Handgun Training for Personal Protection

By David Tong

I think it is obvious that merely testing the mechanical accuracy of your handgun off a solid bench rest or Ransom mechanical rest tests only the intrinsic accuracy of the pistol. It does not measure the skill of the person who will be using a personal defense sidearm under stress.

A controlled method of subjecting oneself to stress can be very eye opening. There are many shooters who believe that they will be able to get through a life-threatening situation without any outside help, instruction, or training. I am not one who believes this.

Even a cursory look at online training sources should provide one with a number of qualified instructors in every state who can teach the basics, as well as advanced methods of preparing for a deadly-force encounter. These can even be found in very liberal cities.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, we have the Firearms Academy of Seattle (e-mail [email protected]). Director Marty Hayes is a career law enforcement officer, and he and his staff have all been trained by Massad Ayoob, probably the foremost authority of the legal aftermath of a shooting. Their range is located in Centralia, Washington and they offer a 100% money-back guarantee if you complete the course and are dissatisfied in any way.

In Oregon, we have Thunder Ranch (www.thunderranchinc.com), an operation owned by Jeff Cooper's former Gunsite instructor Clint Smith. Mr. Smith is a USMC veteran. He has both an acerbic wit and a sense of history, as he offers courses for obsolete, as well as modern, firearms. His facility is located in Lakeview, Oregon, in the south-central part of the state.

While there are a number of so-called combat shooting match organizations that attempt to replicate (as closely as possible) the randomness of a deadly force incident, the one I have positive experience with is the International Defensive Pistol Association, or IDPA (www.IDPA.com). Here is an excerpt from their website's mission statement:

"IDPA is the use of practical equipment including full charge service ammunition to solve simulated real world self-defense scenarios using practical handguns and holsters that are suitable for self-defense use. The main goal is to test the skill and ability of an individual."

"The International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA) is the governing body of a shooting sport that simulates self-defense scenarios and real life encounters. It was founded in 1996 as a response to the desires of shooters worldwide. The organization now boasts membership of more than 22,000, including members in 50 foreign countries."

"IDPA offers an exciting forum for practical shooters in which truly practical equipment, techniques and courses of fire are mandated. Prior to IDPA, there was no place to compete with common service pistols. There were no shooting sports where your concealed carry holster could also be your match holster without handicap."

"When you come to an IDPA match, you cannot only use your duty/CCW equipment, you can be completely competitive with it! Other shooting sports have become equipment races; IDPA will not."

If you're interested in using truly practical pistols to solve challenging and exciting defensive shooting problems, then IDPA is the sport for you. Learn more about what makes IDPA great, from the practical skills training rules, the variety of matches, the wide range of competitors and the ever growing community."

Reading further into the IDPA website, they have range-appropriate matches for snub revolvers, stock service pistols (Beretta, Glock, SIG, inter-alia) and a 1911 class. All matches are surprise courses of fire and guns are drawn from concealed only. Nearly all stages require rapid reloading, shooting from cover or concealment and shooter movement. Some have moving or hostage target scenarios. I have found their events challenging, friendly and informative.

I have conducted some correspondence with the U.S. Concealed Carry Association (www.usconcealedcarry.net). Headed by Mr. Tim Schmidt and headquartered in West Bend, Wisconsin. Mr. Schmidt founded this Company because he believed that there was a need for "education, training and insurance" for legal concealed carry people.

To this end, he offers local instructors and instructor training, weekly email discussions, DVD training sessions, a monthly print Concealed Carry magazine and legal compensation programs for justifiable shooting incidents. This is called the Legal Defense Shield and offers three levels of coverage amounts.

Finally, while all this talk about shooting is worthwhile, one had best also consider the notion that one may be surprised by a violent encounter and require some skills in so called force-on-force unarmed or non-firearm training. Probably the foremost proponent of this skill set is Mr. Gabriel Suarez of Suarez International (www.suarezinternational.com), a former SWAT team member who now runs a school in Prescott, Arizona, but whose instructors are located in many states for regional training.

This would be training at the next level, because we shooters have some myopia when it comes to believing that the firearm is a talisman and that everything can be solved by its mere presence. While I have not attended any of his courses, his emphasis on unarmed, often on the ground and dirty, combat tactics are indicative of the kinds of peril one can face in the real world.

Note: I do not have any business affiliation with any of the above mentioned companies or organizations. I do believe that they are among the best sources of information.

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