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Tactical Competence - Level Up

One of the most common observations we hear from students when they complete a course is, “I can’t believe how much I didn’t know!” This even comes from people who have been shooting for 20+ years! Additionally, we also hear, “I can’t believe how much I am learning!” and, “I can’t believe how much more there is to learn!” also comes from folks who have been shooting for a long time.

As instructors, one of the most difficult obstacles we must overcome is a student’s ego. Many students come to us with some level of training under their belt - whether it has been plinking with ‘Uncle Bob’ or attending a serious training school. In my time as an instructor, it still perplexes me when a prospective student tells me they have been shooting for “20 years” and yet, when they come to class, they can’t even tell me what kind/caliber gun they have. I have said before that men especially, can do three things well – drive a car, fight, and shoot a gun. Just ask them.

This is not meant to offend anyone, but over the 50+ years I have been teaching at some level – either martial arts or firearms – I have seen all kinds of individuals who believe they are skilled. Most, however, (a) had not trained in many years, (b) only had minimal training, or (c) learned all their skills via TV/internet. It would actually be funny if the possible fall-out wasn’t so potentially tragic, but as Jeff Cooper put it, very few have been able to demonstrate ‘skill on demand’– Either you can do it or you can’t.

There are five defined levels of competence every student goes through. Some have a harder time accepting the fact they may be at a lower level than they believe they are. But that’s where some of the best learning takes place.

The lowest level of competence is Intentionally or Consciously Incompetent. These are the people who know they need training, but they lack the good sense and motivation to seek it out. They actually avoid it because by exposing themselves to training, they are exposing their shortfalls to their peers, and they fear that more than death itself. This type of individual does not want to be at training. They generally waste the instructor’s time, and they waste other student’s time. You should avoid them like the plague.

The next level is the Unconsciously Incompetent. These are the people who do not know what they do not know and, conservatively, they make up about 90+% of the gun owning population. This may seem like a high number but, understand that the vast majority of the gun-owning population have never been in a lethal encounter or real fight of any kind. If they had, they would know that in a real gunfight, you are only going to be about half as good as you are on your best day on the range, simply from the stress of a lethal situation.

Here are some examples of the Unconsciously Incompetent:

  • The police officer, who only fires his weapon for mandatory range qualification 2 or 3 times a year.

  • Military personnel, especially Reserve Units and National Guard Units, who have not had the opportunity to train with their weapons or live ammunition in the last 6-12 months yet may be quickly called up and sent off to fight.

  • The hunter, who buys a new rifle, books a trip and when the guide puts him within 75 yards of an animal, he misses - or worse, wounds the animal.

  • The gun owner, who thinks - without having any type of training - that simply having a pistol and a box of ammunition is all they need for protection should he hear the glass breaking in the middle of the night.

This competence category also includes everyone who has a Concealed Carry/Weapon Permit but have only taken the mandatory/minimum course that is SOMETIMES required. Most of that time is spent discussing where and when they can legally carry a gun, some minimal actual hands-on training, and a very minimal skills test. Now they’re out there on the street, carrying a gun, thinking that should someone step up to try to take their life, they have all the tools they need to protect it. They, too, do not know what they do not know.

Like many who have “seen the light”, I too was Unconsciously Incompetent. I read all the magazines and books, went to gun shows, hung out at the gun shops and bought all the latest ‘widgets’ that were guaranteed to make me a better shooter. Fortunately, I didn’t have the ‘near lethal encounter’ that led to the ‘AHA! Moment’. But I did begin to see that getting training and practicing regularly and correctly was the key. At least now I was Consciously Incompetent - I knew what I did not know, and I knew I needed more training and practice.

When we get new students in a class, our purpose is to validate their awareness and show them they need and want the training and provide them with a curriculum that will quickly bring them up to the level of Consciously Competent. Further practice and training will raise their skills to the next and highest level - Unconsciously Competent. At this level your weapon-craft skills, your tactics and your mindset all become reflexive. However, even at this level you’re still not going to be as good as you are on your best day on the range. But half as good at the Unconsciously Competent level is far better than the Unconsciously Incompetent individual you’re likely to encounter on the street.

Our staff and curriculum will take you from whatever level you’re presently at and significantly improve your skills during the time that you spend with us. How can I be so confident to make that statement without knowing your individual abilities? It doesn’t matter. In any class we offer, there are students who have never shot a gun before, students who have been shooting for 20 years, returning students and possibly even firearms instructors, law enforcement officers and military personnel. Everyone improves at some level.

Because I have attended many classes/schools and spent literally thousands of hours in class and on the range, I have become aware of what makes a great program. I’m quite proud of our programs and try to maintain the highest standards while achieving significant results with each and every student. We care about our students as they are the product! When you leave us at the end of a course, you will take the gun handling, the marksmanship, the mindset, and the tactics that we teach with you. We see you now as a representative of our programs.

So, when you walk into a gun shop and ask the clerk to see a gun and he hands it to you, you keep it pointed in a safe direction; you check to see if it’s loaded; you clear it before you begin handling it; you keep your finger off the trigger; and you don’t point it at the clerk or anyone else in the store. He looks at you and says, “Wow, there’s something different about this person! He’s not like everyone else that comes in here.”

The same on the range – you rapidly and correctly present your weapon from the holster; you fire accurately - performing after action drills and other techniques that you learned, and people see this too. And when they finally have the courage to walk up to you and say, “Excuse me. Where did you learn how to do that?” You can proudly say, “G-TAC!”



The Director's Desk

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