Training, find out what you don’t know

By: Allen Sams, Owner Concrete FX – MASF Member

Originally Published in MASF Quarterly Online Magazine Fall 2015 issue

I share a similar firearms background with many people from a rural upbringing; I got my first BB gun when I was nine, shortly after that I went hunting with my dad and I was carrying my own gun before I got out of elementary school.  Like many guys my age, and in my area, I grew up handling and shooting guns.

As soon as I turned 18 I convinced my father to purchase a pistol for me (though I paid for it, of course). It was a Ruger single six, but it was still a pistol. Several years later I got my first semi auto pistol and I was hooked.

Fast forward to getting my concealed carry permit, I took the then required course, bought a holster and I was ready to defend my family and myself if the need ever arose, or so I thought.

Allen resized magpul class

Another 12 or so years later a friend of mine stopped by my house on the way back from a pistol class with John Murphy of FPF. My friend started telling me about the class and how much he learned and how I should go to one.  I couldn’t really understand what I could possibly learn about shooting that would warrant giving a stranger $450-$500 and burning up 1000 rounds of ammo. After all I shoot great and I’ve been shooting most of my life.


That friend was Baraka James, founder and owner of MASF, and he didn’t let up on the whole “we need to get you to a class” thing.  Eventually F3 Tactical hosted a class put on by Magpul Dynamics, led by Steve Fisher, at Tango Down range in WVA.  The range was 1.5 hours away but Baraka wore me down and I finally signed up.

I am not a person that gets intimidated or has a problem meeting new people, but it is a little unnerving showing up to your first class and taking the line for the first time with 18 other people. By the way, who the hell starts off a pistol class on the 25-yard line, oh yeah the Yeti does. Starting at the 25, and the reasoning behind it, was only one of 100 or more things I learned that day.

Allen resized magpul class 2

There was quite a mix of people there, some LEO some military, several people Beretta sent for R&D, and some of us civilians.  Most of us probably thought we were competent shooters (and several I’m sure thought they were much better) but in short order it was proven to us that we all needed some serious work. The interesting thing is we all came along and by the end of the two-day class everyone had progressed well and had some mastery of all the skills taught.

I know trying to convince a gun guy that grew up shooting and hunting that they are probably not competent to carry their concealed weapon is not going to gain you any fans, but it is probably fact.  I assured Baraka several times that in my years of shooting and handling firearms I was good to go.  Fifteen minutes into that first class I actually had a weird epiphany. I knew that I never had any business carrying a concealed weapon falsely believing I was going to use it in defense of myself or others, without this kind of training.

FINAL Warrenton Arms ProofThe problem with telling your friends or other people that they need training is the first question you’re asked will be, “What do they teach you?”.  The hard part of that question is you can’t tell someone until they themselves know the answer.

I don’t mean to sound like a fortune cookie, but it really is true.  Until you start training with a good competent instructor you don’t know how important it is to learn the things you don’t know. Matter of fact, you most likely don’t even know how to practice.

resized carbine class wv

I mentioned my epiphany earlier and I would like to elaborate on it.  Until that first class I never thought about a malfunction drill, let alone practiced it.  Most of the time I practiced I did not do it from concealment, which is the reason for the permit right?  I never practiced speed reloads, worried about ammo management. When you’re in your back yard and you run dry you leisurely reload and continue shooting right?  Just like in sports, you play like you practice, but if you ever need the skills we train to build, the stakes are much higher so our practice is that much more important.

One of the biggest eye openers was realizing that in defensive shooting marksmanship is about 10% of the equation.  It’s the manipulations and compartmentalizing that I never thought about before. They make up the other 90%, and can be the hardest to master and make second nature.  It is amazing what a drill incorporating speed reloads will do to your group size (it’s not good), learning to “shoot when you’re shooting and load when your loading” is a little harder than it sounds, at first. Learning malfunction drills is eye opening, running them until it is your first instinct to immediately clear your weapon, and not just stare blankly at it for a second or more, is the goal.  Clearing concealment, draw stroke, presentation, all things that matter and all things you can’t get right until you are taught right.

My daughter is lucky that I had this epiphany when I did, becauseshe has benefited from learning every new weapons Allen and his daughter resized 2system from a great instructor.  She has taken essential handgun, carbine, and shotgun from Steve Fisher at Sentinel Concepts.  Not only is Steve an awesome instructor, but also that is where she learned her fundamentals on each weapons platform before she had a chance to acquire training scars.  Before we would go to a class I would familiarize her with her firearm and go over safety and her weapons controls and leave the rest to Steve. As a result I now have an 18-year-old little girl, who looks like she is 12, that is a straight up badass in three weapons platforms.  Watching a kid or new shooter learn from a pro and progress so much faster than experienced shooters with bad habits is truly awesome.

There are a few drawbacks to becoming addicted to training.  Of course the monetary and time investment can put a strain on domestic tranquility, (it starts to piss your wife or husband off if they aren’t in on it) but there are other things.  For instance, when you see someone open carrying in a Blackhawk Serpa holster it makes you cringe.  When you here people say things like “All you need to do is point the shotgun at that part of the room and pull the trigger you can’t miss” or “I don’t carry a round in the chamber because it’s safer, I’ll just rack one when I pull it out”.  There are about a thousand other things that will make you scream internally once the veil has been lifted and you go through the door of training enlightenment, and by the way, you can’t go back.  Once you have learned these things, acquired these skills and learn how to hone them yourself with proper practice and drills, you can’t forget how naive you were before.  It can be addictive and habit forming.

Allen Sams, Owner Concrete FX – MASF Member

I know I haven’t educated anyone on what you learn in a class, and that is partially on purpose.  It is also, like I said before, near impossible.  Go out and find out for yourself.  Find a class put on by a good instructor (MASF will help, that is what we are all about) and go do it.  It may be a little intimidating at first but I promise you everyone will kind of suck on day 1.  I have never been to a class yet where everyone was not helpful, accommodating, and friendly.  There is always a few people that are new to shooting and everyone helps out, don’t be afraid to ask questions.  The main things you need to bring are the required equipment, a good attitude, and above all know the firearms safety commandments and adhere to them no matter what.

I went from doubting that a class would be worthwhile, to wanting everyone I care about and love to take at least one, and it took about 15 minutes.  I promise you will be enlightened, a little amazed at how unprepared you are, and then astonished at what you have learned and how good you have gotten by the end of class.  I do need to clarify that I am not talking about a NRA safety class or concealed carry class here (they have their place) but I mean real defensive firearms training.

So, get hooked up with a good class and we’ll see you on the range. MASF can help you find a class, after all the motto goes: Gun ownership is YOUR RIGHT, Safety and Education are YOUR RESPONSIBILITY