Minimum Competency for Defensive Pistol – Definition

So then, what is minimum competency? The Texas Legislature and Department of Public Safety think the TX CHL Shooting Test is minimum. Karl Rehn formulated the “3 Seconds or Less Drill” that’s based around the typical gunfight, and this test gets used in the various Defensive Pistol Level 1,2,3 classes at KR Training. I could be remembering this wrong, but I swore one of Tom Givens’ students only took Rangemaster’s Level 1 class and was able to successfully defend themselves. Claude Werner seems to come up with different statistical analyses of gunfight realities, and one could argue it’s mostly (only?) important to have a gun and draw it.

Defining “minimum competency for defensive pistol” is hard.

However, just because it’s hard doesn’t mean we should avoid doing it.

I think before we can answer the question, it’s important to define and frame the problem. If we’re going to define minimum competency for a self-defense situation, then we need to first know what is a self-defense situation. We’re not hunting. We’re military nor police (tho it’s possible there’s some overlap). We’re talking about private citizens going about their daily lives, but having to deal with robbery, assault, burglary, rape, etc. and refusing to be a victim of such crimes.

Tom Givens has examined incidents of FBI and DEA agents, along with the 60+ student incidents he’s had. What are the common threads?

  • Distance between victim and assailant? up to about a car length. But exceptions can occur (e.g. out to 25 yards)
  • You’re in plain clothes, gun is concealed, you need fast access.
  • Occur in public areas such as parking lots, shopping malls. Home is rare.
  • Shots fired? 3-5, on average
  • Multiple assailants are not uncommon

What Tom’s data concludes is that a typical private citizen “incident” is:

  • armed robbery in some form
  • 1-2 assailants highly likely
  • 3-7 yards
  • limited response time
  • “3 shots, 3 steps/yards, 3 seconds”

I know I lean on Givens’ teaching and data a good deal, but Tom’s a top-notch researcher. Certainly to an extent he’s biased, but what Tom is biased towards isn’t necessarily “pro gun, rah rah rah”. Rather he has a bias towards helping people stay alive in the face of a violent world (like Memphis, TN), and to do so you better have a solid, methodical approach towards finding the Truth and what really works; anything else will get people killed. So I consider Tom’s research serious and genuine. Besides, you don’t have to take his word for it: the data is out there, so you can see for yourself.

Another way to look at it? It’s the ability to get:

  • multiple hits
  • in a small area
  • from “close” range
  • quickly

Unfortunately, if you just say that, everyone’s going to define it their own way. So we need to have clear definitions and create standards based upon the clear definition.

Next, we’ll start to formulate a definition. In doing so, we’ll come to see how the acceptable minimum is higher than you think.

(This post is part of a multi-part series. For now, you can find other published parts of the series by looking at the “minimum competency” tag or category).

3 thoughts on “Minimum Competency for Defensive Pistol – Definition

  1. I think part of the problem is simply thinking there is 1 answer.

    I would answer with a Question “The Minimum Competency” to do what?

    Own a pistol?
    To carry a pistol?
    To Draw a pistol?
    To fire (and where — on the range or in a defensive situation)?

    So there is that aspect of it.

    You limit this to a self defense situation but even that is ambiguous since most situations are resolved without a shot being fired.

    And more importantly than can we do it is “Should we do it?”

    Why should we define anything of the sort?
    Do we define minimum competency to be a parent, a congressional representative, a voter?
    No and we don’t set competency levels for someone who wants to speak or be free from unreasonable search and seizure.

    I can understand each person asking these questions and coming up with their own goals or measures. I think there is a huge danger for the community trying to establish the measures for anyone else though. Especially those, like yourself, who are in the profession (even part time) of teaching those skills.
    Too often we’ve seen those voluntary and arbitrary standards become entry barriers to people exercising their rights. My daughter occasionally cuts and color hair for friends or family; she is quite good at it. But she doesn’t meet the standards developed by the professionals to keep competition out.

    I think the CHL test is very easy to pass; so much so even legally blind people can pass it. So does that make it a good measure of competency or a bad one?

    Well the statistics would say that we’ve had few problems with criminal actions, accidental injuries, etc.
    But the same can be said for those who aren’t licensed so where does that put us?

    (Hope I’m not jumping too far ahead in your series — delete if I am.)

    • All very good points to raise… and part of the discussion, because I too am not sure you can fully define this — or even if it’s wise to (lest the legislators and other agenda-driven folk start to use it to meet particular ends).

      To your first part tho I would say… yeah, maybe your situation ends without a shot fired, but what if it needs one? You probably saw the recent video the other day of that woman getting beaten in her own home… probably a situation where a shot SHOULD have been fired (by her, at her attacker). So maybe the minimum actually starts with: have a gun, be willing to use it? But even still, just HAVING a gun… is that enough? because if you have a gun and can’t use it well enough to hit a barn with, would that be useful?

      Of course, it can go to the other extreme — when is it enough? When have you learned all you can because “you never know” what you might encounter? I grant that’s also a discussion topic, but not what I’m addressing here (maybe in the future?).

      As for why define it, my intent is to ensure people aren’t fooling themselves with a false sense of ability. I think the same could and should even be said for being a parent, a representative, and a voter. I mean, we figure a voter ought to be a citizen, and citizens are expected to have a particular set of knowledge, awareness, etc. about the politics of the world around them. They are expected to not be felons, etc.. We do have minimum sets. But even then, discussion of such things is worthy, no doubt.

      I do see your point about the barrier, and that’s part of my fear. I don’t want to see something like this become a barrier because that creates a lot of problems. That’s why I said somewhere in this series that TX CHL is what it is for a reason and while I don’t think it’s really minimal, I wouldn’t recommend changing it. Again, *my* desire is for people to have a realistic expectation and assessment of their ability. I just see it after so many classes, after hundreds and hundreds of students… same thing over and over…. many come in with a swagger and expectation they are awesome… then by the end of class have eyes opened and humbled because they have come to see they don’t know what they thought they did. I think that sets people up on the right path to bettering themselves.

  2. Pingback: Minimum Competency for Defensive Pistol | Stuff From Hsoi

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