“No Thanks, I Know How to Shoot…”

If you carry a gun for personal protection, regular practice is essential. In addition, a commitment to ongoing training is, or should be, an integral part of your schedule. For most of us, it is. But even the most conscientious among us can sometimes begin to think that we “know all that stuff.” As a firearms instructor for almost 40 years, I can tell you that in any group of 10 or more students, at least one (usually a male) will clearly display that attitude.

This is not unusual, especially when it comes to certain issues. Take driving, for example. I once gave a seminar to about 200 people on crime prevention. The group was almost a perfect cross-section of society: men and women, young and old — representing a wide range of ethnic backgrounds. After introducing myself and giving a bit of my own background, I conducted an “ice-breaker” exercise.

First, I asked everyone in the room to close their eyes. I then asked everyone in the room to raise their hand if they were “an above average driver … in other words, better than most people.” I asked that those who had their hands up to keep them there, and for everyone to open their eyes and look around the room.

About half the women had their hands up. But EVERY SINGLE MALE in the room, regardless of age or ethnic background, had his hand raised! I then commented that, if this were a room full of professional race drivers, they could be right; they all were very likely “better than most people” when it came to driving. But given the diverse make-up of the people in that particular room, I suggested that even statistically, at least half of them were either lying or just plain wrong. There was a lot of laughter, but they got the point.

Few people, men or women, think they are bad drivers, even those who are demonstrably terrible drivers. All those traffic accidents? They were always “the other guy’s fault” (sound familiar?). Whether it’s a result of testosterone or societal expectations, being a good driver is one thing that is particularly important to men.

Guns is another. Being proficient with firearms is something that men have grown up believing they are “supposed” to be. As a result, we can sometimes become complacent. Now, self-confidence is fine, but when you start thinking that you no longer have anything to learn from anyone else, you’re making a serious mistake — and doing yourself a disservice.

After all, Navy SEALs, Rangers and other “Tier 1 operators” practice constantly, honing their skills. And when not immediately heading “downrange,” these elite warriors also submit to constant training. Even with their already incredible skills, they’re not too proud to learn from others. They understand that those skills are perishable, and having the benefit of a second pair of eyes is always a good thing. They might also learn something new that could save their life on the next mission.

Those of us who carry should adopt the same mindset. We should establish realistic goals for how often we practice, whether going to the range or doing dry-fire exercises and drawing from concealment at home. But we should also commit to getting regular, self-defense-focused training. An objective observer can see things you don’t.

So, don’t let pride keep you from constantly improving. Make training a part of your life.