Your Carry of Concealed Weapons (CCW) permit training is probably mandated by the state and follows a state-mandated syllabus. The instructor you had (if he was a pro) followed the state curriculum guidelines to the letter to protect you from civil liability. If you never advance past this point and obey the law you have probably met the state-set standard for keeping your CCW permit. But is this minimum standard all that is needed to protect yourself and your family during a violent critical incident?
Look at the question another way. Was your state-mandated driver’s education all you needed to become a proficient driver? Did the state-regulated hunter safety class teach you what was needed to become a skilled hunter?
No? Then if you come to the conclusion that the minimum standards for your defensive training as set by lawyers and politicians are not enough, you should seek out professional advanced firearms training.
In an earlier article, we discussed the importance of seeking out a reputable and knowledgeable trainer. One that will still be around should you need credible, professional testimony in court. There are pluses and minuses to training with law enforcement, military, and competition oriented trainers. What you should look for is a course outline or agenda that describes which tactics, techniques, and procedures (or TTPs) are taught and go from there.
Always question the doctrinal foundation used by an advanced trainer. A pro trainer can explain where their curriculum came from and what doctrine it is based on. The hack trainer will either bristle at the question on something they teach or just say something generally dismissive. In other words, they don’t know if what they are training is an effective, reality-based doctrine or not.
Another consideration is that different “advanced” courses can all have a different emphasis. If you want more concealed carry TTPs, then look for a course that emphasizes concealment equipment, decision-making, low light engagements, and perhaps house/building clearing techniques.
If you desire to mainly increase your shooting ability, then you want training that emphasizes dynamic shooting tactics, shooting and moving, target discrimination, engagement drills, and clearing stoppages.
Other, probably more difficult to find, are courses that specialize in the legal issues surrounding civilian self-defense and protection against civil liability. While certainly important, they are not as fun for the student and thus not broadly offered.
Look at your personal training this way. Shooting a handgun well enough for self-defense is a martial art. It takes time and years of dedication to master this very perishable skill. Buying a firearm and getting the permit are akin to buying a piano and getting some sheet music. It doesn’t make you a musician.
So to better understand the process, consider the following. You start out as what is called “unconscious and incompetent.” This means you are living unaware of any threat to your world as it exists and you are completely incompetent to deal with any such threat. Most of the people you know live their whole lives in this state, blithely going about their business until something very sudden and dramatic occurs. They depend on others for their safety. They depend on the kindness of strangers. In a real crisis, they have no reaction and just stand there, like a deer mesmerized by oncoming headlights. Too often such people are a bystander in their own demise.
The next level is “consciously incompetent.” This is when they become aware that the world holds many dangerous people and places. Danger becomes more of a real and personal concept. Usually this epiphany happens when they experience a violent encounter or observe something traumatic. There now is the realization that something has to change; they cannot go on as before, but don’t yet know what to do. This is the beginning of learning and the entry point for training.
Now, some training has occurred and they reach “consciously competent.” Many go their whole life here and never advance their training any further. They feel confident and their abilities when not under stress are obvious. But as with all martial arts this is a critical point in training. There is a great fault in staying consciously competent. A person who stays at this level too long must be able to think clearly to adequately apply their skills.
Science teaches that the body dumps a chemical cocktail into the brain as a survival mechanism. During violent, time-dynamic encounters your ability to think clearly, or fast enough, is questionable. You must train past this level.
Martial artists describe the true objective of training is to achieve “unconscious competence.” Being able to react instinctively and correctly without having to think your way through a critical situation. This is an intuitive, instantaneous reaction to danger and a practiced, legally appropriate, and technically accurate response. This takes years of thought and dedication but the payoff is well worth it.
Training is about instilling confidence and expanding knowledge and skill until these skills become ability. It’s also about challenging yourself and your assumptions. Don’t assume you are ready for what could be the worst moments of your life.