Whoops, I meant Firearms instructors aren’t necessarily qualified to teach self-defense. My bad. (Damn click-baiting editor!)
I was reading this great post by the Student of the Gun himself, Paul Markel. I’ve known Paul for some 20 years and always think of him as Mr. Lime Green Fanny Pack. Seriously, my earliest memory if him was reading an article in Combat Handguns that laid out why carrying a gun in a lime green fanny pack was a good idea for some bodyguards. From that humble beginning he’s gone onto become one of the stars in the industry.
I also have some uglier memories of him in his tactical kilt. Hey, I don’t delve into people’s private peccadilloes. It takes all kinds.
That post – and you should read it – dovetailed into one of my pet peeves, one that I usually express as: “there’s a lot more to self-defense than shooting, although shooting is a key component of it”. These days there are legions of firearms instructors, many I’m not ashamed to say with skills far exceeding my own, that purport to teach you how to deal with an armed encounter. Most of them are seemingly unaware that dot A of shootin’ skill doesn’t necessarily connect to dot B of handling same. And of course there’s the legion of fast n’ fancy shootin’ gurus that never question their assumption that their high level of skill is all they need to deal with the bad thing. Just never occurred to them it might be otherwise.
Rather than go into the specifics of what I mean, let me illustrate the point with a hypothetical. Suppose that you knew that you’d be faced with a dangerous situation next Friday that you couldn’t avoid, one that may well require you to shoot your way out of it. Are you smarter if you A) spend the intervening time shaving a second off a shooting drill that you can now do in 7 seconds, or B) spend the next week practicing awareness and visualizing tactics? (Obviously I’m referencing Ayoob’s Priorities here.)
Too many instructors out there completely ignore the issues of awareness, de-escalation, intermediate weapons (OC, etc.), handling kinky people and situations, and proper tactics, including pre-event tactics. They assume that technique and in-the-event tactics are all that’s necessary to know. Truth be told, that’s because that’s all they themselves probably know. Teaching clearing techniques and tactical med skills is of far less value than showing you how to not have to use those skills to begin with as the situation presents itself. A reasonable level of gun skill coupled with a reasonable level of these other skills is of far more real-world survival importance than exceptional gun skills without them.
I’ve seen first hand how exceptional skill with a gun can get you into trouble when all you’ve ever practiced is the gun…when you’ve neglected the premath and aftermath skills.
This is one reason I prefer firearms instructors with LE experience (or plain-clothes undercover experience of any kind — I’m thinking overseas here). Cops have to know all the rules around use of force and they have usually developed a keen appreciation for the premath skills of awareness, etc. Plus they are paid to go in to situations that demand these non-gun tactical skills every day. A civilian, no matter what their level of gun skill, usually doesn’t have this experience. Ex-mil guys often have a lot to teach, too, but often it’s the in-the-event skills. Ex-mil guys who have gone on to become sworn LEOs can offer the best of both worlds.