On the danger of being a gear and training Luddite

I like training classes.  A lot.  Pistol and/or carbine.  I learn things at these classes.  Training classes, while (sometimes justly so) derided as “entertrainment” are a quite viable way to learn, to brush up on, and advance your own personal level of skill with the martial art that is shooting.  I always point new shooters towards a good two day pistol training class as the most important building block in enhancing one’s shooting proficiency with any firearm.

However, any gun forum observer/participant can tell you that it’s easy to get caught up in training; to follow a “sensei” (instructor) and to only “train.”  There are guys out there that treat carbine/pistol training classes as a religion and only train with the leader of their religion, their chosen instructor.  Guys, you need to branch out.  Try USPSA, USCA or even classes from another instructor.  Try competition, your training will help you there and you will see challenges in competition you will have to solve for yourself.

You’ll see the negative effects of only training when folks obsess over the difference between say, “Flat Dark Earth” and “Urban Dark Earth.”  Grown men will debate endlessly the merits of various brands of tactical pants and show each other pictures of their “battle belts.”  Many of these training addicts will avoid actual shooting competitions and fall into the trap of sneering at “gun gamers.”  I myself, love USPSA.  It may not be real life but the real life shooting skills you are forced to learn in order to be competitive.  It’s somewhat telling when a self professed “gun gamer” is far and away the high shooter at a tactical shooting oriented carbine class (I know, I was there).

As a former infantry Marine, I automatically eschewed playing dress up for training classes.  I alway tried to go as “slick” as possible and even did my transitions from carbine to pistol using an AIWB (Appendix Inside Waist Band) mounted pistol.  Worked pretty well, actually.  No chest rig, no multicam, no $200 hearing protection (the sub $50 Howard Leights are outstanding), as little specialized gear as possible.  I was “training like I would fight,” dontcha know.

I did well in the training classes on timed and scored drills.  Ironically, one of the best classes I ever took was decidedly not “tactical” and helped me build a foundation to be a better than mediocre shooter.  As I always tell folks getting into shooting, take a good pistol training class.  It’s much easier to shoot a carbine/rifle than a pistol but skill with a pistol directly carries over to shooting any other firearm.  Get a pistol with good sights, a good holster, ammo, some spare mags, and training.

From learning how to shoot a pistol does shooting skill begin.
  However, training like I would “fight” caught up with me and it caught up hard.  I recently attended the excellent EAG Basic Carbine Course and proudly went there without the recommend knee and elbow pads.  Chest rig for carrying magazines?  Hell no, I’m training like I would fight!


  Well, on the last training day; I hit the gravel hard as I shot a timed drill.  My left elbow came away bloodied but seemingly fine.  I did note that I would have gotten better times in drills and done less fumbling with a…..chest rig for magazines.  In other words, I would have gotten more out of training with said chest rig.  A very good friend read my review and quite generously sent me a BCM 03 Chest Harness.


  Anyway, a week later as the lessons from “Uncle Pat” sank in, my elbow started getting worse.  The small scrapes seemed to have given me an infection.
  A visit to a doctor resulted in basic antibiotics.  A day later, things worsened.  More antibiotics courtesy of a emergency room visit failed to work.  Another ER visit, intravenous antibiotics.  At this point, lines had been drawn on the infected area, showing the progression of the infection.
  At this point, I had been diagnosed with a very bad cellulitis infection.  Moving the arm was painful, resting it on a table was out of the question.  The specter of elbow pads and me “training like I would fight” haunted me, smirking.


  Fortunately, my brother in law is a real life House MD.  Board certified infectious diseases doctor.  A quick Skype video session and he took me off of the antibiotics that weren’t working and put me on Zyvox.  Nearly instantaneous results after two emergency room visits and one appointment with my MD.  My brother in law speculates that I might have had MRSA.
Having been shot in my other elbow, I am very lucky to have received the treatment I did.  My friends being my friends, instantly dubbed me “Elbowla Patient Zero,” a title I wear with pride.


  Moral of the story?  Be functional, not fashionable.  You don’t have to be clad head to toe in multicam to shoot and some gear can protect you, save you time, and allow you to enjoy shooting much more.  For less than $20, I have some great elbow pads that could have literally saved me hundreds of dollars and so far, six trips to the doctor (counting the ER).  Shoot, I even splurged on some $24 knee pads.  Remember, it’s easy to be hard, it’s hard to be smart.


 Don’t be that guy, get some gear, and train smart.  It’s easy to be hard, it’s hard to be smart.  Also, don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself.  If you show up to a class clad head to toe in “tactical” gear and clothing replete with a “tactical” shemagh, and overweight, I might make fun of you.  If I do, please reciprocate with comments about “Elbowla Patient Zero” and enjoy your carefully chosen gear and more importantly, your training time 🙂



  1. Lesson Observed

    I decided not to listen to/ read the instructors “Coming to Class” page

    Lesson Learned

    When the instructor comments on/ recommends something, it would behoove you to pay attention…:)

  2. I am only a Baaaad Instructor when one fails to seat their AR magazine in their AR.
    That is usually rapidly followed by the awarding of a Moosecock to the malfeaser. ARRRRGGGGHHHH!

  3. Glad to hear you didn’t lose an appendage in that incidence since it was caught seemingly soon enough afterwords. The story about the young lady who River roped a while back, fell cut her leg on rocks and ended loseing one arm and a leg.So sad; but seemingly small accidents can go the other way very quickly. I never went to an instructor or paid. That’s because Viet Nam was Free and you didn’t have to pay for airfair or lodgeing.

    1. Welcome Home Brother!

      But gee, I was in RVN as well.

      And I also understood very early on that what the Marine Corps and NYPD taught was insufficient for the needs.

      I spent a lot of time and money to acquire the skills necessary to win the fight.

      Of course, I never belonged to the *too cool too train guild”.

      Just sayin’..:)

      1. Was heavy into–and–around for years into the trade one form or another. Have to break off contact with the enemy locally, because ;were moving from this Merry-Go-Round to a Galaxie Far, Far, Away soon near the kids –Henderson , Nev. where my avocation is best served out. Last year I bought a derelect gold Mine in Idaho near the Nev. border, but 8,000ft. up in the air. No gold, but has stream running through the property which includes 26 acres of land. One road in/up, same road down and out. Plan on persueing my own survival facility business there and spending money on some good hunting along the way. Quit smoking start of last year because I here Air is thin at 8000′

  4. I got my free training with the Corps but I am also not too cool seek further improvement 🙂

    1. Improving my back acct. will deflect me off to a diff. angle of the shooting/ survival trade. Whereas I can move into acquiring skills in the development of training others, instead of training me.

  5. When I hear the word “behoove”, my GruntSense™ tingles, and hallucinations of 0400 wake-ups and angry Brown Rounds dance in my head if I don’t immediately comply.

  6. “Train like you fight”

    Well, if I knew I was going into a situation (like a class) where diving into the gravel was considered to be a strong possibility, I might show up with pads too. XD

    Glad to see that both your elbows are okay.

  7. Shame the shemagh has been ruined by the wannabes. It’s an immensely useful piece of cloth.

    I carry one in my bag whenever I shoot. I drape it over my rifle on sunny days to keep the scope from heating. Use it to dry my hands before shooting a stage on hot days. Even turned it into a sling when someone borked their shoulder at the range and had to go to the hospital.

    And once — on a fishing trip where I was in danger of being carried off by mosquitoes — I did the whole Ninja face thing and suffered only one bite around my eyes.

    Make sport if you will, but I’ll bet I’ll get more from my $7 shemagh than I will from my $18 elbow pads…

  8. Now imagine that there were no more antibiotics. Just a few short generations ago, what may have seemed a simple scrape like you experienced could turn into a life or death scenario. And yet there are people who are insane enough to want us to go back to singing ‘Kumbayah’ and living in grass huts, what could possible go wrong?

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