I asked you a question

So I could ask you another one.  Yesterday, I asked how many of the gun nuts out there that legally carry would intervene using their firearms in three different hypothetical situations.  The point of that question wasn’t actually to get people thinking about tactics, but rather to ask a second question – to those that said “yes I would”, I would then pose this next question: If you are willing to use your firearm in public with innocent bystanders present, are you confident enough in your ability with your carry gun to say that you would be an asset in that situation that you said you’d intervene?  Or would you be a liability because you’ve never fired your gun under pressure?

This will likely be my last post on the issue of professional firearms training for a bit, because I feel like after this, this particular dead horse been flagellated enough.  But this is actually one of the most important issues to me in terms of getting training, and that’s the moral/ethical issue behind the use of deadly force.  For example, let’s revisit the restaurant gunfight from yesterday’s blog post – shooters come in, I have a shot, and I take it.  I miss, and kill a 32 year old new mother in front of her husband and children.  I missed because I’d never fired my gun under pressure, and it turns out that plinking mediocre groups at 25 feet isn’t actually going to help me in a gunfight.  Depending on what state I live in, I may not be legally responsible for that woman’s dead body.  However, that’s not going to help me sleep better at night knowing that I took her life, and I took it because I was incompetent.

This isn’t about whether you need training, or want training, or anything like that.  This is nothing but my personal morals, and yours may be different.  I carry a gun in a public place.  There are other people around, quite often, and muggings don’t happen only in deserted alleys with hard brick walls to serve as backstops.  Crime happens on street corners, in fast food restaurants, convenience stores, and even insurance agency parking lots.

You may not believe this way, and that’s fine – but I believe that I have an ethical obligation to any innocent bystander to not put their lives at undue risk.  This applies to more than just carrying a gun.  I don’t drive recklessly for the same reason: I do not have a right to endanger your life through my lack of skill behind a wheel or a trigger.  “My right to swing my fist ends at your nose”, and my right to be untrained ends when it endangers someone else’s life.

I don’t think that there should be a training requirement to carry concealed, because I don’t believe the state is capable of actually training people to be safe, competent shooters.  If you’d only use your defensive firearm in a one on one encounter with no possibility of shooting a bystander, then don’t get training.  But if you have a family, if you believe that CCW holders are “sheepdogs” and would intervene in a public situation, if you would use your weapon in self defense in a crowded street or public parking lot or any situation where the possibility exists of injuring or killing a bystander, then please seek training.  If the time ever comes where you have to pull the trigger, I want everyone that reads us here at Gun Nuts to say “I did everything I could to be ready for this moment, and I was able to win the fight because of that”.


  1. I stand by my previous answers. Obviously I can’t see into the future, so I don’t know exactly how events will unfold, but I can look back on my behavior under stress in the past and be reasonably sure I won’t fall apert when the moment comes.

    It’s a good question, and I took it into consideration before I began carrying a weapon. I have undergone additional training since then and I will continue to do so.

  2. When I was younger before I was really into shooting I would watch an action movie with glee. Now I watch an action movie and I sit there and critique it while wincing. Anymore all I can think is how they shouldn’t be firing into that crowd or he’s shooting in a house in a suburban environment and if he misses that bullet might hit a neighbor, etc.

  3. I was surprised at how many folks said yes to all those scenarios. It’s good that we have lots of people that are motivated, armed and mentally prepared to defend innocent lives. I just hope that they are also prepared for the physical and legal consequences of not being properly trained. Physical consequences include getting you or your family killed or injured because you focused on the “bad guy” and didn’t see his buddy behind you. (just one example) Legal consequences come from the “bad guys” the bystanders and the state. My favorite phrase for this is “Every bullet has a lawyer attached” I don’t think there is any state that protects us from civil prosecution with a Good Samaritan law. Start interviewing defense attorneys now, cause if you fire, you’ll need one.

    I’ll keep running those scenarios in my head and if I choose to shoot, I’ll win (in my head), but I know that if that day comes, reality will be much different.

    1. States that protect you from civil suits usually have what is called ‘Castle Law ‘ or the ‘Stand your Ground Law’ you need to find out if that protection is in there .
      Even if you are pronounced innocent of any wrong doing and are protected from any civil suit for the death of another human being and unless ice water flows through your veins ,you are far from free.Your own mind is going to haunt ,persecute you and take you on a bad trip worse than LSD ever could and you are going to need the support of your family and all your friends and a trip to your doctor ,pastor.There is no such thing as a winner of a gunfight ,just a suvivor that hopefully did the right thing.

  4. I’ve had my CCW for 2 years and been lucky enough to take 2 classes each year. I plan to take an additional class every year. But that’s not enough. The 2 to 5 days you spend in class can’t give you enough range time to make you as familiar with that weapon as you should be. You also need to get to the range. Plinking isn’t going to tell you if you know what you’re doing. That’s why I like USPSA and IDPA. These games don’t teach you law, tactics and self defense. They do give you the opportunity to run your gun at speed and compare yourself to your peers. You will learn a lot about how you run your weapon.

  5. Truth be told, the term “Sheepdog” annoys me to no end. I have had people throw out the term in a serious manner and the conversations ended right there. I am no better than anyone else, and my purpose in life is not to keep the general public safe. If I ever run into someone needing help in a clear-to-me situation, I will act because it was how I was raised and because of my own spiritual and moral beliefs.

    Do I have “proper” training? No.

    Can I afford it with a wife in college and two kids? No.

    Will I get it the moment I can afford it? Yes.

    The following is not aimed at anyone here, but is an attitude I have encountered all too often:

    We always talk about how laws against “Saturday Night Specials” discriminate against the poor. It saddens me that many who would hold such a belief would then turn around and proceed to talk about the untrained having no place carrying a sidearm. Some of these people even don a holier-than-thou attitude with regards to the average carrier. Some people can barely afford the bargain-gun, carry ammo, ammo to test reliability, holster, licensing fees, and spare mags/speedloaders. It is not reasonable to expect these same people to buy the thousand rounds of extra ammo and more than the original price of their weapon just to pay the tuition, all while fitting it into a work schedule and take care of their kids. Hypocrisy, she is alive and well.

    1. You pretty much summed things up better than I could have.

      Consider this as well that had Suzanna Hupp’s father died because he was doing the right thing. I’d be willing to bet that had he been armed that he would have taken the shot to stop what he felt was wrong regardless if he had been trained or not.

      This is not to say that training does not help better your odds but I’ll be damned if I’m going to let someone get shot in front of me who did not deserve it.

    2. “It saddens me that many who would hold such a belief would then turn around and proceed to talk about the untrained having no place carrying a sidearm.”

      I’d never say that a law-abiding, sober America lacked the right to carry a sidearm. But you are 100% responsible for every shot you fire, and “I was going to get training next year” is not going to cut it when you accidentally kill the wrong person.

      I’ve seen quite a few untrained and inadequately trained people go through various force on force scenarios. In my experience, the vast majority, when faced with the reality of a dynamic confrontation, do NOT jump to intervene. Shooting into a crowd of people is a lot easier on a square range then when all the actors — good and bad — are moving.

  6. When I got started in “serious” shooting back in the mid 80s opportunities for training and information were hard to find and expensive. Today there’s great information available to anyone that’s looking for it – youtube videos, TV shows, websites, DVDs, updated NRA courses, short courses offered by dozens of regional instructors. It’s not just “take a $1000 5 day class at a remote location” as the only option like it was 15-20 years ago.

    Someone that was motivated to learn could spend 5-10 minutes a day watching youtube videos posted by top shooters, or watching segments from some of the DownRange shows, and dry firing drills, and end up better prepared than the vast majority of gun owners. Steve Anderson’s dry fire book contains dozens of drills that can be run at home, dry, for free, to build gunhandling and shooting skill.

    1. I really agree with Ken on this one. “Training” these days isn’t limited to hopping on a plane and going to Gunsite/US Training Center/Shootrite or whatever. Because the firearms community has expanded so much since even when I got in it, there are now more than ever better chances to train. For example: Buy the Magpul Dynamic Handgun DVD. Practice the techniques in dry fire. Then for 10 bucks go shoot an IDPA match to put yourself in simulated pressure.

      Is it a high-speed-low-drag course? No, it’s not. But it’s also better than nothing, especially since you can repeat it.

      1. I wholeheartedly agree with this, but I was ranting about the type of guys who do hop on a plane for Thunder-Front-Ninjitsu school and then demean the average carrier and talk about how the un-trained (by their definition) should not carry.

        I do think that it is a carrier’s duty to do the best they can afford, but unfortunately many would still look down on them for not doing enough. Dry fire is great, practicing a draw, watching videos, reading what you can, practicing what you see on videos, I do it, and my friends in similar economic situations as mine do it, but to many, we aren’t worthy. I would also agree that rather than standard paper-punching or plinking at the range, everyone should set up (if at all possible) a scenario or two to run through when they do get to the range.

        Should someone take a shot they aren’t confident in during your three scenarios? No, but that also applies to the HSLD crowd. I’ve seen a few get cocky and completely bugger the shot. No one should pull that boner in public. But I think this is more an issue of assuming a safe level of humility in life than training.

        Granted, the people who can easily afford to practice more, but just buy their GLOCK, holster, box of hydrashocks and never go to the range while maintaining impressive bar tabs also bother me.

        1. Butch, I agree with you – I don’t like it when people say that “your training isn’t good enough” or demean other people for getting the “wrong” training simply because it wasn’t from “The Approved Instructor” or somesuch.

          While certainly all training is not created equal, I will never demean a person for wishing to improve their ability to use their defensive firearm under stress. Whether that’s shooting IDPA or taking defensive class, the policy of Gun Nuts is always to encourage people in their quests for their own inner master class shooter.

  7. I remember you askin if we would intervene, not if we would pull up and shoot all the bad guys dead Last Man Standing style.

    There are situations each of us is comfortable with and others which we are not. A blog post will never provide enough nuance to make the ultimate decision so the default one is what comes out – do the right thing and help others in danger.

    1. That was actually my point – I believe that most of us are fundamentally good people and would want to help out people in danger. The point though is to get people to take a hard look at their skills and see if they’re capable of helping those people in danger.

  8. @ Caleb,

    Good post. The problem is that people who haven’t had professional firearms training will confidently answer “yes” about their confidence level. Yes, they are that confident. Is their confidence misplaced? Almost certainly, but that doesn’t they aren’t confident. There are scientific reasons why this is true. People who don’t know what they don’t know, also don’t know that they don’t know what they don’t know.

    @ Butch Cassidy,

    As for being broke: I’ve been there. When I first started shooting over a decade ago, my husband and I had five young children at home, and lived entirely on my husband’s very low-end salary. Not an easy life, just the one we deliberately chose in order to rear our own homegrown children. Neither time nor money were easy to come by in those years… but when I decided to keep a defensive handgun on my hip, I made the decision to do whatever it took to get good training, too. I worked my tail off to make that happen: picking up garbage for the recycler, scrounging brass, working out barter deals for classes, trading babysitting with friends, working crappy weekend jobs. Anything to shake a few extra dollars loose that I could use on the range so that I would be not just prepared, but well prepared to defend the lives of the people I love.

    I don’t believe there should be laws limiting people from exercising fundamental rights like the right to self-defense. The laws shouldn’t drive affordable firearms off the market. The laws shouldn’t force people to fork over hundreds of dollars in fees simply so some bureaucrat can rubberstamp a bit of paperwork before a man can protect himself and his family. The laws shouldn’t require a woman fearful of her stalker to wait for months before she can arm herself against his certain return. The laws should make self-defense as equally available to the poor and to people in crisis as it is to people with more resources.

    But the poor, as well as the rich, have responsibilities as well as rights. If exercising those rights and the responsibilities that naturally flow out of them takes more effort from the poor than from the rich, well, that’s just the way the world works. If you carry a gun, and know that your personal morals would require you to use that firearm to protect not just yourself but others around you (family, loved ones, friends, or strangers whose lives are on the line), then you also have a moral responsibility to learn how to do that safely and efficiently.

    All the crying in the world about how tough it is to afford training won’t soften the blow either to yourself or to others involved if your untrained actions end up hurting or killing an innocent person — especially if that person is a member of your own family.

    1. I’m not crying, I’ve pulled two jobs at once, and I’ll do it again. I’ve worked my way through EMT school on midnights and enjoyed it. I’ll pay for training that way if I have to, as long as it doesn’t get in the way of my wife going to school. I have had retired pistol instructors spend some time with me for free. My father used to run me through the same qualification courses as his P.D. before he retired. I know that I need to improve, and I am as I can afford to.

      I have been beaten into the ground while other people just watched, had three guys come at me with knives, stalked by a mugger, had my home broken into (got the family out, had Officer Friendly deal with the idiot), and had a friend kidnapped from her parents. I will not ever leave anyone else alone in those situations as long as I am positive of the situation and have a shot I can take. I also never said that I would use my sidearm by default, just that I would intervene in 2&3.

      With regards to me killing my family, I never said that I would pop off rounds that I was unsure of.

      Everyone is a beginner some time, should they carry and be aware of limitations? Leave the pistol at home and not bother until they are perfect? Not even buy the gun until they are competent? The world is not perfect and I’ll sooner trust the safety of my family to a fairly untrained person who is armed over a completely un-armed person any day.

      May I remind you that I only said “Yes” to the situations based on very clear-cut circumstances. Any murk in 2&3, I just call the local constabulary. In one, everyone in the room is damned if they do, damned if they don’t to begin with and don’t have many choices in the matter.

      1. Everyone is a beginner some time, should they carry and be aware of limitations?

        Yes. Nowhere have I advocated that people not carry firearms to defend themselves. What I advocating for is exactly that – know how good you actually are and act accordingly.

      2. Everyone is a beginner some time, should they carry and be aware of limitations?

        Yes, unequivocally.

        And then they should advance their knowledge and skill as quickly as reasonably possible, given their own personal set of circumstances which will never match those of anyone else.

  9. My experience running force on force scenarios in classes is that people in their first FoF experience tend to be slow to act and poor in execution when they do act. They will also choose to intervene in some situations that are questionable, and those scenarios often have bad outcomes.

    Those that have more experience (in scenarios, not in live fire skills) are often more selective about what situations they choose to fight in, but when they choose to fight, they take action more quickly and aggressively, which usually results in a win. It’s not a skill you can learn through live fire training. I’ve seen M-class competition shooters with no FoF experience lock up just like novices.

    One aspect I find very interesting is that the pool of gun owners that are willing to participate in scenario based FoF training is small, even compared to the pool of gun owners willing to participate in live fire training or competition — even though the FoF training teaches the decision making and tactics skills against real opponents that are much more likely to determine the outcome of the incident than the live fire skills.

    Look at the incidents in which armed citizens go to trial. What gets people into court is almost always a bad use of force or tactics decision, not poor shooting. Yet the vast majority of shooters think that the most important aspect of “training” is live fire skill.

    1. Are you saying that its all about learning how to fight? I would agree 100% then. There is a reason that the service academies teach boxing, judo and wrestling.
      A firearm (or an aircraft carrier) is a tool that helps you fight, but it doesn’t fight for you.

      What kind of FoF training would you recommend to enhance firearm and fighting skills? Paintball / airsoft?

      1. I’ve found the most effective FoF training is tightly scripted scenarios, with skilled roleplayers that stay on script and are directed to react realistically when hit. (“Realistic” includes a wide range of responses lasting 0-10 seconds). You can’t learn to recognize pre-fight cues if the roleplayer doesn’t provide them. You can’t learn to communicate pre and post-fight unless the roleplayer interacts with you.

        Paintball and airsoft games and sparring drills provide training in being shot at and motivating you to move and find cover but they don’t teach the human interaction skills that are missing from live fire training.

        1. There is a second problem with paintball/airsoft in that what is concealment with a firearm is cover in either of these games.

  10. I stand by my answers… though it doesn’t surprise me that you were going somewhere with that Caleb.

    Now, here’s a war story that isn’t dripping with male cow excrement. In my first firefight in Iraq, I missed a bad guy (with my M4) that was about 20 meters away. And then I missed him again. Third time was a “charm”. Any one of you that has ever had to shoot someone knows that, even fully justified and absolutely in the right, shooting people isn’t fun. Also, even the inveterate war storyists will know that no one cops to missing a guy at 20m… twice.

    That incident put me on the path to better myself as a shooter. Keep in mind that I had always qualified expert with both my M4 and my M9. The missing ingredient was, of course, stress.

    I won’t pretend to know the best way to inject sufficient stress to really test someone’s abilities to put shots into the center of mass of a threat until that threat is reduced. I do know this: even though I’ve been on the two-way range, I still spend as much time as I can practicing with my firearm. I mentally rehearse something happening… wonder if I’m going to be up to it when a dynamic situation takes place and my wife and kid are part of the equation.

    I fear that I may not have trained and practiced enough. That fear was born in an alley in Najaf when I couldn’t hit a guy 20m from me… something I had been “training” to do for eight years of my life at that point.

    1. Thank you for sharing that with us, I appreciate it, and thank you for your service.

      That actually perfectly illustrates the point both pax and I are trying to make, which is “are you aware of the deficiencies in your skill set?” Obviously you are, and you’re trying to overcome them, which is the ultimate goal of this series of posts.

      And that’s the great thing about training – since most of us won’t ever experience a gunfight in an alley to learn what we’re not good at; the ability and option to have professional trainers, often who have had the benefit of that experience teach us is invaluable.

    2. A SWAT team leader and multiple gunfight survivor told me that under stress you should only expect to perform at about 75% of your performance on your worst (not your best) day of training. At the Steel Challenge, winning times are usually in the 70s, but if you talk to the top shooters, most of them say that they can shoot the match in the 60s in practice. My own experience with that is that my worst day in practice was a good indicator of what my match day scores would be. It makes perfect sense that under higher stress with more at stake that performance would drop even lower.

      Competition generally puts students under more stress than training courses do. The only training class I’ve taken that was as stressful as a major match was the Rogers school, where you shoot for score every day, in a 9 stage, 125 round test that takes 60-90 minutes to complete.

      1. I pretty much agree with that assessment. I can shoot the IDPA classifier in practice in around 84 seconds, but in actual match conditions I’m usually in the mid 90s.

  11. thats right, if youre not trained and incompetent you are just adding another prob to the existing one, dont do it if you dont have a proper gun training and if you doubt about your capability, just dont do it, here in the philippines we have a lot of sunday training in our range, thats why I can say that, tnx

  12. Somehow, through all this discussion, a Clint Eastwood movie comes to mind…

    Briggs: “And l never had to take my gun out of its holster, once. l’m proud of that.”

    Callahan: “Well, you’re a good man, Lieutenant. A good man always knows his limitations.”

    Dirty Harry Philosophy 101

  13. Lots of good thoughts and insight. Forgive me if I jump aroud a bit..

    Butch Cassidy, one thing you said made me cringe. “The laws should”. Don’t get me wrong I’m not ragin on you, but a mind set many have. There should be No Laws regarding the 2nd amendment, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms. Laws should be for the enemies of society.

    Every day when I put my weapon on and walk out my door I run through a what would I do situation. When I’m home it’s the same thing, with home invasions on the rise. I pray every day I never have to draw my weapon. I know we all try our best to stay out of areas where the likely hood of a bad scenario exists. But I think these thought exercises are as important as trying to get to the range. That thought process Must Include a Realistic assessment of your proficency.

    I’m one of the working poor in this economy. My wife works, I’m poor. 40 years of experienceas a CDL driver and I can’t get hired, whats up with that? My son wants to get into competition shooting, I’ve taught him since the age of 5 he’s now 13 and I can’t do a thing about it. In South Carolina one would think there would be more shooting ranges around. I have about 25 maybe 40 acers of woods by my house. Even if I put up a proper back stop area I can’t use it. It’s in town limets, yep farms all around. It’s very frustrating.

    I hear TG Gun Talk and many others including here about all the TV, You Tube, Disks, Tapes and the like available. I don’t have cable TV. I don’t have high speed computer. I have antenna TV. I have dial up, do you know how long it takes to load this stuff on dial up? Most of my day is spent looking for work, were down to one vehical so going to the library is not an option. The rest of the time is spent on fixing things and not waiting for down loads. I need to keep the phone line open as much as possable. No I don’t have a cell phone.

    So this is my challange. Compile a comprehensive list of CD’s, DVD’s, and books on the subject of carring, self defense, home invasion, mind set in a hostile situation. Basic law in these matters I recon should be check out in the state of residence.

    We’ll need title and author and I’ll go to my local county Librery with that list and see if I can’t get them to have them on hand for every one. Or at least see if thy already may have some on hand and push for more.

    Think about it. It will solve some of the problem in the training field and at the very least train the mind for a life changing puke your guts out experience. Not to mention give the poorer amongst us a chance to improve there ability.

    That’s my 2 cents for what it’s worth.

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