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Who's Gonna Fill Their Shoes?

Country music legend, George Jones, first sang ‘Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes’ in 1985 and it has been a country music standard ever since. In it, Jones sings of the irreplaceability of country music legends and their impacts on country music.

The last time I heard the song, I began thinking of my martial art and shooting mentors and instructors. I must have done something right in my life to have been fortunate enough to have been exposed to some of the finest instructors in both fields during my life. I have attended classes and read hundreds of books and articles by these giants in our arts and have learned much from each. As recently as two weeks ago I assisted John Farnam with a class I have attended several times and STILL walked away with a page full of notes!! It is a never ending process.

But, as I age, so to do these legends of the combat shooting fraternity. The true “Fathers” of the art – William E. Fairbairn, Eric A. Sykes, Rex Applegate, Jeff Cooper, Elden Carl, and many others, developed, tested, and refined their methods in the harshest environments, then, they taught thousands of students, and future instructors, and no doubt saved countless lives doing so.

The next generation of teachers include John Farnam, Tom Givens, Dave Spaulding, Larry Vickers, Massad Ayoob, Louis Awerbuck, Jim Cirillo, Chuck Taylor, and countless others who, too, taught thousands how to effectively use a handgun for self-defense. Sadly, many of these are gone or slowly aging out and we are in danger of losing a vast encyclopedic store of gunfighting knowledge. Who, then, will pass on the art to the next generation?

Combat/tactical shooting is much like the traditional martial arts. There will always be those who believe their art is the best. Everyone has their own likes and dislikes. So, it stands to reason there are those in the combat/tactical arms arena that have their preferences as well. What I have found in my modest 35 years as a firearms instructor is that we all have similarities inferring similar roots. We are much more alike than different, and we should embrace those similarities. There are many concepts that transcend all fighting arts. While the systems and techniques may differ, the fundamentals are the same. As far as the shooting arts are concerned, we are all products of the previous masters. As students, instructors, and combat arms practitioners, we stand on the shoulders of giants.

I feel it is important to carry on the legal and rightful practice of ‘skill at arms’. It is a right granted to us through our constitution and it is even mentioned in several books of the Bible (Luke 22:36, Psalm 144:1, Exodus 22:2, Joel 3:10). Seeking out capable and knowledgeable instructors, training, practicing, and refining your skills is an important part of the process of insuring all the information many of us often take for granted is not lost. Educating and training others in our art is essential for our survival.

Be Safe · Be Effective · Be Ready


The Director's Desk

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