In Love… and War? An engaged couple squares off as adversaries in a recent force-on-force training scenario in North Carolina.

I’ve been to a number of different self-defense courses in the past 20 years, almost all of them focused on drawing and shooting at a stationary paper target at a known distance on a static firing line after the lead instructor has shouted “threat!”

I’m now supremely confident that if I am ever attacked by a stationary paper target, I will survive.

Unfortunately, criminals rarely shout “threat!” as they attack, they don’t conveniently stand stock-still, and they’re incredibly uncooperative with their would-be victims. The sad fact of the matter is that even most “advanced” self-defense classes offered by reputable organizations and shooting schools only prepare us to deal with caricatures of threats, and generally in manners that won’t succeed in a real conflict.

For example, you might be told that once you are given the fire command, you are to fire two shots into the center of target “A” and then run to cover, perform a reload while hiding behind cover, and then engage with target “B” as you emerge from cover on the opposite side. You knew what to expect the entire time, because the scenario was explained completely beforehand.

An advanced class might feature a more complex drill involving reactive targets (targets that move after being struck just once, or after a prescribed number of times) and “no shoot” non-threatening targets representing normal people going about their daily lives. Instead of engaging a specific number of targets in a specific order with a specific number of shots, the shooter is going to have to read the situation at each point of the process and think their way through the scenario as they encounter possible threats.

Such a class introduces complexity and is more realistic but the course of fire, once set, is set. The reactive target can’t decide to become a non-threat, and the “no shoot” can’t drop a bouquet of flowers as it draws a knife and charges you, and you are generally not allowed the best defensive option, which is creating space between the assailant and yourself, running if you can.

To get the semblance of a real threat, humans need to attack other humans.

Read the rest of the article at Townhall.com, where they’ve published my “Bearing Arms” column for Townhall magazine’s September print edition.

We’ll be doing a dedicated article on this specific training class in a future article, which was the first of it’s kind on this side of the Mississippi.