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What is defensive training really worth? Here’s a very different way of looking at it.

What is defensive training really worth? Here’s a very different way of looking at it.


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I got an email the other day from a reader, and the discussion revolved around the cost of self defense training:

“Actually the cost of training may be worthy of a blog article.

I was thinking yesterday that it seems very arbitrary. It’s too high from the perspective of a student out to get training as much as he/she can, to sort out what works personally.

It’s probably too low from the perspective of an instructor trying to earn a living. Academically it seems too high, in terms of dollars per hour. In terms of life-saving lesson value, it may be too low. In terms of practical value, it may be too high because it’s not entirely a skill that a person can immediately use and benefit from on a regular basis.

It would be interesting to hash out the answer to a person asking, “how much should i pay for training?”

He brings up some interesting thoughts and opens up a much larger can of worms than he possibly imagined.

We can’t possibly address the cost-value equation of training without first determining what that value is. This is much harder to do than you might think; last November I wrote a blog post about some of the benefits that we might actually get from training, and it’s probably not what you might think. I encourage you to read that article, then come back and rejoin the discussion.

Don’t worry; I’ll wait!

(Sound of me humming….)

Back? Good! Now that you’re thinking in terms of what good quality defensive training might actually do for you — and, as I hope I’ve showed, there is certainly value even if it’s not what you might expect — how do we determine what price is acceptable from the student’s perspective?

Good teachers in any field are compensated not just for what they do in the classroom, but for the preparation and body of knowledge which they acquired over time. This may have cost them money, but even if it didn’t they certainly spent time and effort studying their subject and becoming conversant with it. They then had to learn to teach it (some do so better than others, of course) which takes more time, effort, and occasionally money.

From an academic perspective, then, the student is paying not just for the time the instructor spends on the range with them, but the preparation it took for him or her to get there. There is more than just classroom or instructional hours at stake in that equation!

In order to keep “in the loop”, the professional teacher needs to continue that acquisition of knowledge; it can consume huge amounts of resources to do that, and the student pays for that too. It’s a little like a fire engine, actually; to keep that specialized vehicle ready and able to respond is quite costly, but we pay it because it beats having to load a pickup with garden hoses every time we need to put out a fire! Maintaining, repairing, and manning that vehicle just for those few times it gets used is an expensive undertaking; maintaining a knowledge base and teaching skills for those times when people want to access them is likewise expensive.

The instructor therefore wants (and needs, if he’s to stay current) to be able to generate the income which allows him to do that. He’s looking at cost from that standpoint.

Now we get to the part about the value to the student. As I hope you saw in the linked article, it’s pretty darned difficult to place a value on simple shooting skills given the fact that lots of people survive without ever acquiring them. But not having those skills, or the knowledge to know when you can or should use your firearm, make it less certain that you’ll come out unscathed — be it physically, emotionally, financially, or legally. As our reader pointed out these aren’t skills that you’re going to use regularly, and in fact if you’re like most people they’re skills that you’re likely to never need (and thankfully so!)

What, then, is that money buying you?

Certainty. The belief that what you know is true, for you. The peace of mind that comes with the knowledge that you’ve done what you can to reduce (as much as you practically can) the chances that a violent attack will take you away — even partially — from your family and friends.

That’s what you’re paying for: insurance on your presence in this world.

It’s hard to place a monetary value on that level of certainty, isn’t it? If we look at it from the dollars spent per hour of range time, or from how many bullets are fired in training, or even how often those skills might be used, it’s hard to justify from a hard-nosed financial analysis standpoint. But cost analysis only works with tangible items, and we’re not talking about something tangible. Looking at it in those terms is, I think, futile.

Instead you have to look at how much certainty is worth; not to you, but to your children, your spouse, your siblings and parents, the people you work with and the friends who value your existence. If you’re gone because everything in that chaotic incident didn’t go exactly in your favor, what will a few dollars saved mean to them?

That, dear reader, is how you come up with what training is worth.

-=[ Grant Cunningham ]=-

  • Posted by Grant Cunningham
  • On March 13, 2015

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