Advice for new gun owners: Training is half of the self-defense equation

Sheriffs across the country are releasing thousands of inmates out of fear of COVID-19 gaining a foothold in their jails.

Thousands of police officers are quarantined and/or hospitalized. In some jurisdictions, response times have doubled or trebled.

Meanwhile, some metro police departments have stated publicly — if you can believe it — that they have stopped making arrests for what they consider minor crimes, to protect their officers from exposure to the virus.

The threat of civil unrest grows, as does the likelihood that bureaucrats will use the emergency as a pretense to infringe upon our God-given right to self defense.

As a result, millions of Americans have ignored the caterwauling of anti-gun groups, like-minded celebrities and the media and purchased firearms to protect themselves and their families.

If you’re a new gun owner, kudos for making a wise decision, but buying a gun only solves half of the self-defense equation.

You will need more than an hour at the range with a buddy who can only show you how to load and fire your new firearm.

You need a professional trainer.

In the seven years I’ve been writing about guns, I’ve been asked more than a thousand times to recommend a good trainer. But what constitutes good training? Let’s start by saying what does not.


In my humble opinion, as a new gun owner, you should steer clear from any training offered at gun shows. Many are simply diploma mills designed for folks who need quick paperwork to apply for a concealed-carry permit in their state.

Some of these gun show courses are better than others, but compared to a day or two at the range under the guidance and supervision of a professional instructor, they fall far short.

One notorious trainer who operated in Florida before the NRA yanked his credentials, offered a $20, 10-minute course in the client’s home, which culminated with the student pulling the trigger of a starter pistol a couple times. Despite the utter lack of training, the student was issued a diploma so they could apply for a Florida Concealed Weapon or Firearm License.


The National Rifle Association has been offering a basic pistol class, in one form or another, for decades. There is certainly nothing wrong with taking an NRA basic course. The instructors and good. The training is thorough and comprehensive, and it too offers a diploma that most states accept for a CCW permit. The only drawback is that these courses are very dogmatic. They’re not teaching the most current techniques or best practices.

The U.S. Concealed Carry Association offers, in my opinion, more modern courses. The only drawback is that it is not as widely recognized or accepted if the student is seeking a concealed carry permit. Some states have it codified in their state law that they will only accept an NRA certificate before they issue a concealed carry permit, which shows you the power of NRA lobbyists.


In my humble opinion, as a new gun owner, you should ignore the diploma-generating crap for now, and seek out an instructor who can teach you how to defend yourself with a carbine and/or pistol. Find someone who teaches real gunfighting, which sounds sexy but is nothing more than mastering the fundamentals. Find someone with real downrange experience.

Nowadays, there are a lot more of these veterans out there, teaching the techniques they mastered overseas.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of wannabees out there too, teaching the techniques they saw on YouTube, but don’t let this dissuade you.

The difference between taking a class from someone who cannot digress from a textbook out of fear of losing their credentials, and from someone who’s free to teach what really worked for them when it mattered, is night and day.

I still remember the first time I went to the range with my friend and podcast co-host, Bob Keller. Bob’s a legend in the special operations community, and has served in the Army’s most elite units.

I unlearned damn near as much as I learned.  I soon realized that most of what I’d been taught over the past 30 years was complete crap. I learned the difference between an actual gunfighter and a gunfight theorist.

I also learned safety at a new level — a much higher level — and my speed and accuracy improved drastically. And don’t forget, I was one of those guys who knew how to shoot. I’d survived a few gunfights and thought I knew it all.

I was wrong.

There are some pearl-clutchers who blanch at the thought of military instructors because of the pre-9/11 stereotype that the military operates overseas without limitations imposed on civilians or civilian law enforcement. This is not true. It’s what I call the kill ’em all myth.

Our troops, especially the über elite ones, are the safest, most accurate, most controlled and most experienced shooters out there. Consequently, they make great instructors. Their classes are challenging but always fun and enjoyable.

So, new shooters, take my advice. Find someone who can teach you how to defend yourself — someone with both knowledge and experience.

Worry about the diplomas and permits later.

Learn how to defend yourself first.


About Author

Lee Williams can’t remember a time in his life when he wasn’t shooting. Before becoming a journalist, Lee served in the Army and worked as a police officer. He’s earned more than a dozen journalism awards as a reporter, and three medals of valor as a cop. He is an NRA-certified law enforcement firearms instructor, an avid tactical shooter and a training junkie. When he’s not busy as a senior investigative reporter, he is usually shooting his AKs, XDs and CZs. If you don’t run into him at a local gun range, you can reach him at 941.284.8553, by email, or by regular mail to 1777 Main St., Sarasota, FL 34236. You can follow him on Twitter: @HT_GunWriter and on Facebook @The Gun Writer.


  1. Joel Servetz on

    Lee, It would be helpful if you could post a list of trainers, with complete contact info, in the Sarasota-Manatee area. People/companies you feel meet the standards to which you have alluded. Then it’s up to us to contact them and decide for ourselves if they have what we’re looking for.

  2. I second Joel’s request. Lots of new OR old gun owners who could benefit from some competent training.

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