Today people are rushing to obtain their concealed carry license and purchase firearms. Concerns over the changing political climate, the right of self-defense, and gun ownership are at least in part responsible for the drive towards concealed carry and new gun ownership.
This article will be the first in a three-part series of a step-by-step approach to practical and realistic training (generally for handgun use). I believe this formula is well worth the effort and will result in you being better prepared if the day comes where you must defend yourself or another from a violent threat.
As human beings we all have the inherent right of self-defense. But as you begin the path towards everyday carry of a handgun (or any firearm for that matter) have you really thought about what training you may actually need? Gun ownership is a constitutional right under the 2nd Amendment. But I would challenge you to take a more proactive training approach to the carrying of a handgun on a day-to-day basis.
Some states require only a couple hours in a classroom or an online course to obtain a CCW license. Some simply require an application to the local law enforcement authority. Other states require two days of training and then renewal training every few years.
Many states have now moved to “constitutional carry”, meaning you must be a law-abiding citizen that is not prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm. Great. But what about the training to make sure you are effective with your gun?
Regardless of your state’s requirements to carry a handgun, concealed or open, I implore you to take your training to a higher level.
The following is a step-by-step approach for training and a logical sequence when teaching new students, or perhaps those new to daily carry. I assure you, we can all learn something new … no matter how long we have been shooting.
Training with, and daily carry of a firearm has its inherent risks. EVERY firearms training session I conduct begins with a review of the four cardinal rules of firearms safety. They are:
- Treat every gun as if it is loaded.
- Do not let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy.
- Keep your finger off of the trigger until your sights are on target and you’re ready to fire.
- Be sure of your target
A review of how the firearm functions and proper loading may be necessary depending on the student and their familiarity with their own gun. Remember in the last few years the number of new gun owners are in the tens of millions. Additionally, a review of legal handgun carry and ownership along with laws related to self defense are in order prior to time on the range.
Solid shooting fundamentals
The seven basic shooting fundamentals of stance, grip, sight alignment, sight picture, trigger control, breathing, and follow through need to be understood and taught at the earliest possible level. In the last year I have gone back and revisited fundamentals with all students.
It’s easy to memorize the seven fundamentals, but ask yourself, do I really understand what these fundamentals mean and how to employ them in the field? There is a right way (or ways) to employ all of them and lots of wrong ways.
The more solidified these fundamentals become in your shooting, the better you will perform in a self-defense encounter should it ever occur. Dry fire practice at home is a great way to work on the fundamentals outside of live fire time on the range. Working on bull’s eye accuracy, distance, and speed while shooting can be brought into the training regime when the student is ready.
Drawing the pistol
For new students I always start them with a belt-mounted holster on their strong hand side. This is the appropriate beginning point for those not accustomed to carrying a pistol on the waistline. Concealed carry holster and draw techniques can come at a future time.
Understand most unintended discharges occur when drawing or re-holstering the handgun, so this step of training is critical. It goes without saying, getting the gun in hand from the holster needs to be safe and efficient. This process can take some solid training time, don’t rush it.
There seems to be much debate today in the gun training world as to what reloads are necessary to teach. Suffice it to say if the gun runs empty in a fight for your life, you need to reload it right now.
I believe every student of pistol shooting for self-defense should have the ability to perform a speed/emergency reload and a tactical reload depending on the need at the time.
While some instructors have drifted away from the “tactical reload” or magazine exchange, I still teach it and will continue to do so as it yields a number of safety and preparedness benefits both on and off the range.
Think of a tactical reload as just keeping your gun fully loaded, but only when it is safe and practical to do so.
Any reload of course depends on one thing, you have a second source of ammunition with you at all time, whether it be a magazine, a speed loader or speed strip for revolvers.
With the advent of smaller carry guns and increased magazine capacity, many students have drifted from practicing reloads. A mistake in my book. Efficient reloads are part of the climb up the training ladder and being well versed in handgun manipulation skills, don’t overlook it!
Like reloads, training for the possibility of a malfunction occurring with your handgun is baseline. If you’ve never had a malfunction while shooting your pistol, either you have not been shooting very long or enough. Despite the reliability of today’s handguns, sooner or later you will experience a malfunction.
These can include a failure to fire, failure to extract/eject, or a double feed.
All of these can be cleared with an immediate action drill but requires training and dedication on your part. While most of these malfunctions occur with semi autos, revolver can have issues as well. Get with a competent trainer and learn the techniques most applicable to you and the handgun you carry.
Alternate shooting positions
Self-defense encounters are seldom stationary, at least for very long. At some point your training should include shooting from a kneeling, sitting (from a table or while in a vehicle), prone, supine (on the flat of your back), and one-handed positions.
One handed shooting (practice should include one hand with either hand) is particularly practical and very intuitive especially in an immediate threat event. Use of a barricade or simulated cover should be also added.
All of my basic pistol classes include at least one alternate shooting position, usually kneeling if the student is able. How you see your sights and grip the gun tends to change when you end up in a different position. Adding some actual movement into the training, such as lateral movement to the left or right is a realistic endeavor as well.
While these steps are not all-inclusive (part 1 of 3), I would submit to you that they are at the center of solid shooting skills and that you, as a responsible student of self-defense, should include these skills in your repertoire. Of course, a healthy awareness lifestyle of your surroundings along with a strong mentality goes with all of the above.
Getting outside of your comfort level and challenging yourself is critical in my estimation. Although I have been a law enforcement officer and instructor for decades I continue to learn and search out training that will help me provide solid training to students and assist me in climbing the ladder of shooting skill proficiency.
I hope you do the same.
Stay tuned for phases 2 and 3, to follow in the coming weeks and months.