Our first article for the new gun owner focused on safety. As we navigate through the various topics safety should continually be addressed. Be intimately familiar with the firearm safety rules and ensure everyone around you follows the same principles. To review, all guns are always loaded; never let the muzzle cover anything you’re not willing to kill destroy or buy; keep your trigger finger straight until the conscious decision to employ lethal force has been made; manipulate the safeties as appropriate and ensure positive target ID. Now that we have reviewed the safety rules we can progress to our new topic; education.
Education is a rather broad term, for our purposes it includes training, knowledge and practice. As you enter this new community you can quickly become overloaded with the number of people and organizations that provide training. Here are some basic guidelines for your selection criteria. First off, you need to define what it is you are looking for. This is what we referenced as “defining your mission.” For some it could be continuing education and for others it could be more of an introduction to the whole art. From a first-time gun owners perspective I would recommend that you consider the program you select focuses on firearm safety, firearm manipulations and basic marksmanship. You have to set realistic goals for your training programs and realize that a two-day, three-day or even a week of training is only going to achieve so much. This is a lifelong learning process that for some within the professional realm takes an entire career to truly master. As long as you have set reasonable expectations for your first outing you should not be disappointed and more importantly you ensure that you are meeting your goals. I often encourage people to retake classes several times in order to glean as much information before moving on to more challenging or advance programs.
Once you’ve defined your mission the road to selecting a trainer becomes somewhat easier. I generally break the various training organizations into three categories; premium, general and part-time. Premium trainers and organizations have a common denominator, they all come from a profession rooted within a warrior culture. They are professional gunfighters and have honed their art over the expanse of several years. This might include former members of the military’s special operation forces as well as law-enforcement’s special weapons and tactics teams. These individuals and groups have a tremendous wealth of knowledge and experience sometimes learned the hard way. Even gleaning just a few nuggets of knowledge can sometimes be worth the price of admission. Trainers and organizations in the general category come from a background that traditionally did not have as a primary duty the use of firearms for personal protection and self-defense. There are many such trainers and organizations a large majority coming from the competitive world who have a tremendous amount of knowledge and experience on the mechanical and technical side of the house. Trainers and organizations that fall into the part-time category are folks that actually have real jobs; teaching and instructing is a passion or a hobby they enjoy and are good at.
Regardless of which category of trainer/organization you go with you want to consider the following as further criterion for selection. Is the curriculum and/or doctrine that they teach solid, repeatable and standardized. I’ve seen many organizations that haven’t taken the time to clearly define their curriculum. A proven and repeatable curriculum is the cornerstone to any trainer and/or organization. Second, would be their subject matter expertise. This has to do with their proficiency and mastery of the subject at hand, how good their technical proficiency and the depth of their knowledge base on the subject. Next, would be their experience. This is a double-edged sword so I encourage you to select a trainer with dual accomplishments. They should have the experience from the practical side as well as the experience from the instructing side. These two need to go hand-in-hand; you can have a seasoned operator with a tremendous amount of experience but who lacks the ability to transmit that knowledge to others. On the flipside you have individuals with great instructing abilities but who lack the hands-on experience to correlate the subject matter. It’s a fine balance, but there are plenty out there who have achieved both these qualities. Lastly, is what we like to reference as “podium presence”. What this means is the ability for them to engage with the students, keep their attention, keep their motivation and crack a smile from time to time. Quality training is hands-on, mentally fatiguing and often times physically challenging. Those that can keep everybody’s focus and attention when it counts as well as the spirits and moods high will go a long way towards achieving student’s mastery. One last point to consider, are those that have excellent time management skills and can prioritize terminal objectives over supporting objectives. There lots of challenges to urge instructing and those that can be fluid while at the same time ensuring terminal objectives are met are a very rare breed and harder to find.
Once you have identified your criterion a good place to start is searching in your local area. I recommend that you visit the various gun stores and ask the owners and salespeople whom they may recommend for a basic or introduction style training program. You can also call, but I find taking time out of your day to meet face-to-face with people and talk about what you’re looking for is a far better approach. Of course, there is also the Internet and searching through various websites, but again they do not paint the most accurate picture. A couple of trips to the various gun stores should provide you with a few trainers to consider.
Once you’ve narrowed your choices down, you’ll eventually select and attend a training class. I’ll go over some of the tips and planning strategies for attending a training class in a follow-up article. You should leave the training program with a tremendous amount of knowledge and I suggest taking a few days to reflect on it and then start to create a practice program. The practice program should be well structured and goal driven to allow you to maintain the momentum you generated from your training class. I like to plan of my practice programs around core skill developments, skill sustainment and having fun. Trips to the range for practice should be a fun experience. I encourage folks to try and find a specific core skill they want to work on then something they’re good at they want to better and something that’s just plain fun to do. Once you’ve given it some thought you can start to detail out the practice session to include the number of rounds fired per drill. Sometimes the temptation is to shoot a boatload of rounds in your practice session, which I don’t mind as long as they are structured, goal driven and accountable. You will have to hold yourself accountable. It’s the only way you’re going to learn if you are making improvements.
Another very important aspect to your professional development is dry fire. Dry fire is safely practicing certain core skills without firing or the presence of any live ammunition. I find this to be a great means to practice many of the manipulations such as your draw strokes, malfunction clearances and reloads. A word of caution about dry fire, establish strict safety protocols that you follow to the letter. Start by selecting and area that is void of distractions were you can concentrate. Find some backstop that you use as your target that is capable of absorbing a round if you were to have a catastrophic failure. And old ammo can filled with sand and painted to be easily recognized as a safe backstop is a good idea. Religiously use this and only this during your drive fire as your target. The dry fire area should never have live ammunition; store any live ammunition in a container in a separate room. Perform your safety checks on your firearm, your magazines and the inert training rounds that you will use. Instruct your family members that you will be conducting dry fire and only to be disturbed in an emergency. Keep your dry fire practice session to no longer than 20 minutes, 10 to 15 minutes is ideal. If you are interrupted for any reason, stop which you are doing and take care of the situation. When you return to dry fire repeat your safety check protocols and begin where you left off. Once you have completed your dry fire practice start by storing your ammo can/target out of sight. Avoid the temptation of leaving this in plain view so as to prevent and accidents where you failed to properly follow the safety protocols and attempt to dry fire with a live weapon. You will find that dry fire can be very valuable and to complement to your live fire training program. Again, ensure that you follow the dry fire safety protocol to the letter and you should avoid any accidents that could be easily preventable.
At a certain point, you need to consider being involved in supporting your rights to self-defense owning firearms and Second Amendment along with the rest of the Constitution. While this may seem trivial, I can assure you that it is very important. First, you need to be aware of your inalienable rights. The right to self-defense can never be denied and you must recognize this and any threats against you’re right to self-defense to include unconstitutional gun control. I strongly suggest that you read up on all of the past attempts of gun control and recognize they have been an utter failure, cost millions of dollars and did nothing to reduce crime. I also suggest that you study history and you look at the various governments and regimes the disarmed their citizenry and as a result the atrocities that were taking out against them and humanity. There are several great books and reference material that can help educate you on your rights as well as a failed attempts at gun-control. I consider these to be very important to new gun owners so they can understand the importance behind getting involved. Understand that if you fail to make a decision as to your involvement in your rights you are deciding not to support rights. I think many good people choose not to get involved because they believe they can’t make a difference. I can assure you that your involvement no matter how small is crucial and very important.
Education is the key to improving one’s life. For first-time gun-owners education is critically important for both their own safety and the safety of their loved ones. Keep the farm safety rules fresh in your mind at all times when handling or around guns. Do your best to identify what your own training goals are and do research into trainers and training organizations that can best help you meet your goals. Establish a practice routine that includes both drive fire and live fire programs to help sustain and improve your skills. Get involved with your rights and stay informed. As you move forward in this new realm keep these ideas fresh in your head and not only will you work at developing solid skill sets which you will have fun at the same time.