This post is part of the Basic Training series. In this series, I lay out a roadmap to success for the armed citizen seeking tactical training.
     Basic Training: Where Do I Start?
     Basic Training: Get Your Priorities Straight
     Basic Training: Get Your Mind Right
     Basic Training: Harden Your Body (Part 1)
     Basic Training: Harden Your Body (Part 2)
     Basic Training: Tactical not Tacticool
     Basic Training: Become Technically Proficient


In the last installment of Basic Training, I talked about the importance of tactics and how they related to your techniques and procedures. Today, we’re going to continue looking at that relationship and dive deeper into the technical side of things.


Tactics don’t negate the need for good techniques.

Let’s look back to that previous post about tactics, and see what I wrote concerning the relationship between techniques and tactics:

“Tactics are more important than techniques and procedures. Even though you might screw the pooch on your techniques and procedures, you might find yourself in a position where it’s hard not to win if your tactics are on point…”

Based on that statement, you might think that I believe that training your techniques and procedures isn’t all that important compared to ensuring you have mastered gunfighting tactics, but nothing could be farther from the truth.

For starters, the next point I made after talking about how tactics trump techniques in a fight was that you need to have a good grounding in gunfighting techniques before you can really get the most out of your tactics training. In other words, learning good tactics doesn’t negate the need for solid techniques; learning good tactics requires that you have solid techniques.

There is another reason to make sure you are a good technical gunfighter, though: being good at your techniques and having the correct procedures locked down ensures that you can make the most of your tactical advantage once you maneuver yourself into that superior position. To fully understand what I mean, let me give you a hypothetical example.

Picture this: Let’s say you’re a Marine rifleman in a squad of steely-eyed gunfighters, and your squad has been tasked with ambushing an enemy fire team (a squad is about 9-13 men, and a fire team is comprised of about four). You go out and reconnoiter potential ambush sites, and you find an absolutely perfect location for your operation: it’s slightly elevated over the kill zone; it’s close to the suspected enemy route, but not so close as to make it hard to stay hidden; it has awesome cover for your protection; the fields of fire are clear, meaning that you can easily see and shoot at anything down in the kill zone from your position; the terrain along the enemy route is difficult to move around in; there are lots of obstacles that would prevent the enemy from reaching you with an assault; and there’s a great escape route behind your objective.

You get out in the middle of the night and set in your ambush with the rest of the squad. After a restless night of nearly freezing to death, the sun finally starts to peak its head over the hills to your right. As it does so, a hushed, urgent signal gets passed down the line. Enemy approaching! You cautiously peek up over the top of your covered position and see five enemy soldiers walking right through the kill zone, perfectly lined up for your ambush. At this point, you have all of the tactical advantages:

  • Total surprise? Check.
  • Superior numbers? Definitely.
  • An elevated position with great cover and concealment? Yup.
  • Clear fields of fire allowing you to shoot at the enemy in the kill zone? Yes.
  • Natural obstacles that slow their movement and keep them from effectively counterattacking? Certainly.

Your squad leader waits until just the right moment and then fires off a round, signaling the initiation of the ambush. A half-heartbeat later, the rest of your squad opens fire as well.


But there’s a problem… instead of all five enemy soldiers crumpling to the ground in the kill zone, four of them dash off into cover and start returning fire. What gives? This ambush was perfect! Well yeah, the ambush position was perfect, but your squad’s marksmanship skills were seriously lacking, and your terrible shooting ensured that your tactically superior setup was wasted.

And that’s what I mean when I say that good techniques allow you take maximum advantage of your superior tactical position. By having a substandard level of skill in marksmanship techniques, your squad was able to “snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.” Now, instead of strolling down there to search bodies for items of intelligence value before bouncing out of there, your squad is tangled up in a gunfight with four guys who should have already been dead.


Having good technique can save your life.

Not only does it maximize your tactics training to already have good techniques, and not only does having good techniques allow you to capitalize on your tactical advantage, but having good techniques can turn the tide and save your life when all else fails.

Let’s flip the script on the situation I gave you above: This time, you’re a member of the fire team being ambushed. On a cool fall morning, as you’re moving with your team to occupy a new observation post, you suddenly find your world engulfed in a fusillade of lead and noise. An ambush! You sprint to your left and dive behind a small slice of cover before instinctively flicking your rifle from “Safe” to “Semi” and popping out around the fallen log to begin directing a heavy stream of fire onto the enemy positions. Your three unwounded teammates do likewise, and pretty soon you realize that the incoming enemy fire is slacking up; your team’s return fire is having a good effect.

Realizing that your accurate fires are having good effects against your enemy, your team leader senses that the time to leave is now and orders the break contact. Two at a time, you begin to peel out of the kill zone, dragging your wounded buddy as you go. You continue to alternate firing and moving in this manner until you crest a hill, getting yourselves out of sight of the enemy position. After quickly regrouping, you take off at a fast pace, heading back to your platoon’s patrol base to inform them of enemy in the area.

See what happened there? The ambushed fire team had no right to make it out of that good of an ambush. Being outnumbered by a factor of two or three and being stuck in a terrible position would have prevented most soldiers from returning accurate fire, but that fire team wasn’t comprised of most soldiers. The soldiers in that team were well-trained marksmen who had drilled in emergency techniques and procedures until nearing perfection. Superior technical skill enabled the ambushed team to “snatch victory from the jaws of defeat” and get out of there mostly intact.


What does this mean to you?

Entertaining as those above examples might be, you’re probably saying to yourself, “but I’m not a soldier out doing ambushes and break contact drills and all that stuff. How does all this relate to me?” Well let’s put this in the context of the Armed Citizen. Which one of those two groups described above do you think you will generally fall into? As an Armed Citizen, are you more like the squad setting out to locate, close with, and destroy the enemy? Or in living your life day-to-day, are you more like the Fire Team out completing a less aggressive task?

We don’t go out hunting for badguys and looking for fights. By its very nature, being an Armed Citizen implies that you’re on the defensive, reacting to a criminal assailant’s actions. Unfortunately, this puts you behind the power curve. Think of your techniques and procedures as being like a seatbelt: when driving, your primary plan is to stay alive through situational awareness and good decision-making. You don’t go out planning to get in a wreck, but you still click in your seatbelt just in case. It’s there to save your life because you know that the drunk driver swerving down the road gets a vote, too.

It’s the same thing with your concealed carry handgun or your home defense rifle. You’re not planning to get in a gunfight; you’d rather avoid a confrontation altogether with a comprehensive home defense plan or by maintaining good situational awareness and avoidance skills. But you know that ultimately, what will be will be. The badguy is going to do what he is going to do, and when the enemy ambushes you, solid, perfectly-executed techniques are the only thing you will have to fall back on.

The tables have turned!

Once you have turned the tables in your favor with an aggressive, technically-correct response, you can’t afford to lose your advantage. Having solid techniques will enable you press your new advantage and either finish the fight or break contact and get out of there. Mastering tactics will help you decide which action to take and how to go about it.


Be Technically and Tactically Proficient

One of the Marine Corps Leadership Principles is to be “technically and tactically proficient”, meaning that as a leader in the Marine Corps, you should be well-versed in general warfighting tactics as well as being proficient in the technical skills of your particular MOS (job specialty). During this article and the one before, I’ve been making the point that as an Armed Citizen, you should also strive for technical and tactical proficiency. But which technical skills should you train?

Unlike the Marine Corps, nobody is assigning you an MOS and then giving you a corresponding job description where they explicitly list the technical skills you are expected to execute. There’s also no comprehensive “Armed Citizen Boot Camp” where you will be trained in all the skills you need all at once (wouldn’t it be cool if such a thing existed, though?). Well I’m going to try and provide a little clarity in that regard. Below I have listed what I see as the big ticket technical skills that you should seek to become proficient in.

Level 1 Armed Citizen: Self-Defender
  • Handgun skills: Though long guns are superior to handguns, as Armed Citizens we really have to view the handgun as our primary weapon. If you can only own one gun, then it should be a pistol: you can carry it on your body outside of the home, and it’s still useable as a self-defense weapon inside the home.
  • Trauma-Medical skills: If you have to lob lead slugs at somebody, then chances are they are trying to hurt you back. Good guys bleed, too. Also don’t forget that you are way more likely to drive up on a car crash or some other accident than to get in a gunfight. Special note: I’m not talking about American Red Cross First Aid & CPR here. Though those are great qualifications to obtain, I’m talking about training in trauma care to stop massive bleeding.
  • Legal skills: That’s right. If you are going to be carrying a gun that you intend to use for self defense, then you need to become educated on the law. You don’t want to survive the gunfight just to become Bubba’s girlfriend for the next 50 years.
  • Hand-to-hand and Less-than-lethal skills: Most fights that you would find yourself in won’t be deadly force situations, and many of the deadly force situations you find yourself in can end up going “hands on.” Not having some basic striking or grappling skills to deal with these problems is a huge black hole in your technical skill set.
Level 2 Armed Citizen: The Citizen-Protector
  • Rifle skills: Once you are squared away on the basics, you need to start getting into long guns. A long gun is a game changer, and it’s the only thing that will really do the job when it’s needed.
  • Advanced Level 1 skills: Don’t just stop at the basics of handguns, medical, and hand-to-hand. Continue advancing in these fields. Seek additional medical certifications like Wilderness First Responder, consider getting into a regular Jiujitsu or Mixed Martial Arts class. Look for more advanced handgun training that will further increase your speed and accuracy.
  • Basic Survival skills: What do you do if your car goes over an embankment and you’re stuck in the bottom of a ravine for five days? What would you do if you got stranded somewhere in a snow storm? How would you fare during a weeklong blackout? I’m not talking about becoming the next Daniel Boone, but you need to know what to do in basic emergency situations.
Level 3 Armed Citizen: Citizen-Soldier
  • Advanced Rifle (and other) skills: Keep building on what you’ve already established. Get better with that rifle and pistol.
  • Advanced Survival skills: We already addressed learning the basics of survival, but what if we step things up a notch? What do you do during a longer-term disaster? What would you do if you got stranded 100 miles from home with no way back but to walk? Think outside the box on this one, but be realistic.
  • Small Unit Tactics: Okay, this one isn’t really a technical skill so much as a tactical one, but let’s say that you’ve become a training junkie, and you’re serious about being a Level 3 Armed Citizen. You feel like you’re ready for the next step. What should it be? Well I would suggest that the best next step is to get together with 3 to 12 of your closest friends with guns and learn to work as a team. Buddy rushing, the RIGS process and assault cycle, basic CQB and room-clearing. You never know when having armed buddies with whom you’ve trained could come in handy.


Techniques require training

It’s very important to understand that techniques are physical skills that you perform in the real world. Reading articles and watching educational YouTube videos are good things to do, and they can certainly be beneficial, but at the end of the day you have to put some skin in the game to learn techniques. You have to actually get outside and get your hands dirty if you are to become good at this stuff. The best way to do that is by getting quality training under the watchful eye of a skilled, experienced instructor.

That’s what Appalachian Tactical Academy is here for: we want to help you save your life and the lives of your family by teaching you fighting firearm techniques and tactics for the real world. Right now, we have three different classes open for enrollment: ATA Pistol I + KY CCDW, ATA Pistol II, and ATA Rifle I.

Are these classes right for you? Here is the easy way to know: Do you own (or want to own) a gun for self defense? If the answer is yes, then I assure you that our classes are right for you. Don’t delude yourself by assuming that Pistol I or Rifle I are either too advanced or too basic for you, either. If you’ve been shooting guns for years but have never had any formal training from a qualified instructor (the regular concealed carry class or basic NRA class doesn’t count), then I promise our classes won’t be too basic for you. On the other hand, if you’ve never fired a gun in your life, then let me assure you that the classes won’t be too advanced for you.

In our classes, we start with safety and marksmanship and then quickly progress onto other core gunfighting skills like using cover, clearing malfunctions, drawing/presenting the weapon, and more. If you’re brand new and that stuff sounds intimidating to you, then don’t worry: these skills are within your reach, and we will create a safe environment in which you can learn learn — there are no bootcamp theatrics here. Conversely, if you’ve been shooting for years but never had formal training, then chances are you’ve never went very far past just hitting a target, so there will be plenty for you to learn as well. Trust me: if you own a gun for self defense, or you want to own a gun for self defense, then our classes are for you.

Consider taking your self-defense game to the next level. Come on out this spring, summer, or fall and learn some good techniques that you can use to save your life. We have classes scheduled every month between now and October. Click the links below for more information:


Click here for ATA Pistol I + KY CCDW   Click here for ATA Pistol II   Click here for ATA Rifle I  

Click here to view our training schedule and sign up!

Benjamin Adams is a Level 10 Paladin with an 18 in Charisma and over 100 Hit Points. He gained most of his XP by serving in the Marine Corps as an Infantry Officer, where he deployed to Afghanistan as a Rifle Platoon Commander. He has been training in combative shooting and tactics for the past 11 years, and teaching these topics for the past 8 years. He currently resides in Southeastern Kentucky where he spends time doing cardio, powerlifting, fighting fire, reading, and just generally training for the fight.