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Choosing the Right Training Class

By April 6, 2011No Comments

Choosing the Right Training Class

By: James Yeager of Tactical Response


I frequently get calls and e-mails vaguely asking, “What will I learn in this course?” The prospective student really doesn’t know what question to ask or what the right answers should be if they hear it. I have often sent people to other training schools after realizing the student wants to learn something in which my school, Tactical Response, doesn’t specialize. I am writing this to help students make a more educated decision about which course to purchase and from which school.

To make my point a bit more clear I must explain my overall philosophy on all things tactical. We use a “Hierarchy of Survival” to illustrate where we place the most emphasis and they are Mindset, Tactics, Skill and Gear…in that order. At the top is Mindset and with it all of the things that Jeff Cooper explained so well in “The Principles of Personal Defense” that is surely on your bookshelf. Some high points are your alertness, aggressiveness, coolness, ruthlessness and decisiveness. To quote author John Steinbeck “The final weapon is the brain, all else is supplemental.”

Number two on the list is Tactics and there is any number of “cool-guy” definitions but basically it means doing things so you have more turns to shoot than the bad guy. Third is Skill and by that we mean getting better with the machine which in this case is a firearm. The last thing at the very bottom of the list is Gear. Gear is the tool part of the equation. It’s funny because we spend the most time worrying about gear (what gun, what bullet, what sling, holster, cleaning products…blah-blah-blah!). A Gear training class could be an Armorer’s school for instance.

Shooting and other defensive courses (edged weapons, combatives, etc) can teach you in three distinct areas. They are mindset, tactics and / or skill. Many schools primarily teach skill based courses. What I mean exactly is that they teach them how to run the gun faster / better. Their military and police customers love it because they don’t want to hear the other aspects of mindset and tactics because they feel they have that part under control. If you are a competition shooter this is a good place for you to train because you can spend the entire time learning how to shoot better and faster. Schools that do this well are typically noted for the Spec-Ops types who frequent the establishment.

Tactically oriented courses typically don’t have a tremendous amount of live fire. They are more interested in teaching you proper tactics, i.e. movement, use of cover, communication, team tactics and other strategic elements of winning a lethal force encounter. You can expect to see “force on force” scenarios using Simunition FX rounds or Airsoft training weapons where you actually learn to shoot at other human beings. This is the cutting edge stuff in my opinion. It is FAR more valuable than standing exactly in front of your paper target and shooting it. However, you must understand proper marksmanship before tactics training is of much value other than scaring you into taking a skill only based class.

Mindset covers your mental self, and more importantly your spirit as it relates to fighting. This is typically a lecture that stimulates thought and motivates the student to do more than the average gun owner. Jeff Cooper pioneered this area of teaching and his information is the foundation of every school’s philosophy. This is a tough sell because it isn’t glamorous and you don’t get to show off your “Blastmaster 5000” to the other students.

A Fighting Mindset is the most difficult thing to get students to understand and implement. It takes a gifted teacher to awaken and motivate student’s drive and commitment. We have many students who can carry guns legally but choose not to. Off-Duty Cops and Civilian Carry Permit holders are, as a whole, a lazy bunch of folks. They will come and shoot in the course but not carry a gun daily. When I learn the secret of how to unlock people’s minds and make them realize they might be next, I’ll be a millionaire. The “News” is just not something that happens to other people. Find a school that cares about you personally and whether or not you live after you leave.

The question you need to ask yourself before choosing a class is “What am I trying to accomplish?” Do you want to defend yourself, family and home? Would you just like to get a higher score at the next IDPA match? Knowing what you want to be able to do, or be on the road to being able to do, is the answer to your question and should be the basis for making your decision.

The next obvious question is what does Tactical Response teach?  Regardless of what class you are referring to all of our classes emphasize a “fighting mindset” and the methods taught lend themselves to being a part of your defensive toolbox. None of our courses are purely shooting oriented although there is nothing wrong with those courses. It is just not our specialty and there are other schools that would do a better job. We teach the good guys (Police, Military and Honest Citizens) how to kill bad guys.

Decisions, decisions… Mindset? Tactics? Skill? Gear? Talk to the prospective Instructor and ask him what his courses offer and compare that with what you want to learn. We are in a “Renaissance Period” so to speak as far as tactical training is concerned and history will look back on this time period as the “golden age” of fighting.

I will leave you with a parting thought: Either you are the weapon and your gun is a tool, or your gun is a weapon and you are a tool.

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