Training Wounds: It takes a long time to fix stupid!
By: Joshua Gideon
As a young boy I had the most fortunate opportunity to spend time with my Great Grandpa. They moved in with us for a while when I was young and his health was failing, and I was able to get to know him pretty well in his final years. I recall one evening we were watching westerns together. One of the characters in the show got in a bar fight and was thrown out of the fine establishment. After getting thrown out onto the street, he got back up and went inside. Only to be thrown out a second time, this time through a window. The character then proceeded to go in a third time and before he was thrown through the other window, I heard my Great Grandpa laugh and say something along the lines of, “It takes a long time to fix stupid.”
I never thought years later that I would hear those words echo in my head while spending countless hours on the range trying to “fix stupid things” I have learned and practiced. The firearms training world calls them “training scars.” On the surface it makes sense, however, I am not sure that is the most accurate description of the situation. The situation is a student goes to a formal class, reads a book or magazine, finds something on the Internet, watches something on YouTube, etc. and begins practicing the newly discovered technique, only to find at some point that it is not the most efficient way to do something and must un-train the bad technique. For those of you who have had to do this, you know there is a price to pay for your past mistakes. The longer you wait to fix the problem or the more deep-rooted it is, the longer it takes to fix it. I have struggled with the wounds from bad training, but thankfully I don’t believe I have any scars as the result of not fixing the issue. This is why I don’t like to call them “training scars” but rather “training wounds” that with the proper application of medicine and a little bit of time they can be healed and not leave a permanent scar.
One of those training wounds I am talking about is reloading in a workspace inches from my face. I had a law enforcement mentor I looked up to teach me this in a class I took from him (he has since repented and uses a more efficient technique). I was diligent after a class to put in repetitions on the drills I had learned. Early on I learned that training was just the introduction to mastering the skills presented. The problem was that I was training my brain and muscles to do things that were at best inefficient and at worst just plain dangerous. In a very short time I developed a training wound that would take me many hours to fix later.
Obviously that isn’t the only bad habit I have picked up over the years. Many years later and many, many, hours of practice have healed some of the training wounds. Thankfully I have had some good instructors that followed the bad ones and they were able to pick up on and help me correct my training wounds before they became permanent training scars. It wasn’t easy and it cost me a lot of time and money to fix.
It is critical to understand the ripple effect of the things you learn when it comes to defensive firearms use. There are stories after stories of soldiers in combat dropping magazines on the ground and advancing forward only to realize they were out of magazines, because they were taught to drop their magazines during training. There are the debated stories of law enforcement officers with brass in their pockets after being involved in a shooting, because they were taught to pick up their brass on the range. All things they practiced over and over on the range and in training classes. Both of these examples notably put their lives at risk during a real dynamic critical incident.
We as students have a responsibility to seek out good instruction. We must remember and continue to remind ourselves that nothing is free. The cost of poor training will haunt you for years and will cost you much more than seeking out a proper instructor. Gimmicks are no excuse for poor training and the cost of a training wound is way too high. At best it will take more training and a lot of repetitions to fix what was taught wrong. At worst it could get you killed or arrested if Heaven forbid you have to use your firearm to protect you or your loved ones.
Training wounds are something to be taken seriously by both students and instructors. Get your training from a qualified and experienced instructor who is focused on efficiency and can answer “why” to everything they teach. Seek out good instructors who are giving good quality firearms instruction and understand that everything they teach has a consequence for the students. If they are reverberating how they were trained with no knowledge why, or have some gimmick to get you to train with them, run away. Don’t be like the guy in the western and get thrown to the ground three times. Learn it right the first time and don’t forget, “it takes a long time to fix stupid.”