The Six Sided Triangle
by Richard Mann

You may think such a geometric shape does not exist. In text books, maybe not. Humans however, can complicate anything.

A triangle can be used to describe the necessary balance of many things in life. COL Cooper was the master of the triangle analogy with his accuracy, power and speed (DVC) and his combat triad, which included gun handling, mindset and marksmanship. Too many instructors or training schools complicate the triangle of learning to shoot with tactics; they are not the same thing. Before you can apply a firearm in a tactical manner you must learn how to shoot. Just like with driving, you need to master the parking lot before you hit the highway.

Imagine if your father gave you your first driving lesson down Main Street during rush hour. Not only would you be struggling with the basic operation of the vehicle, you would have to be tactically interacting with all the other vehicles on the road. The same applies to firearms training. Exposing a student or yourself to a tactical problem before you have mastered the basics of marksmanship is like asking you to solve a geometry problem involving a six sided triangle.

Initial firearms training should be dedicated to gun handling. Here you will learn safety, firearm manipulation and presentation. Basic marksmanship training should be next and here you will discover sight alignment and trigger control and the balance of accuracy, power and speed. Before you advance to dealing with tactical problems you must get your head right and develop the proper mindset. Then and only then are you ready to learn to fight with a handgun.

Like my old geometry teacher used to say, “Keep it simple, solve one triangle at a time.”

It’s worth noting Cooper also provided a simple measure of determining if you and/or your students have developed sufficient skill in marksmanship and gun handling at speed: Shoot El Presidente scoring a factor of six (points divided by elapsed time) or higher. Established as a drill or “nerve exercise”, not a simulation/scenario, a factor of six is par for a competent pistol shot.

Note, a factor of six is par, something that is expected to be done routinely by ordinary, competent shooters. By USPSA Classification standards for the Production equipment division (typical service handguns, not race guns), a factor of six on El Presidente (CM99-11) is C Class, the lowest earned skill Classification.

I’d wager the majority of police, military, and CCW, including those seeking tactical instruction, are currently unable to perform this at par on demand and probably aren’t doing anything to fix it. Standards for most pistol qualification courses require about 300% less skill than what’s needed for a par El Prez. This means their first real stress shoot and scored competition will occur if they’re in a fight as their range training is far too lackadaisical.

This is a worse situation than a first driving lesson down Main Street during rush hour. It’s more like a first driving lesson at a Formula One race.