Teaching to Your Audience

19-Mar-14 – 05:57 by ToddG

If you teach basic CCW, do you teach those first time students about sight alignment and trigger control and breathing and the other fundamentals of marksmanship?

If you answered yes, are you properly addressing your audience? Odds are, probably not.

This might come as a shock to anyone who’s been reading this website for a while and certainly for anyone who has attended one of my classes like Aim Fast, Hit Fast or Aim Fast, Hit Small because I am all about sighted fire and visual control of the handgun. Students hear me talk all the time about how it’s eyes focused on sights, not grip or stance or cadence, that determines how fast you can shoot and how accurately you can shoot fast. I don’t teach, advocate, or like “point shooting” or “target focused shooting” or whatever folks are calling it this year.

Unless I’m teaching to the 99% instead of the 1%. Which I don’t do often, thankfully. But a few times a year I get asked to do a private class for a friend-of-a-friend who turns out to be some VIP (Congressman, business exec, etc.). The first thing I ask these folks is whether they intend to practice regularly or even come back to the range once a year. The ones who are honest say no. They’re not going to become shooters. They’re gun owners. And there is a huge difference between the two.

Look at the photo below. That’s what people see when they’re first learning to use their sights: doubled targets and visual confusion. Who is going to excel under those circumstances? And let’s face it, until sighted fire becomes so ingrained that it’s habitual — which takes a lot of practice — people simply aren’t going to do it to anyway. So again, if we know that the typical CCW guy isn’t going to use his sights when he needs them, why do we spend so much time teaching him sighted fire and marksmanship fundamentals?


The answer is that we don’t adjust to our audience. Serious shooters like us use their sights so we train people to be like us. But most of those CCW students aren’t like us. And teaching them about front sight, trigger press! is like teaching a McDonald’s cashier about global economic theory or the agronomy of potatoes before she can ask, “Would you like fries with that?”

When one of these non-shooters, whether he’s a MLB star or Joe Sixpack, comes to class and clearly demonstrates no desire to train regularly I don’t bother talking about sights or how to press a trigger. We talk about safety… a lot. Then we hit the range for some simple drills to get used to the gun making loud unpleasant noises. I want the student to get comfortable with a gun going off in the hand, and then build his confidence in an ability to point the gun toward a humanoid target and hit it in the chest (or thereabouts) with some degree of rapidity.

Then, if there’s a little extra time and a little extra ammo, maybe we’ll talk briefly about sighted fire for greater accuracy. Because maybe, just maybe, the student will catch the shooting bug and want to get better. But most basic CCW students are always going to be gun owners, not shooters. And as instructors we owe it to them to teach them things they can actually use instead of things we want them to learn.

The next time you teach a class, ask yourself a simple question: are you teaching to the audience you want, or the audience you really have?

Train hard & stay safe! ToddG

  1. 46 Responses to “Teaching to Your Audience”

  2. Thank you for posting this. I was wondering if I was crazy for starting to come to this conclusion myself — that ‘instinctive’ shooting may be the fastest way to get a brand-new shooter of perhaps limited interest, up the learning curve a bit farther and faster. It runs against things I’ve read from the respected teachers (Cooper, etc.) but there seems to be value in it, as long as you teach its limitations as well as its value.

    By Redchrome on Mar 19, 2014

  3. I could not disagree more vehemently. We teach basic pistol classes. We teach what works, and we teach the fundamentals correctly….including sight focus. What the student wants to do with that is up to them. I do not want a situation where we have ingrained the first thing into their experience to be something that is not “instinctive” (shooting in any capacity is not instinctive), but is often said to be. We teach how to properly use the tool…to every student we get-period. In fact, “looking at the target” is one of the things that just about guarantees a gigantic pre ingnition flinch in order to “see” where their rounds go.

    Now, do we discuss the degrees of visual verification needed at various ranges, of course. At close distance will simply blocking your line of sight with the back of the gun work-yes, and it is part of what we teach. With that said, the fundamentals need to get taught correctly, especially at the first stage that someone is with a solid instructor. That is the time to build a good foundation.

    This will be one of those things that I am glad that others are doing. Everytime we get a call from one of our basic students that they smoked their entire CHL class on the shooting test, that student is glad that they invested in good fundamentals training, and were given the proper marksmanship tools rather than an instructor determining that they don’t need to learn to do things properly.

    By nyeti on Mar 19, 2014

  4. As instructors, I know many of us have spent large blocks of time/effort to correct bad habits that students have picked-up previous to attending “a real class.”

    So, I must say that I am greatly disheartened to hear that you will be adding to these bad habits in a formal manner. Especially given your knowledge that these non-sighted methods are poor substitutes for sighted fire and will produce poor results when used in many situations, and given your quote above stating “I am all about sighted fire and visual control of the handgun”, I find the path you use to get from teaching one to teaching the other rather tortured.

    I can’t wait for the chorus of half-assed gun handlers to begin chanting “But it was taught/endorsed by ToddG!” You know that is going to happen, right? You know that in doing this, for whatever reason(s) you feel are valid, you are giving support to those methods that you profess to disagree with?

    *Shakes head in disgust*

    By DJ9 on Mar 19, 2014

  5. nyeti — I would very much like to see your lesson plan that includes, in one day, gun safety, the legal application and implications of lethal force, and a guaranteed ability to teach a student to focus on his sights under lethal stress. Because based on previous discussions you gave me the impression that you thought developing such skill took time and practice.

    My whole point is that some people will advance to the level of investing time and practice but most won’t. So I can either teach those other people something that will help them accomplish something or I can waste their time teaching them nothing that will ever be any use.

    Just like you don’t teach a random high school kid threshold braking and j-turns, I wouldn’t teach a Congressman who tells me to my face that he’s not coming back to the range after today how to practice 15yd Bill Drills. So what can I teach him that he’ll retain and be able to put to use? Some very minor point-shooting technique and confidence that he can deal with the 50% problem along with clear discussion that he’s abandoning the other 50% because he doesn’t want to learn or practice.

    DJ9 — I think you’re overstating the case. If an hour or two of learning gun safety and learning to hit a target with an index/silhouette technique instead of “front sight, trigger press” makes a student too difficult in your eyes, I’m sorry. We take students as they come to us. Unlike you, I take the exact opposite approach: if someone who originally got taught Easy 50% Method now wants to get serious about his practice and his training, (a) I’m happy to draw him into the fold and (b) I expect him to be motivated enough to understand that he’s going to learn new things.

    By ToddG on Mar 19, 2014

  6. Hmmm…I can’t say that I agree with this. I believe that it is not only pertinent to discuss and teach fundamentals at every level as they go hand in hand with safety in my opinion. Just like you are never too “advanced” for safety, you should never abandon a fundamentally sound curriculum. I have observed that it is actually learning the fundamentals that can actually bring people over to the “shooter” side.

    Why we may ask? It is because when you take a gun owner that struggles with their “pattern” and then teach them HOW to shoot GROUPS you have opened their eyes as to what they can achieve in a short amount of time(relatively speaking with a competent instructor)with what they may have been struggling with for years. It is the learning a new skill properly that usually drives interest in learning more whatever the endeavor may be.

    Not nearly as eloquent as Nyeti, but fundamentals are just well…fundamental.

    By Tim on Mar 19, 2014

  7. I’ll repeat the last line of the original post.

    The next time you teach a class, ask yourself a simple question: are you teaching to the audience you want, or the audience you really have?

    What percentage of your basic CCW students actually come back for more advanced training? What percentage actually practice regularly. Because if you spent the class teaching them something they’ll never learn well enough to use when you could have been teaching them something “lesser” that they WILL be able to use to defend themselves, you’ve done them a disservice.

    By ToddG on Mar 19, 2014

  8. Interesting observations. I very seldom have the opportunity to teach shooting skills to noobs, as I’m part time and conduct mostly in-service training to folks who allegedly know how to shoot. I know there are a few who do not ever intend to properly sight a pistol, but I still have the responsibility of ensuring that the fundamentals of marksmanship are addressed just as much as the fundamentals of safety. Both are important to someone who intentionally straps on a pistol whether they understand the importance or not. At least it was addressed in training.

    By rc on Mar 19, 2014

  9. I love this article, as it brings to light a problem I often see within the ccw/training industry.

    New gun owners won’t all want to become shooters. Ingrain safety through practiced repetitions. Having them repeat a list of rules does no good. Try to leave them with desire to learn more if they choose so.

    By Kyle on Mar 19, 2014

  10. Also, those freaking out about this article are missing the point.

    To emphasize again.

    “The next time you teach a class, ask yourself a simple question: are you teaching to the audience you want, or the audience you really have?”

    By Kyle on Mar 19, 2014

  11. We don’t “know” that the average CHL holder isn’t going to use his/her sights. There’s no data, no surveys supporting that statement at all. There’s a lot of data from Force Science showing that people don’t remember much of what they did or said under high stress — so even if someone says “I didn’t see my sights”, that doesn’t necessarily mean they did or didn’t see them. All it means is they don’t *remember* seeing their sights. So I give little to no credence to surveys of cops who say they didn’t see their sights in gunfights claimed as “proof” of anything.

    What we *do* know, based on lessons learned from shooting competition, combat and studies on high stress performance in aviation and other fields, is that under stress we will do what we’ve done in practice — and we are likely to make the same mistakes when it matters that we made in practice. That applies from the novice all the way to the elite competitor/operator, which is why one common trait of the top tier performer is the emphasis on consistency and elimination of errors.

    We also know, due to the laws of physics and geometry, that using the sights allows you to shoot more accurately, and from biology and medicine we know that stopping the threat happens better and faster if we damage particular organs.

    The job of the instructor is to explain what “right looks like” and guide the student to do it as correctly as possible, as many times as possible, within the time the student spends in class. That applies to safe gunhandling, shooting and tactics.

    The division of how the available time should be allocated, and the priority of topics, is debatable, but the idea that key concepts of marksmanship be deleted completely on the assumption that your student will never strive to get beyond mediocrity is completely flawed.

    By KR on Mar 19, 2014

  12. KR — The problem with the “we’ll do what we did in practice” thing is that it’s completely inapplicable to someone who doesn’t develop skill in the first place.

    You can believe that after one lesson people are using and seeing their sights under lethal threat. That’s your prerogative. But it’s silly to say “there’s no proof they won’t!” The fact is that there is no proof they WILL.

    My job as an instructor isn’t to force a student to follow a path he’s already told me he won’t take. My job is to provide him with the most relevant information and technique within the framework he’s committed to.

    The rest is all just red herrings. I already said I agree that aimed fire and visually controlling the gun is BETTER. I also know that it takes time, effort, and ammo to get there. That’s time, effort, and ammo that most “I’m only at this CCW class because it’s mandatory” students aren’t going to commit to.

    By ToddG on Mar 19, 2014

  13. Todd I fully agree with you on this subject. Reminds me of you can lead a horse to water but can’t force it to drink.
    Most Basic ccw students are motivated just enough to pay the money and get through the class. Out of 3 yrs teaching I have had only 2 students come back and actually put the time and effort in to become shooters.
    point shooting is looked down on but to me it is just another tool in my toolbox.
    I very much dislike the attitude of ( insert particular shooting style here) is the only way and it must be done in this manner. It feels very close minded. When we stop learning we stop living.

    By lee white on Mar 19, 2014

  14. Point shooting is not an alternate technique to aimed fire that produces equivalent results at all distances for all target sizes. Even the modern-day “point shooting” advocates understand that as the target appears smaller to the shooter, that higher quality alignment of the gun is required, and usually that requires visual input, not “instinctive feel”. Most aimed fire advocates teach a reduced quality sight picture for closer/faster shots. It’s a spectrum, not an either/or choice — and every instructor teaching should understand that essential concept.

    Go read Bill Jordan’s book, or Jim Cirillo’s book, or Bill Rogers’ book to get some insight into history of gunfighting and firearms technique development. Every instructor should be familiar with all 3 of those books and have them in their library. Rogers’ book is particularly relevant because it covers the period of history when he and others challenged the “point shooting” advocates at the FBI academy to a shootoff, and the aimed fire folks significantly out-shot people who were, at the time, probably the best point shooters in the country.

    By KR on Mar 19, 2014

  15. This is not a point shooting vs aimed fire debate. Stop trying to turn it into one.

    It’s an article on how you should prioritize your time with certain groups of students.

    By Kyle on Mar 19, 2014

  16. CCW firearms training should be primarily about ensuring the student doesn’t put a hole where they don’t want to.

    Follow up training – if there is any – can teach them to place the hole precisely and quickly.

    A large number of CCW students will hardly, if ever, go to the range again. The majority of those that do, will just go to plink – many at unsupervised facilities. Considering that the CCW class may well be all the instruction any given student will get, isn’t it better then to do as much as possible to make sure that bullets go into backstops or bad guys instead of trying to generate a competition/combat ready shooter in a very short period? Especially in a CCW class where – in most instances – very little time is set aside for range instruction, often to a lot of people, and most of that time is spent shooting a qualifier.

    I can’t seem to remember where, but I once heard a wise proverb: “The next time you teach a class, ask yourself a simple question: are you teaching to the audience you want, or the audience you really have?”

    By Joe A on Mar 19, 2014

  17. Years ago we restructured our program into a sequence of 1/2 day courses, because we figured out that there are far more people willing to commit 4 hours and $80 than there were with 2 days and $300-500, or there were with 4-5 days and $$$$ to spend. That was partially driven by ammo shortages and partially driven by desire to reach that next tier of CHL holders who *were* willing to do more training but were time and priced out of the market.

    We had to make all those curriculum decisions Todd talks about assuming that students might bail out of the sequence at any point. We made lists of the topics we covered and prioritized them based on study of real incidents, and what was absolutely essential vs. “nice to have”. One of my instructors has written several in-depth articles on his blog about our thoughts on “minimum competence standards”.

    We didn’t eliminate aimed fire from the curriculum. In fact, we increased the amount of dry fire and doubled down on teaching students how to do dry practice at home to maintain their skills, assuming they would never take another class again and maybe even never fire another live round after class. We also include in every class an explanation of what comes in the next class, the importance of frequency in maintaining skills, the value of dry practice, and the benefits of taking the next course.

    It’s worked great for us. Some of those 2nd tier students eventually attend 2-4 day classes with higher level curriculum. People who started out only taking the one class, thinking it was a one-time thing.

    By KR on Mar 19, 2014

  18. KR , if I understand you correctly point shooting is not a valid technique to teach because aimed fire is superior in all ways? At all times? Simply because Bill Rogers dictates this?
    then we have to stop teaching retention shooting as this is a form of point shooting.
    Sighted fire is absolutely better if you are proficient and have put forth the required time and investment to learn. So is point shooting as long as the limitations of each method is also taught.
    As Todd said point shooting with heavy emphasis on limitations of method and safety is to me a much better use of time on a student who will most likely have no interest in going any further. If said student does come back then you as an instructor can dive into the methodology of Bill Rogers, Bill Jordan and et al.
    simply the desire to learn must be present before that level can be taught. A good instructor will see and acknowledge this fact,rather than force something the student won’t accept.
    The concept to understand as a teacher is when we become close minded to the point we stop learning and questioning both old and new information we cease to be a viable instructor moving forward and become stale.

    By lee white on Mar 19, 2014

  19. If all the student is willing to do is learn how to operate the pistol and not negligently discharge it, there are just going to be problems they can’t handle with just poking the pistol out and pointing it at their attacker’s COM. They will lose. However, LOTS of self-defense problems are close range, large target situations. The no-motivation student probably can handle those better with a pistol (and minimal skills) than withOUT a pistol. Sometimes simply displaying a gun puts the attacker to flight. In those cases, skill is not a factor.

    You can’t make a shooter out of a gun owner unless they want to become a shooter.

    On more than one occasion, I’ve had someone fire a DA revolver, poked at COM, and told them “there, do THAT”. I tell them to never cock the hammer and to be sure that the threat really needs to be shot. It’s the best you’ll get out of some and I do think they’re better off with this lame skill-level than they would be unarmed, if the fight comes to them.


    By Rosco on Mar 19, 2014

  20. Lee – I’ve been teaching for 25 years. I take multiple classes for professional development every year. In the past year I’ve trained with 2 national champions (Robert Vogel and Ben Stoeger), Massad Ayoob, and retired Delta Force soldier Paul Howe. I’ve studied with more than 50 different instructors across the entire spectrum of training, not counting a couple dozen more I’ve heard speak at conferences.

    Over the past 2 years I’ve done several data collection experiments actually measuring performance differences between pocket guns and full size guns, and between red dot sights and irons. Some of the data has been published, some of it is still in progress. Actual data analysis, not just spouting opinion based on anecdote and “what works for me”, which is the (low) industry standard for proof.

    Is that enough for me to get signed off on “having an open mind” and “never stop learning?”

    By KR on Mar 19, 2014

  21. I guess I’m most confused about when we switched to the concept of allowing the STUDENTS (not audience, I’m not there to entertain) to define what the instructors should be teaching? To define what is Too Hard? And is anyone surprised that the students, if given the chance, choose to eliminate one of the more difficult areas? I’ve done more than a few VIPs, many military, and they got the same safety and fundamentals briefing as everyone else, albeit in an abbreviated form. I don’t think it’s a question of whether something is too difficult; I think it’s a question of who defines the training to be received, and how long it will take to do it right.

    I would point out that instructors and self-instructed shooters/gun-owners who cut corners on training in the past are probably the biggest reason why we now have mandatory training topics and qualifications for CCW in many states. In my state, the CCW classroom curriculum is very specific in what will be covered, and how long it will take to do so (minimum time; we go longer if we need to). And yes, basic sight alignment/picture is part of the program. As it should be.

    You want to take a VIP out for familiarization firing or formalized plinking on a B-27? Fine, give them safety, basic weapon operation, some point-indexing pointers and go. But don’t call it CCW training, and don’t tell me the student should be defining the curriculum, especially if they are such newbies that they “don’t know what they don’t know”.

    By DJ9 on Mar 19, 2014

  22. We seem to do fine with getting students hitting with solid fundamentals in both 1 and 2 day formats. We teach visually verified shooting outside of the range where you can touch your opponent. We teach the EXACT same fundamentals to “advanced” shooters, basic shooters, L/E, Military, women, juveniles, novices, seniors, etc. We may have to make some modifications to things based on physical issues with hand strength, vision issues, various disabilities, wheel chair use, and other issues, but we will do what ever we can to get real success and not a false sense of “you’ll be fine” with this. I don’t know if the day that student may have to use that firearm is going to be to shoot a full frontal nonmoving bad guy at 6 feet, or having to make that shot to save a loved one held hostage or in jeopardy in a “yards” engagement. Because I don’t know that they will have an easy problem to solve, I give them the best solution for handling all of them.

    My reality is this, in spending a lot of time looking at actual shooting events in an investigative capacity, I saw a correlation of 100% success with those who used visually confirmed techniques, and 100% failure with those who didn’t. My decision on what to teach as a critical skill is easy. If one of those basic students can draw on one significant thing from their limited training in a crisis, I want sight use, proper trigger press and grip to be what they recall. We preach that every round hits something, I would really like for that something to be the right thing. Others may differ on what they do, but if I get ANY student, I am not going to decide to go the easy route for them. They will get what I know works, and hopefully if they ever need the skills, “the correct fundamentals” are in their brain somewhere. I traced many shooting failures to our academy training at the time when we were not allowed to use sighted fire inside of seven yards because “you can’t use your sights that close”. I won’t repeat that mistake for the sake of not having the confidence in a student to trust them to “get it”.
    My new mantra is to really not care what others are doing. Unsafe range practices, teaching dumbed down techniques for “regular non-gun people”, SWAT rolls, explosions, 20 plus to one student to instructor ratio’s, “in vogue” theory based techniques, all the way up to super high speed low drag stuff that has little application in the US but looks great. Pay your money, and take the ride you want. It’s American!

    By nyeti on Mar 19, 2014

  23. Karl, I understand you have a very long and impressive resume and have been doing this for 25 yrs with many of the industries top names.
    And that I am at best only considered to be at the top of the low end of shooting skill, You do come across as being close minded because you have done so much and you are such a high level kind of know it all done it all.
    I don’t say this to insult you or disrespect you. I am sure you could teach me many things and make me a much better shooter…because I have the desire to learn. I am also equally sure that with all your skill training and knowledge you will not be able to teach my father who is set in his ways and believes in his heart that the way his father taught him to shoot many yrs ago is good enough.
    I will bow out of this discussion at this point as we seem to be at an impasse.
    I am sorry if our difference of opinion is taken as insulting you, it truly is not my intention but rather to participate in a conversation where we both my learn something new.

    By Lee White on Mar 19, 2014

  24. Ahem… XS Big Dot sights FTW!

    By JodyH on Mar 19, 2014

  25. Would any of the instructors with differing opinions be wiling to work together to gather actual data on skill retention vs. skills taught?

    You’d have to agree on the goals of the class, and on assessment metrics. Students would be offered a small incentive to be evaluated after a period — maybe 6 months-1year?

    It might be useful to review some of the research being done on CPR training and skill retention, which has some similarities as a “hope you never have to use this” skill.

    By Peterb on Mar 19, 2014

  26. The idea is good, but the logistics would be difficult/impossible and the data would be messy. You’d need to know every time that person shot or dry practiced, how much, how long, what drills.

    The closest data set might be asking Texas CHL instructors who had students take the “new permit” course and a “renewal” course 4 years later, who had to shoot the exact same course of fire each time, if they kept scores, or at least tracked if anyone that passed initially failed on the renewal. The problem with that is the test is so easy, and the scoring standards so low, that it’s possible to meet the state’s 70% passing score by point shooting, because enough good hits at 3 and 7 will get you enough points to pass, even if you miss the 24″ wide B-27 completely at 15 yards.

    By KR on Mar 19, 2014

  27. JodyH…..one of the places I like a X/S Big Dot is for the folks Todd is talking about. Nothing like a gigantic sign that says “LOOK AT ME”. I have a 3″ GP 100 with a Big Dot just for training non-dedicated folks.

    By nyeti on Mar 19, 2014

  28. Todd, I am always very impressed with your pragmatic and practical advice, even if it flies in the face of some macho conventional wisdom. So I find this a very interesting discussion. But my reaction to your statement that you “don’t talk about sights” to a group of people who want to be gun owners but not shooters was “Really?” Not at all? What’s the alternative? “Point it that away and pull the trigger?” I find it hard to believe that you would literally not teach the students how to aim using the sights. Were you perhaps exaggerating for effect?

    By XKL on Mar 19, 2014

  29. nyeti… I have a Glock 19 with XS for the exact same reason.
    No “alignment” required but it is closer to aimed fire than point shooting, which is a good thing.

    By JodyH on Mar 19, 2014

  30. I don’t teach classes… just people that ask.

    The first thing I do is ask them to shoot a group. It gives me an idea of their administrative gun handling, draw, safety awareness and I can use the results to identify what they are doing wrong.

    (and not the chart thing either)

    Last week I helped a new shooter go from missing the target by 3-4 feet at 7 yards to a 6 inch group, in about 10 rounds by confirming their understanding of sight alignment and trigger press.

    By Ron Larimer on Mar 19, 2014

  31. The straw men are alive and kicking in this debate for sure. And they’re desperate to keep a sacred cow alive, that’s for sure!

    * If you’re arguing about someone who is going to train regularly, you’re not talking about the people discussed in the OP.

    * If you’re arguing that sighted fire is superior to point/index shooting, you’re not disagreeing with anything said in the OP.

    * If you’re talking about what you can teach someone to do on a calm square range without any pressure-testing of those skills against a malevolent opponent then you’re not proving anything about what your student can do for real when it counts on the day after he walks out of your class.

    And that’s my point. The “start with the fundamentals and build them up over time” thing is awesome if the student builds them up over time. But if your best friend had never touched a gun before and somehow you knew he had one hour before he was going to in a gunfight all by himself, would you spend that hour teaching him “front sight, trigger press?”

    By ToddG on Mar 20, 2014

  32. Todd,

    Am I understanding this right?

    You’re not talking about teaching old school point shooting but rather crude index shooting where the shooter focuses on the target and brings the fuzzy silhouette of the gun up to eye height as a basic index point of aim.

    Instead of spending hours trying to teach the fineries of front sight focus just teaching basic trigger control and gun alignment?

    I can see that working for close up shooting (maybe out to 10 yards even).

    I’ve probably trained nearly two dozen newbie shooters over the years and have always gone the traditional route of explaining what a proper sight picture looks like then getting them shooting. Not sure if skipping the front sight bit would save time (beyond the 10 minutes of explaining the sight picture & alignment) or change results even if they don’t do any other training ever.

    It would be interesting to get a small crew of newbies and try the two techniques and see who does better at the end of a four hour class and who does better a month later without ever hitting a range in the mean time.

    By Lomshek on Mar 20, 2014

  33. Lomshek — First, I’m not getting out to ten yards. All we need do is look at Tom Givens’s “student database” of more than 60 self-defense shootings to see that the vast majority happen from 3-5 yards. So right off the bat, if I start maximizing my 1-2 hours of training on a threat twice that far away I’m skewing reality.

    But basically yes, I’m teaching a gun silhouette type shot but not pretending the shooter will be looking at his own gun. It’s basically “bring the gun up between your eyes and what you want to hit and then pull the trigger.” Notably, because we don’t spend our time worrying about front sight and proper trigger pull, most folks DON’T jerk the trigger in a meaningful way because they DON’T really anticipate the shot and they’re NOT worried about hitting a tiny bullseye. They might as well be operating a water pistol.

    By ToddG on Mar 20, 2014

  34. I recall discussing the (then Ashley, now XS) big dot sights with Ken Hackathorn. Ken was of the opinion that they could work quite well for the novice, who will be target-focused in a fight. Even blurry, the white dot provides a bit of an index as to where the pistol is pointing.

    By Rosco on Mar 20, 2014

  35. I couldn’t agree with you more, ToddG.. I earned my 1st handgun instructor certificate in the U.S. Army in 1965. Taught many to shoot for personal defense since then. Usually taught on an individual basis, the majority being women new to shooting, and well before concealed carry tests for licensing was available anywhere.. MANY students freely say that they are not interested in competition shooting or even target practice, but instead simply wanted to know how to safely use a gun to stay alive..

    Regarding those students, I mostly instructed on the following:

    Always put safety first..

    ** The basics of target engagement… 0 to 7 yards is the training distance and, for the most part, gunsights aren’t used but rather the relationships of firearm presentation and target acquisition with both eyes open. This was done using both strong hand and weak hand..

    *** Basics of situational awareness, legal considerations, and other aspects of surviving an encounter..

    I found this method to be quite effective with the student able to retain the basic learning points quite well, even months later..

    Perhaps these Johnny-come-lately instructors who pedantically stick to their new-school indoctrination, requiring they 1st find a front sight, would do well to pick up a copy of Bill Jordan’s excellent book “No Second Place Winner” and read it.. Jordan’s chapter titled “Combat Style Shooting” recommends not even aligning the sights until the target distance is 15 to 25 YARDS and beyond…

    I would submit that any student learning to shoot for personal self-defense who cannot, upon completing their training, effectively engage a man-sized target at 0 to 7 yards, without relying on some type of sight alignment, have been taught by an instructor who is more interested in their “form” rather than their “performance” in staying alive during an actual shooting..

    IMHO, ToddG, you are on the right track.. Keep up the good work..

    By SkipW on Mar 20, 2014

  36. Are “straw situations” any better or worse than “straw men”? I believe I could set up an unrealistic situation to justify dang near any kind of half-arse training I’d like, but that doesn’t mean it’s a revolutionary, or even a good, idea.

    The failure here occurs when the instructor agrees to provide training that is insufficient for the task at hand, based on an unrealistic time “allowed” for training. Solution:

    “Can you give me a 1hr/2hr/too-damn-short class covering CCW?”

    “No. That would take at least X # of hours. Have a nice day!”

    By DJ9 on Mar 20, 2014

  37. This seemed to be the general philosophy taken by my CCW instructor.

    Personally, I find it kind of ridiculous that most CCW classes will include NRA fundamentals sighted fire instruction, but will *not* include how to draw from a holster safely.

    I do think that a “Handgun Fundamentals” class can be a different thing… i feel like there’s a real split between what you should be learning as “if this is all the training I’m ever going to have on firearms, what should I have” versus “this is the first step of many to learning how to shoot a gun well.”

    For one, you need safety first, legal use of force second, and then how to shoot a mugger at 3-5 yards.

    For the other, you need safety, and then fundamental drilled into you until you can see straight.

    By Mike on Mar 21, 2014

  38. Mike, I think it’s hard for people from right-to-carry states who view pistols as firearms to be carried (or competed with in action pistol sports) to understand that . . . . but the NRA courses go back a ways, to when many states were not shall-issue and most people who purchased handguns had no intention of carrying them in holsters. Even today, if you studied it, you’d likely find that the majority of new handgun owners intend to keep their new iron next to the bed, not in a holster.

    From that point of view, I can see how it happened. On the other hand, maybe it’s time to change that. Knowing where it came from doesn’t mean it’s still the best we can do.

    By Don Gwinn on Mar 22, 2014

  39. DJ9,

    I would point out that instructors and self-instructed shooters/gun-owners who cut corners on training in the past are probably the biggest reason why we now have mandatory training topics and qualifications for CCW in many states.

    I don’t get what you’re saying here.

    I don’t know of any states that were “shall issue” w/no training requirement that then subsequently added a training requirement. Conversely, I am aware of several states that were “shall issue” w/a training requirement that subsequently dropped the training requirement and, indeed, the need for any permit whatsoever.

    Could you tell me what state added a training requirement because of shooters cutting corners in training?

    By Tam on Mar 22, 2014

  40. North Dakota.

    Yeah, I know, go ahead and get the giggles out of the way. Done? On to business…

    Shall-issue was passed way back in the mid-80s. Original test was written, based on a self-run study guide, with super-easy shooting test.

    Shooting test was later dropped, while written test grew, then a mandatory class was added (supposedly to increase reciprocity with other states).

    Permits were then split into two classes (1 and 2). Based on reports that some instructors were cutting the classes to ridiculously short lengths, and some states were threatening to pull reciprocity because of it, the class lengths were made mandatory and enforced by requiring instructors to file a “class registration” form 2 weeks prior to each class (minimum). This allowed “inspectors” to drop-in on classes to verify class length and subject matter being taught, or follow-up with students later. Some instructors were decertified for running short classes, or combining a CCW class for another state with a ND permit class (also not allowed by ND rules, as it effectively reduced the amount of time spent on ND info/training).

    While most other states were making it easier to get a permit, ND was making it harder, and the reasons most often given were poor performance by permit holders who used their guns or were tested for some other reason (most often it was POST certification for new cops and security), or too-short classes given by corner-cutting instructors (which also produced poor performing permit holders).

    By DJ9 on Mar 22, 2014

  41. Should also say that the shooting test was re-introduced with the Class 1 permit, and the class notification requirement was dropped just recently.

    The Class 1/2 system actually resulted in several sates DROPPING all reciprocity for ND Class 2 permit holders; a bunch of folks got pretty ticked-off about that.

    By DJ9 on Mar 22, 2014

  42. Man, that’s bogus.

    Someone should point out to the ND legislature that plenty of states with no shooting test do just fine. (AK, AL, AZ, NH, VT, GA, IN, WY, LA, MS, off the top of my head; I know I’m missing a bunch more…)

    By Tam on Mar 23, 2014

  43. This really made me think. At first I wanted to disagree but he’s spot on. He’s not talking about NRA First Steps or Basic Pistol. Those are how to shot qua shooting classes. He’s talking about A. Being safe with this potentially hazardous piece of machinery you are going to lugging around in public and B. How to put holes in an attacker’s chest ~3 yards and in.

    By RobertM on Mar 23, 2014

  44. Todd, I have a State mandated course. I can add more and do so for real world applications. I HAVE to present Weaver and Isosceles stances. Go figure. That has nothing to do with defensive arts in my opinion.

    By keads on Mar 23, 2014

  45. Right on with this Todd. In a 4-8 hour class you are fortunate if you can simply promote saftey. The average person who gets their permit never trains to a competant level with the weapon. Most never go to the range again. Those who do never seem to go beyond slow fire shooting at bull’seye targets. I can count on one hand how many people I have seen at public ranges practicing for any kind of speed or realism. It is hard to beleive. The average CCW person usually prevails in a violent encounter simply because they have the element of suprise. Their is little else on their side.

    By Salvatore on Mar 31, 2014

  46. Being realistic about expectations is important, second only to fundamental safety concerns.

    It would be wonderful if everyone was as dedicated as the most dedicated among us, but that’s not the world we live in.

    The best salesmen tailor their pitches to their audience. The best teachers tailor their lessons to their students. And the best practitioners tailor their gear choices to their needs.

    Seems familiar: http://pistol-training.com/archives/8714#comment-51672

    By Curby on Apr 1, 2014

  47. While I agree with your thoughts, in my state, for a CCDW permit, you must teach the the lesson plan, if not you may be criminally charge or loose you certificate. Sooo, a major part after safety is the basics of marksmanship.

    By bruce on Apr 5, 2014

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