Training is Serious Business

Firing a handgun from the retention position

Training is a hard business. If you are serious concerning personal defense—and God help you if you are not—you must train to the best of your ability, use proper tactics, and seek communion with like-minded shooters. Some folks have self-trained and consider themselves exempt from the ordinary but find their performance at the bottom of the heap when actually tested by rigorous standards. I have seen folks with a lot of ego invested in their shooting. They do not do well when engaged in competition. It is quite alright to admit your game is off, we all have those days.

firing a handgun from the retention position
Some work should be done at contact range, firing from the retention position.

Blaming bad performance on the four humors, the influences of the planets, or spiritual failings isn’t all right. On the other hand, too much training doesn’t necessarily help. Overexertion may lead to burnout. Burn out, for the most part, is only experienced by dedicated folks or over achievers as the lazy never come to enjoy the rigors of burnout. I am familiar with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Disorders and exhaustion of among the most common, and most common among those that attempt to excel. Nonstop attention to detail and decision making leads to exhaustion. My fellow cops know exactly what I am talking about, and so do professionals, soldier, engineers, mechanics, and anyone that works hard at a job that is well done.

So, how do we find the right amount of time to practice, and do so without losing cognitive control and sapping our mental bandwidth? First, we have to learn to dismiss pessimistic thinking. I can never control that gun, or I can never shoot like him. This type of thinking should not be part of the training vocabulary. A positive change in performance and self esteem will come after these negative thoughts are dismissed.

Bad guy target with bullet holes
Rapid fire is OK, but be certain the shots go where they will do the most good. That is shot placement.

I like to catch students before too much damage is done. Tweaks do not work against negative energy. When someone is having trouble mastering a handgun it isn’t always because they have chosen a handgun that does not fit their hand or which has too much recoil. Rather poor techniques are to blame. Unfortunately, there is a lot of false information and false information is worse than ignorance. Some students come to class with a certain traumatic narrative. Reviewing setbacks with a fresh eye from a distance can help students come to terms with improvement, envision where they need to be and make corrections. It is difficult to gauge progress as an individual. However, if you are able to see yourself as an observer would, you have a better chance of making self correction.

When training, short classes are a better learning experience before fatigue sets in. There are external and internal stimuli that affect your learning. Short-term memory is essentially a mechanism for keeping recent information fresh, and you will learn quickly, but this information must be retained. What is recently experienced will not be retained without repetition. If you do not continue your training, then you will not prosper from this training.

Competing goals and distractions interfere with proper learning. Our response must be so instinctive that our brains do not mobilize to create a different reaction. We must practice and make repetitions of the drills and tactics that will potentially save our lives. While response will be automatic we are also in control of our actions. The proper focus and self control—and respect for our ability—will hold and narrow our attention. If we are not in control fear and panic will interfere with our actions. Unconscious control is channeled in a single direction in an uninterrupted manner when we have the proper combat focus.

There are many NRA instructors offering excellent training. Short classes are best, and encouraging people are good to be around. The instruction is shared for the participants benefit, not the instructor’s ego, and occasionally there is a problem there, but this type of instructor doesn’t last long. The abstract of principles must be grounded in the real thing, real information and training.

pistol on bags of ammuniton
Choose a service grade, reliable handgun and then put lots of practice into the equation.

You will not learn it all in one session, and you must focus on growth. For some growth is taxed by a destructive refrain, we all have that omnipresent and harsh narrator of self criticism. Take a deep breath, fill your lungs with air, and your brain as well. Feel the muscles moving in unison and work for this unity of purpose, the mind and the body. When studying, it is possible to drown in data you cannot interpret fully, and that is understandable. But you can gauge your progress.

Remember, there are people in this world with fascinating and dangerous disorders willing to hurt you for a small advantage. I have dealt with them face to face, it isn’t a theoretical exercise in my experience. There are many cunning predators that have no empathy and lack remorse. Impulse control is out of the question for them. 70 percent of repeat violent offenders have serious psychotic problems. We cannot rely upon an increasingly theocratic state to protect us. When it comes to training, we do not all agree upon every element of training, but we speak the same language.

Do you have a favorite trainer, training plan, or drill? Share it in the comment section.


About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.

Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Rifle Magazine
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns

Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (11)

  1. I just finished 3 days with Gunsite Academy. The instructors were experienced, the techniques were grounded in reality and the round count offered excellent range time. Just having a technique, other than point and pull, helped speed up my response and narrowed my split times. Experience shooting in the dark and at contact distance was priceless. This training was strictly for defensive shooting which helped to highlight the short cuts I take for competition shooting.

  2. Anyone have any feedback on laser training systems (SIRT or Laserlyte)? A little spendy but always available.

  3. All good advice. My favorite training camp is with Paul Howe in East Texas. CSAT. He’s the delta force guy portrayed in Blackhawk Down. Good school and ego free.

  4. Robert Vogel is a tremendous instructor, took his class via Alias Training (highly recommend all of their instructors from Vickers to Pat McNamara) and afterwards made the biggest gains in performance yet. Not only Is Vogel one of the best shooters in the world, that guy is a class act, humble, and I was surprised how down to earth and helpful he was…he even pasted more targets than the students, didn’t “big time” anyone.

  5. Enrolling in training sessions was an eye opener for me. My shortcomings (i.e…improvement opportunities) were more than I’d like to admit. But I haven’t forgot a thing from the training and I took every admonition to heart.
    One question: What “increasingly theocratic” state are we depending on for protection? In most instances ours seems to decreasingly “theo-” anything.

  6. When I became serious about carrying my pistol, I invested in the Fighting Pistol class at Tactical Response. Despite the controversy surrounding some of the drills conducted there, I found that the 2 day course gave me a ton of information and useful drills to practice and master in an incremental progression. The staff members were attentive and helpful, taking time to help beginning students and offering correction to the more experienced shooters who had developed bad or unproductive habits. I can almost guarantee that anyone attending this class will come away with something or a list of things to improve on, as well as practice drills that will enhance their skills.

  7. Firearms Fundamentals Some of the best trainers in the business. They are Located in Las Vegas Nevada.

  8. Without getting bogged down in minutia the article does well at presenting the reason for taking responsibility for one’s own security and leaves the reader ready to train! Or take a break if you’re currently over doing it! Nice piece.

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