You may ask, “Why doesn’t obtaining a concealed carry permit make me ready to handle a self-defense shooting?” That is similar to asking “If I put on a law enforcement uniform with the gun belt and all, doesn’t that make me prepared to confront criminals?”
Well, no, and no. Obtaining a concealed carry permit gives you the authority to carry a handgun concealed. You have proven you have the skill level necessary to accurately place holes in a non-stress inducing paper target at 3, 5, and 7 yards. The hope of the state is that you know how to use your firearm safely and effectively in a self-defense situation.
If you put on the uniform of a police officer, most people will respect your presumed authority and not be confrontive. Those who might confront you will likely be those who do not like the police under any circumstance. But the uniform will not protect you from a gun or knife attack.
To answer these questions, I want to describe what I consider to be “training.” If you have been trained in any area, you have not only been exposed to one or more skills, you have actually spent time developing the ability to perform those skills accurately, consistently, and at a prescribed level. Those skills will always have two or more steps or procedures you must learn in order to accomplish that skill. For example, the skill of shooting a handgun requires these steps: proper grip, sight alignment, acquiring the sight picture, breathing control, trigger control, recoil control, and re-acquiring the sight picture.
But each of these steps can be broken down into more steps. For example, the steps in acquiring a proper grip on a semi-automatic pistol include making sure the web between the thumb and the index finger is placed properly below the slide to minimize recoil flip, placing the trigger finger above the trigger guard (some would suggest it be placed just below the slide), placing the heel of the weak hand in the space left open on the grip opposite the strong hand and wrapping the fingers of the weak hand completely around the strong hand as those fingers hold onto the stock of the pistol, and making sure the weak hand applies more holding pressure to the firearm than the strong hand.
How many dads take the time to explain all these steps to their children when they show them how to shoot in the backyard? Two or three years later after the child has practiced shooting using whatever grip they have developed, how many dads go shooting with their children and teach them the finer points of how to grip a semi-automatic pistol?
I have seen many men and women shoot well enough to qualify for their concealed carry permits, but who never got the web between the thumb and index finger properly placed, who shot their guns while the gun was canted to the left or the right, who placed the fingers of their weak hands so far apart they could not effectively control the recoil of the gun and could not easily get back on target. Did it keep them from qualifying? No. Did they shoot accurately enough to drop an assailant in his tracks? Probably not.
My belief is that to be able to successfully stop an assailant who uses a gun, a knife, or a baseball bat, the intended victim needs to be able to consistently shoot a 4 inch group of 5 rounds at 7 yards or less. Being able to shoot that sized group at greater distances would be even better.
How many permit holders practice with this goal in mind? I don’t know. If you shoot a 9 inch group at 3 yards, is this good enough? If you are relaxed and unpressured while the assailant is at this distance, a 9 inch group should be possible.
But what if your adrenalin is surging, as it would be if you were in fear for your life or the life of a loved one, your heart is beating at 120 beats per minutes, you have tunnel vision and all you see is the weapon pointed at you? Seriously, would you be able to shoot a 9 inch group at the assailant’s center of mass?
LAW ENFORCEMENT TRAINING
Let’s talk about law enforcement training. As a graduate of a police academy, I think I can safely say that police recruits are taught the basics of handgun shooting as described above. Additionally they are trained in shoot/don’t shoot scenarios that expose them to the pressures of having to discriminate between potentially lethal and non-lethal situations. Concurrent with this training, the academy instructors will apply multiple opportunities for recruits to handle ever increasing physical and psychological pressure.
Once the recruit joins a law enforcement organization, whether it is local police, county sheriff, or state police, that officer is required to qualify at least one time per year. That means there is a standard set by that department that the officer must meet. If the officer does not qualify, he or she will usually be assigned to a role where a firearm is not required and given remedial firearm training. At some point, if the officer continues to not qualify, that officer will be terminated.
Many departments provide additional firearm training such as shooting in low light situations, shooting while moving, handling a firearm while clearing a building, and active shooter training. These trainings teach the officer how to handle a firearm safely under time, physical, and psychological pressure. These officers learn to handle their firearms and how to communicate with others in a group situation such as when coping with an active shooter.
The last three paragraphs provide just a sketch of the training scenarios that prepare officers to handle the stress of “adrenalin dumps,” increased heart rates, control of fear, the tendency toward tunnel vision, and so on, in deadly force situations.
Police officers receive stress training everyday by experiencing the pressure of facing an angry public on traffic stops, on domestic violence calls, on robberies, and all types of physical assaults on other civilians. Law enforcement officers are often the target of citizen anger when the citizens, to put it simply, cannot get what they want.
Civilians can receive similar training, even with stress added, but most cannot afford the great expense charged at these schools. There are “tactical” schools that offer weekend workshops, week long trainings that include “shoot houses”, outdoor ranges that include partially hidden targets, and surprise targets that will test the civilian’s skill at identifying which targets should be fired on and which should not.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with shooting at paper targets. Shooting at paper targets at the range whether at a professional business or a backyard setting, does not prepare the normal citizen for the adrenalin dump, for the increased heart rate, for the tunnel vision that is usual, and the other physical and psychological reactions normal people have in a life and death situation.
Getting a concealed carry permit is good. Putting on a police uniform with the gun belt and all is good. Neither prepares you to confront a criminal intent on doing you serious bodily harm or killing you.
WHAT IS A CIVILIAN TO DO?
The issue most important issues here are stress, fear, adrenalin that surges through the body, hands shaking both from fear and from the adrenalin dump, tunnel vision that keeps you looking at the gun instead of the person with the gun, auditory constrictions and so much more.
There are individual skill sets for civilians to learn who wish to defend themselves with firearms. For example, learning to draw from concealment while moving, learning to complete the draw by coming onto the target quickly with no wasted movement (i.e. not arching the draw to come down on the target and no scooping the draw to lift the gun to come up to the target), learning to immediately focus on the front sight, learning to shoot using the reset of the trigger, and much more.
Civilians need to locate gun ranges where they are allowed to move while shooting including to practice drawing from the holster while moving, to use supplied objects as though they are either concealment or cover, to learn to shoot while moving from cover to cover, and again, much more. Learning to draw your weapon and to shoot while moving, as long as you are also skillful and accurate while shooting, could be critical to your survival in a self-defense situation.
Regardless of the type of range where you are shooting, learn to add pressure to your practice by adding the measurement of time to your performance. If the range will allow it, have someone yelling in your ear or banging on something to distract your attention. Be creative.
Going to the established ranges where you can shoot paper targets is very useful and should be done. This practice helps you to practice the skills of breathing control, trigger control, correct sight alignment and sight picture, correct pressures applied by the strong hand vs the weak hand, and just becoming deeply comfortable with all aspects of your firearm.
Learning to move and learning to handle stress/pressure while defending yourself are musts in civilian training beyond getting a carry permit.