Establishing Tactical Firearms Skills

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There has been a lot of talk recently in our society about guns. Some argue that guns are bad and should be banned while others hold tightly to their second amendment rights. No matter which camp you belong to, one thing we can hopefully all agree on is that a gun in the right hands is a valuable self-defense tool. When faced with a threat to yourself or others, being able to quickly and efficiently neutralize it can save lives, and a gun is often the best way to handle such threats. The key to doing this is not merely having a gun, but also knowing how to properly use it.

If you are a gun owner or concealed carry permit holder, you should have taken the initiative to get some firearms training under your belt. This means knowing how to use your gun proficiently as well as knowing the cardinal rules of safe firearms handling, which are:

1. Always treat all guns as if they are loaded.
2. Never point a gun at something you do not intend to shoot.
3. Keep your finger off the trigger until on target and ready to fire.
4. Know your target and what lies beyond it.

Although this information is priceless, in truth it is just a foundation for safe and effective firearms use. Your training needs to go far beyond that and be practiced and reinforced on a regular basis. You want to develop a comfort level when shooting as well as become accurate, but also useful is developing the muscle memory to remember what you are doing while under pressure, and to do so fluidly without fumbling.

Speaking of pressure, the average day spent shooting on the range is probably going to be a fairly calm experience. You may even find yourself out there having fun. As you shoot at a paper target in this controlled environment, you may even gain some confidence in yourself and your abilities. While this is great, it is important to remember this is only one step among many when it comes to becoming a proficient shooter. In a real world self-defense scenario, it will not matter how many well-placed shots you delivered into that stationary paper target because that is not what is going to be coming to get you. Instead you will be faced with a moving assailant who will duck and dodge, give chase, and apply force to you to hurt you and maybe even take your gun from you. Think about that for a moment in comparison with a day spent shooting that paper target from 15 yards. The difference between the two is huge.

Establishing Tactical Firearms Skills - GPS1504 - d-range-3-882.jpg
Photo: GSanders

Because of the reality of how assailants behave, there is a necessity to beef up your firearms skills. Go ahead and shoot that paper target until you are familiar with your gun and can get a tight group, but don't stop there. Since the bad guy coming at you will be mobile, you need to be able to shoot at a moving target. There may be more than one bad guy, whether it is human attackers or even a pack of coyotes coming for you in the woods, so you need to be able to handle multiple targets. Attackers are not going to stop at 15 yards and wait for you to take a shot, so you need to learn to shoot at various distances and from behind a barricade. You never know what position you may be in when danger presents itself making it vital to be able to shoot from standing, kneeling, and prone positions as well as when you yourself are moving; even shooting at a brisk walk is much different than standing still. You also must remember that your range days are likely to be on nice days with great weather, but the reality is that many attacks occur at night in low light. Does your gun have night sights and are you familiar with using them?

If this seems overwhelming to think about, then the unfortunate fact is that you are not yet ready to defend yourself with a firearm and need to keep working to develop your skills. Luckily there are many ranges set up to help you do just that so that in the end you will get priceless experience that will help prepare you for a situation in which you must defend yourself with a firearm. Look for shooting ranges that offer tactical shooting events and sign yourself up for one. There you will get practice shooting at moving/turning targets from different angles and positions while you move about, all of which is done against the clock and will help prepare you to face a real threat.

Although ultimately there is no true way to duplicate the precise attack you could someday face, it is far better to practice tactical shooting than settling for that fixed target at a close distance. Keep in mind that law enforcement and military personnel undergo this type of training, so there is a realistic need for it. If you are ever in a situation such as with an active shooter where you have to defend yourself, you, too, will be glad to have practiced and honed your skills. Check out the video below and visit IDPA or IPSC to learn more.

Is tactical shooting something you've been practicing with your firearm? Have you tried competition to enhance your skills? Tell us about it in the comments.

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January 11, 2016  •  01:24 PM
Training for anyone about just about anything is often a good idea. If you are concealed carry permit holder then most likely you had to get some schooling before that permit was issued- this is a good thing.
If someone wants to go beyond that and receive tactical training that is well and good also. But from a practical standpoint this advanced training while it doesn't hurt it will almost certainly will never be used.
January 15, 2016  •  07:24 AM
Very Good post!

Though I might add that I believe Small Units tactics Courses are a greater payoff for your skill set than IDPA and IPSC.

Max Velocity Tactical, Mosby, Mason Dixon Tactical, Sierra 13 and similar outfits come to mind.

At least for most of your training I would stay away from the SWAT fantasy camps that are so common these days.
Ask a trainer you are considering if live fire and movement as (at least) part of a buddy team is part of their training.
If the answer is no, I would move on.

While spending a weekend pumping rounds thru paper into a berm is not a waste you can do better and get more payoff in your abilities with a Small Unit tactics type training class.
January 26, 2016  •  08:19 AM
@BlueZ - hey there!(waves)
I was about to say about the same thing!

The only thing I'd say very slightly differently is to prioritize different gun and tactical skills.
For an average joe today, many people including Mosby advocate for an emphasis on concealed carry handgun and defensive tactical skills, supplemented with unarmed "empty hand" training. These are individual-level skills vs team tactical skills.
IPSC, IDPA, Steel Challenge and other handgun shooting sports can help hone these skills, although it's best to learn them from a reputable trainer.

For rifles, start with learning individual level skills including marksmanship and how to operate a rifle under stress. Project Appleseed and NRA Basic Rifle classes can teach the basics of rifle marksmanship, and there are things like NRA High Power Rifle matches for rifles, analogous to shooting IDPA/IPSC for handgun.
There are also a number of quality trainers out there who teach individual-level "defensive rifle" skills, which are beyond the scope of things like Appleseed and which are important to running a rifle while under stress, in unusual shooting positions,etc. (Like lying flat on your back hiding behind a street curb and shooting underneath a car, and many others)

Then, there are the team tactical skills, at what I would consider the highest level. You don't have to be a rifle ninja to take this kind of training, but it is advanced enough that you should be able to reliably and safely run your rifle under stress while paying attention to everything around you. Places like Max Velocity, Mosby, Mason-Dixon, Sierra 13 are the type of place to seek this kind of training. Avoid "trainers" who are only teaching stuff that looks cool on tv, like a bunch of guys stacking up outside a doorway during a SWAT drug raid. For this type of training, you're looking for people who can train light infantry skills.
January 26, 2016  •  07:23 PM

good + well written post
November 30, 2016  •  08:23 AM
I don't see any connection between individual skills and small unit tactics as far as one being more important than the other.

To use small unit tactics you kind of need a small unit .. if you don't have well developed skills you aren't going to be a function part of the tactics of a small unit.. a small unit implies there are others betting their life on your ability to cover their backside.