Why did you first seek firearm training? Is it to get ready to shoot a National Match course at the National Competition at Camp Perry, Ohio, or to be prepared to defend yourself and your family? It is admirable to be trained in the use of any tool but why do we continue training?
The majority of people buying firearms today are concerned with personal protection, and the majority of those are buying handguns. It is amazing to me how many of my students take the Basic Pistol Course so that they can apply for and get their Concealed Handgun Permit (CHP). While it is true that the Basic Pistol Course satisfies the Colorado State requirement for training for a CHP, does it really prepare you from a mental and physical competency basis to carry a personal protection handgun? I would argue that for the new shooter, it does not.
Think about the shooting requirements to complete the NRA Basic Pistol Course. In my classes, a maximum of 75 rounds are required to demonstrate the necessary skills to fire a handgun from the bench rest sitting position, the one-handed standing position, and the two-handed standing position. For a new shooter, this is not sufficient training and experience to make one mentally and physically competent to carry a personal protection handgun.
Let’s talk about the mental aspect of carrying a personal protection handgun. I tell students that when I first started carrying a concealed handgun it scared me to death. Just the thought of the incredible responsibility of the actions required to protect my life or the life of another caused a certain amount of anxiety. I had serious doubts about the thought process associated with the decision to act on a defensive situation. I was, and still am, also extremely concerned about the ramifications of my actions. The possible consequences you may face in the aftermath of a defensive shooting could include any or all of the following: criminal and/or civil action, remorse, PTSD, and social stigma. Even in the situation of a justifiable shooting, the current media pattern may be to try to paint you in an unfavorable light.
Consider this scenario. You are shopping in a Walmart and you see two guys accosting another shopper. The two guys have their guns drawn and it looks like they are about to shoot the other shopper. Do you pull out your personal defense handgun and start to defend the other shopper, whom you have never seen? After you have successfully put the two guys out of action what are the ramifications of your action? Are you going to be hailed as a hero or charged with murder for killing two undercover police officers? Remember, when you get into a self-defense situation, you have one second or less to decide to take action, but 12 months later, a jury of your peers, in an air conditioned room with coffee and donuts, will have all the time in the world to decide if you did right or wrong.
Have you had the mental training required to be able to make that split-second decision? Have you considered those ramifications of a wrong decision or even a right decision? Of course you will never know unless/until you find yourself in the situation requiring that decision. However, if you haven’t had that training, there is a very good chance that you will consciously hesitate and go over the options. This hesitation could get you or a third person seriously injured. The time to think about your actions is now, while you are reading this article, not in Walmart when you see two guys with guns drawn. That’s where the mental conditioning you receive from additional training comes in.
Now, let’s talk about the physical aspect of using your personal protection handgun in a defensive situation. Have you had the appropriate training to know the best way to carry your Every Day Carry (EDC)? Which method of carry is really best for you? We’ve all seen the movies where the good guy stops to dislodge his snubby from an ankle holster. Movies are great. The good guy always has time to retrieve his snubby from his ankle holster. Have you ever tried to do that quickly? Or what about the James Bond type that carries his Walther PPK in a discrete shoulder holster? Put yourself in the defensive situation with adrenalin pumping through your body. That adrenalin causes, among other things, a degradation of your motor skills. Is that adrenalin going to make you squeeze the trigger a little too early and put a .380 round though your own arm or someone standing next to you?
These scenarios are very real and possible for people carrying with only a Basic Pistol Course under their belt because that is all the training you have to have for a Colorado, and many other states, CHP. Please DO NOT misunderstand me. I am not advocating changing the training requirements, rather I am adamantly encouraging you to seek additional training.
Once you have attained that training do you just strap on your personal protection handgun and walk out the door without practicing? I hope not. My students hear me talk about that “muscle memory” thing. You may go through the best training in the world but if you don’t practice on a regular basis you will never develop the required muscle memory to make you “unconsciously competent,” and that is where we should strive to be if we are going to carry a personal defense handgun.
In conclusion, making the decision to carry a personal defense handgun is a very personal one. Just like driving a car, mental and physical skills are required to drive safely. You would not stop driving for a number of years and expect to jump behind the wheel of a car and be able to drive with the same competence you once had. The same practice is required to maintain competency with your personal defense handgun.
This article just scratches the surface of this topic but, hopefully, makes you think about the training you have had and the training you need.