firearms training range
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By Cliff Heseltine

There’s an old saying: the more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in combat. Yes, but…since it’s a long shot that I’ll ever be in combat, how much do I really need to sweat? How much training is enough training? How much money is enough to spend on ammo and rental cars and airfare and hotels and restaurant food?

What if I’m not physically able or willing to run around practicing live-fire drills with a rifle or pistol, playing Rambo, rolling in the dirt and mud, shooting multiple “bad guys” while moving and reloading, taking “hostage shots”?

Some people are competitive. They like a challenge against others or against the clock. They like to prove that they’re faster, stronger, tougher, a better shot under stress.

firearms training range

That’s great, but what about the rest of us? I’m 63 years old, reasonably healthy, but way past my physical prime, which was never all that prime in the first place. I am not athletic and not competitive and I have no interest in being a team player. Basically I just want to be left alone.

I have the advantage of being physically imposing: 6’3”, 275 pounds. I’m pretty sure bad guys profile me and just decide to try a smaller victim. But sometimes bad people are desperate and/or stupid or they think they have something to prove and will take on a threat just to prove how macho they are, how in control, how intimidating. That’s why I carry a Ruger SR9c concealed IWB.

Ruger SR9c

I don’t go to stupid places where there might be stupid people doing stupid things and I never have. But sometimes stupid people decide to go looking for new territory. Sometimes crazy people show up when and where you don’t expect them and do things you wouldn’t think of.

Sometimes religious or political or racist fanatics just decide it’s time to quit screwing around and just kill some folks to make a point. For those times I intend to be prepared to at least go down fighting.

But how prepared? Like I said, I carry the 9mm Ruger. I’m big enough (and fat enough) to get away with concealing a gun with a 14-round magazine and I keep one in the chamber.

I carry a cell phone. I don’t carry the extra 10-round mag and I don’t carry a combat knife or a field emergency medical kit. I’m not an “operator.” I don’t have the personality for it and it should be enough that I read about it and understand the concepts.

I’m just a guy going about my regular daily business and I really don’t see the need to be tooled up to the nines, prepared for any and all possible emergency situations, a couple dozen suicidal terrorists and an infinite number of zombies. I want to be able to put up a fight, protect myself and those innocents near me who might also be in danger, and either put the bad guy(s) down or at least survive until professional help arrives or I find a means of egress. That’s it.

indoor range practice training handgun pistol

I also know that mounting a strong defense is much safer than taking the offensive, so I’m going to be in the safest, most defensible location I can find, preferably with an exit available.

I won’t be going around clearing rooms or looking for more bad guys. I’m willing to stand my ground and defend myself and others if necessary and even though I will not abandon those near to me, I know that I can’t save everyone and I’m not ready or willing to undertake a hostage rescue mission.

What I would like to find is some training within reasonable driving distance that includes realistic scenarios that an average person going about their everyday activities might encounter. I would like this training to be reasonably priced and not require the investment of more than one full day to complete, or to be broken into one-day segments on subsequent weekends.

I want to know that the instructors are reasonable people setting up reasonable situations where they allow at least a possibility that I can figure out how to survive.

I don’t want know-it-all instructors creating no-win scenarios to try to convince me that the best choice is always to find the nearest exit and run away. While I’m not looking for a fight or a reason to shoot someone, I also don’t want to retreat to save my own ass only to learn later that someone I could have saved had been shot or kidnapped or raped. I truly believe that I would rather make a mistake and die than live with that on my conscience.

So, encounters with gang punks on the street; Quickie Mart/grocery store/Starbucks robberies; assault or rape in progress; single active shooter in a mall or at work; carjacking, or good old fashioned mugging. These are the kinds of things you or I are actually likely to encounter. Considering the state of the world today, maybe a one-day seminar on how to react to a mass attack by suicidal terrorists on a soft target would be worthwhile as well.

It just seems to me that the majority of this training could be done in a classroom and lecture setting with videos to make the points followed by walk-throughs of the different scenarios, followed by play acting with blue guns.

tactical firearms training range

In the Army we trained with MILES (Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System) equipment. Lasers on our M16 muzzles triggered by firing blanks, and laser receivers on our helmets and web gear. Beep-beep if the shot was close, steady beep and you were dead. We had a lot of fun running around in the woods and it did get the juices flowing to know shots were coming close, but I was “killed” three different times and that was a serious reality check.

It seems to me that similar training could be done with LaserTag equipment, even though they might not fully simulate the look and feel of real weapons. It could be quite effective, a lot cheaper, and would not involve wearing so much distracting safety equipment. Nor would it require setting up expensive and bullet-proof shoot houses.

The point is, for most people, to work through the scenarios and your best possible choices, not do a full-on simulation of real combat. Airsoft or Simunitions or live-fire shoot houses may get the adrenaline going, but is that level of expense and realism really necessary to get the point of the training through?

I can anticipate the comments already: Yes, but, it’s so much better to experience as close as possible to the real thing. How do you know how you’re going to act under stress if no one is shooting back? Training needs to be as realistic as possible. On and on.

Okay then, who is going to pay for my ammo or arrange for me to take four to six days off work or walk me through TSA screenings to schlep my weapons to some distant training sight AND make sure they are not ripped off at the baggage carousel? Who is going to loan me an AR platform to train with? I sure can’t afford to go buy one.

In a training regimen like I just described the instructor could provide familiarization and range time with an AR-15 and an AK-47 and several common pistol variants that one might need to pick up and use on the fly. For those of us without the financial resources to own and train with such weapons this would be invaluable.

So why is most of the training we read about either SOCOM or Zombie war or tactical field exercises? The only other kind usually found is the basic NRA firearms familiarization courses or those classes required in places where you need a certain type of training to get a carry permit.

There doesn’t seem to be any middle ground between the introductory courses and the full-on, hard core, in-house training. I may be hard-core in my political beliefs and my ethics and concepts of morality, but I am very middle-ground in how I live my life day-to-day, and I would truly love to find some middle-ground firearms classes that would train me to live there in reasonable security.


How to Find Quality Self-Defense Firearm Training

The Value of Force on Force Training – Active Shooters, Low Light and Real Pain

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    • I missed the .22 LR part before…….at this point I think it would be cheaper for me to break down and buy an AR rather than a 3-gun competition’s worth of .22 LR….

    • Are you going to use the CCI 22lr shotshells for the shotgun shells?

      That said 22lr pistol/rifle is a neat concept.

    • Now I want rimfire cowboy action shooting, with LARPing optional. I came to shoot guns, not play dress up.

    • We do exactly that once a month the the local gun club. They can it “Two Gun Rimfire”. It’s a lot of fun. Usually 6 or 8 people show up. We set up paper, steel, plate racks, whatever we are in the mood for. It’s an inexpensive good time.

  1. I’ve been thinking about this too. When the time comes (i.e. the weather gets warmer again) I’m going to look into a training facility nearby that at least SOUNDS like a middle ground.

    Otherwise, Jon might not actually be that far off. I would venture that surviving is more about being able to think under extreme stress more than the actual tactics employed, in that case competition may not be that far off. Even simple contests like a skeet league could benefit skills like hitting a moving target, under the pressure of competition…

    • Great article that is spot on. There are many civilian carriers out there that would like to get training and coaching that is not aimed at military/LEO or competitive shooters.

      Effective training would require a totally different mindset on the part of the instructors.

  2. There is plenty of training out there which is not “hard core”. It’s also possible to dry-practice the most important skills (especially a smooth, consistent draw with your own carry setup) in the comfort of your own home.

    • This is really the point I was trying to make, and an e-mail I sent to RF, that there is no easy way to find out about such places, if they exist, nor to get any input relating as to the quality of their classes or the type of training you might experience there.

      I suggested that perhaps an “Angie’s List” sort of feature might be a solution, but couldn’t figure a way to include it in this article.

      • Google “[your area] firearms training”

        I was able to find at least 3 within a two hour drive. Your mileage may vary with location, but is bet there are at least a tactical pistol class or two around. I haven’t taken one (yet) but the closest one to me sounds like a couple of notches above personal protection outside the home and MANY notches below what Asymetric offers.

        • Following this post, and some pretty good comments, I think I may start doing some further research on the availability and quality of mid-level training. Bottom line, though, and even your response points this out, is that there is no current resource for the average shooter to find this information or evaluate the quality of the courses. That’s the direction I think we need to head in.

  3. I would suggest some “middle ground” exercise regime. Most of us sit behind a desk pushing paper and typing on a computer. I didn’t focus on my health until a few yrs ago when my pastor received a death threat and I was asked to carry my weapon to church. It dawned on me that I couldn’t guarantee I would be able to take down a criminal if need be. I get up every weekday morning and put in time on the elliptical or the bowflex. It has made a world of difference with respect to my current training and carry.

  4. I can only think that there is not enough demand for the middle ground. The vast majority of gun owners will only take a manditory basics course to get their permit. And the small minority of dedicated shooters are often willing to take the hard core stuff. Probably few want the middle ground. To me it would make perfect sense for local ranges to host and offer single day classes on practical concealed carry defensive shooting. Very few offer that however. Ranges usually offer a boatload of basic courses, and host the advanced stuff by traveling trainers once in a while. The advanced stuff is not always applicable anyway for the concealed carry civilian. One thing that drives me nuts is how all of these advanced classes for handgun do all of the training from open holsters, never using concealment. That might be fine training for a police officer, but hardly relevant to CCW people. Of course, I am convinced part of that is liability, as drawing from concealment is probably more difficult to conduct safely in a class.

    • You may be right about demand, but with the continued increase in CCW, I tend to think it’s more of a missed marketing opportunity than a lack of demand. I should think a lot of people would make use of otherwise neglected range facilities if they were offered a realistic package of training, scenarios, range time and ammo at a single, reasonable price.

      If such things are available here in Washington Tacoma area it is certainly not apparent in any advertising I have seen, which means if it is available they are doing a very poor job of marketing it.

    • Salvatore, taught CCW classes for many years. Florida requires a firearms safety class for a CCW. Of course I covered that. Then went on to some very basic tactics. Controlled pairs, multiple targets (two), etc. If the class was doing well I might get into failure to stop drills. Small classes, 4-6 students. All shooting done on steel Pepper poppers. Frequent breaks during which I gave short lecture/Q&A. All in eight hours. At the end of the class; two questions. “Did everyone learn something?” “Did everyone have fun?” If anyone answered “No” to either they got their paperwork and didn’t owe me a dime. Of course, I only charged a $100 dollars anyway and brought a variety of my own handguns in all action types and provided ammo so everyone could get a taste. Barely covered my expense. But, damn! I had a lot of fun. Oh! Never had anyone answer “No” to either question.

  5. Very good topic. I’ve thought this myself many times. I hoped to see three digits of comments. Maybe revisit this, Cliff? Thanks for bringing it up.

  6. I get Cliff H.’s point.Sometimes trainers can jump the shark with scenarios and drills,and it doesn’t help that many trainers are barely qualified themselves to shoot safely.

    That being said,there’s a bug reason why us ordinary Joes need to train like and in some ways beyond the Police and Military -because unlike them,if trouble pays us a visit we won’t have backup .More to the point,there are some genuinely evil people walking the Earth,and some of them have skillsets equal to the best shooters we know.Observe a case Ayoob documented of a citizen witnessing a cop getting shot during a traffic stop-and the subsequent gunfight between the wanted felon and the hapless citizen with his Glock 26 .That midnight trip to 7-11 got more interesting then he planned.

    If I have to face down Matix Jr,I’ve got a 19 round Beretta loaded with +p+. and a spare 15 rounder just in case. The lethal force incident Cliff or I may face could be a midnight robbery….or a terrorist attack on our local malls by skilled thugs with rifles.No one ever said after a deadly fight that they wished for less ammo or less training.

    • As for more ammo these days… (joke)

      I would wish for everyone to get all the training they can stand. And all the range time they can stand, and all the experience they can stand, but the question is, what is the reality?

      You could find yourself in a mall in Nairobi. Or in a shoot out with a deranged or drugged or drunk punk with an AK that just killed a cop. We are a nation of 300+ million and the Interweb and I’m sure examples of worst-case scenarios can be found for any situation, but they are worst-case and they are not everyday occurrences. I am advocating for reasonable levels of training and situational awareness for the average person for the most likely situations. Past that, all bets are off and we can only do our best.

      • I’ve often said that places like Front Sight are amusement parks for firearms enthusiasts and I stand by that.

        Training should be practical.

        I propose we create a course that teaches the following:

        – How to avoid sketchy people and sketchy situations.

        – How to become proficient at drawing and firing your weapon in as safe a manner as possible.

        – How to get in decent enough shape so you can run a reasonable distance without being winded.

        – How to shut your mouth and call Saul if something does happen (unlikely), so you don’t screw yourself over by talking to the cops.

        That’s pretty much all I need. YMMV.

        Most of us are not fast-roping out of helicopters into Taliban strongholds or getting into running gun battles with bad guys.

        Firearms training needs less Mittyesque scenarios and more realism.

        • Not quite sure what you intended by your comment about Front Sight. Could be a compliment, but sounds more like a veiled insult.

          I’m a top-tier FS lifetime member, in the process of working my way through handgun, shotgun, AR-15, and long range rifle (500+ yds). The first basic courses each had 35 students, but as you work your way up the courses there are fewer. The most recent class I took several weeks ago (night tactics) had only 9 students, but 4 instructors, which is a very good instructional ratio.

          I’d much rather have regular professional instruction from “an amusement park like Front Sight” than any of the others I’ve looked into, or certainly nothing at all.

  7. I happen to be lucky to have VATA Group in my back yard and have trained with them extensively. They are the guys who do the First Person Defender vids on GunTalk TV – watch them- they are exactly what you want. Real life scenario based force on force drills. Call them and ask them for recommendations in your area- they may know someone.

    They offer weekend courses with each day being a standalone day. If you have had the phase one of the training then you can sign up for phase 2. The range time is all about fundamentals and honing them so that you can hit what you want to hit. The simuntions and force on force is all about applied fundamentals.

    IMNSHO laser tag is junk- why settle for close enough when airsoft and simunitios are available and allow you to train like you would fight and you get the “pain penalty.” With Airsoft there is little chance for serious injury other than eyes so wear some glasses, get some friends, and go for it. Think up scenarios and practice them – it ain’t hard.

    I bought a Glock 19 last week and on the same afternoon bought an airsoft gas gun online from airsplat with working slide that fits the same holster as the real pistol, controls are the same, weight is the same, it is a great training tool and cost less than 150 rounds of self defense ammo.

    Regarding clearing rooms- you want to get from “point A” to the safest most defensible spot preferably with an exit? Unless you start at that sweet spot then you got to move and movement = danger. Danger is mitigated by being cautious and not exposing yourself anymore than needed in order to get an idea of what is in the hall/room you are about to cross/enter. Do some force on force with some buddies and see how many times you get popped when you blunder into a room vs. when you pie it and then decide to enter or not based on what you see. “Clearing a room” is not some high speed low drag operator stuff- it is about decision making vs. panicked flight from a perceived threat into a potential real threat. Sometimes your “point A” may be the best spot because for that moment you are safe. You have the rest of your life to decide to enter into a room, how long that is is based on how good your decision making is.

    As far as medical training- get some. You carry a gun, guns punch holes in people that cause bad things to happen to the body- you know and accept that because you carry a gun to punch holes in bad people. Bad people sometimes punch holes in good people and cause very bad things to happen to very good people; people like you and your loved ones, little kids in schools, patrons in theaters or cafeterias. In a gun fight you must plan on getting hit or someone you care about getting hit and you must plan on being without help for 30 min if not longer. If you don’t know what to do to stop the bad things from happening to the good persons that was shot then what is the point of stepping into the role of “good guy with a gun”?

    It has nothing to do with being an “operator” and everything to do with being a very fragile, breathing, jello mold (with your organs being the chunks of fruit and marshmallows), wrapped in a thin layer of saran wrap. Knowing how to keep the blood where it is suppose to be and the air where it is supposed to be are easy to learn skills…when learned in a class room and not OJT on your wife or kid after your first defensive gun use on what is now the worst day of your life.

  8. All I can think about with this article is the stupid red flag the lawyers over at Ruger put on their gun to indicate a loaded chamber. Whenever I see someone at our IDPA weekly match with a bi-tone gun, I wonder what they’re running. After load and make ready and that stupid flag comes up and I know immediately.

    • Dave, I also have a Ruger SR9c, and like the pop up flag. Doesn’t effect shooting, drawing, holstering or anything else. What’s to dislike?

      • While I love the SR series, I did have the LCI jam into place with a piece of brass.

        The pistol would not go into battery until I lifted the LCI with my knife and popped out that brass.

        Just something to placate lawyers that can break and cause problems.

    • I am neutral about the flag. I always carry cocked, locked, one in the chamber, slide safety on. I can see the flag if I take time to look, but I really don’t need to. I think the biggest advantage to the flag, other than safety PR for Ruger marketing, is that you can feel it in the dark or without looking down at the pistol and you KNOW there is one in the fire pit ready to go BOOM.

      By the way, I really like my SR9c. Unlike the picture at the top of the post I also have a Crimson Trace mounted in front of the trigger guard and I generally carry the full-size 14 round extended mag.

      And, I was an Army medic 91A20 for 6 1/2 years and an EMT1. First aid training is great, having a kit is great, but is it realistic for everyone? Sometimes you just have to admit that there are going to be casualties on both sides. You cannot prepare for every eventuality or every situation.

    • That’s like the emphasis on press checks some instructors do.

      In reality, your weapon should always be loaded and ready to fire. Once you insert that magazine and rack the slide, what is a press check for? As long as the weapon has 1) never been fired since, or 2) been out of your sight, there is no need for a press check or any loaded indicator.

      You check *once* – if you weren’t paying attention when you racked the slide or you had a brain fart and forgot whether you did – just like I sometimes forget to take a medication five minutes after I took it. But that’s the last press check you do – immediately after the initial load. If you still have a brain fart and can’t remember whether you racked the slide or did the initial press check, then unload the piece, reload it and rack it. If you have brain farts after that, stop concealed carry, you’re an idiot.

      Once the weapon has been fired, if the slide is not locked back you still have rounds to use. Once those rounds are used, the weapon is unloaded, reloaded and the slide racked.

      That’s it. Press checks beyond *one* as a result of a brain fart are unnecessary.

      • I’d rather have someone perform an extra press check to be on the safe side, than be one of the *many* people who don’t know how to remember the condition of their gun. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve been muzzled by a loaded and chambered gun when the person thought it was empty.

        When I’m in the desert with buddies, I don’t press check. When I’m at the range where everyone’s in close proximity to each other on the line, I perform the checks.

      • Insert a fully loaded mag, chamber a round, drop the mag, top it off, put it back, and give it a tug. If you can’t fit another round in, the chamber’s empty. If you were able to put one in, the other one is in the chamber. No need for ubercool manipulations that could point the muzzle somewhere it shouldn’t be.

    • My LC9 came with one. Found it to be most annoying, did not like how it made the gun look, I know safety etc, BS, made the gun ugly.
      Pushed out the roll pin soaked in acetone to get the red paint off then filed it til it sat flat, then painted black.
      The article is spot on, sorry JB, not all of us are operators nor do we carry 10#s of stuff.
      I googled gun training, other side of the state, so no go.
      However, we have a nice county provided outdoor range, with rifle, pistol and shotgun ranges. The gun club puts on shoots that do help you get some training w/o the $$$ cost. So check your local gun club, if one is available.
      And if you are a Vet or “senior” my club lets you use the range for free.

  9. yeah, it would be nice, but i am lucky if I get to the range to put 25-50 holes in paper on a regular basis, with money leftover for lunch. It’s amazing how fast you can blow through $40 in ammo. Scenario training is ok, but the odds of that scenario happening are zilch. If I AM going to do scenario training, it may as well be zombies, that’s fun. I’d settle for a decent place I can shoot steel.

    • Agreed. Ammo is expensive. I’m considering getting a .22LR swapout for one of my ARs so I can shoot it more often without thinking about the cost.

  10. Last weekend I visited a new indoor range. Florida in the early fall, and no air conditioning (just giant ventilation fans). So I was already sweating quite a bit when a shell casing bounced off the wall I was next to, tipped the edge of my safety glasses, and landed inside them, resting on my cheek. After a brief panic (I almost tried to grab the glasses with the hand that was still holding the gun), I pulled my glasses off and let the brass fall. My cheek right under my right eye was burning, tears were streaming down my face from pain, but I was paying by the half hour so I kept shooting. Between the sweat and tears I was partly blinded in my aiming eye, but I still managed to keep the shots inside a one foot square at 7 yards (on a new gun at that) which was good enough for me at that moment.

  11. Cliff, with the exception of being 6’3″ and 275 lbs (5’8″, 180lbs.) I could’ve written this letter (I’m also 63). Well done.

    • Thank you. I do try to bring us back from the tacticool precipice when I can. 😉

      I am hoping that the post will bring some interesting and helpful comments to address the problem, rather than just gripes. A comment above about First Person Defender is the sort of thing that helps because their videos are generally informative even if you don’t go for the live simunition training. But just as RF has commented a few times, I don’t always agree with every solution they propose. In their case I think the most important thing is that it gets you thinking about options and how easy it is to make a (really bad) mistake.

      I have never been to a LaserTag location, but I believe they like to use ray-gun looking weapons (less real world scary, I guess) and unrealistic indoor areas. I suspect they tend to be as useful for real-world training as paintball “Capture the Flag” games are to military combat. What I would like to see is laser pistols that look and feel more like real handguns so that scenarios can be practiced without bulky safety equipment. Cheap and easy, with positive feedback of success or failure. Following that, if the student wants a more realistic experience with the pain feedback, etc., and is willing to invest the time and money, I think simunitions is a pretty good idea.

      As for Airsoft, I may look into that. I’m not sure how much safety equipment is really required because I don’t know the muzzle velocity of those pellets. See, even I can learn something!

      • about 300-400 fps with a .20 gram pellet (about 3 gr), delivering a walloping 0.75 ft-lb of energy. Some can punch a paper plate at 7 yards, some not. On bare skin, it’ll hurt, might welt, but thick winter clothing is enough.

        Lasertag won’t help much on the tactical skills IMO, but it sure is fun with the kids. Yes, unrealistic ray-gun devices as well as a receiver doohickey on your body.

      • Air soft using the standard CO2 cartridges gets you around 330-350 FPS shooting an 8 mm plastic bb. it stings but not bad- like snapping a rubber band on your hand. There are single shot spring airsoft which I do not think are worth while as they do not function like a real semi auto. You want a co2 or gas gun with blow back action (slide reciprocates). Expect to pay $100-150 for a good one. There are high end ones out there that you can drop serious coin on as with any hobby.

      • Asside from being 65 Clif, I match you exactly I have been cc since I was 18 and until ten years ago I packed my Dad’s Walther PPK in 7.65. And when max conceal is needed I still do but most of the time I carry a .45 colt with a short barrel as for ten years I have been doing SASS cowboy action shooting so with the thousands of rounds I shoot a year(yes I have a Dillon and I hand load and cast my own slugs from wheel weights for competition ) so I now carry the gun I am most proficient with and even though it has but six shots (Ruger with transfer bar) I know I can puts them where I need them in an emergency.

        Point is get good with one thing and make that your carry… I have a 1911 and an ace .22 rim fire floating chamber conversion kit and next year I will be shooting the SASS Wild Bunch matches so I plan to switch over to the 1911 in .45 ACP as my carry gun after I am good enough with it. And be able to practice with the exact same gun with the .22s on the cheap.
        That is my compromise but I too would like to find middle of the road training
        Great artical

      • I’m 57 years old, also 6′-3″ and a svelt 295 lb. I played laser tag over 20 years ago and was huffing and puffing after 30 minutes and was “killed” multiple times. At present, I have a gimpy knee, a VERY bad back and suffer from COPD, which means I’m huffing and puffing most of the time. I’m not going to do any Rambo stuff, I just want to protect my loved ones and myself should the need arise as I make for the nearest exit should crap happen. I used to shoot bullseye competitively, but the current “tactical” games are far beyond my abilities. I read your article and thought, hey, this guy is just like me! My local gun club runs a small scale practical pistol match once a month, that is almost doable for slow old guys like us. You might want to check into some of the smaller clubs in your area to see if they have a similar program, something that you can run through with a single box of 50 rounds and not have to climb ladders or swing on a rope.

  12. To each his own.

    There are those that say you need to train this way or that, for this or that but IMHO it kinda is still a free country so you can decide for your self but as for me & my family I am preparing for this;

    Maybe we are not headed in that direction, sure would like to hope not but with every passing day methinks we seem to be just getting another day closer so my preparation is with that in mind which Cliff if you read this book and it hits a nerve, you might just want to reconsider your training too and if not;

    To each his own!

    • Clicked on that link…what the heck is it?
      Some web site in some asian language with no relevance to what we’re talking about?

  13. @CliffH, this was a good article and mirrors what I’ve been saying to RF for a couple of years now. The training out there may be solid if you intend to fight house to house in Stalingrad, but it isn’t “real world” for me.

    I want a trainer to teach me how to cover my own six so I can get out of Dodge with my @ss safely attached. I’m not tacticool, I’m not a ninja and I’m older than you and only slightly younger than dirt. So where’s the training for me?


    I’ve been researching various laser tag systems for a possible business, and this is one I’ve been looking at. The M4 unit can take any AR15 accessory, or anything that fits on a rail for that matter. The felt recoil is supposed to be about 30% of a .223 and 75% of a 9mm for pistols. No hearing protection needed, molle vests as the sensors. Not sure if I’ll end up going with this, but its definitely interesting.

    • Now THAT’S what I’m talkin’ about! Well, except for the obvious military focus of the experience, but they are selling a game play, not real world training. Still, they have the right equipment and all the necessary facilities if they should want to go to actual training scenarios, and that’s a good thing.

      More like this, anyone?

  15. Your letter sounded very much like me. Except that I’m 70, 5/10 and 250. Too old to fight and too fat to run. Getting back into shape just isn’t an option any more. I carry two Glock Model 36 .45s, one on my left ankle for when I’m sitting down, and one in my right front pocket for when I’m standing up. With the new Crimson Trace lasers, I can put them all in the four-inch black circle at 50 ft. I would be most happy with some training in the line of real life scenarios. What do you do if you’re in the 7-11 and a stick-up happens? Or a restaurant, or jewelry store, or hotel lobby? How do you react to a bunch of young punks walking towards you on the street calling you names with racial slurs? I know what I’d do, but where would I stand legally? Maybe the old adage ‘pick up your brass and don’t leave any hostile witnesses’ is still the best bet . . .

    • Unfortunately, depending on when you purchased those Glocks, the rifling/lands of your barrel from a test-fired bullet is probably on a computer somewhere so that some hotshot CSI can figure out which pistol fired any recovered bullets.

      I guess the only option is to make sure that none of the BGs can testify against you (legally, of course), and to make sure it’s a good shoot. Which is where the need for this kind of training comes in.

    • I started teaching NRA Basic Pistol 10 years ago with my son, who is a better instructor than I am (now establishing an engineering career, too busy to instruct and on the other side of the country). I gravitated toward students who were in the same category you’re talking about: no interest in becoming a Seal, but interested in having a firearm and knowing how to use it. Now that I’m 67, living in upstate NY where the gun laws are absurd, and suffering from pernicious inertia, I have been leading Refuse to be a Victim seminars. There is more interest than I thought, and all of it is in the category under discussion. Older folks and younger moms, with no interest in badassery but wanting to know how to defend themselves. I’m picking up some more training certifications and thinking a lot about how to serve this need in my community.

  16. Dan; you should give credit where credit is due;

    “I yield to no man in sympathy for the gallant men under my command; but I
    am obliged to sweat them tonight, so that I may save their blood tomorrow.”
    – General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson

    • X, I had never seen the origin of that quote before, I thought it came from some smart-ass Drill Instructor. Thanks for the historical perspective.

      In Dan’s defense, the title of the article was penned by me when I sent it in.

  17. “Do what you can, with what you have, where your at.”
    Lord Mountbatten when summing up the ethic that saw him through WW2

  18. Honestly if you are looking for a middle ground place to train check out the recent article by DrVino about his class at Front Sight. The training is extremely friendly, and designed to get you comfortable operating a firearm in a daily carry fashion.

  19. Magpul has some decent videos (amazon has them)….find some land, do your own drills: draw, re holster, and do some shooting in between.

  20. For those of you in Central Texas (or who’re up for a trip to Austin), check out Steve Smith with Asgard NTG ( Steve’s a British Army veteran who does training for LEOs, private security/close protection, Texas Nat’l Guard, etc., but also has lots of tactical courses for pretty much whatever skill level you want (from complete beginners on up). Classes are very small (10-12 max.) so you get lots of personal instruction and trigger time, and Steve is a pleasant and excellent instructor. And the costs are very, very reasonable (typically $120/day; you supply your own food and ammo). [I’ve been training with Steve for the past couple of years. RF and some of the other TTAG folks are, I believe, going to be shooting with Steve in the near future, and I’ll let them report further.]

    My point is that there are excellent real world trainers out there for those of us who have no desire to become doorkickers or Rambo wannabes, but who want to learn the right tactics and techniques for the situations we may actually encounter. And you don’t have to spend a ton of cash to do so.


  21. Hear Hear!

    Real world training for an old timer with arthritic knees would be welcome and worth spending money on.

  22. I was fortunate enough to find a retired combat veteran willing to teach me how to shoot and show me some drills I can practice on my own, so I can learn to shoot while moving, shoot at multiple targets, and shoot from different positions. He did this just for the fun of it. I can’t afford training courses, and given that I carry a very small gun designed solely for self-defense I don’t need to train for hostage scenarios or anything fancy. This really met my needs and my price point. I recommend it to anyone in my situation.

  23. There is lots of material out there on the internet, from youtube videos to military training manuals. You can certainly practice what you see in the videos in your own yard, or home, etc using Airsoft guns. You can find reasonably priced Airsoft guns that mimic in size, weight, and function, most popular firearms, are perfectly safe as long as you wear goggles, and provide tactile feedback.

  24. Sounds like you are doing the best you can with what you have, and still thinking…

    Be assured that the training that you experienced in the past will serve you well in the future. Good on ya.

    My Dad was whining about all the immigrants taking the benefits HE voted in, in Maine. I told him he is getting what he voted for. A big circle around the state and cities, that depicted areas with great benefits, in an immigrants compound. He no longer votes that way. But more important, Gov LePage is in the process of reducing those benefits. Good on him too.

    I’m not the man I used to be either. The thought that comes to my mind is the same one that carried me this far. “Do the best you can with what you have, and pray that it is enough.” Can’t do more than that.

  25. This is one of my favorite topics.

    It is often said that under stress, one rises not above the fray, but sinks to their level of training. Sounds really sage, right? But “I haz a question….”.

    What is the meaning of “training”? How much is sufficient, how much is too much, how much guarantees failure? If you take several special ops training courses, and then sorta just do the square range thing (or nothing), will you be able to sink to the level of training you had in those courses, or lower because you don’t keep up the training?

    Further, how many DGU situations resulted in failure of the defender because of lack of formal training of any kind? How many DGUs situations resulted in failure because the defender had not trained (even a little bit) for the scenario presented? And so on…..

    More further, how many successful DGUs were performed by people with only instruction on how to load, and point the gun? How many DGUs were unsuccessful because of only knowing how to load and point?

    If one wants to train for the worst case, say “Pulse”, is it better to read about it, watch a video simulation, attend special ops training?

    How many people successfully defended themselves, and never moved “off the X”?

    If we are not going to continue to train at a high (special ops) level, could we improve just as well watching training videos on U-Tube, negating the need to pay for physical training?

    Are we scaring ourselves that without some sort of formal, physical training, we are either a danger to the public, or a victim waiting to be overwhelmed by “the real thing”?

    PS: No, I don’t have answers. The student provides the questions, then learns the answers.

    • You rang?

      Train as you’re able, and as often as you’re able. Be alert to your surroundings so you can avoid/adjust as necessary, and don’t provoke others. That’s my sage advice.

  26. I agree. Spend time shooting and thinking.

    Also think when you’re out and about.

    Not an operator but I try to be somewhat prepared.

  27. So… I’m of multiple minds on this. Overall I think it’s a good write up of a problem that very clearly exists, that training often falls into two major camps and finding something you know to be useful before plunking down money is difficult to do.

    This is why I’ve suggested multiple times that we form our own database, utilize group discounts and some online services to bring down the costs and review a bunch of training in different parts of the country and post the reviews so that you get multiple points of view on the same course in the same write up. Two people bothered to take me up on the notion and one of them writes for this site.

    The real issue here is determining what you want. I would be willing to bet that it exists and probably closer than people tend to think (outliers obviously exist to this where people live in certain areas far from the area something is offered). It’s all about figure out how to get that information.

    I would also point out that such a system could exist for other purposes than review. I mean, comon, dorks get Patron support to buy super high-end stuff and “test it” and write a shitty review based on a day with the thing. With the creation of a system to publish the reviews we can get people who are low on funds the training they want/need in return for a review and use ad revenue to defray the cost. Hell, if they can’t or don’t want to the people don’t even have to write it, they can do an interview about it and do so anonymously with their review published under a pseudonym. Call it a public service all around.

    This shit ain’t that hard if we work on it and it’s not like we don’t have the people, and the platform(!!!!) to do it.

    Also, while I don’t know of a “day” class for this I can tell you one that takes a weekend and is available around the country in most states; GoRuck Active Shooter Intervention classes. $275 and offered all around the country. I was going to review this last year but the ICU intervened in my plans.

  28. A lot of people are going to probably not like this how ever I need to state it. Hugging cover is death. It’s just a bad idea but none more so than in urban environments. Dallas shooting is a good example of that. He rolled up around the corner keeping his distance from the cover and just blew that cop away.

    You lose by getting real close to a wall and shooting around it. I know there are swat teams and military that do it. They are wrong. not saying there is never a reason to hug cover. It’s just constant. You see cops die that way.

    In suburbs, cities, and housing. Even a lot of rural areas still it’s just a bad idea. You get flanked. You never see much pictures or videos of people using cover without being right up against it. For self defense close quarters combat is most relevant. You don’t need to be agile and youthful to not hug cover.

  29. For someone with a low budget and low physical capacity, which includes me, I’d say the following:

    1) Start with books and videos. Read and reread until there is some memory retention.

    2) Buy a BB gun. There are some excellent models that almost exactly resemble a Glock or other models down to the logos, including the weight.

    3) Buy a holster that matches the BB gun. And of course, get protective glasses – BB ricochet, too.

    4) Practice dry fire as you would a regular gun as per the books and videos you studied.

    5) Add actual shooting in the basement, the back yard or wherever just to see if your aim and grip are correct.

    6) Transition to a real gun to get used to recoil, any weight differences, etc. Practice at a square range until your aim is excellent and where you can get training in normal use of a firearm to correct any mistakes made up to this point.

    7) Take a combat handgun course. This is where the problem is, according to the article. Well, there is no absolute solution. You can either afford it or not and there is either a course somewhere you can get to or there is not. Whether or not, go to 8).

    8) Transition to a range that allows combat movement or go somewhere where such training can be done without risk of harm to random passer-bys or yourself.

    There are probably plenty of places in rural areas where such training could be done safely such as sandbanks, rock quarries, and the like. Getting to them is a matter of how far you need to drive. How often you train is based on the money you can spend on ammo, gas, and the time it takes to get to the range.

    Only do this if you have proper emergency medical equipment available, wear the appropriate protective gear, and have trained yourself with unloaded weapons to have proper control of your draw and trigger finger at all times. Probably should have a spotter available.

    The idea is not to do dangerous training without the means to deal with any “accidents” that might incapacitate you. This is why it is better to find a supervised range that allows combat training.

    The real question is: How much training is enough and how much is too much? That’s going to be different for everyone. There is no one right answer. Any form of combat training is ultimately a rabbit hole – or a black hole – that one can go down for a long way in search of “perfect security” – which doesn’t exist.

    At least in martial arts you have belt ranks and an instructor to determine how skilled you are (assuming the instructor isn’t bogus as well, which is a problem in martial arts.) In combat handgunning, there is nothing but maybe three-gun and other competitions. There are drills one can practice and proficiency is usually determined by the inventor of the drill. But translation of the drill to a real scenario, let alone a real event, is always going to be iffy.

    Bottom line: You pays your money and you takes your choice. But the progression I outline above seems to be the cheapest incremental method to get at least some moderate level of skill.

  30. 6 foot three, 275. That makes you average. Anyone between six foot and six-six is average, any one between 250 and 300 pounds is average. Oddly enough, I average as well. And, yep, we can conceal pretty much anything. I prefer 1911s and the new favorite is the Rock Island 22TCM/9mm double stack. 18 round of 9mm. Rocks high Capacity 45 is also a nice one.

    Nice article.

    • 6′ 3″ and 275 isnt “average”. Im 6′ 4″ and around the same weight. We’re pretty big guys

  31. How much training has my “opponent” (street thug, mugger, psycho) had? I need just a little more than him.

    • “How much training has my “opponent” (street thug, mugger, psycho) had?”

      Wouldn’t presume such person has not had actual “combat” experience prior. Would presume the perp is experienced, and lives in the latter corner of the OODA loop, where I have to go from zero to determination to shoot. My observation is that the attacker has already made the decision to kill, while I have to evaluate and decide.

      • Do they ‘train’ for an armed response? Doubtful, for most of them. No question they will have the advantage being the initiator of violence, and outside of being vigilant, I cant change that. But I won’t be starting at zero in OODA loop. Basically, I need to handle my gun properly (quickly) in the encounter. There is only so much one can do. Depends on your willingness to prepare for the likeliest scenarios.

    • It depends on how you look at it. A valid argument can be made in either direction. Really, IME how much this matters is basically down to a random chance as to who you run into.

      Does your training negate the advantages of surprise, numbers, their overconfidence and the luck factor? Probably not unless you have a lot of it.

      Is that necessary? Depends on who you’re dealing with. The “sketchy looking dude” is the one you saw and if he’s looking for someone to go after he probably knows you saw him and decided you’re not worth the time. You openly observing him is a significant deterrent to his plans. It’s the one(s) you didn’t see that are the problem if they happen to be experienced robbery boys and if that’s the case they have a significant advantage. Keep in mind they didn’t get to be experienced at this by being stupid. The dumb ones are dead or locked up.

      One of the reasons paying attention to your surroundings is important is because of the signals it sends. There are three basic types of people who pay attention to you paying attention. Other people like you, cops and bad guys.

      A friend of mine found this out the hard way with a GSW to the head. Has a heck of a scar and, if I’m being honest, a (most likely) permanently changed personality due to TBI.

  32. This item cuts right to the core of most of the training out there. Most of it is military Special Forces based. But the fact is, the average civilian CCW holder has not the time, money, space, or inclination to be a SEAL or a ‘Green Beret” (which disignation is now meaningless anyway).
    SOF is all about offense, and if one is going to be assaulting fortified positions on a regular basis, then that constant training IS needed. But the average civilian will never be doing that. Not even once. Such training is just a waste for the average defender.
    Civilian classes should be based more around mental attitude and situational awareness instead, with safe gun handling and the most basic of firing instruction. Marksmanship can come later as an advanced class for those who want to actually become proficient in firearms use.
    OFC, that’s not as ‘sexy’ and so is harder to sell. This is why most training is military based. Because sexy sells. That doesn’t mean it will keep you alive though. Only that somebody is happy to take your dollars. We should wise up, and leave the offensive training to those likely to have the need for it.

    • You don’t know enough about the SeALs, Green Berets, or SOF in general to comment on their training or tactics. You made that clear in your second sentence.

      For everyone that’s actually deployed in a combat arms unit, what’s Battle Drill 1?
      Every deployed service member just automatically thought “react to contact.”

      Because the thing you drilled the most, the thing you went over every single day, wasn’t any offense. It was how to react to someone else trying to hurt you.
      That involved recognizing the threat, communicating the threat, maneuvering to a superior position,eliminating the threat, and reassessing the threat.
      That’s the basis of self defense no matter who, or where you are.

  33. Shoot/don’t shoot against people (or at least video of people) is eye opening. After you “kill” an innocent person, you’ll realize there’s more to carrying than marksmanship and finding the right holster, and training is the place to make those mistakes.
    Entry training may seem silly since you don’t plan on being in a stack of assaulters charging into an active shooter situation. However, exiting that situation with family or by yourself leverages those skills of moving through halls (aisles) and doorways with unknown threats.

  34. What he really should be thinking about is realistic personal protection training with a subset of firearms training. Personal protection starts well to the left of bang.

  35. I would love to find a range that allows shooting while moving, drawing from a holster, and has instructors who can work with me. Unfortunately I know of none in the area. I not interested in quasi military scenarios. My scenario is being in a grocery or convenience store when a crazy guy comes in armed and ready to do damage. I have a 9mm handgun with up to 17 rounds or more likely a .380 with only 6 rounds and maybe another 6 in a spare magazine. This is most of us. A database of such ranges or training facilities around the counwoild be a great service. I don’t expect to be traveling to Front Sight or Gun Site any time soon.

    • When I moved to Wisconsin I discovered a range where I could do all those things you desire and discovered that shooting on the move is really hard. I find it is more difficult to shoot on the move than shooting at a moving target from a fixed position. Shooting on the move at a moving target is ridiculously hard.

  36. I thought the whole point of carrying g a gun is so I don’t ever have to run from anything – running is HARD!!!

  37. You don’t own an AR platform rifle?????

    I’m a lowly HVAC technician and I own 2 AR platforms and an AK….. among other rifles, shotguns and pistols….

    Layaway is your friend if you don’t have all the cash upfront and money seems to disappear if I don’t spend it fast enough 😉

    Not putting the author down AT ALL…. But I find it pretty amazing someone who writes columns for a gun site doesn’t own one of the most iconic rifles in existence….

    • Three things: 1) the author stated pretty clearly that he couldn’t afford an AR. “Can’t,” in this case, probably actually means, “have more important things to spend the money on.” 2) Different people Like different kinds of things. Some people love ARs. Some people hate them. Some people (like me) are fairly ambivalent. 3) Depending on where the author lives, getting an AR may or may not be possible. In NY, where I live, I’m limited to hacked up NY-compliant mutations that are completely uninteresting to me.

      In short: owning an AR is not a prerequisite to enjoying guns, owning them, or writing about them. It’s Glock ownership that makes you a real man.


      Side note: was this 2013 article really just reposted with all its 2013 comments? What’s up with that?

  38. I’m a day late to the comment party so maybe no one will see this, but I’ve taken a realistic, non-“operator” course at ITTS in Los Angeles. It’s called “Problem Solving Tactics” and uses simunitions in controlled scenarios of a workplace shooting, kidnapping at gunpoint, and other active shooter scenarios. The instructors are all active or retired LAPD SWAT guys. They’re extremely knowledgeable and incorporate basic medic training into the curriculum. It’s absolutely fantastic.

      • “Are we just recycling old material now?”

        The website is open to new members. Some of the historical articles are good review again, and are actually fresh for some new members.

    • I just noticed the dates of the comments when people were complaining about not being able to find .22LR ammo. I was like wtf there’s no shortage?!

    • Yeah I noticed that too. Maybe they should put some kind of notice when reposting 6 year old material. Like “FLASHBACK” or “REPOST” at the top or something.

  39. One of the local outdoor ranges runs IDPA style matches once a month. Not “training”, but the stages are usually real life related, most times recreating rl shooting situations. Some months they limit you to BUG. Once a year they do run a Movie Shootout match. These matches do show you what skills you need to work on. Usually 50 rounds will get you through the match, depending on how often you miss.

    The local 25 yard indoor range has started doing defensive shooting style matches. Move within a small area, use cover, shoot at targets.

    For most of us, any defensive gun use is going to be contained to a small physical area, so running and gunning might be a fun game, but not very practical. At both ranges, you will never have to move more than 15 feet or so or shoot at a target more than 10 yards a way.

    Some of the outdoor range stages have included being approached by the bad guys while you are standing at an ATM, holding a “baby” and putting bags in your car (both hands full and you get a penalty for dropping the baby), squatting down to change a tire (tire iron in your shooting hand), or sitting in your recliner watching TV when the door is kicked open.

  40. Cliff, similar to you, I’m a big guy who only carries the gun and no spare magazines or fighting knife. The CDC estimates 1M DGUs per year and only about 1% result in a shot being fired. So a 4 day tactical fighting rifle training is too low on the list for me to even really consider.

    The big things for me are the unobstructed/fast draw, not missing my target, not shooting some random bystander, and not shooting a person if they’re not actually a threat.

    To that end, I go to an outdoor range and practice dropping grocery bags from my carry hand. I once saw a video of a gas station DGU and the good guy never let go of the gallon of milk from his firing hand. He still got the gun out, but I can’t imagine that helped his aim. I practice sweeping clothes back to get to the gun. I practice dropping to one knee to make myself a smaller target and adding some stability. I practice asking out loud if the threat is still a threat after I present my gun and after each shot fired.

    This gives me muscle memory for the potential problems involved in EVERY DGU. Rabid dog on the street to 50 Russian Spetsnaz, if you can’t clear your holster properly or if you kill someone who’s not an immediate threat, you’re probably screwed.

    • Not that I think this is the end all-be all of training. But I consider these to be the basics. More important than MOA at a hundred yards. More likely to be critical for the average shooter than room to room clearing in a 2 man team. Also, fairly easily practiced, even in your own home with dry fire or snap caps.

      Speaking of snap caps, I will sneak one into my magazine and clear it at the range to simulate clearing a malfunction.

  41. I to am like Clift where I have limitation and I do not need the operator training. For the pass year about 3 to 4 of us meet on Saturday at our local outdoor range for an hour. We are in our fifties and older. We come up with drills that are practical to our lives and train them. We have a lot of liberty to train as we want at the range within safety bounds. Two of the group are usher and at church. We have one drill that we call the church drill and start at 30 yards and move to the target. We work on our marksmanship to insure our accuracy. I have to say this I am a better shooter and have greater confidence that I am prepared if I find myself in a situation where I need to defend myself.

  42. Shoot a local, casual IDPA match.

    We host a 2-stage match every other Tuesday night and a 4-stage match once per month on a Saturday.

    You’ll learn useful skills and can physically push yourself as little or as much as you want, with different scenarios each time emphasizing the use of cover, tactical priority, and tactical reloads.

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