A couple of years ago, an acquaintance of mine put up on Facebook a question about “As a firearms/self-defense trainer who teaches courses, if someone came to you knowing (for certain) that they’d have to use their firearm as a lethal-force response to a self-defense threat tomorrow, would you teach them any differently?”
I said: “Of course I would!”
Whereupon I got jumped all over by lots of people who claimed that as firearms instructors, their classes were all completely focused on teaching REAL self-defense, and that if I had to change my class, it was an indicator that my class just wasn’t very good.
Which just goes to show that like any other group of people, “firearms instructors” contains all kinds, a significant proportion of which are idiots who have no idea what they are talking about.
Why am I right and they were idiots?
If you have a gun (whether for hunting, competition, self-defense, or generalized plinking), the person most likely to shoot you…is you. Most people will not ever be in a lethal-response-level self-defense situation. But anyone who owns a gun for self-defense purposes (and actually prepares to use it, as opposed to putting it in a drawer and leaving it there) will be handling a firearm on a regular basis. As such, the thing most people need in their initial training is conceptual theory and practice at being safe with a firearm. Defensive skills come after that. As Kathy Jackson at The Cornered Cat has said: “Putting the gun into the holster is the most dangerous thing most people ever do with a firearm.”
And it is also (other than driving a car on a busy road) about the most dangerous situation most people will ever be in. And just like driving, people will get complacent about safety technique because “I haven’t had any problems yet” is one common way for foolish people to justify being unsafe.
In my Introduction to Handguns class, we teach people how to build and practice safety habits so that you always do them at an unconscious level—so when you are distracted, or under stress, you’ll still do them properly. We aren’t going to be teaching you to draw from concealment in that class—and if, in your first Introduction to Handguns class, the instructor DOES teach that particular skill, then either 1) it is a multi-day class with a tiny, TINY student-to-teacher ratio and a bunch of very, very motivated students, 2) the student somehow magically KNOWS that they are going to be in a self-defense situation the next day, the teacher believes them, and so they are doing something completely different than normal, or 3) the instructor is an idiot.
And #3 apparently happens a lot, judging from the responses I got.
If you aren’t a felon or someone who either does drugs and breaks the law or hangs out with people who do drugs or breaks the law, then your chances of being shot are….small. Not zero, but small. And of those chances, if you are a gun owner, the majority of that small chance of being shot all comes from you shooting yourself or a family member accidentally shooting you.
Safety is a thing. And it is an important one. If you can’t keep your finger outside of the trigger guard and pinned to the frame or slide when you aren’t shooting, if you can’t demonstrate muzzle control—then I can help you learn how to do that so you won’t shoot yourself. But if you think it isn’t important or don’t want to do it or “I’ve been shooting for 25 years and I’ve been just fine”—-then that’s completely up to you but I don’t want you around me or anyone I care about, because you aren’t safe.
So: You’ve got 1 hour, 50 rounds, and your ex-boyfriend has already told you he is going to break into your home tonight and kill you? (Assuming for some magic reason that you can’t simply “not be home” or something else equally easy to stop tonight’s specific issues…) Sure, I’ll teach you what I can to help you save your life. And it won’t resemble my Introduction to Handguns class at all.
If you are like everyone else in the world, however, the most important thing you can learn in an introduction to firearms class is how to be safe so that you don’t shoot yourself or anyone you care about.
So yes—-I’m going to teach those two classes differently. Anyone who says they wouldn’t is probably an idiot.
Well said. The fact your course name is “Introduction to Handguns” should have been a clue.
…but apparently some people don’t. (I do also teach a number of other firearms courses, I’ll note.)
But even if my class that time was “Super-Duper High Level Face-Shooting,” in a normal class I’d still spend some time talking about safety issues, trigger and muzzle control, and we’d certainly spend time talking about transitions without sweeping people and such.
If I’ve only got an hour and you’ve got 50 rounds—-I’m still going to teach it differently.
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I didn’t know that it’s important to most people need in their initial training is conceptual theory and practice at being safe with a firearm. My brother wants to have his own gun for self-defense. My dad suggested having firearms training and shared this article with him.
In general, one of the most important things people learn from their first gun class is how not to shoot themselves or anyone else they care about.
Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t ever take a first gun class, and their safety practice is….suboptimal. 😦 (This is especially true in a sub-section of the population called “human males who were taught by their friend” who tend to be really, really bad.)
If you are going to need the gun to save your life the next day, I’ll teach you what you need to know to not shoot yourself for the next day, and how to shoot the other guy with at least a degree of competence tomorrow. After that, I’ll want you to come back and learn how to continually “not shoot yourself” or anyone else you care about as you handle the gun (loading, unloading, drawing, holstering, storing, gearing up) each day when you carry it. 🙂