“Realistic” Firearms Training Is Important, but Are You Ready for It?

Written by Rob Morse on August 31, 2017

A variety of courses call themselves “realistic” or reality-based training. To name a few, they could include move-and-shoot scenarios, video-based simulator training, or even force-on-force training with airsoft guns or simunitions. Realistic training is certainly an exciting ride. Whether it is good training or an arcade game depends, in part, on you and what you’re ready to learn. A realistic training course might be a great fit for you and a disaster for your friend.

Should you take such a class even if it was free? Let’s see if reality-based training fits you.

What do you know?
Let’s go down the list and look at our skills. The question isn’t if you can demonstrate these skills once, but whether you can use them quickly, consistently, and on demand. There is a lot to learn.
Do you hit stationary targets at intermediate distances? Do you shoot on the move? Do you present your firearm while wearing a concealment garment? Do you get a really consistent grip on your firearm? Do you know how to use and move around obstacles? Do you know the legal use of lethal force, and can you explain your decisions? Do you study lethal force encounters?

How well did you learn it?
The time to consider force-on-force or other reality-based training is when you have the necessary skills at a subconscious level. You have to be subconsciously competent so you can act quickly and smoothly in a realistic situation. You won’t have time to think, but you will have time to execute the decisions you’ve already made. I emphasize the level of preparation required because there is a downside to reality-based training.

Have you mastered the skills?
You would never bring a new student to the range and try to teach him while people were throwing things at him. Even if he isn’t injured, your student couldn’t possibly pay attention to the lesson. Reality based training isn’t a good classroom. We stumble and panic when we don’t have a solution. That makes reality-based training a counter-productive environment for an unprepared student.

I might have saved you some money if you take that to heart. I might have saved you much more.

Is reality-based training a good way to learn?
By definition, reality based training is emotionally charged and full of distractions. That can help us or hinder us. It teaches us to deal with our emotional reactions in a complex encounter. Training that is this emotionally powerful can also leave training scars that are dangerous and hard to unlearn.

Should you take “reality training” for entertainment?
Realistic amusement rides are fine as long as you don’t learn anything. Make sure the “training” facility uses the proper protective gear. Please check twice.

Is realistic training an all-or-nothing proposition?
Here is the good news. Choosing a reality-based training class isn’t an issue of hard absolutes. You can select the type of training that fits your needs. Look at the skills you have now. Putting them together in new ways will add a significant level of realism to your training. Competition against another person or against the clock can add a level of stress. For example, shooting from concealment and moving around an obstacle in low light is fairly realistic. You can have that experience in an IDPA match and in other shooting sports. Whether that is a challenge or the same old boring drill depends on your level of skill.

How can I tell if I’m ready?
Like a firearm, realistic training is a tool. It doesn’t fit every student in every situation. Ask an instructor you’ve trained with and trust to map out your next steps. I was fortunate to have several instructors who had very broad experience. Your instructor can help you chose the training that best fits what are you ready to learn.

photo credit: Excerpted from: WolfmanBlacque DC7R4695a via photopin (license)