Minimum – the least or smallest amount or quantity possible, attainable, or required.
Competency – the ability to do something successfully or efficiently.
When it comes to the use of a pistol for self-defense, minimum competency would be the least amount of skill and ability needed in order to use that gun to successfully defend yourself.
What would that be?
I got to thinking about it. I see people at gun ranges that blaze away at a target 3 yards in front of them, and they are barely hitting paper. I see people slow plinking, taking one slowly and carefully aimed shot, checking their target, taking their time to set up again for another shot, repeat. I see videos of people attending “tactical band camp” training, throwing lots of lead, but are they hitting anything? are they doing anything effective? I see people passing their Texas CHL shooting test, and their B-27 target looks like it was peppered by a shotgun blast. I see people who are really good at shooting competitions, but struggle with defensive concepts.
Will this cut it? Is this enough true skill and knowledge to survive and win? Or is it a false sense? Sometimes in life it doesn’t matter if our assessment of our competency is different from the reality. But in a case like this, when your life is what’s at stake, you need to be soberingly aware of your skill and ability.
As friend and fellow KR Training Assistant Instructor Tom Hogel likes to say, “you don’t know what you don’t know”. If you don’t know what it takes, if you don’t know what you can and cannot do, well… what’s that going to get you? So, I started to think about what a minimum set of drills would be to try to illustrate this concept to folks. That is, if you shot these drills and could not do them cleanly on-demand, then you don’t have the minimum competency. That someone who thinks “I’ve got what it takes”, you give them this drill(s), have them shoot it right then and there, and if they cannot do it no they don’t have what they think they have.
This isn’t to say once you can do these drills then you are done and can rest here; no, because this is minimum. Karl Rehn likes to point out something he learned from Paul Ford (former Austin Police SWAT member). Paul pointed out that in a gunfight you will do about 70% of your worst day at the range. Think about that: take your worst day (under the ideal circumstances of the range), and now make it a lot worse, and that’s how you’ll do. If this is how it goes, how good do you think you really need to be so when the flag flies and your skills degrade to being “worse than your worst”, then that level is still high enough to get you through? So, you must train well beyond these minimums.
But that said, if you cannot perform to the minimum, the sooner you can know that the better. The sooner you can work to remedy it.
Hasn’t this already been defined? Well, maybe. Take a look at this extensive collection of handgun standards. If we have so many standards, do we really have *a* standard? Well, we do have to consider these standards are likely within a particular context, e.g. qualifying for police, carry permits, etc.. Furthermore, every trainer out there wants to have their own set of standards and performance assessment, but are their standards truly testing something? are they well thought out towards achieving a particular end? or did they just string together a bunch of stuff so they could slap their name on a drill? And is there really a “standard” or “drill” that is trying to answer the question I’m asking?
Ultimately, my motivation is trying to bring some cold truth to folks. I speak to people all the time that passed the Texas CHL shooting test, maybe even got a perfect score. They are quite proud of their accomplishment, and consider that the end – that they have passed the CHL test, they know all they need to know, that they are as proficient as they need to be, and will be able to handle themselves should they ever need it. I speak with people who grew up around guns, learned to shoot in the back pasture, but it’s evident from watching them they really couldn’t shoot their way out of a paper bag much less deal with a response to being assaulted. I’m no expert, but I’ve learned enough to know that I don’t know. Furthermore, I know it’s better to have your bubble burst when it doesn’t matter, than to see your world fall apart when everything is on the line. If I’m in the business of helping people protect themselves and their loved ones, I’d like to see what I could do to come up with a simple way to help people assess if they truly have the minimal skills or not.
The next some postings will be a short journey to examine this question: what is the minimum competency required for defensive pistol use?