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That class is awfully expensive, why do I need to train?

I have heard this sentence from all sorts of people. It is often followed up with, I already have my concealed carry license, or I have been a hunter all my life, as an explanation that they have mastered the skills necessary to carry a firearm and the person is proficient and does not require any further training.

There is a theory in psychology that addresses the four stages of competence or “the conscious competence” learning model. This model was developed in the late 1960’s and 70’s and is attributed to Martin M. Broadwell, Paul R. Curtis and Phillip W. Warren.

My exposure to this model was as a firearms student. The subject matter was simply addressed as a question. How do we become experts? How do we assess our proficiency of skills? To answer this question, we must identify the four stages of competence:

Unconscious Incompetence: “You don’t know what you don’t know”, or the individual does not recognize the need for the skill or knowledge. This person may even deny the usefulness of learning the skill.

The Dunning-Kruger effect also describes a person with a low ability or expertise that overestimates their ability or knowledge. I believe that this falls into this category.

Conscious Incompetence: “You know you don’t know.” The individual recognizes the need to learn a skill, the value of the skill, and has accurately assessed their ability and need to train. This person works on the skill and makes mistakes often in the learning process.

Conscious Competence: “You know the task and can perform the task with effort.” The individual understands and can execute the skill with few mistakes. The execution at this stage requires some concentration and requires focus.

Malcolm Gladwell established the 10,000-hour rule in his book “Outliers”. His rule states that it takes 10,000 hours of intensive practice to achieve mastery of complex skills.

Another school of thought revolves around the number of repetitions you complete a task.

Learning (Conscious Incompetence): 0-1,000 reps.

Beginning Mastery (Conscious Competence) 1,000-10,000 reps. The individual is making mistakes but is aware of them and knows how to correct them.

Autonomous (Unconscious Competence): 100,000 to 300,000. The skill is engrained and can be performed with little to no thought.

Unconscious Competence: “You can do it in your sleep.” The individual has achieved mastery of the skill and it can be performed while executing another task. The skill has become second nature. This is the highest level of skill performance.

Shakespeare wrote some undeniable advice, “To thine own self be true” in Hamlet. We must be able to objectively assess our own skills. This can be done through drills that assess accuracy, speed, performance, and TRAINING. Ask yourself, are you at the level of Unconscious Competence? I know personally that I still have many things to work on.

A firearms owner today must take a hard look in the mirror and assess their own capability. Do I have the skill to take a shot in a crowded mall food court at a gunman 44 yards away (Eli Dickens, Indiana Mall 2022)? Could you draw your weapon from concealment and engage a gunman in a church service and stop an active shooter (Jack Wilson, Texas Church 2019)? The only way to assess yourself objectively and accurately other than real world situations is through training. The real world is a very unforgiving arena in which to make mistakes that have high penalties. I would rather be trained for the situation when it arises than be unprepared to meet the event.

You should travel through the Conscious Competence model by attending training classes to identify skills that you did not even know existed (Unconscious Incompetence). Once Identified you can begin to practice those skills at a slow pace through dry fire, live fire, and reduced complexity (Conscious Incompetence). When you become more comfortable (Conscious Competence) with the task, you can add distance, time, and reduce the size of the target to increase difficulty. Repetition then becomes the key. Set reasonable goals and eat that elephant one bite at a time (Unconscious Competence). You must be humble enough to accept criticism and focus on improvement.

Why is training so expensive? You are paying for years of knowledge, thousands of repetitions, proven training drills, and objective feedback when you attend a class. There is only a small percentage of trainers that provide quality training. Their expertise costs! The old saying,” You get what you pay for” applies.

The fact that you have a Concealed Carry License, is just an assessment that you meet the minimum standards required to carry a firearm in your state. You may be a hunter, but does that skill set apply to defensive handgun situations? Be honest with yourself.

Skills are also perishable. Much like cardio, marksmanship must be exercised regularly to maintain your skill level. Equipment must be maintained, so does our training. Just because you did it once doesn't mean that you can do it again.

I encourage all of you to be a good student, seek training, assess yourself objectively, and set goals. Be Ready, Don't Wait to Get Ready!!!

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