How Important is Firearm Training?

There is so much talk of “being ready” while at the same time, we see videos of relatively untrained people perform under stress and stop real life threats. So how important is firearm training, and is it really necessary to win a gunfight?

shooting from cover and concealment

Training and Surviving —

I phrased the question in such a way that no matter how you answer, both answers are correct, and, both are wrong. And I think much of the disagreements we have are because we either don't define words, or use subjective terms. A simple example of this is to gather a group of people outside and ask them, does it feel warm today? You'll likely have some people who say it is, and people will agree. Others will say they feel chilly, and anyone who is warm is nuts. Replacing, warm, with the word hot is less subjective, so you're likely to get more of a consensus.

In the question I posed in the title is subjective. How important firearm training depends on your desired goal and purpose for training. I narrow it down a bit, by setting the context and ask, is it really necessary to in a gun fight? But still, what does it mean to ‘win a gunfight?”

Glock handgun .22 lr

Getting Specific —

It is an important question though, so let's use more specific terms.

Let's start with training. Is firearm training important? We know that at a minimum, every gun owner should get some basic safety training. We believe this, and offer a free online firearm safety class so that no gun owner has an excuse to not know the way to handle a firearm safely. But what about more advanced training? Since we are narrowing the scope to an everyday concealed carrier winning a gunfight; how much is necessary?

Here is where subjectivity makes it more difficult to answer unequivocally. Elijah Dicken's actions to stop an active shooter inside an Indiana mall is a good, and recent example. Reports confirmed that Elijah Dicken's firearm training consisted of some instruction from his grandfather, and “lots of dryfire” practice. But beyond this, we don't know what other training content he consumed, be it through video or online course. The point is, he wasn't attending in-person training courses regularly, or shooting thousands of rounds a year, and yet his performance when it mattered was impressive. Some would say this is proof that people put too much emphasis on training. I disagree.

We should never become dogmatic about something based on one bias-confirming story. Again, Elijah's professional firearm training may have been minimal, but he still had some. He also regularly practiced through dry fire.

Does anyone really think there has ever been someone who said they regret having too much training in how to survive a deadly encounter?

DGU #1 —

Now the Indiana mall shooting is one instance of exceptional skill and decision making by someone with ‘limited' firearm training. Here is a video of another person using a firearm. In watching the video, we immediately notice this person has zero training, or the training he received was poor.

We don't have any information on this circus other than what we see in the video. Did the guy hoping around and firing indiscriminately “win the gunfight?” Perhaps, if winning only means surviving. But we all know there isn't a chance that every round he fired hit the threat. Where did they go, what or who did they hit? If the misses didn't strike an innocent person, it's certainly not because of anything he did, but by God's grace.

In this case, jumping around and shooting in the general direction seem to be all that was necessary to “win.” But what about if “winning” requires well-placed, immediately debilitating hits on the threat? like the incident below.

DGU #2 —

We don't know what happened to this man. The bad guy gets what seems like 2 shots off, before the defender can respond. We also don't know how much formal firearm training this guy had. Maybe he got lucky, maybe he had a level of training that helped him get critical hits, even after being shot.

The decision to draw on a guy who already had a gun out and pointed at him isn't always the best choice. But it appears in this case that the bad guy recognized he had a gun and was trying to disarm him. And that brings us to another aspect of firearm training.

For anyone who carries a gun for self-defense, we have to break from the idea that ‘firearm training' is only about firearm proficiency. At least as important, if not more important than basic firearm proficiency, is a wider understanding of self-defense, including situational awareness, unarmed defensive skills, and tactical considerations like the use of cover and movement.

DGU #3 —

Let's look at one more defensive gun use video. This time we know a little about the person in the video.

We know he is a competitive shooter and trains regularly both competitively and defensive pistol. Notice how different this incident looks. Of course, each defensive gun use is different, but we see that this defender has a level of skill both in firearm fundamentals but also in tactics. This results in him using movement and positioning to get cover, draw his gun at the opportune time and then only take shots he could make. In this case, the man wasn't hoping to survive based on luck and wasn't just hoping his rounds didn't miss. He was able to take in a lot of information and not just perform well with the shots he took, but he was able to make good tactical and legal decisions, which inevitably helped this outcome.

In conclusion —

Does training guarantee you will survive any given incident? Of course not. We know there are too many variables and sometimes you can do everything right, but still the scenario is just stacked against you. Well trained cops and citizen defenders get shot and killed. We also see poorly trained, or minimally trained, or those with no training at all, survive incidents out of sheer luck and the grace of God. So is training important and is it a factor in survival? Training can provide us with more, or better options during an encounter. Sometimes survival isn't the only factor. Sometimes, avoidance, or choosing if/when to engage, or the ability to de escalate is the deciding factor on survival. If you're going to carry a gun for self defense, give yourself the best opportunity to use the gun appropriately by getting appropriate firearm training that goes beyond sight alignment, and how to grip the gun.

Between the tuition and ammunition, classes teaching things like how to use a gun in and around a vehicle, or learning how to get a fast, consistent draw can run several hundred dollars. Nothing beats an in-person class with a qualified instructor, but when that isn't feasible or out of your budget, taking an online course is a great option. We offer a full library of various online courses you can access by purchasing them individually or free through a Guardian Nation membership. Here is a listing of some courses you have access to as part of a Guardian Nation membership.

Try Guardian Nation free for 14 days and check out all the training courses we have to offer.

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About Matthew Maruster

I follow my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ who is the eternal co-equal Son of God. I currently live in Columbus, Ohio with my wife and daughter. I served in the Marine Corps Infantry. I was a Staff Sergeant and served as a Platoon Sergeant during combat in Iraq. After I was a police officer at a municipal agency in San Diego County. I have a Bachelors's Degree in Criminal Justice from National University. MJ Maruster Defense.


  1. Kris A Mayfield on February 8, 2023 at 8:46 pm

    Great Article and information.

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