The Areas of Gun Knowledge

The most common approach is to take the gun out to the woods every couple of years, shoot a few hundred rounds at a some cans, and call it good. People who do this have demonstrated that they can make the gun work. However, nothing about that type of outing has prepared the shooter for anything more than being dangerous in a real life situation. So let’s break it down and look at the areas in which a shooter needs to be competent.

There are three basic areas of knowledge relating to the defensive use of firearms. Each can be broken down into many other areas and all of these basic areas are connected to the rest. These three areas are:

  1. Running the Gun
  2. Applying the Gun
  3. Legalities

Running the Gun

Running the gun is about putting rounds where you want them and keeping the gun fed and operational so you can keep putting rounds where you want them until you have accomplished your objective. This area covers skills like the fundamentals of marksmanship, the draw, clearing malfunctions, learning the different types of reloads, and ultimately being able to do all these things efficiently under pressure. This is the core that all applications will draw from.

Applying the Gun

This is everything that involves actually using the gun. Shooting at various distances, shooting from cover, retaining both a drawn and holstered weapon, communicating, moving, clearing malfunctions and reloading with just the weapon or reaction hand, and anything else where the gun is involved in solving a problem.


Legalities cover the specifics of the law related to the type of gun use you are training for. For example, concealed carry legalities would be the laws about where you can carry or what condition the gun can be in (e.g. loaded, unloaded, etc.). In your jurisdiction do you have the duty to retreat? While defending yourself in your home, are your actions governed by the castle doctrine? Some people dismiss this area saying, “It is better to be tried by twelve than carried by six.” We certainly agree that it is better to be alive and on trial than dead but we think being alive and NOT on trial is the best.

These three areas are the pillars of safe and effective gun use.

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