Is Formal Firearms Training Really Necessary? – Part 2

21 Apr

The White haired ShooterTHE WHITE HAIRED SHOOTER


Link to Part I : Is Formal Firearms Training Really Necessary?

In the previous post on this subject, I looked at the claim made in a video I had viewed stating the average person didn’t need formal training to point and shoot a gun and was intelligent enough to handle it safely. While there is a measure of truth in this assertion, a part of me was screaming to refute or at least ignore his point. But I do have to agree a gun is essentially a “simple tool.”

I am concerned that many people believe they only need (formal) training to fulfill the requirement to obtain a permit to open or conceal carry a gun in public. That leaves a large contingent of people who don’t want or need to obtain a carry permit. And most of those people are in agreement with the video that started this post, that a gun is simple and they are “smart enough” to handle it. One of my pet peeves is what usually amounts to “false pride” and often outright arrogance accompanying a person’s denial for need of education – in a wide variety of applications and subjects, not just firearms training.

It is unbelievable to me that anyone would “casually” handle or play with a firearm, but that does frequently happen. The person playing can also get away with doing it – right up until the one time that – tragically- they don’t. I believe that is the danger of the idea promulgated by that video mentioned above. It fails to mention the discipline needed to develop good habits and safe handling EVERYTIME you pick up a firearm.

Chainsaw analogy chainsaw30

You can watch reality shows, videos, read on the subject, have a family member or friend show you how to handle it, and think you can “learn by doing” running a saw. But I would wager virtually everyone, including “yours truly,” is surprised – and hopefully without serious injury – by the power in your hands the first time you actually operate the saw yourself.

A chainsaw, like a firearm, is also basically a simple tool that the average person can operate without formal training. Most people can reason out how to hold and use it to make cuts in a log or piece of wood and be fairly safe, under ideal conditions. What is less obvious is the art and skill required to safely deal with unexpected situations you may encounter as you wield this “simple” but very powerful tool.

Just a few of many things you may encounter: having the saw buck out of control and potentially cause injury to you or someone else; making accidental contact with the ground, rocks and adjacent objects; the saw may become “stuck” in the object you are cutting and you need to learn how to avoid or remedy that situation; and so on all the way to felling a tree and controlling where it is going fall or behave.

Besides the sheer power and sharp teeth on the cutting bar, there are more factors at work. Interaction with seemingly inert objects consist of more than just gravity. When a limb or trunk snaps unexpectedly before a cut is completed, energy is powerfully released and may propel or fling parts of the tree or branch with potentially deadly force. In those cases the chain saw itself may become uncontrollable and cause grievious injury. If I do not make safety a primary concern and pay strict attention while I am running that saw I am inviting potential injury and harm. A chainsaw is not a tool to be used casually.

If I wanted to be a logger I would make it my business to study, apprentice and learn, practice, and most of all pay attention to safety concerns. Does something “magically” change the laws of physics if I am only planning to be a casual firewood gatherer? or do some weekend pruning or removing some trees? Are those immutable laws suspended because I am not a professional or don’t want to do it everyday?

A quote from  applies equally to firearms:

“There is probably no other power tool that is potentially as dangerous to operate as a chainsaw, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Employing standard safety precautions removes most of the danger.It is when we get careless or tired that accidents happen.”

Safe Handling of Firearms

FACT: A handgun is capable of inflicting deadly force, whether intended or accidental.

While we have the constitutional right to keep and bear arms, it is easy to ignore or bypass the social and ethical responsibility that goes with that right. That responsibility is to safe use and storage of firearms.

gunfire2Unlike a chainsaw with sharp rotating teeth that go from a resting state to high velocity with an attendant piercing warning scream before you put it to work, a gun doesn’t give any outward signs of its tremendous potential power. It is quiet and inert when you pick it up, load it, and hold it.

The discipline and attention to safe handling of firearms does not come “naturally” to a person. Safe handling habits must be learned and developed through drills and practiced until becoming second nature.

Once the trigger on a loaded firearm is pressed/pulled, enormous energy is unleashed in a deafening clap like thunder, with extremely hot gasses escaping from the cylinder on a revolver, and on a semiautomatic gasses escaping from the muzzle and its slide slammed back violently as it cycles to pick up the next cartridge.

Recoil from the explosive event of firing kicks the gun back, oftentimes quite violently. The projectile – bullet – travels at speeds measured in hundreds to thousands of feet per second, and if and when it impacts an object it has a destructive effect.

To reiterate my point, training is absolutely imperative if you wish to handle and shoot a firearm safely.

 Can’t you get training “informally” or be “self taught?”

class borderIn order to be responsibly safe and competent with your gun, is it possible to be self taught or receive equivalent informal training with firearms? Yes. But there are the same requirements as in a more formal class. You must be disciplined in your approach, thorough in your examination of the topic, and diligent in practicing to develop skill and proficiency.

There are volumes of information and resources on the subject available, including books and videos, talking to other people who shoot regularly, joining a shooting club, finding a mentor, and being dedicated to learning all you can.

A lot of people passionately make learning their business, with or without a formal “class.” If you are fortunate enough to have a mentor who is well schooled in the safe handling and shooting of firearms, then it is possible to obtain equivalent-to-formal training.

What if you don’t know an expert or master in the subject, and don’t have the time or inclination to become a self taught master of firearms yourself?

 Find a class on the basics of handguns/pistols

As I have said before, simply taking a class in order to qualify for a carry permit is not a guarantee you will learn the basics of handling, shooting and storing a firearm. Make sure that when you walk away from a basic class you are taking with you information and guidance in the operation and safe handling of your handgun.

Getting that permit is just a step in a process of being knowledgeable, competent and comfortable in your ability to carry and handle the firearm you will be carrying.

While there are other quality programs out there, I am most familiar with The National Rifle Association training. In the next post I will describe what the NRA certified Basic Pistol Class covers, and what you can expect and learn from an NRA Certified instructor.

Happy and Safe shooting  –  Peggy



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3 responses to “Is Formal Firearms Training Really Necessary? – Part 2

  1. weight2lose2013

    April 21, 2014 at 1:20 pm

    I think that your chainsaw analogy is perfect. My local police department has classes on firearms, and I’d like to take a course some day. I don’t plan on carrying but I believe that in order to have a pistol, you need a license to carry in my town. I’m not 100% sure, though. Thanks for a great post!

    • whitehairedshooter

      April 21, 2014 at 3:01 pm

      Thanks Rob! If you live in a small town, a visit to your sheriff or local police station can clear up quickly about what your local regulations are… a bigger town or city can get you pretty lost in bureaucrat-land.. either way you can easily find out online what state and local regs are as well!


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