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?

It’s time for Law Enforcement to take a stand with the law-abiding firearms owning citizens of this country.

As many of my readers know I am a 35 year veteran sworn law enforcement officer who retired at the rank of Commander and more years after that training cops. I can tell you that a large majority of cops are strong supporters of citizens rights to be armed. I am also a U.S. Army veteran of the 3rd Infantry Division. Contrary to the few incidents that make the news or social media most of law enforcement supports the citizens right to self-protection and to being armed. I have had citizens come to my aid more than once when I needed back-up and none was around, and I was thankful for their help.

But there is rapidly coming a time in this country when law enforcement as a whole may need to finally take a stand with the citizens and stand up for the Constitutionally protected right to “keep and bear arms” that seems to be under attack.

In VA. there are many Sheriff’s and Police that have taken a stand with the citizens they are sworn to serve. This is a good sign, but I do not think it is going far enough. We need a national push, and national movement in law enforcement to stand up against further restrictions on a citizens right to keep and bear arms. The second amendment is for all citizens, even law enforcement. Citizens in several states have even gone so far as to save officers lives using a firearm to stop attacks on officers.

Virginia sheriff: We’ll deputize law-abiding citizens to counter state Dems’ gun control ‘overreach’

Think for a second why many firearms laws exempt law enforcement from the restrictions placed on the average citizen. The legislators and some figure heads in law enforcement will tell you its because police are highly trained in the use of firearms and can be trusted to have firearms. Well that is not exactly the truth. If you look at the training of many law enforcement agencies throughout the country you would be astonished at how little training they actually get. In the State of Florida for example officers are only required to qualify with their service firearm every two years! While some agencies do qualify more than that there are agencies out there that only shoot their firearms every two years. Now that does not make them “highly trained” or better trained even than most firearms owners. I know for a fact that our local agencies offer officers free time on the range every month to practice if they want, and yet out of almost a thousand officers and deputies, very rarely (one or two maybe a month) would take part in the offer.

After retiring from law enforcement training, I began teaching civilian classes at a local gun range and found to my very pleasant surprise that many firearms owners shoot as much if not more than most cops. Sure, there are some in each group that train a lot and some that train very little. Point being that on an average I have to say from personal observation police are no more well trained in firearms than most firearms owner citizens.

So why do legislators seem to always include exemptions for law enforcement in most firearms bills and restrictions then? Well they will say it’s for public safety. But an officer’s home collection does nothing for public safety. Only the officer’s duty firearms while they are working and maybe their off-duty firearm (if they carry one, I know many that do not). The reason that they include these exemptions is because they know that if law enforcement had to abide by the same laws and rules as citizens the cops would be in an uproar and fight any more restrictions. Imagine if law enforcement officers’ personal firearms were going to be banned just like they are threatening citizens firearms. What if law enforcement was required to keep any “assault weapons” (before you scream at me I know there is no such thing, I’m using the anti-rights groups words) at the station and check them out only when working. What of they were only allowed the same magazine capacity that the legislature is trying to place on citizens. I don’t think they would like it much and you would hear a huge cry from the police unions and officers themselves. Now do not misunderstand me, I think that ALL law-abiding people should have a right to those things, not just law enforcement. And I know some will say, and I agree, law enforcement does need these things since those are the same weapons they encounter criminals already using. Being at least as well armed as the criminals is a necessity for law enforcement, why is it not for the citizens who will encounter the criminals before the cops do?

I teach the police recruits that I have in the academy that the golden rule of law enforcement is to treat every person (good and bad) the way they would want another cop to treat their family member if they were in the same situation. Cops need to remember that these laws and exemptions affect their families and friends who are not cops, and everyone else.

In closing let me point out that I am pro law enforcement and know most are great, brave, decent people trying to make the areas they live in just that much safer, but I also know we (LEOs) see the worst that society has to offer and sometimes forget that there are millions of times more good people out there than criminals. If we remove the exemptions for law enforcement from the firearms laws, then I think we might see much different reactions from the law enforcement world in opposition to any more restrictions. Maybe even they might stand with the citizens and require the law makers actually follow the Constitution and remind them they “shall not infringe” on their right to “keep and bear arms”, both citizens and cops. Virginia law enforcement seems to have figured that out.

It Takes a Good Guy With a Gun to Stop a Bad Guy With a Gun

“Law enforcement is reactionary by its very nature — remember, they come when you call, but you have to be able to call them.”

As news unfolded last week in this country, many things got splashed across our television screens and repeated over and over again. If the story is one of death or terror, it usually gets plenty of airtime and lots of print. A perfect example is the very newsworthy shooting at the Republican softball practice. A lunatic, left wing fringe ‘wanna-be killer’ tried to target unarmed and defenseless Congress members. It got the press time it deserved.

The attempted murder of our Congress members was stopped by two armed plain clothes police officers assigned as dignitary protection to one of the present members. Even after being wounded, they continued to engage the gunman. They were both transported to the hospital, and the gunman later died from his injuries. The other present members of Congress were fortunate the police officers had been assigned as protection.

Read the rest here.

Righting a Wrong Created by the Courts and Over Zealous Prosecutors…

“If the state of Florida is going to accuse a citizen of committing a crime, the state of Florida should have the burden of proof at each and every part of the proceedings.”

Yesterday was a huge step in the right direction for Constitutional believers and concealed carry license holders in Florida. The ripple effect could be felt nationwide.

Gov. Scott (R) of Florida signed SB-128 into law, correcting what many, especially the legislators in Florida who wrote the original “Justifiable Use of Force”, thought was a travesty of the courts.

What many people who are unfamiliar with self-defense laws do not know is that in Florida if you used a firearm or any other weapon in self-defense, before this Bill was signed into law, you had to have a hearing before a Judge and the prosecution to prove you used it in self-defense. This was the only way to be able to claim self-defense immunity. Yes, you read that correctly, you had to prove in a court of law that you were innocent.

 

Read the rest of the story here…

Florida Officers are NOT Taught Firearms Law in the Police Academy.

I can only speak for my state, Florida, but I have found something that is very eye opening and needs to be addressed by the State of Florida.

I found that in the Basic Law Enforcement Officers Training Curriculum there is no mention anywhere of the laws and procedures relating to firearms and Concealed Carry License holders and laws, and it is vital that it be addressed immediately as it could result in the serious consequences for both my fellow law enforcement officers, and the law abiding citizens of Florida!

I have been teaching and training law enforcement and corrections officers in Florida for more than 34 years. I currently am the Law Enforcement/ Corrections Training Coordinator at Santa Fe College, Institute of Public Safety in Gainesville, and have been there for going on 20 years now. I have been very active in the past in writing and developing the FDLE/CJSTC Curriculum that we use to teach in our basic courses, acting as an SME (Subject Matter Expert) for FDLE on several subjects.

As part of my duties as coordinator, it is important that I review the current curriculums and make sure that we are teaching all of the needed information to make our officers/ deputies the very best informed and trained LEO’s we can. In addition, the more knowledgeable our LEO’s are the better they are equipped to handle situations that arise during their careers, and also helps to keep them from being liable for any misdeeds due to the lack of knowledge or training. It was while reviewing last years and this year’s Basic LEO curriculum that I found a serious omission in the text and materials.

I am sure that if I asked you how much time we spend on the firearms laws in the State of Florida in the Basic Academy you would probably say at least several hours, right? I mean with over 1.7 million concealed weapons license holders, you would think that we would address these laws and the proper way of dealing with this group of law abiding citizens correct? Well, we do not. There is actually 0 (zero) time or lessons dedicated to the instruction of the Firearms laws in the state of Florida. Even though Officers are expected to know and deal with these laws almost on a daily basis. In fact, we do not cover the laws concerning the CWL holders of Florida and what is legal and what is not as it pertains to citizens possessing firearms.

There are even only a few very brief, very short mentions of the Florida Chapter 790 in the entire training text. One of which simply mentions that it is one of the warrantless arrest exceptions for “Carrying a Firearm in Violation of an Injunction (s. 790.233, F.S.)” and “Carrying a Concealed Weapon (s. 790.02, F.S.)”[1] in Chapter 1. Chapter 2 mentions it as one of the crimes in Chapter 2, Unit 3, Lesson 2, Elements of crimes where it covers “carrying a Concealed Weapon (without a license), s. 790.01, Misdemeanor/ Felony”[2]. That is it! That is the entire law enforcement curriculum on dealing with firearms laws.

It is understood that we cannot cover every law and every situation in the Basic Law Enforcement Academies. I know this better than most people. But I also know that with the increase in Concealed Weapons License’s in the State of Florida (now over 1.7 million!) officers are encountering the law abiding citizen that is legally armed more and more. And with several current cases and lawsuits against officers and departments for unlawful arrests[3], or otherwise unknowingly violating a law-abiding, licensed citizens’ rights and getting complaints filed against them, we need to do something to better protect our officers, departments and the law abiding citizens of Florida.

I first discovered this lack of information when working on an in-service training curriculum with the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office Training Unit. They were getting complaints about officers disarming CWL holders during routine traffic stops and were investigating the legality of this issue and trying to better educate their Deputies. I assisted with the curriculum due to my involvement in this subject matter for a number of years.  We developed and used a very good curriculum and taught their deputies during in-service about the current state laws concerning the carrying of firearms by citizens. Both lawful and unlawful, and the training was well received.

The major issue at hand is the practice of officers “disarming” lawfully carrying citizens on the side of the street without any further reason than they are armed. Any handling of a firearm (which the LEO may not be familiar with) on the side of the road or elsewhere is potentially dangerous. It has been discussed and there is case law to support the view that officers, while being able to use Stop and Frisk (F.S.S. 901.151) when someone is under investigation for a criminal act, and when finding that the person may be armed AND is a danger to the officer, the officer may frisk for weapons, it does not cover frisking or disarming a law abiding citizen, who is not breaking any laws other than a possible civil infraction of traffic law. Officers can and do ask motorist and passengers if they are armed, and rightly can do so. But by Florida law it is not covered that they can then, upon learning they are a licensed, lawfully carrying citizen, disarm that person and deprive them of their property. In fact, the courts have held otherwise. In fact case law states that it is not permitted.[4] In fact, Florida law does not require a citizen to notify an officer they are lawfully armed unless the officer directly asks the person if they are armed (790.06).

In order to prevent citizen complaints and lawsuits for violation of citizens’ rights, do away with the unnecessary handling of firearms on the side of the street, and to increase the trust of the citizens with our police officers statewide (which is vital right now considering current events) I respectfully request that the CJSTC consider adding a lesson on Chapter 790, Firearms Laws and include as part of that, “Law Enforcement interactions with Concealed Weapons License Holders”.

This training is vital to our current situation and may help prevent unnecessary litigation and even possible injury or worse happening to one of our LEO’s or a law abiding citizen. And it is important to remind everyone involved that there are multiple cases now of lawfully armed citizens saving the lives of Police Officers across the nation! Lawful gun owners are not the problem or the enemy!

 

Refs:

1 Florida Basic Recruit Training Program, Text Book 1, Version 2016.07, Page 52 & 53.

2 Florida Basic Recruit Training Program, Text Book 1, Version 2016.07, Page 74.

3 Freeman & Florida Carry v. City of Tampa, et al./ Norman vs. State of Florida (currently under review by the Florida Supreme Court) / Florida Carry v. City of Daytona Beach

4 741 So.2d 1268 (1999), Bruce WELCH, Appellant, v. STATE of Florida, Appellee. No. 98-2615. District Court of Appeal of Florida, Fifth District.

[1] Florida Basic Recruit Training Program, Text Book 1, Version 2016.07, Page 52 & 53.

[2] Florida Basic Recruit Training Program, Text Book 1, Version 2016.07, Page 74.

[3] Freeman & Florida Carry v. City of Tampa, et al./ Norman vs. State of Florida (currently under review by the Florida Supreme Court) / Florida Carry v. City of Daytona Beach

[4] 741 So.2d 1268 (1999), Bruce WELCH, Appellant, v. STATE of Florida, Appellee. No. 98-2615. District Court of Appeal of Florida, Fifth District.

 

Mandating Self-Defense Insurance for those that Carry Firearms – good or bad idea?

“The cost of using your firearm in self-defense can be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars if you have to hire a lawyer, get yourself bailed out of jail, and fight for yourself in court.”

There has been some back and forth in various media and groups on the internet about possible gun control laws that would require a person who carries a firearm for self-defense to have insurance in case the firearm is used in any incident. And some legislators thought about making it mandatory to get a concealed carry permit. I don’t think I need to tell you this is a bad idea on many levels, but just in case, let me try.

First, you should NEVER have to pay to exercise a right guaranteed by the Constitution. But even that is still not a reason good enough for some. Second, by requiring insurance to be allowed to carry a concealed or open carry firearm, you are limiting the exercise of a right to only those who can afford to purchase the insurance. That is basically “disenfranchising” to those with a lower socio-economic status. Third, the market is very limited in the choices of insurance carriers, and there is no “standard” that one can look for in a company.

Read the rest of the story here…

Reasoning with an Anti-Gun Advocate on Twitter…

“If anyone thinks it’s easy to get your point across using the limited characters on Twitter..”

I have been involved in many discussions with anti-firearms advocates over the last few years. For the most part, they start out with a statement about how “common sense” gun laws are needed. So I usually ask, “Name one law that has ever stopped a criminal who is intent on committing a crime from doing so?” Most of the time that gets them all riled up, and the conversation on their side devolves into insults and name calling.

I still try to talk some sense into those that will at least listen. Now and then you get that one that just flat out surprises you! This happened to me the other day on Twitter. If anyone thinks it’s easy to get your point across using the limited characters on Twitter, you have not used it in that way, or are not very verbose like me. But I still try, and it is refreshing when I find that one fairly open mind that will listen and then has an “ah-ha” moment.

While reading the anti-firearms posts to see who I could engage in a conversation, I encountered a “tweet” from a person using the name “Kitty Sparkle Pants” (I did not make that up!) who posted this message, “kitty sparkle pants‏, May 7, #NotOneMore bracelet arrived: donate to ttp://notonemore.com  for common sense gun laws and get yours. @Everytown”

She was talking about donating money to Everytown for Gun Safety for a bracelet that says “Not one more” on it.

I saw this as a chance to educate and engage. I replied to her post with one of my insights, “If you want ‘not one more’ you would teach people to defend themselves, not seek out ‘safe spaces.’” My statement must have caught her attention because we began a fairly long back and forth discussion with her bringing up the typical talking points, and my using logic. But then things took a turn I was not expecting.

Read the rest here…

Down Range with Chris Wagoner is expanding!

We are now offering a full line of Tactical Items, Concealed Carry Items and Thin Blue Line items for sale at LOWER than MSRP’s!! Clothing, chest rigs, Vests,  magazine carriers, pouches, holsters, hats, boots, gloves and MUCH more! Any profit from these items will go to creating more and better content here on these pages! Check it out!

Here is how it works, you browse the catalog and click on the items you are interested in. It will take you directly to the website for descriptions, sizes, and colors where you can put the items in your cart. When you are done shopping, print the list of items (there is a button for this!) in PDF format (you select this where you list of printers is at) and send it to me at usarmyvet8487@gmail.com with “ATTN Thin Blue Line Order” (or whatever catalog its from) in the subject line. I will then beat all of those prices you see and send you back a list with the discounted prices on it! It’s that simple. If you choose to order I can have the items shipped directly to you! Shipping is at whatever rate the distributor charges (NO ADDED CHARGES!!). If you do order you will receive a PayPal invoice you can pay any way you like (PayPal or Credit Card).

You will be surprised at the prices. You will not find them lower anywhere on the internet!

Check out the Tactical Gear catalog here!

Check out the Concealed Carry Gear here!

Check out the Thin Blue Line Gear here!

Fort Myers family asks Scott to review ‘Stand Your Ground’ ruling… really??

The NBC writer needs to check out the law before making themselves look foolish. As a 35+ year cop, and firearms instructor for LEO’s the “Justifiable Use of Force Laws” are actually fairly easy to understand IF YOU READ THEM. Here is the law that covers this incident;
776.013 Home protection; use or threatened use of deadly force; presumption of fear of death or great bodily harm.—
(1) A person is presumed to have held a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another when using or threatening to use defensive force that is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm to another if:
(a) The person against whom the defensive force was used or threatened was in the process of unlawfully and forcefully entering, or had unlawfully and forcibly entered, a dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle, or if that person had removed or was attempting to remove another against that person’s will from the dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle; and
(b) The person who uses or threatens to use defensive force knew or had reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry or unlawful and forcible act was occurring or had occurred.

Notice THIS IS NOT the supposed “Stand your ground” law that everyone talks about. The law is not called “stand your ground” it’s actually called : 776.012 Use or threatened use of force in defense of person. And the words stand your ground are only three words i the entire statute.

The LAW IS CLEAR in that a person is believed to be in fear of great bodily harm or death when someone is trying to break into your home or does break into your home (mistake or not) you do not wait around and ask the person why they are doing what they are. You do not have time to sit down and chat. This has nothing to do with the Justifiable Use of Force in Defense of a Person Law that the news is citing, it has to do with the defense of your home.

Please research the information better before reporting and making people think the wrong things, about the wrong laws, and misleading the public. This is why so many people now say the term “Fake News” so much.