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Training Priorities

An Interview with Tom Givens

by Gila Hayes

I doubt that armed citizens have ever before enjoyed such a smorgasbord of firearms training options! If you doubt it, just do a Google search for key words including “firearms training,” “gun training,” “self-defense gun class” or any combination of related phrases and count the links the search produces! With such a variety of training options so readily available, how is the armed citizen to select those that will provide the best results? We asked Network Advisory Board member and firearms trainer Tom Givens how to prioritize our training and as always occurs in a discussion with Givens, the conversation provided action-oriented advice that will help members wanting to improve their defense skills.

eJournal: How do you teach skills for armed self defense?

Givens: I believe the first thing that must be done is to tailor the training to the student group. I do not teach the same program for law enforcement, military or civilian students, as their circumstances, equipment, mission and rules of engagement are so vastly different. With that in mind, the rest of this discussion will center on training private citizens.

In physical or mechanical skills, we generally emphasize a few common skills that are likely to be needed in just about any confrontation with an armed criminal:

1. Safe, efficient, fast presentation from the holster. In an armed confrontation, one MAY have to shoot, fix a malfunction, or reload, but you darn sure WILL need to produce your sidearm quickly, safely and efficiently! Private citizens have to be careful about brandishing or displaying a handgun without good cause, so the gun will probably start in the holster when the flag flies. The faster one can present his handgun, the more time he has left to make decisions or to fire accurately.

2. Solid hits with the first shot and with all successive shots.

In the urban environment most of us live in there are no misses, only unintended hits. You will be held accountable for every round you fire, regardless of your intentions or the circumstances. The only good backstop on the street is your attacker.

Those two things are by far the most important, and we put a lot of effort into them. In addition, we feel the student should be familiar with these items:

1. The ability to shoot with both hands, or with one (either) hand. Given the choice, we will ALWAYS use both hands, to enhance control and retention of the pistol as well as to enhance accuracy and recoil control. The student must be familiar and comfortable, however, with shooting with only one hand, including the support or non-dominant hand.

2. Reloading the handgun quickly and efficiently. We teach the Speed Reload and the Emergency Reload (also called the Voluntary and Involuntary, Proactive and Reactive, and In-Battery and Out of Battery reloads). We do not waste time learning complicated “Tactical Reloads.”

3. Fixing common malfunctions. The student should be able to quickly remedy the common malfunctions, like a Failure to Fire, a Failure to Eject (stovepipe) or a Failure to Extract (double feed).

4. Shooting in reduced light. Although most pistol fights occur during “the hours of darkness,” they do not occur in the dark. In urban areas, real darkness is rare. What we commonly encounter is “low light” or “reduced light.” Students should be exposed to firing under these conditions.

Those are the primary physical skills. In higher level classes, we get into shooting from retention, firing at longer ranges, shooting from odd or compromised positions, and stress management, but the student should have a very solid foundation in the listed skills before these things are attempted.