Thursday, February 8, 2007

What I do

When I started this blog, last year, I said that I was going to talk about firearms, but not exclusively. In the intervening time, I have said relatively little about them. Today will be different.

I had a conversation, recently, with someone that regularly reads my blog, and she asked me: "just what is that you do?" So I told her. Perhaps this is a good time to tell the rest of you.

Most of you know that I am a tactical firearms instructor for a government agency. Some of you know what that means and some don't, so let me explain:

I teach people how to fight with guns.

I also teach new people HOW to shoot, but that is secondary... maybe even tertiary to the main thrust of my job.

There is a world of difference between teaching someone how to safely operate a firearm and teaching a regular, decent person how to kill someone with a handgun... up close and personal.

Initial firearms training involves the following subjects:

Nomenclature (the parts of the gun)
Maintenance (cleaning, servicing)
The cycle of operations
Legitimate use of deadly force

These things are vitally important, don't get me wrong... but I usually get my hands on the people AFTER they already have this training.

What I do is take that basic training and take the operator forward and train them on what that gun is really for.

Unfortunately, many people in law enforcement are under the impression that their pistol is some sort of magic talisman that will ward off vampires or evil spirits. Too many officers and agents believe in their hearts that they will never have to use a gun in combat and are psychologically unprepared to do so. Too many of those people are dead now. I get rid of all such notions right away.

In my combat classes, I start with a lecture in the history of firearms, with an emphasis on fighting with handguns. I let the people know that gunfighting is the original American martial art. It is an art that is on an equal footing with the great Asian martial arts. It is a stylized system of personal combat. One which is easy to learn at the outset, but requires years of discipline to be really good at. I ask my combat shooters to regularly re-dedicate themselves to their own training, which they have to have the self-discipline to continue.

One of the most important aspects of training to fight with a gun starts in your own head, with the decision making process. The first thing that you need to do before you start training is to decide whether or not you can kill someone. This isn't an abstract question. You need to decide... right now, if you can or cannot kill. Never mind the statistics that say you will almost certainly never have to do it. Statistics never ran into an ex-convict that they put in jail five years ago, while they are in a restaurant. You have to know, and be OK with the idea that you might have to use this weapon, and the likely result is the sometimes gruesome death of another human being.

That decision being made, we move into subjects such as reactive shooting, elements of the draw, combat sighting, contact shots, drug and armor drills, shooting on the move, use of cover, shooting while down or disabled (wounded), shooting in reduced light (with & without a flashlight), post-shooting techniques, etc... but most important is how to effectively shoot someone.

It can be difficult to turn your average 24 year old into a meat eating predator, but it is rewarding when you come up with a finished product that has decided to really fight for his/her own life, and is capable and confident in his/her own ability to do so with successful results.

I ask myself every day, if I can kill or not. When that day comes that I answer "I'm not sure" I'll find something else to do.


DJ Black Adam said...

Well, I did receive marksmanship training in the Corps. I have never had any advanced urban warfare or combat training, so I don’t know how I’d do in those circumstances. I am pretty decent with a hand gun, better of course with the AR-15 (M16), though I can see no practical use in owning one.

We don’t own a gun at the moment, but my wife is possibly considering allowing me to, though when I think about it, I can’t see a real need for it. If someone breaks in how likely would it be for me to have the gun loaded and in hand? How likely would it be for me to think someone broke in a shoot a relative? How likely would it be for me to leave the toilet seat up on the WRONG day and my wife take me out?

Nope, I think I’ll have to pass. Now if we could holster those bad boys like Clint in a Sergio Leone movie, THEN I’d get one lol

Gunfighter, do you find former military people easier or harder to train?

Gunfighter said...


I like your logic... people that don't see a need to own a gun, probably shouldn't. Personal gun ownership is a boatload of responsibility, and you should be sure about it before you go down that road.

As far as military people... it varys. Some come to training with an open mind... they are trainable. On the other hand you often get the "I-was-in-Special-Forces-and-you-can't-teach-me-shit" kind of guys that present a special challenge.

More often than not, military people have some habits that need to be un-learned before they can really start to train.

DJ Black Adam said...


Do you think that guns in the home actually deter crime or prevent them?

Zanne said...

That was really interesting, thanks for sharing with us! And PS, love the new slide show! :D

Gunfighter said...


Guns can deter crime... but owning a gun won't mean jack if you aren't home when the evildoers break in.

If you ARE home at the time, you can do yourself some good with a gun... depending on certain variables.

Best bet is to get a dog that is territorial... and barks when strangers approach the house.


Glad you enjoyed... BTW I just bought your presiding Bishop's new book!

Anali said...

Very interesting post. I think it's good that you break it down from the beginning. Some people can't quite fathom that guns really do kill people. Carrying or using a gun is not a game. It could get ugly.

And on a slightly lighter note ... I love your new slide show! Those rosaries are beautiful!

super des said...

So you do something with guns?
It looks to me like you make rosaries. (I like, btw)

Gunfighter said...


Glad you like the slide show.... I think it came out well.


Making rosaries and prayer beads is just a hobby of mine.

Zanne said...

Kewl! You have to let me know what you think!

Syd said...

Loved, loved, loved this post.

What I wouldn't give to receive that training. (and hopefully never need to use it, of course)

Leslie said...

Your job is far from ordinary!

The only experience I have with a gun is the Sig-Sauer my first husband owned. When he bought it, I took a class and spent time at our local shooting range to learn to use it. I didn't want to live with a firearm if I didn't know how it worked.

Honestly, I wasn't very comfortable having a gun in my home and I don't think I'd have one again. I didn't see a need to own one. And I agree with what you said - "people that don't see a need to own a gun, probably shouldn't." It brought me more fear than security.

You've got an interesting job, especially considering it is very much mental work - just as much as about the person as it is about the weapon.

Great post.

Shotshell said...

Greetings Gunfighter. Excellent post. Thirty five years ago I started carrying a 1911A1 and an 870 as a civilian contractor in Laos. I too am a firearms instructor though I teach on the civilian side now with most of my student clients being attorneys and small to medium business executives. Unfortunately there are far too few serious training opportunities for the civilian public especially considering the fact that they must be able to either end the fight or be able to fend off the wolves until LE backup arrives. That is why I do what I do.

Getting an intermediate student completely over the hurdle of making the conscious predetermined decision of taking a life in order to save a life is often frustrating because, though I demand that they consider and make that decision in advance, and then hammer the idea of fighting to win at all costs (short of taking an innocent life with wild fire) and continuing said fight until they either win or everything fades to black, some have an obvious difficulty in wrapping their brains around that concept and that is the frustrating part.

Heck, in today’s society, who knows when they may have to use their firearm to defend themselves or others from an unprovoked attack? Is it probable? Statistically no, but it could happen with a probability similar to getting in a serious car accident on the way to work in the morning. On the other hand, statistics don’t mean a flip when YOU are the one-in-one thousand.

Outside of lots of stressful training to provide a measure of “stress inoculation” and hopefully avoid a freeze-up leading to a final and therefore fatal OSCAR SIERRA moment, what do YOU say or do to make sure that the brain barrier is breached and your student understands fully that though they are (hopefully) an otherwise peaceable individual, when the fecal matter strikes the fan blade, they must snap into a violent mode to end a violent confrontation?

Gunfighter said...

"... what do YOU say or do to make sure that the brain barrier is breached and your student understands fully..."

Shotshell, you speak the truth and have hit on the ultimate training question... which is no surprise.

It is difficult, as you know. I take a different approach with different people... their gender, age, marital/familial status, experience etc... are all factors in how I approach it. Sometimes it is as easy as showing a class some video of a dashborad camera recording of a complacent officer being mudered by a determined felon. Beleive me, watching one of your own die while screaming for his mother isn't easy to watch, but it is very sobering.

Some people are a bit harder to train... for some of them, we take them into the gym, make them do sprints and push ups until they are winded and their arms are shaking, then we run them to the range and THEN make them make critical shots and decisions while fatigued.

Trust me when I tell you that some people never get it... Some people will never be able to make it over the hurdle. It is easiest to train the young ones.

JMK said...

Having heard you verbally describe what you do, it was interesting to then re-read it here. I have a lot of respect for the work you do and the tools you use. I'm glad to know there are men and women out there who are learning and appreciating the art of gunfighting. Seems it's a higher form of art and philosophy than gunslinging.

Love the slide show, by the way! Great way to showcase your hobby.

Gunfighter said...

"...Seems it's a higher form of art and philosophy than gunslinging."

See? You already "get it"... especially the philosophical part.

Kelley said...

This was a great post and very interesting for me, because I've never been around guns and don't know anything about them. I don't think I'd ever be comfortable having one in the home; like you said, it's such an enormous responsibility, and I don't think I could ever justify it.

Grimm said...

Being the only one in my family who has never taken to guns, I more or less am an outcast to them in that regard.

I loved the post however as I have often wondered what your job includes.

Lola Gets said...

What you do sounds interesting, and Id love to learn about guns and fighting. UnfortunatelyI live in DC, and handguns are illegal here, so there isnt much sense in my learning. But Ill keep reading your blog!

Bill said...


First of all, welcome!

Would I be wrong in guessing thet your screen name refers to "Damn Yankees"?

Just for your information, council member Marion Barrry has introduced legislation to reschind or change the laws in the District concerning the private ownership of hand guns.



Anne said...

I actually stopped by because your blog turned up in my Google keywords e-mail for "Anglican Rosary," and that's a primary area of interest for me. I stayed around because your posts look very interesting.

These comments caught my attention and helped me to articulate something that has been bothering me for a while. About 2 1/2 years ago, our home (in bad old Baltimore) was burglarized. My husband surprised the burglar who got away with nothing but my handbag and a few dollars. It was a scary inconvenience. Three months after that, my elderly mom was the victim of a "home invasion." That was ghastly, resulting in a closed-head injury and enough dire consequences for a lifetime.

After those two incidents I thought long and hard about acquiring a handgun and learning to handle it. I didn't do it, and here's why: I had no difficulty in locating all sorts of firing ranges were I could get "shooting lessons." But for the average person, there doesn't seem to be anywhere to go to learn about the tactical applications. It's the old "give a kid a hammer and everything looks like a nail" adage. I didn't feel I could ethically own a handgun without knowing something about when to use it as well as how to use it. Otherwise, I might be just as likely to do violence to a neighborhood drunk or the kid next door trying to sneak in after curfew.

Oddly enough, I came to the same conclusion about large, aggressive dogs. I don't have the force of will to handle one or to provide him with what he needs in the way of work and training. So a mellow but fairly territorial dog with a very loud voice has become a member of the family pack.

I enjoyed your slide show very much and hope to re-visit to see some of your other work.

claudia said...

I think I should take one of your classes. I am so use to ducking when I hear anything remotely to a shot, (colombian teacher in the zona rosa side of town, what can i say?) It was hard for me to get "comfortable" to firing anything, do you have people like that?