How Many Classes Is Too Many?

Last week tgace posted his thoughts about a phenomenon he sees in firearms training. He believes that some civilian shooters are spending too much time getting training. Part of his argument is that the payoff for classes after the first few greatly diminishes. He also argues that individuals should invest more of their time and funds taking classes on other skills, say tactical driving or first aid for example.

I can agree with his arguments to a point. There certainly is a huge need to diversify your skill set. I would agree that before you take your third or fourth shooting class, you should probably try and invest in some training for defensive tactics, knife work, first-aid, driving, or any number of other skills that end up taking the back seat.

I would also agree that the gain from each class can be less than the one before it. If you want the most bang for your buck, you would always be investing in skills you have little or no knowledge of.

I do think he missed several points, however, when it comes to training. Most obviously, different instructors bring different things to the table. Training with different instructors gives us an opportunity to see similar material from different viewpoints, helping us choose what works best for us. I would also like to point out three important reasons why any civilian shooter (or professional for that matter) should regularly take classes on subjects already known and understood.

State of the art

When compared to traditional martial arts systems, the practice of tactical shooting is still in its infancy. New techniques are being developed and refined at a very rapid rate. Any serious shooter should probably take a shooting class every few years to keep abreast of these changes and keep on top of their game.

For the longest time, an overhand manipulation of the slide with the weak hand was the only correct way to handle an emergency reload. More recently many top tier instructors are starting to advocate the use of the slide stop instead in an effort to increase the speed at which the pistol can be reloaded. While this might not be the best change for you, being exposed to it in a class setting is a good way to evaluate these kinds of developments objectively under the watchful eye of an expert.

Testing Ourselves

Pressure testing is an important part of our training. Some classes give us a chance to test what we have been practicing and validate our training techniques. Some would say that competition would be a better way to test our skills, but that can’t always be the best way to test. Some skill sets are not easily testable in a competition setting.

The best example I can give here is Southnarc’s ECQC class, which I have taken twice now. ECQC is an extreme close quarters combat class, focusing on a variety of skills ranging from verbal skills to grappling with guns, and even grappling with guns inside a vehicle (vehicular brazilian jiu-jitsu). No competition I know of will put you inside a vehicle with a Sims gun fighting against someone else with a Sims gun. Sure you can test the components – I could compete in IDPA and MMA and test the pieces – but sometimes testing everything together in a cooperative environment is best.

Get out of the bubble

Most civilians train individually. We may have training partners or even a small group of peers that we train with, but we don’t go to a regular weekly class like we might do to train in something like karate. This means that we as individuals are cut off from regular oversight by an experienced instructor. As a result our training will eventually deviate from what we are taught. Sometimes this can be good, but other times it can cause us to get sloppy.

It is possible to mitigate this by using video or by having a good training partner, but sometimes the watchful eye of an instructor is necessary. If for no other reason, I would argue that regularly having our skills evaluated and corrected by an experienced instructor is worth the cost of attending the occasional class.

So how many is too many?

It should be pretty obvious by now that I’m a strong proponent of regular training with instructors, whoever you are. But how often is enough, and when have we crossed the line into stroking our egos and over-training one skill?

I think this will depend on your goals and resources. If you can afford it, taking a yearly course in every subject you want to be capable in is a great goal. Of course most of us cannot afford that, so we need to find a slightly more attainable goal. I would say if you’ve attended more than two classes in a subject (say combative gun handling and tactics geared toward the pistol) without having taken any training on peripheral matters (say driving, first aid, or unarmed defensive tactics) you are probably getting too deep.

A reasonable goal might be to take one shooting class and one class from these other subject areas every year. Rotate your secondary class every year, but continue to seek instruction on the one topic that really excites you year after year. This should strike a good balance in your training.

How many classes have you taken on one subject? Post a comment and let us know your opinion!

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