In my recent post on “Becoming a Civilian Defender,” I highlighted Massad Ayoob’s position that “mental awareness and preparedness” and “proper use of tactics” are higher priorities in surviving violent encounters than “skill in combatives” and “optimum selection of equipment.” Which is reassuring to me because I do spend more time on the former than the latter priorities these days.
Which is not to say that I haven’t worked on the “skill” part of the equation. Early in my immersion in Gun Culture 2.0, I took Ayoob’s MAG-40 class, which included 16 hours on the range. (I shot 290 out of 300 on the qualification course of fire finishing in the top 5 in my 21 person class!).
The following year I took an NRA Personal Protection Outside the Home class, which included a full day on the range learning to shoot in close quarters, while moving, seated, around barricades, and so on.
In the past 12 months or so, I haven’t spent as much time training or practicing on the range as I would have liked to in the best of all possible worlds. As a consequence, earlier this spring I experienced first hand the reality of the old saw that shooting is a perishable skill.
Although I believe strongly that anyone who owns or (especially) carries a gun in public should be adequately trained to safely, effectively, and appropriately use that weapon, I am not yet convinced that such training should be mandatory.
In the first place, the cost of such training can be prohibitive, especially for those living in impoverished communities that have higher levels of crime. Moreover, I have yet to see any empirical evidence that those who have more gun training have fewer problems with firearms in the real world than those who have less. (Though I have recently been sent a study which purports to show this which I am looking forward to reading and thinking about.) Some people with a great deal of training can do stupid things with guns, and some people with minimal training can use guns well-enough to save their own lives.
These thoughts coalesced for me recently as I was corresponding with another blogger who is strongly in favor of mandatory training. As you can see from the excerpt below, he was quite critical of me for not publicly advocating mandatory training:
You say that you would not “advocate for any public policies or practices that I would not apply to myself.” That’s absolutely correct. And one of the things you don’t advocate for is mandatory training for CCW. Which makes you so wrong and so out of touch with the reality of carrying a gun that I can’t believe that you take yourself seriously at all.
If you want, I’m willing to come down to North Carolina and give you a little test. We’ll go to a firing range and take your pistol and here’s what you will be asked to do.
(1) Fire 10, two-shot bursts, 2 seconds per burst and 2 seconds between bursts at a target 18 feet away. You have to put 12 of your 20 shots within a 9-inch group.
(2) Repeat the same drill at 7 feet, but now you have to place 16 out of 20 shots in a 9-inch group.
That’s the standard drill for LE certification and roughly 50% of the sworn officers fail. And that’s a national number, I’m not making it up. How do they keep their guns? Because they do.
As if I needed more motivation to go out and try this, my critic concluded his criticism with this personal affront:
You couldn’t pass this drill if you tried.
Game on! I wasn’t sure of all the details, so I loaded 2 magazines with 10 rounds and at 18 feet double-tapped the target, paused for 2 seconds, then repeated 4 more times, changed magazines and repeated 5 more times for a total of 20 rounds. Using my Glock 17, I put all 20 rounds within a 5-inch group. (Alas, shooting a bit high and right, only 16 ended up in the silhouette, which suggests a need for more practice, but not a problem in terms of the test.)
Since I only carry my Glock at home, I repeated the test as best I could using my Beretta Nano – firing 15 shorts (7+1 with mag change for another 7) at 18′ and placing all 15 rounds within a 7 inch group. (With better shot placement here than with the Glock 17.)
Since I met my critic’s 7 foot standard at 18 feet, I did not waste another 35 rounds of ammo.
Of course, this doesn’t make me an accomplished shooter, but it does show that I have some idea of what I am doing. I’m looking forward to getting out to the range to practice more, and also to take some other, more challenging tests.