This is the hardest truth in training. There are so many shooters with a self perception that is far different from reality. Sometimes when I hear someone telling everyone about how high-speed they are I think of that scene from A Christmas Story. You know, the one where Ralphy is day dreaming about chopping down Black Bart and his gang with his trusty Red Ryder BB Gun as they come over the backyard fence. Everything goes perfectly for Ralphy. All his shots hit their mark and Ralphy saves the day. Unfortunately in the real world bad guys like to shoot back and don’t like to stand there waiting to get shot. You don’t know how a gunfight is going to play out or how many rounds it’s going to take to stop an aggressor. So stop that shit because you just sound stupid.

Careless weapons handling is the first sign that someone is inexperienced or does not take things seriously. Yes the gun is a tool we use to accomplish a mission but it has to be handled with the seriousness that it was designed for, plain and simple. The way you pick up a gun is the first thing your teammates or an instructor will notice and judge your professionalism with a gun. We had a guy come in country that his fellow students tried to peer out of a training course because of his unsafe and careless gun handling. He was pushed through anyway. Once in country his team came out for training and I was told to keep an eye on the guy. Well, about 20 minutes into the first drill he had a negligent discharge into the ground about 5 feet in front of him. Chicken or Beef for that dude. Don’t think that just because you managed to slip through a 7 week training course that people in country won’t notice you’re an inexperienced ass hat. Don’t be a hazard to yourself or those around you. Be honest with yourself.

This becomes evident on the range, because why? The bullet doesn’t lie. It goes where your sights were when the shot broke. Time and time again I have seen shooters miss what they are aiming at and then look at the gun. Sorry bud but it’s not the gun’s fault. More often than not it is the more experienced shooters, or those who think they are experienced, that become dumbfounded when they are not getting the accurate hits they want. I start to see the confusion as they stare at the target. Why is this happening to me? Somebody must have fucked with my shit. Did I put too much or too little finger on the trigger? STOP! Now is when you have to take a deep breath and realize that you are sucking, hard. Reset yourself, slow your mind down and apply the fundamentals. Stop letting the over inflated perception of your gunfighter self get in the way of moving forward.

Time after time I see shooters experience a double feed with their M4 and completely lock up because they have not mastered the simple process of clearing one. Instead of coming out to the range and practicing things that you are good at and give you a warm and fuzzy when you’re done, work on skills that you have not mastered yet. Have you mastered your trigger yet? Can you put 3 rounds in a 1” circle from 3 yards consistently? Can you accurately put rounds on your target from 3-25 yards? Do you freeze up when your gun runs dry and have to think about reloading it? These are questions you need to ask yourself before moving on to more advanced skills. There are 5 levels of competence.

  1. Unconscious Incompetence- You don’t know that you suck.
  2. Conscious Incompetence- You are starting to realize that you don’t know everything and you suck.
  3. Conscious Competence- You are starting to advance with your skills and gaining confidence. Now this is where some start to get an inflated image of themselves, stop progressing and fall back to #1. Stay grounded and continue to work towards mastery.
  4. Unconscious Competence- You have attained mastery of skills and can perform them without thought. Much like breathing. This is where we should all strive to be.
  5. Intentionally Incompetent- You know that you suck and don’t care. You endanger your teammates and all others around you with your carelessness. As long as you look the part you can fake it. Everyone knows this guy and he can be spotted pretty quickly. Stay the fuck away from this guy.

As professionals we have to be honest with ourselves about our abilities, level of training and mastery of the fundamentals because our lives and the lives of those around us depend on it. You will not rise to the occasion. The old adage that you will fall back on your training is a half truth. In reality it is that you will fall back on the last level of training which you have mastered. Prepare for it accordingly.

-Rudolfo Lespari