All combat systems, from archery to jujitsu, need to be blooded and tested if they are to true fighting systems rather than sports. The farther away from the combat experience a martial system becomes, the more stylized and artificial it becomes. Its advocates will relate how the "founder" did it way back during the war, although their own experience on the matter is based on third or fourth hand knowledge.
The reader may not immediately see a problem with this. After all, not everyone can be a soldier or a cop, or even a street fighter. Moreover, many cops and soldiers never actually get combat experience, even though they may train for it. Those that do get it, many don't really know why they prevailed, and of those that do know, few feel compelled to teach others how to do so.
Something else that happens is that a trainer may have had a number of contacts, but their scope and nature was limited to a particular environment. For example, consider the SWAT shooter that disdains all reactive point shooting because during his time in service, he never shot on the move, point shot, or ever gave his adversaries a chance to shoot first. The casual reader might say, "Wow...what a gunfighter". The reality however is that although that man may be a fine tactician, and a great marksman, in the SWAT context, his fights reflect only the SWAT and Spec Ops experience. And such experience is not applicable to the civilian CCW lone operator, or unsupported operator.
A third phenomenon affecting the training world comes from the term - L.C.D. That refers to "Lowest Common Denominator". The LCD is a term thrown around in police training, and in some military circles when large numbers of recruits must be qualified and brought up to a minimum performance standard. There will be some recruits that shine in that environment, but most will not. The Drill Instructor is then faced with either teaching those that shine and flunking the rest, incurring the ire of his commander, or teaching to the minimum standard, checking off the boxes, and moving on to the next class. Which option do you think the career-seeker, or position protecting instructor will choose?
And so what happens is either a gradual diluting of training material to meet the low capabilities of the LCD, a very distant relationship to the chaos of fighting, or a very unrealistic method of training that is only applicable in very one-sided confrontations. As well, neither fighting, nor shooting are natural. We are not born with the ability to do either with any success. They are learned skills.
To present an analogy, imagine a boxing school that never allows the students to do anything more than practicing moves in front of a mirror or hitting a heavy bag. The students look great, and boy they sure can make that bag sound off, but the entire notion of doing it outside in the parking lot on someone's head is totally foreign. Or better yet, a swim coach that was a great Olympic swimmer telling his students that all they really need to do is want to win the race and that their attitude will get them through as they practice their swimming strokes on specially prepared swimming benches that seek to replicate water. Sounds ridiculous doesn't it? But that is exactly the state of modern American gun training. They are boxers that don't box and swimmers that don't get wet.
Merely saying that makes the speaker a hated individual in those groups as they realize that their emperor is in fact buck naked. Horrors! The worshippers of the emperor will literally hate you for that.
Does that need fixing, and if so, how do we fix that?
To answer the first question, yes it does. It does if the objective is to prepare fighters to fight. If you are a person that carries a weapon for self defense, you are self-selected as a fighter. You can call yourself something else if you wish, but when you have to draw that blaster to save yourself, you are fighting. And as such, the vast majority of gun training in the USA will not prepare you fully to prevail in a gun fight. An unprepared person will only win by happenstance. We certainly want more than that.
How to fix this then, and train properly?
Most gun training today entails learning to shoot cardboard or steel targets on a measured range, often under time limits. Very impressive when done correctly, but like the hopeful boxer and the heavy bag, there are things missing.
1). There is no initial reaction to what the "target" is doing. In a CCW street fight the bad guy will get to start things. Think of it...if you know a gunfight is about to start, you would not be there. You would leave if you could. And while there are "proactive events" where the good guy sees something beginning to unfold and is able to stop it, it is usually not as clear as that. Good guys will usually wait until they are 100% sure of what is happening because the penalty for a mistake here is very costly. And in that built-in hesitation he allows the event, more often than not, to turn into a reactive one.
2). The target does not try to shoot or stab the good guy. The target stands there...waiting politely to get shot. In a street confrontation the "target" will try to shoot you, or close in to smash, cut, or stab you.
3). Range training is static and dead training. The martial arts people would call it "dead patterns". It is all very predictable, and no matter how much shooters work to make shooting dynamic, it doesn't change at all in the end. Range training is analogous to hitting the heavy bag...necessary, but not the whole picture.
Compare that to a gunfight. Thanks to today's technology, anyone can bring up YouTube, or Google videos and type in gunfights, or gang shootings, or police videos or whatever and get a view into that world...into what really happens. Here is what you see. You see few shooting stances and plenty of dynamic movement. You see few perfect sight pictures and lots of point shooting. You see movement...or guys getting shot when they stand still. In short, you see all the things that cannot be "safely" done on the classic American shooting range. So what that should tell the reader is that either those videos of gunfights do not represent real gunfights, or that the range training they are doing does not represent preparation for a gunfight.
Anyone care to bet which is the right answer?
Fixing the problem requires some form of training that allows for a dynamic representation of the gunfight. Fight trainees need a method that allows for non-cooperative opponents, that presents a penalty for making a tactical mistake, and allows extremely dynamic moving and shooting. Their training environment needs to accept chaos and the techniques need to thrive in that chaos and allow for things going wrong and for mistakes being made and learned from. As well, it needs to be affordable, unrestricted, and widely available.
The form of training that supports what we need is simple. It is called force on force and has been used conceptually in one form or another since the duelists and shootists of the previous two centuries shot at their training partners with wax and wooden bullets. Flash forward to today and we have that technology in the form of airsoft available to everyone with the initiative to train with it.
Of course, this concept is attacked by those who either do not understand it, or worse yet, do understand it but fear it. Imagine the guy running a No-Sparring boxing school suddenly realizing that there are people outside in the parking lot throwing punches at each other. Or the swimming coach we spoke about, seeing all his students in class soaking wet from a few laps in the pool. They have a choice. They can adopt the new standard, or rail against it. Those that can adopt it do, and we see more and more force on force being done today.
But there are those that won't adopt it because they do not know the first thing about personal combat and would not do well if they suddenly had to get up off their lazyboy much less off the X. And thus the anti-force on force rhetoric gets thrown around as they settle their posteriors into a new more comfy stop on their recliners. But, the cat is out of the bag and students of the gun everywhere are changing the way they train. You can too.
I think we can add a new saying to firearms training. We take it from the old sword masters - "In Ferro Veritas", or loosely translated, "when swords clash, we will know the truth".