“Champions do not become champions when they win the event, but in the hours, weeks, months and years they spend preparing for it. The victorious performance itself is merely the demonstration of their championship character.” –Alan Armstrong
Students come to us from all walks of life, the common thread among them being their understanding of the responsibilities they hold not only as gun owners, but as those who carry guns daily. Those responsibilities entail understanding the laws of self-defense, as well as securing proper training in the handling, carrying, and deploying of personal arms.
Within our broad demographics we often work with active duty military personnel and police officers seeking outside training because they find the programs offered by their respective institutions less than gratifying. Such were two of our recent students at a Level I Handgun Course in the Midwest.
The first student was a participant in the Federal Flight Deck Officer Program (FFDO), also referred to as the “Armed Pilot Program.” Implementing the FFDO has been an uphill battle from the beginning, mostly due to the inherent fear of guns that most government officials and administrators seem to possess. Their apparent mindset being that trusting a pilot with a 97-million dollar aircraft and 100’s of lives is less risky than allowing them a handgun to defend said lives. This unfounded fear has resulted in ridiculous regulations and practices placed upon those willing to fight their way through the endless hoops that must be jumped through to participate. For security reasons I’ll refrain from spelling out the exact details of the training program afforded the pilots, I’ll simply say that it could use improvement.
FFDO’s are issued the H&K USP in caliber 40 Smith & Wesson, along with a TSA/DHS approved holster. What this amounts to is the typical .40 recoil (violent and flinch causing) training issue, as well as the assumption that a single pistol and holster combination will suffice for every commercial pilot regardless of size and body type. Our student was suffering with both issues, and we were able to not only get him shooting competently, but we also took some time to work through draw and engagement issues specific to the cockpit of an aircraft. Of course, such drills should be standard training for all pilots, but are absent. The FFDO, in spite of its shortcomings, has been 100% effective! Still the current administration has done everything it can to defund it.
Our second student is a combat veteran and Army reservist teaching use of the M9 (Beretta 92F) pistol to Military Police (MP’s.) His military teaching is limited to the mandated script and offers no allowance for holster draw, stoppage reduction, movement, scanning, or weapons retention. Ranges are still run cold, and he and his fellow instructors are not permitted to carry pistols at any time. In total he spends ONE HOUR with each class of MP’s, and ammunition is always in short supply. In fact, on break he mentioned to us that it is now standard practice in basic training for recruits to experience their rifle training through electronic simulators. In an effort to “save money”, recruits only fire THREE live rounds during all of basic! (Some Pentagon bean counter’s bright idea, no doubt!) Budget should always be a consideration, but training our military to win video games is borderline negligence!
Rifles, and firearms in general, need to be trained with in the elements and conditions they will be deployed. The time to learn how fatigue, accelerated heart rates, mud, dust, wind, lighting conditions, heat, etc., affect you and your rifle should not be during your first combat engagement.
In contrast, our student’s devotion to the Art was without question. He and his spouse make great sacrifices and live simply to afford him every opportunity to attend courses like ours to hone his skills with live fire under adverse conditions. And that’s not just for his benefit; his goal is to pick up as many tips and pointers he can to quickly get his brothers-in-arms better equipped to do their jobs! His efforts are always relegated to brief conversations with his students out of the earshot of officers, or off-duty where he works with soldiers on his own time. Men and women like him are heroes, and the reason so many are able to prevail in the fight of their lives in spite of the brass being more concerned with promotion than providing them with the skills they need.
The reason I bring all of this to your attention is this: Small arms training is still 20-years behind the times in most military circles, and 10-years behind in most police circles. Yes, there are military units and police departments that are cutting edge, but they are sadly the exception. As taxpayers this should ANGER us! Not only are these soldiers’ and officers’ lives hanging in the balance, so are all of ours!
When we break it down, US armed forces personnel total right around 2-million – that’s active duty and reserves combined. With a government quantity discount of .30-per-round, the military could provide 1000-rounds of practice rifle ammunition a-year for every soldier, sailor, airman, and Marine at a cost of 600-million dollars.”600-million, Frank!!!? What are we, made of money!?”, you may ask. Well, that sounds like a lot until you start looking at how much all things military cost. To keep in perspective, Trident II Missiles cost around 65-million EACH! An aircraft carrier, 9 BILLION! When we consider the cost of training and/or burying a soldier, or providing disability to them for the rest of their lives because we didn’t teach them how to shoot, then $300 a-year on ammo seems quite reasonable.
Sure, for most of us 1000-rounds is a normal weekend of shooting – but, if we supplied each soldier with 500-rounds twice a-year to expend in proper training, we would once again have a military of riflemen! $300 per person is the minimum it would take to maintain rifle proficiency in all of our armed forces.
Where it concerns our domestic peace officers is obviously preservation of their lives, but it also manifests itself on a personal level with each of us. Do you not want police hitting what they are aiming at when your family is the backstop? Do you not want responding officers to end the rampage or terrorist attack as quickly as possible? I’d hope so! And such goals are reached only through expending lots of live rounds in proper practice comprised of modern techniques applied under stress on hot ranges – Conditions that are absent from the majority of police training regimens.
Doubtful such programs will come to pass, and it’s equally doubtful budgets will expand any time soon. So, what it comes down to is this: We’re all on our own. We all have to provide for our own training and assure those we care about get the same.
If you have a friend or relative in uniform, do them a favor and get them outside training. Pitch in with your family, or put aside $5 a-week, but get them into a proper course so they obtain the skills they need to return home to you.
Good lives depend on it.
“I’m going to be a warrior,” Jaybird said to Mouse. She flew beside him as he walked through tall grasses and rolling hills.
Mouse cocked his head. “Oh? How’s that?”
“I’ll find a teacher,” said Jay. “I’ll train and train and become the best, then I’ll lead all the other warriors!”
– B.T. Lowry, Fire from the Overworld