Facing the fear of firearms training is a very real struggle for many people, especially women. Having been around firearms my entire life, I have never really understood this phenomenon. However, a while ago I had a very discouraging firearms training experience that brought this fear to life for me as well. I am hoping that by sharing this with you, we can all learn how to find the good in an difficult situation.
Training is essential to growing comfortable and competent in any discipline, and shooting is no exception. I am constantly watching videos online for tips, practicing at the range, and taking as many in person classes as I can find within a reasonable distance of my house. When I heard Rob Pincus was coming to town, I jumped at the chance to train with him and happily sent off my $280 registration fee. For those of you unfamiliar with Rob, he is one of the top defensive shooting instructors in the United States. His company, I.C.E. Training , is very well respected, and I was feeling pretty good about being able to train with such a legend. Unbeknownst to me, I was about to come face to face with the Gordon Ramsey of firearms training.
And So It Begins
I knew the second I walked into the class that I was in way over my head. Within 10 minutes of starting, we were shooting and it seemed like everyone knew what they were doing except for me. For the record, I am a pretty good shot. I can hit just about anything I aim at, even if it is a moving target. But this class had nothing to do with target practice. In fact, Rob started off by saying that shooting at a static target from a stationary position is easy, that anyone could do it, and that we were not there to target practice. We were there to learn defensive shooting tactics designed to save our lives in the event we ever found ourselves in a deadly situation. In other words, we were there to learn how to survive a real life gunfight.
From the get go he decided to single me out, and to be honest, I deserved it. Unfortunately, I had a bad habit of resting my trigger finger on the trigger guard and he did not like that at all. It is supposed to be above the guard. While it was not ever technically ‘on’ the trigger, he must have yelled at me fifty or more times throughout the first half of the day to take my finger off the trigger (guard). This caused him to hover behind me watching my every move, which of course made me nervous, which caused me to miss a lot, which completely flushed my confidence down the toilet. Every time I would miss he would stop the class and make me shoot alone, with the entire class watching, until I got it right. It was humiliating.
To make matters worse, I seemed to be the only person in the class of 12 who had never taken a tactical self defense course before. I had never shot on the move and I just couldn’t get coordinated enough to do it to his satisfaction. The body position was awkward, sliding across the ground was awkward, reloading on the move was awkward and drawing a pistol from an outside belt holster was the most awkward thing of all. I didn’t even own a belt holster until this class. The belt holster was and still is completely foreign to me.
Next came the commands and boy did they come fast. While I was still trying to remember to never stop moving he started shouting what he wanted us to shoot at. Take a second to look at the image of the target. He would shout, “5” and we had to shoot two numbers that equaled 5, such as 4 and 1, or 2 and 3. But if he shouted 7 blue, we could only shoot the 5 and the 2 because they were blue and added up to 7. He might have then said A 4, Bravo 2, then 10. The commands just kept coming! I was still on command 1 when he was shouting command 3. I just couldn’t process them fast enough. In addition to all of this, we had to reload multiple times on the move to satisfy all of the commands. I was completely out of my comfort zone and felt completely defeated. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, he started throwing rocks at me. Rocks!
Now to be fair, I wasn’t the only one he tortured. He singled out a few other students, cursed them like a sailor and threw rocks at them too. But not as much as he did me. I couldn’t wait until lunch break. I fully intended to flee.
Aaaahhhh lunch. I went straight to my truck and sobbed. Full on tears and hyperventilation. Everything I had ever learned and thought I knew about firearms training was now conflicting with what was being taught in this class. I began to second guess my dreams of wanting to help other women overcome their fear of firearms and firearms training, my blog, and pretty much everything else in my life. The cell service at the range was dismal, so I sent a text to my husband telling him I was going to leave because this guy was such an ass. He replied, “Nope, you are there to learn. He teaches stuff that no one else teaches. You will learn from him how to stay alive.” Thanks for the support honey. And so I did what any other God fearing woman would do. I prayed. I prayed to God to get me through this class and show me the lesson I needed to learn. Then I dried my tears, took a deep breath, and went back to take one for the team.
The first hour after lunch was brutal. I still couldn’t find my groove. I really thought Rob was going to ask me to leave. He said he may as well go on and tourniquet my leg because I was going to blow it off if I didn’t keep my finger off the trigger (guard). I bit my lip, promising not to cry but then something amazing happened. He came over and changed my grip on the pistol. He also explained that I might need to put an aftermarket trigger in my M&P 2.0 9 mm to help me shoot faster (which I since have done). All calm, nice and professionally. And just like that, my day turned a 180. I quit missing. He stopped yelling. He actually started complimenting my turnaround. And not once in the last 3 hours did he yell at me to take my finger off the trigger (guard) because the new grip caused it to naturally lay higher.
Throughout the entire day we had been shooting at approximately 5 yards away from the target because evidence shows that most self defense shootings happen within 15 feet or less. At the end of the day, we moved to about 50 feet away from the target. I totally owned this. He remarked that I did very well in what should have been the most difficult part of the class. Small win for me.
Finally after 9 hours the day came to an end. We all huddled and discussed what we had learned. Rob said that today was all about real life, and in real life thugs were going to do a lot more than cuss, throw rocks, and demean you. In life and death situations, your confidence and skills will be greatly reduced, fear and stress will kick in and the slightest error could take your life. It’s almost like a light bulb went off over my head. This was never a personal attack on my ability. It was a genuine attempt to give me the skills I needed to save my life.
In hindsight, I am very glad I took this class, even though it bruised my humility. I honestly think that I learned more than anyone else on that day. Especially after learning that 6 people in the class had been training with Rob for over 5 years! That completely explained why they all knew what they were doing and I did not.
Fear of firearms training is no joke. Even though Rob’s style was tough, it changed the way I think about everything. I have always been very aware of my surroundings, but now I am more aware. I have completely re assessed my approach to training new shooters. While I won’t ever resort to humiliation during firearms training, I do accept that it is exactly what I needed to find my focus. I finally understand the fear of firearms training, and respect it.
Rob’s firearms training class is not for everyone. It takes a completely different mindset to succeed in a tactical defense class versus a basic pistol class. I did learn, however, that sometimes being the weakest person in a class can work to your advantage! You sure get a lot of one on one attention! My advice is first take a basic pistol class, then an in home defense class, then an out of home defense class. Do it scared if you have to, but do it. You will never overcome your fear by avoiding it. Face it head on, and be honest with your firearms training instructor! They are there to help you overcome your fear, hone your skills, and give you the confidence to survive in a life and death situation. Skills, in my opinion, that we all need.