Instruction vs. Training and Practice

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Instruction vs. Training and Practice

Interesting article by Dave Spaulding. Like some in the industry, Spaulding defines “training” to mean taking a class, and “practice” as activity done on your own to build and reinforce skill. Yes, we’re quibbling over semantics and various dictionaries do us a disservice by sometimes interchanging meanings. This leads to stupid assessments that “competition isn’t training” despite this being a literal dictionary definition of the word.

The important point here is that taking more and more instruction (what Spaulding calls training) is useless, possibly detrimental, if the student never reinforces what they were taught by building skill. And much of that skill building is best done by the student on their own and/or with a local peer group. That is why regular attendance at local shooting events is so useful. It is better to receive an overview of pertinent ideas and then build skill rather than rush off to a bunch of classes and forever remain a low-skilled novice.

Training is not Practice!
by Dave Spaulding


Gunfight Rules

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“There ain’t no rules in a gunfight!”

That is a popular lead-in from low-level novice shooters justifying why they cower from competitive shooting. As with their other excuses, this one is also plain wrong. Yes, there are rules in a gunfight.

Rules of Engagement (ROE) are rules or directives to military forces (including individuals) that define the circumstances, conditions, degree, and manner in which the use of force, or actions which might be construed as provocative, may be applied. They provide authorization for and/or limits on, among other things, the use of force and the employment of certain specific capabilities. In some nations, ROE have the status of guidance to military forces, while in other nations, ROE are lawful commands. Rules of Engagement do not normally dictate how a result is to be achieved but will indicate what measures may be unacceptable.

The current Law of Land Warfare has also been with us for over a century.

A list of the treaties relating to the conduct of land warfare which have been ratified by the United States, with the abbreviated titles used in this Manual, is set forth in the abbreviations section of this manual. The official English texts or a translation of the principal treaty provisions are quoted verbatim in bold type in the relevant paragraphs throughout the Manual. It should be noted, however, that the official text of the Hague Conventions of 18 October 1907 is the French text which must be accepted as controlling in the event of a dispute as to the meaning of any provision of these particular conventions.

These types of gunfight rules also apply to law enforcement and other civilian encounters.

A use of force continuum is a standard that provides law enforcement officers and civilians with guidelines as to how much force may be used against a resisting subject in a given situation. In some ways, it is similar to the U.S. military’s escalation of force (EOF). The purpose of these models is to clarify, both for law enforcement officers and civilians, the complex subject of use of force. They are often central parts of law enforcement agencies’ use of force policies.

Oh, and I hear tactical timmy in the back scoffing. There are always the laws of physics at hand as well. Despite the various lies you may soothe your ego with, the physical laws at play to get a launched projectile to impact a given target on purpose in a timely manner apply identically on the range as they do in the field.

I guess there are rules in a gunfight afterall!

Training Scars and New York Reloads


Thomas Howard of Precision Response Training put together another good article and video testing a long-held popular truism of the defensive shooting world. The “New York Reload” involves drawing a secondary firearm under the assumption that this is faster than reloading the primary. “The fastest reload is a second gun” is the buzz phrase that “proves” it.

Is it actually faster? Here’s a test to find out.

Highpower Service Rifle Living History

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Jim Laughland has more patches commemorating all the different years he’s shot at the National Matches than there are rounds fired in a LEG Match. The very friendly and excellent shooter shares some of his many stories and pictures in our interview below.

Barbell Training as Rehab

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Why getting stronger helps everything. This account is of an injured man told he’d never walk again and his complete rehabilitation despite his grim doctor’s prognosis.

Police Qualification Examples

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Arkansas State Capitol Police Firearms Qualification

It should be noted this was posted by the Arkansas State Capitol Police as promotional material demonstrating their prowess. More disappointing than the low level of performance is the fact an agency with arrest powers tasked with State Capitol security felt this was something worth putting out to the public. It’s one thing to be forced with under-trained personnel but it’s worse when there’s no realization of that fact.

UPDATE: Arkansas State Capitol Police pulled the video posted above. Perhaps they do have a sense of shame afterall. It took about 60 seconds to find three more relevant examples demonstrating the point.

Of course, some commenters pointed out the lack of tactical, Dynamical Critically Incidented shooting and movement. Like the Capital Police, they lost the plot. They’re worried about kung fu fighting with a group desperately struggling with fundamentals on an easy, fixed, basic, elementary qualification course. It’s like worrying about teaching new football plays and field strategy to a group of people incapable of tackling a run up a flight of stairs or even just walking particularly fast.

Debunking the Police Qualification Myth

While it would have been useful to include what USPSA Classifications the tested shooters held when this was recorded, it’s apparent these are local club shooters and not top-flight competitors. I mean no criticism or disrespect, just pointing out this is a demo by typical, local hobby competitors compared to one of the better police qualification standard. Every organized practical shooting club has people shooting this well or better.

The fundamental skill needed at the high end of USPSA C class (the lowest earned classification) is approximately 200-300% higher than that needed to earn high or “perfect” marks on most law enforcement and military qualifications.

Benefit of Practicing a Game


Tactics are an expedient and the “correct” one is situation dependent. Fundamental skills apply to all relevant situations. Therefore, once an overview of concepts has been accomplished, most training time should be spent learning something that is guaranteed useful in all situations rather than obsess over edge cases that likely won’t occur.

It is too bad many folks billing themselves as tactical trainers don’t understand this. Here’s an example.

How does a defensive firearms trainer establish a test that demonstrates proficiency with a firearm (or a specific skill) that is NOT just another “game” that can be practiced by the student? How do we make a realistic testing process, or do we need to even do it? I ask specifically in the context of law enforcement training but the question applies to any personal defense scenario.

If the standard is currently difficult or impossible for the person attempting it, practice and training for a “game” forces skill/capability development if the standard is ever to be achieved.

For a person incapable of shooting El Presidente with a 6 hit factor (12 centered hits in 10 seconds) that has been considered “par” for any competent handgun shooter since the 1970s, practicing for it until this standard is consistently achieved will also improve general, overall gunhandling and marksmanship. Training fundamentals intelligently with periodic retesting against some standard demonstrates skill is actually improving. When this is achieved, increase the standard or find a new one to test against.

The deadlift is just another “game” that can be practiced. Training it with ever-increasing weight until you can pull double or triple the beginning poundage will also improve your general, overall body strength.

Failing to assess results with numbers is a training failure.

Shooting El Presidente is a great example of a circus trick. It requires skill, but those “skills” may likely get you killed in a real gun fight.


It is a measure of fundamental skill, nothing more. Any other sort of test can be used if preferred. Shoot it once or twice as a measure, train fundamentals, then retest to measure improvement.

This isn’t a “circus trick” as some low-skilled personnel pretending to be instructors have suggested. A person with good marksmanship and gunhandling will have good results on such a course. An improvement in fundamentals will result in an improved score. A poor score or a lack of measurable improvement indicates fundamentals are poor and haven’t improved.

Same with the deadlift, or other primary lift. If you aren’t adding weight over time, you aren’t getting stronger.

What this “tactical trainer” fails to realize is many gun owners (LEOs included) struggle greatly on any reasonably challenging test even when there aren’t any variables. Set up an El Prez for a few police officers or gun owners and ask them to shoot it once or twice for record, suggesting that a good score is all center hits in under 10 seconds.

Straight forward, no variables, yet (for many) it will provide plenty of challenge. Their skills aren’t sufficient to meet the challenge with a straight forward, no-variable test. That low skill will just degrade further if more variables, stress, and uncertainty are thrown at them.

Given the standards of most LEO and CCW qualifications, most people would need a 200-300% skill increase to earn a “par” score (12 center hits/60 points in 10 seconds) on this.

The only “circus trick” of this drill for most people is developing sufficient fundamental skill to shoot it reasonably well. No sacred cow here, just the harsh reality most gun owners would be better served with simple exercises and actually developing basic skills beyond novice levels.

If rules changed to address and enforce the various complaints cited against competitive events and courses, the same good shooters would continue to win and the complaining non-shooters would find other excuses to avoid having their lack of skills measured in a peer environment.

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