Am I ready to carry yet?

There is one question that we’ve heard quite a bit over the last few years and frankly, I’m surprised I don’t hear it more often: “Am I ready to carry yet?”

It’s a great question with a lot of deep-rooted strings attached.  Here’s a link to a video that ran on a local Denver tv station this week:

Denver PD firearms training

According to the report, Denver Police trainees get 88 hours of instruction time ON THE RANGE before they graduate from the academy.  That’s actually a much higher number than I was expecting it to be.  But my takeaway here has very little to do with how the Denver Police Department has decided to train its officers – it’s about how much training YOU and I should have.

Of course, there’s no real “right answer” here.  And I firmly believe that the government should not have a say in this whatsoever (yes, I’m a Constitutional Carry kinda guy).  But that doesn’t mean I believe in no training!  It’s merely that I don’t think the government should have a say in the matter.  But that’s not the point of this article.

Let’s get back to the question.  Generally when we get that question it’s because the person asking is deeply concerned about doing the right thing and is looking for some sort of validation that they’re “ready.”  Honestly, I wish more people felt that way.  I wish more people who got behind the wheel of a car were concerned about being “safe enough” on the roads.  I wish more politicians were concerned about whether or not they’d do right with the Constitution and with their constituents.

This is exactly why many firearms instructors have a shooting test at the end of their class (well, aside from the fact that most of those tests are state-mandated).  They want some sort of assurance that their students meet at LEAST this level (I’m holding my hand out about 2 inches off the floor).  My problem with those tests is that there’s no correlation between those tests and this concept of “safety” (or self-defense, or whatever your measuring stick is here)… and you’ll have a tough time convincing me that just because they’ve passed your test that they’re better off with a gun on the street.  I’ve seen very entry-level students ace tests like that – it doesn’t make them “ready” (it also doesn’t mean that they’re NOT ready, either… I just think the test itself is useless as an indicator of “ready”).

To frame this argument a little bit, there are a few high-profile firearms instructors who have tried to set a benchmark for this question: one expert has said that you should plan on spending $4,000* on firearms training (which puts this into real-world terms; we spend $600 on a new gun, $150 or so on a ccw class and think we’re done) and Kathy Jackson has said 40 hours of formal instruction in a year (i.e., if you get that 40 hours of instruction spread out over 10 years, it’s not likely those skills are anchored into you yet).

(quick aside – for anyone who has ever asked us this very question, rest assured that all serious instructors get asked the same thing all the time)

* – I heard this number some time ago but haven’t yet been able to confirm it.  So take it with a grain of salt.  But the intent remains.

I think the 40-hour standard is a good one.  Clearly, however, it depends on what kind of training you’re getting.  But at some point along the way, things will start to “click” for you – you’ll switch from worrying about exactly HOW to perform the tasks to actually absorbing the information.  It’s actually fun to watch that transition happen.

Here’s the risk you run when you give people a set number like X hours or Y dollars – the number itself tends to become the goal, and not just any goal: the final goal.

But don’t let that discourage you – goals are good, and in this case, the goal is useful in determining a benchmark for physical and mental preparedness.  But the ultimate goal is self-defense!  If I told a tennis player that in order to be “good” he’d need X number of hours of training and he’s done, you’d laugh at me.  Clearly the determined tennis player continues to practice… and continues to practice… and continues to practice – well after that number has come and gone.  For some reason, many in the firearms world don’t see it that way.

Case-in-point: this half-wit.

We say it a lot, but individual liberty means nothing without the personal responsibility to go along with it.  I really, truly, mean that.

So to anyone who has ever wondered if they’re “ready to carry yet,” I have good news and bad news.  The good news is that you just made me proud by asking a question like that!  🙂  I wish I had more students like you!  But the bad news is that we need to get back to work so that you can feel comfortable with these massive decisions (like how/why/where/when to carry a gun).

So pull up a chair and let’s talk.  Carry on, Colorado!