How do you gain knowledge?

In a past post, I talked fairly bluntly about how if you don’t have any education, training, or experience in a technical area, you don’t really have a right to an opinion in that technical area.

Unsurprisingly in this time of “everyone is equal and their thoughts are all equally valid, even if they are clueless,” lots of people grew angry about the idea.  It probably would have gone better had if I said it differently, but what I was REALLY thinking was “…your opinion is worthless.”

And I wasn’t wrong.

So how do you get to a point where your opinion is valid in a technical area such as self-defense?  Answer:  Education, training, or experience. (And preferably, all three.)

Let’s start with education (this will be the first in a set of three posts).

There are lots of ways to be educated about a particular technical topic, really.  Obviously, actual courses from experts are the best way, but simply reading and studying information from experts is quite often and excellent use of your time.  There are numerous works out there, at a technical level, about almost any topic you’d like to learn.

The hardest part, of course, is figuring out which works can be trusted.  Because while there is now more information available to everyone than there has ever been before, it also means that there is more BAD information than ever before promulgated by idiots, well-meaning incompetents, and hucksters whose only goal is making money.  And in the self-defense industry, particularly the firearms training industry, ALL of those categories are unfortunately well-represented.

With respect to self-defense, particularly armed self-defense, starting with an understanding of the LAW is incredibly important.  (Primarily because one way to recognize bad information is to realize that the person who wrote the information obviously doesn’t understand the legal implications of what he is saying, and demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of use of force laws.)  Unfortunately, most people aren’t lawyers, nor do they have enough spare money to hire one for a self-defense talk. So, we turn to references.  The two best primers for self-defense law I’ve read come from Andrew Branca and Massad Ayoob.

branca-1The Law of Self-Defense,
by Andrew Branca

ayoob-1Deadly Force – Understanding Your Right to Self-Defense, by Massad Ayoob

Both contain solid, clear information about use of force laws regarding self-defense, and they are similarly clear about the dangers of NOT knowing the law. (You’d be surprised how many people start by defending themselves, and through not knowing the law, manage to shift themselves from an easy self-defense claim to a prison sentence for assault or murder.) Knowing the law is important.

Ok, now that you know the law, what about understanding defensive tactics?  Crime and violence?  What actually happens, and what you can do about it?  In that field, probably the best book out there is by Tom Givens.  Again, solid, clear information from someone who has been training people to defend themselves with firearms for years, and has a clear track record of training people to successfully defend themselves.

givensFighting Smarter,
by Tom Givens

But what about firearms skills themselves?  I personally am a fan of dryfire because it is an easy way to practice gun-handling skills without having to take the time to head to the range, buy ammo, and so on.  Yes, people need to live-fire also, but dryfire by itself can cause HUGE increases in firearm skills.  It helps to know what to practice and how to practice, though, which is where the books by Steve Anderson and Ben Stoeger come in.

Both of these books (and they have each produced more, feel free to take a look) are geared towards skills used by competition shooters.  However, the fundamentals don’t change, and the abilities of drawing, reloading, and being accurate at speed under stress are all things that are very important skills for people planning on defend themselves with a firearm.

stoegerDryfire Training Reloaded,
by Ben Stoeger

andersonRefinement and Repetition, by Steve Anderson

Something else to add, for live-fire practice, are drills specifically designed to improve your ability to change accuracy and speed requirements while also forcing you to make judgements and decisions under stress. (Which is what is going to happen in a self-defense situation.) While I disagree with a lot of things that the author currently posts, I think that Grant Cunningham’s older book is one of the best out there for drills that, instead of solely working on the fundamentals of shooting, requires you to practice your perception and decision-making skills.


Handgun Training – Practice Drills for Defensive Shooting,
by Grant Cunningham

While there are many more excellent books out there, these are ones that WILL give you important information in a truthful fashion, in a manner that is easy to read and understand. Buying them and studying them will give you an excellent foundation of information for self-defense.  They are just a start, but they are a GOOD start.

In a later post, I’ll talk about training and experience, and some web-based things you can do to increase your knowledge about the technical field that is self-defense. (Because it really IS a technical field.)

(Standard notification: I’m an Amazon Associate, so anything you buy through my links nets me a tiny piece of money. It doesn’t cost you anything.)

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