It doesn’t take long in the contemporary firearms community before you lose the notion of the “average” or “normal” shooter. A generation ago, this wasn’t so true: The demographic brush that painted Americans’ devotion to civilian skill at arms was of a historical, self-reliant and constitutional sort, with the bulk of shooting enthusiasts very likely to “identify”—borrowing the vague modern parlance—as tradition-driven. Hunting and military service combined with likely rural roots were touchstones.
But the ranks of the modern American gun owner are so diverse as to become nearly indefinable. As NRA Carry Guard’s training program has rolled out, the students who’ve responded to its promise of equipping armed citizens with the skills to carry confidently have come from across the demographic spectrum. I attended a recent Level 1 course in Denver, Colo., where I met a couple you’ll never see represented as gun owners by the media. In other words, totally normal people.
Bob and Sally Dane [names were altered to conceal their personal identities] are a handsome, professional, 30-something couple from northwestern Colorado, neither of whom grew up shooting. “Though my first exposure to guns was in the Boy Scouts, I hadn’t done much more until I became a handgun owner about 10 years ago,” Bob recounted. “I had very little exposure to firearms prior to our marriage; what little there was made me decide it wasn’t my thing,” Sally said. “But I grew up on the rough side of a major city, and by the time I left, I really had issues with feeling safe. It made me want to be an armed citizen. Deciding how to go about that, though, was not so easy.
“Part of my preparation for NRA Carry Guard Level 1 training was the NRA’s Women On Target class, and they spent a lot of time in that course talking about safety; that was definitely of paramount importance to me. I don’t want to shoot anybody, and especially not by accident. NRA Carry Guard built on that by showing us that safety and proficiency can go hand-in-hand. This comes from drawing in a hurry from the holster and putting three rounds on a target in very specific locations in a certain amount of time. It really brought home the reality of what sort of skills you need to have in a situation where you need to protect your own life, and it’s not the kind of focus you necessarily have when you’re at the shooting range, but it probably should be.”
“The opportunity to learn [the skills] from Green Berets and Navy SEALs added tremendously to our confidence we have, too,” Bob added. “I’ve had a concealed-carry permit for about eight years, but now I’ve got the mindset that I need to go along with that clearer understanding of what I’m actually capable of. I think, for example, that I might have drawn and presented a few dozen times in all my previous shooting experience.
Now, I’ve done it hundreds of times, and under the eyes of true experts. But what really put skills like that in perspective were the Airsoft scenarios. I don’t think anybody gets through those without understanding that the best choice is almost always to ‘get outta Dodge.’ That depends on situational awareness—seeing trouble coming and avoiding it. There’s no way to miss that when you see instructors and students play out those credible but dangerous situations. Fleeing won’t always work though, and that’s why the firearms training is crucial too.”
Sally echoed this: “We spent a lot of time after the class working through the scenarios over and over, and realized several things; using your gun needs to be the last-ditch alternative, but being competent and confident with it has to happen, too. Like the instructors said, it’s a perishable skill. Bob’s been saying over and over what the instructors made a point of: 'The best do the basics better.' Now we know what those basics are and how to work on them."
As for their carry and self-defense future, Sally summed up: “I think a lot of people are ‘programmed’ to chase promotion in many aspects of life, but we’ve already decided to take Level 1 again.” Bob added, “As much as we learned and advanced, as much competence and confidence as we’ve gained, ‘carry’ is too important to get ahead of ourselves,” and, laughing, “but we’re also looking forward to getting to Levels 2 and 3, and want to be ready when they are!"
“New” shooter or old, it’s hard to see how that—as an attitude, personal philosophy or NRA Carry Guard ethos—could be improved upon. With more than 16 million Americans now legally permitted to carry, we make no apology for hoping all will follow the Dane example.
Colion Noir spent an afternoon with NRA Carry Guard Lead Instructor and veteran Green Beret Jeff Houston to discuss the mindset and realities of being prepared for any situation that may arise.
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