Amateurs and Pros

Kyle is a Special Forces CQB instructor out of Ft Campbell, Kentucky. Due to the nature of his military assignments and work with Special Forces overseas he requested his last name be left off the article for OPSEC reasons.

Any gunfighter worth a damn knows there are three rules to gun fighting:

Rule #1 – Always win
Rule #2 – Always cheat
Rule # 3 – Always show up with a gun. (See rule # 1)

Active shooters have this down pretty well. Bring a gun to place where no one can shoot back (gun free zone) and start killing.

The problem is that as a nation we can’t seem to figure it out. We pretend that rule 3 does’t exist. We want to win but we refuse to bring a gun to the fight. We insist that guns are the problem and that removing them would bring about world peace. Many believe that only military and law enforcement should have guns, because they are the only ones who are trained to use such weapons, especially under the pressure of life and death.

I’d like to address this particular myth, because a LOT of people have jumped on this bandwagon. The problem with this little mythical theory is the Law of Combat that accompanies these rules.

The Law of Combat is simple: In combat, you will never rise to the occasion, you will always sink to your lowest level of training.

Now I’m a soldier, so it hurts to say this, but the reason why the law of combat pulls the rug right out from under this theory is that the police and military do very little actual shooting other than yearly qualification. Even the Special Forces community ends up on the range far less than they should.

An ACTIVE police department generally qualifies with their pistol 4x per year. The assault rifle gets much less attention than the pistol in a police environment; however, there are some officers that are required to qualify with it. Active duty soldiers in the army qualify with their assault rifle 2x per year. Reserve components qualify 1x per year. Although Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare would have you believe otherwise, the infantry soldier doesn’t carry a pistol in combat. That’s pretty much reserved for Special Forces. Military officers are issued pistols but usually receive little to no training with it. There are exceptions to this rule but they’re few and far between.

Now let me be clear about this: qualification does NOT mean training. Qualification is a TEST. The minimum army standard for rifle qualification is 23 hits out of 40 rounds fired (page 6-16 FM 3-22.9). For the pistol its 16 hits out of 30 rounds fired (page A-9 FM 3-23.35) Police standards vary state to state but the standard is never 100%.

Why is this important?

Heres why: For a soldier with a rifle, the standard is that missing every third shot is acceptable. For the pistol, every other shot. Now I’m not just talking about missing center mass here, I’m talking about complete misses. For police, the same principles apply though the number of acceptable misses will vary from district to district.

The public servants that everyone claims are the “trained professionals” – are qualified to carry their weapon with a test where it is OK TO MISS THE TARGET COMPLETELY as long as they don’t do it too many times.

To measure just how acceptable or unacceptable this standard is, a simple litmus test can be used. Simply imagine your spouse, child, mother, father, brother, sister or even yourself standing next to a bad guy. A cop or soldier starts shooting at said bad guy. How acceptable is it that the cop or soldier shooting at a person very VERY close to you has trouble putting every round he or she fires on a STILL PIECE OF PAPER at distances of 25 yards or less? A perfect example is just recently two cops in NYC (who were seasoned ten year veterans on the force) had a shootout with a man at the base of the Empire State building at a distance of LESS THAN 10 FEET. NINE innocent bystanders were injured by the officer’s stray bullets.

Many officers can barely pass the qualification under normal lighting conditions with little pressure and no one shooting at them. Some can’t pass at all. Forget about low light or dark situations. Same goes for the military. The police are not crack shots. Nor are the majority of soldiers. I am willing to concede that combat arms soldiers such as the infantry, make it to the range more than other military units and have an edge on the average civilian with a rifle. They likely have better safety practices as well. In addition to infantry, Special Operations soldiers and SWAT teams DO receive a higher level of firearms training. Even then however, I would argue they that they are dangerously undertrained when it comes to pistols. The number of soldiers that only shoot their weapons a few times a year far outnumber the ones who shoot them with any regularity.

The big take away here is that merely shooting a gun is not the same as being trained. This is not to say our military or police force is incompetent, because they are not. Theres a lot to being a soldier or cop other than shooting a gun; but when it comes to shooting a gun with the accuracy one sees in Hollywood, and with the proficiency the public imagines, there are actually very few soldiers and cops that are trained to that level, and they usually belong to the more elite units.

This is because of a lack of TRAINING!!!

Departments across the country are going broke. Congress is taking money away from the military. What does that result in?

Im glad you asked.

It means less money to buy bullets to train with and less vendor training (private shooting schools) for our men and women in uniform. If cops are lucky they work in a department that issues them ammo every month to shoot; but it’s not a requirement and it’s NOT TRAINING!!! It’s simply “Here’s ammo, go shoot it.”

That’s largely how it is for most army units too.

Training is when someone INSTRUCTS you and corrects your mistakes. It’s learning new techniques from an INSTRUCTOR who knows them. It’s doing structured drills in real as possible scenarios under the eye of an INSTRUCTOR who is TRAINING you.

THAT is being trained. Merely shooting bullets does not equal “being trained.”

Sure, you get some basic instruction at the academy or basic training. But speaking from experience it’s nothing special. You could Youtube it in 10 minutes or less and be on equal ground with a basic trainee. Other than clearing a malfunction while firing the weapon, and slightly above average muzzle awareness, a typical soldier just isn’t overly trained in weapons handling. They fire from kneeling and prone with a rifle to qualify. How often do you see that in a street shootout?

As a combat soldier myself, in the special operations community, I’m just not sure what this earth shattering weapons training is that divides police and the average soldier from civilian. If combat experience and getting shot at qualifies you to carry and fire a gun then every gang banger out there is qualified.

Next time you run into a cop or a soldier ask him or her when the last time was that he or she did moving and shooting at the same time. Ask them when the last time was that they practiced hostage shots. Ask them when the last time was they practiced pistol slide lock reload for time. Ask them about the last time they practiced shooting from behind barricades, or moving from barricade to barricade engaging targets as they go. Ask them when the last time was that they went to the shoot house and shot live rounds while clearing rooms. Hell, ask them when the last time was that they went to the shoot house period. Ask them when the last time they received actual firearms instruction was. Ask a soldier if they’ve EVER had formal pistol training.

The answers will surprise you.

You see an annual QUALIFICATION requirement is not the same as annual TRAINING requirement, and that leads me to the principle of what makes one “qualified” and proficient at handling a gun.

The principle is simple: amateurs practice til they get it right, professionals practice til they never get it wrong.

The argument that soldiers and police are the only ones trained to return fire is so erroneous its silly!!
There are plenty of civilians all over the US that shoot three gun matches that would embarrass most soldiers in a shooting competition, and it’s because they practice.

The people who carry concealed are worried about getting sued and going to jail if they miss. They’re not backed by any department or government if they screw up. They’re also not bound by any statutes of limitation or rules of engagement stating they must procedurally go through some ridiculous escalation of force before they use their gun. For them, the moment their life is threatened it is do or die. They are their own first responder. They must fire and fire well. So you know what they do? They go to the range and practice. They practice for the moment they hope never comes. They Youtube every reputable instructional video they can find. They join the NRA and subscribe to the American Rifleman with drills in it. They join the US Concealed Carry Association and get practice plans from them. Some go as far as to pay for private instruction. They practice because their life or the life of a family member may depend on their ability quickly and accurately put their gun into action. In addition to life and death, whether or not they go to jail depends on their ability to accurately assess the situation and NOT MISS AT ALL if they are forced to use their gun.

Being a sheep dog and protecting the flock is not a magical power bestowed upon you with a wand by the bravery fairy at the graduation of boot camp or the police academy. Its a choice anyone can make. Because of the second amendment, everyone that carries has a little bubble of safety around them wherever they go. Everyone that encounters them is momentarily protected in their presence.

Ask anyone thats been there, getting shot at is not something you can practice for. We are all human; soldier, police and civilian alike, and we are all scared to death when it happens. Defending one’s life and family with deadly force is a right inherent to being alive, not to owning a badge or a uniform. The ability to handle a firearm while being shot at depends on your lowest level of training. The most qualified people to shoot back in a life and death situation are the ones who regularly PRACTICE shooting. That may be a cop. It might be a soldier. It might be a teacher. It may be a grandma. It may be a bus driver. Could be a teller at your bank. It could even be your pastor. The point is that the idea of limiting self defense with a gun to a limited quantity of people such as soldiers or policemen is ungrounded. There is virtually no gun fighting /military training out there that a civilian cannot get. There are so many tactical shooting schools out there available to the public its silly. Sure, civilians have to pay for it, but at the end of the day its training cops and soldiers just don’t normally receive.

There just is no magical voodoo that makes a cop or soldier better with a gun.

There is only practice. There is only the will to get better and the drive to do it perfect every time. If you carry you owe it to yourself and those around you to seek as much training as possible, whether it’s Youtube, the USCCA website or a private shooting school. You need to shoot as many rounds through your carry pistol as you can afford because that is probably the main thing that is going to save you if you have to use it. It needs to be muscle memory. You need to be able to do it nearly unconscious, scared out of your mind, in the dark while someone is shooting at you, and you need to do it perfect under those circumstances, every single time.

That is the standard.

So get out your gun and start training. Start carrying everywhere you go. Get comfortable with your gun, it should be an extension of your body. Draw it frequently at your home (like every time you look in the mirror) so you don’t screw up the motion when it really counts. If you’re not as good as Jason Bourne or James Bond then it’s time to keep practicing. Constantly be thinking through possible scenarios. One of the biggest things you need to be ready for is to pull the trigger. I could write an entire piece on this alone but if you’re unable or unwilling to take a human life you may need to rethink carrying.

The biggest takeaway here is this: The only thing separating the pros from the amateurs is the drive and desire to never get it wrong. Its an unachievable goal; which is why we must never stop practicing. Shooting is a perishable skill. The one who practices the most is the one who will be the most ready.

So the next you hear someone say, “Cops and soldiers are the only ones trained to handle guns,” set em straight will ya?

3 comments on “Amateurs and Pros

  1. Andy Knote says:

    Wow. This is an awesome article. To emphasize the point- Practice does not make perfect- only perfect practice makes perfect.

  2. Helmut Hein, 1SG (R), AUS, SF says:

    “The principle is simple: amateurs practice til they get it right, professionals practice til they never get it wrong.” Well said!

  3. chris kizanis says:

    Well said, John.

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