Many who come to this blog are looking for recommendations for gear that will enhance their safety and help meet mission requirements. And that’s a good idea. When it comes to buying quality gear hearing from others in the field is a solid start to evaluating what will best suit your needs. But people sometimes overlook the most important part of the mission success equation, the software. We want the best firearms, the best holsters, the finest body armor, and all the other equipment that we might need to protect ourselves, our families, and the people we work to protect. However, before you get on the high-speed gear train, take a moment to honestly evaluate your core skills. Are you performing at the top of your game, or are you getting new gear to compensate for a shortcoming that could be overcome with quality training?
In the case where we have had excellent training, are we maintaining our skills? Gear wears out at a much slower rate than our skills perish. All defensive tactics are perishable skills. Without regular, quality training and practice, your perfect draw stroke, your excellent accuracy, your weapon retention skills, will all degrade to the point where you may not be able to rely on them, when they are needed most. So, find good training and replenish your abilities.
The fact is, if you carry a firearm, or keep a firearm at home for self defense or in the defense of others, you have a very real moral obligation to be as competent as reasonable with that tool. What is reasonable? Well, that is largely up to you, until such time that you deploy your firearm, then a court or jury might decide if you met a base standard of training and proficiency. Most Law Enforcement agencies follow a regular qualification schedule that meets minimum standards. Those are just as they sound. The bare minimum. Why invest in equipment to reach a minimum, when a small investment of time and money will greatly exceed that? With greater abilities comes confidence. Knowing you have the tools and capabilities to solve a defensive problem goes a long way towards peace of mind. When you figure the costs of training, it comes out to be cheap insurance. And as an added bonus, good training is fun. A lot of fun.
All across America training venues and shooting ranges are seeing growth. People have come to realize the truths in the preceding paragraphs. So, if you are living on the West Coast, where might you find some quality training with subject matter experts? One such venue is California Tactical Academy. Yes, it is located in California, home of some strange laws. But California Tactical Academy has taken what some might see as a weakness and turned it into a strength. For starters, California, despite it’s strange politics, is still home to some of the best, year-round training weather anywhere in the world; particularly where California Tactical Academy is located. There are very few rain days, only a short period where the temperature is uncomfortably warm (and even then, they run classes with the caveat that the participants remain hydrated), and no time during the year where the temperature is too cold to train or hinder the programs. Even more so, the cadre at California Tactical Academy has taken the time to study the various California legal firearms (both rifle and handgun) to a degree that many other trainers in other states have never needed to do. Are you running a “featureless” rifle for home defense? Great, the cadre at California Tactical Academy works with such rifles daily, they can even rent you such a rifle so you can try before you buy. Capacity limits on your magazines? No problem. You’ll learn how to work around such limits with practical reloading techniques and tactics designed to help you come out on top.
Classes at California Tactical academy run the gamut from beginner classes for those who either are just starting out or want to take a class to reinforce the foundational skills, to advanced tactics courses from subject matter experts such as former SWAT cops and Navy SEALs. Once you are comfortable with your safety and skills, you can rent your own shooting range at California Tactical Academy to practice. If you want to practice with friends or family, this is a great way to get on the range and splitting the costs of the range rental makes it very reasonable. If you are a security professional, getting a couple of co-workers together to practice individual and team tactics on the range is a great idea. The ranges allow for handgun, shotgun, and rifle training with paper and steel targets as well as other reactionary targets. If you are a parent and want to introduce your family to firearms safety, the private range is a great way to do that, with no outside distractions.
When we think of defensive use of firearms, we don’t often think of long range shooting. However, if you live on a larger piece of land, or in a more rural area, it is a very real possibility that you might need to engage a threat at an extended distance. And if you are a security professional, engaged in protective details, an overwatch with a long gun is not too far out of the realm of possibilities. California Tactical Academy has a rifle range with steel, reactionary targets out to as far as 1000 yards. What a great way to develop confidence in your abilities and test your equipment.
Speaking of great ways to test abilities and equipment, I have found that there is nothing better than performing under stress to inoculate oneself to the rigors of defensive shooting. And a great way to do that is under time pressure, with people watching. In other words, a shooting competition such as the action shooting sports. Too many armed professionals, and armed citizens shun competitive shooting because they either feel it is unrealistic or they don’t like to expose their weaknesses. Putting aside the first complaint, and focusing on exposing weakness, that is a critical first step to improvement. Without knowing where we are weak, we cannot move forward. And self-diagnosis can become a matter of frustration if we don’t have an outside influence to drive us. Shooting sports, like any other sport, will help you improve in that arena. Most people at shooting sports are happy to see new competitors and will guide them through the process. The only thing judged harshly is safety, which, ironically, mirrors real life where a safety violation could cost dearly. So as long as you are safe, you are welcomed. As for the unrealistic nature of the shooting sports, while the tactics themselves may seem contrived, no one ever got into a gun fight and said, “I wish I could shoot slower, with less accuracy.” The action shooting sports will build controlled speed with reasonable accuracy demands that mimic real life. Even the targets are designed around proper defensive shooting shot placements. Competitions include handgun matches on paper and steel targets, just steel targets, and world class stages. There are also rifle only action matches and even matches which employ rifle, shotgun, and pistol for great practice with all common defensive weapons. Special equipment is not required to compete. Just the gear you might use for normal defensive applications.
As a former Law Enforcement Officer and firearms trainer, I would regularly encourage my coworkers to attend shooting matches. And my training classes would borrow heavily from shooting competitions because the doctrine works and it makes people better shooters. Several of my coworkers went on to become very established competition shooters.
So, if you are serious about your safety and the deployment of a firearm, pause and consider if you are truly comfortable with your gear. If not, take steps to remedy this and get some training, and then practice. Because at the end of the day, if we are not ”good enough” we will fail our mission and our families in an epic fashion from which, there may be no recovery.
About the writer
Military and Law Enforcement Veteran
FBI certified firearm instructor
MP5 and Sub Machine gun instructor
Defensive tactics instructor
Police Academy instructor