What skills should we train and practice?

“What is the best use of my time right now?” —How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life by Alan Lakein

As many people know, I like to read The Armed Citizen column of the NRA Journals in detail each month. Years ago, I did a Five Year Analysis of The Armed Citizen to give me an idea of what actual incidents really looked like. Revisiting that concept appealed to me, so I did a short version for the first six months of 2014.

What I was looking for this time was the skills and techniques that were used by The Armed Citizens to solve their problems. Each incident was looked at from the perspective of skills that could or might be taught in an entry level to intermediate level firearms training class. Here’s what the list and usage rates ended up looking like from 10% up and 0%:

  • Retrieve from Storage (handgun)                32%
  • Move safely from place to place at ready    22%
  • Draw to shoot                                        20%
  • Challenge from ready                                  15%
  • Intervene in another’s situation                  15%
  • Draw to challenge                                        12%
  • Engage from ready (handgun)                     12%
  • Hold at gunpoint until police arrive              12%
  • Retrieve from Storage (unknown)               10%
  • Shoot with non-threats downrange            10%
  • Retrieve from Storage (rifle)                        0%
  • Reload                                                  0%

How often do we, as firearms trainers, ask our students to bring their home storage containers to class with them? Probably not 32 percent of the time. Or do we at least provide some kind of drawer for them to get their roscoe out of to show they can do it safely? I know a lot of people keep their chamber, or even the gun, empty when it’s off their person, so do we make them demonstrate loading it safely? Something I really like about the NRA Defensive Pistol I Marksmanship Qualification Program is that it includes those type of skills and incorporates both a time and accuracy standard for performing them.

How about moving safely from place to place with a loaded gun in hand, especially with innocents around? This is one of the biggest challenges that new IDPA and USPSA shooters encounter. Almost inevitably, a new shooter will run around with finger on trigger and then is taken to task about it by the match staff. While they’re not training, those shooting sports are providing a lot more realistic practice on a critical skill than most training classes are. Does that mean that the shooting sports are more relevant, at least in that aspect, than training classes are?

Challenging criminals is another skill I see rarely. John Farnam emphasizes it in his classes but I don’t see verbalization prior to using deadly force in many other classes. I personally think the concept “the gun isn’t coming out until I decide to shoot” is one of the most ill-considered ideas in the firearms community. But I still hear it quite a bit. If we can convince a criminal that the victimization has gone South and turned into a conflict, the chances are quite good they will break off. If they break off the attack without us firing a shot, I consider that a big WIN. Verbalization is another skill that is included in the NRA MQP. But a number of my students have found it hard to do without considerable coaching.

We’ll discuss the other skills in the future, but I want to draw attention to the percentage of reloads involved in these incidents, to wit: ZERO. As I mentioned in a Personal Defense Network interview, I’ve completely de-emphasized reloading in my classes for Armed Citizens. It’s a useful exercise for practicing good gunhandling but as a tactical skill, I just don’t consider it important anymore. Some folks spend a lot of time on thinking about how much spare ammunition to carry, how to carry it, and how to reload quickly. I think that time and effort would be better spent on practicing to make a good first shot, which is a skill many people need a lot of practice on.

5 responses

  1. […] you to read Claude Werner’s (The Tactical Professor) great article about the same topic: What skills should we train and practice?; you will see Claude’s influence on my thinking when approaching this problem. I owe a lot of […]

  2. […] both likely to be needed and which affect the outcome of the incident. Claude Werner, for instance, did an interesting survey of the skills which people reported using in defensive firearms incidents. Some of them were […]

  3. >> How often do we, as firearms trainers, ask our students to bring their home storage containers to class with them? … Or do we at least provide some kind of drawer for them to get their roscoe out of to show they can do it safely?

    I can think of many USPSA and IDPA stages I’ve shot that start this way. In fact, I can think of many competitions that encompass most of the things on that list.

    Nice article!

  4. Reblogged this on The Obsession Engine and commented:
    Some thoughts from a mentor on training skills that matter.

  5. […] both likely to be needed and which affect the outcome of the incident. Claude Werner, for instance, did an interesting survey of the skills which people reported using in defensive firearms incidents. Some of them were […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: