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Firearms training: What is your foundation?

The way you run your gear and manipulate your firearms on a day-to-day basis will show when the stress hits the fan

When it comes to teaching shooting, I am constantly trying to think of ways to get specific points across. For example, I speak of the fundamentals of marksmanship, weapons handling skills, and gear manipulation as if they were the foundation of your house. In the defensive pistol world, they ARE the foundation of your combat house.

Think of it this way. Compare a California-compliant, newly-constructed building to a building built in the Midwest. They are probably two very different foundations. One is designed to handle an earthquake. The other designed just to hold up a house not likely to encounter anything more than a hard freeze. Now, think of qualification as the yearly snow and freezing and think of a gunfight to the death as that untimely, totally spontaneous earth quake. Which foundation do you want your skills to be built on? Those that can handle the unpredictable worst, or those that can get by on a predictable day to day basis?

How We React
When the fight comes, and it will come, you will not rise to the occasion. You will react as you have trained. Think about the average Joe (or Jane) on the street. How many times a year does that Joe shoot? When Joe shoots, how does he apply the fundamentals, handle his weapon, or manipulate his gear? What you do once or twice a year shooting or, every day getting ready for work with your gear and guns, might be what you are training yourself to do.

I like to think that it is a true statement to say that repetition is the mother of skill. The problem is that repetition has two sons, a good one and a bad one. Since the academy last year, or for the past 10 or 15 years or more, what have you been repeating? Do you start your range day with an empty gun, slide locked to the rear in an unsecured holster? Do you compound that by carrying your third magazine up to the line with you in your hand to load into your gun? Make it even less productive by just slapping it into the magazine well of that empty, locked back, holstered, and unsecured. Then, pluck it out of the holster to charge the chamber and put it back into the holster but don’t snap it or secure it. You’ve got to be ready, right?

Please identify and note my sarcasm.

Just one more rant on this and we can move on. How about always shooting to slide lock? Then holstering and empty pistol before the next stage of fire and, thereby repeating all of those negative skills again. After all, a cold range is a safe range. What have you been training yourself to do?

What You Could Do
What you could be doing is... Loading and making ready by drawing from a secure holster. Loading magazines from where you normally keep them. Presenting back to the target and acquiring a sight picture and sight alignment. Breathing, scanning and making a conscious decisions to re-holster. Secure your holster and then top off your magazine pouches.

You could do this “repetition” before a round is fired. The way you run your gear and manipulate your firearms on a day-to-day basis will show when the stress hits the fan.

Tried and True
I employ a certain trainer and police officer whenever I have a class and he is available. He is no doubt one of my best instructors. When working patrol, he starts his shift with some practice draws and presentation and then loads and makes ready, running his gear the way he would if he were in a gunfight. The lockers in his agency are in rows and his manipulations can be heard across the rows. His co-workers can be heard saying “there goes Joe, doing his “kata” again.

Joe is not his real name but, Joe just laughs and stresses to fellow officers each time how he believes that you will react as you have trained and he continues to train himself through the building of solid motor programs Motor programs involving his weapons and gear, which he can rely upon under stress. Well, Joe was involved in a shooting a couple months ago and he won the day. He is an even bigger believer in those “katas” now and his co-workers, they don’t think he is quite as silly any more.

Keep an open mind as you train with your weapons systems. It’s not just about shooting your gun. It’s about getting it out of the holster, on target and firing to hit what needs hit. Quickly and accurately. If the gun goes down, empty or malfunctioned, do you have what it takes to get it back up and running? Have you worked with your weapons in a tactically sound manner so as to create sound weapon manipulation? Or, are you handling you gear and equipment administratively every time? Run your gear like your life depends on it. It just may.

Those who can, do. Those who understand, teach.

Part-time police officer Chris Cerino is most recognized as the competitor that came in 2nd place in both Top Shot season 1 and Top Shot All Stars. He is currently the field host of Gun Talk TV, Guns and Gear and a trainer on The First Person Defender series on Gun Talk’s YouTube page. He is an internationally known firearms instructor who has been training law enforcement officers, military operators and civilians for more than 18 years. He has worked as Peace Officer in a variety of positions from municipal and county to state and federal agencies spanning 23 years. Chris continues to instruct through his company Chris Cerino Training Group at the national and international level. A published writer on the topics of firearms training and instruction he continually pursues validation of his skills and the skills he teaches by competing in three gun, precision rifle matches and NRA action pistol matches across the country.

Contact Chris Cerino