In a recent edition of my video blog, Into the Fray, I suggested that you should keep track of all your training and create a file with the training certificates you have earned over the years. It would also be a good idea to keep the phone numbers and contact information of the training schools you have attended in that file.

But I left something out. Many people don’t head off to organized training schools. I dare say that “most” people who carry guns every day have not attended a structured training academy.

If you don’t have any “official” training, please get some. Make it a priority. If, for some reason, you can’t get to a well-respected training academy, you will need to get your information somewhere else. That will typically be books or videos. What I am about to say next will make some people gasp. I expect to hear about it in the comments below. Here goes: Your shooting skills are of secondary importance to your knowledge and understanding of the legal aspects of the use of deadly force.

Yes, your shooting skills are important, but if you are the best shot in the world with the perfect draw, a rock-solid grip, unparalleled trigger control and perfect sight alignment, you will still go to jail if you use your gun at the wrong time. That means your knowledge and understanding of the basic tenets of the judicious use of deadly force must be impeccable. Your knowledge of the laws of the jurisdiction in which you carry your firearm must be thorough. Your understanding of the factors that allow you to take a shot must be woven into your thinking. You must not make an error in judgment, because you will be held accountable for that error. Then you must combine these elements with effective situational awareness and the willingness to engage first in conflict avoidance before you resort to violence.

All of these elements will serve the platform from which you launch your counter-attack. Your pistol training must ensure that you can put three rounds on a human-sized target in under three seconds at a range of 10 feet. I can train almost anyone to shoot that well. Understanding the rules often takes much more time than learning to shoot.

So, even without “official” training, if you are involved in a shooting, investigators will ask you why you did what you did. You should keep copies of things you have read or a list of books or study guides that show where you have gotten your information.

But this begs the question: Is the material you reference reliable? If you are getting your gun training from that guy who shot himself in the leg on YouTube, you might not want to list that on your Curriculum Vitae. Seek top-notch information from organizations like the USCCA and trainers like Massad Ayoob, Clint Smith, Tiger McKee and others. I would prefer that you get hands-on training, but if you can’t, I insist that you familiarize yourself with the concepts and information surrounding the legal use of deadly force. It is your responsibility.

And when people ask why you fired in self-defense, you will have an effective answer to provide them.