I don’t talk a whole lot about training because while I have my opinions about training and the nature of it, I also recognize that my knowledge isn’t as broad as I would like it to be.

Yet every now and then I see or hear something that I really just have to comment on.

Such an idea popped up yesterday. It’s from John Mosby’s Mountain Guerilla site. I’m a fan of Mosby’s work, by and large, and find him to be an incredibly smart and insightful (and possibly inciteful) guy.

On Monday, he posted about square-range drills a bit, and there was something I wanted to contribute. (Language warning for those with sensitive ears. I’ll attempt to “censor” the expletives, but I might miss some.)

It’s become something of a cliché, in the training world, to point out that “Life isn’t a square range!” The implication—and sometimes it’s not even implied, but violently explicit—being that if you’re doing fundamentals work with your weapons, you’re going to die, because your training isn’t “real” enough. I’ve always found this ironic, since in my experience, the ability to actually hit what the f*** I was shooting at, on demand, as many times as I needed to shoot it, was THE defining factor in success in a gunfight. Where did I learn to do that? On the f***ing “square range!” Admittedly, they were actually, usually rectangular, but…

I don’t know who first coined the phrase, “Life isn’t a square range,” but I suspect they’ve been taking horribly out of context. I’ve always understood the phrase to mean “ there’s more to combat shooting than standing still, waiting for the command to commence, and then firing a ‘double tap’ or a ‘Mozambique Drill.’” (I realize, the modern, politically-correct term for the Mozambique is a “Failure to Stop Drill.” I’m old, and I learned the old term first. I also realize there are minute differences between the Mozambique and F2S, but, you get the f***ing point…). To whit, the difference being, there will probably not be some nattily-dressed instructor, in a ballcap, pressed shirt, and BDU trousers bloused into his Altama jungle boots, standing behind you in the dimly-lit parking lot of the local stop-and-rob, telling you “Draw and fire two rounds to the body!”

Instead, the decision to draw and fire, or to turn around and run like a raped ape in the other direction, or to engage with unarmed combatives, or….etc, etc, etc, will rest solely on your shoulders, literally, figuratively, and legally.

My buddy, Paul Sharp, of Sharp Defense, is a retired police officer, with a wide-variety of hazardous duty positions in his background, and is a black belt in Brazilian Jujutsu. He makes the point, quite often, that “drillers are killers.” The point being that the fighters who drill regularly, tend to dominate the mat when it comes to sparring/rolling. While I have only seen/heard him use it in the context of jujutsu, I believe he would agree, 100%, that it applies equally so to firearms and tactical applications.

In my experience, in fact, the dude who is telling you that “square range drills will get you killed,” and is rushing you to get “off” the square range, and into some form of scenario or field training, is doing you a gross disservice. Typically, in both civilian self-defense scenario training, and in military field training, my observation has been that, tossing a dude into a complex scenario that requires good decision-making to be executed, before he has a solid grasp on the execution of the basic, core skills, results in abject failure. Occasionally, it may provide the service of illustrating to hard-headed individuals, that they really do need a bunch of remedial training, but more often it results in them vapor-locking mentally, and results in total failure (to be fair, a really good teacher should be able to overcome this, by backing up slightly, and allowing the student to work through the same scenario, as many times as necessary, to allow them to fix their shit, but then, you’re basically stopping the class for all the rest).

There’s a whole lot more there, and I encourage you to go and read the whole thing. Mosby may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but he knows his stuff when it comes to shooting bad people in the face.

In this, for example, he’s dead-on right.

No, life isn’t a square range. I believe the origins of that claim is a reminder that you won’t have all the time in the world. Instead, you’ll have some evil dirtbag looking to take your head as a trophy and will need to react quickly.

Where it’s wrong is something that Mosby touches on, and where I want to hammer a bit, and that’s fundamentals. Drills build and reinforce the fundamentals in anything you do, and that’s the single most important thing an individual can do. Learning to draw and fire quickly from concealment, for example, will probably be far more useful to you than learning to shoot from beneath a car.

Unfortunately, that seems to be what we lack.

Speaking for both myself and countless other people, we tend to be overconfident in our grasp of the fundamentals. Our technical abilities probably aren’t as great as we like to think. Instead, they may well be a physical manifestation of the Dunning-Kruger Effect. We think we’re better at these things than we are.

Yet many that I’ve spoken with view the basic shooting and gunfighting courses offered by schools as mere prerequisites, something they have to go through to get to the good stuff. They already know how to shoot, they argue. They don’t need these basics, but they’ll go through the motions so they can get to the Delta-SEAL-Ranger-Raider-Elite stuff that the instructors only share at that point.

And that’s cool stuff. More knowledge is never a bad thing, so long as it’s actual knowledge and not someone selling male bovine excrement instead, and I’m of the opinion that most of it tends to be.

But the real thing is built on the range, through countless repetition.

Someone once said that amateurs practice until they get it right, but professionals practice until they can’t get it wrong. That means a lot of time on the square range, doing the things other people don’t want to do.

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