Shooting a gun is relatively easy. The number of toddlers who have shot and killed themselves and others is ample evidence of that.
Shooting a gun with enough accuracy for most self-defense situations is also simpler than it might seem. Ask those who took basic gun training courses with Tom Givens and successfully defended their lives with a gun.
Shooting a gun at an appropriate time, place, and person, by contrast, is more complex, and the consequences of making a bad decision could not be higher.
This reality was brought home to me in a profound way at the Alliance Police Training shoothouse course I attended recently. Indeed, calling this a “shoothouse course” is a bit of a misnomer. The class really ought to be called “Decision-Making with a Gun.”
Before people jump to all sorts of conclusions based just on some pictures, let me be clear: I fully realize the odds of me getting together with a partner and entering a structure from the outside armed with rifles is vanishingly low.
Photos of me and my partner in the shoothouse at Alliance are – on their own – extremely misleading. Although we did learn procedures for working through structures with rifles and partners, that was not the main lesson I learned from my experience.
The main lesson I learned was how much I need to work on making good decisions while armed, especially under stress created by the novelty and complexity of our task, as well as time constraints and visual limitations (we did several low light runs in the shoothouse).
Thinking and shooting under those conditions are much more difficult than on a square range. Which is not to say that gun trainers should not attempt to incorporate decision making into their square range courses; I have personally seen this in courses by Gabe White and Rob Pincus, and surely many others do this as well. But the shoothouse allows trainers like Joe Weyer and Cory Hupp to take this to the next level and evaluate the progress made (or not made) on the square range.
At the end of the weekend, I led or was tied for the lead in 3 of the 8 negative categories being tracked: shot hostage/innocent targets, failure to engage threat targets, and safety violations.
Although I excelled in these areas, I was not alone. In the final run through the shoothouse on Sunday afternoon, each member of all 6 groups (12 people total) shot both of the first two targets we encountered – a woman holding a beer bottle and an undercover police officer.
The undercover police officer target was instructive because it highlights how our heuristics – explicit or implicit – can bias our decision making. We can’t allow ourselves to go on auto-pilot when innocent people’s lives are at stake.
Although clearing a structure with a rifle and a partner in search of a hostage in a terrorist bomb making facility is an unlikely scenario for me, I was easily able to substitute my own more realistic (even if also unlikely) scenarios as I reflected on my runs through the shoothouse. For example, I come home from a trip and find the door of my house kicked in and my wife inside, or I am awoken in the middle of the night by a cry of distress coming from my child’s room. Do I sit outside or barricade myself in my room and wait for the police to arrive? No.
At the same time, just because someone is in my house doesn’t mean “they need shootin’” or, as Joe Weyer says, “they need shot.” The Tactical Professor Claude Werner has discussed the many times when an innocent person has ended up at a person’s doorstep or in their house only to become a negative outcome for the homeowner. And an even more negative outcome for the person shot (which seems often to be a family member of the shooter).
In the end, it’s not about the shoothouse, it’s about decision making with a gun.