Train with the Gun You Carry

I had the conversation again the other day. It started with, “I should do some IDPA shooting to improve my defensive skills.” Then it quickly moved to, “I need a new gun for competition.”

Because I sometimes speak without thinking about others’ feelings, I blurted out, “No you don’t. You need to train with the gun you carry.”

This might make some people think I have an aversion to owning lots of guns. Nothing could be further from the truth. I own lots of guns. I like buying guns. Sometimes I buy guns for really odd reasons. I own four different sporterized Mauser rifles. I have killed deer with 13 different firearms from my gun safe. I have a duck gun, a goose gun, a grouse gun and a pheasant gun. The other day I found a pistol that I don’t remember buying.

But when it comes to defensive training, I tend to think that training should be done with the gun you will use to defend yourself.

Consider this: Let’s say you carry a compact .40-caliber pistol as your defensive sidearm. That gun has, just for the sake of argument, 3.5 inches between the front and rear sight and a trigger pull weight of just about 8 pounds. The gun is light and thin and easy to carry, because you know that you will carry your gun often but shoot it very rarely.

So now let’s say you decide to get involved with IDPA because you realize that practice helps and you know that adding some stress through competition is a good thing. For your “competition gun,” you get a long-slide 9mm pistol with a ported barrel, 4-pound trigger, beveled magazine well and extended magazine release. All these features will help you “shoot better” during the match.

Well, you’ve just gone from training for self-defense to playing a shooting game. Not that there is anything wrong with playing a shooting game. There is nothing wrong with playing a shooting game. Just don’t get to thinking that because you can breeze through stages at the IDPA match with your soft-recoiling, smooth-shooting, quick-to-reload competition blaster that you will suddenly have the same skills with your carry gun.

You won’t.

You might improve your skills a little bit, but if you really want to test yourself, run that match with your carry gun. See how it really feels to move, shoot and reload with the gun you are betting your life on.

If you are buying a special gun with special features just for competition, just acknowledge the fact that you are doing it because you enjoy the competition. If you want the activity to be about improving your defensive skills, use your everyday carry gear and shoot lots of matches with the EDC gear. Then you can compare your scores and see if you are actually getting better with the gun you will use when your life is on the line. Talk about gaining real confidence. Before long you will know exactly what you can and can’t do with your EDC gun and gear. That way, when the balloon goes up, you will be reaching for a gun you have actually trained with.

If you fight like you train, you should train with the tool you intend to have with you when you fight.

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