|Training: A Journey, Not an Event|
This article first appeared in the Network's membership journal.
by Vincent Shuck
“Get over the idea that only children should spend their time in study. Be a student as long as you still have something to learn, and this will be all your life.” ~ Henry L. Doherty
I can dimly remember my early days on the firing line, desperately trying to hit the x-ring of a bullseye target. As best I can recall, my instructors and fellow shooters offered help and emphasized, stance, grip, sight alignment, trigger press and follow through, even back then! I struggled along, hitting a few x-rings, in spite of my limited skills. I then put down my pistols and focused on raising a family and advancing in the job market. I’m not sure why I saw these priorities as exclusive from shooting, but that’s what happened. Later in life, as they say in the movies, I picked up the handgun again and went to work on more exciting and useful shooting skills – self-defense and tactical matters. Different handguns, different range scenarios, but eerily similar skills were needed, except for the awareness and tactics added because of the self defense elements.
Most of us are self-motivated to learn more about shooting. Reading books, watching DVDs, going to the range, and taking classes represent some of the ways to get more knowledge. We are goal oriented and seek relevant skills that can be put to practical use. Shooting skills and procedures to defend ourselves and our loved ones sure qualify in my book as practical. Self defense is serious business, much too serious for the training to be considered optional.
First, you can’t trump the importance of basic shooting skills. As I mentioned, when I started learning to shoot, I heard the same things that I heard when I returned to the training arena to learn self defense and more advance techniques. And, I’m still hearing about them today. There’s no getting around the importance of these elements.
All of my training included references and reminders about gun safety. It also addressed accuracy, drawing from concealment, speed, multiple targets, one-hand shooting, moving and shooting, moving targets, decision-making, low light shooting, malfunction clearing, loading and reloading, shooting from odd positions, tactics and how to handle the aftermath of a shooting. Some of the training has been repetitious and some classes presented information in contradiction to information presented in other classes by other instructors. But that’s good! Seeing it done differently gives me a chance to process what works best for me.
In all of my training, I haven’t experienced a really bad class. Sure, some classes have been better than others, but I’ve always learned something from each event and I’ve met great people at all of them. There are thousands of formal courses offered each year throughout the country. Visit any gun forum or conduct an Internet search and you can probably find a class, if not nearby, at least in your home state. We all know the names of some “big-name” instructors and schools – search that name if you want to find the scheduled classes for the year (or next year). When I Googled “firearms training” recently, I got over one million possible choices. Of course, not all hits are helpful, but it certainly points out that there are a lot of choices out there. When you are looking for your next class, a good place to start is right here within the Network. Review the Network’s Affiliated Instructor list and determine if one is offering a class near you. Many offer discounts to Network members.
You can also find training information on DVDs and in books, and I have a few of these that I review from time to time. However, I’ve found that hands-on training from a competent instructor is the best way to learn new skills and to make improvements. So, review the training DVDs and books available in the Network’s online store (again, with discounts to members) but realize that the presented information should be considered an adjunct to a good training class.
Knowing what class to take can be a challenge but doing your homework in advance goes a long way. If you live near a school that has met your needs in the past, consider taking new classes or the ones offered by visiting instructors. I’ve also re-taken a class just to see what I can do with a different firearm, such as a revolver. I know some who retake classes and shoot all or part of the class with the weak hand. Few of us can claim that we do not need any further training and the good news is that training works – we respond under stress using the skills and tactics we have practiced. Consider getting to the unconscious competence level a good thing.
Costs of classes, possibly including travel and overnight expenses away from home, are part of any training effort. Most of us have a limited training and shooting budget. I’ve found that if I allocate an amount for training, I can find ways to save that amount during the year in preparation for the next event. While I don’t have a separate savings account for training, I know people who do. I just make sure my training expenses come from funds that are not needed for basic living costs.
Learning how to shoot and defend yourself are worthwhile goals to achieve. But, they represent unique skills that can erode quickly. Thus, retraining and practice to maintain the upper hand should a battle occur are important. Go find a class and make plans to attend.
“Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere.” ~ Chinese Proverb
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