Why We Train

Survival Depends on Training

There are very few savants who come from the womb with knowledge of gun-fighting.  That’s not to say that there might not be a few, because I am sure that some people take naturally to guns without a great deal of training, and perhaps internalize all the bad moves seen in the movies and on television (like putting your finger inside the trigger guard when you are not actively getting ready to shoot).

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Nevertheless, for most of us, what we learn about guns and fighting with guns comes from one of two sources: our military or police training and what we get from knowledgeable (and sometimes unknowledgeable) friends.  Experts tell us that only a small percentage of what we learn in training is retained long term.  Some claim it is as little as 35% when lecture and reading are combined with Audiovisual and Demonstration.  I know from personal experience that I had to watch a YouTube video to remember how to clean my M-16 (now an AR-15) after lugging that damned thing all over Korea and cleaning it every other day.  Of course, that was 32 years ago.  Screen Shot 2018-01-22 at 3.32.20 PM

This illustrates an important principle; we tend to forget that which we have learned and which we have not used and practiced.  This is because memory is very selective; we remember what we think we need, and may not remember what we actually see.  Perception and memory often result in a loss of almost 95% of the information obtained through training. It’s called the Forgetting Curve.  That’s why training needs to happen on a regular basis.

Finding this difficult to believe?  Well, watch this training video and see how you do.  Unless you truly are a savant, you were left feeling more than a little silly at the end of that video.  The fact is that training, like freshly caught fish, must be used quickly.  It must be reinforced through practice.  It must become a part of your habits and daily life.  In terms of carrying a weapon concealed, training is the difference between shooting someone and getting shot, cut, stabbed or worse.  How many times have you heard someone say “I got a gun to keep me safe!”  And how many times did the person take it to a range and learn how to use it properly?  My guess is the smaller number is the last one.

Here’s a news flash: Guns do not make you safe, but training makes you safer.

The Illusion of Safety

There is a wonderful parable from the Destroyer series of books written by Sapir and Murphy.  Yes, they are terrible pulp fiction, but buried in many of them are little treasures of wisdom.  In one book the support character, Chuin, tells the story of the King who learned that a rival king had paid an assassin to kill him.  He had his minister hire the person who could make him safe, a consultant so to speak.  The consultant’s first observation was that the walls were easily scaled.  So the King increased the height of his walls, asked the consultant if this made him safe, and the consultant said “no, people could just dig under.”  So he lined the inside of the castle walls with heavy rocks and asked if this made him safe.  Again the consultant answered in the negative.  He doubled the guards. “How do you know one of them is not your assassin,” the consultant asked. Frustrated, the King asked “is there no way to make me safe?”

The consultant said “if you want to be safe, come with me into the woods at the north of the castle and dismiss your guards.  You and I must be alone.”  The King dismissed his guards and followed the consultant into the woods.  The consultant handed the King a shovel and asked him to dig a hole.

“I am a King,” the man said.  “I do not dig holes; I command other people to dig holes.”

“This is what you must do if you want to be safe,” the consultant said.

Thinking that this would somehow make him invincible, the King reluctantly dug a nice six foot hole.  “Am I safe now,” he asked.

“Your majesty, you are in the safest place you will ever be, you are totally safe.”

“I am?”

“Yes,” said the consultant, drawing a sheathed knife, “you’re in your grave.”

The story had an unhappy end for the King, but the consultant got paid by two kings to kill one.

And, no, the moral of the story is not that you should never hire a consultant from more than 25 miles away from home, the moral is, as Chuin tells us later “no greater enemy exists than your own illusion of safety.”

Let me repeat Chuin’s wonderful statement:  No greater enemy exists than your own illusion of safety.


Because life can go from happy to chaos in a matter of moments.  One minute you can be escorting your bride down the street, and the next moment you could be confronted with a lunatic with a baseball bat and an unchecked sexual urge.  When you are wondering about, blithely ignoring the cues all around you (no people on the street, quiet when there should be noise, or noise when there should be quiet, etc.) your illusion of safety can get you killed.

Having gone to an indoor range and pulled the trigger on your firearm a couple of dozen times does not prepare you for this moment.  Can you draw before that man with the baseball bat can get to you?  Can you shoot him and stop the threat when your hands are shaking like an electrician on a live wire?  If he gets to you before you can get your gun into operation, will he take it away and use it on you?  If you don’t know the answer to these questions, then you need training.

I Already Had Training….

“Wait a minute,” you say.  “I had to take training to get my license!”

Sure you did.  That training made sure you didn’t shoot your toes or someone else’s ass off because you didn’t know which end of the firearm went “bang.”  It acquainted you with the law as it existed at that moment.  It gave you a nice little piece of paper that satisfied the statute, but it likely did nothing whatsoever for your safety.


  • Because it didn’t teach you how to draw from concealment.
  • It didn’t teach you situational awareness.
  • It didn’t teach you how to look for pre-assault indicators.
  • It didn’t teach you that a knife 21 feet away from a holstered firearm is more deadly than the holstered firearm.
  • It didn’t give you any realistic expectation of where your encounter with deadly force might occur.
  • It didn’t prepare you for the emotional costs of taking a human life.
  • And it didn’t prepare you for the aftermath.  And there will be aftermath.  You will need a clear head.

None of us would put a hammer in our pants and call ourselves a carpenter unless we knew how to be a carpenter.  A hammer doesn’t make you one.  Picking up two wires and splicing them doesn’t make you a lineman either.  Like anything else, what makes you what you wish to be is education, experience, practice and eventually, skill.

There is an aphorism that says wisdom is knowledge rightly applied.  In other words, knowing things doesn’t make you wise, knowing the right things and applying them properly makes you wise.  A different way to think about experience is that experience provides you with the way to make enough mistakes to become wise.

But in terms of gun handling and preparing to defend yourself, “experience” is often binary.  In other words, you only gain experience if you survive.  Depending on experience to carry the day when you practice without a goal in mind is counting on surviving before you have even prepared to survive.

Do You Want to Live?

Have I made the case for taking training beyond the basic training  you got when you got your carry permit?  I believe I have.  In my next blog post I will share with you some of my observations of a recent training experience.  But before I got there, I wanted you to have some time to think about why training is so necessary.

So I leave you with this video.  In it you have a deputy sheriff.  He was well-trained.  He had protective equipment on.  He had practiced with his firearm.  He was likely a good shot.  Listen to his voice as the situation goes from bad to worse.  Watch as he hesitates.  And then listen to his screams as he is shot nine times, even though he managed to wound the suspect once. From the video you can tell he failed to learn the most important lesson of his training: you have to do what it takes to survive.

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