On Training


Next thing you know, there’s video on YouTube showing some MOLLE-encrusted chiropodist from the ‘burbs pointing his picatinny-festooned AK clone at God and everybody as he puffs his way through some drill or another, and when someone points out that, you know, maybe he shouldn’t be doing that, the owner/operator of our soi-disant gunfighting academy puffs up and spouts off with all kinds of stuff about warrior mindset and the illusoriness of safety bubbles and Big Boy Rules. Perversely, this winds up attracting as many customers as it repels.

All too true. And it brings up something I’ve been meaning to write.


“Another tool in the toolbox” is not good if it’s an as seen on TV special and breaks the first time you use it.

There are no high speed, low drag operators. It’s a myth.

That weekend tactical carbine class isn’t helping you. Srsly, it’s not. You are not going to be in a street fight with your M4gery. You are not going to go down the street clearing rooms house by house.

Besides, a weekend class isn’t training. Training is repeating the same motion perfectly 20,000 times until it becomes muscle memory. Of course the problem with training is that you can’t train for the unexpected and the unforeseen. The very nature of training into muscle memory is that you are more likely to make a mistake when faced with a situation you haven’t trained for.

That’s why training makes so much sense for sports with known rules and makes no sense at all for random and unlikely events.

What’s the most likely thing to happen to you while you’re carrying? NOTHING.

Train for that: Safe, accident free, carrying.

Yeah, it’s boring but your life may depend on it, unlike that house clearing drill.

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22 Responses to On Training

  1. bluesun says:

    That’s kinda why I like to just go out plinking.

  2. breda says:

    great anti-mallninja post

  3. pdb says:

    I agree and disagree.

    If you attend a weekend class and do nothing else, you aren’t doing yourself any favors. Every class I’ve been to starts and ends with the admonition to the students to practice what was presented as often as possible. The class isn’t the granting of skill, it’s the down payment. Your payments are your range trips where you apply and reapply what was learned.

    Classes that are “If X happens, then do Y” are not valuable. The best classes I’ve been to begin with fundamentals, then get the students to apply those fundamentals in increasingly stressful situations.

    Which is why saying this…

    That’s why training makes so much sense for sports with known rules and makes no sense at all for random and unlikely events.

    …is complete crap. Solving a fight with a firearm will involve the fundamentals of sight picture, grip, trigger control, etc. You’re saying that learning how to do those in a variety of situations won’t be valuable? Are you serious?

    You don’t magically learn to shoot well by casually plinking. Without someone who knows what the hell they’re doing to spot your mistakes and guide you to correct them, you’re just burning cash.

  4. alan says:

    “Are you serious?”

    Yes, I’m serious.

    I think that what passes for firearms training today is not only a waste of time but that it’s doing more harm than good.

  5. pdb says:

    I think that what passes for firearms training today is not only a waste of time but that it’s doing more harm than good.

    I think that there’s a couple frauds in the business, but to blanket condemn the entire idea of professional instruction is dumb as hell.

  6. Joe says:

    If all you’re going to do is learn how to safely carry a firearm, then why carry one at all? I believe that it’s a myth that there are natural shooters and you can instinctively know how to shoot.

    A good instructor will tell you that what they are teaching is “a way”, not “the way”.

    I agree with pdb that good classes will teach you the fundamentals and it’s up to you to apply them.

  7. alan says:

    I’m not talking classes where they teach sight alignment and trigger control. Those fundamentals apply in all situations and all firearms and are good if you practice.

    I’m talking about those OTHER classes. The “Tactical” ones.

    Going to Afghanistan? Or are you walking down the street on your way to work?

    If you’re taking a tactical carbine class and not on your way to a war zone then you’re wasting your money. Odds are you will not be anywhere near that rifle when you need it.

    But even beyond that, training for the wrong thing is worse than no training at all. When you are at class, or practicing what you learned in class are you wearing what you normally do when you carry? I’m betting that for most people the answer is no.

    I’ve seen WAY too many classes with would be mall ninjas in 5.11s, hearing protection and safety glasses drawing from Serpa holsters and banging away at cardboard that doesn’t move.


    They’d be better off not even bothering.

  8. Old NFO says:

    Good point Alan, you truly only need tactical training if you’re going downrange, and then you need to practice it EVERY day… The SEALS spend 2-3 days a week in the shoot house in prep starting about 3 months before they deploy, and shoot 1000+ rounds a week to develop that muscle memory.

    I have attended a couple of basic classes, and if I remember correctly, 3000 reps will ‘start’ developing muscle memory…

    Just my .02 worth

  9. Papa Whisky says:

    I would love to take a tactical carbine class because it looks like fun. If indeed it was fun then by no means would it be a waste of my money. I find the notion that I would somehow be harming myself by taking one totally laughable.

  10. Tam says:

    As the old gag says “He’s naive, I’m practical, you’re paranoid.

    Everybody who has a CCW permit is somebody’s mall ninja…

  11. Linoge says:

    Am I likely to have to do a room-to-room building-clearing of some warehouse somewhere encountering innocents and targets? Not so much. Not at all, really. But taking a class “learning” about “how to do it” seems like a royal blast of a good time, and if people are not hurting anyone by doing so, have at it.

    That said, courses including practical shooting of one’s carry sidearm under stressful and potentially complicated situations… I would rather have the basics of how to than not, and hitting up a stationary range and perforating paper falls under “not”.

  12. Glenn B says:

    “Training is repeating the same motion perfectly 20,000 times until it becomes muscle memory. ”

    Sorry but I have to absolutely disagree with that statement because, and I say this with all due respect, it is absolutely wrong. Training can take place just one time. Practice is repetition of the same thing over and over. Practice is not training, while training is the first step of practice. Training is something that can evolve and change, practice as you describe it, repetition of the same thing thousands of times is static and is not training by any stretch of the imagination nor does it porepare you for as many types of situations as would training and improvising on your training.

    As far as doing anything 20,000 times until it becomes muscle memory, without further training or improvising, that is stupidity. If you have not learned another way to do it way before you hit 20K repetitions, and therefore have not trained yourself or had someone else train you in a new method, then you are probably doomed to fail because muscle memory will take over instead of innovation. In other words you will react based upon your (generic) pig headed stubbornness not to change, instead of taking action based upon your training and experience and improvising.

    Really think about that, you may see the difference between training and the repetition of pure practice. I prefer real training and learning and the ability to improvise to repetitive practiced muscle memory any day.

    All the best,
    Glenn B

  13. Bubblehead Les says:

    A different perspective. I get to hang with a few Iraq/Afghanistan Vets fairly often. Funny thing is,when I ask them if they are keeping up their rifle skills, most say No, and that they prefer to work on their Pistolcraft. When I ask them Why?, I am told that they’ll forget more about how to use their M16s/M4s than most civilians will ever know, but they rarely got any pistol practice in over there. But since most states CCW laws are not built around Rifles (for obvious reasons!), they want to get as much trigger time on Pistols as they can, because it’ll be much more likely to be used on Main Street U.S.A. One Army Vet told me, ‘If I have to start keeping my M4 by my desk, then this country is too far gone, and I’ll be heading to the Hills”. Food for thought.

  14. Jay G. says:

    Good post alan.

    While I won’t presume to speak for alan, this post resonates with something I’ve kicked around for a while. While training with a carbine is fun, or developing the skill set needed for 300+ yard shots is impressive, neither are anywhere near the realm of possibility of being useful in real life. If you do it because it’s fun, or because you want to do it, or (in the case of long range shooting) because it’s advantageous in other areas (hunting), power to you.

    But don’t tell me that a non-LEO civilian *needs* any sort of rifle training – good or otherwise.

  15. mike w. says:

    But don’t tell me that a non-LEO civilian *needs* any sort of rifle training – good or otherwise.

    Not that I think training is a bad thing, but this is absolutely true. For all practical purposes, if I’m using a firearm in self defense / home defense (pistol OR carbine) it’s going to be at ranges inside of 15 yards.

    That said, I’m not going to fault anyone for wanting to get training so they can get headshots on zombies @ 300+ yards.

  16. Joe says:


    I’m a little surprised that you would make a statement that no one *needs* any sort of rifle training. I didn’t realize that *need* had anything to do with it. You’re starting to sound like the gun grabbers who say we don’t need magazines that hold more than 6 rounds.

    If I was a rancher on the US-Mexico border, I sure the heck hope I would know how to handle a rifle.

    That being said, I probably will never need a rifle or pistol to defend my life with. Yes, there is the chance, but I just don’t live the lifestyle where that would happen. In addition, I don’t see where gaining knowledge was a bad thing whether you use it or not.

  17. Jay G. says:


    I stand by my statement. The *vast* majority of the non-LEO civilian population has extremely little use for long range rifle skills or CQB training. They really don’t “need” it. It’s not something that’s within the realm of possibility that most non-LEOs will ever use.

    Note the absense of “should be banned”, or even “shouldn’t take” – if someone wants to take a carbine course, or a long range shooting course, then power to them. I think that’s great. I wish I had the time and disposable income to take those kinds of courses – they look like a great way to have a good time at the range and learn something.

    But I’m not going to kid myself into thinking that the class is going to offer me anything useful in my day-to-day life.

    A CCW course, complete with drawing, firing under pressure, etc. is, IMHO, several orders of magnitude more likely to provide useful skills – just like Alan said. Learning a proper draw, and practicing it until it becomes second nature, is – IMHO – significantly mose useful (“needed”) than learning how to properly slice the pie in my 4 br colonial.

    It’s all my $0.02, and worth what you paid for it.

  18. Joe says:

    It’s all good. I don’t think we’re really all that far apart on our views and I do understand where you’re coming from. I don’t expect that everyone’s going to agree all the time.

  19. Caleb says:

    Ya’ll are forgetting the most important reason that you SHOULD take a class. It’s FUN. Hanging out with like minded shooters and getting your skills tested and refined under pressure? Hell yes.

  20. Sam says:

    Well Ill sure be laughing at all of you who opted out when the zombies attack..

    Sorry but I have a problem with anyone who tries to say what I need or don’t need. It’s my choice if I choose to take a class or not. And I choose to take scary “tactical” classes because THEY ARE FUN! to bake the little black pointy thing go bang 1000 times in a weekend is more fun than you can imagine. Do I consider myself uber commando? puhleese. I have not taken one course where I felt unsafe or afraid of being attacked by mall ninjas. Methinks everyone trying to tell people what they should and shouldn’t take need to lighten up and back off. You know Big boy rules apply!! We are old enough to make our own decisions thanks.

  21. Mike D says:

    As to a need of training I guess I fall in line with saying as long as its your money being spent on the class then spend it as you wish.

    Also there is another point here that gets missed. In all reality the more you train the less likely you are going to end up using it. Most if not all good training involves situational awareness and avoidance. Ranging from making you/ your house/ your family NOT the easiest target to more specific stuff. If you do these things right your actual fighting skills wont be needed. (Hopefully)

    As to the fun aspect that fine but then its competition or recreation not training.

    All in all there are plenty of cases where an untrained person who bought a gun, tossed it in a night stand and forgot about it used that gun to save a life. And there are cases of the most HSLD tacticool guys getting there ass handed to them by a few thugs on drugs. The truth in my mind is that you should make a realistic assessment of what skills would be most valuable and work on and train those. If your a truck driver, find an anti-car jacking class. If your a housewife/ house husband look at home defense stuff, you get the idea. The best training I have seen is stuff that looks almost random.

  22. GuardDuck says:

    And here I thought the self initiated increase in citizen long gun training was the epitome of well regulated, as in a well regulated militia.

    Guess those guys at Lexington and Concord should have limited their training to pistols and pitchforks.

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