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Advice and Real-World Applications From a Retired Cop

Firearm Training for Beginners

Are you new to firearms and looking for the best way to familiarize yourself with the skills, training, and discipline needed to stay safe? Pew Pew Guru recently had the privilege of interviewing Scott W., an experienced, highly-skilled retired law enforcement officer, firearms instructor, and military veteran. Join along as he shares advice and real-world applications all beginners need to pay attention to when starting their firearm training journey.

Firearm Training for Beginners: An Expert’s Background

Please share a little about your background, military, and law enforcement experience.

I joined the US Navy after high school and trained as an Electronic Warfare Technician. I maintained and operated RF Sending/Receiving equipment for anti-ship missile defense. I also served as an Electronic Counter Counter Measures instructor and Electronic Warfare Officer Instructor. I developed tactics and procedures in Naval Surface Warfare as well as small boat warfare (brown water Navy) deployment, and operations. Additionally, I was a Naval Criminal Investigator.

After my tour in the Navy, I joined a local municipal police department where I worked in uniformed patrol, narcotics, criminal investigations, and as a crime scene investigator. My last posting was as the technical services officer where I was the project manager for the Mobile Data System (in-car computers). I retired in 2010.

Positions Held:

  • Police Instructor
  • Range Officer
  • Range Safety Officer
  • Firearms Instructor
  • Long Range Shooter (Sniper)
  • CQB Instructor

Firearm Training for Beginners: Training Basics

How important is continued firearm training after acquiring a Concealed Carry License?

There is no replacement for constant, continuous training. The skills taught in a basic weapons class are just that. Basic. They are the minimum requirements. Constant training builds muscle memory and there is no replacement for this when in a stressful situation. It is probably even more important than the basic skill sets.

How often do you train with your firearm?

I try to formally train at least every 2 weeks, weekly if possible, even if not in a live fire environment, working on the mechanics of weapons carry.

Do you have a dryfire routine that you use?

I am old school. I was taught when young, pre-teen, that dry firing a weapon is bad for the machine. The newer striker-fired weapons are not so delicate but old habits are hard to break.  Most of my non-live fire exercises are weapons draw, weapons holstering. Stance. Sight alignment and target acquisition.  

My wife and I also work on weapons retention, lightly when in the house, and more aggressively when room and environment allow.

Can you suggest some firearm training drills that would be helpful in a self-defense situation?

Weapon retention. Period. Very few train on weapons retention and ground fighting. Keeping control of your weapon.

Also stance. The stance you take at a range shooting paper targets may not be practical or safe inside your home or other tight quarters. When presented with a threat, work on presenting your weapon much closer to your face without extending your arms.  

Firing from inside a purse or from under a shirt. Draw, rotate, and fire. BE CAREFUL. This can be painful if done carelessly.  

Situational awareness. KNOW your environment. You can train like this almost 24/7 – pulling into a convenience store, parking at Walmart, getting gasoline. A perfect example of this: I never park in front of the doors of any store and never go into any store I can’t see in the windows. If they have signs covering the windows, find a different store.) War gaming. All. The. Time.

Know the difference between cover and concealment. Cover stops bullets. Concealment simply hides your body. Your car door is concealment. Your engine block is cover.

Firearm Training for Beginners: Home Defense

What is your primary weapon for home defense?

Mossberg 590S Shockwave SPC. 12 gauge. Chambered round is low brass 7 ½ birdshot. The remaining 5 rounds are low brass #4 buckshot.

Do you have a home alarm and camera system like Ring or other popular brands on the market? 

I currently use the Arlo Camera System. Doorbell and perimeter cameras. I do NOT recommend this particular system. I do not have an alarm. In all my years of law enforcement, I have NEVER caught anyone based on an alarm or call from an alarm company. Ever.

How much importance do you put on these types of products for home defense and security?  

Cameras only for the deterrent aspect. It has been my experience that the delays between notifications and actually viewing the cameras are excessive and less than useful. This may be just the Arlo cameras/app. The presence of the cameras, visible on the outside of the building (home) is probably more useful.

Alarms are “feel good” systems designed to take your money for no return. Newer systems might be different.

Firearm Training for Beginners: Mass Shooter Encounters and Scenarios

Any advice would give someone who is legally armed in a self-defense mass shooter situation?

Remember it is self-defense. SELF. You carry a weapon to protect yourself and your family.  There are too many variables in situations like this for a blanket answer. 

Remember. There is a $500 an hour lawyer attached to every single round you fire. You do what is needed to protect your family. If you take action OFFENSIVELY to stop the shooter, you are stepping outside the SELF-defense role. Tread carefully.

As a former police officer, what’s your opinion on the concealed carry licenses that allow private citizens to carry? Do you find it harmful or helpful to making our communities safer?

During my years as a police officer, I encouraged people who can lawfully own weapons to do so if they choose. The right to own a weapon is as valuable as the right to choose not to. When I encountered a citizen who was carrying a weapon, I simply told them to keep it where it is, don’t touch it during our encounter, and generally said, “If you show me yours I will show you mine.”

I never made an arrest of any citizen carrying a weapon, licensed or otherwise.

Firearm Training For Beginners: Guns

What are your favorite gun brands? 

The one I am carrying at the moment I need it.

I have one favorite brand: Glock. Not because it is better than any other, but because I have carried a Glock since 1991. I am so familiar with the feel and handling of the weapon, I don’t even have to think about it. You get what you pay for though. 

Gun brands I own (pistols) include:

  • Sig Saur
  • Ruger
  • Mossberg
  • Glock
  • Smith and Wesson
  • Taurus (revolver only)
  • Colt
  • Kimber
  • Bond Arms
  • Sccy
  • Remington
  • Les Baer
What gun do you use as your primary concealed carry firearm

Glock 19.

What guns or brands are your least favorite and you would consider as not a good concealed carry firearm option?

Taurus autos, Hi-Point.

Do you carry with a round in the chamber?

Absolutely. The time it takes to chamber a round can get you killed.  Also why I don’t carry a 1911 (though I own several) as a carry gun. That extra step can get you dead. Deploy, aim, pull. None of that deploy, rack, aim, release safety, pull stuff for me. Takes too long.

Do you carry a gun with a thumb safety?

No. See above.

What’s your position on manual thumb safeties?

See above. Revolvers have been around for centuries with no safety. Today’s double-action-only (non-1911 and others) are just revolvers that carry more rounds vertical rather than in a cylinder.

“Keep your booger hook (finger) off the bang switch (trigger) and they will not go bang.”

Do you carry in the home?

YES. Or have one within reach at all times.

Caliber preference for Everyday Carry?

9mm Luger.

Thoughts on a .22 Caliber as a primary concealed carry firearm?

As a primary? No. When situations dictate? Viable. Still better than a rock.

Common Questions from Firearm Training Students

What advice would you give victims of active carjackings?

It’s a car. Unless you feel like you or a member of your family are in imminent threat of death or grievous bodily harm, give the carjacker the car. It’s not worth it.

If you can deploy your weapon and are in fear of your life or that of a family member, do what you have to do to sleep in your own bed that night.

What advice would you give homeowners using force to protect property? 

This is a broad question and the answer is different in each and every state. Protecting property is rarely if ever a valid reason for employing deadly force. I personally would not want to live with the idea that I injured someone over a weed eater.

That said, in my state, we are a Castle Doctrine state. If you are inside my home, deadly force is, in most cases, authorized. However, I apply the same rules: Unless you pose an imminent threat to me or my family, the situation would dictate my actions. But generally, inside my house, you will be met with deadly force, quickly and fully.

What is your position on complacency in firearm training? 

Not acceptable. Under any circumstances. Not for citizens. Not for law enforcement. Not for the military. People who handle firearms should never, ever become complacent. Not in their hands, not in their minds.  

Firearm Training for Beginners: The Final Word

Tell me about one of your most harrowing experiences as a law enforcement officer. 

An unspoken rule in law enforcement is that during a domestic dispute, after the arrival of law enforcement, the combatants will almost always migrate from a location in the home with the least weapons to the location with the most weapons (kitchen).

During one particular incident, I let my guard down; we were in the kitchen and one of the combatants grabbed a steak knife off the counter and stabbed me in the throat.

Deadly force was employed, but thankfully, all survived.

What advice you can give to new shooters who are just getting their Concealed Carry Licenses?

Never stop training.
Situational awareness.
Situational awareness.
Situational awareness.
Know your weapons system.
Know your limitations.

And one that I practice: Always carry your weapon in the same way, same place all the time. As an officer, I always carried on my right hip and at a specific height. 40 years later, I still carry on my right hip at the same height. It doesn’t change. Same place, position, and angle. My carry weapon and carry system is not a fashion statement. It is a tool. Everything is always the same. Period. I always know where it is and how to get to it.

If you carry, carry all the time. Never deviate. Obviously, situations will dictate when you can’t. Post Office, government buildings, or rules and laws.  

Remember, if you have to employ deadly force, or even deploy your weapon when law enforcement gets there, you are the bad guy holding a gun. NO MATTER WHAT, follow their orders exactly as given. Do what they say. Let them do the talking. You do not talk. Answer basic questions, name, address, stuff like that. Do not discuss the incident. When provided with the opportunity, contact your lawyer. Cooperate but offer no other information until your attorney is with you. In most circumstances, you will be arrested. You may or may not be charged.  

As Scott W. shares, safe, successful firearm protection depends on proactive, continuous firearm training. Learn how to protect yourself, your family, and your home by training with Pew Pew Guru’s qualified, experienced NRA and USCCA certified instructor, Kevin Flowers. Our firearm training classes cover everything from proper weapon fit and recoil control to concealed carry skills and licensure requirements. We help match you with your ideal firearm and walk you through firearm application options in our online firearm store. Have questions or interested in understanding more about how Pew Pew Guru can arm you against threats? Connect with us here for more information.

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