Last weekend, I traveled to Florida to take the NRA Instructor Basics of Personal Protection Outside The Home Course (PPOTH). I was asked by several people why I would want this particular “Basic” Certification in light of my background and training experience. It’s simple,
I like training new shooters.
My colleague Grant Cunningham made a pertinent blog post about this shortly after I took the PPOTH Student Basic and Advanced Student Course. Experienced instructors often shy away from training the newest students. There has been a massive increase in people licensed to carry firearms over the past few years. In addition, several States have adopted Constitutional or Permitless Carry. That market base probably needs experienced trainers and coaches.
And I don’t feel the need to reinvent the wheel. It’s unfortunate that the NRA Training Department’s best marketing statement for its Personal Protection training is contained in the PPOTH Instructor manual. “The NRA Basic Personal Protection Series is based on the building-block approach, moving from the simple to the complex.” The most effective training courses I have taken over the past two decades have used a step by step approach to skill building.
The Training Department sees the progression of the courses for new gun owners interested in learning how to defend themselves and their loved ones as follows.
- NRA Basics of Pistol Shooting Course, the first course, develops the basic skills of handling, shooting, and cleaning the firearm, as well as a thorough grounding in firearm safety.
- NRA Basics of Personal Protection In The Home Course, the second course, teaches:
- the defensive or flash sight picture,
- firing single shots and/or aimed pairs from various shooting positions
- shooting using a center-of-mass hold,
- effectively using cover and concealment,
- employing point-shooting and multiple target engagement techniques.
- techniques for improving awareness and promoting mental preparation,
- methods of enhancing home safety without a firearm, and
- legal aspects of the use of deadly force in self-defense.
- NRA Basics of Personal Protection Outside The Home, the third course in the series, covers:
- Introduction to Concealed Carry Safety and The Defensive Mindset,
- Introduction to Self Defense and Concealed Carry,
- Legal Aspects of Concealed Cary and Self-Defense,
- Carry Modes and Handgun Concealment,
- Presenting the Handgun from Concealment, and
- Presentation, Position and Movement.
- Another offering in the series is the NRA Defensive Pistol Course. This is a shorter course than PPOTH. It teaches:
- How to apply the NRA Rules for Safe Gun Handling when carrying a concealed firearm,
- basic principles of concealment,
- drawing from a hip holster
- levels of mental awareness,
- developing the proper mindset when using a pistol for personal protection,
- flash sight picture
- clearing common stoppages,
- shooting a qualification course,
- use of pocket pistols,
In addition to the Courses themselves, the Training Department provides additional Skill Development Exercises for NRA Instructors to use with students after PPITH and PPOTH.
And the NRA Marksmanship Qualification Program has even more exercises that interested shooters can use to increase their skills and earn awards from the NRA.
Looking at all the topics covered, that’s a really comprehensive training program. Those who are interested in a defensive firearm as more than a talisman to ward off evil can really get a lot out of such a “Basic” program.
There are a number of aspects of the NRA’s series that I really like. First of all, the classes are between 4 to 9 hours long. Because they’re constructed in modules, even the 9 hour classes don’t have to be conducted in a single day. Most people’s lives are quite busy and asking new shooters to take an entire weekend or even week of training is both difficult and sometimes counter-productive.
The NRA’s program is really the only one in the industry that is built around the student’s capabilities and time constraints rather than a trainer’s weekend convenience. Mea culpa; I’ve done both the traveling trainer and hosting trainer routines, so I’m as guilty of it as any of my colleagues. It’s something I want to try a different approach to.
There’s a place for both newer trainers and experienced trainers in the NRA’s Personal Protection Series. I’m very much looking forward to seeing how I can implement that.
I won’t be wronged, I won’t be insulted, I won’t be laid a hand on. I don’t do these things to other people and I require the same from them.
When discussing Standards, we should keep in mind that Standards come from several sources.
- Ourselves (personal standards)
- Private Sector (social values and employment criteria)
- Public Sector (legal requirements)
Of those, the standards we set for ourselves are the most important. For instance, I don’t drink if I’m driving. I enjoy having a cocktail but I either have one at home or in the company of a designated driver. That’s my personal standard. In most cases, I could probably ‘get away with’ driving home after I’ve had a drink. However, even if I wasn’t close to the legal limit of intoxication, alcohol consumption reduces the margin of safety I consider acceptable for operating a two ton potential manslaughter machine. Not only is my personal safety at stake but the safety of others. It’s the same reason we accept not handling firearms after consuming alcohol as personal and community standards; to maintain an acceptable margin of safety.
What are some other personal standards that might apply to aspects of personal protection and shooting? A few come to mind immediately:
- Know the rules (law) of where we live and places we travel to.
- Shoot only at positively identified threats.
- Shoot only in a manner we can make 100 percent hits on a threat, thus not endangering innocents downrange. Factors affecting this include:
- Personal skill
- Cadence (rate) of fire
- Relationship of the weapon to the eye-target line
My presentation at the Rangemaster Tactical Conference last week was titled Strategies, Tactics, and Options for Personal Protection (STOPP). Since many of us were not from Arkansas, I asked the audience how many of them from out of state had researched the Arkansas statutes about the Use of Force and Deadly Force. Not everyone had. Researching this piece of information took me less than 30 seconds on my phone before I entered the State. Was it a prudent decision to do so? I think so.
Arkansas Code Title 5. Criminal Offenses § 5-2-607. Use of deadly physical force in defense of a person
I’ve harped quite a bit about Identifying Friend or Foe already so, for the moment, Point 2 requires no further elaboration . Please remember that the Flashlight Practice Session of Indoor Range Practice Sessions is available as a free download.
Let’s consider point 3. My colleague Darryl Bolke’s presentation at the Conference included an important tidbit about the rate of shooting. The LAPD SWAT Team, one of the most highly trained and experienced shooting units in the world, practices to shoot at .5 (½) seconds per shot, no faster. They do this regardless of whether they are on the square range, in the shoothouse, or in actual confrontations with criminals. Why? Because that’s the rate they can identify threats and make decisions about using or continuing to use (follow up shots) deadly force.
The Force Science Institute has found that it takes about .3 seconds or more for the ‘stop shooting’ decision. That’s considerably longer than the splits we consider important in the world of competition shooting. There is a tension inherent between those two situations.
We all like to consider ourselves to be responsible gunowners. Is it prudent for us to practice shooting faster than we can guarantee a hit and whether it’s necessary to shoot at all? That’s an open question in my mind. I shot the Match at the Conference very deliberately and relatively slowly. I’m okay with that. All my hits were exactly where I wanted them to be and nowhere else. In the measured environment, that’s now become my personal standard.
Claude, I’m haunted by that last shot because I don’t know where it went.
–A friend who is both an Expert competitive shooter and a practitioner of personal protection.
Going to public sector standards, a fear is periodically raised that the standard will be set too high for gunowners to meet. The State of Illinois was the last State in our Nation to allow concealed carry because its political elite has a pathological fear of firearms (hoplophobia) in the hands of private citizens. Consequently, that State makes an interesting case study regarding Standards for private citizens. Let’s compare the standards Ill-Annoy has established for police officers v. private citizens.
|Strings of fire||12||3|
|Furthest distance||15 yards||10 yards|
|Time Limits||6 – 10 seconds||None|
|Target||8.5″ x 14″ (119 sq. in.)||Entire B-27 (~700 sq. in.)|
|Hit Requirement||23/30 (77%)||21/30 (70%)|
Strings of fire is a useful criterion to include because less skilled shooters tend to ‘walk’ their rounds into the center of the target during a longer string. Having more strings reduces the effectiveness of this technique and makes a given course of fire more difficult for an equal number of rounds fired.
The qualification requirements of some States are so low that a reasonably skilled shooter can literally pass them blindfolded. For instance, the State of Michigan requirement is to hit an 11×25 inch target (three sheets of paper) at four yards with five rounds, two times out of three tries, starting from a ready position. It should be noted that although this seems like a large target, it has roughly the same area as the FBI ‘Q’ target; 281 square inches v. 275 square inches, respectively. The fear of established marksmanship criteria being excessively high seems unfounded in reality.
It should also be noted that reflexively firing a number of rounds can be a legal liability. In the Mike Kimball case in Maine, the first shot was deemed by the medical examiner to be deadly. The two additional rounds fired by Kimball were raised as an issue by the Judge in his trial. Kimball was ultimately convicted of murder and will most likely spend the rest of his life in prison. There were additional factors in his conviction, but the number of shots was definitely a question.
A lawyer friend pointed out recently an aspect of the California jury instructions regarding self-defense cases. The wording can be interpreted to mean that shots fired after the threat has ceased could be viewed as excessive force and no longer reasonable self-defense. Whether we like it or not, the rules are the rules. We need to be cautious about parroting and then internalizing memes such as ‘shoot him to the ground.’
When you start [and continue] shooting at someone, you have to assume you’re going to kill them. That’s why we call it ‘deadly force.’ Doing so needs to be a decision not a reflex.
–The Tactical Professor
Should we settle for having mediocre personal standards and being able to only do the bare minimum? It’s true that ‘getting better is not for everyone.’ Especially if that is the case, having an objective benchmark of how we can and cannot perform is worthwhile information. That’s the main reason there is a benchmark test included in Indoor Range Practice Sessions. link to purchase all 24 Sessions