Every year, thousands of people flock to various gun schools throughout the nation. Others mass at their local ranges to attend classes with traveling instructors. The firearm training industry is thriving, with millions of dollars flowing to various instructors every year, all in the belief that the training will help students stay alive in a violent confrontation.
However, most of those students don’t realize they’re getting only part of the picture.
Firearm instructors often talk about self-defense, for obvious reasons. After all, the students are there to learn how to defend themselves with a firearm. It’s an important skill and knowledge is one of those things you never have enough of.
The problem is that so many instructors focus on the shooting that they completely ignore the rest of the equation. But some subjects that should be addressed by trainers are often overlooked. Here are a few that I believe are ignored far too often.
1. Physical Fitness
Roughly 66 percent of the American public is overweight or obese. Based on who I see at gun-related events, the firearm community is at least “boasting” a similar percentage. I’m not casting blame here. I’m in that larger camp too, larger in more ways than one. That’s a bad thing in general.
However, when it comes to saving your own life, it’s possibly even worse.
While many have this vision in their head of drawing a gun and firing a couple of shots, ending the altercation, let’s be honest. We have little control over what the confrontation will be.
People tend to carry a firearm because they want to be prepared for whatever may happen, but then they neglect the possibility of the fight becoming an endurance event in some manner.
The moment a fight crosses the line from “a few shots and over” and into literally anything else, one’s physical fitness can quickly come into play. Yet, like most of America, the gun community seems to lack any.
Trainers, however, tend to overlook this in their courses and videos. I mean, I get it. People aren’t paying hundreds of dollars to be told they’re fat slobs who need to get off the couch and do some stuff in addition to going to the range every so often. What they are paying for is to learn how to shoot under cars and around barriers and other “cool guy” stuff, so why give the people anything other than what they pay for?
Further, many trainers may not be overly fit themselves. Others may be fit, but they may not be overly knowledgeable about physical fitness in general. As a result, they may not feel confident in talking about a subject outside of their expertise. They’re trying to “stay in their lane,” which is laudable for a trainer, but sometimes it’s not a bad idea to broaden your lane.
Now, to be fair, some do. I’ve read Greg Ellifritz mention the subject before, and his weekly knowledge dumps will occasionally contain some information about fitness. He’s not alone, but he is far too rare in my opinion.
2. Other Kinds Of Violent Confrontations
There’s a saying I’ve heard for years around gun boards when folks are talking about personal defense, “When the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem begins to look like a nail.”
However, how many firearms instructors talk about the need to have some ability to defend yourself without your firearm?
Imagine, if you will, a big old burly dude decides he doesn’t like you very much. He particularly doesn’t seem to appreciate the current arrangement of your face. Being a “do-it-yourself” kind of guy, he takes it upon himself to rearrange said face.
You’re scared. But are you justified in killing a man just because he wants to punch you?
Some might say yes. Some might say no. However, let’s be honest here. If you have the skills to resist the attacker without drawing your firearm, the question becomes irrelevant. You don’t need to draw a weapon to defend yourself. You still have it, of course, which is fine if he escalates the confrontation by pulling a knife or something, but at that point, it’s now a no-brainer that you’re justified in shooting.
Let’s also face facts. In the life of the average man, most of the violence he’s likely to experience will be non-lethal violence. Mostly fistfights.
But what if you’re not able to carry a firearm? Violent confrontations take many forms, but they also happen in many places. In some of those, as things currently stand, you may not be able to carry a firearm. It’s all well and good to say you’ll never set foot in New York City because of their gun laws, but if you have a wife as fascinated by Broadway as my wife is, you may find you don’t have a choice.
While hand-to-hand against a gun-wielding attacker isn’t exactly smart, there are also likely to be attackers who aren’t carrying guns.
At a time like this, skills are needed.
Yet few trainers mention these skills. As above, there are exceptions. Perhaps the best example I can think of is Special Forces soldier and former UFC fighter Tim Kennedy. His Sheepdog Response classes give students a crash course in combatives and using a handgun, creating what looks like a one-stop shop. I haven’t taken any of his classes yet, so I can only comment on what I’ve seen through promotional videos, but Kennedy’s background is uniquely suited for such training.
Which, again, might be why so few instructors touch on it. As with fitness, many may feel unqualified to discuss the topic. Perhaps they know little about hand-to-hand and figure they’d best steer clear of the topic. Again, it may be from a desire to “stay in their lane.” Then again, it may also be fear of letting students know there’s a form of violence they’re not an expert in because that might make them question other expertise. Who knows?
In fairness, it may also be any number of other things that come from an honest place. However, it doesn’t change the reality that most trainers are preparing their students for a gunfight and little else.
3. De-Escalation Techniques
The best way to survive a violent confrontation is to avoid a violent confrontation. Sometimes, that’s not possible, which is what most firearm instructors focus on, naturally.
However, some violent confrontations start off as simple disagreements. From there, they escalate and the next thing you know, someone has gotten shot. That’s never a good place to end up if you can avoid it, especially since being armed isn’t a magic talisman. The person who ends up getting shot can still be you.
Little time is spent on how to talk down a confrontation to try and keep it from becoming violent.
Here, though, I’m going to give a pass to most trainers for a few reasons. One, most do tend to advise students to avoid confrontations if at all possible. It’s understood throughout the community, so even if they don’t explicitly mention it, it’s known. Kind of like how martial arts instructors tell you the best piece of equipment is a good pair of running shoes firearm instructors will tell you that the best way to win a gunfight is to not be in one.
That doesn’t change the fact that it’s not really discussed in general. Oh, we talk about avoiding bad neighborhoods and other things that might increase your risk of being in a violent confrontation, but little time is spent on talking your way out of one short of complete capitulation.
Now, I’m not stupid here. You’re not going to convince the armed robber not to rob you. You’re not going to talk the rapist into changing his ways. Some people will still need to be met with violence, swiftly and decisively.
However, what about the drunk you accidentally bumped into? What about the guy you got into the fender-bender with? These can easily turn violent, and as I’ve said, that’s probably not good for anyone.
Unfortunately, though, few people spend time researching de-escalation techniques. It doesn’t help that they’re all the rage among the same crowd that wants to disarm police as well as law-abiding citizens. However, just because stupid people love them doesn’t mean the idea itself has no merit.
The thing is, they’re just another tool for the toolbox. Like Patrick Swayze said in Roadhouse, “Be nice until it’s time to not be nice.”
To be fair, I’m beating up firearms instructors for not teaching stuff that has nothing to do with firearms. I get that, and I’m sure a lot of firearms instructors may well tell their students to also look into some of this stuff as well. That’s pretty awesome. The real problem, however, is that they’re firearm instructors, not personal defense instructors. They teach people how to shoot and nothing else.
Personal defense, self-defense, or whatever you want to call it, however, shouldn’t be treated like an a la carte kind of thing. It should be treated as a holistic system.
Now, I know the word “holistic” tends to evoke images of someone sitting in the lotus position, with incense burning and essential oils all around them, but it shouldn’t. The word means to look at things as a whole, rather than examine parts in isolation. In this case, we should look at personal protection and self-defense in totality, rather than as a smorgasbord of classes to take because they look cool or the instructor was a Delta-Seal-Ranger-Raider-Secret Squirrel.
The fault doesn’t really lie with instructors. It lies with us, the firearm community. Many tend to talk about training and the need for it, but then they forget the myriad other things where people also need to be trained.
Frankly, the entire idea of self-defense training needs an overhaul. On the one hand, we need to kill the ridiculous classes given to college co-eds that make them think they can defeat a 250-pound potential rapist with a firm voice and a kick or two (they might, but it’s not guaranteed). On the other, we need to identify many of the firearm classes being taught as nothing more than gun guy fantasy camps.
Let’s start being both realistic about our needs and pragmatic about the kinds of training we need to navigate the real world.
Here’s a hint, though. You’re never going to be truly prepared for the curveballs the world might throw at you if your training isn’t broadened beyond how to most effectively shoot the bad guy.
That’s important, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not the only thing. Let’s all stop acting like it is.
What about you, though? What do you do besides range trips and gun classes?