Gun Fighting is a Skill That Requires More Training, Not More Information - ITS Tactical

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Gun Fighting is a Skill That Requires More Training, Not More Information

By Chris Sajnog

Editor-in-Chief’s Note: Please join us in welcoming back former Navy SEAL and current Director of Training at  Center Mass Group, Chris Sajnog as a contributor on ITS Tactical.

As a retired Navy SEAL and Director of Training at Center Mass Group, I’ve been around firearms for most of my life. During that time I’ve seen lots of “new” shooting techniques come and go; some good and some not so good. One thing that’s never changed, is what it takes to be a great gunfighter, hands on training.

Training at the range

Whenever people ask me how they can shoot like a Navy SEAL, I always say the same thing: dry fire, lots and LOTS of dry fire. I never mention any particular technique or any of the well known  fundamentals of marksmanship. Nope, what you need to do is train. Sure there are plenty of great little tricks out there and I’m always trying to acquire new tools for my toolbox (actually, not to brag but I’ve got more of a tool shed than a box), but no matter what skill or technique I’m working on, I’m working.

Watch This!

As we push on into the information age, the way many people view what is considered “training” is changing. You see, I’m noticing a disturbing trend lately when I talk to people about firearms training. I’m finding many are no longer willing to put in the hard work necessary to learn the art of warfare, since it would be much easier to just buy the latest training book or video. Then all they have to do is kick back on the couch with a few cool-ones and train!

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got no beef with getting more information or learning how to do something through a shooting book or video, and there are some great ones out there but the caveat is, once you’ve got the information, you need to use it. Don’t just sit there like a wallflower, skin that smoke wagon and do a little ballet with that boom-stick.

I Don’t Have Time For That!

Of course this new non-training trend is not exclusive to firearms training. I became a CrossFit instructor a few years back and ever since then I have friends and family asking me to put together workout routines for them. It usually goes something like this:

“Hey Chris, I’d like to have a good workout routine and was hoping you could design a two-a-day, six-day-a-week hardcore program.”

Are you working out at all now?

“No, I’ve been pretty busy.”

OK, I’ll make you a deal. If you can workout 30-minutes a day, 3-days a week for one month, I’ll design you a custom program.

To this day I have not designed a single workout program for any of those people.

“Education is not the piling on of learning, information, data, facts, skills, or abilities – that’s training or instruction – but is rather making visible what is hidden as a seed.”

~ Thomas More

Informed Dissent

So what does this mean for you? Well, if your training is already as good as you want it to be, then you don’t need to do anything. But if you want to be better and you’re just sitting around waiting for the next “Dyno-Reflexive Combat-Carbine” video to come out so you can improve your ninja skills, it means you should just take the information you’ve already received from the first video (or book) to the range and see where your skill level is.

Milk the knowledge you already have for all it’s worth and if you get to a point where your training is becoming stagnant, hop back online and order away! But if you’re hammering the basics and really working to be the weapon and not a tool, then this journey in self-mastery will not soon end.

Even when you get to the point that you’ve mastered the basics, just remember that advanced shooting is just the basics done smoother and faster (and the video costs an extra $34.95).

Shoot for the Stars

Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) said, “You cannot teach a man anything; you can only help him find it within himself.” I interpret this to (loosely) mean that you can’t learn how to shoot by just watching more training videos or reading more shooting books but that you should go to the range and shoot if you want to get better. I think if ol’ G.G. were alive today he would say (with a heavy Italian accent), “Gun fighting is a skill that requires more training, not more information.”

Galileo didn’t discover the Milky Way by watching videos or reading books, so what’s your range plan? Post how you train in the comments below, then get to the range and shoot for the stars!

Editor-in-Chief’s Note: Chris is a former Navy SEAL and the Director of Training for  Center Mass Group, which was founded by two retired Navy SEAL Instructors. Giving people the experience of being trained by the most elite combat unit in the world, Chris is currently a Maritime-Counter-Terrorism and advanced marksmanship Instructor who has trained DOD, DHS, FBI, CIA and multiple foreign allies in all aspects of combat weapons handling, marksmanship and Maritime Operations.

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  • D. Hude

    Great advice! I’m at the beginnings of getting off my butt and doing something worthwhile. I’m attending a basic pistol course later today as a refresher and will practice those fundamentals via empty-gun drills and dry fire. My plan is to do that daily while I search for more hands-on training. I’m not looking for perfect, just good enough!


    • DhUDE! Hope your pistol course was good. Keep up your routine, you’ll never be perfect (no one is), but never settle for “good enough”!

  • RC

    Great post Chris! Just wrapped an ITTS course this past weekend and already have another on the docket. Just need to maintain via dry-fire and other forms of practice. “Perfect practice makes perfect…”

  • Steve B.

    Thank you for a very good post. Excuse me while I wax a little philosophical but the principles here can be applied to so many facets of life. Using firearms to explain them seems to grab my attention just a little better for some reason, wonder why… Thank you.

    • I would expect intelligent ITS readers like yourself to pick up on the deeper issues at hand. Thank you for your astute observation Steve!

  • Highwaystreets

    Excellent article Chris. This type of general laziness is increasingly common in our society and is most certainly not limited to firearms training. As you mentioned crossfit is another fantastic example. I’m sure we all know people who went out, bought all the gear and signed up for a gym and within 3 weeks they are back to their old routines.

    I hit the range usually once every 2 weeks, sometimes at work sometimes on my own time. I dry fire train every week and many times a day I do mental repetitions, things like loads and unloads and trigger press. I’ve cleared my house many times, trying to cut the pie and run the proper angles of clearing a room.

    All little things like this I think greatly help keeping your best weapon sharp and useful, your mind.

    PS can you make me a crossfit routine!? I’ve done your 30 for 3 for 1 month!

    • Glad you like the article and thank you for your comments. The mind is the only true weapon we have, glad you’re keeping yours sharp!

      Next time you’re over, I’ll give you that routine…

    • Highwaystreets

      I’m gonna hold you to that! Looking into to your courses although sometimes its hard for us Canadian LEO to get training courses in the USA and I know because of ITAR it’s hard for trainers like yourself to head up north and share your knowledge.

      Hopefully we can work something out!

  • Anon

    I remember years and years ago approaching a local IPSC grandmaster/gunsmith who was selling a few of his guns at a show, and asking him for tips on how to correct some random shooting problem. He told me to go home and shoot a million rounds in practice, and by then the problem would be gone.

    At the time, I thought he was just screwing with me, but in the years since I’ve come to appreciate just how deeply true that advice really was. No matter what you’re doing wrong, if you go out and shoot day-in and day-out cubic yards of ammo, eventually you’re going to get good. A good instructor can speed up that process, and increase the rate at which one improves, but no amount of instruction can make someone an expert shooter without having ever fired a gun. It is through practice alone that skills can be developed.

    Even though most of us cannot hope to expend that many rounds of ammo within the foreseeable future, we can at least strive to shoot more often, under a wider variety of circumstances and conditions, with a diverse array of weapons (unless your work mandates a more limited selection of firearms).

    • Well said Anon! Though I’m not saying not to go to an instructor for help or even not to watch videos or read new books…heck, I’ve got one coming out this summer.
      The main point is, you need more active practice to get better.

  • Masterless

    Great words! I’m in agreement with what was said here.
    I’m poor guy with not a lot of money to spend on ammo. I can’t get out to the range much, I can’t afford any fancy training course, I don’t really bother with fancy gear.
    I have a revolver and two speed loaders w/pouch, and two strip loaders for extra ammo. I also have training rounds (snap-caps) that I use to practice my reloading drills and trigger control.
    Drawing, dry firing, reloading, over and over… from behind my desk, and from behind a wall in my little garage office. I stay mindful of my grip, if the front sight shakes too much while squeezing the trigger, and I even work on my breathing if I had to perform a sniper shot in single action. (ya never know)
    I’m never done with training. Even if my reload is fast enough, I think I can do it faster.

    • Thanks for sharing your training plan! You’re ahead of 90% or people with guns, who don’t have a training plan. I liked your comment, “I’m never done with training”. Sometimes people will say to me something like, “when you used to train as a Navy SEAL…” Or “when you went through SEAL training….” Like you said, training never ends.

  • Name

    I also received my CrossFit level 1 cert and something one of the instructors said stuck with me. He was former army and mentioned that during basic training he practiced basic drills hundreds of times, when he got to his unit he was excited for action but ended up simply practicing those drills 1000s of times, his solution was to sign up for a more high speed unit, when he was accepted he was required to practice those drills tens of thousands of times and that’s where he realized what made these special units better and what made the difference between good and great. He related these basic drills to the fundamental movements of CrossFit, but it applies everywhere.

  • **********

    Always Remember, “PERFECT practice makes perfect.” You can train and practice your heart out, but if you’re not doing it right, you’re getting REALLY GOOD at doing it wrong.

    • Good point ***********!

      Also, you “Practice” things you already know and “Train” to learn more.

  • Peyton Lucas

    Great article! Defnitely has inspired me to step up my game in routine training. My personal regimine is dry fire (3-4 times per week for 15 min), monthly practice draws, reloads, weapon clearing, etc. I get out to shoot about twice a month. I’d also add it would be good for gunfighters to attend courses/training events that cover other concepts like escape and evasion (E&E), tactical medicine, weapon retension and other skill sets which would be value-added to the gunfighter’s effectiveness. CRI Training offers a great crash course in this called Antiterrorism in High Risk Zones. Covers a whole host of activities like E&E, stress innoculation through interrogation, tactical shooting, CQB, etc. I went through it in January and it’s hand-down the best course I’ve been to yet. Also planning on attending an Extreme Close Quarters Combat Concepts class later this year because doesn’t matter how good of a shot you are if someone can take your weapon away from you and shoot you with it. Anyway, just my $.02, hope it was thought-provoking! Kudos and thanks for the GREAT article!

    • Great perspective Peyton. I’m an 18D medic, so I appreciate the importance of cross-training, with TCCC medicine being at the top of my list. I like to say that if you’re training to get into gunfights, you better train for what to do it you (or someone you care about) gets hit.
      Keep up the training!

  • Mike

    My daily routine consists of dry fire drills at the beginning of my day and at the end regardless of any actual engagement throughout the day. these will always translate into muscle memory whether on the range or in your theater of operations ie military, law enforcement, contractors etc. something else to consider as your gearing up is function checks of other gear as well as weapons systems. muscle memory, muscle memory, muscle memory…. as we all know stress can dumb us down so we want to train our bodies to react…. good to hear from fellow warriors. good hunting!!

  • Ken

    Enjoyed your article. Just thought I would bring up some alternatives that are also viable to dry-fire. First, dry-fire is better than doing nothing. I get that. But it also has its drawbacks, mainly in that there is not feedback (target hit) to verify that the functions are being done correctly. As the saying goes ” Practice doesn’t make perfect. Practice makes it permanent. Perfect practice makes perfect.” In the current status of ammo shortage, this makes it difficult.

    To that point, there is another option: Airsoft. Airsoft guns are no longer just the cheap plastic things you give your kids. Airsoft guns are available as replicas of most styles and brands of “real steel” , in both metal and plastic. In most cases, they are the actual weight of their “real steel” counterparts. The better guns are either powered by “green gas” (a refrigerant) or CO2. They can come with either “blowback” (meaning the slide works just like the real thing) or as non-blowback. Most of the gas pistols shoot in the 300-350 fps range. In addition, all of the better brands have a “backspin” mechanism (some adjustable) to flatten the trajectory of the plastic bbs.

    Some argue that because there is no “kick”, these aren’t valuable for training. I believe, because there is no “kick”, I can learn the correct technique and refine it without having to overcompensate for the recoil. Less chance of learning bad habits.

    Not only can you work on most of your drills (malfunctions would be the exception), you can get feedback immediately to go with it. What I find advantageous is that I can work on all of that at my home multiple nights a week without the time or expense of the range. I just set up a silhouette out back and go through a couple of hundred rounds. I have even worked on it in the house (when my wife is out shopping).

    As to expense, it is extremely cost-effective means for practicing. The guns run anywhere from $40 – $200. Owning both “green gas” and CO2, I prefer my H&K CO2 airsoft gun from WalMart ($40). It is extremely accurate out to about 15 yards, in addition to being extremely efficient on CO2. I can get about 150 shots per cartridge. It consistently shoots in the 350-375 fps range. As for the price of ammo, 5000 .20 gram BBs at Wal-Mart cost about $14. 25 CO2 cartridges cost about $12 dollars (approx. 3700 rds.) I ordered a second mag for $30 dollars online. As for a target, I use a pizza box hung on my wood fence. (BBs penetrate the first layer but not the second. ) So for about $60-$95, I can go through over 3000 rnds. $60 will barely cover the range fee plus 100 rounds of 9mm.

    In addition to the cost benefit, I can also practice all of the things I can’t at the standard square range: draw-from-cancel, shoot-and-move, tactical reload, etc. I’ve even designed some “steel plates” so as to practice IDPA-style shooting.

    As for results, here’s what I’ve seen in my own shooting. My groups,before I started using Airsoft, @ 10 yrds were about 12″. After getting the Airsoft and shooting 2-3 times a week at home (200 rounds a time), my groups @ 10 yrds dropped to about 4″ and @ 15yrds, they shrank to 6″. Since that point, I only go to the range for my “real steel” about 2 times a year and usually only shoot 25 rounds. The groups are consistent with what I see @ home so why burn through the ammo, especially with the shortages.

    Just thought I would share this. Hoping maybe it would help some others. Also, hope if others begin to see the benefit, they might want to get together with like minded individuals and train together or create some IDPA-style events. (I’ve even found timers that will work for Airsoft.)

    Thanks again for sharing your expertise.
    [email protected]
    Mesquite, Texas

  • Bas

    Excellent article, and so true.

    Shooting, weapons handling and gunfighting is so much more than just a bit of range time and reading the next book.

    It’s also a mindset and fysical thing, get out there and run. And don’t just run, do loaded backpack runs. You’ll find that however more your body is accustomed to doing this you’re be more agile as a shooter too.

    Right now I do two loaded ruck tabs a week and train with the rifle at least once a week + some extra handgun training…..I almost have no time to smoke any more, so that’ll get cut from the schedule and replaced with some more PT.

  • @Mike Glad to hear I’m not only one dry firing! Keep it up brother!

  • @Ken Great writeup on the benefits of airsoft. I’m a believer and have 6 airsoft weapons in my armory.

  • @Bas PT is a main pillar of any true warrior. I’m a CrossFit guy and workout 6-days a week. Glad to hear you’re kicking the habit! Hooyah!

  • JM82

    This is a great article Chris, from your points on CrossFit to shooting skills building those pillars requires the same thing… work. As an instructor at a local PMC and an avid CrossFitter I couldn’t have said any of this better myself. Looking forward to picking up your book and seeing what knowledge and skills I can begin to work on and add to my own training. Thanks.

  • IIGeo2

    Sir if you could assist I agree with this 100%, my agency trying to save money wants to cut our annual quals from quarterly down to bi annually, as we are not permitted to practice with our service weapons I have argued that this will greatly diminish skill sets, increase the likelihood of stray rounds and by doing endanger the public by unintentional use of force being visited upon our citizens. If you know wher I can find statistics I would appreciate it.


    Wow, you really need to find a new quote at the end there.  That Galileo one does not work at all!  Good article though, yes training is the most important aspect, because there isn’t too much else.

  • BartPotter

    Thanks for being here Chris! Have you done or can you do a short review on airsoft training?

  • Dennis McQuinn

    I was a 11 bravo for 8 years so I work on the basics almost daily

  • dcbeall

    That I carry a firearm doesn’t mean I need to “train for warfare.” I believe this mindset is a little zealous. I work many hours per week. I do not have the funds or the time to enroll in training classes. I know firearm safety. I know how to observe my surroundings. I know how to assess threats. Frankly, I’m not allocating hundreds of dollars to pretend I’m a soldier preparing for a battle.

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