You don’t need professional firearms training

Let’s face it, most of us are never going to need to draw our guns as civilians. You don’t need a gun. You don’t need professional firearms training if you do get a gun.


You also don’t need to take defensive driving classes. You don’t need to keep a fire extinguisher in the house. You don’t need to monitor your credit report for signs of fraudulent activity. But you do those things because it’s the responsible thing to do, because you want to protect yourself from bad drivers, fires, and identity thieves. Carrying a gun is the same idea – most of you won’t ever need it, but if you do you’ll really, really need it.

That’s why taking professional training is important, because it’s the responsible thing to do. Carrying a gun in public comes with a burden of responsibility that doesn’t exist when you’re keeping a gun at home. It has much the same burden of responsibility that comes with driving a 2-ton wheeled missile down the freeway at 60 mph. Just because the majority of people chose to ignore the responsibility of driving a car doesn’t mean that you should ignore the responsibility of carrying a gun in public.

The two major things we should seek training on if we do chose to carry our guns are simple: how to shoot well, and when to shoot. The first is important not just to maximize our own effectiveness at stopping a threat, but also to minimize the danger to any bystanders and to allow us to stop threats that we’d be otherwise unable to stop. We tend to focus a lot on how to shoot, because that’s the sexy, fun part of firearms training. Shooting is fun. Seminars on the legality of shooting a dude aren’t as much fun. In fact, let’s be honest: whenever you get lawyers involved, the fun factor has a tendency to dip towards zero.

But knowing when to shoot, when you’re justified to use deadly force is important. Mas Ayoob covers a lot of this in his classes, and it’s also covered during the excellent Gunsite 250 handgun course. InSights Training Center in Seattle does a good job of covering the basics during their General Defensive Handgun, and goes into further detail in their more advanced classes like Street and Vehicle Tactics.

Honestly, the longer I’m in this industry, the more I believe that every new handgun owner should save up their pennies and just take the Gunsite 250 course before they do anything else. No, they won’t teach you the most whizzbang operator techniques, but they have a proven curriculum and excellent instructors. Besides, I’m fairly certain that Johnny Scumbag won’t notice you were using Weaver when you shoot him in the chest.

The bottom line on all of this is simple: You don’t need professional firearms training. But if you’re carrying your gun in public, or plan on using your gun to defend any human beings other than just yourself, getting training is the responsible thing to do.


  1. If you really look at both the successes and failures of armed citizens in various situations, the successes come from having a gun available (most important) and using it at the right time. Many successes are psychological stops that occur without shots being fired, many other psychological stops occur regardless of marksmanship (most criminals run as soon as the first shot is fired even if it’s not a hit). In those situations having more speed/accuracy than is needed is never a liability. Live fire training like Gunsite 250 provides confidence in skill, motivation to be armed all the time, and disciplined gunhandling.

    The failures are either because the person was unarmed, or they made bad tactics decisions. It’s incredibly rare to find an armed citizen incident where their injury or death is directly a result of a slow draw or bad shooting; incredibly common to find cases where armed citizens end up in court or jail because they had no training in tactics; no practice in use of force situations (force on force, video simulators, etc.).

    Bottom line: based on a review of 20-30 years of armed citizen incidents, the record clearly shows that failure to get good training in tactics/use of force is a MUCH greater liability and potential risk than failure to take a live fire “gunfighter” course. Plenty of unskilled armed citizens that make correct use of force decisions win fights; very few of those that make bad tactics/use of force decisions win the trial, and those that do pay a much higher price for victory than the cost of a few days tactics/use of force training.

    The sad part is that anyone in the training business will tell you that live fire gunfighter courses are far more popular than tactics courses. Most schools built on the Gunsite model offer multiple levels of “gunfighting” courses and very few (or no) tactics/force on force courses. Demand for instructor training in how to properly run that type of training is tiny, and most local level instructors teaching CHL/CCW courses have never attended that type of training and have no interest in learning how to do it. The skill set required to run high quality scenario-based training cannot be learned on the live fire range because it’s not a mechanical/technique oriented process; designing live fire stages for IPSC/IDPA matches is completely different from writing a live action scenario script.

    1. In my opinion, absolutely yes. Tom’s training lineage goes back to Col. Cooper and Gunsite, but his curriculum isn’t a carbon copy of Gunsite 250. Like most trainers in the business he’s now carrying a polymer pistol and shoots from a stance that looks more Isoceles than Weaver. Gunsite 250 is to defensive pistol what Chuck Berry is to rock and roll. It’s important to understand, though, that basically every trainer teaching drawing, reloading and malfunction clearing is teaching material that can probably be traced back to the Gunsite 250 lesson plans, whether the trainer knows it or not – and there are a lot of good trainers teaching at the local and regional schools.

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