Regular and consistent training is a moral and ethical responsibility of any gun owner, whether civilian or professional (source)
Firearms Part 4: Training and Responsible Ownership Audio by Jonathan Fader

Now that this series has covered the history of human survival innovation, potentially lethal self-defence, and the modern legal aspects thereof, Part 4 will now cover the practical morality and responsibilities of owning a Firearm.

Firearms and use of force training, in Canada at least, is a concept often relegated to law enforcement, private security, and, of course, the military. 

In the US and other countries, South Africa and Brazil for example, any ordinary citizen is able to purchase a firearm provided they qualify for ownership (based on the regional laws and requirments) and there is no shortage of private sector training available in firearms safety and tactics. Up here in Canada, however, the government, at all levels, would prefer to maintain the monopoly on using firearms for self-defence, so training in that respect for ordinary civilians is pretty limited.

Our military, for obvious reasons, is afforded the most unfettered access to restricted and prohibited weapons and training, and are the only group in our society allowed to train with and carry selective fire carbines (for example, the C7 and C8 rifles, both of which were made by Colt for Canada’s military as a replacement for the M16). For anyone who doesn’t know, selective fire rifles have been prohibited for civilian use and ownership since 1978, the introduced as part of bill C-51. Selective fire means that you can switch between single shot, semi-automatic, and fully automatic fire modes; what people without firearms knowledge tend to refer to as “machine guns” or “assault weapons.”

For the military, training with and becoming proficient in the use of these types of firearms is a fundamental. As well, engaging in “live fire” exercises (using real, active ammunition), in various environments, isn’t uncommon, and the type and intensity of their training is fairly high; as the ultimate goal is to prepare soldiers for the possibility of war. They also have the luxury of training in large, outdoor environments with as much realism as can be afforded them under the circumstances, so, really, when it comes down to it, they’re getting what is arguably the most hands-on experience when it comes to firearms and their practical applications. 

Ironically enough, if a member of the Canadian military wants to own a firearm for personal use, store that gun somewhere other than on a military base, buy guns or ammunition at a public access gun store, or use a public access firing range, they still must have a valid PAL (Possession and Acquisition License), and are subject to the same rules and restrictions as ordinary civilians.

For police, training with firearms is less focused on, say, effective battlefield weapons and strategies, and more on running scenarios involving everything from dealing with full blown acts of terrorism or civil unrest, to having a simple traffic stop turn into a deadly incident. Police, unfortunately, end up on the front lines of everything that goes wrong in our society on a day-to-day basis, and have to be not only very discriminating in any situation where a firearm could be in play, but also potentially proactive in using one to defend their own lives and that of the general public. This means training for accuracy with their weapons is of paramount importance, as any scenario where they might have to discharge their gun would likely play out in a public place, where collateral damage is a big risk. They also need to train for the very real possibility that a violent subject may try to relieve them of their sidearm and use it against them. Training usually takes place at their own, secure indoor facilities and more often than not involves live fire exercises and scenario training related to what they may encounter in the course of their duties.

The arsenal available to Canadian police usually consists of 9mm pistols, like the Glock17 Gen4, the Smith & Wesson M&P 40, or the Sig Sauer p320. They also carry Remington 870 12 gauge shotguns (yes, there is a police model), and even the C8 semi-auto version, the H&K MP5 ,and the (infamous) Colt AR 15 rifle which is currently banned for civilian ownership in Canada under the most recent Order-in-Council (OIC) gun ban (a highly controversial Cabinet decision to ban 1500 previously legal firearms without cause). The use of these guns is dependent on what the situation requires, and once again, training for accuracy and proficiency with these guns is of paramount importance, not only in the interest of preserving lives in a critical incident, but also in respect to the optics of said incident in relation to the current socio-political climate here in Canada.

In other words, police have to be very discriminating with regard to when and how they discharge their guns. This is the kind of thing that comes with training consistently over a long period of time, and, hopefully, with the idea in mind that the use of one’s firearm is a last resort. Of course, things don’t always pan out that way in a real life and death situation.

Decisions made under duress are not always the best calls one can make.  

Which is even harder given that police, past their initial depot and subsequent annual recertification, spend very little time on average training with their firearms for the purpose of proficiency, let alone any hand-to-hand combat training that would help prevent them needing their firearms in the first place.

If the police receive very little continuous training with their firearms, then how about private armed security in Canada? Their training regimen, although fairly brief by comparison to police and military, encompasses the same type of threat assessment and weapon proficiency as the other two. Their use of force model is fairly similar to that of our police services. In fact, the fundamental difference is that private armed security are encouraged to disengage from a potential threat whenever possible, and the use of their firearms is only legally allowed in cases involving an absolutely verifiable and unavoidable threat to our lives. Private armed security train as police do, at indoor ranges where they draw from the holster and shoot stationary targets in the open, or from behind cover and while crouching. They also train in simulated scenarios where both a threat and members of the public are present at the same time. By comparison armed security’s arsenal is fairly limited, as they are under law considered private citizens who are allowed to carry guns at work. Generally they carry the S&W Model 10 and 64 revolvers, S&W 686 357 revolvers (loaded with .38 Spc), and the M&P 40 cal and the Clock 17 Gen 4 noted above. They also use Remington 870 shotguns (not the police model) on occasion as need dictates. 

Now for civilian gun owners who wish to train in firearms for use of force, any information you wish to glean will likely come from, believe it or not, the world of sport shooting and martial arts. As mentioned before, the government here would like to retain it’s monopoly on the use of firearms for self-defence.

For ordinary gun owners here in Canada, they can train with the International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA) or International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC) which will give you a good practical introduction to drawing and shooting a pistol from the holster in various situations where one is both stationary and moving. There are a great many active members of our military and police services involved in these sports, most of which are happy to share their insight on how to shoot safely and effectively under pressure. There is also no shortage of tactical trainers in the martial arts world who can teach you about gun disarms and defensive/offensive tactics when it comes to handling firearms themselves.

Krav Maga, for example, often includes a syllabus of gun disarms and techniques for handling firearms in potential combat situations, all of which is available to anyone should they be willing to put in the work. The key is to make sure that what you’re learning in that respect actually works in real life. If you train to do something that’s hokey, or potentially dangerous, you may end up hurting or killing yourself or someone else in the process. Vet your trainers very carefully in any case, and remember, the safe and proficient use of a firearm is in fact a valuable life skill, regardless of your profession.

Regardless of why you need to carry a firearm (legally), or want to have firearms for legal purposes (even if it’s for the potential zombie apocalypse), training is a MUST. Firearms are tools that require training and skill development. You cannot simply train once and be proficient. Like the martial arts, training must be fairly regular and consistent so that under duress you can act in an appropriate and safe manner regardless of the reason for needing to use a firearm. Unfortunately, of the three groups mentioned above it is usually civilians that engage in the most training when they are able, which is ironic given that in a country like Canada the government wants to hold a monopoly on the legal use of force.

This is perhaps why this topic is highly politicized and why there are those who don’t want any civilians to have firearms at all, but this will be discussed in the next post.

Written by: Max M. with additions by Jonathan Fader

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*Please read, learn and follow your local laws to know what is acceptable in your society and country regarding firearms, self-defence, and personal ownership. Do not break the law in your country regardless of your personal beliefs.