Guns 101 – Responsible Gun Handling

If anecdotal evidence is correct, there are a lot of new gun owners. The NSSF-adjusted NICS checks for March was up 80% over the prior year. It was estimated that approximately 2.4 million NICS checks were performed that were firearms purchase related.

In an ideal, non-COVID-19 world, these new gun owners would be getting training face-to-face from firearms trainers. However, these are not normal times.

To help remedy this lack of training, the Self Defense Radio Network (of which the Polite Society Podcast is a part) has put together a whole series of training videos and interviews with leading trainers. In the video below, Paul Carlson of the Safety Solutions Academy discusses and demonstrates safe and responsible gun handling for new gun owners.

I will be posting these videos daily in hopes that new gun owners see and take advantage of them.

Education Versus Training

I read a very perceptive opinion piece in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal by Congresswoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC-5). She is the Chair of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce and will be the Ranking Member in the new Congress.

The piece entitled “Stop Calling it ‘Vocational Training'” dealt with the how we refer to vocational and technical education offered by vo-tech schools and community colleges as opposed to “higher education” offered in in 4-year colleges and universities. Foxx is well placed to discuss this as long before she entered politics she was a community college president in North Carolina.

Those who earn what people usually call vocational and technical degrees have long been viewed as inferior to those who graduate with a series of letters after their names. If you went to school to learn a trade, you must be lesser, because someone long ago decided that college should be called “higher” education. Considering the state of colleges and universities today, the word “higher” may be the most misleading of them all.

Foxx goes on to say that how we speak about education reeks of class snobbery. If a poor kid goes to a 4-year school, he or she has risen above their background. Conversely, if a middle class kid goes into a technical field, we say he or she “didn’t live up to expectations.” This, of course, ignores the fact that an apprentice welder can earn upwards of $60,000 annually to start as compared to many liberal arts graduates struggling to earn $30,000 a year.

Foxx then goes on to discuss an experience that she had in graduate school at UNC-Greensboro which I think goes beyond community college versus “higher education”.

One of the few lessons that stuck with me from all the courses I took on the way to earning my Ed.D. came during a classroom discussion that sparked my passion for changing the way we talk about education. I’ll never forget how the professor responded to a student who used the word “training.” Training, the professor admonished, was for animals. Humans receive an education.

We can’t keep speaking of people as if they are animals. Whether an individual acquires a skill credential, a bachelor’s degree, a postgraduate degree or anything in between, it’s all education.

We speak of the need to get firearms training. This is offered by firearms trainers. However, should we not start calling it firearms education? It does after all involve learning and is offered in a class. We are being taught how to use a tool safely which is no different in essence than a surgeon being taught how to operate specialized OR equipment. Furthermore, advanced classes delve into human behavior and how to respond to dangerous, criminal, and abnormal behaviors. Think William Aprill.

Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman’s book Thinking, Fast and Slow deals with the dichotomy of thought between instinctive and logical. The former or System 1 deals with fast and instinctive thought while the latter or System 2 is more deliberative, slow, and logical. In the firearms education context, System 1 is where many, if not most, concentrate their teaching. System 2 or the slower, more deliberative, and logical approach is what is covered by Massad Ayoob and Andrew Branca when dealing with the aftermath of a defensive gun use.

Virginia Foxx is correct that words matter when it comes to education. Training is what you do with your Labrador Retriever. Educating and teaching is what people like Tom Givens, Massad Ayoob, William Aprill, Greg Ellifritiz, and other “firearms trainers” do. From now on, education is how we should refer to what we as humans do in classes dealing with firearms. At least, I plan to do so.

Ryan Cleckner On Head And Scope Position

Ryan Cleckner is the author of the Long Range Shooting Handbook and a former Ranger sniper. His book is an excellent primer on getting started in long range shooting.

In this video for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, Cleckner discusses the proper positioning of your head and scope for prone long range shooting. He makes an excellent point when he says if it isn’t right, change it. The scope and stock should adjust to you and not the other way around.

Gunsite Steps Up

The Colonel would be proud. Gunsite Academy has stepped up to offer a free Gunsite 250 class to school superintendents, school board presidents, and assistant superintendents. This is an effort to educate them and help them formulate policies that would keep their students safe. A Gunsite 250 pistol class normally costs $1,750.

“Armed Heroes in Teacher’s Clothing”

My good friend, fellow blogger, and fellow podcaster Rob Morse spent several days recently training with a group of Ohio teachers in the FASTER (Faculty/Administrator Safety Training and Emergency Response) program.

He begins his post:

They don’t look like heroes, but they are. I spent several days with a group of Ohio teachers who want to protect their students. Most teachers feel the same way, but these extraordinary individuals did something about it. They took a training course. They learned to stop an armed attack in their schools. They learned to treat the injured. Rather than shelter in place and wait for the police and EMTs to save them, these teachers became the good guy with a gun and bandages. The training program is a success. The volunteer organization that trains teachers doesn’t have enough money to train everyone who wants instruction. These men and women do it for love and they need our help.

Read his full report here.

Would You Be Interested In A Class With Grant And Paul? In The Piedmont?

Doc Wesson of The Gun Nation podcast and I are trying to arrange a two-day training class in the Greensboro area with Grant Cunningham and Paul Carlson.

Grant is the author of The Gun Digest Book of the Revolver, The Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Handguns, Defensive Revolver Fundamentals, and Defensive Pistol Fundamentals. He is a well-known revolversmith, a trainer, and heads the Personal Security Institute. He would be teaching his Threat Centered Revolver course. Grant is also a regular on The Gun Nation Podcast.

Paul Carlson of Safety Solutions Academy is a well-known trainer located in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. He would be teaching his Critical Defense Handgun course. Like Grant, Paul is a regular on The Gun Nation Podcast.

Both Grant and Paul are excellent teachers. I’ve been wanting to get them to North Carolina for some time now as the Cleveland area is a long drive and Oregon is an even longer drive. We will need a minimum of 12 students not counting Doc and myself to make this a go.

I’ve created the map below showing a 300 mile driving radius around Greensboro. Within this radius, you have all the Carolinas, Virginia, most of Maryland and West Virginia, and parts of East Tennessee, Georgia, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. Interstates 40 and 85 intersect in Greensboro making it a hub. If you prefer to fly, Piedmont Triad International is served by many airlines.

I don’t know the costs for the class yet but will post that as soon as I know.

If you are interested, please contact me at or Doc at The sooner we can gauge interest in the class, the sooner we can nail down the dates.

And let’s face it – we could all benefit from some more really good training.

Can You Shoot Better Than A Cop?

With apologies to the TV show “Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader” but can you shoot better than a cop?

The answer, in general, is yes. While there are of course exceptions like a Massad Ayoob or a Bruce Piatt the anecdotal evidence such as the shooting of West African immigrant Amadou Diallo says otherwise. In that case, four NYPD officers shot a total of 41 rounds but hit him with less than half.

Police get some firearms training in the police academy and then a minimal amount after that. From what I’ve read, the national average in 2008 was between 4 and 16 hours annually. That has probably decreased with the rise in the cost of ammo and the tightness of training budgets.

My university email this morning contained a report on a study that takes this from the anecdotal to the scientific. It was in Force Science News No. 280.

The Force Science Institute did a study which will be published in a forthcoming issue of the International Journal of Police Science and Management. The study entitled “The Naive Shooter from a Law Enforcement Perspective: Hit Probability” was based upon testing 247 police academy students and recruits at two police academies and one college with a law enforcement training program. The study broke down the shooters into three classifications: expert, intermediate, and novice. Experts had either finished the academy shooting course or had been trained in the military while intermediates had no formal academy training but had shot before in either recreational settings or had military rifle training. Finally, the novices were just that. Many of them had never even held a gun in their lives.

The volunteers were allowed to pick between Glock 9mm/.40 S&W pistols and Beretta 9mm pistols. They then were told to take three shots on each of nine targets. These targets were staggered at distance ranging from 3 feet to 75 feet (1-25 yards). They were not told where to shoot on the target.

So how did it turn out?

SURPRISING HIT RATES. Generally, the Experts scored the most hits. But the edge they enjoyed often proved, at best, surprisingly narrow. Notably:

  • At most distances, there was “no significant difference” in percentage of hits between Expert and Intermediate groups.
  • Against targets 18 to 45 feet away, Intermediates actually registered a higher hit ratio than academy trained shooters–about 41% vs. 38%.
  • At three to 15 feet, where most officer fatalities occur, Expert shooters hit one of the major-damage zones on the target “with eight out of nine bullets they fired,” the researchers found, while Novices hit “with seven of the nine bullets they fired”–a scant advantage for the trained recruits of just a single round.

Considering the high volume of shootings that occur “at such close ranges, officers need to have a better advantage over threatening suspects,” Lewinski writes.

  • It was not unusual for Novices to cycle through rounds at a cadence of one quarter to one third of a second per shot.
  • At longer distances, Novice accuracy fell off significantly. But Intermediate shooters, apparently able to adapt their long-gun experience to handgun firing, continued to be “nearly identical” to the fully trained Experts.

In summary, Lewinski writes, “[I]ndividuals who had completed standard law enforcement academy firearms training were not more accurate in their shooting” than those with Intermediate skills and “were only moderately more accurate than individuals who…had little to no handgun experience… It was unexpected that the Novices would be so accurate in comparison….

“These findings underscore that critical importance of officers taking every step necessary to maintain control of their weapon,” he continues. “Officers will often shoot at a suspect in an attempt to end their efforts to gain control of the officer’s gun and these findings highlight why this is understandable and necessary. The result of a suspect gaining control of an officer’s gun–even someone who has little or no experience firing a gun–can be catastrophic.”

The authors of the study had two conclusions regarding training that we in the self-defense community will also find useful. First, concentrating firearms training into a short block of time (4-8 hour class) as opposed to over a longer period of time induces a quicker decay of skills in the long term. Training and practice in each of the essential aspects – stance, sight alignment, trigger control, etc – one at a time over a period of 2-4 weeks results in better skill retention. Unfortunately, I don’t know of any month long training schools for the average shooter.

The second conclusion, however, has greater relevance and applicability to the self-defense community. Inadequate practice led these students to revert to an “internal attitudinal focus”. In other words, they were focused on their grip or their trigger control and not on the target (or external threat). More (good) practice leads to these skills becoming automatic and the shooter will then be able to focus on the target and threat recognition. To me this suggests a lot more dry fire and drawing from concealment practice would be useful.

When the study is published, I will link to the finished article. In the meantime, with some training and more practice I think we can shoot better than cops.

Clint Smith On A Shotgun Versus Pistol For Home Defense

Clint Smith of Thunder Ranch is one of the most highly respected trainers in the industry. In the NSSF video below, he discusses the use of a pistol versus a shotgun for home defense.

Often, the shotgun is downgraded as a home defense tool due to its length and the thought that an intruder could grab the barrel. As Clint shows in the video, the difference in length between a properly presented handgun and a shotgun is not that great. That said, regardless of the weapon used, you need to train as Grant Cunningham makes clear in this post.

How To Wear And Adjust An IWB Holster

If you are like me, you didn’t have anyone to teach you just how to place and adjust your inside the waistbelt holster. It was a trial and error process. The video below would have been quite helpful and would have cut the adjustment process immensely.

While the video is from Alien Gear Holsters, the information presented could be used with virtually any IWB holster.

The Outdoor Wire’s Concealed Carry Special Edition

The Outdoor Wire network of newsletters released their annual Concealed Carry Special Edition this morning. It features articles on training for concealed carry from Mike Seeklander, Michael Bane, Claude Werner, Tiger McKee, Rich Grassi, and Paul Erhardt. 

Dave Spaulding, whom I consider one of the best trainers out there, said it contains “good, useable information” on his Facebook page.

If you have a concealed carry permit or are thinking of finally getting one, I’d highly recommend this. We can all use more training.

You can open it from this link.