People fear ignore what they don’t understand

In this post I’m going to attempt to articulate why The Forge is different and why it should matter to you. This has been proven to be difficult in the elevator speech context, and I’ve found myself just defaulting to the “Morpheus” explanation: you have to see it for yourself.

The main problem is that a lot of people just don’t know what they don’t know, so any explanation tends to be understood in terms of existing experience. “Oh yeah, I’ve done some firearms training.” No, this is not that. So let’s get into what it is.

Basics and Fundamentals

Plenty of people have had “formal firearm training” – 61%, in fact, according to one national survey. But what does that mean? In a context as complex as self-defense, this questions is important. Take the aforementioned survey, for example. 61% might seem like a lot, but notice this line in the abstract:

The most commonly reported combination of training topics was safe handling, safe storage and preventing accidents.

So the most commonly reported training received by this 61% amounts to the very basics of firearms ownership. We’re not even talking about marksmanship at this point; the things most people think of when they think “fundamentals” or “basics.” No, we’re talking about prerequisite “know how to not be negligent and get someone shot” level of training. That accounts for a lot of the 61%; “how to not shoot yourself or others.” Can you imagine the ad for class?

Some anti-gun twerps like to use the driving analogy in arguing for mandated training. Their poor Constitutional scholarship aside, this analogy – while seemingly apt – completely misunderstands the context.

Learning to drive a vehicle is not learning to use a firearm. While both involve motor skill, decision-making, situational awareness, etc…, the context is completely different. If you equalize the context, what you get is that learning to drive a vehicle is like learning to walk around with a concealed firearm on your person. Not learning to use it, just to carry it. That’s it.

Actually learning to use that concealed firearm for personal defense is the equivalent of learning emergency/evasive vehicle operations. You’re actually doing something with that vehicle in a dynamic, stressful and chaotic situation where other people aren’t doing what you expect them to do. If you can understand it this way, you have a better idea of what “firearms training” should probably look like.

At The Forge we do spend some time teaching you how not to negligently shoot yourself or others. But that’s a 5-minute conversation before we get into drawing from the holster, and then as we move into additional work. You might call this integrative training.


Let’s talk about the “Why.” You’re only here on this website because – on some level – you’re interested in carrying a firearm specifically for the purpose of self-defense. Or because you’re my mom. Hi Mom, thanks for reading.

So in the context of concealed-carry self defense we’re availing ourselves of a lethal force option in order to respond to a deadly threat in some kind of violent encounter. Well, what does a violent encounter possibly look like? More than likely there will be some pre-attack activity, some form of physical attack involving weapons or not, and a back and forth response until the physical event reaches a conclusion. Then of course there’s some form of aftermath, possibly bystanders, police response, and perhaps legal events to follow.

So if you’re going to train for the above type of situation, what do you think you ought to learn and practice?

As mentioned before, some people have had “formal firearms training,” and it’s even the kind of firearms training that phrase typically calls to mind: live-fire, static-range marksmanship! This is what the typical gun owner goes for if they get any training at all. And that’s not a bad thing. Marksmanship is important, and the fact is that is mostly what is offered out there.

Some people have learned how to fight – they do boxing or another fighting art, and/or they’ve learned to wrestle or grapple. As you can see in my cherry-picked examples, learning these things is probably a good idea. What’s typically offered, though, is something less like preparation for violence and more like preparation for a tournament.

Some people have gone to self-defense classes where they learned pre-attack indicators, situational awareness concepts and tools, and some hand-to-hand techniques. Some of these are great, as far as they go. Some of them not so much. And what about concealed carry?

Some people have taken CCW classes where they learn use-of-force law, different way of carrying concealed, how to choose defensive tools, talk to the police, and various other concepts. Some of these are fine, again, as far as they go.

Some people have taken trauma medical courses, learning how to control bleeding by various means.

At The Forge, we work on all of these things – not one at a time, but altogether. “But wait,” you might ask, “how do you wrestle on a live range?”

Inert Training Tools

When you think of the defensive encounter – the whole thing, from beginning to end – how much of that can you practice on a live range? Well, if you happen to have access to a state-of-the-art 360degree range with moving targets, you can probably do a lot. Maybe even as much as 20% of the whole.

At The Forge we utilize inert training tools that enable us to safely practice 95% of the whole. The only thing we can’t really practice? Recoil management, which some might argue is even less than 5% of the whole. I’m simple being generous.

So yes, we do need to be able to competently handle a live firearm, including recoil management and follow-on shots. Yes, live practice is important and we encourage doing it regularly. But not as regularly as dry fire, or inert weapons-based self defense. Because what’s the priority?

Training Priority

This is a big one, and I’d worry more about pissing people off by saying this if I thought anyone besides Mom was reading it. Hi Mom.

Consider: if you knew that you would be the victim of a carjacking tomorrow, and that was the only time you’d ever be attacked in your life, what would you practice for? The answer is obvious, but none of us can see the future. All we have to go on is prior data and predictions. So why don’t we?

Based on the data in my area, I’m more likely to be attacked with a knife than a blunt object, and I’m more likely to be attacked with bare hands than anything else. The majority of violent crime on a national level qualifies as merely Simple Assault. And if you weren’t already aware, Simple Assault by itself typically will not justify lethal use of force.

At The Forge we prioritize our valuable training time based on what we are most likely to need NOW.

So based on this view of the data, I should probably train for mostly empty-hand attacks, followed by knife attacks then blunt objects. “But if I’m a person who carries concealed, and I’m mostly training for empty-hand attacks…”

Now you’re asking the right questions. And hopefully, too, you’re getting a better idea of why we’re different. But is that all?

That’s Not All

If you look at how high-level athletes train, and dig in a little to the science of skill acquisition and motor learning, you’ll find the best way to learn what we’re trying to learn is a) reps that look like the ‘game’ you’re ‘playing,’ and b) AMRAP without regard for mistakes. That is, I’m not going to worry about making mistakes or failing or “dying” during a rep. I’m going to see that is a necessary part of training.

Here, some people might want to yell at me about training scars, but it’s really no factor as long as you RECOGNIZE that a mistake was a mistake. So of course having a good coach is important for that reason and more.

What this really amounts to is scenario-based training on various levels, to varying degrees of complexity. Don’t get excited, we’re not kitting up in armor and multi-cam to go learn how to kick down doors. That’s not our context. If we’re prioritizing training for the citizen, we’ll never attend that class because we’re focused on the things we are most likely to need.

So Imagine This

You step out of the convenience store and head toward your car about 20 yards away. As you approach, you notice a man in dirty pants and a hoody approaching from your left, and he seems agitated. He’s mumbling something at you and rubbing his face. You turn and look him in the eye, saying, “Hey man I don’t know you, back up.” He continues to approach, so veer off course to try to maintain distance while you get to your car. Something changes in his expression; he’s suddenly raptor focused on you, and approaching faster. You try to swing your sack of icecream and chips at him, but it’s a long ride from the opposite side, and he collides with you, pushing you off balance.

You feel like you just got punched in the gut as you fall to the ground, dropping everything. Then you notice the knife in his had, still dripping. Your cloudy mind manages to register the deadly threat, and you fumble for your concealed pistol as he yells something in your face, the knife held threateningly close. You’re finally able to draw your firearm, but he begins to stab at you once he sees it’s a weapon in your hands and not your smartphone. You fire a shot as your hands collide with his, gun and knife and hands all tangles up and bleeding. You get your feet in between and throw a good kick into him and he topples backwards. Another shot and you know this one connects. He doesn’t get up.

As you rise from the pavement you register your surroundings. There’s a revving engine close by and screeching tires that move quickly away. Someone is screaming. There are people moving. Someone asks if you’re okay. Someone is doing something to your attacker. Helping him? Is he alive? You realize you’re still pointing your gun not just at him, but the person next to him, and as you consciously focus on it you finally see the blood all over your hands. Looking down you realize you’re injured and the pain begins to hit you.

“Hey put the gun down buddy. It’s over” You look up at the store clerk who checked you out what seems like hours ago. You hear sirens in the distance. Deciding you don’t want to place your gun on the ground, you try to place it carefully back in your holster, but your shirt is in the way and there’s blood everywhere. Next thing you know there are police everywhere yelling at you, pointing guns at you. You place your gun on the ground and follow their commands.

Sitting handcuffed in the back of a patrol car, you’re starting to calm down. The officer had asked you some questions, and you don’t remember exactly what you said. I probably need a lawyer, you think. In the days after, you’ll think about all the things you did right and wrong. You’ll learn some hard lessons through this event.

At The Forge we endeavor to learn these lessons in training. Sometimes class looks very much like this fictional scenario, and sometimes it looks like isolated pieces of it. But whatever we work on in a given class, you can bet it’s something completely unavailable to anyone besides LEO and military for at least 600 miles in any direction.

And it’s here just for you, the regular citizen defender.

Light the forge.