Let us admit something; as shooters or firearms enthusiasts, we like all other humans are full of opinions. We tend to fixate on ideas or observations that we interpret through our own experiences and formulate opinions based on our perceptions of these observations. At times these opinions are based on ideas or observations that were passed onto us by others in the firearms community. Many of us then formulate hard lined, black or white, hot or cold opinions that are a, “my way or the highway” line of reasoning. This I believe is often a detriment. I hope I have not lost you yet, bear with me.
Having been involved in the tactical community for nearly the last decade, and the firearms community nearly my entire life, I wanted to take a moment to pass on a valuable life lesson that I have learned after wading through countless mires of “black and white” ideology regarding the many topics we often discuss/debate among ourselves. The community of firearms, tactical or self defense applications, gear selection and so on is ever changing, growing and evolving. It only makes sense that we then change, grow and evolve. Take this as a warning to avoid the “cementing” of ideas/opinions and to rather be open to change, new techniques and new tools. I am positive that if you do learn from my mistakes in this area you will be better off for it. As it is said, “A smart man learns from his mistakes, a WISE man learns from the mistakes of others”.
You have been there. The local gun shop, the gun show, perhaps it was even a BBQ. You are having a friendly discussion about one of your favorite past times/hobbies/recreations – GUNS and all things firearms, when you get hit by the freight train of controversy and opinions. It may have been any one of the following; “The Great Caliber Debate (9mm vs. 45)”, “DA vs SA”, “1911 vs Glock”, “AK vs M4”, “5.56 vs 7.62”, “Weaver vs Isosceles”, “Aimpoint vs Eotech vs ACOG”, this vs that vs this vs that….you get my point. Typically these debates produce nothing but tempers and inflammation of the ego self. This fervor, a zealotry of opinions surrounding our community spreads into not only the minutia of firearms, but also into training ideas, tactics, gear selection, techniques and so on. At times the opinions even become divisive. Don’t get me wrong. A healthy debate can at times produce a valuable exchange of ideas and information. I would imagine it has even led to the invention of new and improved ideas or products.
I am not going to bore you with the myriad of opinions that I once held onto that I sternly believed were canonized doctrine. That discussion would cause a major distraction from the point of this post. Just know that I once held onto many facets of firearm selection, caliber, gear, training, tactics and techniques as if they were immovable laws of the universe. My once myopic views handicapped my ability to learn new ideas, absorb information, and challenge me. As my exposure to new ideas and techniques grew, I began to realize I was being held back by my own opinions. As I opened up and allowed new ideas/observations into my head, as I gave other products a chance, as I attempted new techniques and training regimens I quickly realized improvements in what I do and became more adaptable because of it.
Let’s take a moment to think of how big the world of firearms shooting and training is. Think of CQB, home defense, concealed carry, modern small wars operations, three gun shooting, IPSC and the many products and training regimens that surround each of these worlds alone. Over the past decade, there have been tremendous leaps in gear designs, weapon configurations/enhancements, optics, new ideas and even training styles. New concepts arrive on the scene, new weapon enhancements, old ideas are recycled, some ideas are tabled and others debated ad nauseam.
Even in my other world, emergency medicine, there are new ideas and concepts that change the way we operate in that line of work. For a quick example, look at tourniquets; due to bad information passed on and taken as fact, tourniquets were a pariah for decades! Now they are a golden standard in emergency care for massive hemorrhage control.
In regards to training and tactics; over the years I have had many instructors whom I deeply respect as knowledgeable masters of their craft, others I have only been able to read or observe through media however are equally respected. It is obvious that many of these instructors agree on certain fundamentals, however also have some vastly different ideas as well. Which instructor is right? Which is wrong? I would say neither. Am I arguing tactical relativism? Certainly not. I do believe however that often times, we fail to realize the different back rounds or environments certain schools of thought originate from as well as the many different applications for which certain skills need to be applied. No situation is identical to the next. People vary in anatomical build, strength, athleticism, skill and mindset. Because of these variables, no ONE technique or ONE way is just right for every single individual, nor is ONE weapon perfect for every application or every individual.
If you are still following along, and you have been involved in the firearms community for any length of time, I would ask you to go back in your mind and recall the many training regimens, and drills you may have performed or witnessed, the many trends of certain in vogue firearms or firearms enhancements. How many have come, gone or changed? Does anything jump out at you? Remember pistol grips mounted to the front of M4/AR variants? That was sooooo 2007 right? (disclaimer: I never used one). For some it worked, for others it was fad, some viewed it as absolutely necessary. Through time, some began to preach reasons against their application. That is only one of many examples. I have seen the desired way to perform a magazine change with carbines taught a half a dozen ways over the years, everything from flipping the carbine on its side and throwing the mag into your buddy’s face, to just letting it drop at your feet. Without digesting every change I have observed over the years, I think you can see what I am getting at in regards to ideas that some held onto or thought were concrete, and then slowly the idea eroded away with further study and or application.
Without derailing this, I have to share one personal example that is relevant to this discussion: 1911’s. I love the 1911. At one time, I believed the original plans of the 1911 were divinely inspired and delivered to John Browning by an Archangel, sealed in a golden tube. As far as I was concerned there were two things a pistol needed to be, .45 caliber and a 1911 Colt. I can share more on my transition from this zealous position in further detail at another time. The point is, over time, and with more experiences and training, I began to realize that as great a design I felt that pistol was and still is, there were other great designs that performed very well and perhaps had more improved applications as a fighting or defensive pistol. This paragraph alone is enough to prove my point on the immovable positions we in the gun world seem to take. Some of you probably had a spike in your heart rate and blood pressure just by hearing that one of the 1911 followers may have strayed away from the flock.
For years I trained and practiced utilizing the Weaver stance while shooting handguns. Its stable and useful application worked for tall lengthy guys like myself who were firing from a standing and static position. Back then the isosceles, in my mind was a throwback stance and totally un-tacticool. After I arrived on SWAT, I found that while wearing multiple armor plates held within a bulky soft armor adorned with magazines, comms, flashbangs, lights, and medical equipment, combined with the need for speed and dynamic movements, shooting on the move; the Weaver stance became not only impractical for me but impossible. I had to adapt to the situation, my gear and my needs. I began to use more of an isosceles stance.
In summary, try to avoid excessively aligning yourself with particular doctrines, training regimens, weapon configurations/platforms and ideas. Don’t take my word for it. Question concepts you are taught, keep a scientific mind and try to break down why you are doing something – “Does it work for you?”. You don’t need to be the student in the class who is constantly challenging instructors, take a breath, be humble and realize that nobody really knows everything or all the answers. Our needs and abilities change over time. The tools we use – firearms, change over time. By being adaptable and open to these changes, by having a willingness to try new things and push yourself, you will meet challenges and grow as a shooter. Avoid arguing with idiots. Take part in online comment sections and forums, however avoid the tar pits of “this vs that” where people descend into name calling and foul language to prove their position. Pajama warriors and mall ninjas lurk, waiting to pounce on your comment and bait you into a diatribe of nonsense. It is a waste of your time.
Keep an open mind. See you at the range, be safe.