Here is a sad and revealing fact. Most gun owners have not taken any training. Perhaps that made sense for gun culture 1.0 who grew up using a firearm for hunting. Maybe it made sense when firearms habits and skills were handed down from generation to generation, but times have changed for most gun owners. Learning to handle a firearm is critically important for gun culture 2.0 where gun ownership is centered on self-defense. We don’t want to learn that skill on our own. We can’t learn from the larger culture either, since most of what we think we know about violence and armed self-defense came from Hollywood. Hollywood is wrong, but we’d rather buy a shiny new gun than take a training class and get dirty. It is time to do better because we are dealing with life and death and our family’s safety.
Carrying a gun is a serious endeavor. It is easier and more fun to go buy a shiny new gun than to practice with the one you have. We can show off our shiny new gun to our friends. We can let our friends try it. We can also pretend the hardware will make us a better shooter. There are lots of gun salesmen who will encourage our hardware fantasy. The wise salesmen don’t, and won’t. Those salesmen are the friends you want to develop in your local gun store. Sure, they want to satisfy the customer’s need, but what most customers need is to develop their own skills. That takes training and practice. The good salesmen are plugged into the firearms community and know which trainers to recommend.
Learning isn’t easy. Learning takes character. First, we can’t develop new skills and habits without letting go of our old ones. That simply means we didn’t know everything, and some of what we thought we knew was incomplete or inaccurate. The point of education is to learn and we can’t learn and stay the same. That excites me, but it seems to frighten some people. Unfortunately, we attach our self-perception and self-worth to what we think we know. In point of fact, education opens our eyes to new questions. Good instruction teaches us about things we didn’t imagine. That can be painful. Second, we are probably not as good as we think we are, and without training, we are certainly not as good or as safe as we could be.
We train to develop new habits and skills. Paul Carlson
Firearms owners are absolutely ordinary in that regard. Gun owners would rather fantasize that their gun will keep them safe than train. They don’t want to examine their gun fantasy too closely. I know the feeling. Vulnerability makes me uncomfortable too. The good news is that we don’t have to stay vulnerable. Actually learning armed self-defense means we have to take some instruction, get training, and then practice in order to improve. The sad reality is that only practice make us better. Please see what that means. I will describe my faults so no one else feels accused.
-How can I get better? Permanent improvement comes after I practice perfectly time and again. I have to practice on my own since I can’t afford a personal trainer who will come by twice a week and guide my exercises. Practice might be simple or complex. That depends on the particular skills and problems I face. Am I practicing opening a gun safe, or increasing my accuracy under pressure? Both are important.
-How do I know what to practice? Training makes me demonstrate my skills and my weaknesses. A good trainer will highlight and correct my faults. I come away from every training session with a new list of weaknesses. Those takeaways are really the purpose of going to training. (Well, other than hanging out with great friends while I’m there.)
-What should I do? Instruction sets the goals and informs me what I should do. My level of experience determines how much benefit I can absorb from the instruction.
The way I see it, instruction, training, weaknesses and practice are keys to improvement. I have to leave me ego behind if I want to improve. I find it satisfying even if no one else can see it. I hope you find it satisfying too.
Guns come and go, but knowledge is forever. Set a good example and get trained with your firearm. It is the safe thing to do.