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Firearms Training: Then and Now
An Interview with John Farnam

As armed citizens celebrate favorable laws recognizing concealed carry of self-defense firearms, we sometimes wonder, has self-defense training kept up with the times? What are the training needs of those joining the ranks of armed citizenry today?

Evaluating progress is impossible without a sense of where a movement started. Many training luminaries have come and gone, but few can match the “years in service” and still continue to participate as enthusiastically as firearms instructor John Farnam! If anyone is qualified to evaluate our progress in self-defense training, it is surely Farnam.

Farnam maintains a grueling schedule and still finds time to shape opinion through his D.T.I. Quips ( and by generous contributions of his time and knowledge, like the influence he extends as a member of the Network’s Advisory Board (

Earlier this year in January, we were privileged to spend time with John talking about the self-defense industry from a “then and now” perspective. The conversation was so interesting that we want to share it with you in John’s own words.

eJournal: You have dedicated many, many years to this industry, John. We’d like to better understand where we are today by comparing training when you started out in the ‘70s. But first, how did you get started as a firearms instructor?

Farnam: In 1967, I graduated from college with a degree in biology and chemistry, but there was a war going on, and somehow I knew I had to be in it. A couple months later, I found myself in Quantico, VA instead of graduate school and then a few months after that, I found myself in Vietnam as a young second lieutenant.

I was there for 51 days and on my 51st day, I got my third purple heart. I was shot through my hand and so they shipped me home. Most of my colleagues died.

I think 75% of my OCS class died and we were all wounded. I know guys who have five purple hearts; I only have three. It has always haunted me all these years. Why did I, the least qualified of all, live through it when all my friends didn’t?

When I got back I was bewildered and angry, because I thought our small arms training was poor. Even at the time I knew that. I thought our trainers didn’t know anything. They were a bunch of target shooters who didn’t even carry guns.

After working in the family business for a little while, I became a police officer and I went through the whole thing all over again, except now, I had some experience. When I went through the police academy, our trainers knew less than I did. I suppose it is easy for me to be judgmental, but the whole body of knowledge that we possess today didn’t even exist back then.

Even as a new police officer, I decided that what was being taught officers had not kept up. I thought, I can do better than this, so I started consulting. That quickly became full time and I started running around the country working with police departments.

I bought a target system called a Duelatron and that became something of my calling card. Of course, I starved to death, but I was too stubborn to admit that I was wrong! I knew this was something that I was born to do. As you know, because you have been my student, I am more of an evangelist than an instructor.

eJournal: At that time, the norm was to stand exposed on the 25-yard line, shoot, reload and shoot again.