Editor’s Note: The following is a post by Mark Kakkuri, a nationally published freelance writer who covers guns and gear, 2nd Amendment issues and the outdoors. His writing and photography have appeared in many firearms-related publications, including the USCCA’s Concealed Carry Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter @markkakkuri.
Read Mark’s previous articles in this “Top Five” series:
- Top Five Less-Lethal Defensive Tools
- Five Grip Improvements for Your Pistol
- Top Five Most Comfortable Concealed Carry Locations
- Five Ways to Improve Situational Awareness
I’ve had the privilege of being able to professionally train with both rifle and pistol — formally at Gunsite Academy (gunsite.com) in Paulden, Arizona, and at Close Quarters Tactical (cqtusa.com) in Shelby Township, Michigan. Informally, I also enjoy regular interaction with law enforcement officers who are glad to pass along insights they’ve gleaned from their training opportunities. Just to be up front, when it comes to firearms, I’m not a professional. I’m as civilian like anyone else, but I’ve enjoyed having professionals show me how to properly use these tools. With that, here are my top five training tips.
1. You don’t know what you don’t know.
You might think regularly reading about shooting, and especially writing about guns, provides a tremendous opportunity to know guns and how to use them. Yes and no.
Sure, there’s knowledge to be gained from experience, but not all experience is the proper or best experience. Over the years, I’ve found there are right ways and wrong ways of doing things, and even if my experience is decent, there are usually better ways.
Beyond mere experience, which has its place in the realm of knowledge, nothing has opened my eyes more to what I don’t know than taking formal classes in rifle and pistol. That’s right: Formal training in just one or two aspects of firearms taught me a lot but also showed me how far away from mastery I really am. So, while I can provide a small amount of advice to people who ask questions of me, sometimes my most honest and helpful answer is, “I don’t know.”
2. Invest in proper training.
You might have a relative who was in the military or you might have access to thousands of YouTube videos or any number of training manuals, but very few resources are superior to formal, in-class/range training with a live, credentialed instructor. Very few resources can beat the focused intensity of formal instruction from a properly trained and experienced instructor who can teach you a skill, observe you in action and provide immediate corrective feedback.
The best training resources cost real dollars, could require you to travel to them, might require you to bring hundreds of rounds of ammunition with you, might require a significant time commitment and, as such, should be considered an investment.
3. Proper shooting technique is a perishable skill.
After three days of instruction (and 700 plus rounds of ammunition expended) in basic carbine, an instructor at Gunsite warned his class, “The minute you walk off this range, you start to lose the skills you’ve gained here. So, practice, practice, practice what you’ve learned.”
You know it’s true. That’s why we talk about “muscle memory,” “unconscious competence” and other terms demonstrating the value of practice and discipline and forming good habits. How many times have you lamented the time that’s gone by between visits to your local range because you, like all of us, seem to need the practice? What’s the only thing that keeps you shooting safely? Conversely, you’ll know you’re shooting regularly when your hands start to callous in places where you are constantly manipulating your gun.
4. Appreciate those who are professionals.
There’s a right kind of being impressed with your instructor because he or she was able to clarify the detailed steps needed in a particular drill, helping you master it. And there’s a right kind of being impressed with an instructor who is experienced and credentialed in a particular discipline pertaining to firearms. These people exist for a reason: to properly train others in the right way to do things with a gun.
So, whether you’re in a class with an instructor or just meeting an instructor of a class, give them a sincere thank you or some other words of appreciation. They’ve probably put in a lot of hours and money to get to where they are so they can pass it along. Moreover, instructors might also be active professionals in a military or law enforcement role. So, be sure to realize they might regularly put themselves in harm’s way so that you can live peacefully. Thank them for their service! But be sure to thank them without gushing all over them or being obnoxious. Most of them are grateful for a kind word, but some have experienced things that are difficult to get over. They might not want to talk about it all that much.
5. Be an encouragement to others in and out of class.
At times, there’s nothing like the high that comes from successfully completing a formal training course under a great instructor from a reputable organization. And since we’re naturally wired to share what brings us joy, we tend to high-five our classmates and show off our certificates to loved ones. All good. Just keep in mind that training is about learning; it’s about going from a level of less knowledge and less experienced to a level of more knowledge and more experience. It is a process, a journey.
When you interact with others on matters related to firearms, be a source of reliable information and real encouragement. If your attitude or approach to others can only be described as a tactical monstrosity, you do nothing to help the very cause for which you train. In fact, you could harm the reputation of the industry and those who work so hard to communicate its values with clarity and conviction.
Bonus Tip: Train safely before and after training
One more, just because it’s important: Train safely before and after training. Any worthy training enterprise will pound into you the importance of a safe mindset and safe practice during training. The same goes for the training after the training. Always follow the basic gun safety rules. Practice basics with your unloaded gun. Practice with snap caps or dummy rounds. But keep doing the drills you learned in class. Consistently. Safely. And then, when you’re done training — formally or informally — stay in that mindset with safe practices.
For more critical information on the use of deadly force and other firearms and self-defense topics, visit www.uscca.com/GunsAmerica.