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“It’s a training issue.” I don’t think that means what you think it means.

“It’s a training issue.” I don’t think that means what you think it means.

Hoo boy, I heard it again just the other day: “it’s a training issue”. The subject at hand was a discussion about the traditional double action pistol, the kind that has a long and heavy double action first shot and a shorter, lighter single action (DA/SA) for each subsequent shot.

I’m not a fan of the things as a defensive tool in this modern age. They are the most complicated of the autopistols in use, owing to the two different trigger actions and the necessity of an additional decocking step at the end of a string of fire. Many of them — most notably the Berettas and S&W pistols (prior to the M&P series) — have a decocker which also serves as a safety, which brings a whole new and separate argument to the carry state of the gun.

These things probably made some sense in the 1930s when they were popularized, but in 2016 they’re anachronisms on the level of a buggy whip. This hasn’t stopped some contrarian hobbyists from adopting them and singing their praises, and in point of fact some of those guys are awfully handy with them. Their response to any criticism of their beloved pistols is “it’s just a training issue”, pointing to their own superlative shooting skills as proof.

Yes, it is. That’s my whole point, too.

What do you have to give up?

The reality (stop me if you’ve heard this before) is that none of us has unlimited time, energy, or money. We all have to make decisions about how to spend those resources to get what we want out of life; if we spend more time at work, we have less time with the kids. If we spend more money on our automobiles we have less to afford a vacation. Everything in life is a tradeoff.

The DA/SA pistol is a case in point. Yes, there are people who have mastered the things. For every one of them, however, there are perhaps thousands who struggle with the things. Maybe it’s because they don’t have the innate talent the rabid hobbyists do, or more likely that developing a high level of skill with what is an objectively more complicated firearm requires a lot of time, effort and money. Compared to something that is less complicated to operate the DA/SA gun is simply going to eat up more training and practice resources for each accurate shot.

This means that the resources spent developing skills to use the DA/SA autopistol efficiently can’t be spent developing the shooting and judgmental skills that are important to surviving a lethal attack. This is especially true when we factor the maintenance of those skills into the equation; I know people who have spent a lot of their resources to be able to shoot their DA/SA pistol to a high level of skill, only to watch their first few rounds after a period of inactivity fall into the “inaccurate” category. The greater the skill required, the more practice is needed to keep that perishable skill at a usable level.

In other fields of human endeavor this is called “high maintenance”, and it’s often detrimental to one’s goals.

Danger, Will Robinson!

This is why the phrase “it’s a training issue” is like a gigantic red warning light to me. Too often that phrase is used to gloss over inordinate resource demands and to deflect attention from the possibility that the equipment or technique isn’t as efficient as another might be. It can also be a sign that the subject at hand is being used or chosen out-of-context: it might be an acceptable use of resources in its original environment (say, the military), but a poor use in the world of private sector self defense. Wishing issues away by saying that it’s a training issue can be a way of ignoring the reality that it isn’t a good choice for the job.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell people this, particularly if they have a large ego investment in the gear or technique. Back in the olden days we fought this with the “hip shooting” crowd beholden to the “FBI Crouch” (as shown in the picture at the top.) There were certainly a few preternaturally gifted people who could do amazing things in this stance, but most people found that hitting anything required a lot of training and significant followup practice time just to maintain the skill. We finally moved beyond that (though I’ve actually run into people in the shooting industry who still think this should be taught as a legitimate defensive technique. Guess what they’ve said when challenged? You’re right: “it’s a training issue”!)

Yes, it’s a training issue. As it happens, everything is a training issue. The issue is that training consumes resources that are in short supply and we all have to make decisions on what and how we’re going to train to make efficient use of those resources. There’s always something else making claim to our time, energy and money; if we spend it all in one place, what happens when something more important comes along?

Make your choices wisely, and don’t be deceived to buy into something that’s “just a training issue” — any more than you would “it’s just a money issue”.

– Grant Cunningham


  • Posted by Grant Cunningham
  • On April 11, 2016
Tags: context, integrity, mythbusting, practice, realistic

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