As the years rolled on, YouTube and DVD’s started to augment my already vast intellectual mastery of my chosen discipline. I was a dead shot at the range, and I’d often wonder how police could expend so many rounds in a gunfight and hit nothing…I guess they just didn’t know what I knew. Well, one day I was offered a trip to a one day class at a new shooting school. It was owned by a Sherrif’s deputy who was his departments training officer and it seemed like a fun way to pass the time (even though I probably didn’t need it). That day is when I learned what all the magazines, books, videos had really taught me…absolutely nothing.
None of it was real. Sure, I understood what defines a double action semi-auto, but I had no idea how long it truly takes to draw my j-frame from a pocket holster. Somehow my self-appointed expert marksman status disintegrated when I paired off with a partner on a dueling tree. To say the least, it was a humbling experience, and not entirely an easy one. I knew it all, didn’t I? I studied and I practiced (sort of) at the range. The truth is, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. Until I saw my skills liquefy under a little pressure; I never realized how much of a beginner I was. That’s a tough lesson 15 years into your area of “expertise”.
There was a whole different aspect to shooting that I never realized. I look back at the flimsy cloth inside waistband holsters; barely hooked to my yuppie department store belts, and I am grateful that I never had to use them. The sad truth is; I wasn’t just ill equipped and unprepared, I was dangerous. I was a child with a gun on my hip and a few quotes from Jeff Cooper. I confused raw data with wisdom, and I covered it up with a heaping side of luck and a dash of arrogance.
In the last few years, as I have attended about half a dozen shooting classes, I see the world through slightly wiser eyes (just slightly though, I’m not quite as smart as I think). While bordering on the verge of sounding anti-gun, my time on the range has brought me to a new way of thinking. If you have not gotten practical and ethical training for your CC then you are a hazard to yourself and others. I hate the idea of infringing on anyone’s rights, but I grapple with the idea that there are people who have never practiced drawing and re-holstering a pistol under pressure walking around with a deadly weapon. In all of those years of “study”, did I ever once decide what to say if I had to draw? Did I ever seriously practice malfunction clearing? Was I ever 100% positive that my gun was glued to the same spot where it started that morning? Did I know the best way to interact with the police after an encounter? The answer to these very important (and very elementary) questions is no. I didn’t know what I was doing, and I tricked myself into thinking I did.
What I find so terrifying is that defensive shooting is a realm of life and death; freedom or incarceration; and there will always be elements of guilt and misery if you have to pull that trigger. Is that a world to be entered into lightly? I did. I thought I was ready. In 8 hours, I learned I was not.
I have never heard of a famous boxer or dancer or scientist that learned from YouTube videos, and shooting is no different. I now have a coach (hell, I have several really). I found a school that can teach me what works, help me forget what doesn’t, and correct me when I make a mistake. By the way, it’s ridiculously fun. I have made good friends with other students and trainers. I giggle like a school girl in-between drills and crack jokes at every opportunity. There are many ways to express our love of shooting. Some hunt, some compete, some target shoot on the weekends, but I like to train. I still like the magazines, blogs, and videos out there, and I would never dissuade someone from enjoying them too, but just realize it is not an education. So, if you want to educate yourself and ratchet up your skill set, close your browser, and find a school. You will never regret having your eyes opened.