November 13, 2020
It baffles me to see someone training with a full-size pistol worn in a thigh rig slung from a tactical belt supporting a slew of magazines—only to stow said gear and strap on a subcompact pistol or subnose revolver. Then, of course, they put on a cover garment, which they haven’t practiced a single draw from all day, to head out into their real world.
Even worse is the moderately trained but highly equipped “operator” who shows up for a pistol course wearing a plate carrier. Why? If your goal is to live out some fantasy of being a member of an elite military or police unit, maybe you should join a tactical airsoft squad. At a pistol course, why not use gear that replicates what you’re likely to have in a fight for your life?
Sure, if you are a police officer, contractor, security professional or member of the armed forces, training in tactical gear as described above makes sense. Training in tactical gear is your real world. But, if not, you are doing yourself a great disservice by training with a gun and gear you certainly won’t be using in your time of need and by robbing yourself of valuable repetitions using the gun and gear that make up your real world.
First, let’s consider the gun. A full-size pistol provides a full firing grip. This, combined with its heft, makes a full-size pistol significantly easier to control in recoil than a smaller, lighter pistol designed for concealed carry.
The larger pistol typically holds more rounds, which is a good thing to have going for you in a gunfight. A longer-barreled pistol will have a longer sight radius and more prominent sights, both of which contribute to increased accuracy.
What it boils down to is that full-size pistols are easier to shoot, but they can be difficult to conceal. A subcompact pistol or a snubnosed revolver is just the opposite, easier to conceal and more difficult to shoot. This is why it’s even more important to train with the smaller handguns you will likely depend on should you have to defend yourself or someone else with a firearm.
Let’s talk holsters. A holster worn outside-the-waistband (OWB) is not only comfortable, it lends itself to a smooth draw because the grip of your pistol is farther from your body, making it easily accessible.
Of course, you don’t get something for nothing. As easy as the OWB holster is to use, so too is it hard to conceal. It makes little sense to train predominantly with an OWB holster when that’s not holster type you carry your defensive pistol in.
Speaking of concealment, why is it that many people who carry their guns concealed daily, rarely train at the range with a concealing garment? Because it’s more difficult, that’s why. And nobody wants to look bad or feel bad after a range session. Concealing garments slow us down. The shot timer won’t be impressed.
It’s more enjoyable and satisfying to focus on how fast we can draw and how much time we can shave off our shot-to-shot splits. Sure, these are important skills, but if they are practiced with a gun and gear designed to artificially inflate our ego, what are we really accomplishing?
If you wear a subcompact pistol in the appendix position covered with a T-shirt, why train with your gun worn on the hip using a split-front garment, such as an unzipped vest? Sure, the hip-worn gun covered by a split-front garment is faster and easier to draw, but if you appendix carry, why would you not train for that reality? Is your training goal to feel good or to get better?
Use your time at the range to improve and honestly assess your skill level with gear that you actually use. If you carry a snubbie, why aren’t you practicing your revolver reloads? If you’re not as good as you’d like to be, either practice more or alter the gear you carry on the street. Maybe range time will convince you to opt for a semiautomatic, which for most of us is much easier to shoot than a snubnose revolver with its trademark long, heavy trigger pull.
Spare magazines are another point of contention between the real world and the fantasy range world. As a police officer, I carry a full-size pistol with a 17-round magazine and three spares. Off duty, I carry one spare magazine at most. If I’m carrying a pistol like a SIG Sauer P365, loaded with 13 rounds, I won’t often carry a spare mag.
So how much training time should I devote to reloading my P365? I would probably be better served spending the time on drawing from concealment, shooting accurately, controlling recoil and shooting on the move. One thing is for sure, drills that call for me accessing a third P365 mag are pure fantasy.
I like shooting dynamic drills as much as the next guy, but a drill’s value probably shouldn’t be based solely on how much fun it is to shoot. The value comes in what it teaches you in a real-world sense, what hones the skills you would need should the time come when you have to draw and fire your handgun in a self-defense situation. And if your own practice doesn’t seem to be improving your skills, consider enrolling in a course focused on concealed carry or handgun shooting fundamentals.