Blog Rewind: The Trainer, The Practicer, and The Gun Collector

By: Joshua Gideon

You are lying to yourself! Okay, so that may be a little harsh. How about we say you “might” be lying to yourself. By now you may be wondering where this crazy guy is going with this. Let me explain by pointing out three of many types of gun people.

The first one is the gun collector. These are the guys and gals that hang out in gun shops, always have a gun for sale and always looking for the next gun they want to purchase. They are all about the monetary value of a gun and they are your go to people when you need to know the value of a vintage 1911. You will rarely find a gun in their collection with more than a box of ammo through it. Many of them have never been fired. I say this with a disclaimer; there is nothing at all wrong with being a gun collector. I enjoy looking at and even shooting (depending on how rare it is) old guns. I have many friends that are gun collectors. Where it gets dangerous is when they have a false sense of confidence that comes from being familiar with firearms. They begin thinking because they know the mechanics of a particular firearm that they are cable of using it in the context of a self-defense situation. I’m afraid that many of them get enchanted by this idea and begin to believe as long as they keep doing what they are doing they are good. Besides, just having a firearm is a magical talisman, right? Let’s put it this way, if you have spent more money on firearms than you have on training, you are a gun collector. That may be a hard pill for some to swallow, but it’s true. If you are spending more money on firearms than you are on training, your knowledge is in the hardware not the software. Again, there is nothing wrong with this, just don’t deceive yourself into thinking you have more skill than you do.

The second person is the practicer. Yeah, I know, it’s not a real word, but let me explain. This person is very similar to the gun collector in a lot of ways and it may be hard to distinguish between the two. The main indicator is they hoard a lot of ammo and spend exuberant time at the gun range. They burn through thousands of rounds of ammo (generally .22 LR) and have the targets to prove it. They have never taken a formal training class in their life and are obsessed with the next target shooting drill they can practice that will make them look good. Now this is where they may trick you. If they find a drill that they struggle with, the problem is clearly the gun or the gear they have and must be remedied immediately. Even if they just purchased the gun two weeks ago and have only put 50 rounds through it. It must be sold or traded for the next model up. Or at least an alternative brand that is clearly better than the piece of junk you have that doesn’t shoot right. (Are you drowning in sarcasm yet?)

The practicer only practices things that are measurable…accuracy, speed, split times, group size. They have a great day on the range when they cloverleaf three shots at 50 yards. Bad days at the range are rare. They are challenged, but not more than they are capable of accomplishing in a range session. The goal of the practice is to walk away with a pat on the back and confirmation that they have mastered the skills needed to shoot firearms. Yet, these are the same people who troll the Internet to seek out advice on “the best ammo” to carry or “the best sights” to put on their gun, etc. They debate “thumbs forward” or “thumbs up” and the never-ending “caliber” debates. If they had the proper training these are all things that would already have answered within the context of what is the most efficient and works for them! The dangers with this person abound. They are not easily convinced that their skills might not be enough for self-defense. Foundationally they sincerely believe they are more capable than they are and many are suffering from the Dunning–Kruger effect. (Don’t know what that is, read this article from Claude Werner “The Tactical Professor” here: This illusion of grandeur in their own skills keeps them from evolving and moving forward. They are good and they know it. Who could be happier than that?

Only, they are deceiving themselves. Yes, they may be the best practicer in the world, and there is no doubt they have developed a skill. They even have a great time doing it with the added benefit of an ego boost. But when it’s time to pay the piper, will that skill save their lives? When they are truly honest with themselves, is what they are doing enough?

This is where the third person comes in. They are the Trainer. I don’t mean the one doing the training, but rather the student who is getting the training. This person likely started out as either a gun collector or practicer. At some point, for whatever reason, they pushed aside their ego for a minute and honestly asked the question, “Am I as ready as I need to be for a worst case dynamic critical incident?” Their answer was a resounding, “NO!”

Just like many warriors before them, they accepted that and decided to focus on getting training and guidance from professionals and experts who have dedicated themselves to the art of self-defense and defensive firearms use. They began by taking a basic class and starting over in their head. Repaving the road of knowledge and patching where needed. As they evolved, they begin asking, “Why?” and questioning traditional wisdom spouted in the industry. Most importantly, they failed. They push themselves to failure every time they step foot on the range, because they would rather fail in training and practice than fail in life. They don’t have closets of unopened boxes of ammo, but rather scrounge for just one box of ammo so they can go practice. Each round sent down range has value and a purpose. Their guns and gear are not collector’s items. They are worn from hard use and could never be passed off as new. But, make no mistake, they are well maintained.

The trainer has invested more money in training than most people have invested in their entire firearms collections. They sacrifice buying the latest popular gun, to spend that money to be taught by some of the greatest instructors in the world. They gain knowledge skills from those instructors; take it home, and practice that skill until it is mastered. The trainers have the knowledge and the skill; they are well prepared for a worst-case dynamic critical incident. But you won’t hear them say that. They know they still have weaknesses and strive to evolve into better warriors.

There are many Gun Collectors and Practicers. There is nothing at all wrong with that. Just don’t lie to yourself and think you are something you are not.

If you don’t like that and want to be prepared when the music stops, be the trainer.

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