Learning to Shoot: How Much Training Is Enough?

I get a lot of emails and messages on Facebook asking me which shooting instructor I recommend for this or that area in Florida. Many are realizing that the best way to protect oneself and one’s family is to become a hard target. You don’t have to be in super-great shape, don’t have to be really coordinated, and you don’t even have to become “highly” trained. But you DO need to know the laws of firearms use, as well as the safety rules, and be physically fit enough to hold the firearm safely.

There is a lot of back and forth on what is considered “enough” training in the firearms discussion forums and pages, and on gun control and gun rights pages. How much training should a person have in order to be licensed to carry a firearm on their person? How much training should they have to own and have a firearm in their home? Should they be required to have any training at all for those and other situations? As a person who has taught firearms to both law enforcement/corrections officers and civilians for more than 25 years, I have found there are really three separate groups of people that want or need training.

The first group wants a firearm for protection but will not go through extensive training or practice with the firearm they buy, if at all. Individuals from this group probably own one or two firearms for self-defense at home or to carry on their person. They don’t carry all the time. They may attend a gun show concealed carry class that last all of 45 minutes and requires no range time.

Let me make this clear, I do not recommend or suggest that anyone take that type of class. If you are new to firearms ownership, and have not had any formal training at all, that is not the place to learn! Those classes are a bad example of firearms training and give attendees just enough information to make them dangerous to themselves and others. A more robust class, say one that lasts four or eight hours and includes some range time is much better, and what I recommend for the new firearm owner/carrier.

If you want to own and carry a firearm, realize that it is a huge responsibility and you must consider everything that it brings with it. Why are you carrying it? Why did you choose to own it? If the answer is to protect yourself and your family it means you are thinking about the possibility of having to shoot a fellow human being, and that is not something to take lightly. You have to learn how to safely handle your firearm, maintain, and shoot it. If you have not shot a firearm before you need to learn the basics of marksmanship and this cannot all be done in a 45 minutes session.

The second group is the firearm owner who seeks out a reputable training program. Maybe the NRA Basic Home Defense Course, or a course run by a United States Concealed Carry Association (USCCA) Certified Instructor. Maybe even one at a local gun store that is taught by responsible instructors like myself. (I teach at www.shootgtr.com) These are the people that want to be well prepared to use their firearm. They realize the importance of being able to operate the firearm properly and that they want to be good shots, as they know you can’t stop what you can’t hit.

These are the type of people that take owning a firearm seriously and want to know the laws and seek out those that can help them learn. They like to practice shooting and turn it into a hobby or pastime. They take the fact that they may have to use the firearm they carry to defend themselves seriously and they make sure to learn the laws surrounding defensive gun use. They practice a few times a month or at least every couple of months. They know that practice is important and do it as much as they can.

The last group is the job related carry folks. Men and women from Law Enforcement, Corrections, Probation and Parole, and other professions that carry a firearm as part of their job daily. I teach these types of people on a regular basis. I have found that they come from many different backgrounds, from those that have never held a firearm before (the easiest to teach because they have no bad habits to break), to former military members who are crack shots.

Once they get on the job, members of this group fall into the two groups mentioned above, they either take the responsibility seriously and train regularly, or they don’t. You might be surprised to find out, that not all cops are gun nuts. Some only carry on duty, and never off duty, even though they can. Additionally, many states either have no requirement for officers to qualify with their duty firearms, or only require yearly qualifications. Some states like Florida, my state, only require officers to qualify every two years! That’s right, a police officer in Florida is only required to qualify every two years. Now of course there are departments that qualify more than that however, it is not required by law. I know many officers that take the responsibility seriously and do practice on their own and often, but for many it’s limited by the matter of money. Shooting is not cheap.

One of the things that people do not think about before buying and owning firearms is the cost. First, firearms are not cheap. A good quality handgun can cost between $350 and $1000. That’s a big spread, but remember that you are possibly trusting your life to this piece of equipment and like anything else that you buy, most of the time you get what you pay for. Would you trust your life to a cheap, poorly made firearm or spend the extra bit of money and buy one that is of higher quality and made by a reputable manufacturer? Ask your instructor or trusted friend who knows firearms for advice on this, and if they are not firearms owners, look at what your local police and the military use. What do they carry and why? But that is a whole separate article…

So if you are thinking of becoming a firearm owner and possibly carrying one, just like anything else, make sure you research first. After that take that knowledge and test different firearms. Find one that fits your needs (read my article on Top Ten Carry Firearms), and then seek out professional, comprehensive training in how to use, carry, and care for your firearm. Make sure that your instructor is qualified and certified by a national or state wide organization. Ask for references!

A good instructor should not be afraid to let you talk to former students. The best tell of an instructor’s ability are the students they have turned out and what they think of the instructor. Ask the instructor how many classes they have taught. Do not take a course that does not include range time or training on how to care for your firearm! And make sure you learn the laws of your state on when you can and cannot use a firearm to defend yourself. Join a firearms group and ask questions, learn from those that have been there and teach the subject. Check and see if you can find a statewide organization like Florida Carry Inc. in Florida that will answer your questions and has experts from the field online to help. (https://goo.gl/p8vHb6)

If you have questions, all you have to do is either email me at chris@chriswagoner.us. Whatever you do, learn, train, and then train some more! Your life or the life of your family members may depend on it.

Isn’t that worth it?

The Internet is good for some things, but not for telling you what firearm is best for you!

Recently on a Facebook group I read and follow, a well-meaning person asked the group in general what type of handgun she should buy. She gave a little bit of info in that she was a shorter-in-stature female but that was it.

And of course the responses were many and varied as greatly as the types of firearms recommended. And some of the responses are just plain bad advice.

And while some of those are great suggestions, firearms are not a one-size-fits-a-certain-sized-person application. Also, some handguns are not made for concealed carry or for personal defense, although almost all will do that if you have it in your hand at the time.

If you are looking at getting a handgun, what are you getting it for? Learning to shoot a handgun? Self-defense at home or to conceal-carry? There are many factors that go into what you look for in a handgun and, to be honest, the Internet and complete strangers is not the place to look for help.

If you are looking for a handgun or wanting to learn to shoot a handgun, go to a reputable gun range or gun store. Or find a reputable firearms instructor that you check the references or reviews on, and get them to show you different firearms. DO NOT buy a firearm you’ve not shot on a range! Handguns can look and feel very different. But until you actually shoot it on the range, you cannot know how it feels in your hand and how you like or dislike the way it functions. Not all handguns are created equal.

So, if you are new to firearms or handguns, do not take advice from the Internet. Find a real person who is a professional and knows what they are doing when it comes to handguns or training.

Once you do decide on a handgun, make sure to get training in how to use it properly and how to shoot it. Remember why you were getting it in the first place. Isn’t your life (or the life of your loved ones) worth the time, effort and money to do it right?

You Just Bought a Firearm for the First Time, Now What?

With all the craziness going on right now I bought a firearm for self-defense, now what?

OK, you have decided to take that big step and buy a self-defense firearm for home or carry. Or you may have gotten one for Christmas or went out and bought one for yourself as a present to yourself. No matter if you already have one, or are thinking of getting one, you need to be a responsible firearm owner. What does that entail? Well, take it from someone that has owned and used firearms for more than 40 years and as part of my daily life, both as a police officer and firearms instructor, GET TRAINED!

The very first thing you should learn if you are thinking of or have a firearm are the four cardinal rules of gun safety. These rules apply anywhere in the world and recognized as being the basis for all gun safety and gun training. Memorize them, follow them and make others who are near you follow them also and you will never be harmed or harm anyone else with a firearm unintentionally. Here they are, they are simple and easy to remember and to understand:

  1. Treat all firearms as they are loaded, regardless if they are or not!
  2. Never point a firearm at anything unless you are willing to kill or destroy it!
  3. Always identify your target, and what is beyond it!
  4. Keep your finger off of the trigger until you are on target and ready to shoot!

I make my police recruits memorize and repeat these rules before they ever are allowed to touch a real firearm in the police academy. And then we enforce these rules with no exceptions! That is why we have never had anyone injured in the 20+ years I have been teaching firearms at my academy. If a police recruit violates one of these rules, they can, and we have, remove them from the academy. Firearm safety is that important. So as a citizen learning to handle and use firearms for the first time, or even some that have been handling them but never bothered to know these rules, you MUST FOLLOW THEM!

Every case of unintentional discharge of a firearm, except mechanical failure which is exceptionally rare, can be traced back to someone violating one or more of these simple rules. SO as a new firearms owner you MUST know these and follow them all of the time. Even when you are alone or are sure a firearm is unloaded and safe, treat it like it’s loaded, never point it at anything that you don’t want to destroy, and you will never harm anyone you do not intend too!

The next important act you take as a responsible firearm owner is to secure your firearms and ammunition when it’s not in use. Especially when you have kids around the house. If you have kids in the house, you need to teach them the four rules above. If you teach those rules at a young age and they follow them, you will never be in the news as a tragedy of a child shooting themselves or a friend with a firearm. Securing them can be done one of several ways. A gun safe is probably the best (and most expensive), but not everyone can afford them. If you bought a firearm for home defense, it’s kind of defeats the purpose of locking it in a large slow to open safe. You can have a firearm secured and yet quickly available if you buy a rapid access safe. I have a Hornady Rapid Safe myself on my nightstand that has my home defense firearm in it. It opens with a RFI wristband I wear or a quick finger combination. Either way its fast and yet secures the firearm from prying eyes. I also carry a firearm on me at home most of the time. Some people wonder why and think this is over the top. Well as a former police officer and having gone to more than my share of home invasions, home invasions do not happen elsewhere. They happen in the home and carrying a firearm while in the home is one way to help protect against that. No, I am not paranoid, I am a realist. No place is completely safe these days. No neighborhood is immune to crime. So being armed while home is something that is an individual decision, but imagine if you do become the victim of a home invasion and you could have protected yourself and your family, but choose not too. You have to live with that decision; I choose to be ready even if it is a little inconvenient. I would not be able to live with myself if something happened to my family and I would have been able to prevent it but decided not to bother.

So you have memorized the rules and follow them. You have secured your firearm when not using it or carrying it. And now you are thinking of carrying it one you when you leave your home. Becoming one of the millions of citizens that have decided to carry a firearm on them while out away from home. Either openly or concealed (depending on what state you live in) is a personal choice and sometimes is decided by what activity you are doing, but regardless you have decided to take that next step and protect yourself and your family from becoming just another victim of the criminal element that is out there these days and has no regard for your life or the life of those you love. You should try to remember that it is much more tactically sound to try and fight an armed criminal with a firearm than it is with harsh words, or worse, on your knees begging for your life and that of your family!

Take a firearms course from a reliable instructor in your area. Check around and ask others that you know have been trained who they recommend. Make sure you do not take one of those hour long, gun show courses that are nothing more than a way for them to make money. You need to remember that your life and the life of your family may rely on the training you get. And are they not worth a few more hours of your time and a bit more money if needed? Check out the instructors. Google them, ask around or ask for references. Make sure you are completely satisfied with your instructor’s credentials and what they teach. There is a huge difference between a good firearms course and one that is put on by instructors looking just to make a buck. Remember just because an instructor has this or that certification does not make them a great instructor. So check them out, do your due diligence and be satisfied you have checked them out. There are outstanding instructors out there. I still take courses from other instructors when I can. You are never too old to learn, and never will learn everything there is. Training is a lifelong endeavor.

So now you have learned the rules of firearm safety. You have gotten a firearm and taken some good instruction on how to use it and do so legally and safely. Now you need to know, study and follow your state’s laws on carrying firearms. You do not want to be arrested for something you did not know about.

If you follow those simple steps to responsible firearm ownership, you are one of the citizens that can truthfully say they are ready to defend themselves and their family.  Good for you! I know full well that cops cannot be everywhere and sometimes take minutes to respond to life and death situation, and more often than not arrive after it’s over. Let’s hope that when they arrive you are the one still standing and you have protected your life or the life of your loved ones legally and successfully!

Thinking of Giving a Firearm as a Gift for Christmas?

With Christmas fast approaching you may be thinking of getting that special person a firearm for a Christmas present, which can be done legally, even to someone under 18, and 18 to 21 years old, even in Florida.

Under Federal law you cannot sell or give a firearm to a person under 18 without parental permission. And you must have that permission in writing! So if your trying to give a firearm to your 16 year old niece or nephew for instance, get written permission from the parents to do so. The Federal law that applies is:

18 U.S.C. 922(x) (x)(1) It shall be unlawful for a person to sell, deliver, or otherwise transfer to a person who the transferor knows or has reasonable cause to believe is a juvenile— (A) a handgun; or (B) ammunition that is suitable for use only in a handgun. (2) It shall be unlawful for any person who is a juvenile to knowingly possess— (A) a handgun; or (B) ammunition that is suitable for use only in a handgun.

But that section goes on to list the exception being with written permission (among a few other exceptions). Florida law (Check your states laws for any difference) does not prohibit the private sale or gifting of a firearm to anyone who is not Federally prohibited if you follow the above for anyone under 18. Over 18 you can gift directly to the person, even in Florida as possession by anyone under 21 is not prohibited, only buying from a licensed dealer (some think it includes private sales, that has yet to be officially determined, F.S.S. 790.065 (13)) is prohibited.

But the generally accepted rule is that you may buy a firearm and gift it to someone as long as they are an adult, or Juvenile with written permission from the parents (not legally prohibited by State or Federal laws).

See the National Shooting Sports Foundation web page for more information.

Newsweek Outright Lies to the American People about Firearms Deaths!

Why am I not surprised that another supposed “news” source would publish a article “STUDY: U.S. GUN DEATHS SURGE, EXCEPT FOR TWO STATES WITH RESTRICTIVE GUN LAWS – BY ASHER STOCKLER ON 10/8/19” that is not only full of falsehoods, but the headline itself is an outright lie.

Is it any surprise that the American people no longer trust “news” sources like Newsweek? When supposed news sources publish such blatant lies about a topic rather than take 5 minutes to actually research reliable sources, you get results like this:

Screen grab from Newsweek.com

Now if you read that headline you would think they at least were telling you the truth. But would it surprise you if I told you that according to the FBI “2018 Crime in the United States” firearms murders went down the last two years? Firearms murders have decreased since 2016. 2018 was lower again from 2017. So why would Newsweek want to mislead or lie to the American public? Well of course we know why, they want to influence the public into thinking there is a “surge” or “epidemic” or “crisis”. When in reality the only one of those is in the minds of those who manufacture these claims.

From: FBI “2018 Crime in the United States” report.

According to the FBI homicide data, murder over all is down again also in the US. That’s great news so why not share that good news? Isn’t murder being down a good thing? Oh that’s right if they admitted that it would make things like “gun control” the “assault weapons ban” and other things pointless. Well they are pointless.

Here is the homicide rate per 100,000 people in the US over the last 48 years. Notice anything? You can easily see that the Murder rate was much higher from about 1998 and prior. After the rate started dropping in the nineties it has stayed pretty stable until about 2008 when it dropped a little more. With the mass murder in 2016 it climbed but still not to previous levels. And now it has dropped again to 5 murders per 100K like it was back in 2009. Again it is still far lower than in the past prior to 1999.

Graphic by Down Range with Chris Wagoner. (chriswagoner.us)

So one has to also consider this. We are a nation of 350+ MILLION people. And a nation with hundreds of millions of firearms, some estimates are even more firearms than people. If firearms were the issue would we not have far more firearms murders than 10,265 out of 350+ MILLION people with all those firearms in the US? Of course we would. This is a very simple way of showing it is not the inanimate object that is a problem, but the person behind it. Just like it is the driver behind the wheel of a car driving DUI and not the car. It is obvious when you see that “hands and feet”, “Blunt objects” like clubs and hammers, and even “knives and cutting instruments” are used to murder far more people than those “assault rifles” that many say are the biggest threat to people these days.

So to Newsweek I make this challenge, if you want to put anyone up for a debate live online, I will gladly take you up on ti. Subject? The real numbers behind firearms, murder and fake crisis you are trying to manufacture.

I know they won’t take me up on it, but it’s fun to hope! Stay safe out there.

Anti-Gun Activists are Using Gun Phobia, the Education System and the Liberal Media to Slowly Take Away Second Amendment Rights!

By Joshua Gant, Opslens contributer, and LEO!

“The concept that you can stop crime by increasing gun legislation is so off base that it is dangerous to the safety and security of each and every citizen of the United States.”

As I sit back and watch headline after headline tick across my screen, it’s disgusting to me to witness the assault being waged on our right to keep and bear arms. For the people who seem to have forgotten, those rights are guaranteed by a document that liberals like to side step from time to time called the Constitution of the United States.

Read the rest here.

Carrying a Concealed Weapon Without a Round in the Chamber is a Matter of Life and Death

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“The only reason this could be true is that you’re either scared of your firearm or you’re simply not properly trained. If either is the case, STOP CARRYING!”

As a firearms instructor that carried a firearm as a cop for decades, and still carries one today, I understand the need for quick and immediate access to your self-defense firearm. That is why I am a proponent of the open carry of firearms if you are legally able to do so in your state. There is a reason why we LEO’s carry our firearms openly. It acts as a crime deterrent, and it gives ready access to your defensive firearm. I am also very set on teaching the benefit of carrying with a round in the chamber as you can tell from the title!

Read the rest of the story here!

Florida Legislators are at it again, and citizens lose.

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This year in the Florida House and Senate the Representatives and Senators came out swinging for the fences when it came to restoring some of the rights of Florida’s 1.8 MILLION Concealed Weapons License holders and for that matter for all of Florida’s citizens.

In Florida currently, it is illegal to openly carry either a long gun or handgun unless you are participating in specific activities such as hunting (hard to do without open carrying), fishing (Florida has these huge lizards that can eat people!) and camping (bears, poisonous snakes, and self-protection) among some other things. In addition, it is also illegal to carry a concealed firearm onto or into many places such as college campuses, “a career center”, a total of 15 locations. Some of which make sense like “Any detention facility, prison, or jail..” that serves as a security issue, and I can understand that one, but a “career center”? Really how many problems have there been at career centers before this law?

Florida is one of only 5 states that do not allow some form of open carry either with or without a license. Currently, 11 States have “Constitutional Carry,” meaning unrestricted open carry of firearms. 34 States have some form of open carry. Only 5 states have no for of lawful open carry. Before you say “Hey but Florida does have some type of open carry!” No, they do not. F.S.S. 790.053 prohibits any form of open carry, the other I cited are exceptions in the concealed carry law.

Now back to our legislators. As I said, they came out with a great group of very pro-rights, pro-firearms bills this year. Everything from an open carry bill to campus carry and others. One of the biggest bills they have submitted was a change to Florida’s “Use of Force” law that would change the way Floridians have to defend themselves from the courts and not just criminals. Currently in Florida, if you use self-defense as a defense in a shooting or any other kind of weapon (knife, car, anything you can use to defend yourself) you have to go before a Judge and prove your innocence. You heard me right, what is the normal legal standard for everything in the United States of America, innocent until proven guilty, does not apply in Florida if you use force to defend yourself. The legislators are trying to fix that and put the “burden of proof” back on the state to prove and not the victim. The burden of proof should always be on the state to prove your guilt not the victim to prove innocence.

But this is where the good news stops and the nightmare for Florida’s citizens starts. The “burden of proof” bill has made it through both the House and Senate, but because the two branches differ on some specific wording, there is a distinct possibility that this great and desperately needed change could go nowhere unless the Senate and House can agree on some language.

But what about the other 19 or so pro-rights bills? Well, they have all been stymied by one Republican Senator. That’s right a Republican Senator who is against restoring freedoms and rights to the citizens of Florida. Sen. Anitere Flores has decided for whatever reason to come out against any and all firearms rights bills, and many other bills put out by her fellow Republicans. She has yet to tell anyone why, but rumors have it that she is thinking of jumping parties and running for Miami mayor since she is term limited out. We will have to see.

So why is Florida so messed up and apparently not going anywhere, again this year? Well the NRA and State firearms rights groups do not seem to be making much headway and have not in the past. Some question the methods and the results of the NRA since they gave Sen. Flores an A+ rating on firearms rights. But it’s hard to blame them when Sen. Flores sent a letter to the NRA literally begging for a good rating. Wonder if she knew then what she would be doing to the citizens of Florida? Other pro-firearms frights groups in Florida have seemingly not been able to do much either. Either from lack of effort or leadership, it makes no difference the outcome is the same, nothing happens, and bills go nowhere.

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Another issue is that many of the really good bills have not even seen the light of a committee meeting or any kind of discussion. For a bill in Florida to go anywhere, they have to be heard in Committee (usually), and a way that Florida legislators have taken to killing any bill they don’t like is to just not schedule it for any committee hearing. That way they can say they submitted the bill, making them look like they were doing something, but really knew it would go nowhere. Even the author and sponsor of a group of good bills this year has failed to even schedule his own pro-rights bill in his own committee! Is that why he wrote the bill? So he could fail to schedule it for a hearing and let it die without even seeing a fair vote in committee? Didn’t politicians get the hint when the country

As a last resort in Florida, the Senate or House President can pull a bill and place it in another committee or put it on a special schedule for a hearing and vote on the floor. But if he did that he would have to admit that the committee chairs were not doing what they should. It would mean they were actually having to lead instead of just being a figurehead.

So what can Floridians expect from their legislators this year? From the looks of things so far, not much. Seems like the same old story that they had from the last few years. It is even looking like they may not even get a much-needed change to the use of force laws because the legislators are saying they cannot agree on wording in the bills two versions. Well at least the legislators can say they tried, just like last year, and the year before and so on……oh and the groups that are fighting for Floridians? Well, nothing has changed there either. The “grassroots” groups that claim to be fighting for your rights, well not much fighting going on there. I was taught at a very early age, and it served me well in the military and in law enforcement, if something does not work, try something new or change the way you are doing it until it does. Maybe they will step up and really start to make a difference, or they will stay in the shadows, that part is completely up to them.

Sorry Florida, you are listed as one of the “Five” states without real meaningful Firearms Rights laws while other states get Constitutional Carry and all kinds of other improvements.

An Argument for Arming Our Teachers!

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By Chris Wagoner:

School shootings have been brought to the forefront by all of their media coverage, and for good reason, the victims are children. Sadly, the school location does not matter, it can happen anywhere. So why do the bad guys pick schools? In interviews with many of the school shooters, it was found that they knew they had a lot of people in a confined area and that no one would be armed.  In other words, a school is an easy and target rich environment where they were not likely to encounter armed resistance.

Some of the school districts and law enforcement agencies across the country have started a program, putting a uniformed police officer in schools.  They are called ‘school resource officers.’ This program has a lot of great benefits to it.  Kids get to know that police are not the bad guys, and they get to interact with and sometimes befriend the officers.  Adding an armed police officer to the school has the added benefit of placing someone at the location at all times in case a law enforcement response is needed.  But the problem with this program is of course like anything else in law enforcement, money.  It costs money to place these officers in every school.  Salaries, benefits and other fringe items can add up.  Even with the comparably low pay most officers get, it is still more than the school board or police departments want to spend.  Bottom line:  It all boils down to the money.  The schools where the program has been instituted have been exceptionally successful, with kids, parents and the officers giving it high praise.

But what about the schools where these attacks have taken place?

Read the rest of the Story…

 

What to Do If You Get Pulled Over While Legally Armed – A Cop’s Perspective

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By Chris Wagoner:

Recently, I was contacted by my local sheriff’s office and asked to help them out by developing training material for their deputies. This material would specifically provide legal guidelines for a police officer to follow in the state of Florida if someone he or she encountered had a concealed firearms license and was carrying a firearm, or had a firearm legally in their vehicle. Since I am a full-time law enforcement trainer in the state of Florida, and a staunch supporter of the second amendment, I gladly agreed to help.

I sat down and wrote out a training curriculum for the deputies that included Florida’s current state laws on firearms possession. I also used research from case laws regarding the rules and regulations of confiscations by police of citizens, including the notion of temporarily taking your firearm from you at a traffic stop. When all was said and done, the curriculum was well-received by the deputies and the sheriff’s office, and continues to be used not only by them, but by several other departments, and it is being considered for inclusion in the basic law enforcement training curriculum for the state of Florida.

But in doing this, it also brought to mind the other side of the coin: what should a citizen do if stopped by the police while carrying a firearm legally in the vehicle, or with a concealed firearms license and a firearm on them while driving?

Read the rest here…