Every year I spend a lot of time, energy, and money paying to go to other training courses. I try to identify areas where my skill set could use some improvement, and I seek out people who are better in that area for help. I consider myself to be a high-level shooter, but I also know that I am nowhere near the level of many other people out there. I likely never will be. But.....
Today's random rant is specifically for those people who make the argument that "they can't afford to train" or that "formal training is too expensive." This rant is not for the people who "don't need training because they already know how to shoot" but rather for those lost souls who will make the argument that formal training just costs too much. I am writing this rant more from the perspective of a student than an instructor, because the people that come to my courses are obviously not the ones that are complaining about the expense of formal training. No, this is for that special guy or gal who doesn't blink twice at a $120 bar tab or can justify why he "needs that new $800 rifle" but can't spare $150 to take a course.
This guy, we'll call him Tommy Tactical, owns dozens of guns. He probably has relatively little ammunition on-hand compared to the massive amounts of firearms which probably don't have too much rhyme or reason to the collection. For instance, this guy owns one of every caliber "just in case" but can't tell you the muzzle velocity on any of his ammo. Tommy Tactical can tell you the latest and greatest upcoming products from any manufacturer (and his personal opinions) but he would need a gunsmith to clear a double feed malfunction. Ol' Tommy Tactical will likely even make the statement "why would I pay $350 to take a 2-day course when I could almost buy another handgun for that?" Oh, Tommy Tactical- when the excrement hits the rotating cooling device (sh!t hits the fan), how I hope you'll remain holstered and let those less ignorant than you defuse the problem at hand.
Yes, Tommy Tactical- the guy with the 10mm handgun who thinks that the body of a car is "cover" instead of "concealment," you sir are probably a liability to those around you. The problem with Tommy Tactical is that he really doesn't know how little he knows. Because he's never taken a course to see how much informtion is available to him, because he's never been to a competition, because he's likely never done any real training with shooters who are far better than him, he is largely ignorant to his own ignorance!
I get asked fairly often about keeping firearms in the home, and the best way(s) to secure them. Much like the discussions we have during concealed carry training- there is a balance. With concealed carry that balancing act is the inverse relationship between accessibility (draw/presentation speed) and concealability. In the home, there is a similar inverse relationship between accessibility and security. The ultimate goal with firearm storage is to prevent access to unauthorized users. However, a very close second priority that we should have stems from our ability to retrieve the firearm in the event that we need it.
That's the thing about needing a gun... When you need it, you need it NOW! You don't need it just sometime after dinner... You need it now.
So how do we balance the accessibility and security effectively? This becomes critically important in homes with small children. Obviously, children are curious and the more we hide something, the more they want to know all about it. As important as firearm education is for children, unsupervised access to the firearms is unacceptable. Luckily, there have been some technological advancements that will help us past this problem.
Depending on what type of weapon you are trying to prevent unauthorized access to will dictate how you will need to protect it. Assuming that protecting the weapon from children is the key, let's remember that height can be our friend. If the weapon is a handgun and the child is an infant, then locating the handgun on top of tall piece of furniture is a possibility. If it is a long gun (rifle or shotgun), then we can achieve this with either large furniture or by using two nails at measured distances so the long gun can rest on top of it. This works well inside of a door frame to a closet or similar height. As the child grows and can access new heights, more permanent adjustments should be made.
Let's assume that we are discussing a handgun as the primary defense weapon. In this case, you have the option to purchase a small safe to protect the firearm. To be clear, I do not recommend any kind of safe that requires a key for entry. Remember- if you need the weapon then you will need it immediately. Keys will either become a hindrance or you will find yourself leaving the keys in the lock of the safe, which defeats the purpose. Similarly, I do not recommend combination locks that use a dial for combination entry. I prefer either finger combinations, biometric, or RFID safes.
Often times I will hear people talk about how the "shoot all the time" either at an indoor gun range or at a private location (private land, etc.). In an effort to avoid sounding confrontational, I generally just nod my head... Inside, I'm dying to ask them: "Great, but how often do you train?"
Is there a difference?
Let's use the case of an indoor range- though the activities included are just as relevant to the folks at a private location. When you visit an indoor range, you will go into your narrow little world where you will hang your paper target and send it to whatever distance you'd like to shoot at. Then you will open up your firearm case, load your magazines, insert your mags into your firearm, and begin shooting your target at whatever cadence you would like to shoot at. When you have gone through all of your ammo in that mag, you eject your magazine, lay your firearm down on the stand in front of you, insert a new magazine, and repeat. Over and over and over. You might change distances, you'll likely change firearms, and you'll shoot at different targets throughout the course of your session.
Let's look at what you've accomplished at the above training session. You have certainly had the opportunity to practice your marksmanship skills. You have hopefully made a specific effort to improve your 7 fundamentals of shooting. And you've had ample opportunity to pick up plenty of bad habits if you weren't careful to mentally block out some of repetitive non-sense that you have to engage in at an indoor range. The same is true for most people when they go into their backyard and shoot at their targets. They stand in a static position, shoot at a static target placed at a pre-determined distance, and engage that target with whatever shot cadence they are comfortable with. Minimal (if any) weapons manipulation skills improvement, zero thoughts as to defensive tactics, minimal thought into shooting technique. Just lead down range and we hope for the best...
This is not training.
I can't tell you how many times I've heard this... "I have a weapons permit and a handgun- but I don't carry it on me. I just keep it in my car." Wonderful... How does that work in your mind? You stop into a gas station and are looking through the candy aisle when an armed robber comes in and tells the clerk to open the register. You crouch down behind the rack and stare in disbelief saying "... if only I had my gun ..." as you recall how you have a gun- but it's in your car. How else could it play out? "Time out, Mr. Armed Assailant! I have a tool that I could use to defend myself and this store clerk, but I need a minute to run out to my vehicle and then come back and we'll resume this violent encounter." Is that how it works? Is that how you see it playing out?
Violence is fast. Split seconds can be the difference between successfully defending yourself (or someone else) with a firearm and being another sad statisitc. Just as you make the decision to face the world unarmed if you decide to leave your firearm at home, you make the same conscious decision to disarm yourself every time you exit your vehicle if you aren't taking your firearm with you. While I certainly don't mind having a firearm in the car with you, I do have an issue with your decision to leave yourself unarmed as you vacate your vehicle and go on about your daily life outside of your car.
If you are trained in how to responsibly and effectively use a firearm as a part of your self-protection strategy, then don't hinder yourself and take away that force-multiplying advantage by voluntarily leaving your firearm in your vehicle where you can't get to it during a violent encounter. Your life, and the lives of others, may depend on it.
Note: the above opinions obviously exclude places where you cannot legally carry a firearm (such as courthouses) and must leave your weapon in your vehicle during those durations.