The truth about skills

Very few individuals get as much hands-on training as they need when it comes to firearms and self-defense. Training has devolved into something many people want to quickly get out of the way and forget about. Even worse, many folks don’t stop to consider the quality of the training they’re getting, or they fall prey to become-an-expert-with-little-effort schemes. But most importantly of all, skills are perishable; and regular practice is essential in maintaining them. A person’s training should never come to an end; once a person is content with his or her training, any future battles have already been lost.


Of those private citizens who attend a formal concealed carry course in their respective states, less than 2 percent ever pursue further organized, professional training afterward. That’s a frightening statistic.

I have had countless conversations that go something like this:

New gun owner: “Got my license to carry today!”

Me: ‘That’s great, congratulations! You know, there is some really good training out there for those new to carrying a firearm. I’ll send you some links.”

New gun owner: (Puzzled look) ‘Why? I just said that I took the class and got my license already. Nothing else is required.”

Me: “No, the state does not require more training, but I just assumed you wanted to polish those new skills.”

New gun owner: “But I put the 50 rounds on the target. I’m ready.”


The day you turned 16 and went to get your driver’s license, you had to think about every little detail to ensure you passed the test — breathe, buckle up, check your mirrors, put it into gear, now ease on the gas (not too much), use that blinker, glance nervously at the guy from the OMV to see if he’s noting your mistakes, the works. When you got that new license in your hand, you were elated. You were finally allowed to legally drive a car and hit the open road.

But your training didn’t end there. You continued to build on your driving skills with practice.

Now imagine if the skills you had on the first day you received your license never improved. Think about what it would look like if every American drove like he or she did on the first day he or she received his or her license and that was as good as he or she ever got. Yikes. It wouldn’t be a pretty sight on the freeways.

The same concept applies to newly licensed gun owners.


It is imperative to remember that when improving your comfort level and skill set with firearms, there are no shortcuts, regardless of what anybody tells you. Trigger time is essential. Mastering the basics — and regularly going back to train — is the foundation of being a highly skilled and knowledgeable gun owner.

Be wary of any entity that wants to sell you skills. These types of organizations and individuals usually push the idea that you are only one or two gadgets away from being a “high-speed operator.” You know the ones: If you just buy this super-duper gadget(from them, of course), you will become a Navy SEAL Samurai Ninja overnight. To the companies that push that line, I say this: You can give me Tiger Woods’ golf clubs and I will still play golf like a blind, one-armed sumo wrestler. Is having quality gear important? Sure. But the gear isn’t what makes Tiger great, and it’s certainly not what will make you great. What will make you great is education, practice, and time.


While there are some great instructors out there, an equal number of them are not-as-good instructors who are ready and willing to make a buck off of an honest citizen’s legitimate desire for improvement.

When looking for a mentor or a teacher, talk to people who have trained with the instructor or company you are considering first. Did they enjoy the course? Was the curriculum challenging? Would they go back? Why or why not? These are the kinds of questions you should be asking. After all, anyone can declare himself or herself an “instructor” and start charging willing adults for firearms instruction.

Make sure the people you trust to teach you lifesaving skills and a self-defense mindset are the ones who will deliver the results you expect to receive. Just because a person has done something for a long time doesn’t mean he or she can do it well. And just because an individual is in his or her 20s or 30s doesn’t mean he or she doesn’t have valuable teaching insight to share with those new to the world of concealed carry. The best instructors are lifelong learners with a desire to excel at their craft and help others grow.

The good news is that here in the U.S. (and specifically in my home state of Texas), there is a wide array of quality options when it comes to defensive-tactics training. Seek out the experts and avoid the impersonators.


There’s no way around it: If not continuously maintained, skills will perish. Many of us played baseball or basketball as kids, and some of us were even pretty good. But put most guys or gals in their mid-40s who haven’t picked up a ball in 20-plus years out on the field or the court and it becomes readily apparent that fine motor skills don’t hang around forever without practice (no matter how good those individuals used to be). Generally speaking, time waits for no one; age deteriorates skills as well. It is possible to forestall that naturally occurring fact of life, but it takes focus and dedication to do so.

Back to the driving analogy: We practice and drive our cars regularly and get to the point where our brains do so almost subconsciously. We can drive to a destination without even consciously thinking about adjusting a mirror or using a turn signal. That’s because we have trained our brains to perform these tasks automatically by performing them repeatedly over a long period of time. If you didn’t drive a car for years and suddenly got back behind the wheel, it would take some time to get back to the level of competence you used to enjoy.

This same basic principle holds true for firearms training. For those of us who choose to carry a firearm, it is paramount that we continually seek out those who can hone our skills and keep us sharp.

And this doesn’t apply only to marksmanship skills but also to cognitive and decision-making skills. Knowing how to pick your battles is as important as picking your target, and this becomes even more imperative as you move into middle age and beyond.


The decision to carry a piece of potentially lifesaving equipment is one not to be taken lightly. Take the necessary steps so that if violence does come knocking at your door, you will be as prepared to meet it as possible. You’ll never be prepared if you’re not properly trained. A gun is by no means useless without the education and training to back it up, but it’s only so helpful and can easily become a terrible liability. Don’t underestimate the most important aspect of being a responsibly armed American.

Source: Eric Kaiser, Concealed Carry Magazine, May/June 2021