by John Boch

Are you worried that training or competition experience will be used against you following a personal defense shooting incident? If so, you’re not alone.

The concern often voiced is that a prosecuting attorney or a less-than-scrupulous trial attorney will cast your training and/or competition experience as honing your skills to be a better killer, and not a better citizen and shooter.

In years past, similar concerns have been raised about trigger jobs, hollow-point ammunition, hand-loaded ammunition, and so on and so forth.

“The defendant used custom-handloaded, super-deadly hollow-point bullets – bullets so deadly they are prohibited by the Geneva Convention – in a gun equipped with a hair trigger because he was eager to take the life of the victim who was just turning his life around on his way to church,” the old saw goes.

Good training will teach you how to turn those scurrilous accusations around on a unscrupulous prosecutor or trial attorney, but for the untrained, the threat of those smears can certainly be intimidating.

Experienced criminal defense lawyers and others will argue that good, top-tier training will make you a great deal more defensible in court, not less.

You need look no further than your local police agencies for guidance. Law enforcement officers receive ongoing training on a regular basis that is all carefully documented. If the officers act to the standard by which they will be judged – and have been trained – then they generally have little to worry about in terms of criminal prosecution or civil liability.

The same applies to you, the civilian.

Seeking competent, qualified training to judiciously use your firearm(s) to defend yourself, your family and other innocents from violent attack will not only allow you to come out on top of the violent attack, but will also prepare you to deal with the aftermath.

Your instructors may also provide critical expert testimony on your behalf. This testimony can go a long way to educate the jury as to the danger you faced from an assailant. For instance, most untrained individuals vastly underestimate the danger and lethality of knives and blunt-force instruments at close range.

At the same time, you need to choose your trainers wisely.

First off, will your trainers testify on your behalf following a righteous defensive shooting? Assuming they are willing to testify, keep in mind the jury will naturally give them a good deal more credibility if their experience is measured in years rather than months.

Better still, if your class had multiple instructors, each will be able to testify individually, buttressing one another and your defense which will have a huge cumulative affect on juries.

Imagine having a retired FBI agent, a lawyer or two, law-enforcement professionals and a half-dozen other instructors from all walks of life all testifying on your behalf at a criminal or civil trial. Wouldn’t that be a good thing?

It would be, because as Massad Ayoob will tell you in his Lethal Force Institute training (now know as MAG-40), the more a jury hears testimony from independent sources, the more the subject matter becomes gospel to any jury.

All training isn’t equal though! Your coursework, and class notes from training will be discoverable by the prosecution, as will any YouTube videos of your training or competition.

Did you not have live-fire at your so-called “firearms training class?” Did your live-fire consist of five shots or several hours of range time with lots of shooting exercises? Did your instructor cut corners from the minimal requirements or did they supplement the requirements with other defensible teaching material?

Which of the above do you think would benefit your criminal or civil defense and which might more likely be a liability than an asset?

Also, if course notes are littered with clever witticisms like, “Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everyone you meet,” or “Kill them all and let God sort them out”, those may not be well-received by the jury.

If you’re on video in a class or competition, don’t be gleefully screaming that you’re going to kill the subject of your aggression (target). Just as retreating from confrontation looks good to witnesses (and juries), so too does communication like “get back!” and “don’t move!” in any videos you might be starring in.

In short, top-notch defensive firearm training will help you to avoid a deadly force confrontation and will teach you the skills and tactics you need to win should it come to that.

The best firearm trainers, both national and local, will train you how to articulate the threat you faced and why you acted in the manner you did. If it comes to a criminal or civil trial to maintain your innocence, good instructors will be right there with you to provide expert testimony about your training and to help educate the jury about the dangers you faced, further protecting you from malicious prosecution or a nuisance civil suit resulting from a righteous self-defense incident.


7 thoughts on “JOHN BOCH: Is gun training a liability in court?”
  1. I attended MAG-40 about two weeks ago. Get all the education you can, from all the best sources you can find……..and document it!

  2. Training -good
    Training mandate- bad.

    In the moment, training can and does go out the window. It is not a panacea.
    Can you say Dorner? Can you say cops shooting up trucks?

    How will instructors remember hundreds of thousands of applicants well enough to testify?
    C’mon now.

    Truth is best offered to a jury. If that isn’t enough, then nothing ever will be.

    1. Gezz Ashrak,
      At MAG-40 it is all “Documented” and they do have a “system” to recall what you learned and how you preformed. FYI I’m not singling out MAG classes, just that I know the system they have in place. I’m not going to disclose how they do it but I will say it is better to talk about what “you know” and not “what you assume”.

  3. Ashrak: You speak like someone who has little or no formal training, aside from Uncle Buck taking you out behind the barn to shoot tin cans as a kid.

    Training doesn’t “go out the window” in a critical incident.

    You default to your level of training, because that’s what you do on “autopilot” when the chips are down.

    Should there be mandated training before you can own or carry a gun? No more than there should be a literacy test or training before casting a ballot.

    At the same time, top notch formal training will make you a better gun owner (and smarter voter) if you’re trained in the safe and effective use of a gun for self-defense, along with getting training on the judicious use of deadly force so you may act to the standard by which you will be judged.

    It’ll also greatly enhance your likelihood of coming out on top of a deadly force incident because of skills and ability… and reduce dependence upon “luck” to win said confrontation.


  4. If you get training from a facility run by an internet blowhard then, yes, it could be a liability.

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