What do the 5 pillars of firearms have to do with YOUR training goals?

Hey everyone, it’s Jenna.  While Jeff isn’t looking, I have decided to hijack his blog for the day.  I am sure he will be changing his password shortly…  I have been working on this piece for something else and I thought I would share it with you first.  Today’s entry is to point out the different disciplines in the firearms world and discuss how they relate to Self-Defense.  For those of you who know me well, you know that I love guns and I think that they make a great tool.  You also know that teaching self-defense skills (with guns) is something that is near and dear to my heart.  I have worked hard to understand what self-defense means and how to explain the principles to others.  Gun skills are just the tip of the iceberg and I am really excited for the new things we have in store to help fill in the gaps.   Without first understanding the mindset of this we have nowhere else to go.

I believe (as do many of my colleagues) that there are a number of “pillars” or “backgrounds” that people can have when it comes to guns and what qualifies people to teach others.  There are 5 pillars that I would like discuss.  Please know that each of these backgrounds is important and valid.  Please also know that having background in one or all of these does not necessarily give one all the tools that they need to teach others about guns or how guns apply to the goals that YOU might have.  I am in no way discrediting ANY of these backgrounds; I just want people to understand the vast differences in the mindsets these backgrounds have on our outlook and firearms training.  I am especially interested in how these mindsets translate to the world of self-defense, as that is what I teach.

The 5 pillars that I want to discuss are listed below, in no particular order:

  1. Military
  2. Law Enforcement
  3. Competition
  4. Hunting
  5. Civilian Self-Defense

Let’s start with #1, the military.  The goal of the military operative is simple. They need to come out of combat alive.  This is what the brave men and women of the military are taught how to do.   I might also add, that they know how to fight and stay alive (because they train, this is their JOB) and that they are GOOD at it.  They use the best tools available to them; military grade weaponry, tactical clothing, boots, night vision, and body armor, to name a few.  They also work in teams designed to best accomplish the mission at hand.  They have Intel on the ground and air support at the ready.  They are not exactly “going it alone” out there.  They can rely on this equipment to be there when they need it most and to help give them every advantage they need to have while fighting the enemy.  They have this stuff because they know what kinds of things they will encounter in the field.   One other point I need to make here is that the Rules of Engagement (ROE) for the military are completely different than our civilian ROE.  The ROE for the military have nothing to do with common law or the legal system in this country.  But, we, as civilians are held to that lofty standard and must be experts on the law.  Don’t assume that because people have a military background that they are experts on the law.

#2 Law Enforcement.

This pillar is a beast unto its own.  The mission of policemen and women is simple, they have to stop/catch bad guys.  Wow, not a job that I would want (especially given those big heavy duty belts they have to wear on patrol, you know, the gun, flashlight, hand cuffs, etc…) , and I have the utmost respect for ALL law enforcement.   You see, the police have a “duty to act” (we’ll talk about how this relates to self-defense a little later).  It is the job of the police to stop and capture scum bags.  They also have the burden of investigation of crimes and lots and lots of paperwork.  They are trained accordingly to these skills set.  They have to qualify on the shooting range every so often and keep their skills sharp.  But, did you know that the most important tool a cop has with him is not his gun?  It’s his radio!  With the push of a button back-up will be on the way for support.  Did you also know that cops are supposed to wait for back-up before entering a dangerous situation?  Their #1 priority is their own safety.  (This is the way it should be, by the way).   Once their safety has been secured, and then they can proceed with the task at hand, whatever that may be.

Also know that laws apply to the police much differently than they do for US.  The cops have a duty to act, because they’re sworn officers and do have this duty to act, they’re afforded a lot more leeway in performing that duty than you and I are – and that’s not a bad thing, it just is.  It is also usually assumed that the police are experts on how the law applies to us as civilians, but that is not always the case.

* I would be remiss if I did not at this point in the conversation bring up a  point that Jeff made to me in discussion of this article, and that is that,  “*SOME* of the guns skills from these first two disciplines translate to us in a self-defense situation.  Some don’t.  Military and Law Enforcement for example, is often times headed INTO the danger – hopefully we aren’t.  I also don’t really care if the guy runs away.  Military/Law Enforcement very much cares about that.”  Thanks, Dear!

#3. Competition.

The competitive shooter is a person who has fantastic gun handling skills and accuracy.  This is their whole goal; to be fast and good, at the same time.  By “good”, I mean accurate.  It’s easy to be one or the other, but being both accurate and fast at the same time is quite the challenge.  I know this from experience.  The competitive shooters have it all.  This is a thing of beauty and watching these shooters is inspirational! The thing that is easy to overlook when it comes to certain types of competition is that it is not exactly “real world,” even if it’s billed as “practical shooting.”  What I mean by this is that the tools that competitive shooters use are very job-specific.  They have “race” guns, holsters, ammo and the list goes on.  There are rules in competition that makes it run smoothly and be more interesting to watch, but it doesn’t reflect the “real-life” situations you might find yourself in in a gun fight on the street.  For instance one branch of competition always has you start the course of fire while standing in a “starting box”.

Now, that’s not to say that some of the skills used in competition won’t transfer over to the self-defense world because I think they would.  You need to know the best way to pull a trigger and how to effectively manipulate your gun and those are skills that become second nature the more you practice them.   I do think that there is value in competition, just as there is value in the other pillars, but the rules are different from civilian self-defense.  The mindset is different and the tools are different.  Treat competition for what it is, a friendly, fun, competition.  We run into problems with this when we make the assumption that these skills transfer perfectly to the other 4 pillars, which they don’t.  But, if we take this for what it is and not ore, we will be just fine.

#4 Hunters.

The goal and mindset of the hunter, started out as a means of survival.  These days, it has also become about sport, as the need to kill animals to eat isn’t always a necessity.  But, let’s look at it from the standpoint of survival and not sport.  In a survival mindset if you didn’t kill, you didn’t eat.  I can think of no better motivation to be a hunter.  Hunters HAD to be good at their craft in order to feed their families.  Speaking of hunting as a “craft,” just think about all the things that go into being a successful hunter, including but not limited to the following:

  1. You have to know how to blend into your surroundings (camouflage was not always about making a fashion statement, unless, of course you are a member of this family).
    If you look closely, you’ll see a duck on the back wall.
  2. You can’t get up-wind of the animals, because if the catch your scent, they will take off (I know this because my friend, told me that if the elk smell you, they run away, he found this out the hard way).
  3. You have to know how to track the animals. (Just ask this guy about being vewy, vewy, quiet) 
  4. Most times you have to get up early in the morning to get into position for observing the animals to lay in wait until it is time to strike; you can’t let the prey know that you are there.
  5. You have to be patient…  I guess that leaves the hunting to Jeff!

So hunters have worked at this craft and I assume that they learned the best practices through trial and error, and over time the techniques have become solid and have been handed down through the generations.  Without the skills of our ancestors, where would we be?

Also of note is the different equipment that applies to hunting vs. self-defense.  For hunting, rifles and shotguns are the primary weapons most of the time and for self-defense we usually (not always) have pistols.  This can be a challenge to overcome.  The other thing with hunting is that you, the hunter, is usually not the prey.  This is not the case when it comes to self-defense.    And let’s not forget that you must know the hunting laws when you hunt, but you usually won’t be investigated for a criminal act after-the-fact.  So the legal mindset for hunters is also very different.

#5 Civilian Self-Defense.

First, what exactly is self-defense?  Merriam-Webster defines self-defense as: the act of defending yourself, your property, etc.: skills that make you capable of protecting yourself during an attack.  I actually disagree with the part about “your property, etc…”  Our goals in self-defense are really simple; we need to go home to our family at night.

Now, how does the mindset for self-defense differ from the mindset from all of the other pillars or backgrounds we have discussed?  Good question.  Here is how I see it.  The self-defense mindset, remember, is “I must do what I have to do to get home to my family tonight.”  Humor me and follow that link, when you get there, please read about why a cornered cat fights…  It’s not about malice or revenge; it’s only about getting to safety!  Ok, so in a self-defense situation the violence is going to find us.  We don’t get to pick and choose when this will happen.  We don’t get to choose if there is one attacker or three, we don’t get to choose if it happens in broad daylight or under the cover of darkness, we also don’t get to choose where this happens.  Is it going to happen in familiar surroundings or in a strange place?  The next point I need to make is this;  do we have any back up, a radio to call for back up, Intel on the ground, air support, camouflage, good position for observation or enough training to get good hits fast?

Remember, we are not likely to have our best and prettiest full size 1911 race gun within reach in our perfect race holster.  We are more likely to be carrying out tiny sub-compact with the annoyingly long trigger pull stuffed into a slow, comfortable holster, which is in our waistband and covered by 2 or more layers of clothing at the time.  It is also likely that we don’t have spare ammo on this fateful day.

The other potentially more dangerous scenario is that we don’t recognize the danger that we may be facing in time to do a whole lot about it.    We might have the training part, on our side but, what about the confidence that we will get a good hit, or even remember our training?  Have we done our homework on the law and understand what might happen to us legally even if we did everything right?

Do we understand the physical and emotional stressors that can arise in the wake of a self-defense shooting?  How will we be treated by our friends and family?  If you haven’t thought of these things before, I beg of you, please, please, please be armed with this information and knowledge BEFORE it’s too late.  You are setting yourself up for a rude awakening if you don’t consider these things before they become relevant.

Self-defense is where I am coming from in my approach to shooting.  I rather think of my gun as a tool instead of a means to an end.  When I train, I work hard at acquiring skills, but I also train in other areas, such as learning how to recognize and understand how violence happens so that hopefully I can keep myself out of a violent encounter in the first place.  If I never have to use my gun in self-defense, that is the best possible outcome!

So to reiterate, does being the best solider make you a good hunter or vice versa?  No, not necessarily, but some of the gun skills are definitely transferrable from one discipline to the next.   You still need to be able to nail the fundamentals (I know you remember these- stance, grip, sight alignment, sight picture, hold control and  breath control- sound familiar?) with every shot.  Of course the “Kevin Youkilis Principle” still applies, so long as your results are what you want them to be.  So again, people from all of these backgrounds can effectively teach someone how to shoot and hit a target, I am not disputing that.  I would still encourage to you look inside yourself and know what YOUR goals are and find a teacher with the right mindset to help you get there. I don’t care what type of background other instructors have, what I do care about is if they can relate to what YOUR goals are when it comes to shooting.  If you want to become a tactical operator, SWAT member, or a huntress then I think that is great, but I won’t be comfortable teaching you those skills, yes, I know tactics, and could kill an animal if I had to, but those skill sets don’t apply to me in my everyday life.  I want to live my life day in and day out knowing that I have not altered the way I live in order to be able to defend my life and the lives of those I hold dear if it should ever come to that.    What are YOUR goals?  If it’s that you want to learn about self-defense and the like, then I am your girl!

Thanks for joining me today.  Carry On, Colorado!