Rich Pearson, the Illinois State Rifle Association‘s Executive Director, included the following with their regular Thursday email blast.

It’s very good and I’m sharing it.

Nice job, Rich.


How do I get to Carnegie Hall?

By: Richard A. Pearson

There are currently a large number of people thinking about applying for an Illinois Concealed Carry License (CCL).  We are all waiting around dry mouthed to see how all of this is going to play out. Indeed there are many questions to consider: Where will I get training? How much will everything cost? What kind of gun do I want to carry? What size does it need to be? What caliber should I get? How will I carry it?  These are all common questions that will be answered in due time, and may be different for each person.

There are several things you can do while you’re waiting to receive your Illinois CCL.  Taking shooting classes, whether they apply toward your Illinois CCL or not, make the biggest impact when using your firearm.  Being a good shot requires more than practice; it requires perfect practice, and shooting is a perishable skill which makes continuous repetition even more imperative.  There are many people wanting to do no more than what is required – and that is the end of it until requalification in five years.  I believe this is a big mistake.

I am reminded of the story of the girl who asked her teacher “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” The teacher’s reply was “There are two ways to get to Carnegie Hall.  One is to fly to New York City and take a taxi to 8817th Avenue, where Carnegie Hall is located; the other way is to practice, practice, practice!”  The problem in a self-defense situation is this: you don’t have time to practice practice, practice right before you become involved in a self-defense situation.  This is no place for “on-the-job” training!  The end result has a lot to do with your training, cool headedness, and luck. The more training you have, the more likely you are to stay in control, thus requiring less dependence on luck.  We all know about luck right?  If you don’t have bad luck, you won’t have any luck at all.  The key here is to minimize reliance on luck, period.

Choosing your instructor is something that needs to be well thought out.  Your instructor should be specialized in training civilians.  Some instructors are excellent at training the police and military, but this includes a different mindset.  In most cases, a civilian’s mindset is a defensive one while the police and military mindset is an offensive one.  The civilian wants to be able to defend him or herself, their loved ones, and/or other innocent people until the police arrive. The police and military work at seizing and controlling the situation to achieve a desired end.  They are not the same. I am not saying that there are not police and military instructors who can’t teach civilians, because there are. I just want you to be aware of the differences.

You should start out with a basic fundamental training course. I wouldn’t get too excited about doing the advanced stuff just yet, not until you have a good grasp on the fundamentals.  Great athletes all have one thing in common—they execute the fundamentals well. You should work with the basics until they are engrained in you.  There are those who teach what I call “handgun workout” classes, which are skill building classes done under the watchful eye of an instructor.  These classes help the students discover and correct errors and the instructor then makes sure you’ve corrected your errors. I am mostly opposed to self-practice in the beginning stages because if you aren’t aware of your errors, you will probably be practicing making errors.  The more you practice errors, the more difficult they are to correct.  If you practice alone, stick to the basic marksmanship skills; advanced classes should be taken after your basic skills are well developed.

Beyond the classes, I recommend you get into a shooting league, because it is the best way to keep you shooting on a consistent basis.  You are also surrounded by all types of shooters, many who are very knowledgeable.  Nearly all of them will share their experiences with you.  Shooting in a league also adds just a little pressure, which is good because when using your gun in self-defense, pressure is a major factor.

When shooting in leagues or matches, most people think that the pressure comes from the competition of shooting against the clock or other competitors. It is more than that; it is getting used to noise and commotion that goes on while being able to successfully manipulate your firearm. This is great training should you ever get into a confrontation. You can read endless articles, books, and watch videos about Concealed Carry and self-defense, but the fact is, that your hands on experience is what your mind calls on to handle the situation.  If you don’t have experience to call on, panic may ensue; sitting in your easy chair does not prepare you for bad situations.  Shooting in full-fledged leagues and competitions adds another level of pressure and helps prepare your mind.

There many different types of handgun shooting leagues and competitions, which should enhance your shooting abilities.  The oldest of the leagues is a Bullseye League.  Bullseye requires one handed shooting at 50 feet, 25 yards and even 50 yards. If you are able to learn to shoot bullseye, you will be successful at any type of pistol shooting you engage in.  Glock Leagues, Springfield Leagues and Police Pistol Combat (PPC) Leagues are on the introductory end and it goes up from there. Combat leagues are always attractive to pistol shooters. In general, Combat Leagues introduce drawing and movement into your skill set.  Take your time—leagues help reinforce and perfect the skills you have already acquired.

There are advanced classes taught at higher levels by Massad Ayoob, Rob Pincus and others, which are always fun.  Aside from being fun, they produce higher level skills, and you will learn to handle pressure in numerous other situations. Whatever you do–get started! Predictions are that 300,000-400,000 people want an Illinois CCL.  With the required 16 hours of training, it amounts to somewhere between 4.8 and 6.4 million hours, which will put quite a strain on instructors and ranges.  So, get started. If you end up on stage at your Carnegie Hall, it may be the last performance of your life if you haven’t practiced, practiced, practiced.

Get started, now.

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