Armed Civilians Don’t Train the Way They Fight, But They Will

By Rob Morse : Training

Slow Facts
Slow Facts

Louisiana- (  We don’t train the way we want to fight.   When it comes to self-defense, there is always a trade-off between realism and safety.  That balance is changing as technology goes up and prices come down to let civilians afford more realism in their self-defense training.  For a long time we set aside realism as we made training safer.  This affects even the new student who is working on basic skills.  This may be true now, but it is changing for the better each day.

Step away from the student’s perspective for a minute.  The instructor wants to see exactly what the student is doing.  As an instructor, how will you make sure your student is safe as he presents a loaded handgun to a target from inside a concealment garment?  Out of sight isn’t necessarily safe, and we’ve been talking about carrying in the conventional position on the strongside hip where the instructor can have a good view.  Some carry positions are harder for the instructor to see.

Today we have appendix carry where the gun is holstered between the hip and midline.  We have purse carry where holster is carried in an external bag.  Add in pocket carry and carrying in a bellyband under tight clothing.  Now you see the routine risks we face in training to present a firearm.  Even the customary carry position behind the hip can be a concern when you cant the gun to get a better grip angle.  From these positions, either the student or people standing nearby can be swept by the muzzle unless the student is already skilled and consistent.

Safe training is an issue that instructors deal with every day.

I’m not arguing against those carry positions.  I’m simply pointing out the difficulties of providing good instruction..and we haven’t gotten the gun up and on target yet.  How can we train so students safely acquire the skills they need?  One problem comes from the fact that we are training with firearms and that poses an inherent risk.  Avoiding that risk and not training brings its own risks as well.  The alternatives are getting better every day.

Firearms owners are hardly the first to face this training dilemma.  There are a number of occupations where live training is impractical because it is either too slow, too expensive, or too dangerous.  Airline pilots and industrial plant operators can’t afford to induce real equipment failures and learn “on the job”.  As with self-defense training, we can’t afford to let them crash.  We can and do expose these students to a vast array of difficult situations in a simulator.  

Students gain more experience in a few hours of simulator training than they would see in years of normal operation.  Gun owners are not far behind.

We are slowly seeing the same techniques brought to civilian firearms education.  The good news is our options are growing and costs are coming down.Bluegun

  • At its simplest, we’ve have blue guns which are inert firearms made of plastic.  We’ve had them for several years.
  • We can use real firearms that have a barrel block installed.  They are routinely used for dry practice training.
  • We have laser training “guns” that project a visible light beam as the trigger is pressed.  They cost a third the price of a firearm.
  • There are dedicated simulated firearms that need to be “reloaded” with a realistic magazine during use.  They may emit an infrared optical beam that is easily seen by modified web-cameras.
  • Some simulated pistols move the slide as they are fired.  Now the training gives the student some of the physical sensations he gets at a live fire range.
  • Training with a simulated weapons can be combined with video presentations of a threat.  Now the training feels emotionally real.
  • Some training firearms are modified to shoot a marking cartridge.  These training guns are used in force-on-force training where the participants are padded and masked.  We’ve consciously increased the risk of injury in order to get better realism during a training exercise.
  • Some software programs augment a training “gun” by adding sound effects that provide the expected bang..or the click of a malfunction that needs to be cleared.  We can do this safely indoors.
  • We have inexpensive software that runs on a personal computer or smart phone and records where the shot landed and how the simulated “gun” was moving during the shot.

    Forward Movement Training Center VirTra Shooting Simulator
    Forward Movement Training Center VirTra Shooting Simulator

For particular skills, these simulated guns are an improvement over training with real firearms.  They are safer because we reduced the threat of a negligent discharge.  Students also find it easier to learn from the experience because there is no explosion at arms length.  As time goes by, these training aids are accepted by more instructors and more students.

These learning tools won’t replace live-fire training.  There is a small downside risk that real firearms could be treated as toys after training in a simulator.  That risk is real and manageable.  We don’t see pilots crashing airplanes because they once trained on a simulator.  A greater risk is that firearms instruction becomes edu-tainment.

Costs for realistic training continue to drop.  Flight simulators were once the exclusive tools of the military and the airlines.  Now we use them used by general aviation pilots.  Firearms simulators were once the tools of elite government agencies and the military.  Now they are making their way into civilian use.

We face a bit of a chicken and egg problem.  Many instructors teach the same way they were taught.  Many firearms students don’t know the tools are available.  It takes time to change the expectations of an industry and its customers.

When will armed civilians ask for realistic training?  A parking lot at night is one of the most common time and place for a robbery.  We could use simulated munitions, rent a parking garage, rent a fleet of cars and hire a number of actors.  Few of us can afford that.  Instead, we can run a wrap-around video that lets a student walk through the garage.  Better yet, we can build an experience where sometimes you’re attacked and sometimes you are not.  It is a better way to train.  It is coming to a future near you..if you look for it.

How do you train, and how will you train?

The original article is here.  Rob Morse writes about gun rights at Ammoland, at Clash Daily and on his SlowFacts blog. He hosts the Self Defense Gun Stories Podcast and co-hosts the Polite Society Podcast. Rob is an NRA pistol instructor and combat handgun competitor.

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Butch Watkins

I attended the Troygate civilian training in Lenoir, North Carolina back in April. It is vastly superior anything you have mentioned in this article.
In my 50 years of pistol shooting, it is the finest training I’ve ever received.


They are, without question, the wave of the future and, if you have a group they are very reasonable. What used to available only to spec-ops is now available to the general public and even can be franchised!


Yikes, forgive grammar mistakes–didn’t proof that very well.


I wonder how many “aspiring heroes” have a clue about negotiation, persuasion, de-escalation, situational awareness, etc.? More likely if people are only training themselves to reflexively shoot someone who looks threatening they’re going to get themselves a trip to prison. Then again those who can afford such fancy training lessons are unlikely to be the target of violent criminals.


You have no idea what you’re talking about and, as usual, have exhibited gross ignorance on the subject. I return to my original comment on your presence on this site; troll.

Wild Bill

@Vanns, GFYG engages in so many implied (and invalid) assumptions, so many fake facts, and non sequiturs, that I hardly know where to begin. Maybe if GFYG would get a decent job, he could afford fancy lessons, a fancy car, or someplace fancier than a basement to live in. Jealousy driven politics and propaganda.


Oh how many have wound up in prison because they listen to yokels like you that they had a right to shoot others and assume it would be self-defense.

Wild Bill

@anyone other than GFYG, I was talking about troll speak logic, jealousy politics and getting a job not shooting others or rights. No one that has ever taken my advice has done anything other than prosper. As a first rung propagandist, GFYG should know that he could be replaced by a cell phone ap and that financial security lies in getting a better job.



Ain’t it great when you can go back/forth with an a$$wipe like GFYG where he’s oblivious that we’re telling to GFHimself….;)

BTW: My Avatar was actually for the Limerick Football Team, but the 7th Cal works too…;)


While I rarely agree with you, I think you actually raise an interesting issue here, Gil. Most tactical shooting trainers I’ve encountered actually DO spend time on situational awareness techniques, and on things like managing your “battle space,” telling the “assailant to “STOP” “Drop your weapon,” etc., as part of the self-defensive shooting scenario. In TX (where I live) LTC training classes are required to include 3 hours of specific training (they use the same program as the state’s DPS Troopers do) in de-escalation techniques as well as avoidance strategies. I was also interested to see that, according to the… Read more »

Greg Hopkins

Great overview of our progress in Gun training, Rob. will share on Facebook.