This is what it’s like when worlds collide
By: Joshua Gideon
Growing up in a farming community in East Central Indiana, I picked up a few things about firearms. I grew up hunting, killing varmints on my grandfather’s farm, and passing time testing my marksmanship skills on tin cans and paper plates. During and shortly after High School, I had taken what I thought at the time were formal firearms training classes in the form of a Hunters Education Course and the NRA Basic Handgun course. No one was going to tell me that I couldn’t operate a firearm or that I needed more training. To put it mildly, I was arrogant…or…confident that I could use my firearms to defend myself because of my “vast” firearms knowledge.
Fast-forward several years to my first “real” formal firearms training class. This was a two day course ran by the same Conservation Officer that taught my Hunters Education class years earlier. I thought this class would be a breeze and came in there with all the confidence in the world. (I am sure you can see where this is going.) As the bible verse goes, pride cometh before the fall. This class was nothing like I expected. In fact, not only did I not have the knowledge I thought I had, some of what I had learned over years of hunting and target shooting was crippling me during this class. I had made a bad firearms choice for the class, struggled significantly with drawing from the cheap hunting holster I brought, and was shaking uncontrollably with adrenaline which was not helping my marksmanship. I struggled through the day and my demeanor went from totally confidence to disbelief and kicking myself in the rear. I finished the day defeated and not sure I would be back the second day. Thankfully I have a bit of Irish ancestry and some of that inherited stubbornness kicked in. I attended the second day humbled and willing to try what the instructor was teaching. I finished the class with the realization that the defensive firearms world is a lot different than hunting and target shooting.
As I grew as a defensive firearms shooter and eventually an instructor, the differences became more and more apparent. When I began teaching a “low cost” defensive firearms training class for a local police department, I saw others struggling with the same things I did when I took my first formal class. The more time I spent with the students in these classes the more I realized that there was some sort of disconnect from those that had “grown up around firearms all their life” and those that had little to no experience with firearms. I witnessed a nearly 80-year-old lady with limited mobility that had never touched a gun in her life; successfully obtain the knowledge and skill she needed to defend herself (in fact she did better than many of the younger ones in the class). Yet at the same time I have witnessed those experienced with firearms, hunting, law enforcement, etc., struggle in the same class. It seemed like the more they knew about firearms, the more difficult it was to do well in a defensive firearms class. I didn’t have the answers as to why and it frustrated me.
At the end of September, 2014 I took Grant Cunningham’s Threat Focused Revolver course at Blackwing Shooting Center in Ohio. I went into it with the intention to help students who show up with a revolver to my classes and to answer one question. “Why would anyone want to carry a wheel gun?” I left there with a much better understanding of context and the final missing piece of the puzzle on why hunters, target shooter, military, Law Enforcement, etc. struggle in defensive firearms classes. I finally understood the source of the never-ending Internet debates on caliber, handgun type, holsters, etc.
Image with me for a minute putting the following five people in a room together: A veteran hunter who has been hunting all his life, an Olympic Gold Medal target shooter, a Police Officer in a rural Mid-Western town, a gun shop owner, and a gun collector with over 1,000 rare firearms in his collection. Now, ask them all to tell you what handgun you should get for self-defense. Anyone want to guess how many different answers you would get?
My guess is that the veteran hunter will say something like a Ruger Blackhawk in .44 Magnum because in their experience it is a reliable handgun and has taken down just about any game they have encountered. The Olympic shooter would probably say a tuned up 1911 because it is super accurate, adjustable sights, and has a great trigger pull. The Police Officer might say a Glock in .40 or .45 because they have been taught they need a bigger gun than the bad guy. The gun shop owner will likely point you to what’s on sale and what he thinks might be in your price range. The gun collector might suggest a Colt Python with at least a 6” barrel because of it’s value and history of people purchasing them as defensive handguns. Each person giving a different answer based on his or her background and area of expertise.
Rarely will you see someone giving advice in context with what that particular person needs in a defensive handgun. Heaven forbid we ask them to debate the best handgun caliber. Despite the song reference, this really is what it’s like when worlds collide.
I have to believe that each person regardless of background has only the best intentions and wants to give good advice to their fellow gun owners. Although we may come from different backgrounds and have different perspectives, we are on the same team. Now that doesn’t mean our perspective is always right. In fact, more times than not if we are using hunting experience to give advice on civilian defensive firearms use, we are probably not right. That’s called being wrong by the way and it’s okay to be that way as long as you find out why and correct it.
As difficult as it is to talk about defensive firearms use when many worlds collide in one place, we have to remind ourselves as advisers, instructors, and students, to stay in context. We have to constantly be checking our advice for the hint of some misplaced advice. Does a soccer mom need a plate carrier, 10 Magpul mags, a drop pouch, and an AR-15 to take her kids to school and soccer practice each day? Is the threat level such that she really needs to do that? If not, why are we giving her that advice? Don’t think for a second that advice isn’t being given either! Just look at the number of students showing up to classes with drop down holsters and Kevlar helmets and you’ll see what I mean.
Hopefully this article was thought provoking and causes us to pause before we give advice to soccer moms and hunters alike. If you are interested in learning more and developing a plan in context for yourself, please visit my website http://www.nosofttargets.com/ and look for my new Personal Defense Risk Management class in 2015!