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Here we are in the year 2008 and except for small pockets of reality we, as tactical trainers and shooters, really haven’t progressed very far in the last 20 years. What is it about us as teachers and students that cements our position? What is it about us gunmen that makes us so unwilling to change? The Earth is not flat and the world we fight in isn’t 180 degrees either.
So you are thinking by now “What is Yeager talking about now!?” Well I want to discuss the firearms training and our unwillingness as trainers to change our curriculum. I believe that some of the things we do are counter intuitive and are potentially deadly habits we are ingraining, or in some cases, the positive things we are making our students unlearn.
Why do we hold onto some very outdated training practices? Just because some tactic or technique is old doesn’t mean that it no longer works. If nothing “big” in your program has changed in the last 5 years are you really being progressive? I don’t know any tactical training school or police department in the U.S. that teaches to put your off hand in your pocket and blade sideways to the target and fire one handed. That was state of the art at one time and now we giggle when we see the old photos. I am not saying to change for the sake of change but I am saying that evolution is reality.
There is a story that talks about a young couple preparing their first Christmas dinner and the wife cuts off the end of the ham before putting it in the oven. The husband asks why and the wife explains because her mother taught her to do it. The Mother shows up for dinner and the son-in-law asks why she cut the end of the ham off and her reply was the same. She had cut it off because her mother had. A phone call to the grandmother (and why wasn’t grandma invited to Christmas dinner?) reveals the reason. Grandmother cut the end of the Christmas ham off because it wouldn’t fit into her roasting pan. Her daughter and granddaughter just did what they were taught and never questioned it.
We do that as instructors too. Teaching something just because you were taught it isn’t good enough. We must know why we are teaching it. We must also know why we are not teaching certain techniques or tactics. Looking for a different way is not the path. We must look for a better way and when we find it we must be humble enough to change what we are currently doing.
If we are not teaching a particular tactic or technique we should know why it is inferior. An example of something not to teach comes from the valuable lessons we learned with the Newhall California massacre of four Highway Patrol Officers. The officers were told during qualification to put the empty brass in their pockets. This was done to speed clean-up on the range. The officers were supposed to skip that step in a gunfight but they “reverted to their training”. You cannot do half hearted training and then simply hope it will work. “Hoping” you will revert to your training is dangerous. It is more dangerous if the training you revert to is substandard.
You will NOT rise to the occasion.
You will NOT default to your level of training.
You will only default to the level of training you have MASTERED.
In nearly every class I teach I have to correct a student for taking the time to put empty magazines in his pockets. If it is between strings of fire they will even pick them off the ground to put in their pockets. It is a terrible habit and I make every attempt to explain to my students why they shouldn’t do it. Empty mags are to be jettisoned. Empty magazines are dangerous today just like empty brass was dangerous at Newhall.
Something that bothers me about the vast majority of firearms training being done in government and civilian sectors is that we do not, as a whole, teach our students to operate in the 360 degree world in which we live. Many people are trained to shoot the target right in front of them and then reholster. Even though we read statistics from various sources and we know our students are going to very likely face multiple adversaries we do nothing to prepare them for it. Not turning 360 degrees with a gun in your hand is an unsafe training habit.
How do we scan all the way around without violating one of the four cardinal safety rules? At Tactical Response we use position “Up” or “Down” to do this safely. I am continually told that scanning isn’t safe because if I point it down I will shoot myself. Well if down isn’t safe what about up? I have been told pointing a gun up is unsafe because I could shoot myself in the head, I might shoot a plane or bird, I might kill people in the next town if the gun goes off, and, well… it isn’t “cool”. So these trainers think I am safe as can be if I am pointing the gun straight ahead but if I change the angle of the muzzle I suddenly become a bumbling idiot. Only pointing a gun downrange is an unsafe training practice because that is not what you are going to do in a gunfight. We must prepare our students for that eventuality.
We also teach students to manipulate their gun up high at eye level. Before you start with the “Starsky and Hutch” comments I will tell you why. If you allow people to load where they want to the gun typically ends up somewhere around their belt buckle with their head pointed straight down. Their head follows the gun like a dog looking at a Frisbee. That is NOT the posture you want to have in a gunfight.
This doesn’t mean “in front of your face” as to block your ability to see. You should understand that one of the effects of adrenaline is “tunnel vision” and this greatly decreases or completely eliminates your peripheral vision. What we are doing is getting the gun into that cone of vision for a fast and positive reload. So keep your head up, see what is going on and get the gun loaded and FINISH THE FIGHT!
Many folks pay lip service to terms like “real world”, “tactical”, or “survival” but if they are not teaching 360 degree scans where the student turns all the way around they are kidding themselves. If they have more than four gunhandling rules they are doing their students a disservice. If they run a cold range they are wasting people’s time. If they don’t make frequent upgrades to their curriculum they should hang up their hat. Firearms training must meet the three “R’s”. It has to be Recent, Relevant and Realistic. Is the stuff you are teaching or taking meeting that standard?
Change for the sake of change is never a good thing but stagnation is just as bad. Be open minded today and in the future for new ideas, tactics and techniques.