Realistic Firearms Training

Chances are, your firearms training sucks. I’m not trying to be a jerk. I just want to give you a healthy reality check that you just might need. Your training is probably unrealistic, counterproductive, and highly likely to create training scars that can get you killed in a real world situation. Hopefully, this could help alleviate some of your training problems and in turn may very well increase your chances of surviving a SHTF scenario.

Here is a list of typical mistakes that people make when training for lethal firearms encounters and the solutions to those mistakes:

1. They train on a firing range.

Firing ranges aren’t always bad, just 99% of the time. They train you to think in a very one dimensional way and typical shooting at the range does not build confidence carrying loaded firearms. First off, threats do not always attack from the direction you are facing. They come from all different directions at different times. Also, there are no range commands given in a combat situation. There are no ‘range is hot’ or ‘clear your weapons’ commands. There is usually no cover to take advantage of on some of the more “linear” ranges, which is probably 95% plus of the ranges in the US. Even on the ones that allow more dynamic movement, people seldom train to take appropriate cover when they should, like when they are reloading.


Stop training on a traditional firing range. Kiss them goodbye. If you need to drive an extra 30 minutes to your Uncle’s to use his property so you can shoot the way you want, make it happen. It may even reduce your training time but the effectiveness of your training is what you should be concerned about, not the duration. This is probably the most important thing you could correct in regards to fixing your training because many of the other issues cannot be corrected without the correct training environment.

2. Feet planting.

Non-dynamic movement will absolutely get you killed. It is much, much easier to shoot something that isn’t moving than it is to shoot something that is. Not to mention that you need to be able to shoot while moving. There are all kinds of reasons you may need to be able to do this if the SHTF. Among them, covering yourself while moving to new cover. If you don’t train for it, you’re going to die if the real thing happens.


You need to train while moving, shooting while moving, shooting from different positions, taking cover behind and inside realistic objects while firing on targets, even shooting at moving targets if possible. You need to practice reloading while on the move, drawing while on the move, both moving slowly and eventually building up the speed at which you can move and shoot.

3. Training muscle memory incorrectly.

There have been more incidences than can be counted where professional law enforcement officers and military personnel have been killed because of training scars that were burned into their muscle memory. Imagine you are a Police Academy Hand-to-Hand Instructor and find yourself in a situation with gunmen that are attempting to hold up a liquor store. You easily take the pistol from one of the gunmen only to hand it back to him as you have done hundreds of times a day with Academy students. He then kills you with it. Unfortunately, an old coworker of mine had a friend that died in this manner.


Consider the video of this Operator in Iraq. Can you identify the significant training mistakes he is making that could get him killed the next time he is in a position where he has to engage a target with his G19?

It’s simple really. I would say that the largest training scar he is creating is to fire two rounds at a target and re-holstering his weapon. It’s possible that he has enough combat experience at this time to remain fairly level-headed and not let this affect him when the SHTF but if not, this could get him killed. He would draw his Glock, fire two 9mm rounds at a target, and then re-holster it. You NEVER draw your weapon, fire two rounds, and re-holster it. You draw it, fire until the target is neutralized, move to cover while doing so, look for additional threats, and then reload if there are no immediate threats. He is also extremely static. No doubt he will stand in one place during his next firefight. It gets worst. Although he is taking a knee while reloading which is better than just standing, there is no cover in sight. This training should be much, much more dynamic and realistic. He should be walking downrange (since this is one of those limited, one-way ranges I was talking about), have someone call out the threats, draw and engage while moving to cover, continue firing until his partner says they are neutralized, then should observe his surroundings to make sure there are no more threats while reloading on his way to cover. This would offer much more effective training for him and would only require a couple of 55 gallon drums, a piece of plywood, or a car to make it more realistic.

4. Use of cover.

People rarely make effective use of cover while training. Obviously, this is a problem. I can’t even begin to tell you the ridiculous numbers of Youtube videos I’ve seen where people stand in a window or in plain sight while reloading, feet planted. All I can do is shake my head. I try not to laugh but I have to admit, if for some reason I have to go up against these clowns when the SHTF, it’s going to be over very fast. Go ahead, stand there in the window while you reload. Give me a good 2-3 seconds to put one in your dome. In addition, they frequently train to take cover behind things that DO NOT stop bullets. Do you understand the difference between cover and concealment? Cover stops bullets. Concealment just hides you from view. If you train to take cover under a windowsill, this will likely get you shot in the real thing. While you’re ducking under the windowsill to reload, I’ll be dumping the rest of my magazine into the wall I saw you disappear behind.


First and foremost, train to use cover. Second, understand the difference between cover and concealment and know how the two will affect you in combat. For instance, if you train to simply duck to a knee behind a windowsill while reloading, you will likely be shot since it is merely concealment, not cover. In the real deal, people don’t stop shooting just because they can’t see you. Remember this. What would be smarter would be to move away from the window while reloading so that any rounds that penetrate the walls near the window will not penetrate you.

5. Think it through.

Too many people seem to accept other’s training methods as gospel. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been out shooting with ‘High Speed’ dudes that aside from being able to draw a weapon quick and put rounds on target relatively fast, had the worst training scars you can imagine. Good news for me if the SHTF.


Even if you haven’t been in actual combat, there is enough combat footage out there to give you a very realistic idea of what to expect should you find yourself in that situation. Be realistic about what to expect. Train effectively. Make your trigger time count. Question everything that supposed professional trainers suggest to include this blog post.

6. Practice spontaneous scenarios

Almost everyone I’ve seen that does some level of realistic training fails to keep it spontaneous. It’s a planned scenario. They know exactly where the targets are (probably helped set them up), know exactly which direction they are going to be moving in, have pre-determined points to shoot from, are told how many rounds to fire at each target, etc. It completely eliminates the random aspect of a real firefight.


You need to be put in spontaneous situations during your training. It creates a level of anxiety that cannot be experienced otherwise and to train without adding this is to train to be shot by someone with more experience or by someone that is more level-headed. Call it stress inoculation. Yeah, your firearms training should be stressful as possible. Not all of it or else it might not be fun anymore. What you should be doing is training with a small group of people that take turns planning scenarios and setting it all up for the other half of the group before they even show up. When they get there, it is thrown at them as fast as possible and in a way where they don’t know what to expect. You should have loaded their mags for them the night before, placing a few spent cartridges in them to force them into remedial action. You should have a lot of targets in case they take a route you hadn’t planned on. You should even create scenarios where there is a planned route, allow them a small amount of planning, then force them to alter the route at the last minute. They need to either shoot targets until they are down or until they are told by “Range Cadre” that the target is down. They should be forced to use the natural terrain, going prone, crawling, etc. They should have air horns go off right behind them when they are about to shoot. They should be forced to sprint for short distances, told they are being shot at and need to move, etc. They should be exhausted, dirty, and shaking when they are done.

Honestly speaking, simunitions with force on force scenarios is the most realistic training that can be conducted. If you can make it happen, find a small group of people that are willing to invest in simunitions and find a distributor that will sell to you. You’ll most likely need to have at least one highly qualified member of the group before a distributor will sell to you. Active Law Enforcement or someone former military with some Elite credentials would probably work.

Last, I conduct my own firearms training (not enough in my opinion). I have received some very effective training from sources that are not available to the public but a lot of these things I came up with on my own. If I was going to recommend a course to you, I would recommend a class with James Yager’s Tactical Response. The training they do in some of the Youtube videos I’ve seen is mostly the kind of stuff I am talking about. Here’s an embedded video below for your enjoyment. If your training doesn’t resemble this, you are wrong.



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