Should I train like I’d fight? Perhaps…

It’s an old adage: train like you’ll fight.

It makes sense. If you’re going to have to fight in X manner, then you should train in X manner and in manner than directly support X. Because to do otherwise is a waste of time, energy, and will not serve you in your end goal.

Another way of looking at it is the S.A.I.D. principle: Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands. You want to get good at something? You have to do that something. You can do things very close to that something to help make it better, but when you get too far away from that something, it’s probably not going to help. SAID is a rather deep topic and you should Google it to learn more about it. But think of it this way: if you want to get better at boxing, you need to get in the ring and box. You can do some other things to support it, such as bag work, because while they aren’t  the specific thing you’re trying to get better at, it’s fairly close and has good carryover. Some things are further away, such as road work, but there’s still some carryover because you need aerobic capacity to go 15 rounds. But learning to shoot basketballs has nothing to do with boxing and will not help you become a better boxer. Or consider playing the piano. Playing the organ will have some carryover, but learning the oboe won’t help you become a better pianist. Yeah there’s some overlap because music, scales, etc., but the mechanics and what your body and brain must adapt to are too different.

And so it goes with anything.

In this context, I’m talking about guns and shooting, and something that I’ve seen numerous times before, but two things recently happened that spurred me to write.

First, during a recent class at KR Training I spoke with at student that was all gunned up   with a rig for class. He told me he wasn’t too familiar with the rig, as it’s not what he actually carries. A big, full-sized, all-steel gun, in a holster that he rarely uses. No magazine pouches, and he thought he’d keep them in his front pocket; I suggested he borrow some mag pouches from our loaner gear and give that a try. He said his normal mode of carry tho is a small pocket gun in his front pant pocket. I’m not out to pick on this student, just that this was a recent event – but he’s not the first student (nor will he be the last) that comes to class with a different rig than what he/she normally carries.

Second, in the March 2016 Rangemaster Newsletter, Tiffany Johnson wrote the following:

To those who train seriously and often: when you prepare for a firearms class, do you swap out your everyday apparel for that favorite training holster or preferred pair of pants with the belt loops in exactly the right spot? If so, you might be gaming yourself out of the whole point of taking classes. Do whatever you can to enable yourself to practice using the gear you actually carry — disadvantages and all. If your number ever gets called, I doubt the bad guy will wait for you to dip into the phone booth and re-emerge in the superman costume that always made you two-tenths of a second faster than the guy next to you on the range.

I agree.

Now, to that one student I did make a suggestion. Take the class with that rig, but later this year we should be offering our Defensive Pistol Skills: BUG class and to come back then and take that class with that small pocket gun. That is, come train like you fight.

So that got me thinking about the whole “train like you fight” thing, in terms of firearms training.

Some people treat it like a hard mantra, that if you aren’t going to train precisely as you’re going to fight, that you’re a fool and aren’t to be taken seriously. On the same token, some people think it doesn’t matter one way or the other and that if I take classes with my class-rig then run around town with my little pocket gun, everything will be just fine. Well, I just don’t think it’s that black-and-white.

The issue is: what are you trying to gain? What is your goal? If you are coming to a fundamentals class, wouldn’t it be good to work with gear that enables you to focus on the class material and work on those fundamentals? We say it all the time that people shouldn’t have to fight their gear, and that people should have gear that facilitates class. For example, having guns with 15+ round capacity do make things run faster and smoother than if your gun only holds 5 and you’re constantly reloading. Maybe in this rifle class you’d never wear a chest rig, but having that rig for the class makes things run smoother. Is that a horrible thing? Is it so horrible to keep class running smoothly? To have gear that enables you to focus on and practice what the instructor is teaching and you paid all that time and money for?

And so, why I felt it was acceptable for this student to take the class with his “class rig”. If it enables him to focus on the class and get the concepts and skills down, then that’s a good thing.

However, if the student doesn’t take it the next step and work to (re)apply those learnings to the other context, it will do them no good. If he never tries all the same stuff from class but with that pocket gun, how will it serve him? He needs to actually carry-over those skills to the other context, especially to find out if there is any carry-over or not! This can be had through one’s own practice, or come back and take the same class a second time but now with the other gun. That way now you can focus on the concepts and the gun, not just the concepts (and the gun being an obstacle).

Another way to look at it is when you make choices about gear and skills, try to make ones that have good carryover. For example, I might take class with my full-sized M&P9 because that enables class to run smoother. But when I carry, I might carry the compact M&P9c, because it conceals better. These two guns are quite similar, outfitted the same (e.g. both have Apex Tactical DCAEK, both have improved aftermarket sights with red fiber-optic front sights and all-black rear sights), and even fit into the same holster. So there’s very little that changes. Thus working with one, the carry-over to the other is high.

This is as opposed to always training and practicing with the M&P9 on my hip, then carrying that little NAA Guardian .32 ACP pocket pistol. Sure, there’s some bit of carryover as they’re both handguns and the fundamentals of operation are the same. But they are two very different platforms, and carry-over is minimal. If I want to carry that Guardian, I have to specifically practice with it. It’s one reason I stopped carrying a S&W 442 snub revolver as my BUG: too different, too little carryover from my primary. The M&P Shield provided better carryover.

Of course yes, if I’m going to carry the M&P9c I should be sure to practice directly with it. The key takeaway here is S.A.I.D. and carryover.

In the end, yes I agree: you should train as you fight. That if you train in some other way, as Tiffany said, you might be gaming yourself out of the whole point of the class and training. However, I just don’t think it’s so black-and-white. Keep S.A.I.D. in mind: some things can have carryover, other things not so much. Consider your end goal and make choices that serve achieving that goal, because even learning that something sucks and is the wrong choice is still learning and still progress towards your goal.

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