Practice Makes Proficient

This post was originally published on 21 March 2013 on The Arms Guide.

If recent firearms sales are any indication, there are more and more people flocking to shooting than ever before. Further indication would come from the popularity of firearms channels on YouTube, such as FateofDestinee, FPSRussia, and Colion Noir. Shooting has always been an American pastime, but recently there has definitely been an increase in civilians who have never had firearms experience taking to shooting. One of the biggest reasons cited is a desire for self-defense. As a proficient firearms enthusiast, it pleases me to see more and more civilians getting into shooting. I can think of few things that distinct this country from others more than a responsible armed citizenry.

As Ben Parker said to his nephew Peter famously, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Straight talk: owning a firearm is a power. Regardless of the reason one purchases a firearm, it is a powerful tool that can be used for good or that can be used for harm. It is taking the power to defend one’s self from those who would wish them harm. With that power comes a responsibility, a duty to society that I feel is grossly understated.

“With great power comes great responsibility.” -Ben Parker

The biggest responsibility of an armed citizen is practice and proficiency. If you buy a weapon, you have a duty to be proficient with that weapons system. In the military, failure to be proficient on one’s assigned weapons system, whether it be the M4, the M249, the M240B, the M9, the M2, etc. can lead to catastrophic results, not only for the individual soldier but for those around him. That same result translates into the civilian sector. The vast majority of us reside in some sort of urban area, whether it be the city or the suburbs. There are other people in close proximity. You have to account for every bullet that is fired. Most jurisdictions that are firearms friendly are not friendly to stray bullets that hit innocent people. In the military, we call that collateral damage. In the civilian legal system, that’s called negligent homicide. Claiming that you were not proficient with your weapons system is not a legal defense. You will be stripped of your right to own a firearm and you will do jail time, and that is before we factor in civil lawsuits.

This is especially important when it comes to concealed carry. Many people get a license, strap on a handgun, and think that they’re ready to go. Police officers spend countless hours honing their proficiency with close quarters combat in urban areas and they still make mistakes. Military service members specifically go through discriminate fire training to ensure they do not shoot the wrong person and yet collateral damage still happens. Special operations fire tens of thousands of rounds per year to sharpen their marksmanship to a T so that when they go on sensitive operations where non-combatants are involved, they do not shoot the wrong person. My point is, if the professionals train and train and train, and tragically still make mistakes, what makes you think that you’re some sort of gun guru that doesn’t have to practice? What makes you think that by buying a firearm and wearing it on your hip, all of a sudden, you’ve tapped into some hidden proficiency?

Jiminy Cricket, pragmatist.

Many of these same people would say, “But Steven, I’ve taken the concealed carry license course. I was qualified there!” Having graduated from two CCL courses, I can tell you that they’re a joke. If it were up to me, I would have discriminate fire courses, stress shoots (where you would be instructed to place X amount of rounds in a Y diameter while three people yell and scream and violate your personal space, forcing you to focus on the shot), and run-and-gun shoots to get your heart rate up and train you to maintain your accuracy and focus on your fundamentals while under stress. Let’s be honest: should you ever be forced to draw your weapon on somebody, your heart will be racing. Adrenaline will be coursing through your veins. You’ll have to fight off tunnel vision. It will not be a static range shoot.

In the absence of my recommendations, any trigger time is more palatable than zero trigger time. I understand that shooting is pricy nowadays, especially with the costs of ammo rising. I’m not saying you have to aim for Delta operator-level proficiency and go fire 20,000 rounds in the span of a couple of weeks. That is, in the words of Jiminy Cricket, “A very lovely thought, but not at all practical.” Buy a box or two of ammo every other week and focus on your fundamentals. Push yourself where you can and try to hammer out the kinks. This is where you do yourself and those around you a service. This is how you build proficiency.

Finally, be honest with yourself. Firearms are not for everybody. If you find yourself reading through this article going, “Hmm…that seems like too much work,” then perhaps carrying a firearm is not for you. And that’s not meant as a sleight, but rather a statement of fact. You don’t have to be a cop, a soldier, or an operator to get into firearms. You just have to be willing to put in the work and accept the responsibilities that come with firearm ownership. In short, you must strive to be proficient.

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