I did the Massad Ayoob class last year and the entire class was shooting midsized or full-sized handguns. Strong side belt carry was the standard, and the holsters were a wide range of leathers and plastics. There was one gentleman who utilized a tactical vest with a chest holster, but more about that later. Anyway, sometime during the two day shooting class, Massad asked the class who actually carried a snub nose revolver or micro .380 in a pocket for their standard mode of carry. Well, I’d say about 80% of the class raised their hands, and the memory has really stuck with me.
You see, on some level, gun classes are a little competitive. Targets and timers by their nature lend themselves to being ranked. This competitive element was one of my first lessons in firearms training, because at my very first gun class with Tommy Judy, I wanted to run a 9mm Glock on my belt, but, in “real life” I carried a revolver in my front pocket, and I just felt like I would be missing out on something by getting instruction on a totally different platform. Sure, I would draw faster and have higher capacity with the Glock, ultimately being more competitive…but that isn’t why I was there. I was there to increase my capabilities with my defensive tools.
So revolver in hand, I went to gun school. On draw and fire drills, I was massacred. Most of the drills I performed required more reloads than the other students. In short, looking at the clock, I was one of the worst shooters in class. However, there were other aspects that I dominated in. Malfunctions? What’s that? While other shooters grappled with tap/rack/bang clearance drills, I simply had to pull the trigger again. In terms of accuracy, my 2nd hand snubbie kept up with the Glocks, 1911’s, and other assorted handguns present. The point being, is that I really got my hands dirty with my carry gun that day, and I learned more about it’s strengths and weakness in a few hours than I had in 6 months of owning it. Sure, I knew revolvers load slower, but until you really experience something hands on, can you actually understand it?
So, to my point, why do people show up to gun class with a Glock 17 in a Blade-Tech holster when in reality, they walk the streets with a Ruger LCP in their back pocket? Sure, that Glock is an easy running gun, and a general-purpose holster sure makes weapon manipulation substantially less daunting, but there seems to be a massive disconnect. Please understand, this isn’t a question of quality necessarily. I often see people wearing solid guns and gear from reputable manufacturers at gun classes. While there are issues of sub par equipment that plague some classes, this isn’t one of them. This is an issue of using a steak knife to butter your bread or bringing a moped to a motorcycle class. Remember the guy with the tactical vest I mentioned earlier? Well, he kept that vest by his bed, with gun, ammo, flashlight, and other goodies loaded up. His logic is, if he hears a bump in the night, then he throws on the vest and has everything at the ready. While I originally rolled my eyes when I saw his gear, I quickly came to the realization that he was one of the few people at that class who was actually training with his defensive gear. The 20 hours he spent on the range with that set up might have taught him something that could save his life one day.
I don’t want to drone on about self-defense or tactical decisions endlessly. There is always an element of shooting that is just good old fashioned fun, and I’ve gone to a few classes with out my carry rig, simply because I wanted to play with a pet pistol more than I wanted to hone some tactical edge. I think my only concern is if folks don’t take a moment and decide what they want out of a class, they are doing themselves a disservice. I think if you are going to a defensive class, then you should carry your defensive gear. If you are going to a class to tune up your fundamentals, than make yourself comfortable. A few moths ago I used a full sized HK USP holstered in a mediocre synthetic Uncle Mikes in a gun class. Is that my carry system? No. However, the class was more about a fun day for me than a defensive tactics class, so I just wanted to work on some fundamentals with a gun I’m fond of, in a holster that made drawing and re-holstering easy.
At the end of the day, I do believe there is no good reason to not get training. You’ll always walk away improved, but how much is ultimately up to you. If you are serious about the responsibility of carrying concealed in public, then train with your carry gear. I often think about Tim Elmer, one of the instructors at Shootlogic. Sure, he has an assortment of guns, but he has been using the HK P30 pistol for almost every class he has participated in for the last two years (as a student and teacher). He also shoots IDPA with it. Not surprisingly, he carries it concealed as well. One gun, two holsters (depending on application) and thousands of rounds later, who can doubt the comfort he must have with his rig? Most of us are not as serious a shooter as Tim, but I think we can all see the virtue in his strategy. All I can suggest is that you take a serious moment and think about what you want out of a class. It deserves a little introspection, and you will be the one who gets the most out of it.