Attitude Change, 2010 Edition: what have I changed my mind about?

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I’ve been actively interested in the topic of self defense training since the early 90s. Over the last decade, particularly in the last five years, a lot of my original opinions regarding self defense have changed. This isn’t because I’m wishy-washy and unable to hold on to an opinion (just ask my wife!) Rather, such change is brought about by being exposed to new information, or because new research alters original assumptions.

As this year winds down, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at just a few of the things about which I’ve changed my mind in the last decade.

– The value of competitive shooting: back in the mid ’90s I was part of a local group looking to advance our defensive skills through “tactical” competition. We tried rules, targets and procedures from USPSA, IDPA (as soon as it was formed), and even early versions of what would become The Polite Society rules. All of them had serious flaws, and we ultimately tried to develop our own rules and even specialized targets. By about 2000 we’d abandoned the effort altogether, and I shot my last “tactical” match of any sort in 2002. At the time I couldn’t quite put my finger on why, but it just didn’t seem that it was possible to get actual training value out of a game. Eight years later I’m better able to articulate the “why” than I was back then, as I learn more about both actual defensive encounters and how the mind reacts to them. Today I tell my students that competition may be a fun hobby, but there are serious scientific and practical reasons why it’s neither training nor ideal preparation for self defense. Some gaming adherents react with predictable vitriol, but I’ve developed a sufficiently thick skin.

– The .357 Magnum as a defensive cartridge: at one time I was a huge proponent of the .357 as a “manstopper”. I stopped carrying the load in 2004 or so because I came to the realization that all handgun cartridges are relatively weak, and expecting a single shot to reliably stop a determined attacker was sheer folly. From this came the realization of what ends fights: rapid, multiple,  accurate hits on target. It was clear to me that I could not deliver that kind of performance given the recoil of a Magnum cartridge, and elected to give up sheer power in favor of controllability and recoil recovery.

– Night sights: all my friends had them, and I too was once convinced they were the be-all and end-all of defensive shooting. Oddly it took me some time to realize a simple fact: if there was enough light to positively identify my target, there was enough to get a visual alignment of the gun (using the sights or otherwise.) If there wasn’t enough light to get a solid visual index, I probably couldn’t be sure of my target. Playing around with these ideas on darkened to downright dark ranges pretty much confirmed my suspicions. Looked at in this light (yes, I worked hard to make that pun) my conclusion is that night sights don’t have a lot of value except in some very unusual and specific conditions.

– The importance of changing your mind: in the last few years it’s sunk into my thick head that if you are putting yourself out there, stretching your intellectual muscles and exposing yourself to new ideas and concepts, you are going to end up changing your mind about something. You have to, if you’re intellectually honest! If one is to assume to any degree the appellation of ‘professional’ in regards to training, one has to be able to grow and progress intellectually. To grow, one must change; it can happen in no other way. Doggedly sticking to an opinion for no other reason than inertia (or dislike of the person presenting new information) is inherently unprofessional; it stifles growth. I’ve met people, some students and some instructors, who simply could not accept that perhaps there was an objectively better way of doing something, or a factual reason why another approach might be more relevant than their own. I’ve resolved not to be so intransigent – how about you?

So much for 2010! On Friday I’ll have the weekly surprise, and next Monday I’ll kick off a new year of what I hope will be even more illuminating, annoying, challenging, informative, entertaining, infuriating, and progressive blog posts. I hope you’ll continue to tag along!

-=[ Grant ]=-

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About the Author:

Grant Cunningham is a renowned author and teacher in the fields of self defense, defensive shooting education and personal safety. He’s written several popular books on handguns and defensive shooting, including "The Book of the Revolver", "Shooter’s Guide To Handguns", "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals", "Defensive Pistol Fundamentals", and "Practice Strategies for Defensive Shooting" (Fall 2015.) Grant has also written articles on shooting, self defense, training and teaching for many magazines and shooting websites, including Concealed Carry Magazine, Gun Digest Magazine, the Association of Defensive Shooting Instructors ADSI) and the popular Personal Defense Network training website. He’s produced a DVD in the National Rifle Association’s Personal Firearm Defense series titled "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals" and teaches defensive shooting and personal safety courses all over the United States.
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