Here at the USCCA, we constantly stress that training and practice are absolutely essential for anyone who carries a gun. But all training should be based in practical reality. For example, I often get calls from people asking about “advanced” or “tactical training”—terms that have very different meanings to different people. Whether student or instructor, it is wise to clarify what the actual goals are.
The majority of people who carry are not looking to become the next Jerry Miculek, and they know it is unlikely that they will ever be in an extended multi-threat firefight. Of course, knowing how to rapidly reload, or clear a jam, are skills that everyone carrying a gun should know. And engaging in competitive shooting that mirrors real-world scenarios (IDPA, IPSC, etc.) is an excellent way to build skills that we might actually use.
But for most of us, the primary focus should be on things that may save our lives in the kinds of violent confrontations we will most likely encounter in real life. The fact is that more than 90% of civilian confrontations end with no shots being fired, and even when they are, the confrontation lasts mere seconds.
The other reality that we need to understand is that, no matter how hard we try to convince them otherwise, few people will be investing the kind of time (and money) into their training that professionals do. As such, we should keep some basic principles in mind.
First, defensive shooting skills training should take into account the fundamental legal elements of self-defense. We should generally avoid tactics that may be fine for police, but might cause serious problems for civilians. Once you’re sitting in court, it’s too late.
For example, unlike cops, who have very different rules of engagement than we do, most civilians will likely be shooting at very close ranges, typically from 10 to 20 feet, sometimes even point-blank. In fact, shooting someone at a considerable distance could be legally risky. Training should reflect this reality.
Quality training will always emphasize the need for continued practice of the techniques learned in formal instruction. Ironically, the most important skill for anyone carrying a firearm is the one they practice the least: drawing the gun. After all, if you get your gun out quickly enough, you may not even have to shoot. If you don’t, you may be dead.
As is true with all training, drawing your gun needs to be practiced over and over. There is sound neurological science behind this. After 30 repetitions new neural pathways begin to form in the brain. At 300 repetitions the first actual connections occur, and at about 3000 repetitions the neural pathway “response cycle” becomes virtually automatic.
Dry-fire practice is another effective way to practice without spending a lot of time and money going to the range. Most top competitive shooters spend a surprising amount of time practicing in this manner, for one reason: it works. Using a SIRT (laser) pistol, or your own gun (triple-checked as UNLOADED, please), you can practice drawing and engaging various targets in your own basement, living room, wherever you want.
To sum it up, make the decision to become better today than you were yesterday. Have realistic goals. Find professional instruction that meets your needs—remember, the best are never too proud to learn from others. Commit to continuously practicing. Then, as the saying goes, “just do it.”