“Habit hardens the body for great exertions, strengthens the heart in great peril. Habit breeds that priceless quality, calm, which, passing from rifleman to commander will lighten the task.”
"I've been shooting all my life..."
This post is part rant and part public service announcement. I would venture to say that most firearms instructors can relate to the following scenario. If you are reading this and we’ve had this or a similar conversation regarding the basics, you are not alone, I have had similar conversations with other students and I am not picking on you.
You are a firearms instructor speaking in person or over email/text with someone about your course offerings. Based on your instructor instincts and knowledge that they have no recent formal firearms training them, you recommend they take a Basic Pistol/Rifle course. They proceed to inform you that they have been shooting guns since they were X years old and have taken a concealed carry course.
You pause for a moment as you try to figure out how to respond. Some of the more grumpy-old-man type instructors probably won’t care about loosing a customer and may just ignore them or worse, try to make them feel like a fool.
However, if you enjoy getting paid to teach people how to shoot and are genuinely concerned with making people better and safer with guns, you’ll try to respond in a manner that will address their lack of experience while not loosing a potential customer.
One effective method is to inform them of the numerous other “experienced” students you have trained and how the course benefited them. Many people overestimate their skills and under appreciate humility.
Another avenue is to explain that if they have any interest in pursuing the more advanced courses, they will likely be required to show proof of up-to-date basic firearms training. Everyone wants to take High Speed Low Drag Underwater Basket Weaving, but no one wants to take Basic Basket Weaving.
For those of you who have “been shooting for years and years” and think that means you don’t need to take a basic course, consider the following. How many licensed drivers do you think have been “driving for years”? Just about all of them and if you have spent anytime at all on the road, you know that years and years of driving experience is not indicative of a driver’s skills and ability.
Those same licensed drivers also attended the state mandated driver course, conceptually checking the same box as a state mandated concealed carry course.
Crawl, Walk, Run
You cannot Run before you can Walk, and You cannot Walk before you can Crawl.
Not only is it difficult to learn how to do the complex skills without a firm grasp of the basic skills, but in the realm of firearms training, it is dangerous.
A basic pistol course is not going to cover how to shoot from behind cover, how to conduct a speed reload, or how to move. It probably shouldn’t even be covering how to draw your firearm from a holster.
This does not mean that “Safety Is Priority Number One”. I absolutely cannot stand it when I hear people tout that meaningless statement. If safety was the first priority, we wouldn’t get out of bed, drive to work, workout, shoot guns, swim, or participate in many other activities because there usually exists the potential for accidental or negligent injury and/or death.
HOWEVER, safety should be the FIRST thing learned by inexperience or formally untrained shooters. The cardinal safety rules should be ingrained on a subconscious level such that you do not have to consciously think about following them.
You should be tempted to clear out even inert training guns, undisciplined trigger fingers should make you uncomfortable, lack of muzzle awareness should put a knot in your stomach, and you should be willing to break social norms if you see someone breaking these or any other firearms safety rules.
Once safety is ingrained on a subconscious level, we can adopt the following variation on the popularized phrase:
Training/Mission is paramount, Safety is inherent.
Some of the easiest students to train are those who were never taught by an experienced family member or have not been “shooting for years.” This is because theses students do not have bad habits and are more open minded to the course content.
Whether you have been “shooting for years and years” or have never shot a gun, you are very likely to learn something new at a basic shooting course. Each instructor presents the material in a unique way. Even if you took the same course twice, it’s likely you’ll hear something new.
This does not mean that you need to take every basic pistol pistol course before moving onto intermediate courses. However, even if you have been “shooting for years”, you are very likely to learn a new concept or trick in a basic course.
As an instructor, I enjoy taking basic courses for two reasons.
- It’s likely I will learn something new, and still have in recent basic courses I have attended.
- I like to see how other instructors present the material so that I can “borrow” teaching and coaches techniques and analogies.
So, what are the "Basics"?
Depending on your unique context, the answer to this question will vary. In military contexts, the basics include an individual’s and the unit’s ability to Shoot, Move, and Communicate. However, there are a few fundamental basic skills that must be mastered first: SAFETY and ACCURACY.
Once again, if you cannot handle a firearm safely, then you are a liability. Until you have mastered Firearms Safety, you are more of a hazard to yourself or those within ballistic range of you than an external threat.
If you are the guy or gal who responds with “it’s not loaded”, whenever someone corrects you for a safety violation, then you are a safety liability.
Anytime I hear someone say “it’s not loaded”, as if this absolves them of needing to follow the cardinal safety rules, I immediately know they are an unskilled amateur.
Many “unloaded” guns have discharged due to negligence.
If you cannot be accurate with your firearm, then you have no business attending the high speed low drag cool guy courses. Accuracy is the ability to consistently hit your intended target within the maximum effective range of your firearm. This requires that you apply the Fundamentals of Marksmanship (Aiming, Breath Control, Hold Control, Trigger Control, and Follow-Through) , particularly aiming and trigger control.
There exist countless measures and standards of accuracy, but a good rule of thumb handgun accuracy is:
- Four sets of five shots in 4 inch circles at 10 ft
- Four sets of five shots in 4 inch circles at 15 ft
- Four sets of five shots in 4 inch circles at 20 ft
- 16 out of 20 shots in an 8 inch circle at 45 ft
If you cannot meet these standards, then you need to attend a basic course if you have not, seek private coaching, or develop the skills on your own prior to seeking “advanced” training. Check out our Training Aids for printable targets for this qual.
Notice that I did not mention shooting fast, speed reloads, clearing malfunctions, shooting from behind cover, or anything else. If you cannot be SAFE and ACCURATE, then you don’t need to be wasting time learning the other stuff.
This would be akin to taking Algebra or Calculus before understanding Arithmetic. If you do not understand basic addition and subtraction, you cannot learn how to solve an equation or take a derivative.
Where to learn the basics?
I keep getting the sense that most of the general public is unaware that any civilian firearms training opportunities exist outside of a concealed carry class. However, if you are reading this post and have made it this far in the post, you probably do not fall into this category.
If you go to our TRAINING page, you can sign up for a basic course; however, if you cannot attend one of our courses or would rather train somewhere else, just CONTACT US and we can point you in the right direction.
Referring potential students to other instructors may not seem like a smart business practice, but I am more concerned with people getting trained than making money.