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Beyond the Basics

Life After Your Initial Training.

Congratulations!! You have completed your basic CCW or state mandated firearm training class and, you have your permit to carry your concealed handgun. Some of you may have had your permit for some time and may have also visited your local range a time or two. Great!

Now what?

As a long-time firearms instructor, I have seen countless individuals who carefully consider their options and then decide to arm themselves. They search, shop and purchase a reliable firearm and all the accessories, take a basic training class and appear content to stop there. They seem to feel that since they have had the required training (if any at all), there is no real necessity to seek out and participate in any further instruction. What they don’t realize is that now is the time they need to get serious.

The act of carrying a firearm for self-defense means that you have made a conscious decision to protect yourself and/or your loved ones with lethal force if necessary. This is no small decision and carries with it a tremendous level of responsibility. It cannot be taken lightly. It deserves the same attention of any other potentially life altering choice and quite often is looked upon as nothing more than a convenient conclusion.

In my classes, I often make the statement that all men think they can do three things well – drive a car, shoot a gun and fight. In my experience as an instructor, participant or observer in all three areas, I can attest this is not true. Most ‘guys’ believe the schoolyard fights they were in years ago count as combat. The same thing with the shooting they did with ‘Uncle Joe’ – they believe it counts as legitimate self-defense training.

Driving is another story. I have been involved in several high-speed pursuits in my career as a law enforcement officer, and quickly realized I can reach my ability threshold very rapidly. It is easy to out-drive your ability in the heat of the moment. Many individuals drive daily and have become very comfortable behind the wheel. This, however, does not equate with being competent behind the wheel.

As Jeff Cooper said, "Owning a handgun doesn't make you armed any more than owning a guitar makes you a musician." Being armed also means having the ability - physically and mentally - to apply your tool in a responsible and accurate manner and not haphazardly so to endanger others. Our training should continue from the time we complete our first class until we can no longer physically perform at a level that is safe or we decide not to go armed any longer. Since shooting a handgun is a physical skill, we must understand the skill will deteriorate if it is not used and sharpened on a consistent basis.

How do you decide what kind(s) of classes to attend? I would ask, why are you carrying your gun? What are the things you do on a daily basis which pose the biggest threat to you? Where do feel you are most vulnerable? Do you have your children or vulnerable adults with you? What is your normal mode of dress? Do you want to carry on or off body? Revolver or semi-automatic? These are just some of the questions you should ask yourself as you take up the ’armed lifestyle’.

Only a small percentage of us are Police officers or in the military. Most of us don’t work high level security nor are we on a protection detail for a VIP. Most of us are normal, everyday folks who feel we need to have the ability to protect ourselves, and we choose a firearm to help us do that. So, the answers to many of the above questions can be found in a number of training classes that are available.

The skill sets you should seek include:

§ The capability to properly run your gun. Many believe they already know how to ‘run their gun’ because (a) they have been to the range and shot it and (b) they have a concealed carry permit. Notice neither of these things actually impart to someone the ‘manual of arms’ necessary to use their gun efficiently and safely. Loading, unloading, clearing malfunctions, drawing from the holster and even choosing adequate ammunition are all things that should be considered when choosing a training class. As a close friend once said, “Shooting a gun is not difficult, it’s just easy to mess up.”

§ Warrior/Combat/Fighting mind-set. Most people are not wired to take the life of another human being. Some will go to extremes and believe they can negotiate with an armed violent criminal. Violent criminals don’t think like rational individuals and are usually not willing nor inclined to discuss the situation. We need to be able to virtually disassociate from rational thought and focus on the situation at hand.

§ Environmental/Situational awareness. This has been done to death and seems almost trite when brought up in discussions such as this. But, being aware of your surroundings can keep you from being totally surprised by allowing you to see the threat ahead of time. Avoiding a violent situation is always preferable to engaging with a violent criminal and increasing your chances of being injured or worse.

§ Self-Engaged Training (SET). Training by yourself takes discipline and a plan. The plan is easy to get. The discipline, not so much. I am a big proponent of dry-fire training as it is both easy and effective. You can do it inside out of the weather, you don’t have to drive to the range, no gun cleaning is required, and it’s fun! There are several good dry/live-fire training programs out there - Claude Werner at, Mike Seeklander at, and – to name a few. Choose one and stay with it and you will see results. GTAC also offers a dry-fire program in conjunction with Shot Indicating Resetting Trigger (S.I.R.T.) and Laser Activated Shot Reporter (L.A.S.R.) training as well.

Whatever you decide to do, consistency is important. Try to get a little training in each day. Remember, the results are cumulative so even 2-3 minutes a day can result in an increase in skill level.

GTAC offers classes that take you from entry level (First Shots) through additional follow-up training (Next Shots) and into the skill levels needed for prepared and competent concealed carry (Fundamental Concealed carry and Intermediate/Advanced Concealed Carry). Contact us for additional information. No matter where you are in your training, we can help!

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