All training is not good training. In and of itself, that’s true. There are plenty of so-called “firearms instructors” that aren’t qualified to teach a BB gun class, much less an intermediate defensive handgun seminar. However, dismissing the professional firearms training industry as a whole is absurdly short-sighted, because while there are negative aspects to training you cannot ignore the positive benefits.
Assuming for the moment that you’re an average CCW holder; you understand the fundamentals of sight picture and trigger control, you’re not really interested in becoming a USPSA Grand Master, and you just want to practice with your carry gun. Sure, you can go to the range and shoot mediocre to average groups with your carry gun, but that doesn’t really do anything for your ability to deploy your firearm under stress in an actual self-defense situation. The mission statement from Magpul Dynamics explains this far better than I ever could:
For those of us that carry, protect and serve or defend our nation; only one percent of our lives may involve actually pulling a trigger on another human being. The other 99 percent could be everything from taking your family out to dinner and all the way up to almost pulling the trigger on a battlefield in a far away country…
Why do we care about training for that one percent so much? That is one percent you cannot get wrong. You can pick up the pieces from almost any other mistake in your life, except the one that ends yours or a loved ones. At Magpul Dynamics, we prepare people for that one percent, that moment that determines life or death.
This is exactly why training is a vital and important part of what a concealed carry permit holder should do. While most of us will never have to deploy a firearm defensively, if it happens there is absolutely no margin for error whatsoever. That’s the first, and primary benefit of training is that it can help prepare you for that 1%.
There is another huge benefit to professional, reputable instruction – and that’s “outside eyes”. As shooters, we don’t like to practice things we’re bad at, and it’s physically impossible to watch ourselves shoot while we’re practicing. A competent, professional instructor can see mistakes you’re making, or introduce new techniques and methods to tweak your skill set. Once you’ve learned those on the range from a trainer, you can then take that skill and knowledge to your practice sessions, which is where in both dry fire and live fire you build the muscle memory and repetitive skill necessary to deploy these techniques under stress.
Professional training also helps the mind of the shooter – to a certain extent, all shooting classes are platform agnostic. I have taken lessons learned in carbine classes and applied them to pistol shooting, and lessons learned in pistol classes and applied them to carbine shooting. A weekend carbine course can teach valuable information that’s applicable to homeowners, hunters, and the average joe. If you enter a class with an open mind and a desire to learn, it will always benefit you as a student. Secondary to that is the simulated stressful environment that classes put a shooter in. No one wants to look like a crappy shot in front of their peers, and even that little bit of pressure can help inoculate the mind against the stresses of an actual defensive situation. While not 100% comparable, any stress-based training is going to be an improvement over simply standing in a range booth banging away.
There are many more advantages of professional training, but the last one on which I’d like to touch is very simple – training is fun. The opportunity to gather with like minded individuals and enthusiasts while doing something you enjoy is always a treat. That fellowship of individuals also is a learning opportunity – simple BS sessions I’ve had with other shooters have produced ideas and tips that I’ve used to tweak my technique and methods, sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t, but it never hurts to try.
The bottom line is that while all training isn’t necessarily good training, there is plenty of benefit in attending good classes from reputable trainers. I heartily endorse the following groups individuals:
Find a good instructor, find a good class, and go in with an open mind. Then use your range time to practice what you learned, and you’ll start the path to the top of the mountain. There are many paths, but some are faster than others.