Beyond the One Percent (part 3)

The Beyond the One Percent presentation explores the topic of how many people train, why they train, what courses they choose and why, and ways to possibly motivate more than 1% of adult gun owners to take training beyond their state minimum.  It is based on my presentation at the 2017 Rangemaster Tactical Conference.

Here are the links for Part 1 and Part 2 of this series.  If you haven’t read them, start there.


In this section I discuss how to do a realistic all-hazards risk assessment and derive a training needs assessment from that.

People attending for different reasons, as I discussed in part 2.  I’m going to start with an approach that assumes risk reduction (aka personal safety) is the primary goal.  (As we learned in part 2, that assumption is probably incorrect.)

From 2007-2016 I managed the Infrastructure Protection training program that the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) taught as part of a larger block of 50+ courses they offer nationally for DHS.   In addition to managing full time and adjunct instructors teaching over 200 sessions of those courses annually, I was a co-author of the curricula of the four courses in the certificate program.  The course most relevant to the individual is the MGT-315 Critical Asset Risk Management course, which focuses on protection of a single facility. (For those in the Austin, Texas, TEEX is offering that course April 18-19. The classes are open to the public at no cost, but per-registration is required.)

The courses uses this risk assessment graph, which plots probability (threat x vulnerability) vs. consequences.  It considers both the odds and the stakes.   To reduce total overall risk, identify which risks are highest and then explore options to reduce those risks, by lowering the threat, the vulnerability or the consequences.

For example, consider the typical armed citizen’s risks.

Based on statistics, an auto accident is the most likely risk, followed by the other examples I listed.  The process for determining values is a relatively unscientific one.  Each individual, in this case, is instructed to set the values using a consistent scale, calibrated by statistics for their geographic area and lifestyle.  Your numbers will likely be different from mine. Mine map to these locations on the graph.  Some are medium probability, medium consequences. Others, like the bombing risk, are low probability but higher consequence.

There are 3 basic choices to reduce risk:  mitigate (do something about it), transfer (make someone else responsible for it) or accept (live with it).  Mitigation options include changes to plans, policies, equipment, training and organization.  Transfer options include insurance, and outsourcing (as in “the police/fire/EMS will save me”, or within families “my spouse/brother/etc trains and always carries, so I don’t need to since they will protect me”)


A longer list of all-hazards risks and the priority areas for action looks like this:

Health and fitness are #1.   No one in the health and fitness industry has figured out the magic way to motivate everyone to do the right things in those areas.  I’m as guilty as anyone of finding reasons not to go get sweaty or to eat delicious foods that contribute to weight gain.

I’ve taken over 2200 hours of firearms training, and a few hundred hours of medical training. So far in my life, I’ve needed the medical training more times than I’ve needed the firearms training.

I drive every day.  Being a better driver – not just “safer” but better, particularly at accident avoidance, is important.  TEEX runs a Traffic Accident Avoidance course using the driving track at the law enforcement academy that included hands on training.  I was able to take it as an employee.  Facilities for this type of training are much harder to find than shooting ranges, and classes offering hands-on instruction are difficult to find.  But if you have access to this type of training, you should consider attending.

I sorted the category of “anti-crime” skills in priority order, starting with the awareness and communication skills and non-fighting skills.  Next I made a list of specific scenarios for which I might need to be prepared or trained, in order of likelihood.

Defensive gun use made the first page but not the top 5.  One way to make this list is to start with a list of all the things that you have to deal with every year, every 5 years, every 10 years, and so on.

One of the changes we’ve made over the past 5 years at KR Training is integration of broader preparedness training into our program, first with medical classes from Lone Star Medics and more recently with hosting Preparedness conferences and seminars.  KR Training’s Paul Martin presented on “Events Other than Violence” at the 2017 Rangemaster Tactical Conference, to encourage other firearm trainers to expand their programs in similar fashion.

Page 2 has a few more, in order of likelihood.

While I know that “gun grappling” and groundfighting is a popular area of study within the private sector training community, review of actual armed citizen incidents don’t show the likelihood of the need for those skills as high compared to basic “draw and shoot”.  I’ve taken Craig Douglas’ Extreme Close Quarters Concepts class 3 times, hosted it 5 times, have trained in that topic with Cecil Burch, Insights Training Center (Greg Hamilton/John Holschen), John Benner (Tactical Defense Institute), Tony Blauer, Leslie Buck and a few others.  The training has value, particularly in developing mental toughness and ability to function under both physical and psychological stress.  So I’m not saying don’t take those courses.  Just put their value in perspective.

I reviewed Claude Werner’s list of Negative Outcomes that frequently occur to armed citizens, and paired them with the best solution to reducing them.  Scenario based force on force training, not just Simunition fight club/gunfight classes but even simple red gun roleplay and video simulators, develop skills that aren’t trained much or at all in typical live fire classes.

Does training matter? Gun politics activists lobbying for reduction in, or elimination of mandatory state training for carry permits have strong arguments and data showing that simply having a gun when you need it is the most important component.  It’s rare that examples of an armed citizen failing due to a slow draw or poor marksmanship occur; much more common to find errors in judgment and negligence in gunhandling.

I adapted a phrase I’ve heard John Johnston use on his Ballistic Radio show.  For someone that goes through life and never needs a gun or the skills that go with it, they aren’t important.  Perception of the need for skills affects motivation to train and selection of courses to attend.

Often until you think something is broken, there’s no motivation to fix it. For example, I ignored several years of weight gain until it caused back problems and daily back pain in early 2016.  That moved it from low risk to high priority, motivating me to make changes in diet and exercise and drop 40 pounds.
Everyone knows someone that has a carry permit that never carries, or only carries in the car. That person’s perception of risk is different from those that carry daily, and both are different from the risk perception of those that carry daily and train seriously.

Specific to the topic of firearms training, at least 75% of time, a handgun is going to be used when a firearm is needed in a defensive incident.

The next two slides are pure opinion – my views on which courses are most popular, vs. their actual value to the typical armed citizen.  It reflects a fairly upside down set of priorities, based on analysis of which courses I offer are most popular, which courses are discussed in podcasts and forums, and what I see other schools offering.

The state carry permit is the most “needed” – not because the content is useful, but because the class is required to be able to carry.  All the other classes on page 1 are live fire courses, with the “operator” carbine course — the one you take with your chest rig and dump pouch and multicam and so on, being the most popular but the least likely to be needed.  I separated long gun courses that were more focused on home and building defense (including carbine and shotgun courses together) as a separate category from the “enterTrainment” classes.

A high quality basic pistol course is the most important because it builds the fundamentals of safe gunhandling and shooting skills that are the absolute most likely to prevent negligent discharges and result in acceptable hits in defensive gun uses.  (One big problem in the industry is that there a lot of people teaching those lower level courses that stopped their own training at the minimum required for certification to teach at that level, leaving a big gap between those courses and the generic 2 day defensive pistol skills national level traveling trainers offer.)

Page 2 includes many classes that are much less popular but more likely to be useful, particularly those that do not include any live fire, or live fire that is less fun than shooting a carbine at a 7 yard target.  Every year I offer a pocket gun/small gun class that gets a anemic response compared to similar courses I offer that allow students to use holsters and guns that they admit they never carry.  Participation in divisions in IDPA that use smaller guns is low compared to those allowing customized duty-sized guns.

Just as with diet and exercise, it appears that doing the right is hard. Junk food is more pleasurable than health food.  My assesssment is that the Inconvenient Truth about the private sector training industry is this:

I’ve talked to many trainers about this.  Those that offer a variety of courses have observed similar trends in course popularity.  Most attempt some balance between offering the courses that always fill, and the courses they wish would be more popular.

In Part 4 I’ll continue down the bad news trail, discussing Dunning-Kruger and various aspects of mindset that de-motivate people from training or competing.  Then after we hit bottom, the rest of the material is about steps trainers can take to overcome some of those challenges.

Visit the KR Training website if you want more information about me and my courses.