The Most Important Training Skill?

This Saturday, like many Saturdays in the Spring and Summer I am teaching a defensive pistol class. At these classes there’s something I try and emphasize over, and over, and over, which is what I believe is one of the most important aspects of gun training.

 I’m not talking about safety, which is the most important aspect and gets covered before every class I do no matter if it’s a beginner class or an advanced class. And I’m not talking about trigger control or follow through.

In short, I’m talking about making my students think during the class.

Let me explain… Although competition shooting is a fun sport, it is not defensive firearms training. After all, many competitors have tricked out race guns, they know exactly what’s going to happen on each stage and as soon as they hear the buzzer they start shooting without having to do a great deal of thinking.

Obviously, that’s not close to reality at all, because in a gunfight you’re going to have no idea what your attacker is going to do. Also, in a gunfight you’ve got to be thinking so you don’t shoot into a crowd of people and hit an innocent bystander, or have any number of problems occur.

So how exactly do you get people to think?

Well, one of the best ways is sending people into a shoot house. Inside the shoot house you’ll have targets that are clearly marked as bystanders and you’ll have targets that are the bad guys.

If you’ve never done a shoot house scenario before you’ll be amazed at how much thinking is required and you’ll likely end up shooting an innocent civilian or two your first time out.

Another way to make people think is to use a target with several numbers on it such as the SEB target. The instructor can call out numbers telling the student to shoot at each one. You should also call out numbers that aren’t even on the target to see if people are paying attention.

I realize that going into a shoot house, or shooting different numbers isn’t totally reality based either. But it accomplishes the goal of making you think and not just having you run through a pistol course as a “drone” knowing exactly what is going to happen each time.

After all, your brain (that thing in your head which controls your thinking) is the most important thing you have in a gunfight.



Jason R. Hanson is a former CIA officer. He’s also an NRA Certified Instructor and the author of The Covert Guide to Concealed Carry: Confessions of a Former CIA Officer. Jason believes there are few things in life as important as being able to protect yourself and your loved ones. That’s why he’s giving away a free report titled, “Insider Secrets of Buying Your First Concealed Carry Firearm” at

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