You are not an operator

Operator-speak has become the lingua franca of the shooting community, and it’s annoying. Here’s the thing: Special Forces, Delta, Navy SEALs, etc are all super rad dudes – our nation is well served by this group of steely-eyed killing machines. I sleep quite well at night knowing that there are some truly scary people out there willing to kill our nation’s enemies.

dynamic story

But we need to get over the notion that someone who has spent years kicking down doors is an expert on civilian concealed carry or home defense simply because they have combat experience. Yes, that person is quite likely an expert on how to effectively employ deadly force against a willing and determined foe, but the sort of tactics you’d use in Afghanistan may not be appropriate in Fishers, IN.

Of course, the civilian shooting community is ultimately responsible for feeding the frenzy. The concealed carry explosion has created a massive glut of students looking for someone to teach them how to use these new tool they’ve acquired, and to be perfectly frank, no one wants to go to a pistol class called “Effective Use of 911 while hiding behind your bed.” But if you call that same class “Dynamic Home Security Solutions” and pad the range time with room clearing drills and unorthodox shooting positions, it’ll fill right up. Especially if you get a sexy Youtube video of your students yelling “THREAT” and then pieing a corner while firing blindly into a room.

Of course, this causes a problem for me, because I want people to get training. I want everyone who makes the decision to carry a gun or who owns a gun for home defense to be well versed and skilled in its use. Because if you someday do need that gun, I want you to win the fight. No question in my mind that’s what I want. But I also want us to spend our time and money wisely, and stop using words that don’t make sense. Your Kel-Tec .32 ACP isn’t a “weapons system”, in fact in Kel-Tec’s case it’s barely a gun. Your holster and belt isn’t kit, and you probably don’t need to learn counter vehicle ambush techniques.

I’m not saying don’t do those thing, because Operator Fantasy Camps are totally rad and quite a bit of fun, but I don’t want someone to spend $1,000 on one of those courses learning to kick doors when he’d be better off taking a course that focuses on practical concealed carry applications. Hence my dilemma – if we accept that in general training is good, where do we draw the line between “good” and “bad?” Let me know your thoughts in the comments.


  1. Many people train for that moment that may never come. A lot more people see firearms as the new golf and a operator for dummies course is just fun pure and simple.

  2. That’s why when I chose a concealed carry course I selected a company and trainer that, although he did have prior military experience, he had spent the past several years in civilian executive protection. He stressed training in average, every-day clothing, focusing on situational awareness, and other things but didn’t use all the operator jargon. His other classes are titled things like “Basic Pistol”, “Intermediate Shotgun”, “Practical Home Defense”. And I feel like I learned much more practical information from him because of that.

  3. Ehh. Couple of things. First of all, I think you meant “may NOT be appropriate in Fisher, IN.”

    Second, there’s a difference between gun employment and concealed carry laws and techniques. You used Chris Costa’s pic as your meme for this post, and I think you’re doing him (and some others) a disservice. The Magpul Dynamics course he used to teach, and the courses he teaches now, are geared for that moment when the gun is about to be employed to resolve the threat. Period. The guys you mentioned who are instructors now are really teaching that piece of it. They may blend in some bits about concealed carry techniques–how to dress, how to choose your gear, etc., but they’re not going to teach local laws. Why? Because they teach nationally, and it would be impossible for them to teach the intricacies of 49 sets of concealed carry laws and issues (leaving out Illinois for now, naturally). If you want to learn how to do concealed carry in Sioux Falls, SD, then you should find an instructor who’s from there and his curriculum should cover that. If you want to learn how to do home defense, then you should take a course that teaches that–I know Mas Ayoob used to teach that sort of thing.

    If you look at how Costa and some of the others teach, they’re using EDC type equipment. No vests, no chest rigs, none of that ninja-fied gear. In fact, in the shotgun course, Costa even says “You generally aren’t going to strap on belt rigs and plate racks to take care of a threat in your house.”

    Are there some toolbags out there who are teaching the wrong stuff? Sure. Is Costa one of them? I doubt it. Is Hammerfour? Probably.

    I think you need to parse this out a little more, because it sounds like something kind of set you to thinking and you hammered this out in the heat of the moment. It would be better if you talked about that specifically, rather than painting all ex-Spec Ops guys who are now instructors with such a broad brush.

    1. The intent of the Costa pic was to imply that he, a legitimate instructor, is mocking the Hammerfour Douchebags of the world. I would take a class from Chris, Travis, Pat Mac, Kyle Defour, or many other tactical bros in a heartbeat because they’re professional, smart, and can shoot well. There are quite a few other dudes…

      1. Not going to threadjack by any means because I agree with a majority of your article, but I still get a kick out of the fact that HammerFour is being used as the example of what is wrong with the industry. That discussion passed long ago and I am not here to revive it or change your minds.
        To echo many of your points, in our classes we actually stress the use of normal, everyday gear above overly tactical pieces because that standard gear is what you will have on 99.9% of the time. We do our best to teach practical solutions to people willing to learn. As a civilian instructor and student myself, I agree that there needs to be more stress on fundamentals and practical application during class time rather than overly dynamic drills. Education of the customer is primary above all else. But that’s just me.

      2. But… all those dudes have combat experience in Iraq and Afghanistan…and you stated that may not be necessary in Fishers. IN…

        1. All those guys are also legitimate professionals who understand the difference between Afghanistan and Sioux Falls.

  4. Spot on, Kent. I always lose interest in a course when I watch a video of their instructors teaching self defense weapons handling in a private citizen environment, yet the instructors are all MOLLE’d up, with pistols on thigh rigs, etc.

    Look, I have a MOLLE “go bag” with the house carbine — it’s one-stop shopping for the rifle, with enough ammo & stuff for “the bump in the night” or the “Gotta grab rifle and go” because of sudden natural disaster forcing bug out. It’s basically a 3×3 mag pouch on a shoulder strap, with a pistol holster MOLLE’d to the front. One hand grabs rifle, one hand slip bag over shoulder as a bandolier, DONE.

    It is NOT an “operator kit”. It’s a “gun purse” (or, if you’re doubting your manhood, a “gun attache” for a couple of mags, flashlight, trauma kit, etc.

    I automatically suspect anyone teaching a class on home defense who has something much more elaborate is being “practi-KEWL”, not “practical.”

  5. Pretty sure that headline is trademarked by Vurrwapen Blog by now!

    But damn, that Costa graphic is going to have a permanent home on my hard drive.

  6. Great article. I never was anything close to an operator and now I am a crippled old fart to boot. But I still need to be able to defend myself. Not against an operator because that ain’t going to happen but against the various low lifes that frequent the places I like to go in my retirement. So I need basic skills maintenance with equipment that doesn’t make me conspicuous or heavily laden.

  7. Lets be honest, the kind of classes you are talking about are more like Call of Duty fantasy camps than practical training.

  8. Just like anything else in our consumer based world, a person looking for “Tactical” training needs to think about what they need and is most likely to be used. Secondly we need to do our research on reputable trainers that offer “real life” training.. So example.. For me personally, I feel that 9 out of 10 chances are that I would be using my handgun in a defensive situation.. So I tend to focus on handgun courses, that is taught by a reputable trainer that is a retired metro police officer that was also an academy instructor prior to retirement. Taking the other carbine classes are super fun but i spend most of my money on handgun training..

  9. If 2A rights are about keeping the citizens free against a tyrannical govt- what’s with the ragging on those who aspire or desire to achieve “operator” proficiency with their weapons?

    Even if they will likely never use it. It seems to me that the framers of the constitution intended for the citizenry to be on equal or better footing with the govt in the guns and training department.

    If there were ever a time our govt wanted to enslave via confiscation, I would want as many former military and well trained “operator” wannabes who know how to shoot on our side.

    I hardly see the point of an article like yours that paints a broad stroke on a whole group of people because they want to train for more than cowering behind the bed with a gun while calling 911.

    In my neck of the woods (the sticks), police response time is anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes. It might be good to know how to clear rooms if the bad guys are messing with your wife and kids when you drive up to your house.

    Consider that a determined opponent or multiple assailants will quickly mess up your day if you don’t know how to shoot while moving and make multiple combat effective hits; something your operator types are more likely to cover than your traditional NRA gun instructors.

    Your welcome to hold your view- in this day and age with tyranny and home invasions on the rise it looks myopic and dated to me.

    1. The only problem with that theory is that home invasions are not on the rise. In fact, crime is a historic low.

      1. Way to ruin a perfectly good rant with facts guy…

        …but then Chris doesn’t care about criminals, he just threw that out there to sound reasonable. He’s another nut with Obama Derangement Syndrome.

    2. If you want to be an “operator” join the military and do it for real.

    3. Actually, 2A rights are not intended for citizens to resist a tyrannical govt. 2A rights were intended for citizens to resist foreign invaders and citizen insurrection. It’s in the scotus decisions as well as early language. Forget Jefferson, for he wrote every way about most everything, depending on his audience, his mood, and what year it was.

      1. [quote]Actually, 2A rights are not intended for citizens to resist a tyrannical govt.[/quote]

        Might want to do a bit more reading, chief:

        “Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom of Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be, on any pretence, raised in the United States.”
        ― Noah Webster

        “I ask sir, who is the militia? It is the whole people…To disarm the people, that is the best and most effective way to enslave them…” – George Mason

  10. I think you can learn something useful from everyone, even if you learn this is a bad idea. Your money and your time, do what you want. Hopefully they also have the Common sense to know when and if it can be used. You will eventually specialize your money and training time, to what really works.

  11. I absolutely agree with you Caleb. One of my sergeants used to say there are three kinds of knowledge — need to know, nice to know and nuts to know. And for the people who are just entering the world of CCW, there’s a lot of basic stuff they NEED to know — from basic gun handling to elements of criminal law. As they gain proficiency, they can add to that with NICE to know things. But learning how to throw flashbangs or how to fastrope out of a helicopter… that’s probably NUTS to know — from a practical, what do I need to know to protect my family in a probable home defense scenario. Trust me, it’s a hell of a lot of fun but there’s lots of more practical things to learn FIRST.

    Even operators (or even garden variety grunts) had to start with the basics.

  12. It’s my understanding home invasion can be a number of things that do not get filed under “home invasion”.

    Everything I have read indicates a rise in home invasions despite the decline in violent crime.

  13. OK, I guess I didn’t quite understand the point of the meme. Sorry about that. I can see your point, but I also think your brush is too broad. Toolbags like the Hammerfour guys or the kicking the slide guy, they’re grossly misrepresenting the skills people need. But there are some great ex-operators turned trainers out there, too. Being more specific in your criticism would have been helpful.

    1. In my defense, if I’d known that this would be the most popular post today, I would have spent more than 10 minutes writing it.

      1. So you’re saying then, that you tend to fling without the intent for it to stick? 😉

        1. More like “Sometimes I rant about stuff, but people usually don’t read those posts because they suck.”

  14. I attended a class with those Dynamic guys you are talking and mostly all people there were LE, SWAT or Military i ended being a better shooter and it was in general a great experience since also i took it when ammo was plenty and cheap you cant beat that!

  15. I would liken these “operator” courses to fantasy baseball camps and laugh them off as harmless, but expensive, fun, but if people leave those things having an inflated sense of one’s abilities it could actually be dangerous. We would all be better served by sticking to no-nonsense (and likely not as ego-stroking) offerings on pistol, shotgun and rifle defensive basics to include CCW-specific pieces. Just the opinion of a former jarhead whose only glorious moments these days involve two little daughters as opposed to squad-based maneuvers or automatic weapons.

  16. Oh man…now I can’t open a Concealed Pistol License class that includes bayonet training and a discussion of which MREs are the best.

  17. The only training I’ve ever had was OJT, so I have no idea what these private courses cover. That said, I hope, particularly with women, that they stress not just the tactical but also the psychological elements of carry and firearm defense… I think that the biggest factor in successful self defense is being mentally prepared to shoot and not to mistakenly believe that all foes will submit based on you pointing a gun at them. If you aren’t sure (something simple mental preparation should be able to remedy) you can pull the trigger when you need to, don’t display the weapon.

  18. Would muzzling the sky during a reload close enough to your face to check the chamber by smell count as overly dynamic?

  19. This post reminds me of the people who say you shouldn’t own an SUV because you never drive off road. It’s really none of your business what kind of car I drive, my reason for buying one only needs to be because I want to.

    The same goes for training and terminology. I don’t need to say only some special elite is allowed to do certain things. You deny that’s what you’re telling us, but really, what else is the point of your post?

    Some people will be good at the “operator” training, and some will not. Just because I can’t spiral a football into a tire at 60 yards and play for the NFL doesn’t mean I can’t have fun playing football. If I want to embarrass myself playing football in my back yard with some friends, then I will.

    And if I want to get training to pretend I’m back in Iraq and still fighting some muj, then I will. Frankly, I find all that pretty tiring and uninteresting, but I am all for everyone and anyone doing it well or badly if they so choose. Otherwise, you set up the expectation that someone else should be telling me what to do, and I don’t much like that.

  20. Ok, so I was in the Service, branch doesn’t matter imo. I received BCT (Basic Combat Training for those of you who don’t know) which included weapons handling/maintenance. In the military the training model is crawl/walk/run. You basically start with “Point that end at the bad guys” and move on from there. By the end you’re practicing buddy drills where one shooter provides overwatch/covering fire while the other moves to another position of cover. HOWEVER many of the younger service members that I’ve met and spoken with (and trained) did not learn any of the fancy alternate firing positions or to effectively shoot from cover. Or, for that matter, how to effectively control recoil to make an accurate follow up shot (for the controlled pairs that the military teaches) not to mention reload drills. Everybody has seen the movies where the “operator” dumps an empty mag and reloads without missing a beat and he’s back in the fight. Or more dangerously, he just keeps on shooting without regard to the ammo capacity of his firearm. Magazine drills, ready ups, Weaver drills…the list goes on and on about what an operator should know how to do. However, none of it is worth a crap if the student doesn’t know how to effectively execute the fundamentals. Range drills are fun. I love doing them, and I love teaching them. BUT sight alignment, breath control, trigger squeeze and follow through are more important for the average citizen because it enables them to actually put rounds on target. I think that the author makes some good points about what should and shouldn’t be taught to private citizens, but at the same time if a guy at the gun club walks up and asks me to teach him how to make faster follow up shots, I’ll teach him how to more effectively control his weapons recoil. Anyway, sorry for the rant. It’s just my take on things. Btw, if anyone is interested, yes, I’ll be teaching my wife and children the fundamentals before I teach them to pie a corner. 😀

  21. I’m with Caleb 100 %. I taught gunfighting (unofficial term) to LE and govt counter-terrorist types for most of two decades, but one of the biggest things dissuading me from doing it privately now is that too many if not most such schools I hear about have too much attitude, too much right wing political ranting, too much posing, too much tacticool 511-polo-and-tan-pants-wearing, wiley-x sunglass-on-the-forehead, shaved-head, hyper-curved-bill-ball-cap-wearing cultural conformity, and teach too much extraneous silliness in order to stretch their curriculum to get students to take intermediate class, advanced class, master class, master ninja class, ad nauseum. Meanwhile, where’s the apolitical master teachers who pound fundamentals and dry drills and muscle repetition and who have the integrity to walk the talk that muscle memory + mindset + confidence win gunfights? Yeah, yeah, I get it that marketing tacticool is what boosts profits. And there’s nothing wrong with 511-style clothes. I wore ’em. But being part of the SOCOM community (it’s a large community who includes lots of guys who rarely handle pistols) doesnt’ make one a pistol-fighter on the street anymore than being in the CIA makes someone a ninja assassin.

  22. I get your point of this article, I understand that there are several tiers; maybe not the right term, in the firearm training community. That not all courses offered is geared for civilian consumption, are you leaning in the direction of advocating a standardization?
    My last point, I know that we are inundated through the different types of media the image of the “operator” from print to T.V. Reality shows, but I know of at least one gentleman who goes quitely about his day, “Mexican” carry a subcompact, in a pair of $10 Walmart jeans and a simple plaid shirt. What little I’ve gleaned talking to him across the fence, he’s had to dress in this same fashion on a few adventures, So I believe the generalization might be off the mark as a day in the life of an operator is not all plate carriers, and chest rigs.


    1. As an example I offer Season 2 episode 7 has Matt Jacques, a Marine Veteran and police officer, discussing clothing modification for conceal carry. Here is a program that brings them all in, LEO, operator, competition shooter, and conceal carry under one roof.

  23. I think thats awesome how u brought that to the forefront. As a civilian i feel that relative classes are imperative to CCL’s. Id much rather spend the $ on relative classes then training i will probably nvr use.

  24. wrong. since you want to make a blanket statement like that without a shred of legit support, I’ll be just as ambiguous about how your statement is flat wrong. 2A was intended to address a civilian response to tyranny, foreign or domestic.

  25. I like where you are going with this. I am an Active Duty Soldier and have a LOT of long-range marksmanship background. I like to keep a pretty good finger on the pulse of the shooting community, and try to keep up with what’s going on. I have definitely seen a lot of “frenzy” floating around, and everyone that has seen any of the Magpul Dynamics videos tends to think they are now ready to counter any threat at any range, using any weapon system. I almost lost my shit the first time I heard a Soldier say that he had to gas up his gun, while training. I didn’t know whether to laugh, or be upset. Sometime the things that Chris and Travis say sound pretty cool in the videos, but Legion productions can make a simple range look like a hollywood action flick. You are correct that there should be a line drawn, and I think that line is somewhere in the range of; when guns and tactics start to become “cool,” you’re either doing it wrong, or you’re doing it for the wrong reasons.

  26. Good article. I do think there is a place for both types of classes, and I think everyone has to identify the level of shooter they wish to become. If your concern is SD, focus on practical household and possibly CC classes and skip all the urban commando stuff. if you want to achieve proficiency with multiple weapon platforms in a wider variety of scenarios, why not take the more elaborate courses? to me it’s all about what you’re trying to accomplish, and how much time and money you are willing to invest in developing your skills. there are plenty of gun owners out there that don’t have a “ceiling” on what they want to know, so they master the basic skillsets, and move on to increasingly specialized training that has increasingly marginal return on their overall effectiveness as a shooter. your article is spot on in that new shooters should PROGRESS thru these training types, and are better prepared if they forego the “cool” training until they have developed a strong shooting base of knowledge and experience.

  27. Oooook… I think This “Caleb” guy needs to take it down a notch. Quit taking himself so seriously, and learn the concept of sarcasm. While I agree whole heartily agree with his take on training. I think the rest of his article is just a bit over the top. I leave the discussion with a simple piece of advice, Lighten up. I have news for the boy. What ever you own for personal defense or otherwise, IS, CAN, WILL and SHOULD be referred to as your weapons system. Because, what is a Weapons System? A weapons system is a reference to your weapon, collective weaponry, and any Accessories, tactics, and/or training used to employ said weapons(s). Yes, this includes your .32 Caliber Kel-Tec. Here is proof they allow anyone with a computer to post stuff on the web. Take Chris’s picture down you Blasphemer.

  28. ah ohh! you used a picture of Costa in a meme. You can not use the jesus christ of operating operators, or anything written thereafter will be void of any wisdom. You should know you can not say anything that does not support the tactical training BS industry holy trinity

  29. I’ve been through a TON of shooting schools, pistols, precision rifles, carbine and shotgun classes, and not once did I ever think of myself as an “operator”. What I took away from those classes has, on two occasions, likely saved my life. And it’s amazing to me how quickly those acquired skills kicked in and took over. I like taking them because A) they’re a truckload of fun, and B) I come away from each of them with a little bit more knowledge of what I am able to do with my particular guns. And that’s what keeps me going back. I learn something new each time out. All that said, armchair commandos are everywhere. The people I see at the range with 8 guns and ARs laden with every gadget known to man, are people who watch too many tactical TV programs. Some of those guys need to spend the money on a REPUTABLE school, instead of sinking more money into another “weapon system” and believing it’ll keep them safe. If you’re going to own these guns, take the initiative and learn how to actually use them properly, rather than just practicing what you see on TV. The knowledge you gain just might save your life or your loved ones.

  30. Caleb, quit punching cardboard with your tricked out race gun and cheater reloaded ammo, enlist ASAFP, go to BUDS, join Team 6, come back in a few years and neck step all these shit talkers and start a new training camp.

    Season Two guy.

  31. Larry wrote it and asked me to post it on his behalf. – Paul

    I want to add my 2 cents to the CCW debate in terms of Tier One vs civilian instructor ; to me this argument is laughable. Case in point is Mike Pannone’s Concealed Carry classes he offers thru Alias Training ; Mike has a resume teaching and doing concealed carry at the highest levels in the business – far beyond anyone in the civilian sector. And I can tell you from personal experience that Tier One operators can find themselves in situations where the mere fact they are carrying a pistol can put their lives in danger; contrast this to civilians who may have to face criminal charges if they are caught carrying in the wrong place. Comparisons made by civilians who have never walked one step, let alone a mile, in the shoes of someone like Pannone should be viewed in the context of jealousy and sour grapes, a situation of which both labels apply.

    Larry Vickers

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