Not long ago, I was enjoying a steak dinner with several other full-time firearms instructors.
We had two from Rangemaster, two from Gunsite, two from the American Institute of Marksmanship, and a couple of law enforcement firearms instructors from local agencies. During dinner, the topic came up, “What phrase really darkens your day when you hear it?” The unanimous answer was, “Heck, I grew up around guns.” (H,IGUAG)
This simple, six word sentence is guaranteed to cause dread among firearms trainers, and is usually the signal that a long, stressful, and frustrating day lies ahead. Why is that? It’s because this is usually a sign that the speaker is both ignorant and stupid. The word ignorant is not an insult. It simply means that the person in question does not have some required knowledge of the subject at hand. Ignorance can be fixed. In fact, I make my living fixing it.
Stupidity, however, is another matter entirely. The person uttering, “Heck, I grew up around guns” tends to be so dull witted that he actually doesn’t even realize that he is ignorant. He doesn’t know that he doesn’t know.
Pretty much without exception, these are the people who commit the most serious safety violations, as well as being horrible shots. In fact, there are six errors these folks commit so regularly that it seems to be standard operating procedure among those who use the dread phrase. Three of these errors are directly related to safety, while the other three are the reason they shoot so poorly. Let’s look at them.
First, let’s discuss the safety issues. Invariably, the H,IGUAG shooter has no concept of trigger finger discipline (#1) or muzzle discipline (#2). Just this afternoon, a 70’ish gentleman on my indoor range was sitting on the bench behind the firing line, holding a Glock pistol in a firing grip, with his finger on the trigger, carelessly pointing it at several people as he examined something on the side of the slide. When I took the pistol from him and gave him some counseling, it came up that he had no formal handgun training, but had “grown up around guns.” Sigh ….
The third area of safety concern I typically see with these folks is a sloppy and dangerous manner of drawing and holstering a handgun. Presenting a handgun from a holster and subsequently re-holstering it is quite safe, if done correctly. I rarely see untrained people with any clue how to do this, though, and a lot of negligent shootings result from poor habits.
The other three errors are more related to poor shooting than to safety, and we see them just as often in these folks. The first is an improper grip. For reliable function, proper trigger manipulation, and recoil control, there is more to gripping a handgun than “just pick it up.” A little bit of proper technique here can make a big difference in shooting ability. The same goes for trigger control. I rarely see self taught shooters who understand trigger finger placement issues, slack, trigger reset or other nuances of good handgun shooting.
Precision with a handgun is probably 90 percent trigger control, and some competent instruction can often do wonders for your shooting. Follow through, or more precisely the lack of it, is the third shooting issue I see most frequently in the untrained.
American males seem to think they are born with genes for driving a car well at high speed and for shooting a handgun well under stressful, demanding conditions. Suggesting they seek professional training in these pursuits seems to be akin to questioning their virility. In truth, a handgun is a hand tool, easier to use well than a violin, but a bit more complex than a shovel. Admitting you need training in its use does not make you less a man, trust me.
[ Tom Givens is the owner of Rangemaster in Memphis, TN. For over 30 years Tom’s duties have included firearms instruction. He is certified as an expert witness on firearms and firearms training, giving testimony in both state and federal courts. He serves as an adjunct instructor at the Memphis Police Department Training Academy, the largest in the state. Tom’s training resume includes certification from the FBI Police Firearms Instructor School, NRA Law Enforcement Instructor Development School, NRA Law Enforcement Tactical Shooting Instructor School, Gunsite 499 under Jeff Cooper, and more. ]