How much training do you really need?

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Claire Wolfe, the well known libertarian writer, recently penned a piece for SWAT Magazine where she questioned the need for extensive self defense training. She has a point: how much training is enough?

I could be excused, I suppose, were I to tell you that you definitely need self defense training — and the more the better. I say that because I am in the business of educating people to keep themselves safer, and it might be expected that I would extoll the benefits of that training (and I would hope you’d recognize that for what it is!)

Now I do give away a lot of very valuable information (via this blog, the Flipboard magazine I edit, and the articles I write for places like the Personal Defense Network), but I do charge for some of it (the books I write, the DVDs I make, and those articles which appear in magazines.) I also charge for the classes I hold, where I help students develop the very specific skills they are most likely to need should they face an attack.

It would therefore be in my best interest to disagree with Ms. Wolfe and tell you all the reasons why you desperately need all the training you can get. I could regale you with stories of self defense gone wrong and how, had the person only taken a class from me, it could have turned out differently.

I can’t do that, however, because of a pesky little fact: every single day, all across this country, good people with guns successfully defend themselves having never before had any instruction in how to do so. It happens, and with a good deal of frequency.

Does this mean you should just ignore me, forget about training, stuff a loaded pistol in your belt and saunter into the world? No, it doesn’t, but it should give you some perspective.

There was a time in this country when you could get a driver’s license and head out on the road with no more instruction than “here’s where the key goes”. Lots of people did so, every single day, and the overwhelming majority of them arrived home at the end of that day completely unscathed.

Would you like to see those days return? I wouldn’t, and I suspect you wouldn’t either — because you know, as do I, that the best way to prevent car accidents and deaths is to educate drivers. We teach them the rules of the road, what to do when others don’t obey those rules, and how to avoid common dangerous situations like icy pavement. We recognize that education is a primary component in reducing highway fatalities, and while we can debate the wisdom of the government requiring such education we certainly can’t object to that education’s successes.

The same is true for self defense education. Yes, you (and those around you) might go about your day armed without any real idea of what you’re doing and come away in fine shape; you might even someday use that gun without training and even prevail. As I said, it happens all the time.

It’s those times when it doesn’t work out well, when things go horribly wrong, where good training makes the difference. Back to driving: on a nice warm day, with dry pavement, no traffic and perfect visibility, most people have no issues. It’s when the light dims, the road gets slick, oncoming traffic becomes heavy, and the windshield wipers aren’t as good as they could be that danger mounts. It’s easy to survive when conditions are ideal, not so much when they’re not!

What self defense training does give you are the knowledge and the skills to reduce the risk of that defensive encounter to the lowest possible degree even under the worst circumstances. Without it you might prevail against your attacker, but you might also be hurt in the process because you didn’t understand how to use your firearm efficiently (or perhaps even safely.) Bystanders might be hurt or killed. You might be mistakenly shot by police because you didn’t understand the “rules of the road” when it comes to armed citizen interactions with law enforcement.

In fact, your lack of knowledge may actually precipitate the armed encounter: if you don’t know about pre-assault cues, tactics to avoid dangerous situations, verbal de-escalation and even non-lethal responses, you may in fact allow yourself to fall into a situation where you’re over your head and actually forced to resort to lethal force to save yourself. Learning how to avoid the snowball effect of bad decisions is part of defensive education and a large part of keeping you safe.

Proper training is likely to help you survive the legal morass you might face when you use your firearm. Learning, for instance, why warning shots are a bad idea and a legal quagmire might keep you out of jail even though you felt completely justified in firing one. The gun isn’t always the answer, and proper training will teach when it is, when it’s not, and most importantly why.

Does this mean you need to become an expert just to keep yourself and your family safe? Does it mean you need to take all of these classes right now, even before you own a gun?

No, on both counts. But a commitment to getting the training you do need is vital to your physical, legal, and financial well being. Owning or carrying a firearm for self defense is a grave responsibility, perhaps the biggest one you will ever shoulder; doesn’t it make sense to learn as much as you can about it?

I agree with Claire: you certainly don’t need to become a Rambo, but you should strive to be more than a Gilligan. Somewhere in the middle is your ideal place. If you’ll stick around and take advantage of the free information I (and many others) supply, I think you’ll get a better idea of what your own balance is.

-=[ Grant Cunningham ]=-


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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