There seems to be a lot of confusion out there on what constitutes tactical training and where to get it, and what constitutes concealed carry instruction and where to get that. I’ve heard “on no, you can’t possible get good tactical training from a concealed carry instructor, you need to go to a place that advertises tactical training, preferably one run by someone who claims to have been special forces or at least was an astronaut.” Okay, I’m having a bit of fun with you, but I want to talk seriously about just this mindset.
First, let’s talk Illinois (or insert your own state here) mandated CCW training as defined by the CCW Act and carefully monitored by the States auditors to ensure compliance. I’m a Illinois CCW instructor and in years past have also been a Florida CCW instructor. Illinois to its credit is doing you a favor by requiring the most comprehensive training in the country. High fees and enforcement methods aside, you really want this training. The first 8 hours is “legal stuff” you absolutely want before you strap on a handgun and venture out into the wilderness, and the second 8 hours centers mostly around the gun, gun safety, marksmanship, care and cleaning, and of course the qualification shoot. Not everyone needs the second eight hours and a lot more think they don’t need the second eight hours. But everyone should at the very minimum know the laws inside and out.
Now, let’s talk tactical training. Tactical training at its core is nothing more than situational awareness and a plan. That’s it. You need to know what’s going on around you, and what you’re going to do IF you are unfortunate enough to become involved in a shooting. You’re saying “wait, that’s not what I meant. I mean tactical training like the Navy SEALS or Force Recon Marines get.” Really, you have plans to rescue hostages in foreign countries, take over small countries, or train foreign forces? Of course you don’t. Me either. I’m glad my military days are over and I don’t have to do that stuff any longer. Now all I have to do is worry about my fellow citizens, often high on a controlled substance, sticking a gun in my face or trying to steal my car with my family in it. Not so bad..
I think what most people really need whether they know it or not, is tactical training as it relates to concealed carry, home defense, vehicle defense, and other scenarios you’re likely to encounter as a civilian and might use your firearm to defend. What you really want IS A PLAN to keep yourself alive when your SITUATIONAL AWARENESS reveals you’re in danger. And often to carry out plans you need certain skills.
Skills and tactics are very different animals. You might be the best competitive shooter in the world and it won’t help you a bit if you don’t have a plan or notice what dangers lurk ahead. In some scenarios it could end with you killing an innocent and serving the rest of your life in remand after being stripped of all your worldly possessions in civil court.
So let’s talk a bit about concealed carry training. There is the state mandated 16 hours of training we all must take, and there are wonderfully qualified instructors who specialize in doing this training including myself. This gets you a permit and hopefully enough legal sense to stay out of trouble. But will it keep you alive during the worst encounter of your life? Probably not. I’m sorry, but after serving five years on a big city PD and retiring from military service where I did service mostly overseas, I really don’t think the average person coming out of state mandated CCW training is any more equipped to defend their lives than someone without the training. In many cases the false confidence could get you killed. All your CCW permit tells me is you took the class, maybe you remember a small percentage of the legalese of the first day, and on a good day you can hit 21 out of 30 shots in the scoring ring of the biggest paper target I know of from a spitting distance.
Yes, I’m being harsh. But not unnecessarily harsh. My goal is to help you see the type of training you really want and need. My goal is to possibly save your life.
It should be obvious at this point you need more training. Very specific targeted training. Let’s talk about what’s out there. Mossad Ayoob and his Lethal Force Institute couldn’t come more highly recommended. Save your dollars, wait for a class opening, and then you can travel there and take his all day intense courses. Or Gunsite, Thunder Ranch, Magpul, and others. These are very good classes, mostly geared towards the professional, and you still have to travel a long ways, spend long hot/cold days outside, and of course pay a lot of money for the privilege. It’s worth every penny.
The best places hire some of the best instructors. And some not so good instructors. I’d recommend you match your choice of instructors with your learning objectives and what real life experience they have as related to those goals. Do you want Special Forces training? If so, contact me and I’ll put you in touch with some very good people. Make sure you’re extremely fit, your pockets are full of loot, and you’re already at a pretty high level and they might take you in. But the good ones that are worth their fees rarely accept civilians or civilians without a background.
I see some instructors with NRA credentials as long as an grizzled sergeants service stripes, but what exactly does that tell you? Mostly that they scraped together enough time and money to take NRA courses. Now don’t get angry, I’m an NRA instructor. But only for the basic courses that support either my licensing or my other classes. Will I get more NRA qualifications? Probably, maybe, dunno. The more I learn about their courses the more outdated and a waste of time and money they ‘can be’ for certain goals. Like concealed carry training, which is my professional focus. So sure, if I ever identify a demand from my customers for a certain course I’ll go get the training and teach the course.
But I sure as heck won’t be building my list of NRA courses as a way to build or even boost my qualifications because I don’t have any real life qualifications. That would be like a model RC airplane enthusiast using their training and experience to teach others to become an astronaut. It’s related training to be sure, but it sure in the heck isn’t practical training, and until you’ve flown to the moon or at least to the Space Lab it’s not practical experience either.
So what should you look for in an instructor. Easy. Someone who can teach you how to maintain situational awareness on the fly as it relates to a dynamic plan to stay alive and protect the ones you love. Easy right? No? It’s not easy. Far too many instructors buy the hat but haven’t yet developed a head to set it on. And those with real experience might not have what you need specifically. So this is what I looked for and how I gained a large part of my experience:
Police experience is always a plus. A real plus if the person served in a big city and worked in the areas riddled with the type of people who are statistically more likely to be your threats. Drug interdiction, gang suppression, afloat patrols (if the loc al harbors/bays are used for drug and gang movements), and any sort of enforcement with violent offenders. Double or triple the value if they’ve ever been in a shooting and lived to teach a concealed carry course. Military training can be just as valuable because frankly no one else puts themselves out there and faces down more threats on a continuing basic than military folks with the right experience. So not the cook, not the radio operator, the seamstress or sail maker.
Huge giant pluses if someone with the experience above recognizes that most folks don’t need or want to learn to be Rambo, but instead need very specific and pointed training on how to live through an encounter with the type of threat you’re more likely to encounter. The drug addict, the rapist, the home invaders, the carjackers, those who must steal to feed their drug habit, those prone to rage and violence, gangs, and more. These are your threats. These people are normally younger, more fit, care about their lives (and yours) less, and are prone to violence of action to achieve their very short term goals. These are the threats you’re more likely to face and the threats you’re more likely to be killed by. So not only should they have experience with offenders of these types, but ideally have survived through their own encounters with such threats.
Those reading my site or facebook page or have been through my CCW or basic NRA courses might be familiar with my “Step Up” concept. Step Up, what’s that? It means several things. I’ve had countless individuals straight out of my state mandated CCW course ask “now what? In a short while I’ll have my permit and be able to carry legally, but I’m not sure what to carry, how to shoot it well., what holster to use, how to conceal it, and I certainly don’t feel prepared for the fight of my life.. having a gun just isn’t enough. At some point I’ll have to STEP UP to face such a threat and I’m not sure where to go..” These are the people my Step-Up classes are designed for.
Having had police training and experience, military training and experience, 30+ years of concealed carry experience, and unfortunately have had to “step up” myself on several occasions I have a keen understanding and firsthand knowledge on exactly what you need to know and what your training should consist of. I am of the firm belief you don’t need the entire set of training and knowledge I’ve had. Who has the time of the millions of dollars Uncle Sam as spent on my training? Very few.
What you need are the small and essential subsets of that training, arranged and taught in a building block design where one set of skills builds on another. Where, at the completion of such training you’ll be able to read a potentially dangerous situation and instantaneously devise a suitable plan to keep yourself alive. You don’t need to be as fit as an Olympic athlete, or as young as a Chinese Gymnast. And you shouldn’t need to be rich either. What you should be is as fit as someone your age is expected to be, as old as necessary to still be concerned about your safety, and dedicated to protecting yourself and your loved ones enough to complete and finance a 5-6 part series of half-day classes specifically aimed at such training. And, you should be dedicated enough to practice at least once a month, preferably once a week until your desired skill level is reached, and every month thereafter to keep it there.
My Step Up courses are designed to be completed in a single afternoon, cost under $100 each plus 200-300 rounds of practice ammo,with 30-90 days of practice before taking the next class. Why? I firmly believe new skills need time to percolate. To be practiced. I will never be one of those “training centers” who recommend you take all those courses as fast as you can afford (because they make more money that way).
Instead I recommend you take the first training module, and then go out and practice it for 30-90 days and let your skills percolate and grow stronger before the next module. Don’t take the next module because you don’t feel confident you didn’t reach the level you think you should have from the previous module. Each module in my Concealed Carry Step Up series is built on the previous module, and each teaches you how to drill and measure your progress so you’ll know when you’re either ready for more training, or maybe you’ve having a bit of trouble with something so you’ll come back for private lessons.
So there you go. We now understand that tactics means nothing more than having situational awareness and a plan, what type of training serves you the best, what experience and mindset to look for in an instructor, what type of courses will get you there, and last but not least, what I personally offer as an instructor in this area. I hope this has been an informative read. Feel free to contact me at any time with questions, or use the comments feature of this blog (on my site, my articles are often “re-posted” (i.e. stolen) and on other sites), you can ask questions in the forums so everyone can benefit from your questions, and of course you can contact me directly.
Stay safe and until next time..