Take Instructor Gun Recommendations with a Tactical Grain of Salt

If you go to any shooting classes at big named schools, you will likely hear a lot of chatter about guns and gear. The instructor will usually tell the students that they need at least X caliber with Y capacity and prefer you get Z brand. They will shake their heads at you if you carry your gun in a briefcase, or use a small J-frame or autoloader in a pocket holster. Many students will take this to heart and then help spread the word all over the internet. This is how the little training cults grow and spread.

A J-frame and a speed strip reload may be the definition of an optimist in a gunfight, but it might be the only thing most people are able to carry.

The next time an instructor or internet forum member tells you you’re an idiot for carrying a snubbie or mousegun every day, consider the source.

I’ve noticed a trend in the careers of those who are most ardent about how much gun/gear you should carry and constantly spout about how easy it is to carry a full sized guns if you ‘do it right’. Here’s the list:

  1. Tactical/Shooting Instructor
  2. Police/Retired Police
  3. Current Military
  4. Youtube personality/ Gun Industry person
  5. IT professional/Desk jockey
  6. Self Employed/Work from home
  7. Rural Job (Farming, etc)

Do you see a trend in those careers? What similarities do you see? The answer is they work in careers where there is NO PENALTY for (or no chance to be discovered for) having “enough” gun. Most of the folks in group 1 originated in groups 2 and 3. Minimal human contact and/or no penalty for being ‘made’ carrying a gun rounds out the rest of the list.

Edit: It was pointed out to me that since IT folks have a lot more access to computers, they are more inclined to be active on forums. This makes sense. They also interact with clients often.

These guys will say that they have home lives and when they go out with their families, they carry all the stuff they suggest to you carry. Sorry, still not good enough. Getting made at Mama Mia’s Italian Bistro doesn’t hold the same penalty as getting found out at your office.

They are ignorant to the realities that normal people working 9 to 5 in office buildings in urban/suburban settings face. Even if they can imagine what it’s like and tell you to ‘make it work’ anyway, they still have no real experience of being under constant visual scrutiny at the job that pays your bills and feeds your family. If they do have that experience, they probably didn’t have to wear tucked shirts or suits at that job. Also, they  have no skin in your game. They themselves face zero penalty if you get caught. It’s your choice, and your job and livelihood.

Photo: balloongoesup.com/

“The gun just disappears!” Discussing how concealable a gun is with a few staged photos showing lack of printing holds ZERO water against a few weeks of moving, bending, giving presentations, interacting with people, and generally doing your job.

So is it wrong to carry a tiny gun, if anything larger could get you fired and arrested? No. Are your instructors wrong to suggest that you carry a duty gun and 2 spare magazines, a blow out kit, and a 700 lumen flashlight? No, they’re not wrong, either. The instructor is setting you up for success based on their experience and if you get killed for not having enough gun, they can rest easy because they told you so. Being MIL or LEO puts you face to face with violence regularly. They know how bad it can be, and how quickly it can get that way. It benefits everyone to keep their risk profile, as well as penalty for being discovered, in mind when selecting carry guns and gear.

Don’t view this as a cop-out or an excuse to carry a small gun. I also think that most people could get away with more gun than they think they can.

While sub-service caliber guns aren’t always good enough in ballistics gelatin, they seem to work over and over in real encounters

What does having a sub-par gun as your primary mean? It simply means you need to get really really good with your little gun. You need to attempt to be able to use it as well as you can shoot a full sized gun. Use it in classes, compete with it, and generally hold your skill-set to a high standard.
Go to ex-MIL, ex-LEO instructors to learn tactics and how to shoot well against other humans, but take gear recommendations with a tactical grain of salt and think long and hard about those things for yourself. Learn from them what works, take it home, adapt it, and make it your own. The life (and job) you save could be your own.


23 thoughts on “Take Instructor Gun Recommendations with a Tactical Grain of Salt”

  1. While a person who carries a J-frame and a speed strip may well be an optimist, I recall this quote from the late Lt.Col. Jeff Cooper:

    ” I asked [Luftwaffe Colonel Hans-Ulrich] Rudel about this and he told me personally that he packed one of those miniature 25 caliber automatics on his antitank missions. When asked why, he replied, “Because I have never been a pessimist.”

    While neither a .25 Auto nor a J-Frame snubby will magically grant you the skill to shoot them well simply because you or some respected gunman carries one in harm’s way, if you have the skills to shoot a pocket pistol well under pressure, you needn’t be a pessimist, either…

  2. I am one of those instructor Leo types you talk about that has made a living for a long time teaching mostly the public but also others on concealed carry. I carried a concealed gun under just those special circumstances you describe and still do and I use a reasonably sized 9mm.

    I understand your post and agree with some. Let’s be realistic though. A lot of the general public, ccw included just believe they need a gun and it needs to be comfortable . So for them small is good. But it’s not. For a little more money and size there are numerous 9mm single stack guns that can go in a pocket, iwb or similar and still be concealed . Invest in a good holster and learn. Laziness and comfort are no excuse to carry a good self defense pistol.

    1. People are exceptionally lazy. This applies to both shooters and instructors. Yes, people buy what is comfortable. Instructors say people need more gun, but the largest segment of new guns is pocket 380’s. See the disconnect? People (uneducated or ‘lazy’) are buying small guns in droves, and instructors fail to acknowledge that this is reality, and continue call their potential clients lazy and wrong. If nothing else it’s bad business. Cater to the market. Get more students. Make money.

      I just don’t want to ostracize new gun owners and ignore reality.

      Thanks for your comment. For the record, I love my shield and g43. 🙂 Be safe.

      1. I lead a lady’s shooting group and try to encourage new shooter to budget for 2 guns. 1. A 9mm double stack or larger to learn and train on. Then when and if they are ready they can look for something smaller for personal carry. It’s a battle all the gun stores are geared to see the little lady a little gun. Uhg. Your thought?

        1. I think that’s a good suggestion. If they don’t have the budget for that, at least encourage them to a smaller caliber in a semi-auto gun (as opposed to a revolver). The sig p250 compact in .380 is a great option. Because of the cheap interchangeable frames, mild recoil, and ease of running the slide. The sig 320 (striker) also has the modular design. It’s like buying a full size and subcompact in one. Here’s an article I posted on my Facebook page recently about this topic. http://www.personaldefenseworld.com/2016/12/full-size-handgun-shooting/#full-size-handgun-1

  3. Most choices in life are not binary, right/wrong, decisions. Making the “right” decision is frequently a matter of deciding which imperfect option is “less” imperfect for you and your situation. Would I be better prepared for a violent encounter if I carried a full size service pistol with a light and laser, four extra mags, fixed blade knife, taser, pepper spray, folding knife, backup gun, backup light, trauma kit and body armor?
    Is that right for me, based on the threats I am likely to encounter?
    Probably not.
    Each of us need to decide what is acceptable and appropriate based on a lot of different factors; height, weight, body type, clothing, climate, threat level, skill set, just to name a few. Even the type of vehicle we drive and the type of seats in the vehicle make a difference (It’s much easier to carry a larger firearm in a truck with bench seats than a Civic with bucket seats).

    So, think about your these things and make the decision that is right for you. Then practice core skills with that firearm; the draw stroke, the trigger press/pull, and hitting the target accurately and quickly. Clearing structures in teams or transitions between rifle and pistol may be fun/cool but probably of marginal value in a real world, civilian encounter.

    Good post…

    God bless.

  4. Something is missing. A vital part. As a retired cop in NYC, it must be said that INDEMNIFICATION requirements set policy. Service weapons specifications. Ammunition specifications. Both, must be Authorized types. If you opt to violate any provision, indemnification is voided.
    I carried a S&W Model-10 4″ Heavy Barrel Double Action K-frame revolver. A lot of iron but that was the authorized service revolver of a couple offerings (Colt; Ruger). In uniform, it was the foundation. Off duty, I carried a S&W Model-36 J-frame. The regulation was “strong side, hip, belt mounted, covered trigger guard, thumb-break safety strap”. I also had an ankle holster. I also had a shoulder holster for both revolvers. I carried the J-frame as a “Back-Up” revolver, while working in uniform. Anti-Crime/Plaincolthes, I added an additional service revolver. Dump pouches I set ammo on Bianchi Speed Strips; HKS Speedloaders. One double-dump; Two speedloaders, all, with Authorized ammunition. When I made Detective, I carried the same, as I continued working in plainclothes in one of the Robbery Squads. The shootings that I was involved in, were all, while in uniform. Weapons and ammo checked at the Ballistics Lab, to be certain no alterations were performed. When I made Sergeant, I was back in uniform, on Patrol, and the K-frame service revolver and J-frame back-up was carried. When I was kicked up into Detective Squad as Sergeant, things started to change, and the 9mm pilot program came out. Myself, now in proper business attire, I had a couple sportsjackets to carry the big iron but, business suits meant a J-frame. At a point that I was rotated as Sergeant into the Robbery Division, and the K-frame was what I had to carry, suddenly the mass and weight of big iron was noticable. Eventually, I was chained to a desk, and the J-frame was a most welcome weight reduction, while being an authorized weapon for my position. I had rules to follow. The snubnose revolver, at indoor ranges, 50 feet, was relatively the same as the K-frame, only faster on point and reloading of five rather than six, rounds. My revolvers had actions honed but spring weights within regulations. The cylinders were throated. I had many different grips depending on what I needed. I also shot 400 rounds per day, seven days a week, for years. I have no qualm carrying a J-frame.

    1. Sir, I’m sorry I just got to respond to this excellent post. I appreciate your service, and your candor on your carry methods. I think you’d agree that mastery of small framed guns require constant skill maintenance and practice. They ARE more difficult to shoot, but as you’ve said, they are formidable weapons, well beyond ‘bad breath distance’. Cheers!

  5. I’m sure that it would come as a complete surprise to an armed robber or active killer in a “gun free” zone that there might be someone there who could rain on his parade even though that individual was not armed with anything more substantial than a small, sub caliber, capacity-starved handgun and wasn’t carrying all the supporting accessories that are currently being prescribed. I’m not making fun of those who recommend fighting size/caliber guns, lights, trauma kits, etc, and they certainly come in handy, but carrying all of that stuff is not always practical. Back when just about any .380 pistol was as large or larger than the current crop of subcompact 9/40s, I found a Beretta 21A in .22LR to be the ideal combination of reliable, shoot able, and affordable concealed carry gun – concealed being absolutely essential because few localities allowed for concealed carry at the time. I still find the rim fire to be more potent though less reliable than a .25 ACP, yet .22 LR used to be really cheap and I practiced a lot. The Beretta 21A seemed to have a limit of 5K hyper velocity rounds before the pins start backing out… Anyway, I trained a lot with that little bitty gun, and there are a lot of folks out there who have more respectable iron that don’t. I agree with the article’s author as well as my fellow commenters both that one should always carry as much gun as you can, and to stay within established laws or agency policy; and that you should train with what you carry, have at least one reload, and have a light source handy. In my current status, I prefer to recommend nothing smaller/lighter/less potent than a 5-shot S&W, but I understand that there are legitimate reasons for carrying something smaller. An armed citizen carrying a mouse gun he/she has trained with is much more of a force to be reckoned with than a cowering victim or the hysterical masses trying to escape carnage.

  6. Great post. I have to deal with men who are quite a bit larger than myself argue that they can conceal a full size 9 with no problems and then proceed to demonstrate. They refuse to believe me that as a 5′ female, my options are not the same as theirs. Tommy Bahama shirts and tactical pants are not going to cut it in my office. BTW all these gentlemen are either LEO or work from home or retired.

  7. I must wear business casual at work. I would lose more than a few clients if they knew I carry. Therefore, I carry a .380 and an extra mag in my front pocket in a kydex holster designed to look more like a wallet or cell phone to all but professionals. I try to rely more on situational awareness and less on caliber size. Thanks for writing this.

    1. I’m glad you agree. I think one of the major things that instructors see is that usually the people who buy the little guns don’t practice with them. If we hold ourselves to a higher standard, and understand what we’re giving up to a larger gun, we’ll be ok. Thanks for the comment.

  8. Well written and totally correct! And while I’ve been in all of your instructor categories except YouTube Personality, I’m in complete agreement with you. I’ve been telling people for years that the mission drives the gear. The “mission” to carry truly concealed will dictate what you are able to carry and conceal effectively. If you can only afford one gun, pay the money for it and the holster that will conceal the best for you. And here’s what’s more important that gun or caliber: Regardless of what you carry, be it a J frame or 5″ double stack 1911, practice the basics and train defensively with it so that should the balloon ever go up you’ll be able to effectively employ it.

    And I am so posting this to my business Facebook page!

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