to be different.

        The primary focus for the military is a group finding the enemy and destroying them, offensive.

        Civilian focus is protection while alone, defensive.

        LE focus is a weird mixture between the two depending on circumstances.

        It seems like more than a fair bit of the training out there focuses on the offensive tactics (e.g. room clearing, bounding over watch, flank and destroy), which might not translate well to the (legal) civilian mindset and mission.

        ‘Course, if you want to take some courses that lean towards the offensive mindset, go right ahead. Your time and money. Free country. La di da. Just don’t be surprised that you can’t shoot like Delta or SEALs after a few courses. They individually probably go through more ammo in a week than everyone of here does in a month, combined.

      • i agree.

        whatever happened to having the will to win?

        the 2nd amendment was intended to protect the people from a tyrannical government. start acting like the protector of liberty you claim to be people!

  5. Two phrases of training. Use of the firearm and practice. Use of tactics, and practice. Lot of difference between Military and civilian situations. Military tactics are primarily run to the firefight. Civilians are more constrained by law, (attacking could make you in the wrong). Most civilian tactics involve taking cover first, then while under pressure, shoot, don’t shoot. Simple, huh? If the dog alerts, or a bump in the night, my tactic is to be as invisible as possible. In a store, or, any public place, my tactic is to scan and re scan, thinking without thinking. What can I throw? What is around to use as a weapon? Chairs, tables to use to lock doors with bar grips. The spectrum is endless. Armed, or not, using your brain on short notice, is an essential survival tool.

  6. I get asked this question a lot by the students I teach (I’m a HCP instructor). My advice to them is if they want additional training they should seek out good, competent, instruction. Most importantly though they should practice, practice, practice solid fundamental skills. You may never need to learn super tactical advanced techniques but you should have a mastery of basic fundamental skills.

  7. Civilian gun owners (the CHL kind, not the hold-the-gun-sideways types) tend to do pretty well in terms of not lighting up the surroundings with stray rounds in the instances where they choose to defend themselves. The police, who are ostensibly better-trained than the rest of us who mostly buy a holster off the shelf and go to the range now and then seem to fare a little worse in the hit percentage and bystander-shooting department.

    This is not an argument in favor of ignorance or lack of practice, and I’m sure there are a lot of statistical reasons why police shootings of bystanders tend to “happen” more often, i.e., make it into the press and then into the zeitgeist. But I cannot recall much in the way of civilians shooting badly in the way of the NYPD shootings like Amadou Diallo or the recent Empire State disaster or another incident where a car full of black males was lit up by a few NYPD officers. You just don’t hear about civilians shooting a double-stack 9mm to slide-lock. Now, maybe that’s not reported while the details of every police shooting where the wrong person is shot is reported in depth, I don’t really know. But it is possible that a certain familiarity with and proclivity to pull a firearm (and having firearms pulled on you) leads to a willingness to fire in a manner that seems indiscriminate when examined outside the hyperfocus of an armed engagement.

    I don’t go to my job with the understanding that I or a fellow worker might be killed in any given day. I don’t march in the parades of fallen fellow officers and my wife does not see their widows at the grocery store. I’m not in that world, and I’m not judging those who are, but your average untrained gunowner involved in a shooting situation does not seem to go cyclic and ventilate the landscape quite the way that some police officers do. Whatever is in their training and doctrine, it seems to be a good thing that more civilians who carry guns do NOT act that way in extremis.

    Practice does not make perfect, it just makes permanent. As much as I think everyone should know how to clear a jam, know the difference between cover and concealment, know what a tactical reload is, to move diagonally and backward off the X and all the other stuff that makes it into “tactical” training, if we end up with more people trained to the level of NYPD officers we might end up with more innocent bystanders catching lead. Being able to hit a target is very important, and if you have to stand up to do that, well, so be it.

    If you believe Kleck, the most important thing is to have a gun. That, an understanding of safe gun handling, a mindset of situational awareness and a committment to de-escalation and not seeking confrontation will take care of 99.9% of the life of civilian gun-owners. The training is for the 0.1% of the time when things go really, really bad — and from the DGU Of The Day series, law-abiding civilian gun owners seem to do pretty well.

    I wonder if we’re trying to fix something that isn’t particularly broken here.

    • Darren, I agree completely with what you’re saying. We have too many examples of average people, some in senior citizen status in our DGU’s reported on this site that more than capably handle their business without training to mall ninja standards.

      By all means, take all the training you desire. But recognise that you’re in the hobby league and not the pro league.

    • Darren, I can’t take the time at the moment to find the report, but the Feds paid for a study into the phenomenon of police firing excessive rounds. The result was interesting: Lone policemen tended to fire four or less rounds, and ceased firing when the threat was apparently stopped. If more than two officers were on the scene then the round count went up dramatically. This fits most of the cases I come across. It’s a group hysteria phenomena, in the main. I’d ask for more emergency med advice, but that would be commentator abuse. laugh. I’ll stay out of the training debate.

  8. Enough to be confident in your skills and save a life or lives when needed. Enough to defend home and hearth and country when needed!!!

  9. These days I’ve been wondering…how much training do the Bad Guys get? I remember a while back, some study that said BGs actually had more rounds downrange than us Good Guys on average. Don’t recall the source…maybe someone does here? Being evil or having bad intentions doesn’t preclude someone from learning. The Zetas down in Mexico are ex-military SF. Trained some say by USA mil. Just like straw purchasers of firearms I wonder if clean guys take training courses (usually the classes have a requirement for CCW which would weed out folks with records) and then pass along knowledge to others? If the BGs watch the various free Youtube videos? If there is jailhouse schooling going on?

    • Yes, the bad guys train and they acquire competent equipment. The organized guys have stuff similar to what law enforcement carries. The bush league thugs, not so much. Though, those guys can get lucky and sometimes luck is all a bad guy needs.

  10. I think this question can be a dangerous one to travel down. One of those slippery slopes.

    I think it is a good idea to practice and train as much as your lifestyle and resources allow.

    However, I think this conversation can get very dangerous when “Pro-Gunners” start talking about how much other “should” have, or worse yet (and I’ve seen it on this forum) when people start talking about how much should be “required” for people to have.

    Lets go down the rabbit hole a little bit… A bill gets voted requiring owners to be competent in order to carry or to even own firearms. Pro-Gunners agree because people should be competent in their use/ownership.


    Who administers the test? How much does it cost? How long is it good for? How much money does one need to spend on ammo in order to be proficient enough to pass the test?

    If you restrict it enough, or make it hard enough that the average joe just finds it a hassle then you have less and less people owning, or even interested in owning. This leads to fewer people fighting for the right to keep and bear and eventually we see all our rights down the drain.

    We currently have testing required in order to obtain a drivers license, but I doubt many would argue that having these license has made any of us any safer on the road. Having your license revoked, or suspended, doesn’t stop people from driving anyway. Having a valid license doesn’t stop people from driving drunk, talking on a cell phone, doing their make up, tailgating, making unsafe passes, speeding, not driving properly in the snow, eating and driving, and on and on and on….

    I’m always shocked when I hear Pro-Gunners talk about how much training should be required for someone to own a gun.

    Be careful what you wish for… cause you just might get it.

  11. There are a whole lot of levels of mastery, but I would put it this way. You will likely be defending yourself after a shooting to your local LEO agency with investigative jurisdiction. Training in your firearm, and rudimentary knowledge of your local and state laws are good tools to have with you. If you make a mistake in the moment of truth, and have not maintained or trained with your firearm, you will be in an ugly place. Granted, all mistakes with a firearm are bad, but its a sligty easier sell if you have made a good faith effort to achieve competence with your tools. Envision two car crashes, where one driver has a license and another does not. The obvious question would be why the latter driver has not trained on something known to be dangerous.

    I believe training is useful, and that every gun owner should seek intelligent instruction. Have a few basic go-to plans for those bumps in the night, and let your family (and your dog!) know what’s up. I support 2A freedom and shall issue concealed carry, but I’m not very enthusiastic regarding gun owners who don’t want to train or be responsible with their tools. LEOs are all different folks, but someone with a badge and a gun will be asking you a whole lot of questions (so 5th Amendment up and get a lawyer) if you pull the trigger. So Boy Scout up an Be Prepared, and enjoy your freedom.

  12. Bad training is worse than no training.

    I see guys at the range all the time who have trained themselves into really bad habits.

  13. Everyone should know (1) how to handle their guns safely, (2) how to put rounds on target, and (3) their lawyer’s phone number. Those three things should just about cover 99% of the gun-owning public. Any other training is fine and maybe fun but totally optional.

  14. Too many of today’s “firearms trainers” are more about show, the fans, and the celebrity status. Have you ever wondered why all these show men favor the 9mm while experts that don’t depend on celebrity are still sticking to more powerful rounds? It’s easier to put on a show while shooting soft ammo!!! It’s all part of the show we all like to pay for. I believe in training, but a lot of the time it’s all just entertainment. That’s ok with me.

    • right. LMAO!!!

      USSOCOM, US Training Center, and other professional gunfighter schools are just celebrity centers trying to look good shooting their 9 mils. hahahahaha!

  15. I’ve been to Front Sight twice and am going again in the Spring. I’ve taken the 4-day (40 hr) defensive handgun course and the 4-day (40 hr) practical rifle course. Next. I’m taking the 4-day (40 hr) tactical shotgun class. The training is professional, helpful and very well-done. The lectures and practical demonstrations are as good as the range instruction. I’m an Army retiree and am experienced with firearms, but after I got my carry permit, I did not feel comfortable carrying all the time until I took the Front Sight class. It is excellent training. In my first class, there were students from the U.S. Border Patrol, BATF, and two large municipal police departments. They all said that this was the best firearms training that they had ever received.

    • I took the 4 day defensive handgun course and 1 day CCW and left quite pleased. I liked it well enough that I’m returning for the 4 day rifle course and the 2 day handgun skills builder. The instructors I had were pleasant, patient and tuned in to students individual weaknesses. In fact, every one of the staff I dealt with was polite and courteous. If you shop around the net for course certificates, the cost is minimal.

      • I have taken several courses at front sight and recommend it. Of course it starts on a line with instructors telling you to look around for bad guys but you wouldn’t want first time gun handlers to start in the shoot house. They do get you through simulators to try and up the stress level a bit. The more advanced courses offer tactical scenarios and I agree I attend them for the “edutainment” value. The two day defensive handgun course turned my wife from anti/afraid of guns to able to draw from a holster and shoot at paper bad guys in a simulated house…..I don’t think she could stop Seal Team 6 from entering our house but she is comfortable handling and using gun.
        So how much training is needed?…..As much as you can keep interested in….and “edutainment” helps increase that amount. The key after training is practice so that you don’t loose it.

  16. Why does everyone think or feel that the police or L.E. or even the military are the best , yes they have a FEW good shooters. But the truth is on the other side the coin , lots hunters, reactors , and CCW shooters overall are better: why because it’s what they want to do …. do not sell yourself short…. it’s a given fact i watched both sides train , most police and the military never go past their training…. A little history it was the farmer and store clerk etc that BEAT the worlds greatest Army , first in our war for Independence and look at the battle of New Orleans, Why the history ? Guns are not about sports or even (ccw) personal defense . 2A is about what keeps our freedoms and liberty … It’s a duty before God, Family, and country… in the end it’s our last HOPE… gun training is a duty our FOUNDERS wanted you to do!… You have a REPUBLIC said Ben Franklin IF YOU CAN KEEP IT……

  17. I come down on this on Ralph’s side, with a twist.

    First, I think too much DGU training is on the shooting. I think this is putting the cart before the horse.

    I think many people would be much better off to train how to recognize problems and situations before they’re into them so far that they need a gun.

    The problem for many people today is that they don’t know how to:

    a) read people’s intentions from how they move and carry themselves. With some training and some time spent in urban areas observing thugs in action, you can learn to spot the behaviors that most of these clowns exhibit when they’re sizing someone or something up before they strike. Most predators and criminals telegraph their moves.

    b) People need to learn to “read a street” to see that the area isn’t a pleasant place and crap actually can (and does) go on there. The signs are there.

    c) Lastly, people who value their security should learn to think tactically about situations before getting into said situation, with the idea of getting out, not getting boxed in, etc. For example, when I pull up to a gas station, I’ve already scoped out the exits from the pumps, I’ll scope out the building to see if it has multiple exits, are there people inside the building that are paying attention, are there cameras on the pumps, etc. Once you get into this mindset, all of that takes no more than five seconds – it becomes a mental checklist.

    • DG, I voiced a similar opinion many times. Most of the instructors out there fail to teach people how to read and react. NONE of them teach about avoiding stupid people doing stupid things in stupid places. I guess it’s just not sexy. Or just maybe people won’t spend money to learn how or when not to shoot ’cause it just ain’t tactical enough.

    • +1
      what i learned in SERE: WILL TO SURVIVE
      what i learned @ bulletproof mind: fitness
      what i have read here and Ayoob and Cooper: Situational awareness…

  18. Shooting skills are important, to a point. What is more crucial are tactics and plain old street smarts. My girlfriend has the basic marksmanship skills, but she has limited knowledge of how, where, and why bad guys do their criminal acts. That is what I’ve been trying to impart on her. The firearms practice gives her the confidence in her weapon and her ability to use. The hard part is for her to be ready when the off-chance of a bad guy crosses paths with her.

  19. I am a retired LEO (Chief of a small department) and also a retired Infantry Platoon Sgt. Did all the high speed schools when I was a cop, including Police Firearms Instriuctor and all the high speed shooting schools in the Army including SAITS.

    being retired twice (actually three times) gives you a clue, I am old. I have been carrying a gun since i was eighteen and now I am 65.

    Still legally carry one everyday which makes me an oddity in Illinois.

    Now, having said all that, here’s a shocker. I have been carrying a gun for 47 years, been trained by experts in both cop and soldier careers and I never really learned to shoot until just three years ago when i took a civilian 24 hour (one weekend) defensive pistol class in the Farnham method.

    Training is training, some really, really good and others, not so much.

    Just about every cop I ever knew or hjd working for me was a mediocre pistol shooter and most were worse than any school trained civilian.

    Practice hard today so you don’t bleed tomorrow. Active shooters do happen, the cops aren’t everywhere, and even if it never happens in front of you be it robbery, rape, or terrorist act, knowing how to be the best possible shooter you can be just makes it a little safer for everyone else.

    At age 65, I have already booked two different classes next year. There is always something new to learn .

    And BTW, this is a most excellent blog and website

  20. I don’t know. A class every couple of years and regular range time throughout the year maybe?

    You do have to balance time and money though. I have a newborn son, I work out, I like to relax on occasion…and going to the range takes about 2-3 hours for me so it isn’t something I can just go and do every day. Even every week is a stretch, particularly in the winter (gets dark before I’m off work). And a multi-hundred dollar defensive gun course when I’m paying for things like groceries, a new kitchen, child care, etc?


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